Friday, 29 February 2008

Lace is Humbling

I spent a long time last evening working on the edging for the shawl. I watched the better part of 'The Englishman Who went Up a Hill and Came Down a Mountain' working those 4 to 6 stitches. Its interesting after working so long on such very long rows to have it all come back to 4 and 6 stitches. The edging lace is simple and intuitive. It flows along really well.

The Blue project is coming along nicely too...only backwards. I worked on it the evening before, and somewhere in the last row, I made an error. So I backed up, and redid, and then made a different error. 3 times. Had I been wise, I would have stopped there, but no, I had to try one more time. I was then confronted by reality, I cannot count to 6 in the evenings, and I found myself more comforting work.

I spent the rest of the movie working on socks. Plain socks, with no fancy edges, and no fancy anything. Sock Blanks. Idiot simple sock blanks. Sock 2 of the tutti fruitti pair is well under way. I've been working on the first of the Cascade Fixation pair too, mostly at work.

I've no photos though. I'm working right now on getting my current stuff onto Ravelry. I'm finding somethings are being done up so fast that I don't get time to stash or queue or anything. Some stuff just goes right to complete. I will be finishing all my actual stash though. It will be nice to see amounts and kinds of things i have on hand. Right now, other than sock yarn, I don't have a lot on hand (Hard to believe).

I'll link to Karen's lovely things. Spend time at her site. Visit her at Etsy. Check out the exhibition of her wrapping cloths, and then go back further to see all the hidden treasures inside under around and through these magical pieces.

We North Americans can't hold a candle to her approach, to this way of looking at, thinking about, and doing embroideries. This is art, pure utterly delightful art.

Thursday, 28 February 2008

Company's Coming Crafts: Knitting

Yesterday while picking up my lunch I came across the first releases of the New Company's Coming Craft series. The Series so far is Card Making, Quilts, and Knitting. The book that first caught my eye was Quilting. It has the most gorgeous cover, bright sunny things to close out the end of winter. Knitting is a good cover too, but its hard to outshine that Quilt cover.

Since knitting is my personal obsession dejour, and since I have a deep and abiding love of the Company's Coming Cookbooks, I thought for the price, I'll pick up Knitting.

They have partnered with DRG Texas Ltd. to produce this book. Anyone who has been around craft magazines will know this company. OK, make that, they will know it if they read all the teeny tiny print that the owners of the magazines are required to print in their publication each year. Which I do.

Now to the book.

The approach is much like the approach they have taken to cooking. Good solid entries that will fit all sorts of tastes. The cover notes the project range as beginning to intermediate, and that is exactly what is inside. Simple styles, good basic projects, yarns found locally.

There are cozy pullover sweater patterns for your entire family and some really nice cardigan designs. There are accessories for every occasion. There are some nice shawls, a moebius shawl, felted bags, socks, jewelry, bibs, pretty much something of everything. There are afghans galore, some pieced so you could make big projects portable, there is an intarsia thing with leaves that is quite interesting, there are blankets made beautiful by the colours of the yarns, there are knitted blankets that mimic crochet (yes, I am laughing about that!). There is an entire section of things best called 'interesting stuff'. Pillows, and puppy coats, and placemats. Its a very broad range for one book.

The projects are made from accessible, affordable yarns. I know I could find all of the yarns easily. The big craft stores across North America carry many them, and some of the yarns will be found in your LYS. If you can't locate the exact named yarn locally, you will find or be able to find suitable substitutes locally without any difficulty, and if you like buying online, well you will find it all. The projects are made with brands and yarn lines that have stood the test of time.

Sweater sizes for women range from small to what I would think of as extra large. A knitter with a little experience could easily adjust any of these to fit because of the simple fit of most of the patterns.

This would be a great book for a beginner knitter 'kit' to give as a gift. There is indeed a little something for everyone in here. A set of needles, enough yarn for one of the smaller projects, and this book in a basket would be really nice for someone just starting out or for a knitter stuck in the hospital or other place without any access to resources.

This book is aimed at beginners and intermediate knitters, aimed and meant to appeal to a very broad range of people, and it is meant to be in publication for a long time. The projects chosen will certainly do this. It contains the general trends from the last couple years: socks, shawls, felted bags. It does not and cannot contain the up to the minute design trends, like some of the very fitted and shaped and fitted sweaters now showing up on magazine pages. It is a compendium of good designs, rather than a publication from a yarn maker promoting their yarns.

You may recognize some of these designs. Many of them have been published previously, but unless you happen to have the book or magazine issue they were originally published in you likely won't find these designs online.

What this book does, it does well. Rock solid designs with broad appeal made from things found locally. This is exactly what Company's Coming is noted for in its recipe collections, and it is what they excel at. Just as Company's Coming did with its many wonderful cook books, they are going to get better at publishing craft books. The idea of having a local to me Edmonton publisher, publishing craft books, fills me with delight.

This books rates a double crochet. Its not 'gourmet' crafting, but it is crafting that will stand the test of time.

In case anyone is wondering,yesterday's post about the not quite solid yarn? There is a sweater in here [page 37], that is speaking to me loudly. It's begging to be made with some not quite solid yarn. I'll listen to it too. In fact, I'd have time to make it if only that other sweater, the blanket, the cat pillow and the rugs from this book would shut up. (I can't possibly make you just yet)

Wednesday, 27 February 2008

Many Little Things

Somewhere along the way I lost the picture in my head of how much I have done this year already. I've been bogged by the big things which are not yet done. I was in a bit of a funk. The red socks broke through the funkmost effectively. The last couple of weeks, as the big thing, the shawl, lurches to completion, I'm planning the next big thing, but peaking in around the edges, there is a fair number of small good things.
In fact, there have been a lot of interesting little things in January and February.
No wonder the shawl has come to feel like a forever project. I have clearly not been working on it. I have been doing all these other things. As you can see, there have been socks, there have been bags, there have been scarfs and neck wraps, wrist warmers and headbands, stuck projects and new projects, old projects and blue projects.

