Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Looking for a new year

Yesterday, I had this sudden enticing image of what life could be like and I could hardly contain the WOW!

The next moment, it was gone, so I have no idea how to make it happen.  But I can tell you it was very clean and clear and shiny. 

It was not full of having to walk around a ton of furniture-related obstacles to get to the phone.  It may also not have included the distraction of a million little things - just one or two very big exciting important things.

I am pretty sure I was looking at a blog when the Eureka moment struck.  Does this happen to you?  See a photograph and wish you lived in it, to the exclusion of all the less pretty things that are certainly off beyond the boundaries of the frame?  Or look at somebody else on the subway and think: if I had that person's life right now, I would have no attachment to anything in it - I could walk away from all of my Stuff, and weed out the excess of her Stuff, and be instantly streamlined.

(of course, I like all of my Stuff, and also, all of my People, so even if it would not be terribly inconvenient to the other person I would not actually want to do this.  I think it's yet another manifestation of how very much I would like to have more Space.)

Now, it is true that very soon - not soon enough because it turns out bathroom renovations take approximately forever plus 11 days - I will be moving to a bigger space and have the opportunity/excuse to put some of the Stuff into storage.  And then afterward, I will be moving to an even bigger space than that, so probably I would have to mess up very very badly not to be able to use 2015 to replicate the life that revealed itself in that fleeting glimpse.

Wouldn't that be amazing?

A whole fresh start?

With maybe a baking oven in it?

(well, maybe not the baking oven because $$$.  still!  freshness and light!)


Every December after the dust settles, I commit myself to a goal for the coming year.  Last year - and I'm not even going to look this up, because I know I blew it - I wanted to work through a ton of yarn stash.  I might even have wanted to spin all my fiber, which I did do, but then replaced with more, so Bleah.  Not going there.  I made lots of nice things and got overwhelmed and stopped even uploading new projects to Ravelry so I have no idea what they were, even.

What I did right: I committed to knitting a tea cosy for my coffee-shaped pot.  And I did, and I call it the Boyfriend Sweater, and I love it and my pot wears it constantly and it feels fantastic under my hand.  So yay, go Me!

This year:  I want to have that life I saw in my vision..

I want to knit charming things without pressure.

I want to wear charming things I have knit.

I want to have a charmingly small amount of yarn I don't trip over, ever.

Also: I want to take the next two days off from Hugs, put my house back together so I am totally ready for Back To Everything on January 5, and work on my novel.

So: Happy New Year in advance!

What will your goals be for this year?

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Preparing for winter

With Christmas and (mostly) 'flu out of the way: it's time to prepare for Winter.  With spinning!

I don't know about you, but in these few remaining days where I don't have to be off running around outside on somebody else's schedule, I'm trying to be really practical about January. 

I know I'm going to need a backup superwarm hat, because sometimes your primary hat gets really wet after a snowstorm, and because you can get so, so tired of wearing the same hat every day by the time you hit February.  I haven't been able to shake the memory of a really pretty orange wool hat I saw somebody wearing last winter, so it was obviously time to spin this orange wool.

Bonus: I have orange gloves.

This is one of those petty things, where I like to be matchy.  The orange gloves are just thin leather suede, lined with silk - not at all warm enough for a cold day - but they are perfect for driving.  My hands don't slip on the wheel, and the silk is all the insulation you need from the vinyl that's icy from sitting out all all day or night without the heater on.  And when I'm going from A to B after I've parked: pockets.

Still: a hat and gloves do not a warm girl make.  What I need to finish this off is some sort of scarf or neckwarmer with orange in it. 

Oh, look!

HA.  And this is why it's worth knitting or weaving things that don't match anything you own.  Eventually, it will pay off, especially if you finally get around to trimming some fringe, ahem.

But first I have to knit that hat.

What warm things are you planning for keeping toasty this winter?

