Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Colonnade

Wow, how is that for a quick knit? I restarted this Monday evening and finished knitting it Tuesday morning. Tuesday night, I blocked it and today I am wearing it to work, where I just know there is a fabulous button for it.

This is the first thing I have done in very chunky yarns. First thing completed, and only 1 project more in anything remotely this chunky on the list. (There is a chunky vest in the stash somewhere) As a yarn to knit with, I cannot say I like chunky yarns. I don't care for big needles. They make me feel awkward, like a kid learning to hold a fork, and my hands get tired much faster than they do with smaller needles.

But if you have to knit chunky, knit something fun and knit with something soft. And delicious.


Like Meritwist. There just isn't a clunker yarn in anything that Punta Yarns makes. And the multi coloured Aurucania is a great complement to it. Warm and squishably soft. Very very nice.


These colours look badly matched in the photos right? You might be thinking 'she's gone loopy'. I started at loopy, if you must know, but the colours are not displaying true at all. The Meritwist solid teal side of blue suits the turquoise top, and the turquoise top isn't quite so umm, turquoise. But I do understand where you are coming from.

I wasn't really sure about these myself. On top of being unsure about colours, I wasn't sure about the yarn choice. The Meritwist is just a 100 m per skein and I had 2. Manos Classica is about 125 m. I really did not want to have to buy more. The Aurucania (no idea how much I had) was chunkier than the gauge called for, and did not get even remotely close to the stitch count the pattern said I ought to have before I switched to the ladder lace. I wasn't sure about chunky yarn. Designs on the far side of worsted are usually are admired, and passed over. I thought about giving it away the entire time I was knitting it. It was not 'mine' right up to the moment I tried it on.

Once I put it on everything changed. It fits exactly like it does on the dress form. The shoulder marks the change between yarns. Serendipity. The lace fronts hang just so, drawing the eye in, looking as it it were form fitted. Serendipity. The back hangs to mid back, the shoulder to mid elbow. Serendipity. It is small enough to be worn as a collar. It is big enough to be seen as a shawl. It is open without being too lacy, girly without being dainty, chunky without being heavy.

It is, quite simply, me.

Thank you Steven for coming up with it. Thank you Knitty for seeing genius!

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Running Blind

I've been working with a lovely ball of an Arucania hand dyed. When I saw the new Knitty, I knew that Colonnade was perfect for it. I was pretty sure that the new south side River City Yarns store (yes there are 2 locations, with just a little different yarn selection) had exactly the second yarn I would need, in just the right colour and they did. The rich deep blue is Meritwist, a thick yummy yarn, two strands of their Merisoft yarn spun together.

I started this project the day I first saw the fall Knitt. Following the pattern, I began on 6 mm needles, but I wasn't pleased with the fabric it made. The fabric turned out too firm. My yarn choice was a bulkier than Manos Classica. I ripped and reknit on an 8 mm needle. Much better.

Because I had worked to the lace once before, I was pretty comfortable with the pattern. When I got to the lace, I gave my usual attention to reading the pattern (IE, not much, scant, minuscule) and knit away. Just as I was ready to splice on the final ball of yarn, I thought I'd like to see how it was looking. I put the wrap on a long cable, and checked. I was really pleased but for one thing. Well, two. I could see that two rib increase lines, looked very different than the rest.

This is a shot of one of the ribs I was sure I was right on. Note the lovely flared away from the centre look.


And this is a shot of one of the ones I was not sure about. See the parallel lines?

My heart fell. The yarns were so pleasing, everything was working up so fast, so pleasantly. How could I have done this? The whole idea of ripping back was staring me in the face, and all I could do was weep. I was 2/3 complete and I did a big thing wrong. The idea of looking at the pattern to see what I ought to have done was so appalling I put the project down and went to bed.

This morning, after a bracing cup of coffee, I felt strong enough to check the pattern. I knit it right. There are two different increase lines (scroll to the bottom photo). I have not screwed up.

Let me repeat that again. I have not screwed up. It might be a while till I can say this again about my knitting, and I want to say this as often as I can. Not a screw up. A little positive reinforcement is never a bad thing.

