Friday, 30 November 2007

Still no knitting pictures

And no crochet pictures, no embroidery pictures. All I have today is words, and darn few of those. I'm working on socks still, because I really would like to get some small things done for Christmas, but these plain jane socks don't leave a lot of room for exciting pictures.

I have been thinking about toes though. I greatly prefer toe up socks. Part of it is that I am avoiding ribbing as a way to begin, but also it's the nature of a toe itself.

I don't use anyones fancy anything for a toe recipe. I just cast on 8-12 stitches and knit them one way, pick up the back loops and use that to knit down the other side, and then increase one stitch at either side till I have enough stitches. Its simple and produces a pleasing line of bumps at the toe. Some may not like it but I do.

But its more than starting with a few stitches. I like toes because its interesting to start with just a few small stitches, and magically watch it grow as you work around. I like that when I add stitches by working one in the front loop and one in the back loop, a lovely row of stitches forms up the side of the toe, to give it a little depth. I love how I can make this toe fit my very squarish toes, without even thinking about it. I love that I don't have to think about whether this is the round I increase, or work even.

Someday I might give a try to the Star Toe I keep reading about, someday I might vary toes by people, and there is always the possibility that I will get tired of this toes. I'm a long way from that still. I'll just keep going as I am for a while. I knit for comfort, for ease, for stillness and quiet. And this toe is all of those things.

I am enchanted by the toe of socks. It's the second best magic of socks. It might not seem like much, but there are two kinds of grandness in this world. Large grandeur like mountains and mighty rivers and far vistas, and then the grandness of small things, like the puff of a breeze on a spring day, or the stem of a prairie crocus, all fuzzy and soft, or the red of the rose leaves just before they fall.

It doesn't take much to inspire me. In fact sometimes I am more inspired by the small things as I move my way through the world.

I surely am inspired by sock toes. Beginning a toe, inspires the end.

Thursday, 29 November 2007

Good for what ails you

Yesterday, I was a little down. And then I got mail. Did I mention how much I like getting mail these days? Yes I did. Only once? Well I do like getting mail these days.

There was a day not long ago, somewhere about February I think, that someone linked me to knitting online. At the time I did not knit, and the only online yarn source I ever heard of was Mary Maxim. It's OK, you can laugh, and you may want to tidy up after you spewed your coffee, but it never occurred to me, that anything like this knitterly yarny world existed online. Call me 10 kinds of a Dunce, but I never ever thought about googling it. I'm a googler newbie, a novice, a dunderhead. My only defence is that I had painful dial up at home, and almost all of my Internet is at work. (Its weak, I know, but it is all I've got) Once exposed, knitting online was a good virus.

Knitting online led me to so many great yarn and needlework sources, Red Bird Knits , Knitpicks, Webs, and then all the small sites, the specialty yarns, like Blue Moon and all the wonderful sellers on Etsy and Ebay. Online led me to a great LYS, and some wonderful people who are taking me, screaming, one step at a time, to knowing knitting.

I really enjoy getting the mail and even now I wait for a book. Each day I stop at the boxes down the road, and open my little mail cubicle, and sometimes there is magic. Occasionally there is magic that I'm not expecting.

That is what happened yesterday when I picked up the mail . A Hampstead House book catalogue arrived, always a delight. But I also got one of these.

My first Seed catalogue for 2008. I have ordered from T&T for 25 years. Back to the days of the farm, when 10 50 foot rows of peas was the norm. When gardening was vegetables, and potatoes were staples. Its all flowers now, but that;'s ok. Veggies need sun, and I don't have a lot of that. T & T are great source of short season seeds for the Canadian climate. This years catalogue is so new the website isn't updated, but I have it in my hot little fingers. Here in the cold of the northern hemisphere, before the depths of winter, just as the darkest dark descends, I'm thinking solidly, Spring. Excuse me while I go jump up and down for joy.

It will be followed by others, Alberta Nurseries , Stokes, MacKenzie's, and more. From here on in, it has to look just a wee bit brighter.

Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Here a sock, there a sock,

One sock down, second sock on the needles and mid foot. Nice mindless knitting for what ails you.

That is how I feel. Ailing. Like an overtired child, I have nothing to grump about and yet, I'm grumpy anyway. I'm currently deciding if I will get over it, only I haven't been able to put a finger on just what 'it' is. I'm restless, and tetchy, and would chew out St. Nick if he looks at me wrong. I could list a hundred things, and and none of them are it.

A lot of people think its the cold that they run from as they rush off on winter vacations. I like the cold. Well reasonable cold anyway. Even down to -23 I can live with. It wouldn't be a real season if it didn't spend some time at bitterly cold. I don't want to run from the cold.

I want to run from the dark. I hate this time of year at this latitude. I can't imagine how I would cope way up north. I only know, this increasing darkness as December comes calling makes me feel as if I am a bear. I just want to hibernate, and hide out, and snuggle into something warm and comfy and stay there till the the sun is a little higher in the sky and stays up a little longer.

This is the time of year when all I really want is January.

Tuesday, 27 November 2007

Socks, but plain ones

These socks remind me of monkey socks.

That crisp white toe just makes me laugh. Laughing is good, since it will put happy thoughts into this sock. Happy socks will mean happy feet, right?

Its sort of a welcome relief to knit plain and simple socks out of big yarn.

I might do simple socks again. I have a fair bit of yarn from the vest, 3 or 4 skeins bought when it wasn't going to be all the Ragg acrylic, that ended up being a different dye lot (I know I know, I have a history) . That yarn ought to make great tv watching socks. Its soft, its fairly thick and its very sturdy and washable. Our basement has very chilly floors, and the big animal slippers we got as gifts a few years ago are pretty much worn out so warm super thick socks are on the NEED list. They'll also make good socks for those among my family who don't wear animal fibres.

I'm going to ignore the shawl for a wee bit. I'm not filled with love for it at the moment. Sort of like the vest. Its a great yarn bound up in a stupid counting error. I'm thinking kindergarten would be good for the next class I take. 1....2...3...

If anyone out there knows of a great non animal fibre sock yarn, let me know. I'm looking.

Monday, 26 November 2007

The Shawl hates me.

