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.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

since when?

Since when is it December next week!?!
Christmas in just a few weeks!!!!!!
How does that just sneak up on a person!?!

After a few nights tossing and turning, worrying over my impossibly unrealistic project list, it was time to face the facts. Socks for everyone under the tree? Not going to happen! Knitted goods for a Craft Show? No chance! A finished Taiga sweater to wear to Christmas dinner? Hmmmm, maybe, maybe not.

* deep breath * Okay, okay, focus. My best plan is to prioritize, do what I can and let go of the rest. And my little reality check has left me calmer. Calm enough to knit a few more rounds on my Taiga sweater before work.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

odds and ends

Today I'm gathering up the knitted goods to mail them to the Warm Hands Network in Ottawa, on the first leg of their journey to Labrador. The bundle should be in time for the Christmas shipment to the Innu communities in Northern Labrador. And quite a nice little bundle it is. Hopefully each hat and each pair of mitts finds a child who will benefit from them. And maybe next year I'll get an earlier start - who knew mitts were so easy to knit?

As for the beaded amulet bag, I'm not sure whether to keep going. The pattern calls for size 00 or 000 needles, but the smallest I could find were size 0. I've cast on and knitted about a 1/4 of the front of the bag, but the knitting is overwhelming the beads. And I think it should be the other way round. My thought is that Mom and I could look around this weekend to see if we can find smaller needles. If so, then I'll rip it out and start again. If not, then I'll go forward as is.

Finally, there's my Taiga sweater. I've knit a couple more rounds of the sleeve - now I'm desperate to switch to a circular needles. But wouldn't you know it, I haven't been able to lay my hands on a set that's 4.25mm. It seems I have almost every other size of needles, just not the one I need. Add that to the shopping list for this weekend.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

steady progress

Slow and steady. That's the progress on my Taiga sweater. The colourwork chart is complete and the first repeat of the evergreen motif in grey heather wool is done. In some ways it feels like it's going quickly. Almost 1/3rd of a sleeve done now.

Only a couple of little worries... Look how close the stitches are to the tips of the needles - guess I'd better get a circular needle before too many more increases! And do I have enough sheep's grey yarn? Especially as I plan to add several inches to the sleeve and body length. I'm kicking myself now - I should have bought extra. I might have to email the mill with the dyelot info to see if they can lay hands on a couple more skeins for me.

But its coming along nicely. Slowly, steadily, it's becoming a sweater!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

there be trees

Can you see them? The trees on the sleeve? Three colours make up those trees - a dark blue-green, a medium grey-blue and a bright blue. It's a pain to knit but it does create an interesting effect that highlights the centre of the trees.

Mom questioned why I'm knitting a sweater. Because she knitted dozens of sweaters for me and, she says, I never wore them. Probably mostly true. But there was a sweater knit on tiny needles with hundreds of blue stripes - pretty sure I wore that one. And another in soft and chunky light blue with 3/4 length sleeves and a scoop neckline - I can picture myself in that one, paired with a white blouse and navy dress pants.

So, to answer Mom, I'm not sure how this sweater is going to work out. I don't usually wear a lot of bright colours or patterns - but this sweater is mostly sheep's grey with a simple tree pattern purled in the same colour. Also I often find finished knitted projects fall short of how I've envisioned them - but I picked this pattern based on a sample sweater so I think my expectations are realistic. Hard to know whether I'll wear this sweater, time will tell.

Friday, November 21, 2008

bead craziness

First I read this blog about making Medicine Bags for children at Camp Sanguinity - a camp for children being treated for Cancer and Blood Disorders. Then I saw this pattern from the Rainey Sisters for a Beaded Amulet Bag. And before I knew it, I was pondering another project.

But Mom's been begging me to slow down. Let's just finish everything in progress now and get ready for Christmas, she suggests. No more projects, please! So I was quite hesitant to even broach this new idea with her. But, within hours of showing her the pattern and the blog, Mom and I were in the car headed to Iroqrafts - for beads and craft supplies. Neither one of us has much self control. And to be honest, we'll use any excuse to go to Iroqrafts - they have so much great stuff!