You know the old song, " running blind, running free, running into the sun....I don't know what I'm running from, I'm just running... running on...." (Jakcson Browne)

That pretty much sums up my approach to knitting. Knitting blind, knitting free. Yup.

**Jo, and that is how I sounded so causal with the steeking. Steeking blind. I'll never be so casual again.

Monday, 28 September 2009

Flinging yarn

Well, I've finished the baby sweater and I am pleased, tickled pink, and just utterly delighted at what happened when I started flinging yarn about without a pattern. It needs finishing. Tons of ends to weave in - you'd think I could have remembered to work in the ends as I went, but no. I'm not that smart. Except for a few occasions, these ends need to be worked in. It needs small facings knit (or sewn in if I can find a sturdy looking jersey knit fabric) to cover and tidy up the rough steeked edges. The button holes need to be reinforced with a nice crisp bit of embroidery. And it needs a good blocking too.

I am so pleased. Dancing about the room pleased. Flying to the moon pleased.

I still have a ton of yarn, so I am going to make a pair of jeans from that delightful Blu pattern from Knitty, and if there still is yarn left, I'll attempt to make a hat or socks or something.

Note to self, you don't need the a full bag of yarn (10 balls) if all you plan to make is a baby sweater. Even if you are an obsessive worrier about running short of yarn.

Friday, 25 September 2009

Cast offs

Today I have to write up a short bit about stretchy cast offs versus traditional cast offs for the gansey class, and then a quick how to, to make a full size gansey sweater.

So yesterday I played with knitting things that needed casts offs. I finished sock one of that nice rust coloured pair with the Jeny's surprisingly stretchy bind off.


My technique needs improving but I see what she is getting at. It is very stretchy, and will be tidy with practise. When it is done right, with the yarn overs wrapped the opposite way before every stitch, there will be a tidy row of nubs just below the cast off. You can see this on two knit stitches to the far right. Well, you can see it far better on my computer screen, but look for the tan coloured nub about 4 stitches from the right edge. That one shows it up best. There are way better photos on the net already, and a few reviews of the technique are out there too. Cat Bordhi endorses it, and I think, with practise, we can make our knitting look as tidy as her sock in the Knitty article did. Quite nice and I'll use it because it is far tidier than what I have been doing now and doesn't take a lot of time.

Then, for the sleeve edges on the Baby sweater, I used Elizabeth Zimermann's sewn bind off. This one is enormously pleasing.


It is rhythmic, makes a crisp edge, very well matched to a garter stitch project, or indeed any project where matching cast off to cast on matters - it looks a lot like a long tail cast on edge. It is easy and speedy to work. You do need to have a needle at hand, but I always have at least one with me anyway.

And I still hate my hair. And no sister dear. No photos. Shudders.


Thursday, 24 September 2009

Hair

I have this fantasy where I pretend my hair is good again. When I was young, I had really nice hair. By young here, I mean anything under the age of 40. I'm not talking about that perfect childhood hair that our grandmother said we had, but the hair I had when I was 39.

It was lustrous without being hard to handle. I understood it. After years of struggle, I knew what to do to make it be good and I was happy with it. We lived together nicely. We had an agreement dammit. It would behave and I would do what it wanted. I understood it kinks its oddly placed waves.

The last couple of years, my hair has let down its end of the bargain. First it began to thin on top. I had to comb my hair differently than I had all the rest of my days. Lately, I have become allergic to every shampoo they now make, I am reduced to baby shampoo, my hair has become straw like. Distinctly fuzzy. If Fuzzy Wuzzy was a hair it would be mine.

I am reduced to using hot rollers in my hair before work each day. Me, who never needed to do a darn thing. You can hate me now, it's OK, it was part of my agreement with my hair. I didn't bug it. It didn't bug me. The style was unfussy and usually layered or tucked behind an ear. All in all, not demanding, more or less carefree. I never spent time on my hair.

These days, the fuzz defeats whatever good is left in my hair. If I don't use the hot rollers, the fuzz goes wild. By the time I get to town, it has flared up and out so the ends are above my ears. It is cartoon hair. My hair could span doorways. It does bouffant without any of the usual things you need to do to make hair bouffant. Even with hot rollers, by the time I get done with my work day, it has grown and pouffed out to a horrifying degree. I fear I may yet be driven to putting rollers in my hair at night. I may yet wear my rollers to church (which if you were a prairie girl from small farming community you would understand this perfectly. It is a sin of the highest order).

