Friday, April 29, 2016

The knitting reward

OH my goodness does it ever feel good to be free!  Today I finally finished the absolute worst job on my Urgent To Do list, the one that's been hanging over me for months, and I had to force myself to push past the line late this afternoon in a sunpatch at my desk but it is over.  Finally, I get my reward:

Guilt-free knitting time to work on this exploding yarn mass that may or may not end up being a stripey fingerless glove.  And yes, I think this single solitary item is going to push me over the edge into finally learning how to run in ends as I go.

(really this is Trish's fault.  She showed me an incredibly beautiful way to run in ends on the purl side of plain knitting - I thought I showed the method here once but I can't find the post now - and ever since I have taken incredible satisfaction in using it, even as I curse the need to run in lots of ends.  I am almost as contrary as my namesake sometimes.)

Do you ever procrastinate about the stuff you must do, as opposed to the stuff you 'should' do and which may disappear if you ignore it long enough?  Because honestly I don't.  I will stay up till 3am if that's what it takes to wrap up the must-do items.  But this time, MAN.  I just could NOT make myself put together all the numbers and receipts for our taxes! 

I think taxes are due a bit earlier in the US but in Canada, they have to be in by midnight April 30th every year, unless that day falls on a weekend (thank you, 2016 calendar) in which case it's midnight on whatever weekday the government specifies (Monday).  So, this year - technically - we had a little extension.  Pete and I have a pretty good system for tax prep that has always worked well for us, if not as well as tallying everything up at the end of each month which, I know, is what smarter people do.  Basically, I file all the relevant paperwork in one place all year long, and some time before the due date I tally up all the numbers, and then I hand it off to Pete and go frolicking off into the meadow while he plugs them into the right places on all the forms.

I don't know what was wrong with me this year.  Maybe just the constant grind of responsibility from everyday life plus expensive renovation?  All I know is, I haven't been able to do more than a few sections a day for the last two weeks, and sitting down to wrap up was harder than all of those days put together.

But I did, and I am free! and Pete is... not so much.  So I'm trying not to rub it in while I binge on TV and knitting.

In other news, check out the super exciting thing I got in the mail today!!

I know, it just pretty much looks brown. I thought it was pretty brown too, and it was a bit of a letdown if I'm honest.  For some reason I thought that when I advocated for a dining chair seat that matched the wood finish I chose one that was a bit more luminescent or caramely or something.  I hope the whole combination doesn't look too old-fashioned when we get it into the house.

Either way: with these samples of the wood and the leather for our dining set, I now have everything I need to do a proper colour scheme for the whole house and start shortlisting paint colours and drapery fabrics. 

(erm, did that sound as much like taxes to you as it did to me?  I'm not sure I'm hearing right any more.)

Meanwhile the house really is coming along.  Last week I was in and took this picture down the stairwell opening:

Brian's crew was putting in the radiant heat tubes for the basement.

A couple of days later I took this one from the same spot:

Cement!  The next thing that is going down on that floor is engineered hardwood, though probably not till June.  We are kind of taking our life in our hands there but we have done SO much waterproofing and drainage gravel and you name it, plus a top of the line sump pump for insurance, so we decided to risk it.  We use our basement a LOT and it's going to be lovely to have it be just as cosy as upstairs.

Okay, that's it for me for this week - hope you all have a lovely weekend and I'll see you on Monday!

Thursday, April 28, 2016

I found my sock needles

My missing sock needles were in a pair of socks!

Unfinished socks, for Julia.  I mean, obviously they are unfinished, since it would be quite uncomfortable to go walking around in socks with the needles still in, not to mention unnecessary, if all the stitches were closed off.

In theory I should finish these socks before I start Carolyn's, but I could also go Panic Stations and slip other unloveable needles into them to hold the stitches while I whip up the new pair.

Side Note: there is such a thing as unloveable needles.  I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest that for most of us, it's 'any port in a storm' and meh needles are better than no needles, especially if finger-knitting is not an option

(also, there may not seem to be such a thing as that either)

(can one finger crochet, I wonder)

BUT my reality is, unloveable needles exist and I can prove it because I have several sets.

I don't know whether you remember that time I went a little crazy buying sock needles in every possible material in a hunt for my dream set, but I sure do.  In spite of my initial optimism, I found by the end of a pair of socks that some were too bendy, some were too sluggish and draggy, some were too sharp or too blunt, and some just bugged me.  But the metal ones coated with - I don't know, what is it they coat needles with that can cause allergic reactions? - made my hands itch.  It was the WORST.  Knitting is supposed to be peaceful or at least absorbing, allowing you to put away all nagging thoughts of a kitchen to clean, or financial affairs to set in order, or a relative one is powerless to keep alive.  Not to get dark there, but honestly! Knitting is that powerful!

Anyway - itchy palms should not be part of the knitting experience, but itchy-palm-inducing needles are an excellent choice for holding stitches on a pair of socks you don't want to finish knitting just yet.

Why I don't want to finish Julia's socks just yet, in spite of their being super close to the finish, is going to be the subject of another post.  Probably in a week or two when I have dealt with the taxes and the spray foam insulation for the house and the fingerless glove pattern we've all been waiting for me to write up, and when I say 'all' I mean 'me', because it's getting to be a pain to carry around my scribbled-on sheets of paper instead of one or two nice crisp ones with pictures, and the row counts all neatly sorted.