And that is what I'm thinking of today. The blue project, or in other words, the yarn I won from Curlerchik. It took a while, but its coming together nicely now. I knew early on what I wanted to do with it. I wanted it to be a scarf, something I could wear in full public view, something that I could wear in all the seasons, something that would not suffer from hard sock type wear. I played with stitch patterns. There were attempts you do not want to know about. We won't even dignify the results with the name of attempted lace. Let's just say that unintended and uncoordinated knitting holes happened. I ended changing knitting styles to get there - its a temporary change, believe me, BUT...

Last night pure magic happened. Real honest to goodness lace knitting, from a pattern in a book, with words only, no chart, and a photo, with no mistakes, with proper left decreases and right decreases, and holes in all the right places, and yarn where it is supposed to be. People laugh when I talk about purposeful holes (they know exactly what I mean of course but they do laugh), but oh my, aren't purposeful holes nice? Look how this yarn is working up. Hints of deep rich indigo, delft blues, night sky blues. I love the subtle blue variations playing out across the stitches. Its a very auspicious beginning. I have the feeling that the next clothing I buy (or make) is going to be clothing to set this lovely off.

One of the most interesting things happening in yarn land is that more and more I see interesting nearly solid colours. Not variegated colours, but tonals, like this nice yarn, where the colour is blue, but the intensity is varied, the darks and lights plays across the strands creating waves of shades, tones and ranges within the word blue. These tones play out beautifully as the Yarn Hsrlot shows us in cables and in the lovely Ilga Leja lace designs.

I'm going to 'need' some of these kinds of yarns. Set the acquisition phase to not quite solids.

Tuesday, 26 February 2008

Knitting in the middle of the night

I don't know about anyone else, but I have been bothered by hormonally caused insomnia for years. As I have headed towards menopausal age, the sleepus interruptus has become downright silly. Thus is born my waking at 4 in the morning, and thus is born the times when I talk about knitting at 2 a.m.

Last night I woke at 3 a.m. From past experience, I know better than to do anything which requires counting of any kind. (As Mr. Bennett in Pride and Prejudice would say, "No lace, no lace.")I have learned that counting above 1 is beyond me in the middle of the night. Which really is kind of sad because I do a lot knitting in the middle of the night. I did try some (I'm ever optomistic) in the dark of last night, but well, there will be no photos of that knitting. EVER.

Lets just say somewhere between 3 a.m. and now, I worked on sock blanks. I have a Tutti Fruitti sock done, second one begun, and I started work with Cascade Fixation.

This is really interesting yarn to work with. I wasn't sure how to approach its stretch. I tried and ripped once or twice till I got what feels right. I'm working this yarn stretched at about 3/4. Working with it totally unstretched made a fabric, which, when worn as a sock would leave you feeling strings across the soles of your feet. Working stretched full out, seemed to leave the fabric of the sock looking a little too tight, puckered perhaps, when it relaxed as I worked. 3/4 stretch seemed to produce the best overall result.

Its a little funny feeling as it goes through your hands, not bad, just very different. As if winds through my fingers (held crochet style for tension) it has to change from its unstretched self to its stretchy feel. It goes from feeling like crumpled crepe yarn, to feeling like a kind of impotent rubber band, stretched but just a little low self esteemed. Its a little dry to the touch, but it is 98% cotton. It is unusual, but nice. Really nice.

The best part of working with this yarn is how the sock feels as the stretch relaxes. It becomes a thing of wonder. Its cushy, snugly. Its thick. It just plain feels good. Up till not I have not been impressed by sock yarn without wool but this? This one works.

The members of my family whose home is animal product free are really going to like these. So far, they have been less than impressed, nay even to the point of being non believers in the superiority of hand knit socks. They are (sigh) muggles.

These socks ought to convert them. It surely converted me to great cotton socks. There will be much more of this yarn in my future.

Monday, 25 February 2008

I like weekends

I have developed a deep liking for weekends. Its an obsessive like, and it has probably fueled my current career goals which are to say home. Ah well, I'm near to counting hours now.

This weekend there was embroidery. I worked on the Dolly Mama (a Christmas gift) for a couple of hours. There was crochet. I ripped back a vest that wasn't working, and started to crochet another, which is also ripped back. That yarn really does not want to be crocheted even if it behave so well when I work it up. (I also know what I'm going to do with it. It may be silly... Oh I'll tell you about that tomorrow.) And there was knitting.

First things first. Tutti Fruitti socks. This was Friday evening. The first sock blank is much further along now.

Then some amazing news on the shawl front. Its probably amazing only to me, but well... I dedicated most of Friday evening to knitting on it, I knit on it on Saturday morning till Saturday about lunchtime, I thought surely it was time to measure it. It was 54 inches wide (unless my tape measure lies) which is right where I needed it to be so I began the lace edging. It took a couple of repeats to get it right, but its moving along quite nicely now. Its moving along 6 stitches at a time.

And then, I am pleased to finally show you the completed Noro scarf and wrist warmers for a friend.

Everyone should have a friend like this. Someone who takes you at what you assume is your darkest hour and has the smarts to smack some sense into you. She made me think about something else, and you know, of all the things good friends are, this surely has to be one of the most important. Everyone needs a friend who has the courage to make you move on when the time is right. That is why the Noro is so right for this person, and this project.