Last night I thought I was dreaming about webs, but I woke up with fuzzy dry hair all over my face and my eyes, and in my mouth.

This is ridiculous. I'm getting a good haircut today to see if I can rid myself of this pile of straw. If I can't rid myself of this pile of straw, If I am to be permanently allied with this pile of straw, I am determined to find a decent way to deal with it.

So if you happen to be in a salon in town today, and a crazed looking woman with wild hair comes in and gets a little strange because she has to wait, consider giving up your chair. I cannot vouch for anybody's safety.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Goal? What goal?

I missed my goal yesterday by a mile. I am just now working on sleeves. No bands, no collar. Just sleeves, and not even complete sleeves at that. I had to stop and think along the way but I know feel perfectly comfortable that the sweater will be loved.

I knit about half the first sleeve. I was using the alternating stitches that I used in the top of the sweater, but the more I knit, the more uncomfortable I felt about it.

I love stranded work and I love the way the sweater is turning out, but it is a baby sweater and it needs to be functional. So what is wrong with this picture?


Strands. Little loose strands. Tiny hands and dainty fingers. Tiny fingers and tiny arms being put through a small sleeve opening as you try to dress a squirming young one. Or a sleeping young one. And that is what is wrong with a heavily worked sleeve. The small opening and the teeny little fingers just are not a good mix. The last thing a new mom needs is tiny hands getting caught on all manner of little loops. I'd hate for her to say, ' I like it but its such a pain to put on'.

I ripped back the lovely but impractical sleeve and will knit a plain sleeve with the corrugated rib bottom.

It took a while to think this all out, and like all my good thinking these days, it happens when I knit. Combine thinking time with afternoon knitting with friends, and voila,


nice bunch of work on the sock.

Some new work, some replacing work, a little thinking. Just about right for the day.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

On the Strand

Yesterday was a very busy day. When I first got up, I did this.

Then, I worked on a sock.

A little later I did some more of this,
And then I cleaned the laundry room. Then I made dinner and knit on a sock while it cooked.

Then I did this.

I'm so gosh darn pleased with it, I'm going to show you twice.

Today, my day will revolve around steeking, knitting front bands, saddles and sleeves. If the knitting goddess hold with me, I'll knit the collar too. In between, I'll go have coffee with my knitting friends and work on the sock.

These are lofty goals, I know, and the knitting goddesses may very very well knock me down, but so long as the steeking works, I'll accept whatever the day brings.

Monday, 21 September 2009

Evolution or Revolution?

Notice anything different in this picture?

Since I began knitting socks, I have avoided using short needles. I was always afraid of stitches falling off. My fear was about at the same level as my fear of running out of yarn, which as my stash shows, is just a little ridiculous. Yarn to the point of ridiculous. (I'm working on it. Its like legumes, only softer.)

As you can see, I am using two sets of short needles here. Not the really short 4 inch ones, but a nice comfortable 6 inch needle.

I'm trying these because winter is coming, and so are longer sleeves. The 8 inch needles keep jabbing into my sleeves. I don't want to have to push up my sleeves all the time, and I really don't want to have to shorten the sleeves of every warm thing I own.

It occurred to me one chilly day back in August, how much I was beginning to dislike the longer needles. Unbidden, unlooked for, unasked, in popped the thought, I should try shorter needles.

I'm trying out bamboo needles too. While the bamboo are OK, and I am not breaking them with my Vulcan death grip, as I expected, the yarn just does not move as easily over the needles as they do on the other short set. Not my first choice.

Tools are such an individual preference. The way you hold your hands, micro movements you have developed, the way you like the knitting to move across the needles, warmth or coolness of the needle in your hand and sometimes even commitment to the environment, can factor in, to make a needle you love versus a needle you are so so about. It's kind of nice that we have all these options.

While I'm enjoying my foray to shortie needles, I no longer have to have shorties in every size. When I start a pair of socks, I just grab 5 needles that look about the same and go. I get out the gauge only when I blog about it. This morning while checking over the needles in the socks on the go, I realized something. All the pairs I routinely pick up to knit are on 2.5 mm needles. The socks from the bottom of the knitting bag, are on 2.25 and 2.0 mm needles. It seems my hands know what I like even as my brain tries to use different sizes for different results.

