Friday, May 30, 2014

A new knit for the weekend

This week I cast on something new: new project, new design, old yarn.  Or rather, leftover yarn.

I know, I know, it's more Vesper sock, and this looks like a lot like a sock, doesn't it?  But it's not.  What it is, is a lot of ribbing stitch.  We've established I how I feel about knitting ribbing (ew) but in this case, it's both essential and kind of nice, in that it reminds me constantly how much this is not in fact a sock.  It's hoping to be a fingerless glove, made up of scrap ends of different Vesper sock yarns, chosen for maximum stripe-friendliness.

As you can see, there are a lot of choices.

A whole lot.  Because (newsflash!) I have knit a lot of Vesper socks.  Some of the yarns have the same individual colour stripes as others - there are blues you might find on several different colourways, for example, and red, or kelly green - and that made it easier to think of how to match up the tail ends of these yarn cakes.  I want lots of colours, but it's good to have one or two that repeat across the different bits, so that it looks deliberate and not completely thrown together.

Though there is always room for Thrown Together, if you're talking about scraps of stripes.  

What I'm doing here is knitting all the stripes in a given colourway, then switching to another scrap ball for all the stripes in its colourway.  And for a while, I'm knitting the piece flat, so as to make space for the thumb I'll pick up later.

And this is my weekend: finishing the first one, and hoping my idea for the thumb works out.  Because that's basically all this little experiment is.  In much the way that bread is essentially a consumption vehicle for butter, this project is a vehicle for my thumb idea.

After all if you're going to experiment, it's good to do it with lots of lively colour.  That way if it ends up being a disaster, you've still got the Pretty!

I'm so happy to be doing this project at last - it's been on my wish list for months.  With luck the enthusiasm will translate into brilliant success, especially after the series of disasters that were my giant garter stripe hat.  (must get back to that at some point, too!)

Hope you have a fun and colourful weekend yourself and I'll see you back here at Hugs on Monday.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Porch knitting (as opposed to knitting a porch)

The porch here is getting some serious use these days, and not just because the inside of the house has gone on being pretty cramped without a topper for the concrete floor in the basement (yeah, the flood recovery is still not done.)

I mean, who doesn't want to knit outside in the shade when the weather's good?

When you live on a street with a lot of old trees, you still get a pretty good show of leaves even after an ice storm and sheer attrition.

And then of course, there's the whole flower basket thing that marks the beginning of summer.  Love, love love plunking somebody else's gardening genius into that urn for instant Gorgeous.

I feel so lucky to have this beautiful place to work when I'm not, you know, working.

Hope you have a beautiful place to be crafty, too!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Why you have to ply differently than you spin

Spinning: it's like life.  All about the balance.


(and yes, it's Wednesday, and you're not looking at finished socks!  after a crazy long run of photographing socks on my porch every Sunday afternoon, I am out of finished things to bore you with.)

So here's my story: I did make time this past weekend to ply the long-suffering, soon to be retired, Moxie-coloured fiber from Twisted Fiber Art.  First I weighed the four balls of singles to pair up similar weights - not a guarantee of matching length, but a start - and slipped two into the unappealing plastic bags that serve to keep the singles clean and tangle-free while I work.

Then it was time for plyfestings!

Yay, plied handspun.  I really, really love plying.  It's so simple, and so much faster than the original spinning, and at the end of it you have a lovely yarn that stands up to so much more than singles can.

Also: kind of magical how two singles ply into such a hugely bigger ball of yarn.

Even though it's just simple math really.

The only trouble with plying is that it's so amazingly fast and simple, it's easy to forget the one rule about it:

Ply in the direction opposite to that which you used to spin.

Because otherwise, this happens.

I got such a long way into both balls of singles before I noticed, too - halfway, at least.  It was just so nice sitting out on the porch, I wasn't paying attention to anything but the breeze and the blossoms and all the other nicenesses of Outside.