Monday, December 29, 2014

A great holiday for a hermit

Hello there!  It's been unusually quiet here at Hugs, but I hope you were off having a wonderful holiday while I was busy not posting anything.  Or even getting any further on the one item I still wanted to give over the holiday (crossing my fingers - maybe it's still possible.)   I refer of course to Ferdinand, an unfinished sock friend.

While not knitting Ferdy I had a wonderful holiday for a hermit, like many other people in Toronto apparently, whether or not they had their 'flu shot.  I did, but the 2014 recipe didn't cover a strain that turned out to be dominant this year.  So instead of enjoying all the trimmings and delicious cookies I managed to put together in the end - or even taking pretty pictures with which to decorate this post - I enjoyed blankets, potion-infused tissues, and the magical properties of Tylenol.

Go 'flu!  No really, GO.

I had 'flu so bad, it hurt even to hold a magazine in my hands, so by the time I had a chance to open this festive beauty that appeared in my stocking, the season was already kind of past its prime.

It was five days before I could even think about picking up needles, which is a drag because Omigosh, the amount of useful knitting you can get done in five bedridden days, especially with a cold snap coming on.  During those five days all I could do was think and, at intervals, occupy myself with the books I'd loaded onto my phone.  (I was afraid to read any physical books, as my germs would have put them out of commission for anybody else.)

I read A Long Time Ago And Essentially True by Brigid Pasulka, who is my new writing hero, and also The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa which is also just Wow - a deceptively simple story and so touching.  You should seriously think about reading both of these books because they are fantastic and could only be more enjoyable among the healthy.

I also mostly recovered, but I am finding it's true what the public health ads say - the fatigue from 'flu lasts a long time  I'm kind of grateful that I'm sick over the holiday after all, because I have a shot at getting enough rest before I have to be an upright and functional person again.

Which brings me back to that upcoming cold snap.  Folks, I feel some knitting coming on.  Stay tuned (and stay warm!)

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Yarn concepts: shortage versus overstock

Last night I had a lovely reminder from Churchmouse Yarns and Teas that as of now it's okay to wrap what you're knitting, needles and all, and enjoy the peace of the season.  If I had been frantically knitting when the note arrived I would so have taken that advice, as I hope you will too should you still be knitting.

Not an issue for me this year though!  This year, not only am I too sick to knit (my fingers work now, but my nose has been replaced by a not at all yarn-friendly tap) I have been able to put the whole yarn/knits thing into perspective and just give up early.

Which makes this particular delivery so amusing to me:

It's the latest installment from the Indigo Dragonfly yarn club, With Gift - the gift being a rather fetching drawstring project bag with an image of a superhero capable of resolving any yarn shortages in a single flying leap.

I have to repeat those key words:


Having very recently spent many hours tidying up my yarn supply and sorting out what project to start next, I can't honestly say I know what 'yarn shortage' means.  Coming from a place of overmuchness, it sounds like some sort of fantasy zenlike paradise in which one has only what one needs.

Obviously this is a level of balance that would produce night terrors for many.

Maybe even me. 

Still... the dream of walking through a room without stumbling over baskets of yarn!  The luxury of guilt free knitting, because there is no yarn you're ignoring!  The freedom of a clear horizon as you work!

Okay, this is probably crazy talk.

In other news: denim blue merino/cashmere/nylon sock weight.

I think I'd really, really love a pair of loose textured sleep socks out of this stuff.  What would you make with it?

(hope your Christmas Eve is going great!)

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Wrapping it up

As far as I'm concerned, wrapping a finished, blocked, and thankfully dried handknit is one of the best parts of Christmas.  Any sort of creative wrapping is fun though.  My favourites this year were aunt and uncle presents in a pair of chickenwire baskets:

For the older person on a scaling-down kick, there is nothing so treatlike at Christmas than a few favourite edibles.  Plus a small, meaningful Christmas ornament that works on a windowsill the rest of the year, if so desired.

And how cute are these tea towels for wrapping them in?  I wish the store had had more of them - I would love these for our place.