I'm a 2.5 mm needles for sock sort of person, and now I also am a short needles sort of sock person. Just another step in the evolution of a knitter.

Friday, 18 September 2009

It's Friday?

I'm still looking for Wednesday. I have no idea where it went, but I am pretty sure Wednesday didn't show up this week. Maybe it was Tuesday that went missing. I'm not sure, but there is a distinct lack of hours in this particular week.

I needed to knit another Baby Gansey to the point where saddles and sleeves are knit, and write up my notes for this second class. I did the knitting, but I cheated and knit a few rows, then did the gusset, and now have this very very short thing that is ready for saddles and sleeves. I think I'll keep this sample in a permanent state of ready to knit for session 2, so I don't have to go through this the next time we hold this class.

This class is light weight in comparison to the first class. Both the ladies are familiar perpendicular work, and all this ones does is to do the perepndicular join on the purl and knit side of the work. There will be homework. Both sleeves must be knit before the third session. There will have to be a quick round of one sort of bind off. We could put the end stitches on holders but they might just want to complete them before they move on to the collar.

Here it is almost 6:30 AM and I'm sure I woke up at 4 and was ready to get moving, but somewhere between waking up, thinking out my list for the day, and actually getting out of bed, someone stole more of my precious hours. All of a sudden it was 6, the alarm clock was buzzing, and I was behind.

When I find out just who it is that is stealing all this time from me, well, I'll probably knit them socks, liking socks as I do, but I'm going to knit their socks just a little too small for their feet.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Dear Amy

I have a problem. The new issue of Knitty came out, and while I usually admire many projects, this issue is different. Not just liking a few things. Liking the vast majority of things. Liking it all. Wanting to make many many of these things.

Have you seen the sweaters? There is this one and this one, very Renaissance and well named, and this one. Really, how many sweaters can a person make in a winter.

Then last night at knitting we were talking about the socks (which I had not yet delved into). I mean the HatHeel sock? Come on. That is almost killing me. And these? I mean I knit plain ordinary socks. I like plain ordinary socks. It doesn't help that I have an absolutely stunning Colinette yarn in a rich Velvet Damson shouting 'knit this sock with me' in my ear. And this one? Well, I can't bear to look again.

And then shawls and scarves? I mean really. And then this?

My covet cup runneth over, Amy. I knew exactly which yarns I have and which ones I would need to pick up for these designs, before I even read the pattern descriptions.

After seven years, fresher, stronger and better than the issue before. Its hard to know how to say thank you for the great issue. I'll keep looking but this year, I'm going to click on the adds more. Its the one thing I can do for a first rate publication.

Signed

Knitters Anonymous
Edmonton Chapter
Name withheld so my husband doesn't find out.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Turn up your Volume.

Each spring we see the cranes flying overhead as they go north to their nesting grounds. Its the call that you hear first. So clear.


video

This is the first year we caught them heading south. Turn up your volumes and listen.

I expect to hear this song as they move south for another week or so. Once you know it, you can't miss that heart breaking fluid song.

Fly on Sir Crane, fly on, till the waters are clear of ice and the weather is warmer. I'll be watching for you next year.

Updated:

Drat it all. The birds are too small to see, but they are there, a tiny line of departing crane, just over the tip of the spruce. Its a bird, its not a bug....

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

I'm here, just sleepy

We were up at the lake, closing the season so to speak. What an absolutely marvelous way to end a season of camping. Nary a cloud in the sky, very warm for September, into the upper 20's C daily, and breezes were few and far between. The only problem was it wasn't raining, as it ought in September. I suspect I won't complain too much. No lake photos. I forgot my camera.

There was much knitting.

Sum total for a weekend of knitting: One finished pair of ongoing socks, yarn DBG Confetti. One new pair for me complete, the very very nice Stained Skeins hand dye. A shortie, I know and it may be a cop out to count it as a full pair, but that is what I like to wear. One pair just started, Patons Stretch.