The first trick is to get the beads onto the yarn that will be knitted. Sounds simple enough, right? Not quite! Let me share a few things I learned the hard way. Because after several tries I've finally figured out that judicious use of masking tape keeps the beads strung instead of rolling away in every direction.

Buy the beads in hanks already strung - threading 1900 seed beads is crazy. To separate one strand of beads, grasp it above the beads, and tug the ends gently from the top of the hank (1). Seal the first loose end using a tiny piece of masking tape (2).

Arrange the unsealed loose end of the strand with the yarn onto which you are stringing the beads for knitting(3). Tie the thinner thread of the bead hank onto the thicker yarn - tying the two together results in a knot that is too thick! (4). Then slide the beads onto the yarn (5).

Thursday, November 20, 2008

wintery weather

It happens every year. Despite all our hopes and prayers, it snowed. Sure, it looks pretty this morning, but it made for a white knuckle drive home last night. Gavin pulled over half way home to reduce the tire pressure to improve traction - before that, there were a couple of hills that were a real struggle.

Wintery weather has motivated me to get moving with my sweater knitting. The first sleeve is cast on, and the corrugated ribbing is done. Next? A couple of increase rows and then a colourwork chart with an evergreen motif. So far, so good.

I have to keep moving on this. Because I'd like to finish it while it's still winter. All this wool would be uncomfortably warm in spring or summer. And you know that once it's finished, I'll want to wear it and show it off!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

out from under my rock

In the introduction to the Taiga pattern, Mabel Corlett credits the ideas behind the construction of her design to Elizabeth Zimmerman. The sweater is knit in the round - sleeves first, then the body, all of which come together at the yoke and finish at the neck. So the only finishing will be to knit the sleeves to the body at the underarms and darn in the ends. LOVE that!

Apparently I've been living under a rock, because Elizabeth Zimmerman is incredibly famous. She wrote books, she had an instructional series about knitting on PBS which is still available on VHS and DVD and she designed many patterns. And is credited with inventing "i-Cord", short for "idiot cord". But my favourite thing about EZ today is her motto - Knit on with confidence and hope, through all crises. Words to knit by!

... running off to cast on the first sleeve ...

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

ready, set

I'm in the starting blocks for my Taiga sweater. I've rewound and balled the first three hanks of yarn. And knitted a gauge swatch to confirm my needle sizes. I've read the pattern through to make sure I understand it. And checked the finished dimensions of the garment to adjust them to my size - I'll have to knit a couple extra inches on the body and sleeves.

More than anything I want to make sure I've taken every step I can to ensure that this goes smoothly. It's a big project - a sweater. A fair bit of money invested in the yarn, a not inconsiderable amount in the pattern book, and then the untold hours of knitting. Diligent preparation will avert frustration later. Imagine if it didn't fit! Or didn't hang right?

Funny, I usually can't wait to start new things. It usually takes all my self-control to finish one project before casting on the next. But not at the moment. I'm almost afraid to start. Maybe I'll rewind a few more hanks before casting on the first sleeve.

Monday, November 17, 2008

sheep's grey

The main yarn for my Taiga sweater is Briggs & Little Heritage in Sheep's Grey. From what I understand this is an undyed colour - the natural colour of the sheep's wool. And a very traditional colour for a sweater.

At the mill I learned that traditional fisherman's sweaters were knit from undyed wool. By leaving some of the naturally occurring lanolin in the wool, the resulting sweaters were somewhat water repellant - handy for keeping a fisherman warm and dry. But Lanolin (L. lana "wool" + oleum "oil" + chemical suffix -in.) is a waxy substance which resists dyes - hence the yarns were left undyed.

There's something very comforting about tradition. The colourway is very muted and comforting - although in this wool the lanolin has been washed out with detergents. It's a bit closer to nature without harsh chemical scouring and inorganic chemical dying. And it smells very woolly.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

ta da

.... a stripey hat. It has worked out beautifully - I think Teresa will be very happy with it. The first few rounds roll up to create a simple little brim which I really like. And the rest of the pattern is simple stockinette which lets the self-patterning yarn shine.

