Monday, May 31, 2010

leisurely knitting

He told me several times, that he didn't like my kind,

'Cause I was too leisurely.
Seems like I was doing something close to nothing,
but different than the day before. – Prince, Raspberry Beret

Sunday morning I sat quietly at my kitchen counter to finish the ruffled edge of my first Medusa Cascade ankle sock. A very simple sock, a mindless knit for hot summer days. It's done now, but as you can see the edges are curling - something that I hope blocking will sort out. I toyed with the idea of adding an iCord edging but I think that would interfere with the shape of the bottom edge of the ruffle, so fingers crossed that blocking does the trick!

It's really interesting the way the yarn colours of this Raspberry Beret colourway have ended up on this sock. At the toe and at the heel, the purple and pink sort themselves into narrow stripes, but through the foot and the cuff they swirl in a much more leisurely fashion. You really never know what to expect with a variegated colourway, huh? With a funky little sock like this, it's fitting that the colourway does its own funky thing.

Friday, May 28, 2010

turning the heel

Here it is, my first Medusa Cascade Ankle sock, just before I start the heel turn. The heel is based on heel construction by Colin Andersson - starting with gusset increases and then a short row heel. It's a bit different than anything I've ever done before, so I'm curious to see how it works out.

Once the heel is done, there are a dozen or so rounds before I start the Cascade edging. And really, that's what I've been looking forward to. After all that plain knitting in the foot of the sock, a ruffled cuff pattern looks like desert. Can't wait to dig in!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

spring knitting and gardening

Ten years ago, when we moved into our new house in this new development, the landscape was pretty stark. Not many mature trees, in fact, not even much sod yet. When planning my garden I had to stick with plants that tolerated full sun and arid conditions. And wait.

Now, ten years on, the trees are maturing and pockets of shade are developing. Last year I tried Hostas for the first time in the back corner of my yard below my Japanese Maple. They thrived, so this year I put in another - a Fire and Ice Hosta with variegated green and white foliage and lavender flowers. As well, I planted a Bleeding Heart plant below my Chinese Flowering Dogwood. Hopefully everything thrives. Maybe I can find a place for some Columbines for next year!

Monday, May 24, 2010

a funky ankle sock

Yesterday I cast on the first of my Medusa Cascade socks. It's a funky little ankle sock with a ruffled edge. A nice summer sock, I think, especially in this Raspberry Beret colourway from Wandering Cat Yarns. The sock is toe-up - not my preference - but lately I've been thinking that there are lots of good things about knitting toe-up. Not the least of which is being able to try on the sock as you go. I'm knitting on my Lantern Moon Sox Stix and really enjoying them. They're just 5 inches long, which makes the entire work-in progress quite compact. And they come as a set of six needles - very convenient for working on five needles, with the sixth reserved as a cable needle, or what have you. Also, rosewood is very hard wood, so the needles stay sharp and pointy, not blunted like bamboo needles.

Happy Victoria Day! We're having great weather for this first long weekend, the unofficial beginning of summer. I'm getting organized to go buy some annuals for my porch planters. It's a big garden centre day here in Canada; by May 24th it's agreed that we're past the risk of frost as night making it finally safe to put out annual bedding plants. And with everything else closed for the holiday, the garden centres do a roaring trade. Wish me luck - garden centres are more dangerous for me than wool shops!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

home at last

We woke Saturday morning to a steady drizzle in North Carolina, so we opted to pack things up and head home without delay. And instead of stopping somewhere overnight, we agreed to drive straight through. In the car at 5 am, drive, drive, drive, and home by 9:30 pm. What a long day! But the trip home was without incident, and without much traffic or construction delays, so we'll count ourselves lucky. I cast on and worked about a third of a baby blanket - again based on the Blue-Muda Triangle blanket pattern. The lighter purple areas are hand spun alapaca that I won as a Ravelympic prize - about 120 grams of it, with a lot of interesting variation in thickness and texture. Combining it with some Baby Me Boo in variegated pinks gave me enough yardage to make a good size baby blanket.

We had a great time in North Carolina. It's so nice to pad around in shorts and a t-shirt with sunny skies and ocean breezes! But it's also nice to be home. And I brought back a few little treasures - like a pottery seahorse and a perfect little shell - as souvenirs to remember my vacation.