I tried to knit on the Easy Drop Stitch Scarf too. It would have been so nice to finish that, but I made an error in the first row I knit, so I put it aside till my brain was thinking again. After the self provided stress of the Gansey class, it was a relief to sit down and just knit on aimlessly. I love the end product of socks, but even more I love that it is idiot simple knitting. Sometimes, you just need that.

I'm pleased to report that Gansey class went well. The ladies were challenged just enough to have fun. Class one ends with a lot of homework and I must catch up with them. The second class will be about working on shoulders and I'll need an active sample to show them what to do.
No stress, just knitting, but it will be a challenge to get it complete.


One last gratuitous shot of good sock things. Each time I go in to work, there is yet another little jewel on the shelf. Friday, the world was in sync with the knitting I planned for the weekend, and just look. Sockly goodness from Kristin Nicholas with Nashua. Beautiful warm rich dense colours to suit the fall just so.

Off to work. Well not work, but I have a mildly delayed spinning date with Maggie Casey this morning. There will be handspun yarn here. Quality is yet to be determined, but there will be spun stuff here.

Friday, 11 September 2009

How Knitty changed my life.

Indigirl asked us to post about Knitty and how Knitty changed my life. I'm not really sure if Knitty changed my life. You see I found Knitty before I found knitting and knitting indeed did change my life.

I was looking for socks. Even as a crocheter, socks looked very very interesting. I had that great sock book, Crocheted Socks, 16 Fun to Stitch Patterns, and I really wanted more. I was familiar with Crochet Pattern Central, and decided to check out Knitting Pattern Central just to see what was up.

There magically, was the link to the Unviersal Toe Up Sock Formula, and the rest of Knitty. I recall spending a lot of time at Knitty, just looking around, liking shapes, wishing I knit. The change from wishing to knitting happened when the Yarn Harlot mentioned that there were many different stykles of knitting. That sent me on a quest. What kind of knitting did I do? Knitting Help.com and oddly enough, a stuck internet connection, stuck on exactly the part of the video I needed, took me the rest of the way. I saw what I was doing differently when I knit and everything became clear.

After that the whole knitting thing snowballed and well, I talk about that all the time. Knitting did indeed chagned a life. Knitting gave saved me from a life with numbers (powerful bad when you can't count to 2). Knitting with its small focus, and it being the one small thing that it is, with the endless possibilities of yarn, gave me the power to see that leaving a bad for me job was not the end of my world, that maybe, just maybe it was the beginning.

I came to Knitty as a knitter with the Fall 2007 issue. I fell in love with Muir and Mr. Greenjeans just like everybody else. Juno Regina is in there too. I and many of the local knitters have an abiding and long standing relationship with Juno. I fell in love with every issue, and way too soon, was as familiar with the Knitty Archive as I was with my favourite books I found the many times knit by me, Calorimetry. I wait eagerly, with the hundreds of thousands of others, for each and every issue.

Don't get me started on what happened when I began to read Knitty Spin.

Knitty was not alone in changing my life, but it sure helped. Knitty is there when I need it, like an good friend. If I'm ever looking for just a little something, it is to Knitty that I go to first. Knitty is ideas and projects and forever inspiration. Knitty is part of a string of possibilities that are working magic in my life.

Not every knitter I meet knows about Ravelry. Not every knitter I meet knows how vast the knitting world is on the net but every knitter, each and every one who has the internet, has heard about Knitty.

And those that don't have the net at home, are going to the library to find you. That says a lot.

Thursday, 10 September 2009

It is what it is.

It finally hit me last evening, that I am ready as I can be for part one of the class. Till now, I have been worried that my samples were not clear enough, that what historical information I have wouldn't be enough, that people would find themselves bored to tears.

But I have finally accepted that it will be what it will be. I'm done knitting new little samples obsessing over the 'perfect' one. I'm not a technically perfect knitter. I'm not sure I ever will be. I keep working on it and that is enough. Maybe my mildly flawed earliest baby gansey sample will inspire other knitters to keep trying, to keep improving. Maybe my strange technique of knitting will help out some other soul.

What I am is a decent knitter, an adventurous knitter and most assuredly an enthusiastic knitter. I think these are the things that come across when I talk about knitting.

