Friday, August 29, 2014

Knit stitches, subtle stripes

Over my last little break at the cottage I made progress on the current pair of Man Socks:

After you've decided on the number of stitches to cast on you can knit for quite a while on gift socks without thinking, but then you have to start worrying about how long you should make the leg, how much arch the recipient's foot will need, how far to go before starting the toes - GAH.  So many decisions.

I am not good at decisions.

So it's helpful that I'm working with yarn in nice peaceful foresty stripes, and I can just relax and enjoy the stitches and the gentle colour shifts.  And also, the way a heel flap turns into a heel cup, before you get going on the gusset. 

Sometime I should knit a heel flap like this as a decorative bowl for the coffee table/LP record trunk at the cottage: I'd keep acorns in it.  Except that now I think of it, none of the cottage trees produce acorns.  Hmmmm. 

Maybe flat is better. 

Switching to purple for the heel was a no-brainer, because it's the only way I can think of to stretch out the stripey yarn far enough for a whole sock.  And I do love the way it looks, don't you?

Bonus: the stripes on both socks are matching up pretty near perfectly.

You can't always count on that with self-striping yarn, which makes it such a gift when it does.

Having come so far I can just knit for a while now, at least until I have to decide where to change over to purple again for the toe.  Can you think of a nicer way to pass an hour or two on a long weekend?  I'm not sure I can (and I'm not sure I'll get to, either, but there is always hope.)

Have a great holiday and I'll see you back here in a few days!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

The lake at the end of the woods

At the end of my third summer as a cottager, what I've learned is that it's all about the lake.

Sometimes, yes, it's about the wood stove.  Every summer so far we've had one weekend so cold and rainy the only way you can tell it's not late autumn is that the leaves outside are all still green.  And on those weekends: wow.  The smell of a safely controlled wood fire is a wonderful thing - almost as wonderful as the feeling of Not Freezing.

But mostly: it's about the water.

The way the shoreline repeats itself in reflection,

The way a canoe tricks you into thinking it's resting on glass,

The way the sky tricks you into thinking it's under your feet,

Yep, that's actually lake - it's only reflecting the sky

The water.

See you next summer, lake - oh, and you too, cottage.  Take care of yourselves till we meet again.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Itty bittty sock-a-litties

Well, here we are in - what, is it the end of August already?? and I've only just finished another pair of summer socklits.  H'mmmm.

I know I say - or think - this every time I polish off a new pair of socks, but I would really love to wear some socks inside out.  I never do it, because I have this idea that they wear better if you keep the purl side against your skin instead of rubbing along inside your shoe, but the colour changes are just so darned cute in the reverse.

So, so pretty.  And also, not so very different when it comes to the ribbing.  This is ribbed stitch done with the knit stitch worked through the back of the loop, and you can see even on the left sock, where the specially knit stitch shows as a purl, that the ribbing is somehow sharper.

Hello purly...

Socks like this - the colours, the brevity, the fact that they were handknit - they really spell enthusiasm, don't they.  Faith and confidence in a wonderful relaxing pristine summertime.  These socks are saying to me, This is the year you will play tennis at a fancy club! (I don't play tennis, but hey: miracles happen.)  They're kind of channeling Seventeen magazine from the early 80s, is what I'm getting at.  When the magazine was all about the cute carefree fashion, with Bass Weejun penny loafers in the wings for a back-to school purchase.

(and how cute would these babies be inside a pair of Bass Weejuns??)

Alas, I passed up my chance at Bass Weejuns last time I was in the U.S., and no tennis-playing opportunities arose.  I was bitten mercilessly at the cottage and it was too chilly to really enjoy swimming almost all the days we were able to be there.

Good thing I have a nice pair of socks to show for all that disappointment, huh?  And another summer to look forward to, next year.

What about you - did your summer go the way you hoped it would?

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The road of No Knitting

A lot of the time I write about knitting as a metaphor for other things, but today?  That title is literal.  This is literally a road you cannot knit on, unless you're out of the passenger seat of your car and leaning on a tree at the side of it.  At some magical time of the year that is not hunting season, bug season, or freeze your hands off season.


Really pretty, isn't it?  This is what you turn onto from the 'main' road.  It doesn't get creepy until much later.