For the next couple of days I'm going to finish up the last few pairs of mittens so that I can send away my collection of hats and mitts to the Warm Hands Network. And then cast on a sweater I think. Ooooh I can't wait to start something new!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

look who came to breakfast

With my brother's family here there hasn't been much time for knitting. Stephen (7) and Isabelle (5) had a sleepover with their cousin Nick (8). Elizabeth and I have been talking about what's new in our gardens and how lush they were throughout the rainy summer. And Michael worked with Gavin to fix our wireless network. It's fun having them visit, but I don't think it's a good idea to have any yarn out. Unless I want to knit in clots of half eaten banana and baby cereal that Edward has spread around.

Friday, November 14, 2008


I was going to natter on a bit more about my stripey hat - which is nearly done, but then I saw this ...

The Twist Collective posted their winter issue - and the patterns are unbelievable. There are at least 3 sweaters I want to knit and some fab mittens. Oh dear!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

just like

Did you notice? For the stripey hat I'm using the recommended yarn. Even the recommended colourway. And I'm following the instructions to the letter - without any adjustments or "improvements". All of which is very unusual for me.

The hat's about halfway done and is starting to look just like the picture on the front of the pattern leaflet. Funny, that. I know - that's how it's supposed to work, but it seldom does. Maybe because I'm seldom this disciplined about following the pattern? I know there's a lesson to be learned but I can't see it sticking.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

outside the lines

Moda Dea calls this yarn colourway "CRAYON" ... and you can see why. As I knit I see colours like maize, burnt sienna, cornflower, lemon yellow and mahogany - the Crayola colours from my childhood.

My memories of childhood colouring are all good, and as this yarn knits up it stirs up those good feelings. Deciding which colour to use where. Sharpening the crayons in the Crayola sharpener. Concentrating on colouring evenly and staying inside the lines. Stepping back to see the black and white colouring book page transformed.

It's going to be a colourful, stripey hat. All this colour and pattern is really "outside the lines" for me. Solid colours, neutrals - that's my comfort zone. But I did want to do something completely different as a break. And surprise Jane.

Monday, November 10, 2008

stripey hat

When we got home from Gavin's birthday dinner at his daughter's house, I sat down to finish the second pair of mitts to match the Pro Bono hats. And admitted to myself that I am tired of knitting mittens. So the next project will be the Stripey Hat - to give myself a little break.

In June I made this hat for Nancy. And, erring on the side of caution, I bought two balls of yarn - didn't want to run short. Nancy loves this hat, and so does her sister. So I'm making a second hat for Nancy's sister, using up the left over second ball. It's quite fun to see how the colours stripe as you knit.

Nancy'll be pleased with a gift for her sister. Teresa'll love her own matching hat. And Jane may notice the pattern also shows leg warmers! Might have to add another project to my queue.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

finishing projects

I'm working on a second pair of mitts to go with the Pro Bono hats that are already knit. One more pair after this one, and then a pair of purple and red alpaca mitts. Then every hat has mitts and my knitting for the Warm Hands Network is done for this year.

Not sure what's next... Fingerless gloves for Lianne? A stripey hat for Teresa? Or maybe cast on my Taiga sweater? Right now, I'm leaning towards the sweater. The knitted sample sweater was on display at Briggs & Little - I'd forgotten how amazing it is. But a little voice is telling me to finish the little projects that have all been promised. We'll see what wins out.

But I don't expect to get too much knitting done today. It's Gavin's birthday. Time to put my keyboard aside and get on with making birthday breakfast - toasted bagels with cream cheese!

Friday, November 7, 2008

at the shore

Sorry for being out of contact for the last couple of days. I've been at the Erie shore, just sitting in the sun, listening to the wind and the waves, and watching the leaves fall from the trees. It's been lovely.

But I haven't been entirely idle. I finished my fingerless gloves - and they fit perfectly. And made another pair of mittens for the Warm Hands Network while curled up in chairs watching old DVDs in the cottage at night.

