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.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

not quite

When I bought this yarn I completely fell for the shades of red, gold and green. Like a quail, it seemed to me, with it's rich dark tones and flecks of gold. Or the most gorgeous mix of fall colours. I looked for a swatch to see how it knitted up but couldn't find one. And asked the salesperson to see a swatch, but she didn't have one available. Oh well, I just had to buy it.

But the knitted result is not living up to the promise. For the last 40 rows I've been knitting an uninspiring khaki green with orange flecks. And wishing that the colour would shift to something more interesting. Oh it's still nice, but the spectacular beauty of the variegation that I could see in the yarn ball is not translating into the knitted piece. How disappointing!

So that's a lesson learned. I need to see a knitted swatch before I buy a variegated yarn - no exceptions. Because when so much care and attention is invested in making something, I don't want to be disappointed by my choice of materials.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

almost fingerless

When picking paint colours for the sales offices at work I stayed on the warm side of the colour wheel. As I explained to a co-worker - the offices would become increasingly chilly, damp and numbing as winter progressed. And no sooner were the words out of my mouth when the thought of Fingerless Gloves popped into my head.

I've never had a pair of fingerless gloves - didn't see the point. But warming my hands on steaming mugs of coffee before returning them to my keyboard isn't a very effective strategy. The coffee cools too quickly and so do my fingers. And that much caffiene doesn't do me much good either. Maybe I should give fingerless gloves a try?

There are literally hundreds of fingerless glove patterns on Ravelry, but here's the pattern I settled on - Almost Fingerless Gloves. Using sockweight yarn means they won't be so bulky as to interfere with typing and working. And the columns of K3 P2 rib give lots of stretch, so they'll be nice and snug. I'm guessing the little beginnings of fingers will help the gloves stay put and fit properly. It looks like they're going to knit up quickly, so I'll let you know how they work out.

Monday, October 20, 2008

look - two colours!

At the Creativ Festival I picked up some Frog Tree Alpaca yarn at Mary's Yarn booth. It's made in Bolivia by a non-profit cooperative that provides income for poor families and their communities. And it's beautiful - rich colours, soft spun and lovely warm.

A few weeks ago, I came across a pattern for this Norwegian Star Earflap Hat in the databases on Ravelry. And the Frog Tree yarn seemed like a good choice. So another hat for the Warm Hands Network!

The pattern is simple. The challenge for me is to get the tension between the two yarns right as I knit the pattern chart. Pulling the yarn that floats behind the work too tightly results in puckering. And leaving the float yarn too loose leaves holes between the colours. As it turns out I did okay - a little too tight, but not so tight that the result is scrunched up. There's an informative post about multi-colour knitting here. But if you have a sec, click on the pattern link as well - the pattern designer's pictures are well worth the time spent to look.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

delving into fibers

Shirley, Christine and I spent the afternoon at the Creativ Festival. I very nearly passed on going - I've been disappointed in previous years with how little knitting was represented. But I was pleasantly surprised this year.

My first stop was Gemini Fibres, lured in by spinning wheels, bags of roving and drop spindles. First, a drop spindle of an appropriate weight for a beginner handmade of snake wood and beech. Next, a bag of Coopworth roving - a carded roving from a Border Leicester and Romney sheep cross. I'm told it's less slippery than combed roving ... a good choice for a beginner. And finally, an instructional DVD called Drop Spindle Spinning and a book called Teach Yourself Visually Handspinning.

I haven't got the faintest idea of what I'm doing. But I'm determined to learn, and I think it's going to be fun and rewarding. And if I really can't figure it out, there's a full day workshop at Gemini Fibres next Saturday that may be the answer.

Friday, October 17, 2008

more warm hands

While I've been away from needles for the last few days, others have carried on knitting for the Warm Hands Network. Mom kindly knitted a child's hat to match the mittens I made a couple of weeks ago. And Jean made the charming hat and mitts set pictured. More warm hands and heads!

Amidst all the negativity about the financial markets, I can't help but feel cheered looking at that pom pom. It's so full of hope and good intentions!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

not one stitch

Not one stitch worked between yesterday's blog and today. I haven't so much as even looked at needles or yarn. No time for the Ravelry forums. No mooning over patterns that I could someday knit. No time for anything except finishing projects.