Deep in my heart I know that yarn cannot hate. The rest of me knows absolutely this yarn hates me. From the moment I started winding it, it has been difficult, and troublesome. I firmly believe that it wants to be a shawl (it would not be treating the colour nearly so nicely if this were not the case), I know it is quite happy on the needles.

But maybe that is the problem. Maybe it is a yarn that likes to be worked. Maybe its afraid of ending up sitting in the closet to be taken out and stroked before going back onto the shelf. No yarn, this is not the case. You are meant to be a shawl of much use, and wear. You are going to be the shawl of warmth at my desk.

Then again, maybe it is clinging to its aspirations of grandeur. It is after all some seriously fine yarn, and it is amazing to work with, and so soft and smooth and warm that I await its delights with bated breath each morning. Maybe its wants to be with other wondrous works of beauty sitting on shelves in closets to be taken out and displayed in all its shawly grandness only on special occasions.

Sigh, I only know I love this yarn but I am incapable of counting it. Here and now, let me state that I will never attempt anything like this again without putting in markers all over the place. I should have had markers every 10 stitches all the way along. I could have saved myself a lot of heartache.

Saturday morning I contemplated completion. The yarn ball is rapidly decreasing, and I want to have enough left to make an i-cord for the neck edge. I decided to count, and yup, one side has 6 stitches more than the other. I made probably made the error 2 or 3 days ago. After a short search, I found the culprit, marked it, and then put the darn thing aside. I will frog later this week when I have the heart for it.

Lessons learned knitting a shawl are surely going to include how to love frogging without really trying. Its a highly under rated skill in knitting. And crocheting. However in crocheting, even the really long rows go a lot faster. the long rows on this shawl means at least 6 hours of reknitting.

On the upside, I didn't have a lot of time to knit anyway. It was Grey cup so there were a few extra mouths to feed, and it was time to work on some socks. The grey ones for my father-in-law are coming along nicely. No way am I going to make it using only 1 ball of grey yarn, so I decided that I will make the change to the slightly darker ball around the ankle. That way, both sock will have slightly lighter feet, and darker calves. They will at least match. To that end, I started working the new yarn on alternate rows. The slight heather of the colour is making the switch disappear, I'm glad to say. Now that I am on the calf, and fully in the darker yarn, you can't see the difference at all. Its a good trick and I'll do it again if I make the same error when buying yarns.

So, good things and bad things, it was a normal weekend for me. Knit, knit, undo. Just so long as the knitting eventually takes me somewhere, I'm good to go.

Saturday, 24 November 2007

Grey Cup Sunday 28 years ago.

28 years ago today, Mr. Needles and I were married. Our home was a small town, and we had a typical small town wedding. Ceremony, dinner, dance at the hall, followed the next day by a gift opening where you ate and drank all the leftovers, you and your bridal party opened, organized, recorded and displayed your things for all to see. I will tell you about the gift opening.

First off, because it was a small town, and there were relatives coming in from all over the place, the hotel was full. Mr. Needle's brother, sister and their respective spouses stayed at our home over night. We bunked at our folks. The other important thing to know, was that it was then as it is now, Grey Cup Sunday.

Normally gift openings are your immediate family, aunts, grandparents and ladies from the community who knew them. A normal crowd usually has tea coffee, some dainties and checks out your gifts, and who gave what, and then goes home with a tiny bit of gossip. Our gift opening wasn't normal.

Mr. Needles brother and brother in law decided it was in their interest to bring our TV to the hall. Once other sports fans realized they would not miss the game, they called buddies,and more people came. Wives called husbands, husbands brought sons. By game time, the crowd who came to gift opening was almost as big as the entire number of people invited to the wedding in the first place.

Men and boys crowded around that 21 inch screen as men never did in those days before big screen TVs and bars with sports themes. It was the biggest Grey Cup party anyone had ever been to, and none of them was providing the beer. My mom worried about running out of food, and my dad worried about running out of beer.

The gents were settled watching the game, the entire assembled horde had been fed and watered, and my mom said it was time to start opening gifts, or we would never be done. So we looked around for my bridal party.

Who weren't there.

In that huge crowd of people, not a single one of our 3 bridesmaids and groomsmen were there. They had not been seen all day. I hadn't seen my little sister either, just my very, very pregnant sister. Only Mr. Needle's married siblings. A few close friends were missing too. Suddenly it seemed that an awful lot of important people missing.

We were midway through opening gifts when in walked the bridal party and assorted hangers on. Some of them were still in wedding finery. They looked really tired, happy but really tired. They apologized for sleeping in, and we fed them anyway. They wandered around, talking and visiting and having a nice time. They were nice enough to let both Mr. Needles and I know when they were leaving. Just to show us they had good manners, they complimented us on having the best wedding ever, and told us how much fun they'd had. Some asked us if we could do it again.

The game was done (I have no idea who won), the guests left. The family who had stayed at our place remained, as did our folks and 3 very good friends. We loaded the gifts into half tons, and I went with Earl, Mr. Needles bachelor hunting buddy to get started unloading. Mr. Needles followed with a second truck. I knew something was up the moment I stepped on the porch.

My afghan was covering the kitchen window, and a 'see no evil, hear no evil,' statuette was taped to the door. Earl just kept saying oh my. In other instances it would have been a thing of beauty.

Everything was upside down: sofa, chairs,tables, stereo, bed. Plants stands, bookcases , and lamps were affixed to the ceiling. Every surface not upside down was festooned in toilet paper. Long lovely loops of toilet paper hung from surfaces I didn't know I had. The mail was in the fridge, there was beer in the 'Body on Tap' brand shampoo. There was plastic wrap over the toilet bowl, there was rice in every pocket. Every fly on every single pair of pants had been sewed shut, every leg hole and sleeve as well as well.

There was no doubt in my mind who the evil doers had been. The wedding party had indeed worked very hard for most of the day. No wonder they looked tired and pleased. No wonder at their effusive praise at our choice of wedding attendants and the lovely party we had thrown. I had absolutely no doubt whatsoever when they said they had a lot of fun.

Mr. Needles brother, sister and their spouses took their suitcases, deciding the best thing they could do would be to let us clean it up.

Later that evening after everyone had gone home, and a semblance of sanity was restored at our abode, we got a call from Mr. Needle's brother. Strangely enough, their pockets and hems, and sleeves had been sewn closed too. After a short interrogation, members of the wedding party claimed they could not take the chance that it wasn't our honeymoon luggage.

