Friday, February 27, 2015

Postive Ease - a free pattern

At last! I have finished writing up my Valentine's present to you, my dear Hugs readers.

It's a very, very big hat, the most comfortable hat I've ever worn, and I hope if you knit one you find it so also.  You can reduce the size by making the smaller version, but if you want a cuddly sleep sack of a hat go for the larger one shown here.

Positive Ease (guess where I got the name) is knit with Rowan Felted Tweek DK, held double - so if you're trying to burn through some leftovers from a sweater, it's a great way to clean up your yarn stash.

It's also got this fun tie you can wear at the back or a little to one side.  I went for form plus function here in a token 'romantic' pairing - the tie makes the oversized quality wearable, but also: it emphasizes the stripe colour.

Best of all, you can't see any of the colour jogs where the stripes come in!  Thank you, simple eyelets and braided tie.

Thank you too, so much, for being my knitting friends all these years (we are up to more than six now, I think!) and happy belated Valentine's Day to you all.

Difficulty Level

Pretty Easy.  You will have to use a yarn over, knit two stitches together, knit into the front and then the back of a stitch, and complete an ssk.  The rest is a whole lot of plain knitting, plus a little more running in of ends than usual.


Rowan Felted Tweed DK (50% merino wool, 25% alpaca, 25% viscose, 175m/50g) 2 balls A, 1 ball B (shown in Phantom 153 for A and Avocado 161 for B)
4.5mm double point or circular needles, or size to obtain gauge
darning needle
stitch marker


19 stitches and 26 rows = 4" in stocking stitch.

Finished Dimensions

S/M (M/L): 21" around, 9.5" long (23" around, 9.75" long)

Click here for .pdf of Positive Ease

Thursday, February 26, 2015

There has been spinning

Today I am generously tearing myself away from bathroom fixture selection to tell you the other thing I did on my no-knitting-bag weekend: I plied the rest of my 'Maple' singles!

I have a ton of this stuff. There is a cake of black sport weight Playful, which I'm dipping into for my Yak Hat, and a cake of green to match the green stripe in the handspun, and a little over four hundred grams of said handspun which might be a little slimmer than sport weight, but close enough.

All told, I will have close to 600 grams of matching yarns with which to do something.

But what?  What would you do with 600g of sport weight yarn? 

I keep thinking Poncho, not that I ever wear those.  The pattern I love most for this yarn can't possibly use it all: it's Churchmouse's Shoulder Cozy, a cowl that doubles as a shoulder warmer.  I don't think I can carry off a shoulder warmer fashion-wise, but in terms of practical use, I need one bad.

It might be smart to knit the shoulder cozy in the handspun, then knit matching handwarmers and hat.  I am after all going to Newfoundland in May, and staying in a little house by the water with plans for some hiking, so I will need layers.

Or maybe I should knit something more substantial that's all one project.  I am at a loss, and I only hope that using up all my decision making skills on bathroom taps and toilets doesn't mean I don't knit this yarn up now that it's finally ready.

(I shouldn't speak too soon though - I still have to block it, cake it, and swatch it!)

If you're spinning today, I hope it's the good kind, and that we meet up here again tomorrow.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

How the yarn freeze is going

When you decide not to buy any more yarn for a while because of huge demands on your space and time and resources, you're not supposed to come home and find some in your mailbox.  But... you know how it goes.

It's not like I could skip the latest Vesper club, right?  (Walk in the Winter Park, cute and so timely.)

And it's not like I could miss my chance at replacing some yarn from a previous club.

This has happened just three times in the six or seven years I've been buying yarn online: the mail system lost my Vesper club yarn the month it was this gorgeous skein of Woodlands.  Probably if it had been a less beautiful and Me sort of colour combination I could have kept my cool, but I loved this stuff when I saw Leslie's, and since then I've been stalking the Vesper shop to see whether it might turn up in regular rotation (and also, might still be in stock once I spotted it.  it's amazing how fast Vesper sells out from the shop!)

In my defense: I did not buy any extra yarn from the last Twisted club, which is unheard-of.  I always buy tons more yarn from that club, and as a result I have rather a lot of Twisted in tons of colours, and I have been trying to use up what I have before giving in to any new configurations.  I'm quite proud of myself for resisting, and for resisting the sign up for the next club, which happened yesterday.

