Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2008 wraps up

December 31, the last day of 2008 - a good day to reflect on the year past. I joined Ravelry in July, learned about Flickr and started blogging. Which is really when the focus on knitting began.

In late summer I knitted my first socks, then my second, third and fourth. As the year ends, there's another pair of socks still on my needles.

August brought the Ravelympics - who knew knitting could be a competitive sport? And who knew that I could start and finish my BYOB bag in about two weeks? September saw a visit to the East Coast including many LYS, a woollen mill and a spinning studio. I knitted through October, November and December, dividing my efforts between the Warm Hands Network and gifts for family and friends. Lots of fun, lots of finished projects.

As the year draws to a close there are still a couple of projects on my needles. A baby blanket for a good friend's first grandchild and a sweater for me. And lots of projects queued for 2009 - a kit to hand dye wool for socks, a drop spindle and some roving to spin my own fibre, and a stash filled with fabulous yarn. I hope everyone can look back at the past year with as much contentment and as many happy memories as I do. And look forward to the next year with as much eagerness and excitement. Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

appreciating stitch markers

40 stitch markers. That's how many I'm using to mark the divisions between lace patterns and seed stitch panels on my baby blanket. Before this I never really appreciated stitch markers. Always seemed more trouble than they were worth. But, boy oh boy, they're my new best friends on this project. It makes it so much easier to see exactly where you are within the round. And mistakes become obvious right away - usually just a couple of stitches to tink back when I mess up.

My fears about the difficulty of the lace pattern were completely unfounded. It's much easier than I thought. After one pattern repeat, I'm able to put the pattern aside and knit from memory. And so far, I'm happy with my yarn choice. The knitted fabric is lovely soft and light. Definitely a cotton blanket will be best for a baby due at the beginning of summer. Can you imagine how sweaty and uncomfortable a wool or acrylic blanket would be on a hot day?

It's been an enjoyable knit so far, although I can already feel the work getting heavy on the needles. And I'm thrilled with how it's turning out. I've tried asking Gavin his opinion but his responses have been monosyllabic so far. Hmmm. UhHuh. Fine. Except when he asked "why are there red and yellow bits in the knitting?" and "is the blanket meant to be round?" Best to carry on and see what he says when it's done.

Monday, December 29, 2008

spoiled rotten

It's early on the morning of my birthday and I'm getting ready to go to work. But the past weekend has been a fabulous birthday weekend. On Saturday Gavin and I lunched with Mom, Nancy and Gabe. Lots of fun, lots of presents and the chocolatiest cake ever. You can see some of my birthday loot in the photo including a Hand Dyeing Kit for Socks from Louet that I've been wanting for ages. Thanks Mom!

Sunday afternoon I spent with my sister. For my birthday she took me to a quilt store and said I could have anything I wanted. So I've got a book on Patchwork Puzzle Balls, a template for a Pyramid Charm quilt and a whole bunch of fabric squares. Janice picked about twenty different fabrics I'd never have picked for myself. She likes bright, clean, saturated colours whereas I lean towards more muted neutrals. But my quilts would be very boring and matchy-matchy without a push to use different colours and patterns. And it was fun to see what each other would pick.

Of course, you knew that I couldn't pick a pattern, buy yarn and not cast on right away. So the baby blanket has been started. And the pattern is not nearly as hard as I feared. The cotton yarn is a bit split-y and has little give, so I have to watch what I'm doing to keep the plys together and the tension even. So far, so good!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

new projects for a new year

The first Thuja sock is done and the second is started. Actually, the second sock has been started for the second time. On my first try I messed up two pattern rounds just over an inch into the sock. Sigh. The socks'll be finished in the next couple of days. And the body of my Taiga sweater is still waiting for me. But it's so fun to start something new. When I heard that Scott and Lindsay are expecting their first, I thought hurray, I have a reason to knit a baby blanket. Poring over patterns in Ravelry was fun. Which pattern did I pick? Renee Baby Blanket ... it looks scarily difficult, but we'll see.