That's because I'm going to write down my technique for adjusting sock size when you know that one pair in fingering weight fits Person A, and you're knitting for Person B who has the same size feet but wants socks in DK weight, OR Person C is getting exactly the same socks you like to make for yourself, only two sizes smaller.  I figure if I write it down, I am less likely to moan inwardly about how long it's going to take me to figure out when to start the toe decreases, and then stop knitting gift socks about 10 round from the toe because I can't decide what to do.  It'll just be a question of following the steps from A to wherever.

That's right, I admit it!  So much of Hugs is just a logbook for me and my sorry forgetful brain.

Which reminds me, another thing I lost when I started this whole renovation project, in addition to my grasp on my key knitting tools, was my will to update my Ravelry page.  It's pretty sad now how far behind I am.  18 months maybe?  But I know that when I have time...


... I will be able to go through back posts here at Hugs and recall exactly which projects I started and never finished, and what yarn I bought, and what finished projects I put or sent away.

Bottom line: I found my DK weight sock needles, and it feels like progress.  Yay!

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Knitting is an affordable hobby

You know how sometimes we look at our yarn stash and panic that we spent too much?  Okay, maybe that doesn't happen to you, but maybe a friend or family member might suggest it should. Or imply that there just IS too much of it.  Well, after a couple of days of reading through interior design blogs I realized just how cost effective knitting really is.

For example, if you are tired of your bathroom taps and decide to upgrade to a nicer fixture, even if it's a low-priced or on-sale one, it will probably cost twice the price of a hand-dyed skein of sock yarn.

Want a fancy chandelier?  Even a cut-price budget one will cost the same as eight skeins of yarn.  How much yarn do you need for a hand-knit custom sweater?  I know somebody who lost weight specifically to be able to need less yarn for a sweater, but let's say eight.  Fancy chandelier versus sweater you can wow people with for years, on top of all the hours of pleasure you had knitting it, under the bare bulb that took the place of your unpurchased chandelier.

The thing is, I'm learning that for some people, interior decorating is the same obsessive (did I say that?) hobby that yarny things are for us.  Trends in decorating exist, and they can't unless people are fueling them by buying enough of whatever is 'new'.  Not because their cabinet hardware all suddenly shriveled up and fell off, but because they want a fresh look in the kitchen.

(best not to think about how much yarn a really nice set of cabinet hardware would get you.)

Discovering that made me think of all sorts of other hobbies that cost a lot.

Race car driving, for example.

Or just collecting cars.  Do you know how much model cars will set you back?

Okay, I got the white one out of a sale bin quite justifiably, to go on my soon-to-exist white-trimmed living room's coffee table, and the green one is just a $2 Matchbox (I never, ever pass up the chance to buy a model Citroen DS in any size or colour) but still.  The serious ones are not cheap.

And hey: model train layouts.  The gear for that costs WAY more than yarn and needles, and you can't squeeze it into a space bag and hide it under the sofa either.  Probably you can sneak a $300 engine into the freezer as a friend of mine once did with yarn she didn't want her husband to know about right away (it didn't work, he went in for ice cream) but you might do damage to the motor.

Landscape painting.  For which, as everyone knows, you must eventually pay for an artist's loft with skylight.  Because obviously the same logic that applies to knitters in love with yarn - whereby you slowly work yourself backward until you have a spinning wheel and a large supply of untreated wool from the sheep grazing in your purchased-for-the-purpose country home, and dye pots, and then looms, the quicker to work through all the vast amount of yarn you've accumulated - must also apply to painters.

Baking.  I mean technically baking is just some groceries, but it's a pretty insidious hobby from what I've seen.  One that leads to a collection of cake plates and expensive exotic ingredients and marble kneading boards and very deluxe ovens and at least an extra chest freezer, or else the cost of parties to entice people in to eat all you've made.

Fashion.  Obviously it's the worst when it's a couture habit, but even vintage clothes and accessories will set you back and devour your storage space.

Although, purses kind of create storage space, soo... well, okay.  In other news, I should probably use this purse instead of just posing it in a cabinet, huh?  It's so cute for summer.

And don't even get me started about computer gaming.

(mainly because I know nothing about it.  but technology tends to be expensive and quickly replaced by the next great must-have thing, doesn't it?)

You get my point I'm sure.  The next time somebody, or even the little voice in your head, suggests that you might have a problem with yarn?  Remember it could be so much worse.  And you could be stuck buying factory-made sweaters to boot.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Self-striping yarn is a crafter's dream

I wonder whether paper crafters know what we do about self-striping yarn?

It covers you for practically any colour you might need for tying up parcels. 

This is one of my favourite things about Vesper sock yarn - once you have the first dozen skeins or so, you've got almost a full pencilcrayon set of colours.  And then you start to get some repeats, so you have more sources of Kelly Green and Chocolate Brown in case you run out, or want to make two bits of scrap yarn look like they were always meant to go together.

So glad I got more in the mail last week.  It would be awful if I ever ran out, ha.

Check out all these gorgeous colours I'll get to play with once I've made socks from this skein!

Two shades of pink, two shades of blue, and yellow and green too?  wowza.

While I was the most sick - I'm still sick, but starting to be able to think about being able to move on to a more demanding project - I worked on my scrap-stripe fingerless glove and got almost as far as I had before I ripped it all out:

What do you think about the switched-up stripes?  Better balance than the original, below?