On the other hand...

I did notice I am down to just one more bag of Stoddart sock yarn, after nearly two years of knitting with the enormous amount I bought last time.  So I checked with Silvia.  She will in fact be at a farmer's market sort of near our house on the weekend, and she will be bringing yarn.

This can't end well.

But let's face it, you have to keep up your supplies of all your favourite yarns! You never know when you'll need them.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Mistakes were made

This is what happens when you forget to bring home any of your knitting for the weekend:

You finally get around to finishing the thumbs on a pair of fingerless gloves you were supposed to finish a year before!  (and run in rather a lot of ends, too.)

Looks nice though, doesn't it?  Even though I also forgot my camera, and had to take these pictures with my phone.

Even without all my things (I might add toothpaste to the list, and my hair dryer) it was so wonderful to come back to our house after a long first week at the condo.  It's still unfinished and practically unfurnished, and every morning before going out for the day I'd have to shift what little we did take out of the way so Ray and Al could paint and sand and so on, only to bring them back out again when I got home for the evening.  It was worth it to be near where I needed to be every day, because driving through heavy snow is much harder for me than shifting suitcases and pushing a bed back into a sofa.

I haven't lived downtown since I was a student in residence, and I find it funny now that every single day I approach our building I hear sirens.  There are so many emergency trucks racing around all the time!  You can barely hear them inside the unit - it faces onto a courtyard with another six or seven stories above our floor to block the sound - but you can hear birds in the trees outside our living room window.

Another thing I'd forgotten is how hard concrete is on your feet and legs, even with wood flooring laid over it.  I was two days living at the condo before I realized its enormous size is a liability, because you walk so much from one end to the other.  I finally had to go out and buy a pair of Crocs to compensate for the lack of give in the floor, backup for the walking shoes I took to Italy - the ones that got me through two weeks of relentless cobblestones.

Anyway: home, and a practically hibernating knit complete at last.

This is the second pair of Churchmouse Ferryboat Mitts I've made with this particular batch of handspun, and it was a bit stressful to go on working with it until I made myself relax already about the stripes not matching up or looking very logical.

Mostly they're just beautiful, and I'm pleased with the way the thumbs made an extension of the stripes they started with even though they were knit after both mitts were otherwise finished.

See?  completely non-matchy, and gorgeous anyway, and photographed outside in the snow, at home.  How I will miss the little house when it's being reconfigured, and how grateful I am that Ray and Al will be taking as good care of it as they have of our condo!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Recovery Week!

Hey guys,

Just thought I should pop in and let you know that we survived the move, but forgot that settling in is a whole other monster.  Especially in the midst of a whole lot of painting and tile installation and other excitements like new doorknobs and electrical outlets.  In spite of not being the actual person to do any of these things, I haven't been able to sit down for more than five minutes at a stretch before leaping up to do whatever urgent thing is next.

Which means no knitting, no writing, and no pattern prep, unfortunately.  On the upside: it's pretty cool to be downtown and even in construction site form the condo is very comfortable, yay!

I may not make it back again this week but if not, rest assured I will be back again next Monday, no matter what.  Meanwhile, take care of yourselves and knit something lovely.  I'm inching toward casting on a tea cosy myself.... relentlessly, if fruitlessly, heh.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Moving day!

Well, not really, but we are hoping to set up camp at the condo over the weekend,

and unlike this very cute rodent I saw enjoying lunch last summer, we will be spending today working very hard to pull together all the odds and ends we need.  Like an extra teapot for a start.

So: no knitting post today. Any free time I get, I will pull together your Valentine's present to post at some point tomorrow.

Have a wonderful Friday and I will be back soon!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

The hardware store: knitters' edition

Not too long ago these gorgeous tools were pretty much beamed into my mailbox, after I ordered them from the Addi Needle Shop.

Oh dear, what am I going to do without my porch shadows.  But while I still have them - aren't these needles pretty?

Pulling them out of their envelope made me think, not for the first time, how much I appreciate being able to buy knitting tools online.  I mean, it's pathetic because I live in Toronto which is pretty much a yarny Land of Plenty, but I don't live near a yarn store at home and won't even after I move downtown.  Near-er, but not 'near'.  So even though I believe it is very very important to support small local shops paying rent on proper bricks and mortar premises, and try to do so as much as possible... sometimes I just have to order from someplace a little more distant.

