Friday, 30 October 2009

Why We Knit

I haven't got a lot of knitting to show any body this morning, not even boring sections of stockinette, or long swaths of garter. No crochet, no embroidery. Its has just been a busy, full, challenging week.

But I have been thinking of these things so much, contemplating them all, wandering through the changes of the last few years and marveling at them. A big part of the contemplating is because of a book I picked up just a little while ago.

I have been right there beside everybody else waiting for knitted Lace of Estonia, I have a much handled and dreamed over copy of Victorian Lace Today. What I did not have was the first of the great modern lace books.

I finally have a copy of A Gathering of Lace on my shelves. Well it would be on my shelves, but it hasn't made it there yet. I've had it a couple of weeks and it has been beside my chair, it has come to my room with me at night, it has been my kitchen reading, it has been my constant home companion. This book is well traveled round my house and I still haven't taken it all in. It might see a book shelf next week.

I have have no idea what the reviews were when it came out but I think a seventh printing speaks stronger than any pithy wordy review. I won't say much but to say I love this book. Deeply. Strongly.

If you have a copy, pull it out and dream over it a little. Stop for a while on the page just after the content page. See that delicate lace of the spiral shawl, with its deep godmother's lace edging, lying so dainty there, with its blush pink roses. Succumb to the promises within.

"How would it look, do you think, if everyone, old and young, would sit down together to knit for a while? Laughter and merriment and riddles and questions and folktales and anecdotes from each persons life would blend together in the stitches. Then later, when you recalled these events that have gone through your own fingers stitch by stitch, they would speak their own quiet language: Do you remember, Do you remember?"

Hermanna Stengard, Gotlandsk Sticksom, 1925 as quoted by Meg Swansen, gatherer, A Gathering of Lace, 2000

Thursday, 29 October 2009

On Mapmaking

Knitting can be a scary place to be if you are the kind of knitter who relies on a pattern to tell you that at the end of the 27th row after the second decrease, your new sweater will fit you perfectly. Knitting can be a disappointing place if you don't know how to read its many maps.

Taking a class with someone like Sally Melville, is like working with a builder, geographer and master map maker, the kind who is as interested in teaching you how to do it yourself, as in making a beautiful map of her own.

The very first thing she taught us was how to recognize our own geography and how to record the salient facts of it. Then she taught us to recognize just where we could build bridges and which gorges were just to dangerous to cross. She showed us which things to think about before we begin, which are the considerations that will make or break our end product, where we want to stop and think a minute and when we could sit back and just let the knitting happen.

Then she taught us to recognize and use basic steps to build our own roads. She showed us the starting point and taught us to understand why we start here, and not 3 steps left, before we begin to build up a lovely garment.

The she taught us how to do the complicated things, the things that seem insurmountable when you just sit down to knit. She taught us set in sleeves and how to engineer our own. There were shirt tails too, but these were just the fun at the end of the game or maybe the beginning, and why and how.

Sally taught us to write our own maps. It is the map to our own form and the roads she taught us to build lead us straight to the heart of what we enjoy wearing.

There was a lot of math in these classes, always a challenge for someone who has a problem with the number two. But the math wasn't scary math. It wasn't hypothetical math. It was a math that somehow I understood deep in my soul. It may have always been there and I just needed a good reminder to bring it into the light and reveal its true form. I see it when I knit, math based on more than just numbers and operators, and weird little algebraic letters. It was math based on the little ridges and valleys that appear, age old, as things flow off my needles.
Sally said she sees herself as a technician as much as anything else but I see genius behind it. If no one else sees a thing, and none can explain why, the person who does see and figures out why, is genius. Sally said that she is just giving us what was lost, but this too, takes eyes that see something just a little more than what the rest of us see.

So here I sit, awakened to all sorts of possibilities, knowing quite clearly what I am going to do next, not even bemoaning the fact of it. I'll be putting mohair shirt one aside for now, and will start mohair two. I am absolutely confident that I can make it be what is going to work for me.

I've never been the sort of person who needed to have everything written in stone before I start to travel, who relied on the quality of my maps. I have not been afraid of getting lost in uncharted territory, butI have been stopped, more often than I am comfortable admiting, by barricades and roadblocks and signs saying end of road. I don't have to worry about that anymore.