I flipped the brown and the green.  I am still totally in love with this pattern and am very anxious to share it with you guys.  Gotta get through this cold, and also our taxes, and then I'm on it! 

Monday, April 25, 2016

Technical difficulties

UGH, by which I mean, Hello all!  Sorry I mysteriously disappeared instead of posting on Friday, or at any point earlier today, or really today at all, since I have no energy to prep and post the lovely knitting photographs I took for you over the weekend before I was felled by aNOTHer cold.

This is how my brain feels right now.
(you know, like a laminate counter sample I quite like for the laundry room.)

I knew this cold was coming, because I spent time with a sick friend last week who missed that critical 'lift elbow and lower head before coughing' maneuver a few times.  I think I may actually have been sneezed on as well.

Anyway: no surprise, and I did try to plan for a few lost days, but not well enough apparently.

Wondering what a sick Mary does when too miserable even to prep photographs, but not breathing well enough to sleep all day long?

Watch a lot of Miss Fisher on Netflix (recommended)

Accidentally taste a tiny bit of Vicks VapoRub by picking up a glass with a Vicks'd hand (not recommended At All)

Compulsively consume interior decorating tips online using a cell phone (if you like that sort of thing)

Accidentally read about how keeping your charging cell phone and other electricals next to the head of the bed can cause brain cancer (not really recommended)

Review locations of all electrical in house and probably locations of heads of beds (recommended, especially if it proves to be reassuring and/or fixable)

Knit, of course (always recommended)

Participate in resolving various family health crises (recommended if the situation demands it, as the alternative is invariably worse)

Ponder the wisdom of fixed-in-place brass decor accents lest they be a trend that passes (meh)

Recall the scraped-up 80s brass doorknob that managed the front door of the house for the past 30 or so years and is still perfectly functional and never offended the sort of people who dropped in (helpful)

Research insulation -

and here I have to stop and shake my head because OH MY GOODNESS.  or some other firm expletive.  Insulation is the most loaded topic I've had to dig into during this entire renovation project, even worse than window selection, and that is saying something because I strongly dislike our windows and especially the fact that I let us be pressured into them.  On top of everything else I don't like, they are impossible to get out through in case of fire, I doubt they even pass code in that regard.  AND they were the most expensive kind on the market.

Insulation is worse than the windows, because of the health risks that hinge on your choice.  Even the least offensive sort of traditional insulation - fiberglass, for example - poses problems like improperly protected spaces and mold if not well installed.  But some insulations, notably spray foam insulation, can trigger quite serious reactions and in the case of spray foam, is a supremely expensive nightmare to take out again if it does.  Some unlucky homeowners have had to sell their homes, because the foam has made family members too sick to stay in it.

Here is what I don't like about spray insulation, even if you spend enough on it to expect a safe installation:

It doesn't matter how wonderful the product is in theory, it's not a finished product until the spray hits the wall.  Or rather, until the A spray hits the B spray - it's like epoxy, it requires a chemical reaction right there in your home.  So quality control comes down to the installer's training, not careful factory conditions.

And not just the installer's training.  It's also the temperature of the day, which changes over the course of the day.  How wet it is, or how dry.  How tired the installer is, or how close to coming down with a cold.  No visiting sick friends for spray foam installers!

Also: it underscores the gap between Green for the planet and Green for human health.  Even if it's well installed, spray foam is not recommended for people with chemical sensitivity, and who's to say we might not offer shelter to someone with that issue, or be such a person ourselves?

Gah.  Three guesses what our beautiful house was designed for, before I knew all of this.  Of course.  Spray foam!

And because it's got a very high R value, you can build thinner walls than you need for fiberglass or mineral wool. Which means that to meet the city's requirements with another less chemically solution Ray would have to build up all the exterior wall framing with deeper timber and Andy and I would have to redo the kitchen design - and the order absolutely has to go in this Friday - to accommodate a space that is 2" shallower on all the exterior walls (quickfact: the refrigerator is already jutting out way farther into a narrow doorway than Andy likes.)  No pressure on deciding what to do.

Of course we all know what's best if you're not restricted by measurements, don't we?  Insulating with WOOL.  Actual wool.  Which doesn't burn nearly as fast as petrochemicals, doesn't take up nearly as much floorspace as hay bales, is never toxic apart from skin allergy which is contact-specific, and is a terrific resource in case one should ever run out of other wool to knit.

Had I but realized...

Anyway, that's me for today, getting a quick visit in under the wire (it's 11:30pm as I type these words) and getting up to go collapse under blankets right about... now.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

A list of pleasant things

Sometimes, you have to look for something nice to elevate the day.  Other times, you don't have to look hard.  Here are some nice things I've noticed lately:

Cleaning house - or worse still, putting in time on exercise equipment - is so, so much nicer with an entertaining, fluffy audiobook read by somebody with an English accent.  I find it funny that in England, people refer to a Canadian accent.  I wonder whether they seek out Canadian accented audiobook readers?

You wouldn't expect this to taste nice, but if you chop up a mixture of Brussels Sprouts, Napa Cabbage, Kohlrabi, Broccoli, Carrots, and Kale and saute them in a pan full of onions softened in olive oil, then throw salt and pepper on top, then drizzle a little maple syrup over it...