Yesterday I worked at finishing my Flower Quilt. It's actually a depression block pattern made up of tiny triangle scraps - but I've used only flower pattern scraps. It's quite something and has been a tremendous amount of work. Over the last few days I've added borders and prepared the backing. Tonight I'll tidy up the threads on the back of the quilt face to ready it for long-arm quilting. Once that's done I'll just need to bind the edges. What a great feeling to finish a big project!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

becoming impossible

Margaret Atwood observes "Each one was a possibility that quickly became an impossibility" in her latest collection of stories, Moral Disorder. Hmm, I can definitely relate to that. Knitting projects are full of possibility at the beginning - cool patterns and fabulous yarn and the possibility of dramatic results. But often the richly imagined possibilities don't materialize and the project disappoints.

At Cottage Craft I bought some fantastic wool - blackberry 1 ply with shades of indigo, red and blues. And I've been wanting to make something fantastic with it. Primavera socks seemed like just the thing! A simple pattern with lots of stretch in alternating bands of knit and purl.

But the dark yarn makes the stitches are very hard to see. And working P3tog in these tight stitches on tiny needles is tough. After finishing the cuff in K1 P1 rib, I messed up the last row of the first pattern repeat. I'll try it once more but this combination of pattern and yarn may become impossible. Good thing there's more possibilities in my stash!

Monday, October 13, 2008

finally finished

Yes sirree, the second Express Lane sock is done. Look how great that leaf pattern looks from toe to cuff! That's a good looking pair of socks, I think.

I'm glad I stuck with it and learned some new techniques - yarn over pairs and crochet provisional cast on. But I don't think I like toe-up construction as much as cuff down - the socks just seem more naturally shaped when knitting cuff down.

More than anything I'm glad they're too big for Nancy. Otherwise I'd probably have given them to her - she liked them so much - and I'd be casting on a new pair for the person they were knit for. But maybe I better cast on a pair of socks for Nancy for Christmas?

Friday, October 10, 2008

stash busting

At Spun Fibre Arts I saw a beautiful Baby Blanket - Bob Blankie by Mags Kandis in Mission Falls Cotton. Gorgeous and brilliantly simple! The pattern book Wee Knits 3 had sold out at Spun Fibre Arts so I ordered it from Kniterary in Whitby.

Finally, last night I made it out to Kniterary to pick up the book ... but only after several miscues, wrong-turns and a desperate phone call to the shop owner for driving directions. It's a nice little cottage jam-packed with all sorts of fabulous yarn. And a basket of the most glorious variegated red Mission Falls wool at the cash counter. Very tempting! But with Gavin pacing outside - tired, hungry and more than a little fed up - it just wasn't the right time to browse.

But the book is great and the pattern, too. I'm packing the book to show my sister-in-law Patti who has expressed interest in learning to knit. And maybe it's a chance to use up all the Patons Look at Me yarn in my stash.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

missed a train

... and knitted lots. Seven repeats done on the instep and nearly at heel.

Grabbing a seat at Union Station to knit seemed like a better idea than pacing around the schedule boards being annoyed. And, you know, with my iPod and my knitting, the forty-five minute wait for the 8:13 train passed quite pleasantly. I was very glad I had my knitting with me.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

back on track

Look! My second Express Lane sock is coming along. The toe's done and the first repeat of the instep is done. The knitting is a lot easier this time around. I've managed to get this far without even thinking about ripping out. Not even a single tink.

And I think the break has done me good. I'm enjoying knitting these socks again. The pattern is quite pretty, as is the yarn. They'll be lovely when they're done. At least, I hope that's what she thinks Christmas morning when she unwraps them!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

a nice fall day

Everyone's been very kind and considerate - not a single inquiry about the second Express Lane sock. As if you knew that I was a bit fed up and needed a break. And a bit defensive about my case of Second Sock syndrome. But this morning I woke with a feeling that today's the day to cast-on the second sock.