I know how to build the roads, I see the gorges clearly, and I am not afraid when it comes time to build a bridge.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Information Overload

I've been up and writing for quite some time, had my blog post all ready to go, and then looked at it and wiped it out. Par for the course when my brain is full of new information, and I did not sleep well.

Let me just say this. Rush Hour? Driving to work in rush hour with all you rush hour type folk?
Nuts. You are all nuts. Freaking nuts.

You all need to go back home, and just take the day off. OK? Go back to bed. You have my permission. Just get off the roads so I can arrive safely at my class.

Thank you.

You will now be returned to your previously scheduled knitting.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Looking for the unknown.

I've enjoyed all the classes I have taken so far, the lace class, the combined knitting class, the fair Isle class and so on, and in each I learned what I was meant to learn, but often, there has been some special magic. Sometimes, it wasn't what I was supposed to learn that changed me. It was the unintended thing that has changed me more.

I took a class and learned that decreases lean the direction the tips of your knitting needles are pointing as you knit the stitch. That made life a whole lot simpler, in my topsy turvy, I'm not doing what you are doing to get the same thing done, world. Just these small words, the context the instructor said them in, changed how I look at all increases and decreases.

I took a class and learned that when doing colour work, purl with the hand I would commonly purl with and knit with the uncommon hand. It wasn't something that we were directed to do, just something small that I would not have thought of on my own. Or at least not until many, many tears had been shed.

I listened to an instructor teaching how to do an afterthought heel (I already knew the technique) but one small sentence changed everything about how I look at picking up stitches.

Sally Melville is here and I expect to to learn a whole lot about knitting from her. I'm taking workshops that ought to help me adjust patterns and make things fit me, rather than some 'normal' body out there (Just who is that 'Normal' everyone keeps sizing things for anyway? I want to meet her and talk to her about what she is doing to the rest of us.)

The magic stuff takes a little longer. Time plus working with the new skills you learned make the unintended magic become clear. When it happens, it is like getting the class all over again. You take out all the bits and words and things you learned upfront, refining and refocusing them and make everything, every word come alive in just a little different way.

In some ways, today is exactly like every other day. It is unknown, but, like most days, I have a rough outline of the form of my day. Class at 9:00, lunch, class at 1:00 (ish). But because today isn't like every other day, I'm going to keep my ears, eyes and hands open for whatever the day brings. Who knows when and where magic will strike.

I'm not sure what is going on this morning with blogger. Forgive the formatting, its the program, not the writer. Reeeeeeally. (Ok, Fixed. Maybe)

Monday, 26 October 2009

Come Monday, it will be all right.

Alrighty then, this sleeping till 7:30  thing is quite decadent.  Nice, but really decadent feeling.
My knitting this weekend was severely limited by work.  We all know how this is, but darn, it seems like I got nothing done.  Yet, I did.

I knit a lot on a gift sock.  I knit a little on the ongoing bright socks, and I started one new little thing.  The new thing is a Pretty Thing.  

There are upmteen tiny balls of delicate things around the store.  Angora. Pure cashmere. Silk. Each delicate little ball has significantly less than 200 metres, so it can be hard to find little things to do with them and only a few hearty souls will invest in them in quantity.  I'm on a small projects kick and though I'd give this a try.

The yarn is a very brightly coloured Louisa Harding Kimono Angora.  It is the softest thing I have worked with in my life.  Its is almost too bright, but my coat is black and it is getting to be the silly season.  The time is right for it.  The ball of yarn says only 125 metres, so I may have to abbreviate it a little, but I think it will still be fine with just one ball.  Or at least I hope so.  The pattern is exactly as advertised.  Pretty.  Easy, and overall, pretty.  I can see more of these in my future.

It is going to be a very busy week here at Chez Needles.  Sally Melville is going to be in town for a couple of days of classes, and instead of my ususal sloth and knitting on a Tuesday, I will be deep in the art of knitting with a master.

