Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Stashbusting with crochet

Today I want to tell you about my Clever Idea for the square crochet hook I bought at the Knitters' Fair.  Shockingly, it involves crochet.

It's taken me years to grasp the mechanics of crochet, and even now I'm content not to venture beyond the basics, but I've been very very interested in the random shapings one can make with a hook as opposed to two needles.  Also: totally smitten with the hand motion involved in making crochet fabric.  And even more smitten with the notion of crochet being faster than knitting, and faster at using up yarn to boot.  Maybe these are only rumours, but they are awfully enticing.

Normally of course we like to do lots with just a little yarn, because it's less expensive.  But when you are moving and have a huge yarn stash, the idea of transforming yarn very quickly into very functional aids for living... well, that's pretty appealing.

The other thing that intrigues me about crochet is the potential for colourwork. 

I've been wanting to get onto a crochet project for a while now, but I couldn't come up with an idea that would be worth the time (given my lack of experience and limited decision-making ability re. yarn choices.)  But then I watched Trish knitting stuff with yarn held double, and after that she actually said to me "Hold the yarn double!" when I said I wanted to crochet something bulky, but that the vast supply of 100% wool I'd decided was just a bit too scratchy for me to think of using for sweaters is sport weight.

So I decided to hold this yarn double and work in these two colours.  It's coming out very squishy, exactly as I'd hoped...

... and the 6mm hook is just the right size for a firm fabric.

Next time I mention this project I hope to have a bit more of it to show you, and I'll tell you what it's going to be.

Meanwhile: have a great day, and I'll see you tomorrow!

Monday, September 29, 2014

How to be beautiful at any age

The other day I clicked on one of those Perfect Hair Styles To Make You Look Younger! articles.

It's true: even this hat doesn't stop the beauty.

(The title had made me think about the time a new hairstylist told me that my long hair made me look old, my curls made me look old, the grey I'd left untouched made me look old, and I should just let him cut off and colour my hair, and spend lots of money on him every 3-4 weeks thereafter.  Okay, that last bit was unspoken, but I think it was the subtext.  He gave me a truly terrible cut and I found a different new hairstylist.)

Seriously though: how many articles like that get published every day?  My vote is Tons, and my explanation is "because they get clicked on so. many. times."  We all want to look and feel great and have heaps of energy and magnetism...  if only we knew how. 

h'mmm... could I too be more beautiful?

That particular article informed me that I could look younger if I had bangs, no bangs, long hair, short hair, a messy up-do, flattened hair, and/or curls.  What's left?  (tiny grey close-to-your-head curls, that's what.  I would never have guessed.)

Not so helpful.  So here are my beauty tips.  Feel free to add your own in the comments. 

For wrinkles:

Smile at people, even if they don't look like they're having a bad day.

It's easy to smile when you're wearing a bow tie!

Eventually your smile lines will overtake your frowny grumpy ones.  And if bright colours and big patterns draw the most attention, why not great teeth?  Plus: smiley people just naturally look younger.

For toned arm muscles:

Notice when somebody needs help, and help them.  Hold a door in a public building, or bring pie to a door at somebody's home.  Everybody likes pie.

Giant puffy sleeves make my arms look slim by comparison!

Feeling like you need help yourself?  Reach out and invite kindness (or more pie.) Other people benefit from giving too, and anyway it's important to balance your muscle work.

To make your eyes your best feature:

Learn stuff.  Laugh a lot.  Wisdom and humour show in your eyes and nothing makes them more gorgeous, except maybe boatloads of eyeliner.  

Can you tell I just took my mohair coat to the library?

Also, try to get some sleep.  People can't see your gorgeous eyes if they are at half-mast most of the time.  And if all else fails, you can always resort to the emphatic eyebrows.

Ironic eyebrows are the perfect frame for my stunning eyes!

For glowing skin:

Step up your blood circulation with more activity.  Run for the bus, sure, but also, walk around more.  There are yarn store aisles just crying for your attention, to say nothing of fabric store aisles and parks with a series of benches just right for knitting on at intervals.  Practise learning to walk and knit.

But how do you knit with this club thing at the end?

Also: if you're knitting something soft? Don't just enjoy the way it feels on your hands.  Lift it to your face, too, for a yarny kiss.

I look good enough to go skiing!  but my mitts are too soft to waste on ski poles.

(oh, and moisturize.  apparently that's really important too.)

For great hair:

Apart from eating right to give it the best start you can?  Hats.  Big brimmed sun hats in summer, colourful knit hats in winter - yes, they may crush your 'do, but they also frame it, and conceal bad hair.  Think open-holed berets in some fabulous shade, if it's too warm for anything more.  Express yourself!