What I like about the Addi shop is that it is very specific (hello, Addi needles!) and exhaustive (they have all of them.)

'take us to your bulky yarn, won't you? we are here to knit the top of many hats.'

But what I like about Churchmouse Yarns and Teas is that just visiting the website feels like about as much as 75% what visiting the actual store on its charming island would be like.  Maybe more, if you get a bit seasick and wouldn't enjoy the ferry ride.

I have bought a few small things from Churchmouse that aren't pattern downloads, just to have that tangible sense of knit-shopping holiday, and I can tell you:

It really does work.  No matter what I'm knitting, when I open this little tin in which I've stashed my darning needles and several Churchmouse stitch markers (these things are fantastic by the way, in case you are looking for a slick seamless variety), I feel like a very talented textile artist playing house.

It's a great feeling, and it's so very nice not to have had to put on boots or ride public transit to enjoy it!

Do you have a favourite online shop or knitting tool to share?

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The comforts of creativity

I spent some time this week working on faces for my Valentine's monsters...

... and even though they have turned into a shabby raccoon and a shabbier wombat, what a welcome project this is in the midst of the Crazy.

I decided to hand stitch all of it, because my sewing machine is accessible only by giving up about an hour to clear the way into and out from it.  And while stitching, I indulged myself by listening to Oliver Sacks' memoir of childhood. Sacks is a huge hero to me.  Not only is he a neurologist, a field which fascinates me and serves so many patients with often-unfixable conditions, he writes about his work in such an accessible way that a non-scientist can understand it.

It turns out his talent goes a long way back, at least as far as his maternal grandfather, who had little money or education but was born with a brain for science.  He passed on this aptitude and encouraged the passion for it in all of his children, most of whom found a way to practise some branch of chemistry or medicine - including Oliver Sacks' mother, who became a doctor and not only encouraged all his scientific questions and curiosity, but thanks to her training was able to satisfy them and thereby get him started on his own career in medicine.

I was delighted and amazed by this discovery because, judging by all my other reading, to become a general practitioner in the 1920s can't have been easy for a woman of any description, let alone one from a big family with not much of a financial cushion.

Of course as I sat stitching on noses and thinking of her achievements, I couldn't help contrasting them with the fact that even today, all over the world, girls and young women are still prevented from pursuing their intellectual capacity simply because they aren't boys.  That's not just a sad loss for them personally, but for everyone who would benefit from the unique talents and gifts that are born with them and left to wither on the vine.

I see this challenge affecting women of my own age and community too.  Financial pressures, family needs, health constraints - they can all take their toll.  When I read Seabiscuit, I was as enthralled by the enormous will and determination demanded of Laura Hillenbrand to write it - she was suffering from debilitating illness and could barely sit up for much of the time she researched this book - as from her amazing skill with words.  Apparently she faced the same challenges writing Unbroken, and I could not admire her more for persisting.

I myself, in spite of being very well supported and encouraged all my life, have gone through many, many patches where I can't write.  Not because I don't want to (I always want to) but because too many people need too much from me and I am completely spent from the effort.  And as I'm sure you have discovered yourself: spent is not fun, and it compounds.

That's where I am so grateful for creative work.  Knitting is portable; hand stitching is relaxing; art is expressive, and all of it has the capacity to enrich the lives of others, even if those others think what they really want is a clean house (ha! good luck getting that around here.)

It doesn't matter that a raccoon's eyes don't quite line up - stitching them feeds what can't be fed at that moment by the things I wish I could be doing instead.  It compensates and it energizes and (when it comes to socks for sure) also keeps me from feeling cold on top of everything else.

I still think it's important to cultivate our natural skills and interests and talents throughout our lives though.  So I'm lining up some dedicated writing time, just as soon as I've got us through the first of our two moves out of this house!

Hope you're able to give yourself some time to pursue your gifts too - and I'll see you tomorrow.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Heat capture

Lately I've been looking at my handknits and thanking them for being warm.  You know, it's winter, the magical time when woolens lying around the house look enticing... instead of like messy slobs, as when there's a heatwave happening in July and you're not sure what they were doing out in the first place.  (hint: you just finished knitting them, after casting on in January.)