 ... you have a pretty delicious lunch or side dish.  Okay, of COURSE it tastes nice, it's got maple syrup on it.  Fish oil would probably taste nice with maple syrup on it, not that I'm prepared to test that statement.  Still: it's a delicious way to get those greens into you and an alternative delivery system for precious maple syrup for the pancake lovers among us.

Mann's Power Blend is helpful.

It cuts out the whole 'chop up a mixture of' step from the previous Nice Thing entry.

One more maple syrup thing: it's pretty nice to find out that maple syrup is thought to have neurological benefits.  Because it's delicious.

You know sometimes when you notice something moving out of the corner of your eye and you start a little because you thought you were alone and you know it could be something icky like, I don't know, a mysterious intruder or a life-threatening mobile banana, but then it turns out to be a robin hopping along on the other side of your window?  That's so nice.

Getting up from your knitting chair to clean the kitchen and then discovering that somebody else loaded the dishwasher for you is super nice, unless you live alone, in which case it's a bit creepy.  But we'll go with nice for now.

Sometimes when your tea provider of choice changes packaging it's distressing, but if you open it up and find a new pattern printed on the interior of the cardboard?


Okay, this particular pattern kind of makes my eyes go squiggly, but Taylor's gets an A for effort.  They could have done plain white, and instead they went for colour.

The photograph slideshow on Netflix while you're trying to figure out how to cast your show to the TV screen are incredibly nice.  I'm so grateful to all the photographers, every time I look at them.  Sometimes I look at them instead of Netflix, even.

Closing your eyes for five minutes and waking up and having that much sleep actually be enough to refresh you is not just nice, it's awesome.

As is walking outside without a coat on, not because you were in a hurry and thought you could get away with it and now you're freezing and/or wet and now full of regret, but because it's so warm out you don't need one.

Everyone I see on the streets around here looks 20-45% more relaxed this week because the weather suddenly warmed and the breezes softened.  Spring is such a relief, every year, even when you know it's coming, and even when the winter wasn't especially hard.  It's the air, I think - it just smells different, and feels different too.  Isn't it funny how that feeling never gets old?

What's your favourite pleasantness today?

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

I shouldn't be knitting this either

Something occurred to me yesterday, but my camera needed charging so I had to document it with my phone.

You'd think it was Christmastime, wouldn't you - a blue Christmas! har har.

But no.  Kind of the opposite, and not just seasonally, but more on that in a moment.  First I'd like to point out the sneaky pink cast on edge for my fingerless mitts.

I didn't really want a pale pink stripe in this mitts, even though I do love pale pink, but using the end of this stripe for the cast on allowed me to make full use of the dark green section of my self-striping sock yarn.

And while I'm on the subject, even though the big advantage of self-striping sock yarn is that you don't have to manually change colours, you can still do it.

Too many reds too close together, I thought, so I tied a bow which I will loosen later to run the ends in properly.  For now, a nice neat bow allows me to keep the colours sorted out and rolled into a ball to knit from. 


Ugh, what can I say?  I was just about to finish off the top of the mitt when I noticed I had 15 stitches on one needle and 14 on all the others, and I traced the trouble all the way back to the cuff, and I couldn't make myself not rip out to fix it.  I must really not want to knit Carolyn and Wayson's socks.  Either that or I should really be knitting them self-striping socks so the lure would be stronger. 

Anyway while I was at it, I shifted the colours a bit.  I had a dark blue beside a dark brown, followed by a bright green and I think a bright red?  I absolutely love that in the socks I knit with the bulk of this yarn, but I'd rather alternate the dark and bright colours for the mitts.

Sometimes I swear I'm my own worst enemy.  If you're an inconveniently perfectionist knitter too, what's the worst thing you've let yourself do with a project?

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Looking up - the infamous lighting post

Today is all about thrilling ceiling lights!

Normally I let myself write about anything that's making me happy or at least preoccupied, but I've been avoiding telling you about the ceiling lights for the 'new' house because

a/ they are not knitting

b/ lights are boring

c/ lights are really, really boring when they are going in somebody else's house and you're not even in the market for lights of your own.

But now I'm getting excited about the fact that for the first time since leaving our parents' house (well, our starter apartment had a helpful light in the dining room so maybe that's not exactly fair) we are going to have a ceiling light over our dining room table and kitchen table and even my knitting sofa if I want, and I can't help myself.

Also I am practically tripping over boxes of lights, because we've been buying our selections when they go on sale and just storing them until they can go to their ultimate home... and our storage locker is full of other non-light stuff.  Except for the lights I put at the far end of the storage locker before I realized how full it was going to get in there.  Really not happy about the thought of digging those out when Ray is ready to install them.  Kind of preoccupied with it though.

Okay, ready?

Here is the chandelier we bought from Pottery Barn to go over our dining room table. 

It's very basic really, and at Laurel Bern's interior design blog I also learned it is boring, but we love it for several reasons.  One is that we want to use some French General fabrics in the dining room - deep red patterns on cream backgrounds in woven linens and cottons - and this chandelier won't scream at them.  Another is that it's black, and our piano is black, and so is our gas firebox, and I thought it would be a good idea to repeat that colour a few times to make up for the glaring white of the custom cabinetry that will surround the aforementioned gas firebox.

The biggest reason, though, is that the dining room is very long and very narrow and since we use our dining table for all things paperwork as well as fabric cutting and weaving and so forth, I want super fabulous overhead light.  We never had that in the house all the years we lived there.  What this means in financial term sis that we need two chandeliers to cover the territory and this fixture is only $200US.  We can afford two of that, and we can upgrade later if we find we agree with Laurel about the boring.