So today, on our anniversary, both Mr. Needles and I would like to thank our wedding party. We will raise a glass to your honest and sincere efforts. We appreciate your hard work.

But couldn't you have taken some pictures?

Friday, 23 November 2007

The 10 Year Rule

But first socks.
It's becoming very easy to love Kroy yarns. They work up so fast, it's very rewarding. These are for my father-in-law, nice workman like simple comfortable warm socks (searching for more adjectives). Of necessity they will have a peasant heel, unless, I magically learn how to work a short row this evening. I'll probably try it and see what happens, just for fun. I probably should practise with some scarp yarn first. But I am yearning for completion of something, anything.

I did work on the shawl. Time trials reveal that a knit and purl row pair are now taking about 20 minutes. I'm working slow though and keep going back obsessively to make sure I have not lost the centre stitch again, and that my yo's are where they need to be. Soon. The ball does look a little smaller today.

I may have spoken about the 10 Year Rule before, indeed I may have blogged it before, but well, I'll talk about it again.

Over a great many hand worked string things, over a very long time, I've come up with a rule that allows me to forgive myself when I fall out of love with a project. It began with a huge crewel work picture given by an aunt when I was 16. I just was not ready for it, and many years later, I put it for sale at a garage sale. I felt bad about that, but I reasoned I was never going to finish it, and it had been at least 10 years since I touched it, other than packing it in moving vans. So I now apply the rule to things that sit around for 10 years.

The quilt top is getting perilously close. The top is a Grandmothers Fan , though I was going to orient the fans facing one way with a border of blue between every square, and an outer edging of blue. In my mind, it is beautiful, but in reality is is in parts. The squares are all assembled the borders are all cut and are ready to go, I just have to sew it together. In fact, about half of it IS sewn. I touched it last about 3 years ago, when we were putting cabinets in the laundry room. Even then, I only touched the bag it was in.

I really don't want to put it on the 10 year pile, I really want to finish it, but...

I have this dream, and like the embroideries I showed yesterday some dreams die hard. I dreamed of a lacy bedroom with embroideries and doilies, and a lovely quilt to top it all. White sheers, and blue ruffly fouffy curtain swags. I dream of the kind of bedroom that makes you think of warm comfort and old fashioned snugly goodness. I long ago gave this room to the status of guest room. Maybe that is why the dream dies so hard. A guest room is not really for using, it's mostly to look at, with occasional people sleeping among it lacy bower of goodness. It was going to be my girly space in the house, the showcase for things I love and do.

After 10 years is it still a possibility? A probability? Well...maybe... just maybe.....sigh.

I can't seem to let the dream go. I'll keep these pieces for a while yet. Maybe I'll invent a 20 year rule.

Thursday, 22 November 2007

Knitting? What's that?

The weather must be changing here. My hands are numbed with sluggishness. They respond like a teenage boy in the first moments after the alarm goes off. Knitting was really slow last night, and after a row on the shawl I put it down. I knit another row very early this morning, and found again that 1 row is enough.

It occurred to me that some of this may be from the really really short circs I'm using. I might put them onto my new straights to finish. Crowded stitches, might be easier than the constant pull from a needle not long enough.

I've also considered that now that I am on the really long rows, shawls suck the life out of you, even when you really really want it. Maybe that is why blocking lace is so wonderful. After that last bit of slogging long rows, all of a sudden beauty sits beside you even when a shawl is simple.

I'm going to start work on another set of socks. I've a pair I'd like to do for my father-in-law, some warm and very washable ones, that it would be nice to have done before the holidays. I've several neutral man colours and I don't know what I'll use, but it will be something simple. I'm kind of looking forward to simple, idiot proof knitting. Knit knit knit and then a purl two knit-however-many-I-need-too ribbing all the way up the calves.

Since this would be an otherwise pictureless post, I'll show you this.

Lo, many many years ago, I was deep into cross stitch. Its not that I didn't crochet, and indeed I even did some very very rare knitting in those days (bad, worse than bad), but its just that we had a cross stitch store in the small town I lived in. I dearly love this form of embroidery. Even though it is all following someone else's design with not a lot of room for creativity, it fed the part of me that liked order. My kids were preschool and grade school at the time, and order was not something I had anywhere else in life. I love it still, I just can't do it for long. About an hour and my eyes can't take it even with a magnifier. The design is a Paula Vaughn, "the Upstairs Sewing Room" , published by Leisure Arts. It was part of a series of antique quilts and dresses designs based on her painting.

And full proof, that there are some crafts where you can get away not finishing them, and still hang them on your walls where it can continue to bug you the REST of your life, that this isn't finished. A second by the same artist, called "Reflections of the Past"

These were always on my to do list, though now the to do list knows better than to dream. I have an quilt top that these lovely designs were supposed to coordinate with and the dream of a wall of lovely feminine delicate cross stitch pieces were to set off.

Cameo of the Past, A Little Girls Fancy, Let's Pretend, Something Old, Something New, Sisters Three, In the Garret, Sunlight and Silhouettes, From this Day Forward, Make Believe. I have all of these designs, and I have the old 'Leisure Arts' magazines and 'For the Love of Cross Stitch' magazines with even more of these lovely things in them. They are all on my to do list. Only I know that it would take a lifetime of dedicated stitching 1 hour at a time, everyday for the rest of my life to fit it all in. I even have the linen for this series of pictures.

I'm not even going to worry about these until the quilt top is finished. And that is going to the 10 year pile this Christmas. (Have I told you about the 10 year rule? No. Ah, Blog fodder for another day!)

Knitting WIP's? Piece of cake.

All handwork WIP's? You. Do. Not.Want. To. Know.

Wednesday, 21 November 2007

I visited a yarn store, and...

well you know. As expected, I had an incident. But it was a good incident.

It snowed a little yesterday and with the temperatures as they were, and the road surface temperatures as they were, the city was covered in a fine layer of ice. That first icy day, its as if the entire city forgot how to drive in the stuff. Traffic was sluggish to say the least. I arrived early for the course and everyone else was delayed. This meant I had a long time in the foyer, looking at the window display.

