Friday, July 31, 2009

what the swatch shows

I took my concerns about the "rope-y" feel of this yarn to some of the dyers on Ravelry. Their suggestion? Swatch, wash and block, and then decide. Well that's sensible, isn't it? So that's exactly what I did. Knit a dozen or so rows of rib, soaked for half an hour or so in Eucalan, and laid flat to dry. What a difference! The softness and squishiness typical of Merino wool is back. I'm so very relieved. And a little embarrassed - I guess I'm doomed to learn the importance of swatching over and over again.

... running off to cast on my first Glynis sock ...

Thursday, July 30, 2009

natural dye question

Not much on needles right now. My head tells me to start the sweater, but my imagination is telling me to start another shawl. I thought a compromise might work, and cast on a sock yesterday. Glynis from Cookie A's book, Sock Innovation. But the yarn felt "rope-y" not at all soft or stretchy - more like a dishcloth cotton. I ripped it out but now I'm perplexed. The yarn is 100% merino. Can a natural dye process change the texture of the yarn? Will it soften up after a wash or two in Eucalan?

While I ponder that, I'm knitting more hats for Burera Hospital in Rwanda. The celery green hat is done, and a pink one has been started. My hat production has slowed as my work schedule has picked up. Which is very good news in this economy. It's nice to have knitting time at work, but worrying to have lots of time to knit! I'm changing up the ribbing at the brim of the hat to K4P2. That still leaves plenty of stretch. Comparing stockinette to seed stitch, Gavin chose in favour of stockinette, so I'll go back to that style for the main body of the hat. And knit an entire rainbow of hats.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

finished shawl

Last night I completed and blocked my Swallowtail Shawl lace project referring to this tutorial from the Yarn Harlot. This morning I unpinned and admired my finished shawl. The fabric created from gossamer thin yarn and openwork patterns is so light and wispy - unlike anything I've ever knit before. And knitting lace really gives you an appreciation for the pattern designer. The leaves bud out from centre very symmetrically and one lace pattern blends into the next. Very nice, indeed. Feels like a magic trick. Anything I'd do differently? Use a handpainted yarn and use a larger needle to end up with a bigger shawl.

With grey skies and seemingly never ending drizzle, my photo of the finished shawl is somewhat less triumphant than I'd like. As soon as Mother Nature cooperates, I'll schedule a retake. But in the meantime, what's next on the needles? As much as I'm taken with lace, there isn't much lace weight yarn in my stash. Maybe it's time to get started on a sweater. Because if I wait until cooler weather to start, I won't finish in time to wear it.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

ready to block

After taking a break from my lace project, I picked it up again. What a difference a day makes! I don't know why I had so much trouble with that last lace section. The only thing I can figure was that I was misreading the instructions - something that would be sorted out with fresh eyes and a clear head. So the knitting is done and the elastic cast off complete. Leaving me the tasks of weaving in the ends and blocking to do tonight. Can't wait to see it!

For my on-the-go project, I've been working on another hat for the newborns at Burera Hospital in Rwanda. This time with the main part of the hat worked in seed stitch, in a cheerful celery green. Depending on my work schedule, I may have time to finish this today as well!

Monday, July 27, 2009

a break from lace

After finishing the Lily of the Valley lace section, I threaded through another LifeLine, just in case. And boy, am I ever glad I did! I've had to rip back to that LifeLine three times. I just can't seem to get the lace border section right. More than a little frustrated I put aside my lace project, instead knitting this newborn sized hat for the Burera Hospital in Rwanda. I'm using up some Shepherd 4 ply baby wool I bought last year. With the babies in primitive, often damp shelters and exposed to open cooking fires, wool seemed to be the way to go. Can you imagine, the hospital delivered quadruplets to a local Rwandan woman by natural childbirth last week !?! 

Saturday, July 25, 2009

the lace adventure continues

When a fellow Raveler commented about "a near nervous breakdown on chart 3A&B" I was concerned. Maybe the Lily of the Valley lace section was really complicated? As it turns out, nope. The near nervous breakdown probably had more to do with all those P5tog. They are a nuisance!