(Laurel likes white kitchen appliances, which we are getting because we love them, so I am open to her being right about our dining room chandeliers.)

To light the piano keys, we opted for sconces, and I thought it would be very clever of me to buy those from Pottery Barn too, to increase the odds of the lights in that room looking well together.  Also: they were superhugely on sale, even with the shipping and duty charges.

HA.  Joke's on me: these lights are actually brown.  We decided to keep them though, because I really like the shape and even the shade, and Ray really likes to spray paint.  Done and done, and PHEW.

We have a shortlisted light plan for the entry hall - there's to be a lantern or something on the ceiling there, and a sconce just inside the the door - but I don't feel ready to commit to those yet.  They are expensive and I don't love love love them.  They do, however, complement the dining room lights which is important because entry, while being a generous room of its own, basically falls into the dining room.  You'll see the entry light from the table because the dividing 'doorway' goes right up to the ceiling.

What's really exciting about the entry lighting though is that Ray is going to hardwire lights INTO THE CLOSET.  I know, I know, shouty caps.  But I'm guessing that you too would shout if you were getting lights inside your front hall closet.

cue the high pitched aaaaaahhhhhhhhh like a heavenly chorus from above

Okay: Kitchen!

I should do a sketch of our main floor to let this all make sense, but basically we are working with a square divided into thirds.  The front third of the house is the entry at one end, and the dining room taking up all the rest.  In the middle third of the house, immediately behind the entry, we have our stairway and a side door. Behind the dining room, we have two doorways flanking the powder room, whose entry door faces the stairway.  The wider of the two doorways is at the stairway, and the narrower one offers a sneaky direct entrance to the kitchen.  We don't want this to be a main access point - it's only 28" wide because we had to fit a too-deep fridge on one side and a lot of HVAC piping into the wall on the other - but it's better than not having one at all.

At the back of the house we have, behind the entry and staircase, the living room.  And behind the bathroom and the narrow kitchen entry, we have the rest of the kitchen.

It's a funny layout by today's standards because the kitchen in particular is not really open concept, and a lot of the business end of the kitchen - the sink, the fridge, the dedicated counter for processing bills and paper recycling and other everyday stuff - is tucked inside the narrow doorway.  Also, and here is the lighting bit, the joists shift just at the edge of that business end.  Seriously, they go off by about 4".  So although there is a nice clean run for pot lights or pendants or whatever from the back door toward the dining room entry, it stops at the sink and shifts and we won't be able to line up the rest of the light from the sink to the fridge.

Our solution - and believe me, Ray and Andy (our kitchen designer) and I spent a long time thinking this through - is to do a pretty light at the narrow door to light the fridge area, a run of recessed LED lights in front of the main working counter that runs from the sink to the back door, and another pretty light over the table that stands opposite the living room.

Clear as mud, right?  Eh, let's just get to the pretty lights we picked:

Two-bulb size in front of the fridge, three-bulb size over the kitchen table.  I really wanted a chandelier over the table but anything small enough for its 30" x 48" expanse is too small to correspond to whatever we put into the living room.  So, retro Hudson Valley fixtures it is.

These lights come with brass or black trim.  We like the brass, so if we can get a brass light for the living room we'll do that, because the kitchen and living room fall into each other the way the dining room and entry do.  Otherwise, we'll do black.  Maybe if we do brass we could do brass cabinet hardware too... but I'm getting ahead of myself, because I am in no way prepared to choose cabinetry hardware yet.

And now, the living room!

One day when I was starting to pull out my hair from looking at all the light fixtures, I made Pete sit down with a stack of magazines to see whether he could find a light that he liked.  He liked one.  ONE.  It was the light at the top of this post, which I also liked, even after I found out it costs $1800.  Would you pay $1800 for this light?

I would.  I like it more and more every time I look at it, but once I told him the price Pete likes it less and less (this from the guy who didn't hesitate over the cost of adding brick all the way up to our roofline, instead of siding, while I clutched at my heart.) He fears this light looks a bit 1960s, which is not untrue, and not what I want either.

As I type this, that light is on sale for $1400, but he still doesn't like it.  The one he likes now is this one, which I showed him expecting him to say ARE YOU CRAZY MARY.  He didn't say that, which tells me he's past capacity for looking at lights.

Admittedly, this blue-tinged chandelier with its happy golden flowers would look fabulous with our navy velvet sofa and gold tapestry cushions, and I kinda fell for it myself, but it turns out to be a super tiny light, only about 18" wide, so it won't work.  Also, it totally looks 1960s to me!!  Late 1960s, from a room with an early shag rug.

Our fallback is this simple white chandelier that's kinda like the dining room lights:

But I still feel like we could do better.

Just not today, because I fear I'm going as Lighting Overload Mode as Pete is.  How about you?

If yes: be thankful I haven't picked any upstairs light fixtures yet.  And remember, those dining room lights?  They are going to let me take some fabulous knitting and weaving blog photos in the future!

Monday, April 18, 2016

I shouldn't be knitting this

There is so much wrong with this picture, I don't even know where to start.

Maybe with the funny shadow line at the top of it?

Or maybe the fact that it is so balmy outside right now it might as well be summer, aka the season in which you do NOT wear wool gloves, even if they are fingerless.