For almost an hour I looked at the yarn in their window display. The window display is a corner of the store I don't spend a lot of time in. Those River City Yarns people are tricky and immediately in front of the door are displays of Colinette kits , Handmaiden and Fleece Artist yarns that I am not allowed to touch (self embargo) silks, and then yesterday a little cashmere. Its a mine field at their door, but just to the right sits the needle corner, sort of off by itself, and the more mundane yarns, the more ordinary yarns sit right there, in open sight.

The window display had wonderful yarns. Lopi, Lopi Light, Sandensgarn of all kinds, big wools, little wools, fun coloured wools, wools in intriguing shades of blue and greens enough to satisfy all the shades of the forest.

I picked up some Cascade 220 Heathers in a cross between a loden green and deep rich olive. Its a wonderful ancient mysterious green that speaks of hidden nooks, and river edges and moss. I was such a good customer at River City that I had an anniversary coupon so this entire sweater in wonderful yarn is going to cost less than 65 bucks. I couldn't have done better anywhere.

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

I think I left a brain behind.

Today was the Annie Modesitt class day, and while it was absolutely wonderful, and I would not trade it for the world, I think I left a brain behind and to be truthful I'm not sure if what I left was mine. It was intense, it was exhausting mentally, it was illuminating.

But just like turning the light on in a very dark room, sometimes it hurts just a wee bit, and it takes a while for your brain to adjust.

Annie said 'just trust me', so I tried to. There was a point where I felt like the sorriest fool on the planet for attempting knitting. It's a feeling I know all to well when it comes to this particular string play. There was a point where I had to step aside and find some quiet for a few minutes to have a little cry. In the stairwell. I held the door shut.

But I went out, washed my face, I had some lunch, drank a couple cups of coffee and just trusted Annie that I would make it through the day. And I did. I think I know what to do now. I think I understand the decreases. The little trick she shares on decreases is worth the price of admission alone.

I learned a spiffy new cast off, and a cool neat edging trick, I learned how to understand the flow of stitches, what makes your stitches do what, and so much more, that just thinking about it, utterly overwhelms me. It makes my brain want to bleed again, but in a good way. If Annie ever comes near your locale, as defined as within 300 miles of you, and is holding a course, go. If you ranked her classes according to my book review notes (below) she is a Double Treble - just skip the darn stars and go out and do it.

As I listened to her talk about some of the new things she teaches - how she discovered these little tidbits of knitterly cool - I cannot help but sit in awe of a brain that looks at knitting like this, that sees things in such as way as to light the road for us average joes. String things come easily to me, once I'm aimed in the right direction, but no way do I start on the same page.

I have seen a glimpse of knitting genius and I stand in awe. I might not be a better knitter right now after this long and intense day.

But I will be in the morning. I'm sure of it now.

Monday, 19 November 2007

I thought I had nothing, BUT...

I worked feverishly on the shawl over the weekend, but you know, shawl knitting looks pretty much the same one day as another. Its looking wonderful and I am onto the second ball of yarn of the two from the mangled skein but I could hardly post pictures of it again.

However, Last week, my niece, ST, sent me an email. She's knitting! She began a little last winter with scarves and this year, just look.

She's playing with cables. She made these cup cozies with odds and ends, but used a very simple project to play at learning something new.

I love these cup cozies. I have bit and pieces of yarns all over the place, and I could stand to make me some for in the car. Those long drives between here and Saskatoon mean at least a couple stops for coffee, and the usual practise in the Needles house is to forget the steel coffee cups at home.

ST also sent me a picture modeling the hat she made.

She says, "I haven't managed to work up the courage yet to work on anything but 2 needles, so the hat wasn't done on the round, but I think I'll try for the next one. I'm also going to tackle socks at some point this winter! The hat was made with Bernat Satin Sport in Wine, it was really cheap at Michael's one weekend and I thought I'd try it. It was very nice to work with and turned out quite fine."

Dear ST, there is a part of me that wants to shout no, no, don't go to socks. They lead you down a garden path to all kinds of fun, challenges at your leisure and as close to instant gratification yarn work gives you. Its addictive, wearing them makes you feel sinfully decadent.

The other part of me, says yes, run, don't walk, fly even if you can (inside joke), but get to socks as soon as you can. They lead you down the garden path to all kinds of fun, challenges, and almost instant gratification and these things are very very good. They might look hard, but are infinitely simple, and only someone who has done it knows the little thrill you get when you turn your first heel.

I feel as if I am saying 'walk to the light' and in a way it is, I guess. ST, your perceptions of everything you knew may very well change if you go to socks. You are entering a whole other dimension, and net thing, you start thinking you can do anything in knitting. The good thing is, you can. Welcome to knitting.

If I have any readers who hail from Ottawa, I'll try to aim her your way to a knit night. I'm verklempt.

I am so verklempt, I forgot to say this is not the young niece I spoke of before, this is another knitter niece. I now have two knitter nieces. I feel so very pleased with the grand scheme of things. I've never fully led their mothers down the path to strings, but I do my duty with their daughters. (except that neither of these lovely ladies learned from me)

Sunday, 18 November 2007

Testing, testing.

We installed a new internet provider this weekend and this is just a test to see how it goes. A satellite service because there is no high speed anywhere in our vicinity, (thank you county council - I take your name in vain) You would think that living in a very very well do to do county only 12 miles from a very large western Canadian city would mean average access, and several choices, but NO. Only satellite, for a very high proce.

Anyway this is a test of photos, upload speed, and general whining.
From flickr. Excellent speed, if I do say so myself, and a nice pair of socks.
And from a paperdoll page. If you are interested, search by the doll name, and you will a person with an amazing page of these dolls. My thanks to the collector. Wonderful fun on a cold and dull afternoon.

Move along, there is nothing to see here.

But try this. and umm this.

Friday, 16 November 2007

Ugly Betty and me.

Yes I watch Ugly Betty and have from the first episode. Its goofily compelling. It's one of my favourite evening knitting times. There is nothing like opening the bag, and pulling out the lovely hand work, and starting, just as the opening credits roll. An hour of pure silly pleasure with added knitting. I sat down to knit last night and what did I see? (I would insert a picture here, a smarter person would have TAKEN a picture, but this is me, and I have none.)