For the record, I did not just finish these socks.  I knit them ages ago and have been wearing them with deepest gratitude through our current run of snowstorms, but apparently I never did a proper photoshoot for them.

What I did do was find myself wearing them recently when I read a post on Ravelry from somebody wondering whether other knitters actually wear the things they make.  I think the theme was, do you worry you look silly in them?  But I just looked down at myself and said Yes, I do wear the stuff I make.  I wear it in the house to stay warm.  How can you not immediately layer on all your knits when you crawl out from under your wool blankets every morning?

This question seems so pressing that I have not been able to forget it, and after a few days of pondering the penny dropped.

Other people have insulation in their homes.

As I made this discovery, I was wearing the Yak scarf  specifically because it is great at insulating my neck.  If I took it off, as I had to at some point earlier for reasons I no longer recall but were definitely crazy, it would take all my body heat with it.  Have you noticed this?  It's not just that the insulating layer disappears when you take off a wool sweater - the heat disappears too and you are instantly cold.

Let's take a moment to admire the other warm neck thing I've been appreciating lately.

Just your basic flannel, but So. Warm.  The other night I couldn't even bring myself to take it off at PJ time (which in this house is short form for "sweatpants and alpaca sweater over PJs time') because I knew what was going to happen if I let it go.

Okay, this was a lot of words to say Man, it's cold in winter in an uninsulated house, and no wonder I knit with such commitment.

And to add that a sudden, alarming realization.

Very soon, I am going to be moving to a building with heat and insulation and, possibly, no drafts from the windows.  And after a while I will be moving back to a house with in-floor heating everywhere, and proper ventilation, and windows that seal, and...cue the suspense music...

Will I ever love warm knits the same way again?

(probably. there's still the outside to contend with.)

(plus, I can always lower the temperature inside for old time's sake, right?)

Monday, February 9, 2015

Knitting garter stitch

Garter stitch is the first thing you do as a new knitter, but boy, is it ever soothing later on.  Even late at night, sitting at a desk, when you're supposed to be banking sleep but can't resist getting a start on a new project.

I find this to be especially true when conducted on a small scale, in spite of a hard-to-see colour.  Yep, you are looking at 2.5mm needles and a cake of near-black sport weight yarn and so much happy.

(Digressing to say that knitting on small needles with black yarn reminds me of a story about my paternal nana, who - during the Depression - knit herself a black wool boucle skirt and jacket in fine weight yarn and was glad to do it because it passed the evenings with minimal expense.  I really wish I had known her.  Although I suspect the size of my colourful yarn stash would knock her right off her feet.)

This very peaceful knit is quite addictive and the start of my Yak Hat - or at least, the first Yak Hat, because there's a handspun version waiting to be born if I ever get around to plying the singles for it.  After a few rounds of garter on very these small needles for the brim, I added in a couple of green stripes.

I don't have much of this potentially Yak-scarf-matching yarn, but I thought that if I put it pretty close to my eyes, it would have the best chance of being visible - and if I framed it with the black yarn, if would have the best chance of looking like it does match, whether it does or not.

You know, when you're changing colours in circular knitting, you get a smoother shift from one round to the next if you slip the first stitch after the marker for that first new round.  I tried that, and I tried a different approach, and it turns out that with garter stitch you're better off just knitting the first stitch in the colour you mean to go on with.

Not to worry: I have a darning needle, and I can embroider black over that bit of green yarn sticking out above the slipped stitch attempt I did with the first stripe.  At 135 stitches per round I am not ripping anything back!

A lot of patterns I looked at for garter stitch hats used small needles for the band and bigger ones for the hat itself, but they didn't increase the number of stitches for the body and they ended up looking kinda like toques.  I am aiming for something that doesn't have to stretch around my head, so it will hold a more significant layer of heat between me and the cold hair outside the hat.

So: I did a round of simple increases that you can't even see because
a/it's garter stitch and
b/it's as near as can be to black yarn (it might be a very dark green: can't tell.)