Friday, 23 October 2009

Christmas Knitting

For long time readers, this is going to come as no suprise.  For quite some time, I have felt that knitted and crocheted toys are the perfect things for kids.  Of all ages.  There are some marvelous books on the market about knitted toys:  

So when my boss brought in a number of Jean Greenhowe books, is it any surprise that I was fascinated by them?  It ought to surprise no one that I am tickled pink by these.  I mean just have a look.  The Christmas special?  How does one resist the breakfast special?  

There is this.  Seriously, how could any sane knitter, knowing full well that Christmas is coming up, with a passel of grown-up sons, who don't need more hats or mittens not just fall for the little cave men (scroll to the bottom)? In a band?  

I knit all the sensible things.  I knit dishcloths and pot holders and socks.  I knit mitts and hats and scarves.  I'm knit some lovely lace and I am just starting to really get into sweaters, but sometimes, somewhere in the world there just has to be a little foolishness, a little whimsy. (Heaven knows, we don't find it on the news.)  If whimsy comes off my knitting needles, so much the better. 

This be foolishness perhaps, but life needs just a little foolishness.  That at least is as true at 51, as it is as 51 and a half.    

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Knitting Alchemy asked what the pretty first yarn was, and I realized that I hadn't named any of the other yarns.  

The first yarn is Red Heart sock yarn. I picked this up in Saskatoon when I was on my way to St. Pete's for Stitches Saskatachewan last year.  Besides being a cheerful knit, it is really a nice yarn.  If you have knit socks for any time at all, you know there are sock yarns that appeal more than others.  You know there are just certain yarns that your hands instinctively understand and want to play more with.

I admit that Paton's Kroy has always been one of these yarns for me though with the now much shorter yardage, maybe not so much.  Good thing I have a fair bit in the sock stash (So named because it is a separate stash from the other yarn and is never included when I think of stash. Convenient, yes?)

Then comes my favourite Cotton Fun, a Meillenweit cotton and wool with a little nylon, but just really really nice to wear.  Then comes a whole slew of other commercial sock yarn.  Austermann Step, DGB Confetti, On line, Lanna Grosso and the  list could go on and on.

Then there are the fancies, the specials, tha hand dyed.  There are the Socks That Rocks (which is almost a stash in itself.  Its a hard thing when you have relatively easy access).  There is the Colinette Jitterbug. Did I ever mention my fling with the Velvet Damson? Did I ever really talk about how the brilliant rich colours affect me when a bag comes from the distributor and you get the full power of vibrant, strong, rock solid, right there in front of you? (Makes me weak in the knees.)  There is Indie Dyer.  There is Cherry Tree Hill.

I mean, who knew that by mixing two fibres (usually), wool and nylon, you could get such variation?   Who other than sock knitters will ever find out?  There is part of me that has an urge to shout it out to the world...

Oh wait a second.  That is what I do.

So where does this nice little Red Heart yarn sit on my list of yarns?  Right there besides Kroy.  Kroy may in fact have to watch out.  This is strong competition.  

and the other yarns in the photos are, in order, Arequippa (alpaca wool and nylon), Australian Merino (pure new wool), And Diamond Footloose (wool and nylon)

Wednesday, 21 October 2009


I'm still working on this sock.

Proof I am a simple sort perhaps, but it really is fascinating.  What amazes me is that here I am, on my umpteenth plain sock and I still find the changes in the yarn keeps me occupied and interested.  And in this particular yarns case, I keep having the urge to giggle.  There is something about this hot pinky fuschia,  turquoise and sedate green and creams with rust and orange to top it off that just makes me happy.

I like plain socks.  I like wearing plain socks.  I like knitting plain socks.  I am a plain person who loves they way a plain knitted sock looks on my foot.  I have umpteen on the needles,  

I have knit miles of plain.  Plain plain, plain, and yet I am not tired of the endless stockinette.  It just works.  It is respite and rest from whatever else I am doing.  It travels and keeps me company when I wait. It hugs my feet and snuggles up to my toes in the nicest possible way.   I love a good plain sock.

And yet, this sock below, this long greenish monstrosity is making me batty.