When I opened the bag, my lovely old metal straights were bent into the shape of an L. They are destroyed. I have to get new size 3 mm straights, or I have to invent knitting on the L.

I knit the rest of a row to move everything onto a single needle, straightened the needle and purled back across, so I could straighten the other. I was halfway across the purl row when I became acquainted with the true depths of the disaster.

I lost the center. The centre stitch when making this sort of top down triangle shawl is critical. If this one stitch is not solidly in place nothing else works. It had moved one row over, and then was lost to the mists of early morning knitting. I investigated. There was a row where it seemed I had two sets of increases, and at least one row where I had none. I stopped looking after this. It was just too horrible to contemplate. I am certain I placed it. I remember counting increases, and following their path alongside the centre stitch. I'm sure I did, I was there, and I'm positive I saw it happen.

As any lawyer will tell you, eyewitness testimony is eagerly sought, but is notoriously unreliable. With the only eyewitness to the failure being me, and knowing the I am incapable of counting to 2, I was forced to rest my case.

I wished it could have been different, but this poor abused yarn was once again ripped. In truth it was so disheartening that I just ripped, and put the stitches back on the needles. This weekend I shall tend to it, properly, with the right amount of coffee in me before I touch one little bitty knit stitch again.

I'll have to go to the yarn store to get new needles. No one else seems to have a reliable stock of the smaller sizes of needles, and I do have to look into getting a 3mm circular. I am worried though. I have no problem going to the yarn store. None. I love it there. If I could choose I might live in a place like that.

It's leaving with my wallet intact that is the hard part.

Late Breaking News

I went to the store and came back with just 3, count em 3 sets of needles. The only reason I could do this was because I know I'll be back there Tuesday. All day. I thought I should wait. Two 'incidents' in one pay period might well kill me.

Thursday, 15 November 2007

It's Thursday right?

All week long, I've been suffering with one of those weeks where the days are not lining up properly. Tuesday was Wednesday, and Wednesday was Monday. I've got things I was supposed to do that I didn't and things that are still keeping me on edge because I thought I was supposed to do them yesterday, but no it's today... I've lost the setting on my internal clock. I hope its a good weekend, cause if that doesn't reset me, nothing will.

I had hoped to get the shawl

finished before this weekend, so I could stretch it, so it could be an amazing FINISHED object that was more than socks. But here I sit, with miles of the thing left, and I don't have any socks finished to show for it. The rows are starting to get really long. There are not a lot of rows being completed in an hour. I intend to persevere and maybe if I am saintly and work each lunch, and each evening and a couple in the morning before work, the ball of yarn will shrink, the shawl will grow and I will have a lovely light warm little accessory to wear. Its just not going to be on schedule. (I might not make expectation for holiday giving, but I have not gotten over the deadline effect on things I make for myself)

Its probably better this way.

Next week Monday and Tuesday, Annie Modesitt is in town. And I, by dint of great good fortune and abandoning work, am going to take some of her classes. I would have liked to take all 4 classes, but skipping out from work for 2 days is not possible according to the powers that be.

I am enrolled in her combined knitting class which you might think is odd seeing how I knit sort of. But to me this is like knitting 101. I knit my way, with nothing approaching technical correctness. I have come to doubt the ability of my eyes to see if I am twisting a stitch or not, and I just really want to know how I should be doing those darn decreases. Learning what I have over the past few months, makes me hunger for more, sort of like needing to hear the rest of the Paul Harvey story once you hear his hook. I want to learn it better. It seems a lifetime of not really knowing why I could not do it like everyone else is culminating into I darn tootin' am going to.

I am also enrolled in her lace class. With my new knowledge from the morning class, I hope to be able to manage the lace. I am really looking forward to coming to understand how all the little yo's, decreases and increases, end up making such perfection. Its not that I denigrate crocheted lace at all, its just that crocheted lace is par for the course for me. It has been there my whole life, and this, this is new and fertile ground.

So, maybe I will have pictures of an almost complete shawl on Monday, and maybe I won't but either way, I will have a shawl sometime. I have a wonderful day next week to look forward to, and I have the prospect of much better knitting to come, some of it using some of the gorgeous lace weights that seem to keep finding their way to my house.

Tuesday, 13 November 2007

If you live in a forest

you know that sometimes, this just happens.

It was the spruce behind the house to the right in this blog of long ago. If you look hard at the second picture, one bench is all that was lost to the tree's ending (just to the left of the slender birch trunks standing straight). Nice bench too. You see the tree trunk to the left in the third picutre? Dead Tree. The dead one stands yet, though with the strong winds we are getting today, it might still fall.

Just behind the root mass in the third photo is Mr. Needles newly constructed wood shed. We won't be going far to fill it will we? Firewood anyone.

I'll miss you, Tree. May your spirit go to wherever the fairies and gnomes direct you.

Long Awaited Shawl picture

OK, no one is really waiting for this shawl, though I sure am. It is odd to say that I've a hunger to wear it. I love these colours that much. The pattern is just simple yarn overs and stockinette, but the simplicity is showing off the shades and tones without allowing them to be too much.

I did like the yarn with the green, and may still have to go that way, but well, I'll do this a while longer. Even if I do have to go back to garter stitch with the green, I will be re-knitting. I'm discontented with the quality of the work and I know I can do better.

Yesterdays post really makes me want to take out the current hardanger project again. I am drawn to it deeply.

There is a regularity to hardanger stitches that charms me. The handwork things I deeply enjoy doing are like that. Controlled, regulated, measured. Cross stitch, blackwork and all the counted thread work surely follows that. Crochet and knitting too. Both are just variations on simple basic stitches, but within those 2 or 3 stitches, there is endless variations.

The same thing appeals to me in music. Bach and his genius inside the tight confines of the rules of music of his day, Telemann and Handel too. I am a musical neophyte, but I do have an affinity for the baroque. I don't know if these things speak to an un-daring mind, or just a fundamental need for order.

My family is likely laughing now at the thought of me being orderly. My sisters with whom I shared rooms at various times in our youths surely are. They would be correct and incorrect at the same time.