Of course no wrapping station is complete without an assortment of small paper bags for tiny gifts you want to look extra special as you deliver them.  I like brown paper lunchbags tied with yarn scraps for bigger knits, but for really little things and chocolate, flat bottomed paper bags are super stackable and portable for deliveries on the fly.  There are SO many colours and patterns to choose from on etsy!

The very tiny red and white ones at the top - 2.75" x 4" - were a perfect size for an earbud pouch plus an iTunes card.

Remember that for Valentine's Day, heh.

Then of course there is wrapping paper.  Pete picked up a roll that's printed with knitting stitches in almost-Attic24 colours - I could not believe the luck!

Plus: it matched this box of yummy Marks and Spencer chocolates.  Coordinating the paper to the gift: a new level of ridiculous yet satisfying wrapping achievements.

It was reversible paper. The other side is white snowflakes on red.  LOVE it.

Getting back to the brown paper lunchbags: these are so easy to keep on hand and use for all kinds of things apart from gift wrapping (like lunches, possibly), but I especially appreciate their being roomy enough for throwing in a few extra small treats.  Even chocolate is okay as long as you don't leave the bag near a radiator before you deliver it.

(I haven't done this.  I just recognize the potential.)

Thank goodness for fun wrapping, not least because it makes you not want to put off the job.  I am still sick and MAN, if these gifts weren't done and delivered I would be in a fine mess today!  As it is: I'm heading back to bed, with loads of good thoughts for cookie baking soon.

Hope your day is full of health and happiness and I'll see you tomorrow!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Like packing for a holiday

Christmas: that magical landscape of high expectations, either to recapture the best Christmas you ever had, or to obliterate the memory of every terrible one.  Usually I pass through the season under cover of knitting but this year, with the last of the viable gift knits sorted out and wrapped, I turned instead to realizing my long-held dream of Christmas In A Clean House.

(this knit wasn't a Christmas gift, though I did deliver it yesterday.  seriously: I finished these socks in September and there have been tons of cold, sock-friendly days since then, and it wasn't like I live 16 hours from the person for whom I knit them.  if it took me that long to deliver these socks, you can imagine how long the clutter has been building here at home, especially after last year's flood that stole a quarter of our living space and didn't get sorted out for five months.)

Here's what I learned while pursing my dream of a clutter free house, instead of posting anything here at Hugs the last few days (sorry!):

You can't keep your house clutter free.  Truly, do not expect that.  Transform what you can sustain for a maximum of two weeks, realistically 7-10 days, and try to tidy up the odd magazine or stray sock as you go.

To enhance the illusion that yours is not just a clutter free house but a haven suitable for even The Perfect Christmas, move the furniture.  Create new and innovative, however impractical, areas for performing such Perfect Christmas tasks as watching movies while knitting, or curling up with a great book and some chocolate, or walking past a room for the sheer pleasure of seeing it look different than your normal house.  If nothing else this task will force you to notice dust bunny armies and vacuum them up.

At a certain point (in my case, after 22 hours of clearing and sorting and furniture-moving and tidying) you must simply stack up everything that does not match your image of The Perfect Christmas and stick it out of sight.  Accept this as strategy, not failure.  And then do not go where it is for the duration of The Perfect Christmas.

Traditional cookie baking can be performed on the day you plan to have 'game night', aka 'the cookie eating frenzy conducted under pretense of game night'.  In fact, it can be performed during game night.  Everybody likes warm cookies.  The baker gets to skip the games s/he dislikes.  There are no losers.

If it's not possible to get the cookies ready before the end of 'game night', perhaps because you caught flu from somebody even after getting the flu shot and being responsible about getting as much sleep as possible given 22 hours of house tidying - ahem - traditional chocolates are a very acceptable alternative to cookies.

Also, you can repeat 'game night' for as long as the food supply holds out, in case the first few tries weren't perfect enough.

In short: prepping for Christmas is like packing for a holiday.  You piece together what you think you will need for the duration of the trip, and leave all the rest behind to deal with when you get back to everyday life.  It's the only way to enjoy yourself.

