Friday, January 30, 2015

Colour work

My excuse for starting another pair of socks for myself is that Jan is going to Florida for a holiday pretty soon and won't need warm socks as much as I do.   Sounds valid, right?

This is the start of a pair from yarn I bought at least a year ago and, since they are going very quickly and successfully so far, I should have started them as soon as I got that yarn home.  I think what stalled me was the colours - I bought the yarn for its fiber and weight only.  I didn't love the green and red together enough, and I didn't have anything to match them if I ran out of yarn three rounds from the toe, so I just put it away and tried not to think about it.

Now that I'm knitting though, Wow! I really love the way the colours are coming together.  You'd think they'd read like Christmas with so much red and green and snow, wouldn't you?  but they don't.  In fact, the longer I look at them, the more I think of them positioned against this painting:

That's my friend Ady's work superimposed on my photograph.  Of course the colours in my sock are more muted than in her geraniums, but it really is similar, isn't it?  I think I will have to call these my geranium socks.

It's a treat to be sitting and knitting again because lately I've been giving quite of bit of my free time to help Ady pull some of her paintings together into a website where people can see them. 

Here's one I see every day, because it hangs in my front hall:

Talk about colours!  Though Ady often makes prints of her work available, I was able to buy the original of this one, and it is a wonderful thing to come home to.  At the condo I will hang it in the front hall again, this time facing mirrored doors, and I am really looking forward to seeing the repetition in its reflection.

Here's another of my favourites.  Over the years I've been able to acquire several of Ady's things and I have one similar to this that's just a little more spooky:

Across from my cosy knitting chair in the living room, I've hung a print of one of Ady's amazing rose paintings - not this exact one, but you get the idea.

Ady works in other paints and styles and something about this drippy abstract watercolour makes me go a bit swoony:

Trees on a rocky shore in colours that make me shiver a little, as though I am out on a northern lake in the rain.  In a good way, because I know that when I've seen enough I can go home to hold a steaming cup of tea and remember it all from a warm place by the fire.  I own the original of this too, and after the renovation I will be able to give it a proper home on its own wall.  Long overdue!

Oh, and I also have a print of this clever watercolour.  Click on the image if you need to look closer to see the surprise...

... surprises are Ady's specialty.  (and if you really can't find the secret images, definitely go to her site - the answer is on her biography page.)

Anyway: her site is done now, and online for your viewing enjoyment, and let me tell you, my own little collection is just a small part of the gorgeous and inspiring things she's put online.  Drop by for a look and have a wonderful weekend!

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Some plotting and scheming

Somewhere along the line writing Hugs, I noticed I'd started posting a free pattern every February 14th as a little Valentine to you guys.  This year I considered not doing it - I have to pack and move and prep for a variance hearing to put a second floor on the house - but then I saw a lady on the bus wearing a really cool hat and it gave me an idea.  So I swatched. 

Twice.  Once with yarn so slim it made me cry because I knew I could not knit my idea in anything less than two years, three months, and eighteen days, and next with the same yarn held double because Why don't I think of that more often??

Then I noticed something else I should have seen before:

Kind of close to matchy with the Yak scarf, don't you think?

Maybe not, but it's worth a try.

Then I got knitting, and here's the start in case you want a preview.

Doesn't that edge look like it's been dipped in paint?

There is more to this hat than a stripe, but I won't spoil that part for you.  I will tell you though that I finished knitting it yesterday, and I didn't even bother running in the ends before slipping it on and wearing it around the house.  Did I mention the thing about not having any insulation?  Sometimes I have to wear a hat inside.  And this hat?  It is so comfortable.

And now, I'm sorry, I have to make you wait a couple of weeks to see it.  I'm such a meanie!

Hope you have a good day in spite of me and I'll see you tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The other knitting basket

Hello, basket of finished knits!

Unless you are a very generous person, you can't knit for this long and not have a pretty hefty selection of accessories to choose from every cold winter morning.  This winter I made a point of setting the current rotation into groups so that the night before when I'm setting things out - you have to do that when you leave home as early as I do - I can grab and go depending on just how cold the morning will be.

Temperatures just above freezing?

A slouchy sport-weight superwash wool hat and elegant accessories.

Cold with some walking and driving?

A superwarm but snug hat, with driving gloves and silk/merino blend scarf.