Hidden within me is a deep love of order, regularity and the sureness of time, of patterns in sound, patterns in things I enjoy doing. Maybe patterns is the heart of it, that I am intrigued by things with distinct, strong patterning. The older I get the more clearly I see how the things I am drawn too are ordered and how much they soothe my soul. The more clearly I can see this passion for ordered things, the more I am astounded by the other side of me which has a seemingly endless ability to ignore untidiness and clutter.

I have yet to see that doing dishes ever fed my soul.

Monday, 12 November 2007

A good weekends work

A very rewarding weekend s work happened. It was nice to feel only accomplishment for a change.

But I will not show you pictures. I started a different shawl with the other ball of Anne yarn. It's still taking no yarn, and I love the way it looks, but the washed out pictures I took this morning don't do it justice. You'd think me nuts for even considering it in comparison to the yarn being worked with the green. I'll try for better photos this evening and maybe then you will see what I see. This shawl is being worked on straight needles, mostly in a stockinette stitch. I wasn't happy with my quality of knitting with the circulars, and the garter stitch was starting to really look sloppy.

It's possible that I sell myself short, that the garter stitches would have been fine once the shawl was blocked. I felt that with the weight of the shawl as the yarn grew, the shortness of the firm part of the circular needles was not serving me well. I was finding it increasingly hard to feel confident about the quality of my work. I'm not a perfect knitter, but I do want to show off my efforts to their best advantage. The garter stitches worked loosely is probably not the best advantage. Anyway, it still sits on the needles. I won't actually take it apart till I need the yarn. (Butt covering 101) It is possible that with only the Anne yarn, the shawl won't reach the size I want.

For all my play, I've no pictures. So I will show you this.

This is a blanket which lays across the foot of my bed. It is some amorphous fabric from the fabric store's bargain area labeled as unknown. It was under a dollar a meter. From the feel of it, and the weave, I believe it to be Ramie mixed with something. The loose weave is close to even weave, though not perfectly so. The embroidery thread is basic whatever I could find in the bin, in this case, some size 10 (whatever that means today) ungassed crochet cotton. The fabric and thread are not normally used for hardanger work, but the heavy cotton thread did suit the coarser fabric. The stitch simplicity is based on what I could remember, but overall, the very simple stitching suits the fabric too.

As you can see by the openness of the embroidery, this is not a blanket meant to be washed and tossed often. It is not perfectly firm where the fabric threads are cut, as most hardanger work is.

Here is a shot of the hemstitched edge. I was really pleased with the way that turned out, considering I had only tried it once before with less than great results.

This is one of my favourite things just for me. I have yards more of this fabric for pillows, a table topper and a set of pockets to hold books and things at my bedside. Though hardanger is principally a kind of embroidered lace work, it suited the fabric, and it's simplicity suits me. It was a great way to get something handmade into the room without feeling overwhelmed by lace.

Saturday, 10 November 2007

A plethora of pictures

A fair bit of work this morning, but I figured out the memory card problem. A couple photos had become corrupted on the memory card over time, and everything after them could not be copied. All I had to do was clear out all the corrupted files, and away I went. It was time to to clean it up anyway.

I have spoken of it before, and now I present pictures.

It is the loveliest thing I have. Still. The yarn has some cashmere in it, some wool and I think some rayon or silk. I don't recall the brand, I can't recall the name, but it was big bucks. If you touched it, you would know why I HAD to have this yarn. Several people have looked at me funny when I wear it, because I never wear brown. I just ask them to close their eyes and touch it, and the mystery goes away. The pattern is from The Prayer Shawl Ministry. I use a simple gold coloured hoop and a bamboo crochet hook as a closure for it, but except for special occasions with cool evenings, it is too warm to wear. I have tried wearing it to the office, but it is too long. So I wear it when I am feeling down, and tired while I work. I wear it when the day has been too long at the office, and I feel there is no way out. I am soothed when I wear it. It is THE best treat I have ever given myself.

Now on to the yarn I wanted to tell you about.

It looks much more blue here than it is. It is wonderfully soft, and oh so very smooth. I can't wait to try it. I may even go so far as to move a project, the shawl, off the needles.

This is a huge thing to do for me. But the longer I work on the shawl the more odd it seems. I am using no yarn. It seems I have hardly used any off the small ball of the Schaeffer Anne (and check out the link to the real Anne. Fascinating!), and the small ball is followed by the big ball. Will I have enough if I try a small shawl ,(which is what I am looking for) with just the Anne? I came across this link a while ago, and there are a few that I really do like which use under 600 yards of yarn.

Decisions, decisions. What to do, what to do.

Friday, 9 November 2007

Still having Camera trouble

But there is also the possibility that it is computer troubles. Other things are behaving foolishly. My morning will be spent working on urgent things and running virus software. You never know what lurks.

I had a wonderful evening with the sock. It sounds odd but really, I did spend the evening with a sock. Made dinner, talked with mom, ate, left dishes for others, went to sit and work, Mr Needles went off to do his own thing (GOLF TV), so there I was in peaceful quiet splendor, with no one expecting me to do or be and boy did I need that. Me and the yarn. Perfection. My delight continues over this wonderful yarn. Knitpicks Pallette is wonderful stuff.

I finally got the last of my yarn from the recent spate of mail orders. Rowan Bamboo Tape. Soft, like pure silk, only better. A reviewer says it was lovely to work with, and that it grows when wet and more when dried. SO I guess I will too be swatching this yarn, and doing it right. And then I will have to consult with an ally who shall remain nameless with respect to sizing.

Oh what a tangled fabric I weave... Dear heavens what am I saying?!!

Thursday, 8 November 2007

My camera isn't talking

My camera isn't talking to my computer so no pictures today. I'll try again later after I restart the beast and see what happens. Maybe that will let it get over this hissy fit.

I had pictures of my wonderful shawl too.

I'm trying very hard not to get into to the gift for Christmas mode. I figure if I don't plan on giving something handmade, I have a way better chance of actually getting it done. I love Christmas, but I do get a wee bit too caught up with unrealistic expectations of what I can accomplish.

I love the holidays, and have tons of decorations to put up, I love to do a bunch of baking, I love to have everything ready well in advance of the day, so that when it happens, I just get to sit and relax. I love having the nativities out, I love the little bit and pieces of Christmas everywhere. I expected it all, and only a wise boy saved me.