The photo doesn't quite show how green these green are. The khaki and olives fade to bland when up close they are such deep rich colours.
Maybe you can see some of it better here. I'm very pleased with the way this looks. It was a very good choice to make the project plain, to let the yarn speak. Again the scarf is garter edges, and stockinette middle worked on 7mm needles and the wristers are plain k2 p2 ribs worked on 4mm needles. For a first time working with Noro, I'm very very happy. Thank you River City for carrying it and making it accessible when I needed great yarns for an urgent thing.

Its easy to buy online. You can fill the need to buy yarn even if there is a hundred year blizzard blowing outside your door, or if its 40 below and you have the flu, but no way can you ever replace a good yarn store. The people, the skills the hands on talent, will never be replaced by the click of a mouse.

Friday, 22 February 2008

Socks and Books, Books and Socks.

Knowing full well that the new Interweave Knits was imminent, I've been scouting my usual places of purchasing looking for the magazine. Not having checked the day the issue would hit the newsstands, I decided I was heading for the big guns. Chapters, here I come.

Taking myself to Chapters is sort of like taking me to a yarn store. My wallet sighed before I opened the door. I of course, moved forward, undaunted.

A visit to a book store is an adventure. If you are me, you have to go through all the zones. I checked out all the mark downs (sorry authors, but my wallet obliges that I do this), and found nothing of interest. Well some things of interest, but they were not at the price I wanted to pay, just yet. They were books that people will send soon enough to the good used book store.

I moved on, down to the back of the store (otherwise known as the mall entrance) where the magazines are. Ah, they had it, as well as a couple other interesting looking magazines on knitting, crocheting, and needlework. I could have stood for quite some time, just looking at covers and flipping through pages. But I was trying to get home, so I picked up a couple including the Interweave Knits, and wandered down the other side of the store.

A friend recommended writer Geraldine Brooks a while ago, and I'll tell you, her books never show up in the used books stores (3 of them) that I visit fairly regularly. So as I cruised the store last night, I thought to check if they had her latest in.

Her latest is called People of the Book. I've read the Washington Post review, and it sounds like a very very good book. Here is what a friend says after reading it. So if you are looking for a good read, this looks like a winner.

The stores files by authors last name, alphabetically, so I hied off the the 'B' shelves. One lone book. Year of Wonders. I sat and read the back cover (OK, I read the last chapter. I often do. - it was wonderfully evocative). I think I read about this book before. The story of a woman and a village in the time of a plague. I kept that book in hand and went off to check the terminal to see if they might have other books hiding in another section. The store showed 4 copies of People of the Book, but none of March, her 2006 Pulitzer Prize winner. I hunted for those 4 copies, and voila, right where I never look, in the hot books section. So I grabbed one of the 3 on the shelf, and debated a bit if I should take the Year of Wonders. Which I did. FYI, there were only 3 copies, because one was in the hands of a lady just in front of me at the tills - great minds think alike.

My wallet sighed when I left tills, but you know, I, firm believer in finding homes for books without, did not even care. The yarn budget sort of became the book budget but oh well. Some things are meant to be.

There was knitting last evening. The toe and some of the foot on the Tutti Fruitti socks. I've a picture, but blogger doesn't seem to want to post just now. Maybe later.

Thursday, 21 February 2008

Sock Blank Kits

Sometimes things occur to me, in those moments just between deep sleep and waking and surprise me, but mostly the rewarding thoughts come to me while knitting.

Yarn Harlot wrote about Elizabeth Zimmerman's afterthought heel in her December 28th post. I've usually done the afterthought heel using a piece of waste yarn, but I could instantly see how doing socks using this method would benefit me.

On the lovely red things, my goal was to try the EZ way. (Be still my beating heart. I cannot possibly explain how much I love these silly brilliantly coloured socks. See the neat almost bargello thing? Is that cool or what.)While knitting these up, I was struck by brilliance of this particular approach to afterthought heels. Elizabeth Zimmerman was obviously a very very brilliant woman (though I'd be willing to hazard a guess she would have said no, just sensible).

Just think. I could knit up dozens of almost sock pairs -sock blanks if you will - tubes with toes. I envision piles of tubes with toes. It won't matter if I knit them up or down, or sideways even so long as tube to toe they are complete. Tucked into each pair of tubes will be the yarn needed to complete the heels, so that when I go to finsih up a quick pair of socks, everything is right there. If I am sensible I would also write down and tuck a note with the needle size into the blanks. Each pair would then be a little kit, ready and waiting for customising.

Off to visit someone? Are they really in need of a good pair of handmade socks? Grab a suitable set of blanks, and go. When I arrive, a simple how big is your foot, and just a very short time later, whilst sipping tea, swilling coffee, or quaffing all other manner of beverage, and I can deliver custom fit socks for anyone. What a delicious approach to socks making. Sensible, practical. Heaven sent to those of us who are never ever going to knit a bunch of stuff in December as gifts again.

If like me, you have a fondness for the look of the old fashioned workmans socks with the differently coloured toes, you could even set up a supply of toe blanks, ready at a moments notice for the addition of the tube.

Ok, maybe that is taking it a little too far, but you know, its like making big batches of tomatoe sauce, and using it for all kinds of dishes later. You still get the 'taste' of homemade, but the 'homemaker' ends up with some timely leeway and is speedier getting the final product to the table.