In other discoveries, while Pete and I were choosing and (gulp) paying for condo renovation stuff the other day the staff at the store in question offered us cookies and/or chocolate.  We have lots, one said.  Yeah, said another.  We used to get a bottle.

And it suddenly struck me in the face of their apparent preference for Not Chocolate how nice it is to get a giant box of Turtles at Christmas, and how seldom I actually do.  Except from Pete, who knows this essential truth:

The Perfect Christmas must feature an amazing book and a delicious box of Turtles.

What stuff makes up your Perfect Christmas?  (and also, thanks for your patience while I did house stuff, and if I'm not back here tomorrow please send more tissues.  *sneeze*.)

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Finishing for Christmas

Finishing off any knit is a nice experience, but finishing Christmas knits?  A week before Christmas?  That is as good as it gets.  And if you're running in ends on a cold grey day to boot, there's the bonus that you are justified in spending it inside, tucked up, doing essential things.

And the relief of four blocked cowls, drying!

Mitigated only slightly by the fear they will not dry fast enough.  These ones might need to go into a warmer room, I think.

Jan's socks are done at last, if not attractively photographed:

I can't remember such a gloomy December!  we haven't had much sun at all yet.  But you can tell these socks are purple, at least.  I only hope the brown doesn't put her off, especially where the toes went a bit non-matchy.  I could have planned that better!  But it's too late now to fuss.

There are still some more knits to finish - small knits.  Perhaps not quite small enough for me to have time to post tomorrow, but we'll see.  If I don't, rest assured I am curled up in lamplight with a good movie and some yarn, my typing fingers occupied with grafting the ends of a series of Earbud Pouches.

Take care and have a wonderful day - see you soon! With wrapped packages under my arm, I hope.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Knitter's Helpers

I had to spend the whole weekend knitting (such a hardship!) so the animals around here helped out with the chores.  Here they are sorting clean handknit socks for me.

Henry is keeping watch over Toffee, who - as you may recall - has something of a weakness for handknit socks.  Edgar is all about the work ethic, but Toffee can't get past the Yum.

And, sure enough...

before long Toffee was throwing out a pitch for ear warmers.  He's got good taste, I must say - these are some of my favourites.

Okay boys, back to work.

Edgar spotted a problem this time - he's so efficient.

So much more efficient than I am.  Oops!

Sorry about that, Edgar.  I guess I only saw red when I was pulling on these two.

They're pretty fast, those rabbits - done the job in no time!  Nothing left but the plea for Christmas sock privileges.

Okay Toffee, you can borrow them.  Thanks for all your help, sweetie.

Do you ever get elf help with your chores?

Monday, December 15, 2014

Concert knitting

This is a wonderful time of year for choral concerts, have you noticed?  There's nothing so festive as Christmas music sung by a massed choir, except maybe when the conductor invites the audience to join in.

The trouble is: you can't always knit at a Christmas concert, and you can't always break from knitting this close to the big day.  So I was pretty happy to be at a concert this weekend of beautifully sung Christmas music performed in a church that is gorgeous, has great acoustics, and, erm, stays well lit throughout the programme.  I've been to this one twice now, and I think it needs to become a December tradition, especially if the crazy knitting schedule stays one too.

At one point the guest host had everybody up and down in their seats contributing in turns to The Twelve Days of Christmas, but she obligingly forgot to assign our little section any of the Days.  Think she knew I was frantically trying to knit a whole pair of socks in just one weekend?  With eyes fixed firmly on the musicians of course, and regular breaks for applause.

Thanks to her, I was finished the heel turn of the second sock by Sunday morning, having left the first sock off at the toe.

If these socks look familiar, you must be here regularly.  I knit a pair for my cousin last year, late, and e-mailed her pictures of their progress over several days after Christmas.  Then I had a little trouble with Toffee before I mailed them off.

This is the left over yarn, and thank goodness I didn't knit anything for me with it because Carol is off home to Scotland for Christmas and has been shopping for something warm to wear while lazing around at her parents' place.  I haven't knit socks for Carol in ages, and she was due.