For years, getting helpers was worse than pulling teeth. Decorating the house weekend usually left the whole house grumpy (If Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy). One year, in the midst of a full blown hissy fit on my part, decrying, castigating, taking the gender, and names of every male in my house in vain, for not helping to make Christmas, a very smart son pointed out that these things did not matter to males. In high dudgeon, I stomped off to my room, and had a good cry.

At dinner, I asked them all at point blank. Son was right. Males did not care if the house looked Christmasy, though they did like the trees. They did not care if the music boxes were out, or if the lights were just so in the garlands. They cared little for bows. They did claim to like the baking though. From that day forward, I did what I want, and though I occasionally ask for assistance, if I deem it too much bother, it doesn't happen. So some years, all the sons get is store bought cookies. (Revenge is very mature.)

I stopped worrying about the details, I stopped feeling that I had to do it. I stopped expecting to be a magazine cover house.I quit trying to live Martha and started living me. I'm much happier, and so is the rest of the house. Some years we might not be decorated and there may not be baking, and hey, who said hamburgers aren't a Christmas meal if you have all the trimmings? (We've never stooped to burgers yet, but you never know what this year will bring)

When it comes to socks and holiday knitting, I might want to give everyone a pair. I might have the yarn to make everyone a pair, but getting them all done or not for a single point in time, isn't the point.

The point is, I make them because I want to share a special thing I can do. I want to share my time. I want them all to have warm feet. The completion date won't change the love they are made with.

Wednesday, 7 November 2007

An affection

I ended up having rip back the sock, but got a good way up it again. Since this sock is for my short but rotund feet (if they fit, otherwise they will be for an as yet unnamed sister), there is very few rows to go before its time to work Maia's heel. I am pretty darn pleased with the way the pattern is looking. I love everything about it. The yarn, that pattern, the heel. It feels wonderful.

It is a simple enough pattern that I have some time to contemplate. Contemplation leads to blog fodder. Here is fodder.

I was thinking about why the socks are so entrancing. I have talked about it before, but you know, it isn't just the sock, its not just knitting.

Though I love the way a thread looks laying against fabric when I just finished placing it, I love the feel of that little needle in my fingers and I love holding the tiny scissors I have more. They just feel good in my hands. I love the feel of a nice Irish linen, or the firm crisp hardanger fabric and aida. I love the way lugana feels sort of crunchy as it passes along my arms as I work over and under and through.

I love the way yarns feel too. I don't think I noticed it before because all the yarn I bought was acrylic. My usual supplier was Walmart. Years ago, the quality of the yarn from that store was fine. Well decent, but lately it was starting to look and feel like plastic. Much of the yarn I bought over the last few years came from Mary Maxim, and was of much better quality, and made fine easy care items. But I yearned for more, I knew that there had to be more to feel out there in yarnland. I had an LYS, but everything cost so much to my Big Box Store eyes, that except for one seriously fine purchase of yarn for a shawl (I do love that shawl), I never bought.

I started crocheting socks, and suddenly Mary Maxim had no sock yarn. So began a yarn odyssey that has made me understand how much I craved the feel of seriously fine string. The yarn store had a reasonable variety of sock yarns, and I bought there for crocheted socks until the day one of their sales people said to me, 'crocheted socks must be very uncomfortable'. That deeply fundamentally turned me off. Still does.

So my search for a new yarn store began. I found River City Yarns, and so began a deep affection for, nay love, for good quality yarn. About the same time, a friend sent a link to Yarn Harlot, and I began my travels to online yarn stores linked on her website. Until that day, I had no idea such a thing existed. (Sometimes I am a slow to start child. Did I mention that fact?).

And so I began a journey to stores all over the world sitting right here at my desk. I have some lovely things, I have some things that really just make me want to cry they are so good to feel. I have a deep lust for anything from Handmaiden, and one day soon will capture some of their wonderfully hand painted silk yarns just for the pleasure of feeling the thing, as a skein, as a thread as it is being worked, and as a finished article that I can hold onto and brush my hand against just for the sheer joy of touching.

Its is a tactile lust. I lust after the simple feel of good things in my hands, no matter if it is fine linens, wonderfully soft wool, soft wool with silk, with cashmere, and even the occasional really nice acrylic (and yes there are some that just take my breath away - I do feel strongly about Lustersheen).

This most recent yarn from Knitpicks, is beyond a delight and besides that, is dirt cheap. A pair of socks will cost under 5 dollars Canadian (even before at par with US dollar exchange rates). Makes me wonder how I, who have always considered myself to be reasonably bright, could have missed the simple wonder of natural yarns in handwork other than embroidery. If you have not moved beyond kitchen cotton and acrylics for your work, please I beg of you, do so. I plead with you.

You can't imagine what wonders await you. You need to know how good these things feel.

Tuesday, 6 November 2007

I like mail

I'm sure I've said that before, but seriously, I like mail. Mail these days brings a lot more than bills, it brings yarn.

With the rise of the Canadian dollar, yarn purchases at all those lovely online US shops is becoming very cost effective. I ordered sock yarns from Knitpicks, and for under 50 dollars, including shipping, got this.

Well, its not even all of it. I have 2 balls of each of the lovely Palette colours. They would not all stay on the chair. 2 also of the wonderfully teal green skein, a Gloss yarn and the taupe colour in the background is Shadow in the Oregon Coast colourway. I'm a wee bit disappointed in how browny taupe this is, but what they heck for $2.49 for each of my 3 skeins, I'll love it anyway. I firmly believe in supporting my LYS, but sometimes, for variety, for price, for new yarn experiences, you have to get out there and try some of the online products you will never find locally.

I like to feel yarn. My trips to yarn stores are very tactile, very touchy feely. The risk of online purchases (besides the little colour foibles) is what will it feel like, how will it slip through my fingers? I've taken the risk before with the estimable Red Bird Knits, and been pleased with my choices. Beyond pleased to be totally honest. Her Romney Sock yarn is delicious.

After online yarn contemplation, and purchase, you get to wait and wonder. Opening the box is like Christmas, as I am sure you can all testify. Immediately after my initial yarny delight, the very first thing I do is get some needles, and give some of the new stuff a try. You could call it swatches, but I call it socks.