My fuzzy adventure should be wrapped up today. I'm not as enthusiastic today - maybe it's too fuzzy and too over the top. But still super soft. Maybe I need to give a bit more thought to it? Maybe try larger needles and a larger gauge? Maybe try it a few different ways? Maybe sleep on it for a few days and see what percolates in my head? That's the plan - finish the first one, put it aside for a week or so, and then decide where I go with it.

And then it's time to look around for the next project. Something small and portable for my return trip to New Brunswick at the end of the month - probably a pair of wool socks using stash yarn. So that's today - finish fuzzy adventure, cast-on Express Lane, and surf through Ravelry pattern libraries looking for my next sock project. Oh, and enjoy the warmer weather.

Monday, October 6, 2008

my fuzzy adventure

Pssst, I'll let you in on a secret ... Here's a sneak peek at my latest project - my own design. I fell in love with the softness of this yarn at the Coats & Clark outlet. In fact, I couldn't put it down. So I've been putting a lot of thought about how to make best use of it.

Only time will tell whether this ends up anything like how I'm picturing it. And whether anyone else will think it's as fabulous as I do. I'll have to finish this first one and do a little market research to see what others think. If it works out as I hope, then I'm going make a bunch in the next several weeks for the Craft Show I'm taking part it. 

But this novelty yarn is terrible to work with. Really. It's driving me crazy. All that fuzziness makes it hard to see the strand itself. But as hard as it is to make sure I'm doing it right, it'd be impossible to see anything I did wrong. And it might just be fabulous!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

little things

Hurray, it's Saturday! What a brutal work week that was. One big project after another and all on crazy deadlines. Thursday took the cake. I went in 3 hours early to tackle the work I didn't get to the day before. And worked frantically for almost fourteen hours before I finished. *Get up and go to work, work, work, work, go home, sleep*, repeat from * to * each day until the weekend.

So I have not finished my second mitt. I have not started a second Express Lane Sock. Not checked my emails. Not looked at the quilt that needs to be finished in few weeks. Not returned any phone calls. Not started anything for the craft show at the end of November. Not done any laundry. Not vacuumed. Not cleaned the house. And I'm exhausted.

Yesterday there was a letter waiting for me when I got home - a "Thank You" card from Shirley for our trip to the Coats & Clark outlet. I can't begin to tell you what a lift that gave me. Because I have a lot to be thankful for. And I have Saturday and Sunday to get some of the stuff on my list done.

Friday, October 3, 2008

spoiled rotten

Until recently, my yarn stash was tucked in bags on the upper shelf in my bedroom closet. After a visit to Briggs & Little the yarn started to spill out. And after Coats & Clark, storage became a real problem. For the last several days about 40 balls of yarn lived in the front hallway chair!

That's when Gavin suggested I take over the empty cupboard in the spare bedroom. Not only is there tons of space, there's also about 6ft x 4ft of wire frame shelving - perfect for keeping yarns sorted and stacked. So far my stash fills less than a quarter of the available space. Awesome!

It's great that all my yarn organized in one spot. I love to look and feel - imagining the great things I can make with each. But when it was spilling out all over the place, it was acting as a yarn shopping deterrent. Pressuring me to put it all good use. Now, I look at the empty space and want to fill it with more yarn. I don't think that's what Gavin had in mind!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

more warm hands

Thanks to Anita for setting me straight... see her comment on yesterday's blog... The Warm Hands Network won't be at the Creativ Festival this year. So no free admission, we'll all just have to pay our way. I'm gonna edit that last post, so that nobody is misled.

At least the pressure's off for starting and finishing a child's sweater. And I can go back to making mittens. Modeled at the right is the next pair based on the pattern No Swatch, No Gauge Mittens by Jean Gifford. These mitts have a longer cuff - no chilly gap from sweater cuff to mitt - and with the wool I'm using the mitts are knitting up about right for a 10-12 year old child. You can see how small they are on me - I can't spread my hand or straighten my fingers.

Like the last set of mittens, I'm working most of the mitt in Rust Red and adding a wide stripe of Honeycomb Yellow across the middle. I'm hoping a pair of siblings will like matching mitts. When I was little I liked to dress up like my big sis!