Hope it doesn't get too boring to work on now that I've used up all the Yak-friendly green, but I think it won't, because soothing is such a good quality when you're this close to having to pack up and move, without actually having three square inches of space to pack from.

Thank you, black Yak Hat.

Sure hope you guys had something peaceful to do this weekend too, so you're all set for a great week now.  See you tomorrow!

Friday, February 6, 2015

Yarn discoveries

I have not yet begun packing or organizing with anything remotely resembling Earnestness, but I did stumble across this yarn in the china cabinet the other day.

Let's not ask why I keep yarn in the china cabinet, shall we?  There will be weirder things kept in there soon, because it looks like the only possible place it can go when we move to our condo is the kitchen; if I can make it work there it will probably house the breadbox, and possibly all the cookie tins (which I hope will not be perpetually full of cookies because Doom.  but I am pretty sure they will be because the city's oldest market is across the street from the condo and it's likely I will go into major big time cookery mode living down there. or, at minimum, heed the siren call of the many bakeries in said market.)

Back to the yarn.  I do remember what this stuff is: it's Twisted Fiber Art Tomcat, and I used most of what I had spun on my beloved Ashford wheel for a scarf I wear often, and this is the leftovers I forgot I had.  There isn't really enough for anything obvious and I was at a loss until later, looking for something else in the actual yarn cupboard this time, I found the remains of the coordinating solid, dubbed Whisker:

Don't they look cute together?  it's enough to make a hat that will match the scarf perfectly, so I will totally do that.  Probably after I've packed some boxes, as a reward.

Also in the china cabinet I found this yarn...

... which I remember spinning by candlelight last summer during  Earth Hour.

I have no idea what to do with this.  Tea cosy?  Who knows.  I'm just grateful I got it out of the cabinet so it has a better chance of becoming something.

Quick poll on Surprise Yarn Finds: do we like immediately knowing what to do with them, or do we enjoy the aura of mystery and untapped potential?

Other quick poll on Weekends: knitting time? or running around doing errands time?  I always try for maximum knitting, but it doesn't work out very often.  Here's hoping it does this time! Enjoy yourself whatever you end up choosing, and I'll see you Monday.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Valentine's Day is coming

I totally love Valentine's day - the romantic side of it is fine for a few years, but the cuteness potential just lasts and lasts.

I found this adorable penguin at Scratchcraft on Etsy, home of many felted knit treasures bearing hearts or, in some cases, knitting on miniature needles.  Seriously, check it out!

The penguin even has adorable feet.

We also bought a love bird, but he didn't photograph as well the first time I tried so you get to see him another day.  My point is:

Valentine's Day is coming!

And I really like to make something weird-looking for Valentine's Day, probably as relief from the cold and the snow.  Fingers crossed I get enough break time from packing and skulking around IKEA to make it happen by the day.

Do you do something to make this time of year more fun or cute?

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Knitting, knitting, knitting

Although I would love to do some spinning, I've been stepping over my wheel every day to sit in one chair for a while and knit.  It's such a relief to tackle a project that won't take more than a few hours, displays solid progress after a short interval, and features problems that can be solved quickly and without another trip to the tile store.

There are just so many unfinished things going on around here, to say nothing of the rising tide of stuff that isn't where it should be because there is no place to put it.  And because there will be a choice of places to put it next week when we are finally able to move some stuff into the condo.  WHEW.

Of course, when we get downtown for weekday convenience, I will be walking more, and I will need my boot cuffs.

I seem finally to have hit my stride with these things; they are just zipping along, and I am appreciating the squish factor of the fabric they are producing.  With luck they'll be done before the heavy snow we got the last few days softens into the inevitable slushy goo.

Meanwhile, after another couple of cold days with the Yak scarf, I have been thinking hard about how to solve the Yak Hat problem.  The yarn I can use is only sport weight and, being treated for machine washability, is missing the little grabby fibers that make a hat warm enough to be a real 'twin' to such a temperature-boosting scarf.

So I have been thinking of dense knitting and double layers, and decided on a double brim for bonus warmth around my ears, and a garter stitch body so the fabric is thick too.

I spent some knitting time looking at a lot of garter stitch hats thinking I could just make something that already exists, but I was going to have to make so many modifications for yarn weight and crown finish and everything else... it's just not worth it.  Swatching is easier this time around!