Cold with some walking, some driving, and later on some seeing a friend at a place where one might want to look polished?

The orange set - thick, warm, handspun hat, elegant driving gloves, and a slim double-evolution handwoven scarf.

Cold with a hankering for green?

Giant green superwarm handspun hat with neutral scarf and the gloves that more or less match.

Unbelievably cold?

Gotta be the yak-based giant scarf, which really, really needs a matching warm hat.

Both pairs of driving gloves are silk-lined leather and surprisingly toasty, but unless I have a busy day of subway riding ahead of me I put them into my bag once I've parked and switch over to one of these two pairs of superwarm mitts (one is sheepskin, the other twined wool and mohair), depending on the match factor:

I should add here that the black sheepskin mitts were a recommendation from Ady, who hails from Northern Ontario and knows from heat retention.  She told me nothing is warmer than sheepskin, and by golly, even on a very cold day my hands get sweaty inside these things.  Attractive, I know.  But a welcome side effect.

And when I get home, I toss the stuff into this huge Reisenthel basket.

I don't know why I never thought of this solution when I bought the basket a couple of years ago, because it's large and portable and smooth inside (unlike any of my many woven baskets, which can catch the yarn) and it keeps all my knits and other warm things in one place. I haven't lost so much as a hat since I put it to use in the front hall, so Thank You, basket of finished knits.

How do you deal with your knitting overflow - or are you a better person than I, and give most of your knits away?

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The world's most boring knit

Maybe you have other contenders but I would argue that this project would win for World's Most Boring Knit, if there was a prize for that:

(and if there was a prize, it should be 'magically finished'.)

What we are looking at here is a 56-stitch tube of K2 P2 ribbing, in undyed, Lopi-style wool and mohair from Stoddart Family Farm, that last point being the only high spot of the entire experience.  Realistically, it's Sylvia's colour work that makes the Stoddart yarns so amazing, but the fiber itself is incredibly nice.

On the other hand, Lopi is by nature pretty much underspun, so I'm 120% grateful I picked sharp-tip needles for knitting the tubes.

Because Yes! not only is it boring to knit, I have to repeat the process.  There are two.

Why bother? you might ask.  In fact that is the one question I am not asking, because I still have the marks on the outside of my ankles to remind me.  The tubes are intended to be folded double and slipped inside my wet weather boots:

These Bogs are easy on the feet, and cute as a button: insulated rubber boots with excellent treads, perfect for slushy or wet-snow days in winter.  I can even drive with them on, without any risk of hitting the gas and brake pedals at the same time!  which is not true of my Other Warm Boots, apparently, and scarily.  And for the first few winters we spent together, these lovely little boots never ever hurt me.

But last winter I noticed something different.  Suddenly the top of the boot at the was rubbing against my leg with every step, such that after about two blocks every step was agony, and it got worse from there.  Since I walk a lot and live in a city that gets slushy with every melt, I realized I needed padding fast.  I started knitting the tube last February I think... but it was soooo booooring and then the weather got better so I stopped.

Now I am kicking myself.  With a boot.  Anyway I need the tubes really fast now, because I've already tried tucking a pair of antiseptic pads from the drugstore into my socks (an emergency fix in the middle of a day out) and they don't cut it.  Or even stay in the right place.  Le Sigh.  More knitting.  But at least there's light at the end of the tunnel because look!

Only two more inches to go! and then I can start the next one.

On the bright side - pretty impressive stitch definition for such an underspun yarn.

I hope you don't have such a boring knit lying around your place, but if you do...what is it?

Monday, January 26, 2015

Hail, the conquering sock hero

The Ferdinand socks, in all their splendor:

So, so close to done! Truly I thought these were the socks that would never go away because no matter how many rounds I put on, they never got any longer.  But ha! Two toes spell the almost the end of the journey.

Except... there really should be an equal number of stitches on every needle when you complete a decrease round, don't you think?


Right back at the start of the colour change, I dropped a stitch and didn't notice.

Nothing to do but rip back and start the toe all over again.  I swear, it's like these socks are determined to stay on my needles forever.

Too bad, Ferdinands!  I win.

You are done, and you are going to the guy who's been waiting for you not terribly patiently.

That's me modeling, incidentally, with a pair of socks on underneath so they look like they halfway fit.

I don't want to drag out the goodbyes when I finally get to hand them over.  Still... kind of cool looking, don't you think?