Home tomorrow. It's been nice, but I'm not sure I'm cut out for too much of the cottage life. I miss my computer, the internet and all my gadgets at home.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

at the Mill

Of course we couldn't go all the way to New Brunswick without visiting the Briggs & Little Woollen Mill. When I visited the Mill in August the machines weren't running. But on Monday, we got to see the whole process from start to finish.

Sorting and Culling
Washing and Drying
Picking and Carding
Spinning (applying the twist)
Creating the skeins

A great visit! And the Littles were gracious to a fault - as usual!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

fudge ripples

After visiting the Fredericton Farmer's Market, and after warming up over coffee and hot chocolates at Tim's we visited the LYS again. And this time I couldn't resist.

I bought Patons Stretch Sock yarn and started on Porphyria fingerless gloves. And in consideration of the extra large size of my hands I've increased the number of stitches by about 20% - which works out to 2 extra pattern panels. And so far so good.

I know I promised never to buy variegated yarn again - at least not without seeing a swatch. But I did, and so far I'm not regretting it. As it knits up it looks a lot like fudge ripple ice cream. Pretty yummy!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

flying east

At about 8 am, Mom and I were in the air, enroute to visit Mark and Patti in New Brunswick. With knitting in hand. The bamboo dpns picked up yesterday made it through security and onboard without any problem. Only my craft scissors gave the Security Officers pause - but they are blunt-tipped, so still okay.

As we flew over Quebec my second Pro Bono Hat was well underway. Even after grocery shopping, errands, laundry, cleaning the fridge and packing, I still had time yesterday to start and finish a first hat. It's a great pattern - a very simple, warm ribbed hat.

Patti and I snuck in a trip to Yarns on York to get supplies for a couple of projects. Patti's starting the Bob Blankie - a great pattern for a beginner. Mom's starting a Top Down Sweater in a toddler size. And can you believe it? I left a yarn store empty-handed.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

for want of needles

Sila's been busy - she has knitted all these perky green and yellow hats. And Mom has demonstrated complete disregard for doctor's orders for rest and knitted this sporty grey, red and gold set. As far as stubbornness goes, this apple doesn't fall far from that tree. So lots more goodies for the Warm Hands Network!

At the moment, there's nothing on my needles. I'd like to try a Pro Bono Hat - a very simple, thick, warm hat. Easy and quick, a nice change of speed after finishing a project with tiny stitches on tiny needles. But I don't have the needles I need. How is that possible - I have dozens of sets of needles but no 5mm double-points? And there's nowhere to get them late at night or early in the morning. Hmmm. In a city this size there should really be a craft store with a 24 hour drive through, don't you think?

Tomorrow Mom and I fly to New Brunswick. So I'll have to figure out a small travelling project on wood or plastic needles. No steel needles - I'd hate to lose my knitting airport security measures! Probably mittens. Maybe in green and gold to match Sila's hats.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

ignoring instructions

Last night just before bed I reached the point on my second Almost Fingerless glove where the "fingerlets" are to be worked. And decided to leave that for the morning, when I'd be at my best - well rested and clear headed.

The pattern designer instructs that the extra stitches should be moved to scrap yarn while each fingerlet is worked, but that's much too sensible. Armed with a second set of DPNs I got to work. But when I had the extra stitches on 3 needles, the fingerlet for the pinky on 3 more needles, and a 7th needle in hand to work the stitches, my stubbornness seemed a bit ridiculous.

But it's done! Finished and off the needles. Just need to sew in the ends. I won't see Linda for a couple of weeks, but when I do, I'll post one more picture to show the gloves on the wearer. Now what? Gavin thinks mending the pocket of his favourite pants should be next, but I think there may be a pair or two of mittens before that.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

wintery days

The last couple of days have had a wintery feel. Frost in the suburbs at night. Lake effect snow warnings for areas north of Toronto. And cold, cold wind. Brrr! And the cold has crept into my workplace. The cold from the chair I sit in penetrates my jeans. I've pulled down my sleeves to shield my arms from the cold surface of my desk. The keyboard chills my fingers as I type. And I'm cupping my coffee mug in both hands to steal the warmth.