Also, I am pretty sure Carolyn arrives tomorrow.  I should be working on her socks so she has them to take back to cool damp England with her.

I only lived there for one summer, but all the indoor pictures I have of me from that time feature a cute vintage wool cardigan and a pretty silk scarf.  Outside, in the sun, yes - there were some very warm moments.  We even had a heatwave!  During a transit strike!  I can still call to mind the gorgeous, gorgeous views as I walked the ninety minutes to work from the room I rented in a flat in north London, through parks and past canals, which angry, hot people clustered around bus stops waiting for the few vehicles that were trickling through.  I felt badly for them because I knew they weren't used to this sort of heat and had no air conditioned stores or malls to duck into for relief.  For me, having moved there from baking/freezing Toronto only a few months before, it was a lovely mild summer day.

Admittedly with insane levels of unfamiliar allergens in the air that had me stuffed up 24/7 - a problem since my job that summer was media relations executive with a public relations firm, which is to say that every day I was expected to telephone lots of trade magazines to ask them to print stories about our clients.  So difficult to be charming and persuasive while honking into a handful of tissues.  At least I didn't have to go to see all those writers in person, so they were spared the sight of my streaming mascara and puffy eyes.

(something to think about if you're looking at magazine photographs of the stunning British countryside and thinking a year there would be heaven.  it will be, but maybe budget for Kleenex.  or, you know, plan to take lots of antihistamines.  not sure why I didn't do that but it would have been a great help to my career if I had.)

Inside, though - cold and damp, no matter how hot it was in the open air.  I bet Carolyn would totally wear new wool socks to sleep in, for at least part of the summer.

Finally, I was supposed to be writing up the lace version of this pattern so you guys can knit it too.  I actually had three easy days scheduled for this weekend and writing up the pattern was at the top of my list, but as usual, stuff came up and I did a lot of work instead of sitting quietly with a cup of tea and my keyboard.  I did therapeutic knitting instead, during the 45 minutes I've been sneaking in every day.

Probably there are other reasons I shouldn't be knitting myself a beautiful pair of stripey gloves but on the other hand, there is the fact that I've wanted a pair for years, and I just want to knit them now.  Ultimately as knitter, I get to choose, even if I'm also choosing to pay for international postage and risk my handknits getting lost in the mail.  (oh crumbs, now I feel like I'd rather knit for Carolyn and Wayson so I don't have to mail Andrew's socks.)

I'm using three different Vesper leftovers for this glove and am hoping to match the mate pretty closely - normally I would knit both at once to be sure, but I have only one set of needles free until I finish Wayson's socks, which I really, really MUST get back to this evening.  I'm almost certain that I will.  Best intentions, anyway.

I love how this is coming out, but I also fear all those ends where I'm layering up the stripes between colourways.  I don't really love weaving in ends.  Especially if I don't have an immediate incentive to finish so I can wear the thing(s) I'm making.

Still, at least I'm knitting something I love.  That's a nice feeling no matter what else is going on, don't you find?

Friday, April 15, 2016

Rescuing a misguided knit

Ripping out a mostly knitted project is too discouraging for me to do most of the time - and forget a completely-knit project that didn't work for me, I pass those onto somebody else to enjoy - but if the yarn is amazing and out of production, well...

Remember the fingerless gloves I tried to design for my Vesper sock scraps?  The thumb I came up with would make an excellent spout cover for a tea cosy, wouldn't it.  And it felt okay on my actual thumb, too, but overall this pattern just didn't gel.

Still, I absolutely love these colours, and now that I have a functional fingerless glove pattern, I am as excited as ever about seeing these particular stripes on my hands when it's cold.



Wrap (too lazy to get out the swift).


Oh, come on - how can you not play with such crazy crinkly yarn?

And: tie!

And now it's just soak and hang to dry and re-cake and cast on and make a new pair of stripey gloves. Done and done.  Between stints of tax return prep, of course.  And knitting a few rounds of those England-bound socks.

Hope you have a great weekend and I'll see you Monday!

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Strategic knitting

Yesterday while I was looking for something else, I came across a mystery bag with yarn in it.  Well, it's not really accurate to say 'mystery', since I'd tossed a scrap of paper into the Ziploc bag that protected the mystery bag, which read "Socks For Carolyn."

The mystery is why I would think Carolyn would enjoy super bright warm colours, and the explanation is: she won't, but she loves warm socks to sleep in, and this weight of sock seems to work well for her - and for me, since I know how many rounds to do to make a pair that fit her.  It's Duchess from Twisted Fiber Art (the Salsa colourway, I am pretty sure) and Duchess is discontinued now, so I wasn't going to fuss about colour when I put them into this kit.

And it is a kit, look!

I even remembered to slip my Carolyn pattern into the bag.

No needles though.  Just the wrapper, which proves how lazy I am since I am not getting up from my desk right now to double check the colour.

Now, the strategic aspect of this sock kit, set aside ages ago for a moment when I might be in a position to knit it up, is that Carolyn is coming home for a nice long visit.  She's arriving I think next week, and if I start these socks now I can finish them before she goes and send them back to England with her in her luggage. 

In fact, if I was really on the ball, I could send her husband's socks at the same time - remember, the ones I made him for Christmas and never got around to mailing??

(criminy, am I a bad cousin or what?)