As it stands I'm nearly through the Lily of the Valley section, leaving the lacy border and scalloped lace edging to do. Doesn't sound like much, but the shawl is triangular - each row is longer than the last. Right now, I'm at 231 stitches and counting. Think I'll put it aside until tomorrow.

Friday, July 24, 2009

the amazing addi turbos


Yeah right, I thought, but I need sharp tips so I bit my lip and bought the most expensive needles I've ever owned. And now, several repeats later, I'm glad I did. With sharp tips I can pick up the loops for knitting quickly, cleanly and accurately. Faster, as advertised.

My enthusiasm for this little lace project threatens to carry me away. Already, I'm entertaining thoughts of knitting shawls and scarves for everyone I know. And losing hours of my workday browsing dreamily through the Ravelry pattern database. One thing at a time, though. Let's just see how the Lily of the Valley lace section goes!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Fall down seven times ...

Nana korobi ya oki
translated from Japanese: Fall down seven times, get up eight.

It's exhilarating knitting this little shawl. My fingers and toes are crossed and I'm barely daring to breath. If it turns out well, it's going to be fantastic. And if it doesn't turn out, then I'm going to try again, and again, and again, until it does. After three false starts, I'm at the eighth repeat of the budding lace pattern. It's so pretty.

Gavin looked over the pattern. "Are you mad?" he asked. "Why put yourself through that?" Because to do this one little shawl opens up a whole world of lace knitting, that I've been afraid of up until now. As T.S. Eliot said " You have to risk going too far to discover how far you can really go".

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

a start on lace

So that's the second one, then. Lovely, comfortable socks. The Koigu wool is great to knit - no pooling, no striping, just a nice stippled texture. Although the colour and texture both overwhelm the lace pattern somewhat. But, all in all, a bit too easy to suit me at the moment.

With all the practice of the last year of knitting, I've had about enough of socks, mittens and hats. Now, it seems to me, I ought to try knitting lace. Like this lacy Swallowtail shawl pattern. Quite a challenge I think - not sure I'm up to it. I've started and frogged three times and have finally made it past the beginning chart and worked the first repeat of the main chart. Already I've learned lots:

... lace weight yarn is mind-bogglingly thin. Scarily thin.
... dark green makes it very hard to see my stitches.
... my HiyaHiya needles aren't nearly pointy enough for lace.
... my stitch markers are all much too huge to be of use.
... much of the final appearance will depend on blocking.

Before I go any further I need to protect what I've already knit. This project definitely calls for the prudent use of life lines.

Monday, July 20, 2009

my left sock

I hadn't planned to bring my knitting on our visit friends at their cottage. My feeling was that they might think it rude, that I wasn't paying my full attention to them. But Gavin thought I should bring it - there are knitters in their family, they won't think anything of it, he reasoned. So I brought it, and knit a bit on Sunday morning as we sat around drinking coffee and watching a chilly drizzle fall steadily outside. But it was on the three hour drives there and back that I knit a great deal. Finished the leg, turned the heel and knit the gusset. Just the foot and the toe left to knit. My guess? My left sock'll be done by this time tomorrow.

Friday, July 17, 2009

heading north

That's my first Kai-Mei done - thanks to Gavin for the photo. I've cast on the second sock and have worked a third of the leg. And luckily, I stumbled across the errata for the left sock just in the nick of time!