I cast on for a toe, and worked to the end of the increases. This morning I picked a pattern from the Encyclopedia of Stitchery , a diagonal rib pattern and went to town. I'm going to see if I can put the pattern on the sock all the way up. I've already made one mistake, but I'm going to wait a wee bit longer to see if I'm getting the texture I am looking for before I rip back. Its a buttery soft yarn, which glides smoothly through my hands, but by its very nature, it may not be a yarn that you can rip back more than once or twice before the yarn starts to suffer. But doubt it not, I am developing a deep and abiding love for this yarn.

This sock is not all I did last night. I did a couple of inches on my shawl. I think I am to the point on the shawl where this is the best way to measure my work. The blue is continuing to do wondrous things among the green, and golds and rusts. What a colourway.

I still have not worked up the courage to rip back the vest. I might consider hating myself for that lack of fortitude, but it is after all only yarn and I think I fully redeem myself if I show you the other yarn I picked up to do the variation on a Calorimetry. I'm going to try a slightly different pattern, the Panta, rather than developing my own pattern. It might be a better fit for yarns that are not so resilient as wool.

My daughter-in-law does not use animal products in any way, so the Cotton Ease, and the Lion Brand Suede yarn is for her, and SS has requested another Calorimetry, so the SWS soy yarn from Patons is for her.

It looks like a lot of yarn, it looks like an unreasonable amount if you don't knit socks but it's being worked up surprisingly fast. The socks keep rolling off the needles, and the gratification of finished things makes me keep coming back for more.

Monday, 5 November 2007

Friday Plans

There ought to be a law against making plans on Friday. I never seem to stick to them anyway.

This weekend, about the only thing my fingers did not want to work on was the vest. I'd pick it up and it just made me feel icky. Since I really hate things that made me feel icky, I put it down with all possible haste and did everything else.

I worked out variations on a Calorimetry, I did swatches from other yarns, I finished Mr. Needle's brown socks (they worked out great and I forgot to take a picture) and he has already worn them and is very pleased.

I worked on the green sock, past the heel to the calf, no photos of that either, and I worked on the vest. I've made the decision to ramp it up by adding two increases at the beginning of each row. I hope to take some of the bulk out of the parts that go over the shoulder and arms, to make it more wearable for work. We'll see how it goes. In anything other than sock yarn, I think I'd be afraid, but sock yarn is not problem to frog. But there are not pictures of this either.

So today, I'll give you another book review. I saw this for a sale price the other day at one of the specialty book vendors, I know it still is available at Amazon, and since its a pretty good book, you may want to look for it.

Books of patterns, versus booklets, are often an expensive purchase, but unless they are filled with only trendy things, a sweater can almost always be made to look up to date. The general price range is between 25 and 40 dollars. Books are an investment in your craft.Crochet with Style by Melissa Leapman is a good investment. It was my first major crochet book of wearables, bought some time in 2001, and I bought it about the time I was becoming deeply frustrated with the fit and quality of sweaters available to plus sized women. I made my very first aran style crochet work,
and it was a great fit with no changes to the largest size. The sweater did not last long, though. It was an acrylic yarn, and it was dried once in too warm a heat. For several years, it was my campfire sweater. I've also made the following sweaters from it.
The first picture and the last were extremely versatile. In both cases I've used these to work several variations, adding sleeves, mock turtlenecks. I've changed yarns, colours too. The centre sweater was a personal favourite and will be made again.

Melissa Leapman has a lot of other great patterns in here. A good range of sizes, though it would be nice to have plus sizes, a great range of yarn weights, and nice wearable design that is versatile enough that it was worth spending the money. She leaves out the usual crochet instruction, and prefers to stick to just a few design notes. There is a great sleeve section explaining how different sleeves are attached and seaming details. Stitch patterns are worked into the sometimes wordy sweater patterns so you do have to keep this book by you, but you never have to go searching through the book for various stitches as you work.

Overall, it is worth the bucks, and it rates a double crochet.

Friday, 2 November 2007

I am so very glad it's Friday

Sometimes the need for Friday just overwhelms me. Today is one of those days. I really needed it to be Friday and here it is! Sorry about no post yesterday, my dial up at home was not cooperating, and it was a rare day off for me.

Contrary to popular wants and needs of the blogger, a day off is not for knitting, it was for other appointments, that ended up leaving a need for a great deal of sleep. But I did take along some knitting to work on while I waited, and did some more knitting at home early early this morning. All that abnormal sleeping led to really screwed up sleep schedules, and I woke at 3, wide eyed and bushy tailed. I refuse to worry over it, and I couldn't go back to sleep, so I worked on my socks.

I worked on the green sock while waiting, and worked on the brown one this morning. Both are zooming along wonderfully well. I expect to have the brown sock finished by Sunday night. The green while it is going well, is not going to be my focus.

This weekend, I want to focus on the vest. I could really use the vest here at the office. So a frogging we will go. I hope to have it back to the point where I started dropping stitches, and worked back up to where I am now at least. Dropping these row end stitches makes me feel like such a beginner. I should not be doing this 40 years in, but here I am, making a beginner mistake. Even mistakes have plus sides in my world.

I am considering making a few other changes. I have hips, serious hips, and am thinking I might put in some short rows to accommodate them. I doubt I will ever wear the vest closed, I'll probably just make a tie closure rather than buttons, but I think for the over all look of the project, the short rows to give the extra width on the bottom will help the fronts hang straight. Straight hanging fronts mean that less attention will be drawn to my hips. Always a good thing.

I never really thought of it till watching the Tubey work that Curlerchik is doing. When the vest was going along really well, I was loathe to rip just for that, but now, whole new ball game. One extra repeat starting about a third way down the hem is all I really need. I may have to fiddle a little with the pattern stitches, but I hope it won't be too noticeable under the arms.

Thinking about short rows in crochet really is a D'uh thing. Its so obviously what smart crocheters do all over the place to give a project internal shaping. They are used and discussed in Lily Chin's Couture Crochet Workshop book, but it just never occurred to me, that this would work here for my hips.

So you see? D'uh. That's why crochet keeps me coming back just as much as the newly learned knitting, just as much as all the various embroideries. There is still so much left to learn.


A late breaking obserrvation by the blogger. Look at the green yarn of the sock. It doesn't look nearly so stripey in real time. Interesting!