How to fix such a problem?  I don't know.  What I did in the end was

a/ wind all that I'd plied back onto the singles as though they were one lump and not two

b/ rejoin the end to the leader thread to start it back into the bobbin, and

c/ start spinning in the correct direction with my fingers carefully pinching off each section before I fed it back onto the bobbin.  That undid the wrongly-plied twist, and then retwisted it the way it was supposed to have gone in the first place.

It just didn't look nearly as pretty as it might have, if I'd hadn't messed up.

Still: handspun.  Never completely perfect, right?.

And one can always hope that any excess twisties in the second half of the ball will spread back into the sloppier first half, when I skein and block the yarn.

Which I'm sure I'll get around to eventually.

What about you?  You gonna get around to something you've been putting off, or start something new today?

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The same but different: knitting edition

The other day I confused the girl at the grocery checkout by calling a nectarine an apricot when she tried to confirm the code for this one random fruit in my basket.

Look, it's a tiny baby socklit! and it matches that maple blossom.

Her: You're sure this is an apricot?

Me: No, sorry.  Nectarine.  There was a lot of indecision in the fruit section today.

Her: Do not apologize.  I am indecisive at the fruit section every day.  I'm there staring, and the guys who work over there say, Just have your usual, and I say No, no.

Me: Because you want something different, right?

Her: Exactly.

Me: And then you end up getting the same thing anyway, right?

Her: Exactly.

Chomp that maple blossom, tiny socklit monster.

Funny how I knew what she was talking about, huh?  I mean, it's not as though I don't keep on knitting socks all. the. time.

(tell you what though, I feel a mitten jag coming on, big time.  stay tuned.)

Monday, May 26, 2014

Knitting black and blue

For all that I complain about knitting a ribbing stitch - something that continental knitters probably never do because the back and forth is so much easier if you hold the working yarn in your left hand - I don't mind it one bit in sport weight yarn.

Especially nice squashy stuff like Playful, from Twisted Fiber Art, which is thankfully not one of the yarns that's being discontinued in July.  (Sadly this is a former club colour - Downton - and not currently being dyed to order.)  I don't know whether the trouble with fingering rib is that there are so many more stitches to work, or so much less yarn to cling on to as you go, but I'm glad to find that it doesn't translate upward on the yarn weight scale.
Another thing I am really admiring with these socks is the heel gusset.

It's the same one I always do, but somehow with the blue stitches serving as the base for the pickup and the grey stitches starting the side of the heel - it feels so neat and perfect.

In spite of my best efforts and the socks getting off to a really good start, I haven't been able to keep the stripes the same for each foot:

Something funny happened for one of them on the second repeat of the grey stripe.  But it's only really going to show while I'm knitting it, so I'm not fussing.

What's worth fussing about:

A missing needle.  Seriously, after all my years of not losing needles, I've somehow dropped one of the 10 recycled piano-key ones I'm using for these socks.  It's not the end of the world, because I can still knit both and just keep moving the spare working needle between them, but it could be the end of the world because I'm pretty sure the only time I could have dropped it was that evening I was sick and knitting in bed.  Mostly now I drift off to sleep waiting for the Ow, and grateful these things aren't super pointy.

One other thing I should mention about these socks is how great they would look as fingerless gloves.

Don't you think?

I'll tell you what I think, apart from "mittens are a dangerous subject":  We should all go have a great start to our week, be it knitting inclusive or otherwise!  Take care of yourself today and I'll be back to see you again tomorrow.

Friday, May 23, 2014

The first yarn-spinning of spring

In case you're wondering, the best time for spinning yarn outside is on a holiday Monday, ideally in the early morning when everybody else is sleeping in or still away at their cottages.

(Of course it goes without saying that such a holiday Monday should not occur in the depths of winter, unless you have some pretty dramatic source of outdoor heat.)

Maybe it's different where you live, in which case, can I come visit?  But here in Toronto, living alongside a bus route in a neighbourhood where the houses are under constant construction, and the trees need frequent maintenance by chainsaw, and an awful lot of landscaping is done professionally with leafblowers instead of a rake, and the dogs are consistently freaked out by raccoons and the presence of other dogs, it's kinda noisy a lot of the time.