Knitting may not be big in the grand scheme of things, this pulling of a loop of string though another loop of string. It might not be ground breaking and it will likely never hit the headline news but in its own small way, knitting can help. It can help rebalance some of the parts of our modern western lives that are so dreadfully out of whack. It helps us understand that pulling back and redoing are not things to fear, are not ever failures. It helps to put firmly in mind that each and every time we screw up we are just giving ourselves little stops along the way where lessons can be learned. There is something about focusing on one small loop at a time that makes the bigger, harder, more serious things seem easier to bear, easier to understand, easier to cope with.

Sorry, I got a little carried away. It happens. The rest of my day is going to be errands and blocking all the wee samples for the class. There might be one sample series that I will reknit, but first we'll see what blocking will do for it. There are ends to weave in on my first little pink sample sweater and copies of notes to be made. There is a chart to be worked up, and graph paper to be prepared. Small details all, but more importantly, my head is ready..

I'll get nerves tomorrow, no doubt. I'll have to watch the coffee consumption so that I don't talk to fast. But these are tomorrows things, and I can leave them be. The morning is bright, there is knitting on my needles. I can't think of a nicer way to start a day.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

There are always socks

Even when the knitting of bits and pieces and samples for class is getting me down, there is always the comfort of socks. Nothing stunning, no thinking involved, just socks.

These look marvelous in a plain jane for my husband sort of socks. He needs another couple of pairs, and this very nice sturdy DGB Confetti yarn is just the ticket. DGB did a really masterful palette last spring, colours, designs, all sorts of interesting things, that I am really looking forward to knitting up. They are all on my must knit these list. I'm hoping to get a few more pairs of socks done before the end of September.

Mr. Needles made the comment last night that we ought to see how long we can go before we turn on the furnace this year. It is just us now, and the cat, and there isn't any reason we can't tough it out. Part of me wants to cry out, 'wait, there is a reason. Its freaking cold and my fingers don't work when it is cold' and part of me enjoys the idea of the challenge.

Its all about layering, and with all the shawls I have made, even when I am bundled in fibre, I can still knit. No Ralphie's little brother syndrome for me. My arms are still free. There is the heavy socks to dig out and the long johns to unearth. There are the neckwarmers and wristers from summer knitting to put on. There is the unfinished but now pressing toque to knit using the lever style knitting learned earlier this year and in the deep recesses of my stash there is some heavy weight 6ply roving from Custom Woolen Mills to knit up a very warm vest for lounging in at home.

If I don't get to these projects soon, I'll just pile the yarn around me in skeins, and camp out there till spring. Or till we cry uncle and the furnace comes on.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Eastern European Yarn

My eldest son was traveling in the Ukraine, and I asked him to bring me back yarn should he bump into it. He spent time searching, though I really did not want it to be a task. I am delighted with what he came home with.
I've done the burn test and am certain that it has a fair bit of acrylic in it, but it is lovely and soft and I really do like the way the colours are coming out.
Some of the ladies I have shown it to wondered if it might be a sock yarn. It is the right gauge, and it has a sturdy sort of character to it. The colouring works out rather like a sock yarn and there seems to be about 400 metres to the skein.

One skein is the beginning of a shawl and skein two will be a...Well I haven't decided yet. If I can find a coordinating light yarn, a mohair I think, it might become part of a lightweight sweater. Think of the shirt style mohair confection in Sally Melville's Mother Daughter Knits or the soft delicate mohair sweater from the second Mason Dixon Knitting book.

While I am still busy writing up class notes for the Gansey class, I am also mid dilemma about fibres. Louet had a fantastic deal through the summer with my wheel and I have a credit of $200 for fibre to use. The store is putting an order in today, so I have to come up with a list of the fibres I want. The only way to rationally do this is to go through what I have and see what I need.
I think I am going to stick with natural colour fibres. Down the road, I'd like to play with dyeing and I'd like to experiment with how the different colour fibres take dyes and see what kind of fun I can have.

All this means I ought to face up to my fibre. Or not. I'm getting pretty good at compartmentalising such things. I seem to have a knack for knowing exactly how much I have container by container, bag by bag, and yet I am able to shield the full and cumulative sum of it all. It seems I choose not to be aware.

