Sunday, December 4, 2016

Year of Projects 6: Week 23

My secret swap package arrived in Louisiana so I can do a reveal. It's a Christmas Monkey! What makes a monkey festive? Hmmm... a red and white striped scarf, maybe? I don't know; I just thought he was cute.

The pattern is Mini Monkey Christmas Ornaments from Boo-Biloo. It came up in my Facebook feed from LoveKnitting and I thought it was just hilarious.

The individual pieces were pretty quick knits but the finishing was very fiddly. Each piece - arms, legs, tail, ears, scarf and body - was knit flat and then mattress stitched closed. I think if I did another I'd have a good think about how to knit most of this in the round. And the hairline and face were done in Intarsia. All the little complications did keep it interesting. Also I learned from the pattern instructions to position a piece of felt on the inside of the toy behind the area to be embroidered to support the embroidery stitches. Works perfectly!

Kudos to the pattern designer too;  the pattern included really good quality photos and finishing instructions. I tried to match my embroidery to the pattern photo and it's turned out better than I expected. Usually my embroidery is terrible!

Mr. Monkey ended up about 6" from top of his head to bottom of his foot, so I don't know how "mini" he really is. To my mind, that's on the large size for an ornament. Cute nonetheless and KristiRose in Louisiana seems to really like him!

I was a day late in sending my swap package. As I was packing things up and reviewing the questionnaire responses I was reminded that my Swap recipient is lactose intolerant which made the planned chocolate treats entirely inappropriate. The next morning I re-shopped and got a quick lesson in how difficult it is to find commercial treats that are milk free and produced in milk-free facilities. After striking out at the local grocery stores I finally found some appropriate choices at the Health Food Store. I'm so fortunate not to have food allergy or sensitivity issues!

I did finish the blue-green vanilla socks and then cast on another pair of vanilla socks. This time I decided to cast on my least favourite colours - pink and purple - from amongst the yarn donated by a fellow Raveller just to get the yarn knit and out of my stash! The cuff is knit with Louet Gems Fingering which is a lovely yarn with no nylon content. The variegated pink/purple yarn I've used on the leg came with no label but it feels like a superwash merino/nylon sock yarn. Within the first dozen rounds I realized that the variegated yarn was pooling badly... so badly that it seemed likely that the purple was going to stack up on one side of the leg, and the pink stack up on the other side, and never the twain would meet. Agh. Maybe that's the reason it ended up being destashed??

I tried alternating with another yarn but I didn't like it any better, so I settled on another strategy. Every fifth round is worked as K1 Sl1 which works to kick the colours about halfway across the round. The result is somewhat striped but I like it well enough.

There's definitely not enough of the pink/purple variegated yarn to complete two legs, two heels and two feet - even with these super long cuffs. Instead I've knitted both socks to the same point with the plan to knit both as far as I can to the last few inches of yarn and then switch to another not-quite-matching pink/purple yarn to finish the feet and toes. I hope it's not too horrible.

If the final result is really horrifying I can always overdye the finished socks to subdue the pink, unify the colours and flatten the contrast. They might just end up purple. Could happen! I've got teal food colouring in the cupboard at the ready!

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Year of Projects 6: Week 21

Just a handful of rounds before I cut the two main yarns and start the toe of the second sock. I'm still infatuated with these socks and have already gone stash-diving to select the next bunch of yarn leftovers for vanilla sock treatment. As you can see in the photo, there's a ridge where I've changed yarns at the end of one round to the beginning of the next, but I'm pretty sure this will block out with the first wash and wear. It's a super comfy sock and the bright colours are a nice contrast to the grey windy winter weather that's arrived. I'm hoping to finish up this pair in the next day or two and get started on the next. But before I do that, I'd like to finish sock number two of my Thornfield socks - they've been neglected for the past week or more.

I was in Ottawa for the last few days and had a chance to finally meet Anita, an extraordinary good-hearted knitter who started and manages the Warm Hands Network. She is an inspiration. Over breakfast and coffee she showed me photos of one of her contacts in the northern communities she serves - a woman who organized and administers the only two shelters in Iqaluit... and she stressed the urgent need for socks. How lucky I am to enjoy knitting gorgeous yarn donations into much needed and valued socks for entire communities of knit-worthy kids and adults! Depending on the weather and driving conditions, I'm already planning another road trip to attend one of the upcoming packing nights at Anita's house in Ottawa. It'd be fun to meet the whole crew! 