On a holiday Monday though, you can hear the birds.

I forgot that on Victoria Day.  I'd spent the day before hosing down the porch floor and bringing out the summer chairs, and when I brought the wheel out on Monday morning I assumed I'd listen to my audiobook and spin just like I had inside all winter.  But then I thought twice.

Birds - that's what I listened to.  Birds, and the soft rustle of leaves, and the sound of the wheel thunking and whirring away.

Okay, it has to be said - I'm kind of tired of these colours now.  I spun the other three lumps of fiber in the horrible winter that was, and I guess I still associate them with it, because I started spinning with thoughts of Other Fiber in my conscious mind.

Still, in such a lovely setting, it's hard not to notice the magical contrast between a soft pillow of sheep's hair and the rigid lines of spun wool.

It's hard to believe these are essentially the same substance, with nothing more than energy added.

And with nothing more than energy and a little time - maybe 90 minutes' worth, because I was spinning a bit finer than I usually do - I was done.

What a great feeling: clean porch, and the last of the singles done.  It doesn't get much better than that.

And now I get to ply.  Maybe even this weekend, though I'll have to make a pretty early start on Sunday to get the same quiet of a blissful holiday Monday.

Hope you have a wonderful weekend yourself, and I'll see you here again next week!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Match the knitting to the knittee

A few weeks ago a yarn sample turned up in the mail that I thought Lannie would love.  I was right!

Not only did Lannie love the colour,

it matched her manicure (and her coat!)

I looked it up and this colour: Crush, from Twisted Fiber Art, is not currently in production.  Cue the sads.

But then this other sample came in the mail, from the current club, which means I could order it if I want when the club is done.

Rapunzel, also from Twisted.  And it's even got purple in it.

In related news, Twisted is discontinuing some yarns and fibers in just a few weeks, on July 1.  Normally this sort of thing doesn't affect me because I see it as Less Temptation.  But this time: ow.  Duchess is going - the DK weight superwash wool I've used for ever so many hats and cowls and socks.  And my favourite blue-faced leicester roving that is so wonderful to spin.  And two other rovings I like a lot as well.  So instead of being Less Temptation to buy yarn, this plus the purple/pink Rapunzel is making me think More. (more more more more more!)

So, if I knit something for Lannie anytime soon, it will probably not be a surprise.

(yes, I know it is ridiculous to think of buying even more yarn.  totally, utterly ridiculous.  go have a good day chuckling about how ridiculous I am, if only to cover the sound of yarn purchasing.)

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

In which I am thankful for socks... again

I am pretty tempted to rip out the Kitchener stitch closure of these socks and redo it, but otherwise...

... I love them so much.  And also, can you believe how much paint has worn off that porch?  Criminy, when I think of all the scraping I used to do to prep it for a fresh coat, it's a shame I'm not painting it this summer.  I'd be done in no time.

I won't need to wear these socks - Thankful colourway, Vesper sock club - for months now, but when I do, they will match my orange linen sweater perfectly, and also my purple linen tunic blouse, both of which will be the perfect weight for early fall temperatures.  And for later fall temperatures, under a jacket, which I really hope will not be the same black rain jacket I've been wearing the last few years because frankly: I am tired of looking at that thing.

Also at the decrepit state of the porch, but there is just no point in painting it when it's going to be replaced, even if the replacement is going to take another full year to happen because there is also no point in rebuilding a porch right before the house it's attached to gets rebuilt as well.

But back to less scary subjects, like apparel, and also, to people other than me.

You know why it's lucky if you knit and weave and have bright neck things to wear?  Because as practical as black is for raincoats and tops and pants and boots, you can get to looking pretty depressing if that`s all you end up wearing.  Colour is good.