Friday, May 21, 2010

vacation day seven

Vacation day seven ... also known as the last day of this vacation. We're tidying the rental house and getting things packed up and ready for the drive home tomorrow. Earlier we stopped in at the recycling depot to properly dispose of the aluminum cans, plastic and paper we'd accumulated over the last week. Can't bear to throw things in the trash when there is the opportunity to recycle them! As well, we did some last minute shopping for items we wanted to bring back - an Apple iTunes card, t-shirts, and so on. Did you know that with an iTunes card purchased in the US and an American postal address, you can open a US account at the iTunes store to purchase apps that are only available to US customers? I struck out on watershoes - the men's sizes were too wide and the women's sizes weren't long enough. But Heather was successful in finding Chocolate Cheerios - something on her daughter's wish list.

Turns out the magical scarf is darn difficult to photograph. I tried modelling in front of the mirror, but draped on the chair worked out the best. It's a lightweight lacy scarf - think fashion accessory rather than warmth. Look closely - panels of stockinette stitch alternate with openwork panels created by dropped stitches. And with nothing but stockinette the scarf rolls inward on itself, which is quite an attractive effect for this kind of scarf.

What makes it magical? Lots of things! One skein - nothing more and nothing leftover - perfect for that one handpainted skein that you couldn't resist. Needle size and gauge are not critical. Skills required: not much skill at all, just knitting in the round. And then, the fun part at the end - purposely cutting your knitting all the way through and intentionally dropping stitches and watching them drop round after round back to the cast on edge. Oh, and did I mention there are no ends to weave in?

Thursday, May 20, 2010

vacation day six

Finally, a photo of my finished Fancy Socks! Heather was kind enough to model them on this sunny afternoon while on the deck reading J.D. Robb's latest bestseller. They're destined for a soak when I get home in a few days, but in the meantime, Heather reports that they are very soft and comfy. And what a beautiful colourway!

My magical scarf is also done - photos tomorrow. Interestingly, both Gavin and Gary were appalled when they discovered that the finishing includes dropping live stitches and cutting through the knitted work. And both Heather and I thought it was interesting and fun. Guess the guys weren't ready to break the rules!?!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

vacation day five

As soon as we gobbled down breakfast, Gavin and I jumped in the car to see the surfers down at the beach in front of the Lighthouse. There were almost a dozen hardy souls enjoying the shorebreak, and as many again enjoying their antics from the shore. The rides were short, but the waves looked nice and quite regular.

While at the beach we watched a small crab run sideways across the sand to the safety of his hole. Gavin caught him, but after a sharp nip that drew blood he put it down again right away. The sandpipers were busy again, toddling in and out the waves, and a good looking rabbit glared at us suspiciously.

On the knitting front my magical scarf is progressing, but things have slowed down considerably, thanks in no small part to my new acquaintance - pre-mixed pomegranate martini. Well after all, it is afternoon and I don't have to work tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

vacation day four

Although I finished my Fancy Socks, the photo is going to wait until this morning's showers clear, in the next few hours according to the forecast. I did cast on another pair of socks last night using my Lantern moon Sox Stix, but the colourway immediately barber-poled so I frogged them. Can't say I was loving the pattern either - this needs a rethink.

So instead, I cast on my magical scarf. A few weeks ago Jane and I stopped in at Linda's Craftique in Port Credit where we happened upon a lovely scarf. That we both agreed that it was lovely is quite something - Jane and I usually don't like the same things. When I enquired about the pattern, Linda explained that she had reverse engineered it after seeing a similar scarf that she liked, but for which she could not find a pattern. After Linda typed up her instructions for me, the construction struck me as so novel and so magical that I just had to try it. The scarf uses exactly one skein of Hand Maiden Casbah - gorgeous hand-painted yarn in a luxurious blend of Merino, Cashmere and Nylon. If it all works out I'll write up the pattern, and, with Linda's permission, publish it here.

Monday, May 17, 2010

vacation day three

Yesterday was very sunny with little wind, so we spent a couple hours walking along the shoreline edge letting the waves lap across our toes. The Atlantic is far too cold for me to consider swimming, though! A few dolphins were playing in the waves a few hundred metres out, and a couple of local boys braved the cold water hoping to catch a wave on their long boards. Gavin and Gary opted to wait for better conditions and stayed on the beach. We watched as the sandpipers scrambled out to search for food in the sand as each wave receded and then watched them hurry back to the beach as the next wave broke. And dug in the sand ourselves looking for crabs, sea lice and unbroken shells. I feel like we've been away from the city for an eternity.