We leave early tomorrow to spend the weekend in cottage country. Not sure if the weather will cooperate. The skies were threatening this evening, and we've had scattered showers for the last few days. But whether on a deck chair at the edge of the lake, or on a sofa in front of the fireplace, I plan have my nose stuck firmly in my new book, The Book of Negroes, which came in the post today. The second sock will have to wait until I come home Sunday.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

that was awkward

So far the hardest thing about Kai-Mei is getting a good picture. As many sock knitters know, it's awkward wearing an unfinished sock that's still on dpns. And, in this case, the lace pattern travels from the outside of the heel across the top of the foot, which makes photography even more challenging. When I couldn't turn my leg and foot far enough to get a good angle with the camera, I hopped down the hall to the full length mirror. Then plunked down, staged the sock, deactivated the flash and tried to hold steady for a good photo. My cat thought this was good fun - she disrupted several photos by nuzzling the needles, circling between my foot and the mirror, and bumping my hands to beg for attention. Thank goodness for digital cameras! One half decent photo from more than a dozen attempts.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

the gusset begins

I really should shower and get ready for work now. Instead of knitting the first lace repeat at the gusset of my Kai-Mei. But I wanted to see how the pattern works. After reading the chart I couldn't see how it would turn out symmetrically, but having knit one repeat, I can that it works. Making and dropping yarn overs - it's very reminiscent of the blanket I just finished. Good thing I've had all that practice. Adding back all those stitches with backwards loop cast on is slow work, particularly when I come to knit the new stitches in the next row. Now, no more excuses. Work awaits.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

starting Kai-Mei

It's amazing what a difference blocking makes - the wavy pattern is really well defined and open now. After blocking the blanket finishes up at 26"x 32"... small, but not too small. The pattern was really easy, although I had to consciously fight the urge to purl the wrong-side rows. Had to do a fair bit of tinking through the first few pattern repeats until I got the hang of it.

Back in June, when I saw this stippled colourway of Koigu Painter's Palette Premium Merino at Lettuce Knit, I couldn't take my eyes off it. So yesterday, while waiting for large file downloads at work, I cast on my first Kai-Mei sock. Weeks ago I abandoned this pattern in frustration when yarn after yarn pooled. But now, with this yarn, it's knitting up beautifully. With a K3P3 leg it's bound to fit well and be comfortable. And with the travelling lace pattern that starts at the gusset, the knitting is bound to get interesting. Hurray!

Monday, July 13, 2009

lazy summer days

The second mitt is done. So that's another pair that can be added to my pile of knitted goods for the Warm Hands Network. And, to tell the truth, my Stratification blanket is also done. It's blocking now, and will hopefully be dry and ready for its photo tomorrow. 

I've also finished reading  The Lost Garden by Helen Humphreys.
The novel is set in WWII England with literary, gardening and knitting themes. Within the narrative a young Canadian soldier knits for his girlfriend. He designs the sweaters to reflect one of their shared experiences. When she receives them she figures out the inspiration and sends back a photo of herself in the sweater at the place they went together.  The knitting keeps them connected. Or as the main character explains "I can see how their love works for them. How he makes a mystery for her to solve. How she sends back the proof." It's a charming light read for a lazy summer day.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

back from the wilds

No internet, no email, no phone for the last few days. Instead, we've been communing with chipmunks, herons, foxes, fish, snakes and frogs at Pine Vista Resort on Stoney Lake. And thankfully not too many bugs. It was a nice, much needed break. It's really amazing how well you sleep after a day at the lake!

Not much progress to report on my Stratification blanket. Maybe I'll get some knitting time after the cooler is unpacked and the laundry's done. I did grab my portable knitting project to take along - another pair of Newfie Mittens for the Warm Hands Network, this time in purples. My nephew Nicholas - the premiere nature watcher - helped me figure out the correct length for the hand. And my nephew Stephen - the champion frog catcher - tried on the mitts as I worked, so that I could judge the correct length for the thumb. They were both lots of help ... when they weren't busy swimming, fishing and eating, that is.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

it's sedimentary

One of my challenges when knitting is matching my yarn to a complementary pattern, so that each is shown off to best advantage. This time I really think I've hit one out of the park. The Noro yarn is fabulous, with dramatic colour transitions and texture variations. It needs a pattern that's simple and bold enough to let the yarn shine - like Ocean Waves. With 105 stitches instead of 35, it'll be blanket size instead of scarf size.