I think this is the first sock yarn that I ought to have knit a pattern into.  This is the first sock yarn I have knit with that doesn't speak, doesn't talk to me, doesn't even pass by with a wave and a smile.  It just sits there.  Its Patons Stretch and I have a ton of it in my stash, and now I am going to have to knit a monkey sock or something just to use it up.

This is a pretty yarn.  It is wonderfully coloured, and yet somehow, colours or no, they missed the boat.  Sigh.  And I really wanted to like it.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

When you are restless.

First you find silly videos, but I know just how she feels.  And you just know there is going to be trouble with those scissors.

And then you do this.

And then you go try to figure out why your darn video won't embed in this new version of blogger, and what the heck they did with spell check.

Stupid Blogger

Monday, 19 October 2009

Sunday Morning

And because this is Canada,

this was our view bright and early Sunday morning.  The only snow remaining was a small pile where made when Mr. Needles shoveled the inches of snow off the deck.

On the upside, it is as much moisture as we have had all year, and it went into the ground.  We sorely needed it.

The knitting continues apace  but it is incredibly boring for blogging.  I am on to the front of the sweater I am working on in the Phil Light.  I worked on socks, but finished none.  I knit on the River Valley Shawl, but stopped last night when I found an error.  I knit on the Ilga Leja capelet.  I could not seem to settle.

I want to knit more on the sweater.  I can't wait to see it complete but I think the miles of stockinette are driving me batty after all the intense lace of summer.

When I could not settle to knit, I made yarn cakes.

This photo does absolutely no justice to the richness of this yarn.  Fleece Artist Blue Faced Leicester 2/8.  Sigh. It makes me want to spin the BFL I have in the fibre stash.  It is soft and strong, not the smooshy goodness of merino, but its own incredible take on just what soft is.  I ought to have ordered 2.  Still might source another.

Todays work is going to center around a blanket.  The owners of the coffee shop where we meet on Tuesdays had their first little one, and it felt right to knit them a blanket.  It is out of a lovely organic Cotton called Sprout, a sweet periwinkle blue.  It just needs  a little finishing. Seeing as the baby is 'finished' it is time for the blanket to be the same.

I really ought to go do some work now but I still feel deeply unsettled in my bones.  Antsy.  That is what it is.  I could be driven batty by the urge to knit a thousand things at once, without the will to stick to any of them.  I might be driven to doing the laundry.  Housework and cleaning the kitchen can't be far behind.   Sweet heaven, save me.  

Friday, 16 October 2009

Screwy weather

Our weather has been just a little odd this year.  Summer was cold and dry and then really hot and dry, then cold and dry and September was extremely weirdly hot and dry. Autumn is continuing the trend.  

What is wrong with these pictures?

This was yesterday morning, just as I was heading out to work.  There was a couple of inches of fresh snow and in almost every way, it was a nice morning.  

I'm sure you have all noticed the leaves on the trees.  September was so warm here, with no good killing frost until a day or so before the first snowfall.  Only a few trees have lost their leaves, and a few are turned yellow.  The rest are green leaved and ought to look quite pretty on a nice sunny day.  But unless the weather warms significantly very soon, the leaves will stay frozen on the trees till spring.  

Our forecast for today is warmer. The week ahead looks a little warmer, so maybe the leaves will have time to turn and fall.  If they don't it's going to be a hard winter for the trees.

October snow is fairly a normal event.  Halloween is snowy as soon as not.  But the green leaves?  Its almost disturbing with all the green here amongst the snow.  

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Full Speed Ahead

I came home from work yesterday feeling mildly better about the shirt and picked it up, compared it to another shirt I  like to wear, and just began to knit again.  I haven't used a full ball of yarn yet and be darned.  I can get another ball of it if I need it.  

I am just about at the armscye and the only doubt I have is the amount of decreases and increase used to make the shaping. Being short and rounded as I am, there just isn't a lot of distance between the hip curve and the bust curve.  The increases and decreases come a little faster, meaning the curve is sharper.  I'm actually wondering if I should shape at all.  It is entirely possible that what would work best for me is no shaping.  

The other reason the curve appaers more agressive is the magic of how I am making this top work for me without a lot of calculations.  On the bottom portion, to compensate for my more generous dimensions, I am simply using a lager needle.  The increased gauge is working.  It measures just about right against the shirt I paired it with last night for comparison.  