The second Fancy sock should be finished today. And then on to something new.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

vacation day two

We arrived in Avon North Carolina in the late afternoon, after stopping at the outlet stores for some shopping on the way. The prices were unbelievable - Heather picked up a Coach bag for 70% off and Gary, some Izod Cargo shorts for 80% off - but nothing caught my eye. Maybe because there were no yarn shops at the Outlet Mall?

I stopped at Knitting Addiction and came away with some Sox Stix from Lantern Moon in Rosewood. They're too pretty; I had to have them. Look for them in a photo in the next day or two when I cast on my next pair of socks. No yarn though - their selection of local hand-spun or hand-dyed yarn was very sparse. They did have a large selection of some very beautiful cottons, but nothing that suited the projects in my queue. Just as well, really - isn't this the year I'm knitting down my stash?

When we got to the house, after carrying everything up out of the cars, Gavin and Gary rigged and headed out for an early evening sail. Perfect.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

vacation day one

The first day of my vacation was the big driving day. The trip is about 16 hours when you factor in traffic and construction, so we planned to drive about 11 hours or so to Maryland. It's nicer if the second day's driving isn't too long. But when a deer jumped in front of our companions' car on the interstate in Watertown NY, the schedule went out the window - we just thanked our lucky stars that none of us was hurt and the damage to the car was superficial. The unfortunate deer died instantly. The state trooper who arrived to survey the damage and file an accident report was very friendly and helpful - apologizing to us for marring our vacation as if the wildlife should have been better controlled.

Back on the road the rest of the first day's travel proceeded without incident. How green and lush things are through Pennsylvania! Sooooo many trees! And so many hours of knitting! The toe of the first sock was grafted near Syracuse, and I'm sure you won't be surprised to learn that I'm almost at the heel of the second sock. Turns out this pattern is very mindless knitting for a long drive. We checked into the Holiday Inn about three hours later than planned. After a beer and a salad in the hotel restaurant we were ready for bed.

After a quiet night and a good sleep, we're getting ready for the complimentary breakfast before hitting the road again. With any luck I'll be stopping in at Knitting Addiction in Kill Devil Hills sometime just after lunch. It's right on the way to our rented vacation cottage. Hmm, how lucky is that!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

too fast

Here's a better look at my first Fancy Sock. Very lacy, huh? And very quick to knit. Can you believe it - yesterday I knit the entire leg and started the heel?! That's way too fast! Now I think I'd better finish the first sock before we go, then put it aside in favour of something more challenging and involved for vacation knitting. Maybe it's time to get started on the Milo socks in my queue?

Progress on the Heartland Lace shawl has faltered. Apparently it is not possible for me to knit complicated lace patterns while watching playoff hockey. That's not to say I haven't tried, but I seem to be tinking as much as I'm knitting. Very little progress to be made that way. I'm particularly engrossed in the Pittsburgh - Montreal series. As a fan of Sidney Crosby, I'm cheering for the Pens, but Mike Cammalleri's performance has been so impressive that he really deserves to take his team into the next round. Makes for entertaining hockey!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

fancy socks

While work continues on the final border of my Heartland Lace Shawl, I've cast on the first of my vacation knitting projects - socks! The yarn? Viola Sock in a colourway called "Red Squirrel". The pattern? Fancy Silk Sock from Nancy Bush's Knitting Vintage Socks.

I've knit the scalloped edge and a couple of inches of the leg. After the first repeat I considered frogging and changing patterns, but a little voice in my head told me to carry on. Now that I've knit a second repeat I'm glad I did. It took that much for the pattern to really assert itself. The more I knit, the more it grows on me. As well, the more I knit the stretchier the fabric seems. That's a relief ... I feared these socks would end up baggy and slouchy. The only thing left to worry about is whether I'll be finished them before we leave for vacation. They certainly knit up quickly!

Monday, May 10, 2010

the Frolic

This weekend was the Knitter's Frolic in Toronto. I attended last year but wasn't sure I'd get a chance this year. Not with brothers visiting from Fredericton and Ottawa. That is, until Mark kindly agreed to indulge me for an hour to take in the Frolic. Picture several large rooms filled with booth after booth, basket after basket, cubby after cubby of gorgeous yarn. Every weight, every colour and every fiber. It really is too much to take in.