And very very comfortable.

 Mandatory matchiness test:

Yep, the stripes came out close to all right, don't you think?  I did something sneaky at the heel and went on with the self-striping on one because it had hit the light green tint of the heel and toe yarn, and I wanted to match the self-striping of that sock to the stripe of its partner.  Then, when I picked up for the gusset later, I knit from a point further on in the stripe to match the point where I'd started the other foot.  Funny how, in that short space of foot, the stripe got thrown off again!  Not to say that the foot was all that short, obviously. 

Anyway: done.  Bye bye Ferdies! Enjoy your new home.

And now that those needles are free... I can cast on another pair.

(Sorry for the brief disappearance at the end of last week - renovation planning kind of ate those two days.  All good now though!)

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

A place for tea and knitting

While hunting through attractive kitchen pictures recently I spotted something that whispered Knitting Banquette into my willing ear.

This combo at the end of what my eye translated into a kitchen cabinet (because I was picturing it in our condo kitchen) is the genius work of Tonianne Soster at T.A.S. Construction, with whom I would totally want to work if I lived in Austin. 

I've wanted a banquette in my kitchen for a long time and I'm having trouble forgetting this image, so...

I went to IKEA's website and found this alternative loveseat, with arms, admittedly, but also a machine washable cover that has got to be pretty practical in a kitchen...
And a round pedestal table...

And a second chair for a second non knitting person, which - although nowhere near as cute as the original - is easy to wipe clean of coffee spills...

Because every dream kitchen needs a place where you can have close proximity to a hot beverage and perhaps even toast, while sitting someplace comfy.

Of course if I was going to be pessimistic I could acknowledge the fact that this particular banquette is not going to happen because it will be Pete's kitchen too and he doesn't like the arms of the loveseat, or the style of the table, and would hate the plastic composite chair if I showed it to him, which I won't.  Instead, I choose to be impressed that I saw a photograph I loved and was magically able to find reasonable facsimiles of all the key bits in it.

Although it has to be said: tub chair.

With a washable slipcover.  SO decadent to think of having a comfy chair in a non-British-countryside kitchen, don't you think?  For me anyway... my very small house has a very small cooking space where any sort of chair would be out of the question, so the condo move opens up all kinds of welcome possibilities.

What about you? Are you able to knit in your kitchen?  (and if not, would you want to?)

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Knitting: so easy and cheerful

It can be hard for a new knitter to believe, while juggling seven fingers and three thumbs and a pair of sticks with a life of their own, but the rest of us know it's easy and fun to work with yarn and needles.  Evidence:

Yarn called Cheers (from Vesper, the epitome of cheerful.)  I rest my case.

Breaking news:

Last winter I saw a girl in an orange handknit hat and had to have just such a hat for myself, which proves the power of knitting and colour, because now I do have an orange handknit hat.  

But last week?  I saw a hat combo even more unforgettable.  The hat was a slouchy small-gauge knit hat in sort of a grey powder blue.  And the girl wearing it had perfectly matched hair.

Yes.  Grey blue hair and a grey blue soft, slouchy hat.  It suited her down to the ground.

I could not get away with this colour combo but still: the possibilities for purposeful knitting, to match every hair dye colour that appeals!  A different hat setup for every month of winter would probably work better with a wig because ohhh, that much dye is maybe not a great thing for natural hair.  Still. An annual decision and dyeing fest for the full three months of Weather Yuck has got to be pretty accessible for most knitters who want to go that route.

If you dyed your hair to match a hat knit from your dream yarn, what colour would you pick?  I think I'd go for Copper.

And now, back to our top story:

Knitting is easy because you can just pick it up and do it.  If you're bored with one knit, you can put it down and pick up (or cast on) another.  If you're feeling icky, you can pick up a knit that makes you feel better.

What is not easy is figuring out kitchen layouts.  Not cheerful: pricing cabinets.  Bleah!  Of course actually paying for them is the worst of all, but here too, yarn is a comfort.

Look at it this way.  Sometimes you look at a skein of yarn that costs more than $30 and think: that's way too much to spend just to be happy now and have a warm head later.  But when you look at a cabinet that costs $250?  Let me tell you, that's a lot to spend to be reasonably content now and have a place to put a loaf of bread later.

I'm so glad I have the Vesper Club in my life.