There are a few roads like this in the area around our cottage - old routes that were used by northeastern Ontario pioneers who were allotted this land in return for showing up and homesteading it.  People who crossed the ocean in anticipation of farmland and found rock under dense, buggy forest.  Many tried mining the land, and for a while villages sprang up, but most died of those away along with the dreams of making a living here when it was discovered that what minerals were present were too expensive to get out of the rock.

In some places, the banks on either side of the road climb up several feet, trees growing densely the whole time.

And in other places, you find evidence of thriving communities from the past, such as the sides of a solid old bridge.

Thought you'd like to see the view from the bridge - we sure did:

When the water is higher in spring, I expect those are actual rapids.  And just beyond this bridge, which is a good 40 minutes' drive either way from any other sort of civilization, there is an old but still well-maintained cemetery, and actual lived-in houses spread a little way apart.

It must have been incredibly lonely living out here a hundred and fifty years ago.

And how you would grow anywhere near enough to live on... but there were other things to eat than just crops, like fish or pheasants.

Can you even see the pheasants in this picture?  Maybe if you click to enlarge it.

The fish and pheasants are still here.

Another common sight: hunting clubs.  I did mention you wouldn't want to stroll along here with your knitting during hunting season, right?

It took over an hour to drive this particular patch of the road - there are two other sections of it separated by more active cross roads - and eventually it pops out of the forest and into wide marshes or even reedy lakes where you can see the sky.

And I have to say, I would go crazy if I had had to live on any part of it even now, let alone when it was first made, especially once night fell.  It's just so remote.  When I think of pioneer women and all the different jobs that had not only to be able to do but to fit into one day, fending off downright fear and loneliness seems like just about the last straw.  But they did it, didn't they - they raised children and kept house and made lives for themselves in areas like this.

They even figured out how to knit here.  But I bet they didn't do it out on that road!

Monday, August 25, 2014

The mouse is mightier than the sock

I never told you guys how the socks I knit to and from the Soo turned out.  Pretty sure you were on the edge of your seat wondering whether I got them finished in a week as I'd hoped to - so, in a word: nope!

They did come up to the cottage with me, but once I got working on them the colours started to say 'lake swimming'.  Probably I've been up at the cottage too much lately but see for yourself: there is blue for the water, then brown with green above it for trees, then another blue for the sky, and two sunny shades above that.  Totally lake swimming.

And under the circumstances - having knit them while full of emotions and so on - they felt like they should be a gift.  A perfect gift, in fact, for somebody who likes lake swimming as much as I do.  No brainer, except for the part where the lake swimmer in question has bigger feet than I do, so I had to knit longer than usual and while I was doing that:


I don't have pictures of the mouse, sorry - couldn't get to my camera in time  You'll just have to picture a tiny grey (brown?) blur racing across the floor of the cottage living room from the sliding glass door to the deck, in the general direction of the cosy wood-burning stove.  Where it paused against the wall beside said stove, facing out and exposing its little white fluffy tummy, and cleaned its paws.

Okay, I know mice are vermin and frankly, after a whole summer of finding mouse poo in various places you do not want to find mouse poo, assuming there is anyplace one does want to find mouse poo, I also consider them outlaws.  Didn't this batch get the message that they only have cottage privileges in the winter??

But... omigosh, CUTEST MOUSE EVER.

Pete was all set to pick it up by its tail and escort it back outside but we couldn't run as fast as it did, so eventually we gave up and pretended it wasn't inside at all.  And maybe it wasn't by then, because there was no new poo lying around in the morning.  You know what there was instead? A ton of steel wool poked into any possible access point around the sliding glass door to the deck.  Oh yeah.  It hasn't kept any more mice out, but at least I showed those furry monsters what I think about them.

You can probably agree that it's difficult to deal with a mouse and knit at the same time, so I am not beating myself up for taking longer than planned to finish the second sock.  After all, you can't wear wool socks to swim in a lake, and it's not cold enough to wear them for anything else yet either, so it's not like they're urgent. 

Still: once they are done they'll be a great winter reminder of the summertime swimming to come, don't you think?

And off I go: have a great Monday, and I'll see you tomorrow!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Never at a loss for weekend plans

Guys: this is it.  All that remains.

This is, absolutely, the sum total of unspun fiber at my house.  Just in time for the next Twisted Fiber Art club! which I am not joining.  Not.  Because oh dear,

there is still plying to do.