I think I am just going to close my eyes and go blindly forth. One day I will spin it all anyway and I am not sure I can face the trauma of accepting that I have yet another stash.

Friday, 4 September 2009

On books and dreams.

Books have been as constant to me as doing some kind of handwork, as constant and as fascinating.From the moment I could read the written word, and possibly before I was absolutely smitten. That I have embroidery books is a given. That I have knitting and crochet books is a given. That I have many many novels is a given. (That I need more of all of these, is also sadly a given.)

What I have never really understood is why my library includes so many of those mysterious publications full of house floor plans. I'm not going to be building a house any time soon. I'm not even going to be building a house any time far from now. I don't have the stamina.

I'm pretty sure I don't buy these. That would imply intent, and there really isn't any intent. It just happens. I'd like to think the book fairies put them on my shelf for me to discover in the morning. Or maybe the faeries toss them into my baskets when I stray to close to the book aisle at the drug store and grocery store. Nonetheless, every so often I find a new one, and it comes home with me.

For years, particularly in the very small farm house, I dreamed of grander places, more space, better basements. I liked to play 'if I lived there'. I dreamed of grand McMansions and spaces filled with beautiful things, but now I'm more likely to look at all the nooks and crannies and rooms and wonder how many hours would it take to clean. My dreams are still filled with floor plans, but the plan I would choose is very different now.

Some people find dreaming of what they don't have makes them sad and sorry for what they do have. Not me. Dreaming, taking a few minutes to lose myself in the pages of a book, or a movie or a bunch of floor plans is just a way to wander through another story, and visit for a spell. Its just a little vacation in an otherwise very settled sort of life.

Like the best part of any vacation, coming home, putting on your schlepping slippers (try saying that fast) and the comfortable pants and sleeping in your own bed on your own pillow is a relief. So it is with floor plans. I can dream of McMansions and fine, epic spaces but I get to come back to my cozy warm home.

At least the house will feel warm and cozy if I get some more socks knit up before the cold comes.

Thursday, 3 September 2009

A knitters version of hell

Since the day I discovered knitting socks, I have not been without at least one pair in my bag and very often two. It's a comfort knowing that there is always a little something to work on in your bag.

The other day, for the first time in years, I looked in my bag for socks and I realized I had none. I had shawls. I had gansey samples, I had scarves, but nary a sock in sight.

For just a moment, I honestly did not believe it. I felt a thud in the pit of my stomach. Knots formed and I could instantly feel the acid tap turn on. My world wobbled on its axis. I felt bereft. And lonely. And very, very scared.

I am never without socks. I have sock projects scattered all over the house. Some in my room so I can knit before bed. There is almost always a sock something in the dining room or kitchen. There is a little pile in my study, and I often forget one in Mr. Needles study where the computer resides.

But to have no socks instantly at hand. Shudders. I took my seat kind of blindly, deep in shock. No socks.

The really sad thing is this happened in a yarn store. The store was holding a presentation by a yarn distributor and the speaker was beginning to speak. I was sitting at the back of the store with the bulky and the sock yarn is at the front. I would have knit a bulky yarn sock but for one thing. The needles are at the front.

My bag was tucked in the staff place for such things, and with the presentation under way, I could not even go back to get the scarf without causing a ruckus.

I pondered hyperventilation. I pondered panic. Instead I did what ordinary people do and just sat there.

This is what hell is going to be like if you are a knitter, isn't it? Yup.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

My Italian Grandmother

A special event at the store meant that I worked yesterday afternoon. I haven't worked Tuesdays all summer. It meant that I could make it to the Tuesday afternoon knitting group, but it also meant that I missed seeing Theresa.

Theresa is my boss' mother in law. She is well into her eighties and spends just a couple hours a week at the store but in so very many ways, she is pivotal to making the store the warm and charming place it is.

Theresa knits like a master, and you have to see what she is working on now. Its a very simple seed stitch shawl, but it is stunning because every so often she is putting in rows with a strand of fine mohair running though it. It is the simplest and loveliest most breathtaking thing. When its ready for display, everyone is going to want the pattern.

Theresa does all sorts of little things,detail things, things that you don't notice till they are not done. We all know when she is away for a week or two. There are little things not getting done, that make the difference between a well oiled machine and something that works but squeaks. There is more.