Shirt fit = OK, sweater fit = OK.  That is what I am hoping will happen.  

My last worry is length.  I know the legnth I'd like this to be, but I am not sure I have enough knit at the bottom to get there.  My fallback position is that I can take off the cast on edge, and simply knit down.  That one is easy, I just really hope I don't have to do it.  (knitting down will be my solution too, if the shaping is wrong too.  Snip it off, redo knitting down)

The biggest surprise in all of this is the yarn.  There have always been some Phildar yarns I like, but with their emphasis on blends with a low wool content,   they do get short shrift here and they do get short shrift from me.  They just have not inpsired me.  They never hit my imagination and made me want to knit them.  They never made me need to knit them.  This isn't an in your face yarn.  It isn't shouting at you to love it.  It isn't going to make you weak at the knees.  It is not a yarn that yarn that will bowl you over, but sometimes it is the quiet ones you ought to search out. From the moment i saw this yarn, I needed to knit it.

Phil Light, is quite nice.  Perhaps it is its haze of fibres, but it just feels warm as it slips along the needles. It isn't like knitting with wool, it surely isn't  like knitting with Kid Silk Haze, but it is really...nice. It is the sort of knitting that somehow just makes you sigh with contentment as you knit.  There is an ease in it, a peace and restfulness that is unexpected.  

I'm going to go knit a little more on it now.  I have a couple of hours before I have to be at work and starting the day feeling peace and ease on my hands is nice.   Just nice.  Really nice. 

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Definetly a Novelty

I did just as I planned yesterday.  I spun. I thought about knitting a shirt.  I contemplated yarn.  I met a sweet young man who now is the proud owner of the Baby Fair Isle sweater.     (No photos of him in it.  I wouldn't let mama disturb him)

I held sweet sleeping Fynn for a good long time.  Holding babies is such a novelty for me.   

I did spin up the rest of the fibre I had prepared.  The spinning went well.  After meeting Fynn, I was feeling a little brave and strong and capable, so I plied.  Plying is when I turn a perfectly good yarn single into a really fine novelty yarn. 

 This photo may not show it.  Indeed this photo shows novelty everything, but there really is a good single in there somewhere. Well there was when I started.  Regular plying is my better looking technique, but I wanted to Navajo ply this one and it was then that my troubles began. Even as bad as it is, it is soft and really looks quite use-able.  I'll knit a little scarf or a neck warmer with it, something that will rejoice in the novelty of it.  I did not fail with this.   I am just taking the long cut to learning something new,  my usual route.  

After a good wash, and setting the yarn to dry, I went back to some of the other knitting I have been doing the last few days as I try to decide just how to begin the shirt.      

 There were 4 balls of Noro Silk Garden Chunky being decimated by being moved aside over and over again on the shelf.  I really hated to leave these good yarns go bad so I put them out of thir misery and knit them into a variation on a Noro 2 row scarf.  I used the 2 with the more green gray lavender cast with a deep rich purple Cascade 220 for scarf one (Cascade held double), and 

held some rusty Rimu for the rich fuschia and pink red skeins.  Its monotone, but very fascinating to knit.  It is  as interesting watching how these yarns blend in as it is watching the high contrast of the original Noro scarf.  Subtely is thy name.  By the by,  if you get the chance to knit with Rimu, try it. A very nice yarn to knit with.  Warm somehow, right there in your hands.  (The Rimu is again, held double)

I've seen a bunch of scarves come into the store this year. There is a depth to what people are knitting. Cushy, deep stitches. Cushy, deep textures.  Sink your fingers into it knitting at its best. That is what people seem to be knitting, no matter what the style books say. Deep.  Thick.  Warm.  

Good thing too.  If our current weather is a harbinger of winter, we'll need it.      

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

A Crisis of Confidence

I sat down on Sunday morning and began to knit.  Yes, yes I do this every Sunday but I was working on something I have thought a lot about.  