So it's a good thing that Linda's fingerless gloves are almost done. Just the "fingerlets" and finishing to do. Because Linda has been walking around work with her down-filled winter coat around her shoulders and her hands jammed into her pockets.

Good grief, if it gets any colder Gavin might have to put his flip-flops away. And start wearing socks and shoes!

Monday, October 27, 2008

connecting from a distance

If you haven't clicked on the link for the Almost Fingerless Gloves pattern, you may not know that the pattern was designed and written by Rachel - a sixteen year old in New York. Which blows me away. Quite an accomplishment - I'd say she's got a bright future ahead of her as a knitter and pattern designer.

And it really shows you how the Internet allows people to connect. Without the Internet, how would Rachel get her pattern out there? And how would I come to hear of it? From what I hear, the more people who knit and post about her pattern, the more people who "Fave" it or "Queue" it in Ravelry, the more leverage she has to get her patterns published through traditional channels - knitting magazines, pattern leaflets and pattern collection books. And maybe my blog helps a bit.

The second glove is progressing well. As Rachel suggested in her pattern notes, I've reversed the cables on the left glove compared to the right glove. And stuck with the gusseted thumb, 'cause that's what I'm used to. The pair should be completed at some point tomorrow.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

59 days

With Jane's help, I turned my main floor into Santa's workshop. While she crafted handmade Christmas cards, I worked on woven ribbon stockings. I had hoped to start and finish 10 stockings, but I was kidding myself. Like everything else, they take a bit longer than I thought.

But I've given a lot of thought about the best way to make them. I've gathered different ribbon colours and patterns to make the woven pattern interesting. And I'm borrowing some ideas from quilting to finish the edges neatly and add a loop for hanging. Maybe I'll also make mini-stockings for gift cards, and panels to make up tree skirts.

Jane and I were thinking about getting a table at a Christmas craft show. But I think we may have left it too late to get that organized. After all there are only 59 days left until Christmas. But Christmas next year might be do-able.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

tempting fate

While I continue knitting the second Almost Fingerless glove for Linda, Mom has knitted this hat for the Warm Hands Network. Three colours of Patons Classic wool with a multi-colour pom pom - looks very sporting to me, like a Rugby jersey or hockey socks. Love it!

And I've been pondering the feasibility of having two projects on needles at the same time. Until now I've stuck to the notion that I shouldn't start anything until the current project is finished. Because I'm very prone to what the Yarn Harlot calls "Startitis". It's such fun to start new projects, try new patterns, play with new yarns. But then my enthusiasm flags - I put one aside to move onto the next new project, new pattern and new yarn. And before you know it, I'm surrounded by works-in-progress and nothing gets done.

So why tempt fate? Lately my recent projects have been quite small - because if I'm taking knitting along on the train to work or on visits to family, it's easier if everything fits in a ziploc. But there's wool and a pattern for a sweater waiting for my upstairs. And I'd like to get a start on that as well. Why does it feel like I'm starting out on a slippery slope?

Friday, October 24, 2008

getting the size right

The pattern for Almost Fingerless Gloves makes a small size pair of gloves. Nothing that will fit me. So my plan is to make the first pair for Linda - she's tiny - and then adapt the pattern to fit Lianne's medium size hands and my large hands. It seemed prudent to knit the pattern through once exactly as written so that I could see exactly where and how much to adjust.

As knitting progressed on Linda's first glove, up the thumb gusset, across the palm and towards the finger(let)s, I became a bit unsure of the measurements I should be working towards. "Continue as established, knitting from marker to marker, until the glove comes up to the place where the thumb separates from the hand." "When the glove goes to slightly below the highest point of the palm, place all the stitches on a piece of scrap yarn." The instructions assume that I can try the glove on at various points in its knitting and adjust as I go. Hmmm.

So I packed my knitting up in my ziploc and brought it work. And asked Linda to try it on. The good news is that they're going to fit perfectly. Lots of oohing and aahing. She loves the pattern and the yarn. Which is great, but I think I've ruined the surprise.