She takes care of us in that warm and special way only a grandmother has. You see, Theresa bakes us cookies.

She doesn't just bake us cookies, she bakes us traditional Italian cookies. Once in a while she bakes us real home made biscotti. You know how the store bought biscotti is dry, a bit crumbly and sweet? Well a true home made biscotti is baked well through but isn't dry at all, doesn't crumble, and is sweet just so. It is food for the gods and the hardest thing to do is to have only one, when you really want to sit down and savour two or three with you afternoon tea, and the heck with the customers. I know I am not the only one who feels that way.

Then there is the very thin little cookie. I think it is dipped and fried only for a moment before it is pulled out and dropped off the cookie form. Light as air, just a hint of almond flavour and the smallest hint of honey sweetness. The airiest cookie in the world.

She brings in honey cake that is just warm and wonderful with morning coffee. She makes peanut butter and honey cookies. I could go on, but I'm getting hungry.

None of these treats have calories. Theresa says so and I, for one, believe it.

It was so good to see her yesterday. It was so nice to chat as we worked getting yarns ready for the store floor. She is charming and kind and the warmest soul on earth. My German heritage and prairie girl roots are a long way from the sunny Italian shore of her birth, but in every possible way, Theresa is my Italian grandmother.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

My name is...

I spent some time last week, gathering together the few beads I have and putting them in one place. I was afraid that I would lose track of the beads that I used for the little green scarf. With the project done, they no longer needed to stay with the yarn, and maybe one day, there would be another use for the leftovers.I put them all together in a seldom used drawer and never gave it a moments thought.

This morning, I was thinking about the shawl I have started, the one I mentioned yesterday, that will probably take most of the fall to complete, and my thoughts were straying to beads. I came downstairs this morning to look, once again, at the beads I have chosen for this yarn. I was kind of looking forward to getting them out from one tidy place.

I was just going to lay some of the pretty pink beads on the yarn to remind myself how pretty this delicate pink confection of a shawl was going to be.

I had a little trouble seeing the pink bead containers. There seemed to be a lot of stuff in there.

I pulled out these. Oh right. I bought these before I had any pink yarn, because I knew at some point in time, I was going to need pretty pink beads for a soft lovely pink yarn. Why I knew I was going to knit a pink shawl is beyond me. I am not a pink person. I am not a rose colour person. These pretty beads may have made me decide to knit with pink yarn. I really don't remember exactly how it happened.


Then I came across these. I bought these sweet little things the day I bought the soft pink yarn. Sweet pink yarn, soft white pearly beads. A perfect combination. I completely forgot about these after I realized the pink yarn wasn't going to be up to the severe blocking the River Valley Shawl needs.

I came across a bunch of clear silver lined beads too. These I remember buying. I bought fairly large scale with no clear project in mind. A clear silver lined bead goes with every colour yarn, right? They would look very good with the soft pretty pink yarn too. Sparkle without colour, methinks.

There seemed to be a lot of beads in there. There seemed to be a lot of beads bought for pink shawls in there. I finally put my hand on the soft pink beads I was thinking of this morning. I bought these when I renewed the car license plates last week. The bead store is right beside the registry office. Sigh. Pretty though, very pretty, and probably the ones I'll use. Maybe.

I pulled out all the beads bought with knitting in mind. I'm not sure how I feel about this. It is mere months since I started contemplating knitting and crocheting with beads. I only have one book on the subject, and it is a tiny thing for wee beaded bags. I'm not a serious knitting with beads sort of person. Really I'm not.

... ...

Clearly, this isn't a yarn drawer anymore. It is a bead drawer. The yarn that is in that drawer is way, way way at the back. Maybe it's time to acknowledge the bead stash. Maybe acknowledging that it exists as a stash will help me recall the beads I have and how I meant to use them before I buy x many thousands of beads for a single pink yarn project. Maybe I ought to accept that knitting with beads is interesting and that I am not at all averse to a little sparkle with good yarn. Maybe I ought to put these beads for knitting together with the beads I have from making jewelery with my nieces, so I can see how bad it really is. Maybe I ought the acknowledge the beads before they take over two drawers.

My name is Needles and I have a bead stash.