At the same time I've cast on some secret Christmas knitting. At the moment it's cute and fun, but it shows every sign of becoming a fiddly nuisance in a hurry... particularly as the next steps are intarsia. Oh well, nothing ventured, nothing gained. So that's what I'll be doing for the next week or more. Have a great week and for those of you in Ontario (and possibly northern US too?) enjoy the season's first snow!

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Year of Projects 6: Week 20

Several weeks ago I caught sight of a post in the GTA forum on Ravelry - Yarn Free to Charity. Another generous Raveller on Ravelry was destashing sock yarn for free. I was all over that!

A few days later I picked up more than three shopping bags of sock yarn; mostly 40 to 50 gram partial skeins. Enough to keep knitting scrappy socks for the rest of my life!

I've already packed up about a third of it for another Raveller in Ottawa who also knits socks for the Warm Hands Network. I feel good about that. I was starting to think I could never knit fast enough for all that yarn!

In the meantime I've cast on my first sock with three yarns chosen from the destashed yarns. The cuff and heel are Tosh Sock in a colourway called "Forestry". I'm not sure what the blue and green yarns are that I'm using for the leg and foot but don't they make a a very bright and dramatic fabric? Maybe it's a reaction to the last couple of  pairs of grey vanilla socks, but bright is exactly what I'm in the mood for!

I'm heading to Ottawa at the end of the week. Hopefully I have this pair of socks done to add to my pile for the Warm Hands Network. Now let's see if I can keep up with my knitting AND blogging.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

the best laid plans

Towards the end of the summer my friend and I were thinking about getting away somewhere for a weekend. Somewhere out of town. Somewhere fiber-y with a workshop or a festival or something to look. A nice simple getaway. RHINEBECK!!

We were super excited to sign up for a bus trip from the GTA to Rhinebeck. I scanned the events, workshops and appearances and hey - Rachel Coopey was appearing, selling her new line of Socks Yeah! yarn and autographing copies of her book. Last year I won some Rachel Coopey patterns in a knit along which got me thinking... wouldn't it be great to knit a sock pattern by Rachel Coopey and wear them while meeting her in person! So I immediately cast on these Thornfield socks.

But you know what they say about the best laid plans, right? The Rhinebeck trip never happened. Not enough people signed up for the bus trip to cover costs so it was cancelled. Boo!

Oh well, maybe next year. In the meantime one Thornfield sock is done and the second is on the needles. The yarn is Socky-Talky by the Dye Guy in a colour way called Black Spruce. This photo was taking in very bright warm sunlight so the colours look too yellow-brown. I'll try to do better when I finish the socks. I'm not entirely sure that the yarn does any favours to the pattern. It's a little too busy and it overwhelms the travelling stitches on the leg for the most part. And a word to the wise - all these crossing stitches make the sock fit quite snugly. After trying on the first part of the leg I realized these'd be a bit small for me, but as my Rhinebeck trip was cancelled I decided to carry on and knit them for a friend with skinny legs and narrow feet.

So no trip to Rhinebeck for me this year, but at least there'll be a lovely pair of socks at the end of this!

Thursday, November 10, 2016

where were we?

So where were we when I last left off? Hard to believe that I haven't managed a single blog post since July. Lots has happened since then - all good - but not much knitting.

Necker socks were done in July, but with heat-wave temperatures through July, August and September the socks were given away with no photos taken. Maybe now that fall is here, I'll catch up with Nancy and we'll snap a few shots. We'll see.

In the meantime it's been vanilla socks. One pair with rounds of variegated yarn alternating with rounds of grey yarns, another pair with wide stripes of various grey yarns.

I used some cream coloured yarn that was given to me by another Raveller for the cuffs. There was no label, and the yarn felt super soft so I wasn't too sure how much (if any) nylon was in the yarn. So, just the cuffs with that.

For the heels on both pairs I used leftover Kroy sock yarn. There's definitely nylon in that so the heels should be hard-wearing.

The width of the grey stripes was planned to use up the scraps in their entirety in matching socks. With all the back-and-forthing to the cottage I didn't always have a kitchen scale available, so there was a fair bit of shifting one sock onto scrap yarn, knitting the other up to the same point, then shifting that sock to scrap yarn and so on. Annoying? Sure, but a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do.

I'm never really sure how scrap yarn socks will turn out, but these two pairs are amongst my favourites. They are very handsome and wearable socks. In fact, even Gavin remarked that he really liked the wide grey stripes. They're not for him though!