So, just because I could and because I'm going to need a little mindless knitting over the next few weeks as I train the new person (I can't see why I shouldn't manage to fit in a little knitting time), I'm going to prepare some of the single skeins to be ready to knit up sock blanks. I'm starting with

one ball of Patons Kroy, this time in Tutti Fruiti. These, like the red ones above, will have the plain cream toe, heel and ribbing, (a cream coloured Kroy) so they will make nice shortie socks (which I prefer).

I have some of my stashed Cascade Fixation with me too. This yarn was always meant for Son 3 and his wife. She chooses not to wear animal products and Fixation is cotton and elastic. I've been waffling getting these started, because though I know his size fairly closely, I don't know hers. By using the sock blank approach and the EZ afterthought heel, I can do them now and then next time they are over for dinner, custom fit them.

Its an interesting way for me to think of simple socks. I'm sure others have thought of looking at it like this before, but for me, for today, I will bask in a revolutionary to me way to look at knitting ahead.

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

Wait it's Wednesday

Short weeks are good. Sometimes they are very good. this week, well it remains to be seen. There is a funny balance to walk here as I prepare to leave this job. I need to pass on, to show how and what I do and did, and I need to allow them to find their own way, to not influence the procedures they are going to have to develop to fit some very different circumstances. I was never a neutral sort, so if it sounds if I am slogging through tough stuff, it is true and it isn't. I see light at the end of my tunnel, its just that the tunnel has some curves and nooks and crannies. After all these years, and after working so closely with a bunch of family, leaving is about me learning to let go as much as it is about training someone.

On to better things. When I vistied River City to pick that lovely Noro the other day, I did other stuff as well. You knew this was coming didn't you.
It is time to get a handle on that summer knitting and crochet. Not that I got a handle on my winter knitting, but well, I'd sure like to try for a summer thing or two. Its good to aim high right? And there should be some stuff for light weight stuff in the stash right? ( I've come to believe that rationalising yarn purchasing is my strong suit. If you gotta be good at something...)

I picked up some really fine Cloud Cotton, an organic product from Estelle Yarns, some of which is ranked as Eco friendly. If you get a chance, put your hands on some of this and just see if you can leave its soft and very rich feel behind.

I picked up some other things in the pre yarn stage. I have some plain prepared wool that I am working with for practise, and I really don't want to destroy these lovely things, till I am at the decent beginner yarn stage. I'm just stocking up for later right? Its not a compulsion at all.

And here are the forever green socks. The cuffs are a little shorter than I would like for this guy, but when the yarn is gone , the yarn is gone. His feet need just a bit more yarn and I think when I buy yarn for his socks, I'm going to have to go with brands with more yards in the skien or skeins.

I have very few pay periods left with a budget for building stash, though I learned yesterday I will have be paid a consultant retainer till things are comfortable here with the new team member. This means just a wee bit more stash building.

Which is exactly what I am off to do now.

Tuesday, 19 February 2008

Very Good Things

After some deeply dispiriting happenings last week (but not of the yarny sort), yarn, wooly things and a wonderful friend were my saviour.

Friday I also picked up a package from the post office.

It was an nice normal package, filled with one of these which may be mildy odd, but it is now mine, which is really what matters. I had a lot of fun playing with it. I produced some fantastic...

...yarn barf.

This was a term I heard before but could not truly appreciate till I saw it happen in front of my own eyes. I had wonderful pictures of the wheel dripping with the stuff from its orfice, but the photo files would not copy, but what I saw happen before my very eyes, was indeed best described as yarn barf. It is what it is, and so I am somewhat proud of it. OK, I'm inordiantely proud of it and I think it should be framed. See that peice there folded back on itself? I've invented the autoply.

By Monday, it was looking like this,

still seriously overspun, still not really to be called yarn, but in my imagination, almost yarn.

And tomorrow, the world. Well, not really. The goal is just to really know the process, to really understand the making of the end product. In my dream and fantasy world, it is to make things with my yarn, things people can use, things like Grandmas mitts she spun and knitted for my dad. I know that she did this, so it has become important to me that someone in my family be able to carry on that history.

Why pick a Babe Wheel to start with? Yeah they are not the classiest looking thing, yeah there is some mention of wheel snobbery out there should I go to classes. No problem. I believe in getting the best tool I can afford, and right now, this is my price. What if I am not good at this, merely passable? What if I never get the hang of it and remain in the vanity thy name is yarn barf stage? What if I spend the 800 dollars on a show piece that never gets used, for a study that doesn't have the space? What if I don't enjoy doing it? I can accept all this, spending only 200 bucks, but not 800. So for now its me and my babe.

So many other good things happened. I finished the green socks of forever but have no photo to offer as proof (eaten by computer glitch). I worked on the shawl. I began other socks.

As I put the coloured yarn on for the toe (Patons Kroy Paintbox ), and worked a few rounds, I had to laugh at what was happening. 2 stitches colour change, 2 stitches colour change. How could I not laugh. It was a very tough week, and I could not get those things out of my head till I laughed over this silly birght wonderful yarn. They will be done by Wednesday, and I'm really looking forward to having them on my feet.

The other thing that happened Friday that made life worth living, was lunch with a very good friend. Sometimes when I'm are stressed and worn, and in the middle of whatever little miseries I feel are my most heavy cross to bear, I forget to notice how just talking to some people makes things better. She let me vent, and then we moved on, to disscussing the rest of our lives. I wasn't ready to look at the rest of my life (and it is a very good life) but she made me acknowledge just by chatting that I do have that actual good life.

She kept noting that she really liked green things, interpersing it through our conversation several times. She also nagged me that I have not yet knit her anything. So I set out to fix that.