Last year I was completely overwhelmed and left after not much more than an hour. My head was full, I had a slight headache, and I wasn't sure that I'd made the most sensible purchasing decisions. This year, I decided to focus my attention on finding the perfect red yarn for a shawl. Ideally a bright multi-tonal "Coke Red". I came home with two reds - a couple of skeins of Lucy Neatby Scarlet red in a fingering weight Merino and a few skeins of Dye-Version Candy Apple Red in a sport weight of Bamboo.

Now, about patterns ... I'm considering Haruni for the Bamboo yarn, but suggestions are certainly welcome.

Friday, May 7, 2010

a general update

With my few little refinements the Flip-Flop Socklet is taking shape. The big toe side now slants down correctly at the bottom edge. And with added short rows the top edge comes up higher to collar the big toe nicely. I'm still not entirely happy with the bottom of the sock, though. Right now it falls a bit short in the middle of my foot. Time to take a break from this project, though. It feels a bit like I have been maniacally knitting socklets and ignoring the rest of the my projects.

About halfway through the first period of the Vancouver game I finished the toe of my second Tiger Lily sock. What a gorgeous pattern! One thing, though, it's not very stretchy so we'll have to see how they fit. I purposely made them on the small side for my petite sister-in-law.

Next to finish? My Heartland Lace Shawl. This morning I threaded a lifeline through the last repeat of the Bison Tracks Lace. Ready to start the River of Life Edging!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

in loving memory

My brother and I spent a few hours yesterday at the RBG planning a commemorative tree for Mom. We lucked out with mild weather and cloudless blue skies - a perfect day to hike around the gardens. As we pulled into the Arboretum a lone bald eagle circled above the car - an auspicious sign, I think.

The tentative plan is to plant a London Plane Tree in the RBG. It's a beautiful big sycamore tree with exfoliating bark and attractive green leaves. The fruit is a ball of seeds on stiff hairs that disperse by wind, similar to the parachute seed balls you see on dandelions. Birds eat the seeds. Two large London Plane Trees frame the entrance to the path leading to the shoreline where we scattered Mom's ashes last year.

Our tree'll be planted in a public garden with a small commemorative plaque. We'll be able to sit underneath it - well, once it has grown that is - and have a place where Mom's name is permanently engraved, a place where we can reflect and remember.

And Mom, we checked up on all your favourites ... the goslings are hatched and thriving, the swans look content and the lilacs are blooming.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

if at first you don't succeed

My first attempt at a redesign of Flip-Flop socklets was somewhat successful, but not entirely so. Comparing my redesign attempt on the right with the published design on the left, I have achieved almost a chevron shape which better suits my foot and my flip-flops. But the socklet'll be even better if I introduce some downward slant on the big toe side. As Gavin points out, it needs to come down a bit further to cover where the Flip-Flop strap chafed the top of my foot. As well, short row shaping towards the inside top might bring the top edge higher and improve the way the collar wraps my big toe. And, although you can't see this in the picture, I'd like to add some short rows to the bottom of the socklet as well to bring the top edge higher to cover the balls of my feet.

All in all, I think my redesign shows promise, but it's time to try, try again.

Monday, May 3, 2010

the first attempt

These little flip-flop socklets took no time at all. It's a very simple pattern that works well enough, but I'm already thinking of some improvements. Primarily I'd like the outside section of the foot to slope downward so that my little toe isn't covered by the socklet. After all, isn't that the point of flip-flops - bare toes?

So I've cast on another set. Taking queues from patterns like Jaywalker socks and Rick Socks, I think I can plan increases and decreases to create the V-shaped socklet I have in mind. I've still got enough leftovers of Dye-Version Bamboo Stretch Sock, that I can play around for another couple of pairs.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

a flip-flop fix

In anticipation of my upcoming beach vacation, I've been trying to wear my new flip-flops for an hour or two each day. They're brand new and hard as rock; very much in need of "breaking in". Today I wore them while out running errands. Bad idea! Now my feet are chafed and sore, but the flip-flops are still hard as rock. Ouch!

Upon surveying the damage to my feet, Gavin suggested "why not wear socks with your flip-flops?" Now that's a good idea! Within minutes I found this pattern in the Ravelry database. As soon as my lace shawl and my Tiger Lily socks are done, I'm going to cast on a pair. I've already dug out some left over stretch bamboo yarn from my stash.