Next week I'm off to Ottawa to visit my brother's family and celebrate my brother's birthday. While there I'm hoping to catch up with Anita - one of the organizers of the Warm Hands Network - and drop off some socks. At the same time I have a shopping bag full of sock yarn leftovers for another Ottawa knitter who makes socks for the Warm Hands Network. I was given three bags full from a GTA Raveller a few weeks ago for charity knitting, but it's more than I'll be able to knit in my lifetime so I'm glad to bring it someone who'll put it to good use!

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Year of Projects Year 6: Week 02

This week I've split my attention between Necker and a new pair of Vanilla socks.

Necker first. Sometimes just casting on the second sock is significant progress I find, and I've cleared that hurdle now. I've knit the cuff and started the patterning on the leg so I'm well underway. If I can find knitting time here and there this week then I hope to finish this pair this week. It's a very easy pattern, and very easy to pick up and put down, so this should be do-able. If you have a minute, it's worth the time to click the pattern link and check out some of the projects worked in two colours. A pretty dramatic effect is creative. Right now I'm thinking about doing the pattern a second time in two colours, although probably with less dramatic contrast than some of the projects shown on Ravelry.

In keeping with my Year of Projects goal to knit alternate fancy patterns with vanilla patterns I cast on a pair of Pure Vanilla socks to use some problematic variegated yarn along with various solid and semi-solid grey scraps. I've worked about 4" of leg, but the stockinette is too inflexible to stretch over my heel so I'm ripping back to the cuff and starting over on larger needles. I'm really happy with how the alternating rounds of grey are quieting the variegated colourway though! The cream colour used in the cuff was amongst the yarn scraps I was given by a fellow Raveller. It's super soft but I'm not convinced there's nylon in it, so I think it's best saved for cuffs.

As for our cottage, thanks for all the great feedback and congratulations! It's not directly on the water - we're the third house back - which made it more affordable for us. The front deck has a clear view down the street to the Lake, so it's good enough for me. The big thing for us was how well done many of the recent renovations were. The cottage has been lifted onto concrete piers in the last several years so there are no dampness issues. The electrical was all professionally redone to 100amp service - the home inspector was very impressed that there were NO code violations whatsoever. The pump is new, the high efficiency gas furnace is quite new, the air conditioner is new, so we won't need to do anything for years. The roof and building structure are in good shape, in excess of code, and it's fully winterized, although the home inspector did say it'd benefit from more insulation in the attic and spray foam insulation in the crawl space around the concrete piers. I'll try to get more and better pictures this weekend for my next update.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Year of Projects Year 6: Week 01

Gavin checking the wind and waves

It's a whole New Year on my knitting calendar, but where to begin? For the past five years I've been knitting the all the patterns in a book, but I fell off the wagon with that last year. Combining Knit. Sock. Love. with the Cookie A Sock Club left me with Cookie A-exhaustion and I just couldn't bring myself to cast on one more pair from her patterns. Maybe this year I need to change up my approach?

So here's the new plan:

one pair of vanilla socks for charity every month. I really enjoy working simple vanilla socks from sock yarn scraps while having a more complicated pattern on the go on a second set of needles. That way if I'm on a train or a bus without a pattern book, I'm covered. And some days (and evenings) I'm just too tired to deal with something "chart-y".

• one pair of fancy socks from a different designer every month. Seemed like I spent last year knitting cuff down socks with twisted rib cuffs, a bunch of travelling stitches and the same old gusset and flap heel construction. Time to change that up! There are sooooo many amazing sock designers out there to try, one pattern at a time. And it'll be nice to tailor my pattern choices to match the yarns that I have and the upcoming birthdays on my calendar, too. Looks like I'll make some progress through my Ravelry favourites this year, rather than a book of patterns!

And that's it. That's the plan. Simple, huh?

Gavin windsurfing at the cottage
It'd help if I actually spent some time knitting though - that hasn't happened in weeks. Work's been crazy busy and so has my home life. Crazy in a good way - we bought a cottage at Lake Erie! Between back and forth with the offers, meetings with lawyers, viewings, moving, cleaning, scrubbing, inventorying and catching up on the yard work, there hasn't been much time to knit. It hasn't all been hard work though, there's been some swimming, hiking, biking and paddle-boarding too! So far, we love it at the Lake. I CANNOT WAIT to retire!

The plan then is to finish the two pairs of socks currently on my needles - Crest and Necker - and then getting going on my list. And when I'm not knitting, look for me in the Lake! It's gonna be a great year I think!