And I thought it'd be smart to buy yarn at a Boxing Day sale, as a blanket takes more than a few skeins. Mom and I braved a snowy morning yesterday to drive to the Boxing Day Sale at Pick Up Sticks. Such a big website and such a tiny store. Lots of lovely yarn to look at, but few choices suitable for my baby blanket. Plenty of fabulous sock wool, though! Of course, there's much debate about what's best for a baby blanket - washable acrylic or fancy yarn requiring special handling. My choice? Organic cotton .... machine washable, soft and beautifully coloured. Can't wait to cast on!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

lethargic knitting

It's Christmas day and I'm exhausted. But isn't that always the way? Rush, rush, rush leading up to the day, and then a few hours of excitement before exhaustion sets in. I wasn't expecting too many surprises under the tree - I already knew that Gavin and I were getting each other tires for Christmas. So it was a lovely surprise to find Vogue Knitting and Interweave Knits magazines wrapped up from Santa. Lucky me!

Yesterday I started and finished the mystery KAL. You'll just have to take my word on this, because I don't think I should post any pictures of it. The designer wants to keep this pattern under wraps because she's hoping to offer it for sale in the next few weeks. Once that happens I'll post a link and some pictures.

Today I cast on the first of a pair of Thuja socks. I'm using Shepherd Baby Wool 4 ply in periwinkle blue. It's been in my stash since my outing to Coats and Clark in October. What lovely wool for socks - soft and smooth, easy to knit. And the pattern is great - simple, with a bit of interesting detail in the seed stitch rib. They're going to be really comfortable and well fitting socks. And easy enough to knit for even a somewhat lethargic knitter.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

happy happy merry merry

One and a half hours. That's how long it took Gavin and I to dig out this morning. And that's a lot of snow, because our little townhouse only has about 18ft of sidewalk. A lot of wet, heavy snow now piled in a very tall mountain on our front yard.

So I'm calling into work for a snow day. No point in spending hours trying to get to work, just to stand around for a couple of hours before trying to get back home. From what they're saying on the radio, the roads are a mess and traffic's a nightmare. My neighbour needed a couple of people pushing to get his car out of his driveway and up to the corner of our little side street. Forget it!

Which leaves me with the morning free and clear. I finished the quilt binding last night. Oh, and I finished the second Taiga sleeve last night as well. Maybe I'll catch up on the mystery KAL - now that I have all the pattern lines complete! Take it easy if you're going out today and stay safe. Happy Happy Merry Merry.

Monday, December 22, 2008

a few things to finish first

Still at the starting line with the mystery KAL. As promised I've swatched and double-stranding the Bambino yarn works up perfectly to gauge. Which is surprisingly good luck. The colours are soft and muted - like sidewalk chalk. So I'm pretty pleased with it.

I've reviewed the pattern lines that I've received - and I unfortunately I seem to have Days 1, 2, 4 and 5, but nothing for Day 3. And given that the pattern is for a slipper sock, Day 3 is probably the crucially important heel. Time to dash off an email to the designer to get hold of the missing lines. The knitting may have to wait until after Christmas, because there are still a few things that need to be done before.

Just eight rows to go to finish the second sleeve for my Taiga sweater, but it too may have to wait. With Christmas just a few days away, sewing the binding on Nancy's quilt really has to take priority. Oh yeah, and laundry, and grocery shopping, and cleaning the house ...

Thursday, December 18, 2008

starting the Mystery KAL

The Newfie Mitts are done and look great. The alpaca is lovely soft and warm - I'd definitely knit alpaca again. I'm still thinking that these mitts need a lining. Maybe in the New Year I'll try picking up stitches along the inside top of the cuffs and knitting a very plain stockinette mitten lining. I've seen other patterns where this has been done and I can't see why it won't work. And there's the small matter of finding a matching hat pattern.

With the mittens done, the needles are now free for the Mystery KAL. What I can tell you is that it is a slipper sock and that the designer Tabitha says that it's a quick knit. But because Tabitha is planning to offer the pattern for sale once we've all finished test-knitting it, we have been asked to keep the details of the pattern to ourselves. In respect of that, there won't be many pictures in coming days. I can show you the yarn I'm considering - two strands of Bambino baby cotton. I checked my stash and I haven't got any worsted weight, so I'm going to try this instead. Today I'll knit a gauge swatch to see if it'll work.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

t'was the week before Christmas ...