I've not been given to knit with fuzzy yarns, but lately, there are mohair things of great beauty showing up everywhere.  My current obsession is from Sally Melville's Mother Daughter Knits.  The Classic Mohair Shirt   Sigh  I love this project.  I love the idea of this project, and from the moment I saw it, I began to hatch a plan to knit one.  

I found a yarn, Phildar's Phil Light.  It is a 100% nylon yarn, but it is soft, isn't going to itch and I love its muted colours. They are so muted they are almost not colours at all, just a hint of the colour to come in each strand of yarn.

I calculated for the changes I needed, I knit and then I recalculated, and though it is telling me it ought to be just fine, I am sitting here unsure of it.  I am suffering from a crisis of confidence in my yarn and my math skills (deserved) and my ability to measure.  You know how it is.  The measuring tape will lie.  Gauge will lie.  The yarn might even lie, though this seems to mannerly a yarn to ever do so.  I really really want this one to turn out.    

I think I need to step back and think, and calm my mind, set it to order.  If the math is right, and the gauge is on, and the knitting looks good, you must let it go and just knit, right?  So I knit on this, a sock in Australian Merino, 

and I knit on this, Ilga Leja's Cafe Capelet, in Woobu from Blue Moon.

I knit on a few other things too, but I need to save them for tomorrow.  

While I knit these alternate things, I planned, and thought and decided.  I decided I'm going to set aside the mohair yarn for now, and do up the same project in a different yarn of the same gauge.  This different yarn is going to be a yarn that I can take apart and knit a humdred times if I need to. When I am confident in the changes I must make, I will knit the mohair.    

So Tuesday is for spinning, but it is also for stash diving.      

Friday, 9 October 2009

Do you trust the numbers?

One of the standards we hold to at work, is to figure out the meterage of yarn you need for a project based on the meterage of the original yarns used.  We think it is a more accurate way to ensure our clients have enough yarn to complete the project when they are switching yarns about.

We take it on a ball band by ball band case.  You might think you know the amount of yarn on a ball, but you never know when a yarn company will make a great switcheroo.  Case in point.  Paton's sock yarn.  One old ball of Kroy versus one new ball of Kroy FX.    

Old label says 50 grams and 175 metres.

New Label says 50 grams and 152 metres

Yes these are mildly different yarns in the Kroy line up, but I checked with a ball of plain jane basic tan sock yarn against an older ball of plain jane in my stash of sock yarn.  The weight is the same.  Only the meterage has been changed.  And not to protect the innocent.  I'm wondering just how they keep the weight of the package the same.

A friend pointed this oddity out last week.  She found it out by running out of yarn, on a standard pair of socks, while working with a new ball of a long favoured yarn.  She went looking and here you have it.  

Anyway, I trust the numbers and pass this trust on to a client and  I trust it implicitly. For my own knitting, not so much.  I have a really hard time believing it when I think about making sweaters for myself.  There is a lot of ground to cover here, and a lot of stitches in a sweater.  The thought of doing it twice just because I ran out of yarn is almost unbearable.

When I personally buy yarn, I seem to buy enough to ensure that even my descendants, decades from now,  will have enough yarn from my stash, for sweaters.  I keep waiting to find out if I am wrong and yet...

Sometimes I am proved right.

The warm winter vest is complete and it turned out wonderfully for a first time, no pattern, knit from the top down project.  That isn't to say that I would not do a few things differently on the second go round but overall,  I am quite pleased.  The only problem is I ran out of yarn.  It is about 2 inches shorter than I would like - maybe 3 for complete comfort.  It is fine when I stand, but for sitting, the vest needed just a wee bit more.  I am out of yarn and the chance of the Mill having that same dye lot is zilch, so I'm going to have to call it good.

Next up Mr. Needles vest.  That is probably what I ought to work on next. That might be what I work on next.  Maybe.  I am pretty sure I won't run out of yarn for that one.  3 skeins each of about 3 different colour combinations?  One way or another, there is plenty of yarn for this vest.

Till I decide, I'm going to work on socks and finishing scarves.  There are two shawls calling my name too.  And then, before winter is done, there are some gloves with my name on it...