And also, that I decided to let the condo be worth less when we list it later because of its non-deluxe, non-shiny, current kitchen.  The relief!  not to mention the knitting time reclaimed!

What's your favourite thing about knitting?

Monday, January 19, 2015

Matchy knitting

Yak: it's where it's at.

As the weather has gone very, very cold, I've been testing out different weights of scarf and hat and mitt, and I have discovered that the giant green scarf I bought last fall - the one that's all Yak - is the warmest, softest, most pillowy piece of fabric I have ever encountered.  It is heaven.  It also doesn't look very nice with any of my hats or mitts.

So naturally, I have been obsessing about what I can pull together for a hat that will match, if only because I have knit a scrap of coordinating green yarn into one.  I do have some black sport weight wool which, if I knit it at a dense enough gauge, should be pretty warm; a bit of green paired with that should do the job.

So I found this bit, in very same sport weight yarn:

But it's pretty obvious that this cowl, made from silk/merino that Trish gave me as a souvenir of a holiday out west, is the better match.

I am 90% sure I have a little of this yarn left over, but do you think I can find it? Of course not.

So I was settling for the sport weight scrap when this arrived in the mailbox, the last gasp of the Twisted Fiber Art fiber club I feel determined not to rejoin because I am swimming in stuff to spin at this point.

I might have to rethink this No More Yarn Clubs policy though. How often does yarny stuff turn up in the mailbox that is a pleasure to deal with,

and solves a problem to boot?

Or maybe it doesn't match, really.  Maybe it will just look okay from a distance.  Maybe too, I've spun these singles too slim to be a super warm hat.

I've decided not to worry about that till I've plied and blocked and knit it up because silk.  This roving is merino with just enough silk for soft and warm, without dropping any of the bounce of the wool.  My favourite!

Have a great day today - with luck, one with some nice little surprise of your own to enjoy along the way - and I'll see you tomorrow.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Knitter in a candy store

You know that great feeling you get in a yarn store?  The joy of possibility that floods over you, and the sheer luxury of touching angora or 50/50 cashmere/merino you could maybe afford if you walk to work all of next month?  Well, it can happen in your own home if you overdo it on the yarn purchasing to the point where you forget what you have.

Like, this yarn.

I remembered this cake of Twisted Fiber Art 'Opulent' and its purple coordinate suddenly, when Jan expressed a third round of appreciation for the socks I knit her for Christmas.  I mean: knitworthy alert!  Plus, Jan walks a ton, and it's cold out these days.  She doesn't buy boots a size too big to accommodate thick socks like I do, and mostly she is warm enough in straight sport weight wool (unlike me, with my preference for thick dense socks made with mohair.)  So this not-quite-fingering weight merino/cashmere/nylon blend is perfect for her for days slightly colder than her handknit wool socks can manage.

But even as I consider knitting yet another pair of socks for somebody else, I was distracted by this yarn, rediscovered when I went looking for the cashmere blend stuff. 

I bought this from the Meadowview Alpaca booth at the Royal Winter Fair a few years back, when they started to not sell this heavier sock weight so much any more, and definitely not in skeins sufficiently large enough for a whole pair of socks.  By that time I had already knit this pair,

and this pair,

and I knew that there is no better bed sock or home-on-a-cold-day sock than handknit Meadowview Alpaca socks.  The pictures do not do the dense softness of these things justice, believe me!  But I set this unknit yarn aside after dividing it, fearing it really wasn't enough yarn for a full pair, and realizing I have absolutely no yarn that goes with it to cover off a heel or a toe.

You know what I did when I found it this time?  I weighed it.  And then I weighed the yellow and green socks.  I have no idea why I didn't think of this before but I absolutely have enough yarn to knit socks with the green and red yarn.  And I really, really want to do it.

Meanwhile, I am obsessing about pairing every one of my scarves to a particular hat, compatible both in colour and weather readiness.  So I couldn't help but notice how nicely this other yarn looks with the matching handspun that's now in scarf form.

Dreamy, isn't it?

Doesn't look bad knit up either.

Which reminds me why I can't knit anything I want to right now: I have to finish the Ferdy socks!!

Gah.  I'm getting close though.  Maybe this weekend.

Got any closure knitting planned yourself?  Hope it works out perfectly if you do, and that you have a great weekend if you don't, and I'll see you Monday.