Have a wonderful day today even if you don't finish anything either, and I will see you tomorrow.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

A new look at stashed yarn

Moving out to renovate your home presents a unique opportunity to do some major downsizing, and I didn't want to blow it by leaving the whole thing to the last minute... so of course I bought another book to read.  But wait! this one is actually applicable.

Yep, it's The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo.  And you know what?  This is one of the most enjoyable books I've read in a while, which is saying something - not least because it's a nonfiction book on how to get clutter out of your house.  I mean: that description right there should be a reason not to sink deep into the pages and relax.

Nonetheless, it's a really pleasant and uplifting read. The perspective of this book is that everything you choose to keep in your home, regardless of the amount of space you have, should bring you joy.  And you can only know if it brings you joy by putting it into your hand and looking at it.

Of course a non knitter could read that, then look around the cluttered house in fear and horror.

A knitter is going to think immediately of yarn.

What knitter doesn't want an excuse to take out every single ball or skein or cake of yarn and pile it on a table with its fellows, then hold each one for a moment to feel the joy it brings?

Still - we all know for sure that some of that yarn is not going to bring us joy, but guilt.  Guilt for overspending, for buying yarn as souvenir instead of for love or even need, for still not having knit the stuff, for not realizing that this particular fiber is so much not a favourite, for not accepting that a queen sized blanket out of laceweight is just never going make it to the needles.

The book offers an answer to that guilt, and I think it's brilliant.  All you have to do is acknowledge the lesson that item has taught you.  To thank it for teaching you that lesson, and to let it go because it has served its purpose and can now go and teach somebody else.

So... those cones of yarn I bought hugely on discount and in enough quantity to make sweaters and shawls and hats and other things?  Yeah, I am never, ever going to get through that stuff.  I have knit with it enough now to know that I love working with 100% wool... but not if it's itchy.  That I loved knitting sweaters when I was a size 5, but not now, when I'm not.  That the colours I have in this yarn are not colours I want to work with any more, because I'm a bit tired of them now.

I can thank those cones, and I can let them go.

And ten minutes after I have irretrievably done that, I will come across the perfect pattern for all of them that I cannot wait to knit, and I will kick myself.


you know what?  I will still have about two years' worth of knitting material that I am crazy about and will love using, to help me work through the pain.

Here's the book's approach in practice.  After reading some of it at the dining room table I put it down and saw a yellow piece of plastic still sitting there from my Christmas cracker.  H'mmm, I thought, that's an obvious thing to toss.  And I picked it up and put it in my hand and really looked at it and you know what?  It made me happy.  But more than that, I realized it is something that can go on making me happy.

It's a yellow plastic ruler with inches and centimeters and stencils in the middle.  Only three inches long, but that's good enough to check gauge with, and it's short enough to fit into the emergency kit I keep in a little pouch for my purse.


If I happen to need to check for a size 9 knitting needle, I can do that.

Thank you, Magical Tidying Book, for teaching me.  

(seriously though, this is a really good book with a lot of insights about life in it.  I am so glad I found it... and the cover? the cover totally brings me joy. even when it's just lying around on the dining room table, and not tidy at all.)

Monday, February 2, 2015

Sock knitting: the ups and downs

There is nothing - nothing, I tell you - like knitting a very thick pair of socks.  Bulky yarn knits up so fast!

It took hardly any hours of very cosy stitching to get the first of my geranium socks to the chompy sock monster stage.

Chomp chomp chomp.

Love that.  Loved every round of this sock yarn, loved being able to match it up to an existing sock in the same fiber and very similar weight so I didn't have to second guess my sizing.

Loved saying La La La, I am totally getting through this sock by lunchtime tomorrow and not running out of yarn because I weighed it and


Dang!  How can that happen?  I knit the leg too long, didn't I.  Oh man.

Not to worry!  I love this sock, and I am willing to make an extremely weird toe finish with what little is lying around in the same yarn weight.  See?

So weird, yet oddly appealing.  And unfortunately...

So short.  By just enough to be not comfortable.  GAH.

I'll bring this baby back out to show you when I've ripped out and reknit, okay?  Meanwhile, may your own knitting day go smoothly and with lots of Ups.