I went by River City and had a wonderful time, feeling up all the yarns. I picked up some tools that I could no loger do without, and I looked over all the yarns for their greenness. My friend is a dedicated walker, and often spends several hours at a time getting fresh air and excersize. Since it is near the end of winter, and since she needs warmth, but not weight, this seemed like the perfect thing to use for a nice long scarf.

Noro Silk Garden, colour 255. The scarf was knit simply, a garter stitch edge, and stockinette in the middle, on 7 mm needles to give it a nice open look that will give her warmth by the layers and will be light enough to wear all spring to keep that last lingering chill in the air off her neck. It turned out gloriouly but I have no photos of it either. I will get photos when the set is done. Yes there are handwarmers in her future too.

And so, as you see, I arrived sane, and whole, due to some very good things.

Friday, 15 February 2008

Tempting Lace

No, no, that really should be attempting lace, not tempting lace.
There is something about lace at 5 in the morning that does not work. It probably has something to do with the lack of coffee. It also has to do with the problem I have always had with knitting. When I do exactly what it says, knitting does not work.

Now that I understand that all the directions are written for people who knit wrong (Western), I just have to convert the errors to the right way (combined) of knitting.

(Remember, this is my world, you'll get no argument out of me in the rest of the world about right and wrong knitting, my outside opinion is all knitting is right, but this blog is my world, and in my world I can be right and all the rest of you can be wrong, with no harm no foul.)

I'll show you what I mean on the pattern rows only. Alternate rows are simple purl across.

The book reads like this: Knit 1, Knit 2 tog, yo, knit 1, yo, slip 1, knit 1, psso, knit 1.

To work for combined knitters, it should correctly read: Knit 1, slip 1, knit 1, psso, yo, knit 1, yo, knit 2 tog, knit 1.

Charting this simple pattern would make life so much easier, right? Not really. I have a book with charts, and the symbol keys are only defined for knitters who knit western. Chart writers really should address this.

In my world, the directions are all backwards and most of the time I can translate as I go, I just can't do it well, at 5 o'clock in the morning, without coffee.

I'll have some coffee, and then, I think I am going to knit for a while and see what happens.

Thursday, 14 February 2008

Another busy day

It's going to be another busy day at work, so I'm going to have to be quick. Last evening after that late and short post, there was some light consumption of a particular port I enjoy. Acompanying this consumption, there was sock knitting. About 2/3 of this happened

so I am well pleased with my progress. There has been very little real time put in and yet the sock is actually growing. It struck me as odd last night how fast it is growing (thinking it was odd was directly connected to the port), but morning light tells me that socks appear when you actually spend time knitting them and that since I am no longer avoiding them, I should not be surprised they are growing.

Feeling very good about socks (and the port) made me feel ready to tackle a new lace design. Again, I found it in Mildred Graves Ryan's Encyclopedia of Stitchery. It is called Cats Paws Lace, and is again an old Shetland pattern. Its has 3 rows of thinking and 3 rows of purling over 7 stitches. This I can do.

Right now, this lacy light design, as pictured here on this free pattern by Elizabeth Lovick, is in the running for the delft blue coloured yarn. There is another stitch design I'm looking at, but this one was the first I worked up.

There are all kinds of stitch variations out there for this stitch pattern and other ways to place the design within your project, such as blogger round n round she goes uses it, to make many variations of it. Its a lovely versatile stitch pattern and it would look nice no matter what yarn you worked it in.

Of all the lace stitches I have tried so far, the ones I have had most success with, and found the most easy to use are traditional Shetland patterns. They are so simple, and yet produce such lovely delicate things. It makes sense they would be.

These patterns were developed by women in small homes lit by fire and candle light. There were worked on in snatches of time between the heavy labour of keeping a early 19th century home on a small and rocky island. They were simple so they could pick up and quickly know what they needed to do next without referring to a pattern. They were passed by memory rather than by writing them down, by looking at previously made shawls rather than looking at charts. Celtic Memory refers to an Irish custom, Women's Christmas, or perhaps, St Distaffs Day, were likely the only time they might have just done for themselves, if they followed those traditions at all.

They were a far hardier sort of woman than we are, and yet, like us, they loved things of beauty, and delicacy. Those hard working women gave us the legacy of lace. With every stitich I make as I play with these lace patterns, I am aware of that every shred of elegance and beauty that appears so magically, was gifted to me by them.

Wednesday, 13 February 2008

What the heck happened to Wednesday?

It can't possibly be after 5 and I am only now getting a minute to write something. Or indeed even to feel like writing something.

Note to self:

Stop letting people walk all over you and your personal time and space. Long tough day but I survived and all that is left is the good part, the knitting, crocheting or other yarny pusuits part.

I'm thinking shawl since the green socks and I still are not on speaking terms.

Tuesday, 12 February 2008

Forever Socks

I'm developing a new pattern for socks. They are socks that will last forever. The desgn of them makes the fabric so sturdy, so ever lasting, that they will revolutionize sock knitting around the world.

Not really. The only thing that is taking them forever is the knitting. Maybe it is more apt to call these Eternity socks.

The first sock of this pair was cast on in November. I finished it just 3 weeks ago. This second sock was cast on immediately and languished with just 20 of the 80 stitches needed for this sock. I'd look at it and bury it at the bottom of the bag.

Its not that I don't love this yarn. I do. Trekking is a very nice yarn. It makes wonderful supremely washable socks. It's not that I don't love the colour. The greens are some of my favourite things. Its not that I'm through the sock phase. I don't think that can happen. Socks in general inspire me, but these socks have ceased speaking to me.