So much to knit, so little time.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

The First Blush of Winter

After a cold and dry summer, September, which plays the part of fall round here, was extraordinarily warm. Seriously warm. Unbelievably dry. Two weeks ago we were still in sandals contemplating air conditioning.

These last few weeks corrected that. We’ve had days of big winds bringing in the colder arctic air. It hasn't been extreme cold, just normal fall cold. It's just a little hard to get used to the dramatic change when most of us are standing here, just wondering why we didn't put the patio things away while the weather was nice.

We have a skiff of snow on the ground this morning. There is something settling about the first skiff of snow, something restful and peaceful, almost mystical. Time stops for a moment and dreams of crystal mornings with sun sprinkled snow crunching underfoot and frost thick on windowpanes dance through your head. You sip your coffee and think of snow forts and tobogganing down hills and skating outdoors on your uncles pond.

Your second thought is when you make your peace with winter and accept the need for thick coats, mittens, scarves and the fact that dressing up to go outside is sort of a pain.

Your third and longest lived thought has a lot to do with crawling back under your blankets and just staying there for the next 6 months. You regret that you can't.

I’ll stop a few more times today to look out the window and see the skiff of snow on the ground. I’ll admire the lacy way it clings to blades of grass. Then I’ll go on, as I must, accepting.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Smarties and the things you learn at knitting

Yesterday at knitting, Smarties came up in discussion.  And in one of those little twists the world makes as it spins, Smarties greeted me on my other favourite forum, the Achenblog.  (Yes dmd, every little girl did use the red as lipstick)

Every Canadian will know Smarties as the far tastier, more delectable progenitor of M &M's.  Smarties under their original name, chocolate beans, were first produced in 1882, and they have been produced in Canada since 1918.  Smarties are the quintessential Canadian Candy.

These wonderful candies are not sold in the US except by specialty importers. You poor poor people.  Will somebody fax these people some Smarties, please?  They are in serious need.  They know not what they lack.  Seriously.

And for the Americans, who are sadly lacking, the song that has been with us since childhood

Sing Along

"When you eat your Smarties,
do you eat the red ones last?
Do you suck them very slowly,
or crunch them very fast?
Eat those candy-coated chocolates,
but tell me when I ask,
when you eat your Smarties, do you eat the red ones last?".

(I'm probably violating all sorts of rules here)

Smarties are now being made with no artificial colouring and the self proclaimed Smartie aficionado among us said they are no longer as good as they used to be.  We contemplated many things.  Chocolate, candy coating, but mostly we contemplated the awful truth.  We contemplated artificial.

For the Smarties lovers among us, we must put out a call to Nestle. It is almost painful to say this, but could you put the artificial back?

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

If its Tuesday

Even as the lofty goals vest is working its way to completion, there are many other things going on here at the House of Needles.  If it is Tuesday it must be for spinning.   That is the Yarn Harlot's mantra and I hope that she won't mind if I make it mine.

It isn't that I am trying to be a copycat, but Tuesdays work for me right now.  The whole I'll spin when I am tired of knitting doesn't seem to be working.  I have not yet been tired of knitting.  I have been tired of a project, had tired hands, been tired and needed to go to bed, but never just tired of knitting.  I suppose this is a good thing considering how much yarn I have.

But to put spinning to a place where it is for when I am tired of knitting? Ain't. Going. To. Happen. I've tried to be diligent and spin just a little everyday, but in the throes of a fierce fascination for a knitting thing, not a whole lot else enters my head.  Tuesdays are already a different sort of day.  It's the day of afternoon knitting with buddies so I'll designate Tuesday morning for spinning.

I'll be spinning up the rest of this batt and I hope to ply it too. ( I'm going to try my hand at Navajo plying, since I only have one bobbin.)

I have a huge box of fibre from Louet, part of the purchase deal they had on this summer and a burgeoning stash,

(More burgeoning)

and if I don't start some serious spinning soon, it might push out the yarn.  You can see my quandry.  

Monday, 5 October 2009

Lofty Yarn, Lofty Goals

In the spring I went with a friend to Custom Woolen Mills near Carstairs, Alberta. One of the little goodness-es I brought home was the sort of chunky unspun yarn as was used in Cowichan sweaters lo those many years ago.