(actually, at first it was laziness, and then it was more strategy, because I have to make the exact same size of socks for Wayson as I made for Andrew, and if I keep Andrew's socks here long enough to finish Wayson's they'll both be right.  plus it's April now.  neither of these guys are going to need wool socks for ages yet.)

See where I'm going with this?  If I knit these super quick socks for Carolyn I can send them home with her, and if I then finish knitting Wayson's socks, which as I recall are very nearly done, I can send Andrew's socks home with her too. 


Except for the actual knitting part.  I'm basically knitting in molasses these days, so it's hard to imagine how I could get that many socks knit in a month, even if two of them are in DK weight and the other two are almost finished.

And don't forget the missing needles... I'd have to find needles.  Aiiiieee. 

I wonder where I've been keeping those without noticing?

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

What I did on my winter vacation

Everything but knit, apparently.  And I started out so well, with a bag full of projects and Strawberry to look after them for me!

This year's Easter bunny is a fan of knitting
and home renovation programs:  match made in heaven!

She must have been too distracted by the view out the window to remember to push them in my direction.

I didn't even take pictures of what little knitting I finished on the train.  I was a bit self-conscious though - there was another passenger sitting across from me on the train and I'm out of practice not minding if I look a bit obsessive about taking pictures of the yarn in my lap.

In the end, all I worked on was the second grey glove, because I know a few of you are waiting for that pattern.  But I didn't even get to the end of the cuff before I got to my station, because thanks to a seat sale I'd booked in business class and a very nice man kept stopping to offer me snacks and beverages and a delicious lunch.  Five hours go fast that way!

I wasn't kidding about the lunch by the way.  It was cold roast beef which sounds bleah, but it was really good roast beef with teriyaki sauce drizzled over it and soft noodles underneath, with a wheatberry salad on the side and an orange/chocolate biscotti for dessert.  On the train!!  I would totally travel that way again.

On our free evenings, when Pete and I went back to our hotel room to  crash out and watch TV, I did work on the glove, and got through multiple repeats of the lace panel.  Finally.

Our vacation was very restful and unexciting... as I mentioned, we went to Ottawa, where we've been about six zillion times already.  It was cold and windy and snowy so we didn't do the walking trails that are a treat in summer.  And we've seen all the important buildings and all the galleries and museums except the Diefenbunker, which is supposed to be amazing but also rather far underground and I am pretty sure I would get claustrophobia so it's on the 'Later - much later' list.

This time, apart from visiting Bob (he of a sole pair of handknit socks and no hat, because it didn't fit in my train knitting bag) and my godparents and cousin, we visited the war museum for a second, or maybe third? time and learned a few more things, like just how immersed in the war experience children were in the early forties.  I mean, we look back at how kids could be frightened by cold war drills and neighbourhood families building bomb shelters in the fifties, but I never thought about how the constant references to war (even down to the military-themed board games and black and white comic books here in Canada that conserved ink) would shape a child's experience of the world in those critical early years of life.  You would be as scarred by that as the kids of a generation earlier were by the Depression, wouldn't you think?

Anyway, it's lucky that I'm as intrigued by war as Pete is, although we do have different areas of special focus, because that could have been a pretty boring day for one of us.  As it happens I am totally fascinated by social history, all aspects of which converge and are documented in wartime.  Some of our favourite TV watching dates have consisted of us and Greatest Tank Battles.  Do you know this show?  The focus on tactical decisions and the graphics that help the lay knitter visualize the scene are helpful, but often, the episodes include interviews with people who participated in said battles - so, human element. 

We went to a couple of choral concerts too.  I am still amazed by how much I hated those as a kid and love them now.  Sadly I didn't get to hear my most favourite pieces, like I Lift My Eyes, by Bob Chilcott:

The choir we went to hear does an even more gorgeous version than the one I've linked above, but not this time.  Eh, the harmony still gives me chills, and I do love this choir too.  One thing I appreciate about sacred choral music is that you don't have to be religious to relate to the calming sounds of many human voices joined together.

Another really wonderful piece we didn't get to hear again: a choral version of Barber's Adagio for Strings.  This is another lovely performance (excellent, if - again - not as fantastic as the one we've heard from our favourite choir):

But I digress.  Back to knitting!  At the first concert, I ran into my friend Andrea and just happened to have the completed first glove in my purse, so I got her to try it on for a second opinion.  She confirmed what I was trying to tell myself wasn't really an issue: the finger end was a little too loose.  So I came up with a fix for that.

Finally, in the car on the way home when I didn't have to navigate the shortest city routes from A to B for Pete, I finally knocked out some serious yarn mileage and got the revised top all wrapped up:

I am so smitten with this pattern.  It was a gift from my brain to my hands, honestly - all the complicated structural bits I wasn't sure how to deal with when I came up with the idea just fell into place as I knit.  And once I worked out the thumb position and this little detail about the finish at the top, it turned out so well.  The gloves are super comfortable, even with all the trailing ends I haven't run in, and the overall shaping is just so tidy.  Nothing weird or complicated,and yet it works.  Simply and logically.  I fear I will be knitting rather a lot of variations on these gloves so I hope you like them too!

Okay, back to post-vacation laundry for me, YAY.  Hope you had a wonderful few days too and I'll see you tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Train knitting

Okay, I decided to bring hat stuff with me on the train...

and glove stuff, and sock stuff, but not Bob's hat stuff, because I couldn't find it before I noticed that my bag is WAY too full.  Bad Mary.