These socks just look at me, and don't say a word. These socks are not mad at me, they are just plain old fed up with my avoiding them. These socks don't care that they are for big feet. These socks don't care that I might be a bit cranky at how fine the yarn is, now that I have worked with bigger yarns for a while. No, these socks don't care. These socks know the power they have over me, and they are quite willing to guilt me into paying some attention.

I can allow them to languish in the bottom of the bag, but I absolutely can't seem to give myself permission to move forward and start another pair. Yes I did start that pair at the hopspital but that was new bigger yarn, and more suited to the light in the waiting room. (Look at how fast that excuse came sliding out of me) But I honestly, seriously, can't seem to put a new pair of sock yarn on a pair of needles even though every morning I bemoan my desperate need for a few more pairs of socks.

I've tossed new sock yarn in the bag several times, only to pull it out. I have wound single skeins into 2 balls, ready to knit. I have dug through, admired, contemplated some of the very nice yarns in my sock yarn stash, but, still I can't seem to allow myself to put new ones on the needles.

My only option is to sit down, smack myself upside the head, and knit till they are done. If it kills me.

The knitting you see above was done at my LTH (Local Tim Hortons) after dropping Mr. Needles off at the airport at an obscenely early hour. Even I won't go to the office at 5 a.m. I intend to go to a really nice quiet place for lunch and sit and knit. I will knit in the morning, I will knit at high noon and I will knit at the gloaming of the day, but these socks will be done.

And then when I am free, I will immediatly cast on more socks. In much thicker yarn.

Monday, 11 February 2008

Deer Knitting

Deer Knitting,

No really I mean deer knitting.

See? First thing Friday evening, I addressed the need for something to mark the memorable occasion of winning. I think this will do quite well, and the little guy seems very happy, dare I say, perky even, with the improvement in his dress.

As for the rest of that lovely skein, I'm searching for just the right pattern. I took a good hard look at the Mary Webb Knitting stitches book I have, but it doesn't have many of the lacy stitches this deserves. Today its back to the Encyclopedia of Stitchery. There are some lovely things in there, and I do have a fail safe. This search for the right stitch may mean I am forced to buy Barbara Walker's Second Treasury. Wouldn't that be a hard thing to have to do? (Not at all)

I accomplished a lot this weekend. I finished the scarf I have been working on.
I really enjoyed this pattern, and I will find other projects for it. It's a simple stitch but it produced something delightful.

And then becase of those antsy fingers, and the fact that my workbag really is falling apart, I took out the booklet I got from Son 3 and wife for Christmas, and sat down and began a new bag.
The yarn is Red Heart Super Saver colourway, Fleck, and a basic black Super Saver to the contrast. I had a couple of fits and starts, but in the end compromised between a bag shape, a stitch from the book and a size I wanted to have. I came up with this. The bottom is oval and it is wider than most of the bags in the booklet. I won't have enough yarn to make the handle I originally planned (from the book) so I'm opting for just a basic double strap. All the parts are complete, and tonite, I'm going to work on the innards.

With the oval shape, I hope to get nice end places for the water bottle I use to hold my dpn's, and the other for whatever socks or other small projects I may be carrying. Between the two end pockets, I will have side pockets, one of which I hope will function for my purse things, and the other for the bits and peices, scissors, tapes, calculator, for circular needles, whatever that I may need o carry seperate from a project. In the center will be a nice big place for the one big project I usually seem to carry. I'm waffling right now about putting a pocket on the outside of the bag. You know, you can never have too many pockets and yet, the more you have empty, the greater the chance that they will fill with junk.

The really nice part of bag making is that if I don't like it, I can take the lining out, and redo. If it works but over time I find I keep saying, I wish this was..., well I can fix that too.

Friday, 8 February 2008

The simplest things

The simplest of things are often the nicest.

When I got home, again, since Mr Needles was away, I stopped for mail. I had a package! From Curlerchik! (CURLERCHIK!! what have you done to yourself?) It was my surprise win for her 1000 comment.

I of course drove placidly down the subdivision road, and walked carefully into the house and calmly opened the envelope to find a very pretty package. I oohed and ahhhed over the dainty packaging, dainty shoes and delicate bags scattered across a bright cheerful yellow background tied up with an elegant golden bow. There was a lovely card with a leaf on it (Handmade? I love that little leaf) and warm greetings inside.

Lovely isn't it. Carefully, I untied the bow and unwrapped the dainty paper.

Ok, my entire family is killing themselves laughing now, and I don't want them to hurt themselves, so I will be truthful.

I left all the mail but the package in the mail box, someone else can pick it up later, I ran back to the car, drove down the short road to my house (without putting my seatbelt back on, .4 km) grabbed all my crap from the car, and opened the house door so hard it moved shoes and the door knob dented the wall. I slammed the door shut, tossed my coat on the bench, ran up the stairs, and sat down to open the envelope. I did admire the package. I contemplated taking a picture, I debated about going down to my study to get the camera, but decided to open the package instead (a recreation is pictured above). I read the card and smiled, but even this could not slow me down.

I did ooh and ahh over the paper later, and I almost cried when I realized there was no way at all I was going to be able to recreate the beautifully tied bow Curlerchik made, not even close.

The outside was good, but the inside, oh the inside was spelndid.

Curlerchik, its wonderful. Its a true delft blue, with magical variations deep inside, hiding in the twists and turn of the wound ball. There is a richness of blues down in there and I can't wait to find them all.

This is magic of the very best kind. I can see hints of its colours, but I can't see it all. Knitting this will be a surprise in slow motion as I work.