You know, it is a shame I don't do sponsored posts here at Hugs because Ziploc could be paying me ever so much.  Me and every other knitter out there on the internets.  They've figured out it's not just about food, I know, because I've been buying huge Ziploc bags for storing cushions and blankets at the cottage, but I wonder - do they know how much it's knitters consuming their products?

In this application - and I do reuse the bags, incidentally, I just couldn't find any empty ones when I started this project - I am weighing each little ball of spun fiber and pairing up two to ply together based on the potential for similar yardage.  (and then I put those two into a sandwich sized Ziploc bag so I can just grab and go the next time I have half an hour free for plying.) It's an inexact science, but coming close by weight does reduce the amount of time I have to spend plying the strand from the second ball back on itself once the first ball has disappeared.

So: yes.  Plying.  Possibly forever, though it only took me a month to spin most of this stuff in the first place and plying is faster.  I guess if you define 'forever' as a week or two (which it is if you're talking chocolate- or sleep-deprivation), then this will take forever.

In mostly unrelated news, I celebrated yesterday by tidying up all the yarny projects and supplies that had to move out of their usual basement storage after the flood last December.  And you know what I found out?  Even after spinning all that fiber and reducing its size by a Wow factor of about 130?  I found out that my yarn still won't fit in my yarn storage space.

I am not doing the math or looking too closely but I probably don't have to, because after being pretty overwhelmed by all the moth-free Ziploc-packed yarn cakes I'd set aside for socks and scarves and hats... I found my basket of Stoddart socks-to-be.  There were three bags of sock kit in there.  You know, to add onto the sock kits I'm putting together with handspun Stoddart yarn.

I'll tell ya: if you've got yarn and some sticks, you'll have something to do on the weekend.  And with the yarn I've got, I am pretty sure I could be busy every weekend till retirement.

Still.  Worse things could happen, right?

Have a great weekend yourself - even if you're not knitting - and I'll see you Monday!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Back to school socks

This time of year will always be Back To School season for me - it's just too ingrained after all those years of being a student myself, to say nothing of all the ads and, soon enough, the kids walking around wearing backpacks and conspicuously new clothes.

And what I always want to know is, where are my new clothes? 

Problem: solved.

When I was a kid, back to school was all about the New Jeans, and these socks (Holiday Blitz in Vesper Sock Yarn) have the best indigo stripe.  I would have loooved to have these socks when I was heading into grade 7. 

There were always two or three key things I forgot every year when it came time for back to school outfits... maybe you did, too.

1/ First week of school weather is never, every going to be what you think it is.  I remember one summer I sewed a new, mostly shapeless cotton dress in a tiny floral print that was predominantly brown (thank you, 1970s, and how happy I was to boot you out the door) and insisted on wearing it to school the very first day with a gold chain around my neck and clunky brown shoes on my feet over - what, pantyhose?  Please tell me I didn't do that, though knee socks would have been worse.  Anyway, I froze the whole way there.  And probably looked like an idjit when I arrived and everybody else had new, tastefully distressed jeans on.

2/ You must never, ever wear all new clothes on the first day of school,. lest you look like you're actually happy to be there.  One new thing mixed with one old thing is pretty safe - two new things plus one old, if one of the new bits is super unobtrusive.  Whatever you do wear should be comfortable (I'm staring you down, icky panty hose) and attractive (and you, shapeless cotton) and not Trying Too Hard (a dress and necklace? really?  man I was confident.)

3/ Do not, under any circumstances, give in to the temptation to wear the decidedly autumnal sweater or corduroys you have been dying to wear since you bought them, no matter how cold it is when you are leaving the house in the morning on the first two days of school.  By noon, it will be so hot outside you will not only envy, but look ridiculous alongside, the people who showed up in jeans and a T with, at most, a thin sweater over top, all in borderline summery colours.

Wool socks though?  Oh yeah.  You can wear wool socks with your jeans.  Socks don't leave tell-tale sweat marks as long as you keep your shoes on.  And even if nobody else notices your ankles when you sit down, you'll know they're there, and they'll remind you that you are awesome.  Because you, my friend? you can knit socks.

Sigh, if only I'd known how to knit socks back then.  Maybe I should apply for a Master's degree somewhere, now that I can?

(kidding!  I am too busy knitting to study for a Master's degree and the tuition would kill my yarn budget.  pretty sure you can relate.)