For hatless days, compelling styles include ponytails of any kind (shows you're working hard), standy-uppy short locks (shows you've been running your fingers through there while thinking through a tough problem), and long tresses you obviously washed and left to dry and style on its own so you could get on with doing productive things.  Or, you know, there's hairspray.

I won't have to think about my hair for a week, and it will still be perfect!

Remember, your hair says so much about you.  Let it speak.

For a cheery disposition:

Two words.  Social life.  Get one!

This hat will make my hair look stunning while I win over the gang with my wit!

The more you circulate, in person or in correspondence, the more people will find out just how beautiful you are.

Wow, I guess I really do look younger by mail!

Hope these tips help you to have a beautiful day; I plan to have one, myself, accessorized by some glamourous cups full of tea.  See you tomorrow!

Friday, September 26, 2014

Fingerless gloves for fall

Since last spring, I've been trying to get a start on the second pair of handspun fingerless gloves I'm supposed to be giving away as soon as the weather turns chilly again:

but it looks like this one is sweet on Araminta, so it might be a bit of a wrench to make that happen.

Okay, maybe I'm rather partial to it myself, and isn't that unfortunate?

You will recognize the project I'm sure - Waterloo Wools' 'Lakeside' fiber, spun into what passes for sport weight, and knit up into a pair of Churchmouse Yarns and Teas' Ferryboat Mitts.  I have lost count of how many times I've linked to that pattern here at Hugs. Lots?  and I think this is my third pair.  It's such a nice straightforward pattern, and if I ever do get to make a pair for myself I might stop the thumb at this point and do a nice stretchy bindoff instead of going on another inch or so, the way the pattern does.  It just looks so pretty leaving one's thumb free, and it feels super comfortable.

Also, I am really loving this yarn again.  I was getting a bit tired of it by the end of the second mitt of the last pair.  Mind you it's easy to say I love it now, when I'm doing the first mitt... I never feel quite so calm and cheerful knitting the second, when I'm battling my desperate need for symmetry, and trying to match up the handspun stripes perfectly while telling myself it's fine, they'll be beautiful, it's part of the charm of handmade, blah blah blah I WANT MATCHY.

Deep breath.  Aren't the stitches just amazing looking?  I'm still not used to the fact that I can spin yarn that looks like stitches when it's knit, and not big globs of fiber.

I guess if I was going to try to say something meaningful about this project it would be that spinning yarn and knitting with handspun yarn both have quite a lot to teach us about life.

Like the way that energy transforms things and makes them strong.

And that life is full of shifts that might seem endless when we're in them, but show up as stages when we look at them from a distance, objectively.

And that there's a lot we can't control, and that's okay, because in the end you will still have something that was useful.

(even though it may still drive you crazy that it didn't match.)

Okay, time for you and me to get on with our days.  One last loving look at Minty and the knitting?

Yep, she's sitting on a little tin of Churchmouse stitch markers.  Cute, or cute?  Hope you have a great weekend - see you Monday!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Spinning in motion, with wasp

This hasn't happened before, but the Downton singles I was plying together during a sunny afternoon on the porch with my wasp friend (more on him later) unwound so easily, I was able to go hands-free long enough to get some in-motion shots.

Doesn't that look cool?

Normally I love plying, but that's when there's an end in sight.  I've been chipping away at the singles I spun over the course of July and sometimes even getting two colourways done in a day.  Surprised?  That's because I've been sparing you endless posts with pictures of of spun yarn.  You're welcome.  And may I add that in spite of all that restraint and plying effort, I still have 7 braids' worth of singles to ply? 

Kind of takes the fun out of it, to know you're essentially a ply factory.  Until this particular set of singles though, and the hands-free thing.

As I spun this batch I spotted a flaw in my evil plan for spinning up a lot of striped roving.  For one thing, I'm not consistent with the matching-up and barberpole moments, so I feel restricted to knitting single things as opposed to pairs that will not be symmetrical and will drive me slowly insane.  It's too late now that all the initial spinning is done here, but I think I will try fractal spinning another time, just to make the inconsistency a more deliberate-looking design feature.

(but will I end up with variegated colours that pool?  so many questions.)

Now, about this wasp.  He/she/it is in love with flowers and the colour yellow, apparently, and guess what the cushions on our porch seating looks like?  You guessed it: big yellow flowers.  Sometimes when I'm plying, he appears magically in the exact space where the singles are being joined into one. 

Because I don't want to be a/stung or b/spinning wasps into my yarn, I'm kinda rethinking the whole porch-spinning thing.

Or at least the cushions for the post-renovation chairs.

Okay, time to go admire floorplan possibilities: hope you have a great day today and I'll see you tomorrow!