And it will certainly be knit. I have decided that much. It will be a scarf, or handwarmers, I've decided this too. The details are up in the air.

There are antsy fingers in my house, indeed right here at my office desk. And I don't think even my very forgiving boss won't like me knitting the day away.

Thursday, 7 February 2008

Arrivals and Departures

I had the urge to pick up the mail when I got home last night, and its really nice that I did. I found most of the things I hoped for from my Webs order.
Silk Garden Lite. Its probably not a colour I'd have choosen but of the two on sale, it was the one I will find all sorts of things to use it for. Now I just have to think what. It will pair really well with a plain black or maybe a less harsh charcoal.
And this milled end 2/8 yarn, again a very very good buy. I washed and dried up a sample of this, and I think this is going to be very nice yarn. It reminds me a lot of the yarn I'm using for my shawl, only a lighter weight. Lovely heathered greeny greys, my kind of colours.
The third thing I ordered was indeed out of stock. I figured as much, but well, it was worth a shot. So I have money in the kitty and some other yarn to choose. And yes I do have a trip to the yarn store planned. Oh I know, but its time to see what is in stock for spring knitting.

Wednesday, 6 February 2008

Another day of no knitting

Do your hands ever get antsy? Mine do whenever I can't get to do the things my fingers love to do. I pretty much crawled to bed when I got home last night and selt through till 2 when I woke with a headache. I think this is my version of the flu that is going round, only like usual, I don't get sick enough to not be expected at work. I have long suspected that I am the office Typhoid Mary spreading germs but never getting sick myself. (If you ever want to read a story of an injustice, read what happened to Mary Mallon, even though she wasn't the only one who spread the disease through misunderstanding it, and how at her death in 1938, she was still confined because of it).

I woke in the middle of the night, I knitted, and worked on Annie Modesitt's mini tutorial from her blog, and yup, it works. But there is more. I figured out another little decrease thing I ended up doing oddly because of the the way I learned to knit. Her instruction to wrap your yarn in the other direction in class mystified me, and even as I worked through the tutorial, I remained unclear about 'wrap' because I don't wrap. I see the light now.

Even though I don't wrap my yarn as most people do, the yarn is coming from a definite direction. My yarn is always between the two needles before it is picked up for each stitch. I just needed to place the yarn above the working needle before picking it up to make the stitch. I did a nice long sample of tidy left leaning decreases and then I ripped back without taking a picture. But it works! (At this point I crawled back to bed. I might get up early but 2 is insane even for me.)

Monday while picking up Son1's drugs at the drug store, I found some very interesting knitting things. One thing was to be expected. I picked up a copyu of 'The Friday Night Knitting Club' . I had to. I read the last page of the book, and found myself crying, so I knew I had to have it. It seems it's going to be a movie. I'll probably cry when I go to see that (whenever that may be). So get your needles ready, people.

This drugstore also has remaindered books on occasion. I always dig through those. You can sometimes get real gems that way. My all time favourite novel, 'A Vision of Light' came to me this way. Its a wonderful story and if you are looking for a really entracing historical novel, this is it.

Amongst the very picked over remaindered pile, I found this. Luxury Knits by Amanda Griffiths. For 6.99, this is a bargain. A huge bargain. Its a very nice book. Everything in it is made from those yarns you dream of using, that for somehting very special you would consider using. These are yarns to sigh over, to fondle, to pet. Cashmere, silk, fine cottons, soft microfibres from yarn places like Rowan, Jaeger are used to make a variety of lovely things. There are projects for you home, accessories, baby things, and lovely sweaters for all seasons.

These are elegant shapes. Its all the best of today's fashion trends and shapes with the classical air of yesteryear. Knitting and wearing the things in this book will make you feel pampered, cared for, dainty. There are some interesting things with beads, and some very delicate lace touches.

This 2005 release is not a trendy book, it breaks no new ground, but what it does it does very, very well. It rates a double crochet with me.

PS: My spell checker isn't working, so if you see more than usual glaring spelling errors this is why. I'm working on it.

Tuesday, 5 February 2008

Annie Modesitt's Lace Class

You will recall that I was at a lace class taught by Annie Modesitt in November at River City Yarns. I posted about it here. I have learned so much in the days since then. In a lot of ways I knit with much more assurance now, much more ease because of just a couple very small things she said in the class.

But there was one thing I could not get, one I missed, and quite possibly the part that just made me feel like the veriest fool on the planet. It has to do with left leaning decreases. I'll show you how mine look on mom's Christmas scarf. You can see how almost decent my right leaning decreases are, and how sloppy my left leaning decreases are, some straight some very leaned some medium leaned. In class I was utterly confused by her instructions of how to make the darn things be nice.

Yesterday while cruising blogs, I visited hers at Modeknitdotcom, , and guess what. She was talking about this very part of her class. Check out her February 1, post and the photo at the top of February 2nd.

All I can tell you is this works to make those single left leaners nice as a smooth baby's bottom. I even figured out why I was lost the moment she talked about this in class. That has to do with how I was getting them done till now, and how I've been looking at the various ways of decreasing on the flat and in the round. My project today is to work through her mini tutorial, and see what happens.

There was precious little knitting last night. There was some book reading about knitting, and finding of one knitting book at the drug store but no actual knitting. Son 1 finally is home from the hospital, and the entire evening was about getting him food he can make, drugs for his infections, and getting him settelled. I did work for a short time this morning on the blue scarf, but it hasn't changed enough to show you anything significant (like finishing).I did notice this the other day. This is the backside of the lace. How come no one told me that backside of lace, even stockinette stitch lace has cool and interesting things happening? These little hillocks and bumps are fascinating, and I just don't get it. Everybody talks about the front of their lace, but like everything knit, there are two sides. Check out thge other side today. Who knows what you will find.

