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.