The plan was not for a full sweater. I think even in the coldest of winters, I would melt away wearing a full sweater of this heavy of a weight of wool. the plan, on seeing the yarn, was for a thick, warm, simply made vest.

And here it is. Vest under construction.

I know that we big girls are not supposed to wear big yarns. I know that fashion dictates a lot of heavy cabling in big yarn these days but sometimes you just have to go with what will work for you, to fit the situations of your life. Sometimes you just have to follow your inner rebel and wing it. So I am.

After my efforts in patternless sweaters, first with the Ganseys then with the enormously pleasing Fair Isle baby sweater, I took out my copy of Knitting From the Top Down. Away I went. Vest here I come.

This is going to be a plain zipper front vest, fit fairly close to minimize the look of the bulky yarn.

I am very happy with the fit of the top part, right down to the underarms. I am pleased with the short row shaping I did across the fronts. The first thing I have to do this morning is try it on and see if the work I did yesterday is right, and if the fit continues to be what I'm looking for.

I have another big skein of yarn to knit and two more days off. I would like it to be done before I go back to work on Wednesday. This might be a lofty goal, but lofty goal, lofty yarn. If you are going to wing it, aim high.

Friday, 2 October 2009


After a search for a good sturdy jersey fabric to line the wee sweater, I realized that no such beast was to be found in the lone store I had at hand, so I am knitting the linings. It will probably be faster to do this anyway. (I have spent some time contemplating if the sewn lining idea was just a way to weasel out on what seemed like the horror of knitted linings.)

Using the skills I learned preparing for the gansey class, I am knitting the lining on the sweater band perpendicular to the ribbed band.

A corrugated rib band stays pretty stable. It's not a severe pull in sort of ribbing, but the perpendicular knitting is helping to stabilise what pull-in there is. It is keeping square, square. I'm using the stitch where the ribbing was picked up along the sweater front and 1 stitch in from the cast off edge of the rib to knit the facing to, and it seems to be working OK.

It's producing a nice little ridge that fits right in with the way the sewn bind off looks. Had I known I would be knitting the lining, I probably would have left the stitches live, and just joined and cast off at the same time, but c'est la vie.

Since it has only taken a moment or so to knit the lining, I have to assume that I will finish this whole project up tonight. I might slip over to my niece's house and meet the wee fella some time this weekend.

And then, with the entire weekend ahead of me, I have no idea what I am going to do. Might have to start something new. Or change something. Or maybe finish something. No I don't like the sound of that last one. (Well, maybe)

It feels like the fullness of fall is upon us. I feel like there ought to be significant accomplishment. Let's see how far I get.

Thursday, 1 October 2009

The faster I go...

the behinder I get.

I know I ought to stop complaining, but it just seems like complete days are missing. Maybe weeks. Sigh.

I went shopping the other day for a new winter coat. I'm not looking for a heavy warm, outdoor activity coat right now. What I need is a wear to work sort of coat, a 'Sunday coat'.

(To explain that farm kid term, when I was a kid, we used to have complete wardrobes for Sunday. Dresses, gloves, fall winter and summer coats, stockings and yes, even when I was very young, hats to match. We also had 'school clothes' and we had what you changed into when you got home. Now my wardrobe seems to consist of work clothes - Sunday is more casual and work clothes double as Sunday clothes - and what best qualifies as painting clothes You know, those things that you would not want your best friend to catch you dead in and really only have value as something to paint in that you don't have to worry about getting splattered) An entire blog item as digression. Sorry. That is not where I was going with this.

My only winter coat will be fine for outdoor activities, but it really isn't up to snuff as a coat to wear to work. To cut to the chase, I went shopping.

Anyway, I was out shopping (I did find a really great coat) and noticed something that will make the heart of shawl knitter's everywhere dance in delight.

There be shawls there. Tons and tons of shawls. Big wide wraps in soft light fabrics. there were wraps in cables, knit from a factory. there were super wide long scarves, that could double as wraps in a pinch, and there was even a lone triangle wrap of enormous size.

Knitters go forth and finish those shawls. Make more. You are rich in the hottest fashion trend on the horizon.