You know what else is neat?  How far down your heel the turning part happens on a sock.  You can see the seam in orange there, where the fancy short turns happen, right before you pick up stitches from the side of the heel flap.  I keep thinking that part should be lined up with the very back of your heel, instead of all the way under it, but no.

Man, the stuff you take for granted once you're actually wearing a sock.  You do all that work bringing it to life, and once it's done, it lives that life out as a hardwearing part of your arsenal against cold and discomfort without much more thought from the person who's walking around in it.  Kind of sad, kind of nice.

But always cosy.

See you tomorrow for another speed post!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The weirdest knitting comment ever

A couple of weekends ago I was in a coffee shop listening to The Help and knitting this sock.

As usual, somebody stopped by to ask what I was knitting.  So I said, as I usually do, A sock.

And here's where it got weird.

"Oh, I used to knit," the lady at my side told me.  She was older, definitely retired, very sweet.  "I used to knit the most beautiful sweaters.  But I don't knit them any more."


"No.  I didn't need any more sweaters."

I didn't know how to respond to this and she added, "I loved knitting."

She looked so wistfully at my sock I had to stop myself from asking whether she might not know somebody else who could use a sweater, if that's all she wanted to knit.

(okay, maybe she had to stop knitting because of arthritis or something.)

(maybe seeing my knitting reminded her of how much she loved it, and she'll start again knitting something different.)

(maybe I worry too much about other knitters.)

To deal with any bewilderment you might be feeling about the concept of knitting only for need and not because we Can. Not. Stop., let's look at the sock stitches super close up so we can enjoy the halo of coloured wisps of wool.

Feel better now?  Okay then, go have a wonderful day and I'll see you tomorrow!

Monday, May 19, 2014

The writer's book of knitting

Trish is the speaker of all truths, especially when it comes to knitting, even if she doesn't like knitting socks.  Just in case you were wondering where you could go to find a speaker of truths.

hello, mr. stripey

The other day I was whinging on about how for some reason - because I'm at the tail end again of  a cold/flu thing that has me simultaneously sleepy and coughing all the time? because I'm not getting outside enough (see above)? because I am a failure as a human being? - I keep running out of groceries I forgot to replace, and am way behind on the laundry, and haven't even wanted to knit.

yes, the moment I put those last few words together I thought, Do I need to see a doctor??

and Trish said

Mary.  You are doing a full time job.  You are WRITING. A. BOOK.

Which is true, and it was really nice of Trish to point that out to me because it's so easy to forget. In fact I should have noticed it myself, in spite of it being nothing new for me to be typing a lot of words at my computer every day (see: five years of Hugs posts.)

Here is me, speaking truth about writing:

Writers who knit live a highly risky double existence because each of these activities threatens the other.

Not with sabres or anything, but still.  It's hard physically to do both at the same time, and either one can fill your head so completely that there is no room whatsoever to ponder the other.  Much like a closet full of stashed yarn you can never quite get through.

So, either writing is winning this particular battle in the war on my time, or I just totally burned out on stripey sock knitting ...

two mr. stripeys

... current evidence aside, and haven't fallen hard for anything new yet.  Either way I can barely dredge up the enthusiasm for more than about an hour of knitting a day.  And how this is going to hit my numbers for May on the Knitting Planner, on top of the week or so I didn't knit or write while I was on holiday... well, let's just say it was lucky we are on the third day of a long weekend (thank you, Queen Victoria!) and that the weather was too cold on the first two days even to think of buying plants for a big landscaping effort.  Free time today!

Recapping April:

I will not be showing you pictures of all the things I knit in April because it was 100% stripey Vesper socks and I don't invite you in here to make you suffer like that.  But I will tell you that my fear of not having enough new handknit socks for vacation walking led to a grand total of

sixty three hours of knitting!

... and, cue the balloons.

The knitting planner has been a wonderful tool that I have ignored, more or less, these last few weeks.  Or maybe I just memorized it, because the things I am knitting right now are all on it.  So probably what I need to is make a new schedule to better balance writing and home maintenance, a combination that naturally produces gaps for knitting.