The first mitt still needs a thumb and the second is about 1/3rd of the way knit. But with work crazy busy and a long list of other things to get done, I haven't had much time to knit. On the bright side, my Christmas cards are designed, printed, addressed and mailed. And the tree is up and decorated. So Christmas will come on schedule - no problems there.

I've joined a mystery winter KnitAlong on Ravelry. The pattern designer emails the KAL members daily with about 15 minutes of knitting instructions. We don't know what we're knitting and we don't have any pictures for reference. We're to knit blindly as instructed and see what comes out. It's a neat idea, I think, and hopefully I can do it right the first time. Because if I go wrong, I may not realize it right away.

Today is day 3 of the KAL and I'm completely behind. Mostly because the needle size I need is the same as for the mittens that I've already started. So I need to get those mittens finished and off the needles in a hurry. All thoughts of lining them will have to wait.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Newfie Mitts

The first Newfie Mitt is nearly done - just needs a thumb and the ends sewn in. It knitted up beautifully in Frog Tree Alpaca - lovely soft and very warm. Did you know that this is a traditional Maritime pattern? That honeycomb pattern mittens are ubiquitous in some parts of the Eastern seaboard? I think I had a pair when I was a kid, maybe with a knitted lining as well - the warmest pair of mittens ever! Wonder if I can find a pattern for those?

Surprisingly, the pattern is really easy. The two colours are always knit on separate rounds, with two of the stitches in Colour A (purple) slipped between the stitches of Colour B (red). Easy enough that Mom and I could watch The Other Boleyn Girl as we knit. An enjoyable movie for a Sunday afternoon, we agreed, although, the ending is a bit brutal as you might expect.

The second sleeve for my Taiga sweater is nearly done as well. I hope to finish the sleeve and cast on the body of the sweater in the next couple of days. Hope that this sweater will be done for Christmas has pretty much faded. Maybe for New Years, though ... if I knit through some of the holidays!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

made it

In her blog, Anita of the Warm Hands Network confirms that our knits have made it to Ottawa. It's reassuring to know that they're in her hands - although I did insure the parcel in case of loss or damage. I can't even imagine how I'd break that kind of bad news to all the knitters who invested so much time in those hats and mitts.

It's also a nice to see that this knitting is going to be used and appreciated. Anita seems pleased and excited with what she has seen. And I know that every bit was knitted with the best quality materials - all 100% wool or alpaca. I think all the knitters enjoyed making these hats and mitts - I certainly did - and enjoyed that idea that with our efforts we're doing some good in the world. Much more satisfying than fighting through crowds at the mall to buy gift cards for people who already have it all. So a big thank you to Anita for letting us take part in her venture.

I'm going to start earlier for next year. Who knew mitts were so much fun to knit? And quick? In fact, maybe I'll sort through all the lovely wools in my stash and start a small colourful knit this weekend. Like these Newfie Mittens!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

mmmm grey

You guessed it ... more pictures of sheep's grey knitting. And if you let me, I'll post more and more pictures every day. Because as boring as it may look to you, I LOVE IT, LOVE IT, LOVE IT. This unpretentious wool shows the patterned stitchwork beautifully. There's a comforting warmth in the subtle blending of greys and browns within the yarn strand itself. I'm about halfway up the second sleeve - can't wait to get it done and wear it everyday, everywhere, morning, noon and night, until it falls off me.

And it's not just the visual effect of the yarn. I love the idea that the yarn is unbleached and undyed - just the unadulterated the colour from the sheep. Even the smell of the wool is closer to nature in a good way.... woolly, not yucky. The whole project feels simple, uncomplicated and comfortable - like being at the cottage, padding around in barefeet.

But just as Jane feared - I'm now examining colourful patterns visualizing them in sheep's grey. Mmmmm ... sheep's grey. My new fave.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

not knitting ...

... but quilting. That's what I've been doing for the last couple of days. It keeps snowing here - keeping me indoors and crafting. Late in November I purchased a pattern and some fabric to make a Table Runner as a Christmas gift. For a while it didn't look like I was going to get to it in time. But Sunday I felt like I was catching up and that I should give this pattern a try.