(ps, Holly doesn't agree with my theory that plying yarn counts as packing, just because yarn takes up less space than fiber.  do you?)

Wednesday, September 24, 2014


No self-respecting squid would have this many tentacles, but I'm having trouble lately thinking of the Cheery-Uppy socks as anything other than marine life...

... just think, I get to run in all those ends!  But I think it's the last time, because I'm already salivating over the idea of doing long colour changes all down the leg of the next few pairs of my mohair boot socks, instead of sporty little stripes.

It's not like top-of-leg stripes have really stood out on the last few pairs, or this one:

At least, not while I'm knitting them.  Check out the finished Other Sock:

Isn't that weird, how different a piece looks when all of its parts are in place and perspective?

There are at least three and maybe more pairs of these socks it kit form down in my basement knitting lair, and how I'm supposed to knit them when I'm also supposed to be packing is something I appear not to have considered.  In fact I'm doing a very good job at solving that problem by ignoring it.  But knit them I should because, wait for it: after we move I will need these crazy super warm socks.  Yep, I am going to be walking outside in the freezing cold every day.

Isn't that fabulous?

I'm not being sarcastic here: I love walking.  So much more than I love how comfy my driver's seat is, or appreciate staying dry getting from A to B on a rainy day.  The fact is I came to driving so late, I have never felt as free in a car as I do walking on my own two legs, taking routes you can't do in a car (like, though malls and laneways) and seeing stuff without the filter of a foggy, streaky, or dusty windshield.  So moving downtown means walking to me, and even as I type this and look out over my beautiful green leafy neighbourhood I am pretty excited.

Also: I knit.  And the only people I know who look more forward to cold weather than skiers are people who knit.

We've come a long way from where I started this morning - with squids and insane numbers of ends to run in - but I'm curious.  What's your most-essential cold weather hand knit accessory?

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Earbud pouch: a free knitting pattern

January 2018 update:  Just a quick note to say that when I put hours into designing Hugs patterns to share, and publish them with the words "For Personal Use Only" added, it's with the dream that they will be knit and shared all over again out of love and generosity and not for profit on Etsy without even crediting me as the designer.  Ahem.  And now to the original posting...  and happy knitting!

I'm so happy to be able to share this giftable little knit with you well before peak gift-giving season:

As usual, this portable little pouch for mobile phone earbuds was born out of me needing something for myself, but right away I saw the potential for other knitters.  Who doesn't want to make something useful, completely giftable, and luxury-yarn-end stashbusting to boot?  Especially when you can do it in the time it takes to watch a movie.

None of this fiddly casting on three stitches to work in the round business - the pouch starts with a manageable cuff and works down to a grafted bottom.

And because the increases and decreases are at the side rather than all the way around, the pouch lies flat, which takes up less space in in a purse or a pocket.

On top of that, how perfect is this little pocket for a pair of earrings or a ring, wrapped up in tissue and tucked inside?  The recipient can use it later for stowing jewelry safely while traveling.  Or what about a child tearfully losing that first tooth, comforted by an especially cuddly envelope for tooth fairy transactions?

Oh, who am I kidding... these things feel so great to knit I would make them just to stop a chair leg from scraping the floor (and hey, I bet that would work too!)

The pattern as written is for a specific sport weight yarn, knit at a pretty tight gauge on 2.5mm needles.  However, that's just to make the writing-up easy.  I've been using other sport weight yarns, of course, and fingering.  But you can also try something a little closer to lace weight (I used Twisted Fiber Art's Arial yarn here.)

Originally when I posted this pattern, I gave the following project notes for fingering weight... but now I realize fingering works just fine for the pattern given.

For lighter-than-fingering on the other hand, I go down to a 2.25mm set of double pointed needles, and cast on 8 more stitches than the pattern calls for.  Instead of increasing three times at the end of the cuff, I increase four, and I start the decreases at 20 rounds or - if I'm using a yarn sample from Twisted Fiber Art - when it looks like I might be starting to run out of yarn.  You can decrease by eye because nobody's double checking your conformity, and simply end when you think it looks right or when you suspect you have only enough yarn left to do the grafting.  You might end up with a stumpy looking pouch...

... but trust me, you will be able to fit earbuds in there, and they won't fall out.

Difficulty Level
Not quite beginner, but still pretty easy.  The pattern is knit in the round.  It uses raised increases, which are thoroughly described if you haven't done them before.  It also involves grafting by Kitchener stitch (and is probably a great way to practise that.)  Instructions for Kitchener stitch are included as well.