And also, grocery procurement.

Tomorrow there will be no tweet.  Instead I am going to do short pieces here on Tuesdays and Thursdays and see how that pairs up with the book project.  Yay!

The End

Author's Note

I'm at about 60,000 words on the book.  Think good thoughts.

Friday, May 16, 2014

What happens when you ignore yarn for too long

Today is all about the dangerously blue yarn that I left sitting at the top of a basket of skeins I thought I might get to before October.

It looks so innocent and squeezable, doesn't it?  But don't be fooled.

The basket was sitting in the living room for a long time, and then I thought it might be a good idea to tidy up, so I moved it to the room where my desk is.  Because yes, the basement room where I usually keep my yarn is still out of commission until it is totally flood proof and re-floored which should happen before June is very old but doesn't help me right now.  Since I go back and forth from my desk a few dozen times a day, you can imagine how much I was seeing the dangerous blue yarn.

After a little while I thought: I really want to cake that stuff and knit it.  But since it was total chaos here with packing, writing, and knitting a ton of travel socks on top of the usual round of daily delights, I knew there wasn't any time for that job at all.

So I mostly ignored the yarn, and somehow it seemed to get bigger and bigger until it was all I could see in my path every time I got up for another cup of tea.  It's just... not a good idea to ignore yarn when it's doing that.

One weekend morning when I was really down to the wire for my deadlines, I decided to ignore them lest the blue yarn expand enough to fill the entire room.  I got out the swift and caked the stripey yarn that goes with the blue one...

and then I divided that cake evenly into two for socks...

and then I caked the blue that's been calling to me and which I wanted to use for sock heels...

and then I was good for a while.   Until I got back from Boston, anyway.

It's the Downton colourway from Twisted Fiber Art, getting knit up into a nice sensible man sock I won't need till the fall but: azure blue! I bet you wouldn't have resisted either.

The needles are a departure for me: 4" glove needles recycled from piano keys.  They are a little blunt and not super slick, and I love them.  How they're going to cope with all the bonus stitches on a heel gusset is something I can't begin to guess though, because wow is 4" short.

And now you know what I'm doing this weekend: audiobooks and blue stripies.

What about you?  Make it something fun, and I'll see you back here again on Monday!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Sometimes you just gotta knit that stitch you don't love

Affection alert: I am smitten with the new ankle socks.

Which is a pain, because as you may recall, I do not love knitting ribbing along the whole length of a sock, even if they're as short as these ones.

I especially do not love knitting ribbing where the knit goes through the back loop.  But these socks look great, and I am willing to go through the pain of endless ribbing if it means getting this texture.

It's hard to believe after the endless weeks of cold weather we had well on into what was supposed to be spring, but the weather is warm again this week.  Really warm, and the stripey socks I worked so hard to knit for my holiday are now emphatically out of season.  These ones are perfect and I'm glad to have them.

The colours are so summery, even the grey if you define 'summery' as anything that will match a new linen tank top.

I saw a girl on the subway the other day wearing bright running shoes with cotton ankle socks and I thought maybe I should just do the same - go storebought and not push the sock stitching, at least for wearing with trainers - but these wool ones are just so much more comfortable for long walks.  I mean: if it's not hot enough for sandals to be the only possible choice, it's just fine for wool... as long as they don't cover your leg up to the calf, of course.

It's almost like a plaid, the way the shadow of the ribbing works against the horizontal stripes.  And that's the upside of knitting through the back loop: the stitch stands higher and narrower.  Trimmer.

Now that my spring holiday is over and things are settling down here (except for planning out a renovation while finishing a first draft of my book - YIKES) I'm pretty sure I can go back to posting five times a week at Hugs instead of three times and tweeting twice.  I'm way too chatty to be restricting myself to 140 characters.  I've got another silly little short story for tomorrow and then next week I'll be back to posting here every weekday, and tweeting when I think of something cute.

Try to fit in some knitting today and I'll see you back here on Friday!