Thank goodness too for DK weight wool!  DK socks are super fast even if you're not knitting for somebody with fairly small feet.  The stripes on this pair even matched up beautifully.  Check it out:

Bit funny at the heel:

And right back to matchy for the foot.  I couldn't be happier.  (especially since I also finished Jan's socks at long last.  Those are sport weight, and took a lot more effort.)

There we are: ready to wrap.

But that's another story.

Hope you had a super productive weekend too and that the week starts off in good shape!  See you tomorrow.

Friday, December 12, 2014

So little time, so many knits, so much snow

The trouble with Christmas knitting is that it gets to be as much a tradition as, say, Turtles chocolates or reading a book on Boxing Day.  It's just not Christmas without it!  Oh, and also: some of the people you are knitting for are not going to be at your door on Christmas Day, so you have to get their gifts to them early, and even though you keep thinking "I have till the 25th!" you probably really only have until the 17th or something.

I've been carting the purple socks around everywhere, and getting not very far...

... and since I do in fact have only until the 17th to finish most of this year's gifts including said socks, I was thrilled when yesterday's big snowfall here in southern Ontario coincided with my day off.

All I had to do was put aside all thoughts of shoveling (surprisingly easy) and set myself up with a good movie to watch (I picked How To Steal A Million, with Audrey Hepburn and Peter O'Toole).  With a chair full of supplies at my side and a collection of audiobooks as backup, I was finished a second heel flap in no time.

While the squirrels were leaving their imprint on the tops of the fences...

I was finishing off the second gusset!

At this rate I might have the toes grafted and the ends run in and the socks blocked just in time to pack up for Jan next week.

Now, to get through a few more earbud pouches and other gift socks... oh dear. I might have to scale back on the plan, and wouldn't that be awful??  Let's hope it doesn't come to that.

Have a great weekend, whether you hole up knitting or not, but especially if you do.  And if you see any good classic movies to knit by, let me know!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Painting and moving and bears, oh my

Just kidding about the bears, though I could use a new one of the stuffed variety to comfort me after many many days of ceiling painting, interspersed with vinyl wallpaper removal.

But first! let me show you the view from the windows at our new downtown condo, lest you think there is no possibility of bears.

See? trees.  Bears sometimes hang out near trees, right?  Mind you, the bears that might hanker after these particular trees would have to sneak past the security cameras (not easy), and be physically able to press the correct elevator buttons.  So maybe not super likely.

Okay, today I am going to show you some Before pictures of the new downtown nest, taken on one of a series of extremely gloomy days.  Basically, it can't get worse than this, and hopefully when all the work is done and we are in, it will be a good deal better. 

Also, I would like to just put it out there that if you are thinking about wallpaper in your bathroom, specifically vinyl wallpaper for its waterproof qualities - Think Twice!  I myself may not be able to stop twice.  After a recent four-hour shift of wallpaper removal I could close my eyes and see my sticky hands pulling wallpaper free from the wall.  We are talking nightmarish levels of wallpaper goo and I am wondering why vinyl wallpaper even exists at this point, because surely by now most people know what it means, and who would put this stuff up today to visit such misery on other human beings tomorrow?


The peachy stuff only looks like tile: it's actually wallpaper


More After:

And still not done.

The secret to vinyl wallpaper removal:

1/ rip off the top layer of vinyl;

2/ rip off the next layer of vinyl and any foam applied for texture;

3/ score any vinyl that you couldn't get off, knowing the scoring tool will damage the wall beneath and require more repair afterward;

4/ spritz small sections at a time with very very hot water from a spray bottle and wait five minutes for it to soak in;

5/ scrape off with one of those metal spatulas you use for applying Polyfilla to holes in a wall;

6/ try not to think about whether your contractor will come in later and decide that particular section of drywall has to come down anyway.

(yes, that happened, but sadly not in this particular bathroom.)