I knit my Hatcowl in sport weight yarn with a 3.5mm needle, but all I could find to knit another was DK weight yarn and a 3.75mm needle or a 4mm needle.  Time for some Knitter's Math so I can convert the pattern to this bigger yarn.  I can't wait to get back into the house and spread out all my knitting gear and get all my tools back where they belong! 

And even as I say that: still loving the condo.  It is going to be hard to leave here.  As busy as I've been this year with the renovation, not sleeping a lot, and diving to the depths of everything from lighting design to basement drainage, I have had soooo much less stress being able to walk to all my downtown destinations instead of driving to them.

Because I have to travel light for this trip - except for knitting, obviously - I decided to leave anything computer-related at home except for my phone.  I truly don't know how to write a blog post from the phone, so I think this is it for me till I get back Monday (or, let's be realistic, Tuesday.)  The trade off is that you will get LOTS of knitting posts next week because I will actually knit! and not just look at more online lighting shop websites.

Speaking of which, those sites are such a blessing.  I don't know when you last had to shop for lighting but I remember going into stores when we first bought our house and being totally overwhelmed by all the stuff hanging down from the ceiling.  If you shop on-screen, you get to filter by type and colour, see the side view, and note the actual dimensions of each light.  While wearing PJs and eating ice cream no less.

I ended up making a chart with all the rooms we have to put lighting into (all of them) and what kind of lights they need (several), and what our options might be (ugly and affordable or gorgeous and unattainable.)  Then I showed the chart to Pete, who was grateful enough to agree that it's worth putting real money into the most problematic of lighting applications, and that we should cheap out on rooms where it's obvious we need some kind of light while we save up for something really special down the road.

And speaking of roads: I better wrap this up so I can get my bags ready to go.

Have a wonderful rest of the week and I'll see you here again in a few days!


Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Picking knits to pack

It's not so crazy here that I haven't noticed I need to plan for something to knit on the train to Ottawa in a couple of days.  Five hours of a soft seat with a window view - of course I need knitting!  I booked Business Class so I'd have wi-fi and a reserved seat with a power outlet and a lunch I don't have to plan for... so probably I should use the time to source more stuff for the house.  But I am going to try very hard not to.

In addition to what knits to do, I have to decide on what knits to wear, because it is super cold in Ottawa right now.  I can't face wearing my parka on a holiday so today I impulsively bought myself a very swish new spring coat and matching purse and am now trying to figure out how to layer hat, sweater, and massive scarf with it to make this work.  You know what?  It turns out the most flattering and comfortable hat I've ever knit myself is this one:

and it looks fantastic with the new coat, too.  But I never made the matching scarf.  GAAAAAAAHHHHH

I had a fantastic, and very warm, black and grey scarf I used to wear with it, but do you think I can find it since the move?  Of course not. 

I also never added this pattern to the Free Patterns tab.  Whoops!  I've fixed that now.  (It's the Hatcowl, if you missed it when I published it last year.)

Seriously though, I need to knit myself another of these in a colour that goes with a scarf or three.  It's dead easy - if you leave out the lace panel, which I like because it helps me figure out where the front of the hat goes, you're basically knitting a tube with eyelets at the end for a drawstring.  It is the PERfect knit for a train ride and audiobook. 

Or I could finish the grey lace gloves.

Or I could finish the hat I started for Bob, since Bob lives in Ottawa and I will see him and he would probably appreciate a warm hat this week.

Or... I could look for yarn and my 3.5mm circular needles.  I guess it all comes down to how selfish I am feeling.

(answer: super selfish.)

Think good packing thoughts for me, won't you?  And have a great day!

Monday, April 4, 2016

Grey lace knitting

In spite of everything - and when I say everything, I am referring to pressing house-related decisions I am not going to bore you with (today, anyway) - I am still working hard on the lace fingerless gloves.

This time I chose a light grey sock yarn from Emily (aka Viola yarn) because I thought it would show off the lace the best, and I am really happy with my decision.  It's so incredibly restful to knit in grey!  Normally I would think of a bright colour for pretty lace gloves like this, but the grey evokes autumn cloud cover - which is, of course, prime handknit sweater weather, heh.

I am going to Ottawa later this week for a few days' holiday, and I was sort of hoping to finish this pair in time to wear them.  Small problem with that plan:

I'm not making very fast progress.  This is the first glove!

Also, instead of having slightly chilly spring weather, we are having bonus winter days here in southern Ontario.

That's snow, folks - in April.  This doesn't normally happen.  After I took this picture quite a lot more fell and frosted all the branches on our pine tree.  Then it got really, really cold out.  Like, super cold.  As in, I wore a long cashmere sweater under my parka and wool socks inside my lined boots - plus cashmere lined gloves and a cashmere hat - and I still froze at today's site meeting to finalize some kitchen details.  Owie.

Since Ottawa is usually much colder in winter and much hotter in summer than Toronto, I'm thinking the fingerless gloves aren't going to be very practical this weekend anyway.  Maybe for train knitting?

The main thing is that this time, it looks like I've got the size perfect, and the positioning of the lace panel perfect for thumb comfort, too.  Good news for me, and once I can plug my instructions into my pattern format, good news for anybody else who wants to knit them. Yay!

Hope you've had a good day (and a good weekend too) and I'll see you tomorrow.