It's a "Quilt As you Go" pattern. Never done that before, but the saleswoman at the Quilt Shop assured me that I was going to love it. The pattern is "Braid Runner" by G.E. Designs - have a look here and scroll to the bottom of the linked page. I was nervous about starting it. I couldn't visualize how it was going to work, and figured there wasn't much hope of it working out as well as the samples in the quilt shop.

But you never know until you try. It looks amazing - it's just as as easy as they say. Even Gavin admits it looks pretty sharp, which is really saying something. And, yes, that's another project done.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

about the cat

Once more through the colourwork chart and into the sheep's grey - the second sleeve is well underway. I really like the effect of the colourwork, but boy, what a pain in the neck it is. After knitting one needle of colourwork, I spend the same amount of time untwisting the yarn in preparation for knitting the next needle.

All this winding and twisting of multiple balls of yarn is very interesting to the cat. She sits beside me on the sofa as I knit. First she watches, tracking the wool with her stare. Tenatively she stretches out a paw to touch the wool, hesitating to see if I'm going to scold her. Finally, if I'm not watching carefully, she has the knitted work in her claws and the strand of wool in her mouth. Which makes me crazy!

I'm trying to train the cat to leave the yarn alone, but I don't suppose she can help herself. It's in her nature to play with strings and ball, and such. Besides, has anyone ever succeeded at training a cat to do anything other than what the cat wants to do? Didn't think so.

Friday, December 5, 2008

like a candy store

Look! Patternfish! It's like an online candy store for knitters. Many a Saturday has been spent flipping through binders of pattern leaflets at Len's Mill and other yarn stores, deciding what to knit next. But now I can do this from home - through the Ravelry pattern databases and now through Patternfish as well.

As I clicked through the patterns, mooning over incredible cabled arans and intricate colourwork, I came across the Taiga pattern. Deep within the 48 pages of women's pullover sweater patterns - doing the math, that's over 500 patterns to choose from. And like a kid in a candy store, there's almost too much choice. I'm staring into the screen wishing I could knit them all.

I love that it's a Canadian site. I love that the designers are being supported and their copyrights protected. And I love that I can get really interesting professional patterns quickly and easily online. Often for $5 or less. Can't beat that! And I really might need to knit this sweater - like the kid in the Candy store, I keep going back to look at it.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

a sleeve

"Continue in pattern until sleeve measures 17ins or desired length below the join." Hurrray! 18ins and counting on the first sleeve - just a couple more inches to go, then on to the second sleeve. And still on the first skein of Sheep's Grey! Chances are I'll be casting on the second sleeve tonight after work. While I'm making steady progress, finishing the sweater in time for Christmas dinner doesn't look likely. "Just wear the sleeves to Christmas dinner" is Gavin's helpful suggestion. Hmmm.

Almost Fingerless gloves for Lianne have also been started. Linda's gloves are really tiny - which is okay, because Linda is really tiny. But Lianne's pair needs to be bigger. So, using larger needles, I've added one pattern repeat to the front and the same number of stitches to the back. My first attempt at pattern alteration - we'll see how that goes. And yes, it's the same yarn as I used for Linda's, but I'll try not to complain about it this time.

Monday, December 1, 2008

happy December

The weekend was spent shopping... Christmas shopping. Because gifts have to ship in the next week or so to make it before the 25th. How did it go? Really well. Despite bad traffic and packed parking lots, we persevered and joined the hundreds of harried shoppers in the malls. Tuning out overly loud Christmas music blaring from overhead speakers, we poked through until we found the things on our list. And we are mostly done - wrapped, ready, and exhausted.

Mom and I compared our progress on our beaded amulet bags. And while mine looked good at 2 beads between stitches, and okay with 3 beads between stitches, things went south with 4, and then 5 beads between. I tried tighter stitches, and tried looser, but those beads kept migrating into the adjacent stitches. Ruining the desired effect of beads between columns of stitches. Mine's all ripped out and put aside. Mom's having more success, so she's carrying on for now. I doubt I'll try again - too frustrating!

On this first day of December, I'm hoping the month will be less hectic than November. This morning I spent some time quietly and calmly knitting my Taiga sleeve. And I hope to cast on fingerless gloves for Lianne later today - a portable project for my train trips back and forth to work. Nothing too overwhelming. Nothing too difficult. Nothing too frustrating. Because I want to enjoy this holiday season, instead of stressing out.