The painting, by comparison, is... erm, just as challenging, and something I would have left to our beloved contractor Ray had I been able to worry slightly less about how much time he has to offer us right now.  Though actually, I've handed it all off to him again because my mad painting skillz seem to have dried up as badly as the condo's ceilings.  The one in the smaller of the two bedrooms basically drank any paint I offered it, though I have now reached the point of puffy marshmallow over the soft faded peach walls that are next on the paint can's hit list.  

The living room ceiling looks decidedly more patchy than marshmallow after many days spent trying to make it uniformly white.  I am going to call it a 'first coat' and hope that Ray believes me.

How did I not notice the living room and bedroom have the same paint?

On the upside, Pete thought of and went out and bought and drove downtown to set up The Best Present Ever: a serious big time work light!

I am absolutely smitten with this thing.  It has become my best friend downtown (not counting Jan) and I'm trying very hard not to get paint on it so we can use it as a seriously edgy floor lamp when the work is done and we have a nice new knitting sofa in the living room.  I am pretty sure the work light would never, ever let me drop a stitch without helping me find it again instantly.

For now though, the work light is my companion and emotional support for the bathroom situation.  The condo has two, one of which is about the size of the main bath in our tiny house, the other of which is about the size of our tiny bedroom.  Okay, it's not quite as big as a bedroom, but depressingly close to it, and it's got this huge mystery space here positioned underneath the pinky remains of more vinyl wallpaper:

I know it once held a tub, because I have been stalking images of other units for rent or sale in the building and I've seen the original builder's floorplan.  So that's exciting: a tub that's separate from a shower!

But alas, it looks very much like the drain for the now-missing tub is in the middle of this area.  Which means we will need to source a centre-drain tub that fits into a 60" wide space.  Those things are not super easy to find anywhere, let alone in stock, so it's looking less likely that I can sleep over downtown during January snowstorms.  A sentence I am typing during a December snowstorm.

(insert image of Mary, wiping away tears of disappointment, with a slightly paint-dappled paper towel.)

And in the midst of all this, am I knitting?  HA.  Of course not.  Not much, anyway, though I did briefly park myself to work on a Jan sock while sorting out logistics.  Like, getting management office permission for anything that isn't painting.  And shifting stuff between the moving elevator and the unit door (in our case, a distance of about 4.3 miles) without leaving any dust or mess on the carpet for the duration of the trip.   

On the upside, we do have Ray to deal with it all now, and none of this stuff is bears. Except for the coffee cup variety.

Thank you Tim's, for putting bears on your large festive coffee cup

Hope your day is bear-free too and I'll see you tomorrow: I have some major big time gift knitting to do today!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Time out for knitting

I am pretty sure I forgot to show you this new alpaca/merino yarn I bought at the Royal Winter Fair from Meadowview Alpaca's booth:

Isn't it pretty?  I've been acquiring a lot of these blue and green colours from yarn and fiber clubs lately, but I picked these out on purpose because they were so soft and a slightly heavier weight than the others on offer.

I really, really want to make a hat with one and a pair of fingerless gloves with the other.  Even though I don't have time for either project, sigh.

And because of that fact, I wanted to put it out there today for anybody else juggling just a ton of crazy stuff right now: give yourself an hour a day to knit

Any old relaxing thing with yarn that just feels great under your hands, like this buttery stuff I can't even find time to cake.  For me, just a 45 minute episode of some interesting educational program about history or science plus soft yarn passing between my fingers is enough to push away all the worries and set me up good and strong for the next onslaught.

It's kind of like exercise, the way taking that bit of time can help improve your health.  Except with exercise, we often feel guilty if we don't do it - and with knitting, we can feel guilty if we do!  It's as if the fact that it feels so peaceful and restful means that it's an indulgence and therefore not important enough to fit into the schedule.

Well, boots to that.  Relaxing is just as valuable as lifting weights (though strength training is very very important for bone health, of course), and its value increases the busier you are.

So take some time to knit today, and I'll try very hard to do the same.  And I'll see you back here again tomorrow!