But Gavin points out that there is nothing "watery" or "oceany" about this colourway. More "earthy" or "muddy" really. And he's all about water and waves, so I'll have to cede his point. To me, the waves in my knitting are reminiscent of the stratification you see in sedimentary rock. Like the striation of the sandstone shown below the picture of my knitting. Kind of archeological.

So it's my third day of knitting my Stratification blanket. Should be done in plenty of time for the September shipment of the Warm Hands Network for the Innu communities in Labrador. And I can't wait to see how the pattern opens up after washing and blocking!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Monday morning

It's early Monday morning. The week stretches in front of me like a blank canvas. Especially blank this week because I've finished everything that was on needles. New project time - but what? What colour, what yarn, what pattern? Isn't that the best? Looking through all the stash yarns, imagining all the possibilities.

A second little Alpaca mitt was finished last night to make a pair with the mitt from Friday. Not enough yarn left to make anything else. I'm really pleased with these - very soft and very warm. So pleased, in fact, that I'm thinking of Christmas knitting in baby Alpaca. Hats and mitts for everyone!

The baby blanket of my own design is also done. I cast off Saturday evening and left it to soak in Eucalan over night. The Briggs & Little yarn is "rustic" and can feel quite scratchy. The first wash has softened it up considerably. Enough that it is comfortable against the skin. As it is a baby blanket, I'm planning to wash it a few more times, to make it comfortable against a baby's skin. See the eyelet rows when the light shines through? Although the pattern is very plain and simple, I'm happy with it. And it's completely reversible.

Sunday morning I also wove in all the ends on my Taiga sweater. Now that's something to celebrate. Took me long enough, I know! Ready for wearing this fall.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

alpaca mitts

On the TTC Knitalong, the Purple Purl gave out skeins of Mainland baby alpaca. Alpaca fiber is warmer than wool, and, without any Lanolin, it's hypoallergenic - good for mittens. For these mitts, I'm using this pattern combining a medium brown solid yarn with a light fawn/medium brown twist yarn. These are the natural colours of the alpaca fiber and are just beautiful.

The yarn is an absolute pleasure to knit. It's so soft and silky that I feel compelled to make everyone around me touch it, to ooh and aah. Think I'll get going on the second mitt now, then give some thought to a matching hat. Happy 4th of July to our American friends!

Friday, July 3, 2009

the perfect gift

July brings a rash of birthdays in my family. For my 9 yr old nephew? Something related to trains. And for the 17 yr old nephew? Cash or a gift card. Which leaves my sister-in-law. She's tough to buy for and I was starting to feel desperate. Until she proudly showed my her Patches Hat and Blanket. Because then I knew that Mag Kandis' book Folk Style and some Mission Falls wool would be perfect! Thanks to the ladies at the Purple Purl for helping me out with this.

And look, they're finished! My red rocket socks based on Cookie A's Rick pattern. I love them - of course - but it's a relief to have them done. So much detail and so many chart rows. Is it wrong to want to frame them instead of wear them?

This weekend, Gavin's ripping out carpet and installing hardwood at my sister's. Which will leave me lots of knitting time. Maybe I can make some headway on my baby blanket project.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

O Canada!

Can•a•da \ˈka-nə-də\ from the Saint-Lawrence Iroquoian word kanata meaning village, settlement or land.

At almost 10,000 sq. kms total area (about 3,850,000 sq. miles), Canada is the second largest country in the world - slightly larger than the USA, slightly larger than all of Europe. And with about 33 million people, one of the least densely populated countries in the world. Compare that to over 300 million in America, and an estimated 2.6 billion in Europe!

Today's the 142th anniversary of Confederation. With the British North America Act of 1867, Upper Canada, Lower Canada, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick joined to form the Dominion of Canada. Together the former colonies gained political clarity and a larger economic base for trade. And America was less likely to attack a self-governing country than British colonies.

My socks are looking very patriotic - especially when their photo is cropped into Maple Leaf shapes! The second sock is really coming along. The heel flap was worked and the heel turned on the GO train yesterday. This morning I completed the gusset decreases. Happy Canada Day!