Any sport weight yarn - about 12 yards of it.
2.5mm double pointed needles, or size to get gauge.
darning needle

34 sts, 48 rows = 4” in stocking stitch
Finished Dimensions 
2 7/8" tall, 2 5/8” wide

Monday, September 22, 2014

Tricks and bright colour treats

Folks, I finally got to ply some of the vast teetering mountain of July-related handspun yarn.

And with October fast approaching I couldn't let Trick or Treat fall to the bottom of the queue.  I don't know though - too cheerful for Hallowe'en?

Here is the treat:

I couldn't believe how well the two strands came together, matching up for perfect colour shifts all the way along.  Isn't it gorgeous?

Sadly: the trick followed.

So. Much. Barberpole.

Not that I don't like barberpole, because I do.  And I like solid shifts, and polka dots for that matter but what I really like just one thing per skein and I don't have it.

The second half of the braid wasn't much better - still a mix, but it went kind of back and forth for the duration.

On the upside though: done! 

And maybe there's something I can do to make the shifts an asset rather than a big ol' Weird.  Like - linen stitch to break it up?  Ribbing for the straight striping effect and stocking stitch afterward?  Eh, I don't even know what I'm knitting with this stuff yet, so I've got time I guess.

Hope you get some good thinking time today, preferably with a side of stitching!

Friday, September 19, 2014

What to do when you overdo (the yarn shopping)

Today I'd like to discuss the fallout from overbuying yarny stuff you don't have space for and may never, ever have time to use.

Psych!  Nope, instead I'm gonna talk about how to push past annoying guilt and mess, to organize the stuff you brought home.

This is how I held onto the fibre I had decided to buy while I kept on shopping at Waterloo Wool's closing sale, by the way.  I stuck both arms through the loops on a series of braids and it was so warm, and looked so medieval, I can't believe nobody crafty has brought this in as a fashion trend.

And now to business.

Hello Seascape, you pretty blue superwash merino!

You are insanely soft, and your colours are lovely, and there are two of you, so I should spin you very fine and use you for a stunningly beautiful shawl.  But that's too much like work so you get to be sportish weight, for a series of giftable hats and neck scarves.  You are so perfect for next-to-skin use it would be a shame (and too time-consuming) to do anything else.  Plus, I can spin sport weight while reading a book on my knee, as it's my current autopilot setting.

Let's have a look at you, Polwarth Pumpkin Patch!

You are the perfect match for the Stoddart winter sock yarn I've been spinning, which means you would make amazing matchy legwarmers.  but again: so soft.  I think the sock yarn might do well as mitts, and you as a super bulky Mary hat to go with a nice green scarf.  Assuming I ever stumble across a nice green scarf - oh, wait, I did!  Perfect.

Moving on - oh yes, Magenta Mixup on scrummy Polwarth.

You know who you're for, and so will she the minute she sees this post, heh.  You get to be whatever she would like... that is made with bulky yarn. Or... okay, less than bulky yarn.  I am not a tyrant.  Let me know what you'd prefer, Lannie: it's gonna be soft, whatever you choose.

Oh look, we're back to me again.  I love you, Blue-Faced Leicester 'Favourite Vintage.'  I have no idea what you should be but I think your weight will be... bulky?

Or maybe I'm getting to be too predictable.  I've already got one or two hats I could be wearing so... bulky handwoven scarf?  A bulky cowl?  Either way - yep, bulky is the way to go.

Now this one is - hello!  I think I decided you should not be bulky, Falkland Shipwreck.  You are a little scratchier than the others - nothing to be ashamed of, it's just enough to make you not right for next to skin - so perhaps your destiny lies in being sport weight. 

That's a nice flexible weight for things that don't end up on one's forehead or neck, and it can always be doubled up for a heavier effect if an actual project idea occurs to me.  Or I can weave you with very soft cross yarn into scarves, if I decide to give in to the pleas of Certain People who caught me photographing you.

Please tell me we're getting to the bottom of the shopping bag.  I don't think I can - oh, hi there Grape Crush on Blue-Faced Leicester!

We all know where you're going (Ady), and what you're going as (bulky hat or cowl).  And who you're going with (Polwarth African Violet.)

Hat or cowl, whichever Grape Crush is not and whatever Ady decides will suit.  Though actually, the African Violet is a smashing match for some Twisted yarn I forget the name of, but which will leave remains post-sock project that might be enough to set up the loom for a handspun scarf, so... well, still.  Bulky.


See, overbuying isn't a disaster. As long as you make a plan for how you're going to use the insane amount of stuff you picked up, you can totally pretend you didn't overbuy at all.

And now if you'll excuse me, I have to go now and finish off prepping all this fibre according to its destination (tearing into sections, matching with instructions on an index card, and stuffing into mothproof bags),  so I can pretend I actually have a shot at making this stuff.  See you Monday!