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

When less is more (hint: always)

The idea that we should be grateful for what we have, rather than longing for what we want, is not new.  Human beings are wired to want things, and to go on wanting more.  I mean, who among us hasn't noticed how much warmer wool is than acrylic, and how much softer cashmere is than wool?  We need a reminder to be grateful we're not exposed to the cold entirely.

What amazes me though as I work to shed some of the excess at home is not just how endless the need for More can be, but how effectively acquisition can make our lives harder.

Think about it - imagine you moved to a house with three more bathrooms than you had before. Luxury! until you have to clean them (or pay somebody to do it).

The clothes that offer us just the right thing for every conceivable occasion clog up our closets and lengthen the time we need to figure out what to wear today.

The stylish new furniture and accent pieces for one room can require so much of the old to move - sometimes those old things are too important in itself to be sold or given away until they're in style again - that another entire room becomes unworkable in the storing of it.

Material things are loaded up with hope and opportunity, and rejecting the opportunity to own them, or not using them effectively once we have them, or - worst of all - giving them to somebody else who might benefit more from having them, can so easily add up into feelings of I Am A Failure. 

If you don't chase after those things in the first place you're spared a lot of that pressure, and you have less clutter to move through on your way to achieve the things your own wonderful qualities have fitted you for.

And if you focus on those wonderful qualities, pretty soon you'll notice that all the hope and opportunity you need is inside you already.  And that makes a simpler life a pretty attractive one, don't you think?

We all have so much more than we really need, don't we - especially the simple everyday things.  I'm always coming across magazine articles about how to declutter your makeup supply and thinking: how much do people need in the first place?  I mean, some of us are really into makeup to the point that it's a hobby and a joy.  But the rest of us?  What would happen if we dug out the products we use every day and tossed the rest and didn't replace them?  Maybe threw in a single different colour of eyeshadow for dressup and called it a day?  We'd save space, and we'd save time, and we'd save money too I bet.

What about picking just one colour of towels for all of those crazy bathrooms - and only having to do one load of laundry for them, no worries about a dark colour leaking onto a light one?

What about ditching the specialty pots and pans for making a meal you only do once or twice a year, and eating out on those nights instead?

What about investing in just a few good pairs of shoes to cover the eventualities of cold, heat, rain, walking, wedding?

What about catching up to our craft supplies so we're never more than a project or two behind?

(okay, maybe that's going too far.  let's try this again tomorrow, shall we?)

Fiber note:  the singles you just watched being spun are from a second braid of Twisted Fiber Art's 'maple' colourway.  also, they represent the last of my Twisted Fiber Art roving.  The very last bit!  And now I need to ply... and resist buying more till all of this is knit.  Direct me back to this post if I waver, okay?

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Things you can do in a lake

Swimming is a pretty great activity, and swimming in a lake is even better - unless it's been a cold summer and the water's never really had a chance to warm up (hello, 2014.)

On a big lake you can get a lot of wind and choppy waters, but on a small lake, like the one on which our cottage is perched, you're more likely to find either a glassy surface or soft undulations.  And even if the overall temperature is cool, I can still find warm patches here and there.

Now that it's August and the bugs are a little more subdued - I only have about five bites, as opposed to forty-three, give or take a dozen - I am getting into the lake even when the sky is overcast and it's a little chilly inside and out because IT'S AUGUST.  If I don't do it now, I won't be doing it till next July.

While in the water I've been compiling a list of some things you can do in a lake, other than swim laps and shoot water at people, not including boating and stuff because technically those are 'on' a lake:


Stretch your muscles.

Admire the dragonflies that are eating the bugs that want to eat you (seen here on shore.)

Look at submerged rocks.

Look at fish swimming past your feet.

Sit on a plastic chair with the water up around your neck (I haven't tried this yet, but my cousins recommend it.)

Talk to other people who've waded out into the lake with you.

Look at clouds.

Admire trees.


Watch for the snapping turtle you saw last year.

Look at your pruney fingers and very clean fingernails (I do this a lot.)

Put on a life jacket and float vertically, bobbing up and down with the wake of every powerboat that passes (my favourite.)

Here are some things you can't do in a lake:

Read a book.

Knit, weave, crochet, or spin wool.

Accomplish anything material.

Basically, unless you're caught in the middle of a water bazooka battle, lake time is meditation time and relaxation time.  And that's probably a good thing, for a girl who multitasks to the power of three every chance she gets.

What do you do for stillness, other than sleep?