Come to think of it, that is good advice for a lot of things. Check out the other side. They are probably just as nice and as interesting as this lace.

Monday, 4 February 2008

Grandpa's Blanket and a Life in Crochet

I taught myself to crochet while in high school with a granny square blanket from a kit. I was proud as punch of this kit. It was one of the first things I bought with money from my first real non-babysitting job. It was 1970's brown and gold. There were two pattern choices with the kit, and I chose the one with single and half double crochet squares. It was pretty darn close to perfect, even if the squares looked rounded on the sides more than I wanted. I could not understand what I was doing wrong but it was good enough that when I sewed the squares together, they were most amazingly, square. Success and no one helped me, not with one single stitch.

Next I made the other granny square pattern from the kit, in a rich forest green and cream yarn from Eatons Department store. It was 100% acrylic, but soft like butter. The pattern was solid double crochets down the sides of the squares, no chain spaces, just double crochets, chained corner, growing by a couple stitches on each side of each row. The squares were mostly green, broken only by a double row of cream about 2/3rd of the way out from the centre of each square. I recall having a lot of yarn, so I just worked the squares to the size I wanted them rather than the size the pattern asked for, and instead of sewing those large squares together as the pattern said, I worked them together with a single crochet in the cream. This blanket was my pride and joy. It was a pattern I changed and adjusted to make it my own. My colours, my size, my join.

After this came doily season. My maternal grandmother and my dear Aunt Lorraine absolutely loved doilies, and they knew my mom wanted some new ones. They gave mom their Elisabeth Hiddleson pattern books and once I had seen them, I wanted to try some too. They sent along a booklet with very easy patterns, and smaller doilies for me to try, and away I went. The three of them, Grandma, Auntie and mom, were very willing enablers, freely giving me advice on what size thread I would want to work with and what size hooks I would need. I went off to the city and picked up doily thread and hooks in abundance.

By the time I left highschool, I was an experienced crocheter, having worked many many intricate doilies from Mrs Hiddleson's challenging patterns. My paternal Grandmother asked if I would make a ripple stitch afghan for Grandpa.
Eatons was still carrying yarn, and I knew it was good stuff, so this very simple ripple afghan was made from that inimitable very, very good acrylic. It remained on the back of Grandpa's chair till the day he died when Grandma put it on his bed. After her passing, it came back to me.

Of all these wise women who led me to strings, only my mom remains. Only one blanket remains.

The gold and brown blanket literally disintegrated when the boys were still small. The strands of yarn just gave up the ghost. After washing one day, it just was full of separations and broken strands, and though I tried to keep it going, it met its end shortly thereafter.

The green one met it's end about 5 years ago. The blanket had been filched for the bachelor pad, and somehow the bachelors tore a strand of yarn, and managed to pull the stitches out along a couple of rows. One square was a huge mess of tangled yarn before it was brought to me to reapir. I put it aside for sometime when I had time, but time never came and I sent it to blankie heaven. I've always regretted tossing the green blanket. It was soft and warm and just got better with each wash.

As you can see by the picture, Grandpa's blanket soldiers on. It is in full time use in the living room. It doesn't need washing as often as it did while the boys were growing and the cat has taken a liking to it, but each and everytime I wash it, it looks and feels as good as when it was new. There is no relaxing of the fibres from the heat of drying in the dryer. In fact, the dryer pulls the strand together. In a lot of ways, it acts like there is some wool in there. Hard to say, but back in the day, not every item was labeled as it must be today.

Eatons went out of the yarn business sometime just after this blanket was completed in 1980, and then Eatons itself filed for bakruptcy in 1999.

The blanket and the memories of the people, places, and a beginner's success,live on. They inspire me still.

Saturday, 2 February 2008

Blogger's Silent Poetry Reading

This just seems right. It could have been my friend CP who knows about such things, or perhaps my friend Mostlylurking who simply loves such things, who who directed me to this poem. I don't recall. I only know that it says everything I want my socks to say.

"Ode to My Socks" by Pablo Neruda

(translated by Robert Bly)

Mara Mori brought me

a pair of socks

which she knitted herself

with her sheepherder's hands,

two socks as soft as rabbits.

I slipped my feet into them

as if they were two cases

knitted with threads of twilight and goatskin,

Violent socks,

my feet were two fish made of wool,

two long sharks

sea blue, shot through

by one golden thread,

two immense blackbirds,

two cannons,

my feet were honored in this way

by these heavenly socks.

They were so handsome for the first time

my feet seemed to me unacceptable

like two decrepit firemen,

firemen unworthy of that woven fire,

of those glowing socks.

Nevertheless, I resisted the sharp temptation

to save them somewhere as schoolboys

keep fireflies,

as learned men collect

sacred texts,

I resisted the mad impulse to put them

in a golden cage and each day give them

birdseed and pieces of pink melon.

Like explorers in the jungle

who hand over the very rare green deer

to the spit and eat it with remorse,

I stretched out my feet and pulled on

the magnificent socks and then my shoes.

The moral of my ode is this:

beauty is twice beauty

and what is good is doubly good

when it is a matter of two socks

made of wool in winter.

I've read about Blogger's Silent Poetry Reading day, St. Brigids Day before, but was reminded of it by the Yarn Harlot.

Friday, 1 February 2008

Just playing around with lace

Sometimes I cleave to only one project, and sometimes, I just want to have fun. This week, with all the unusual rushing around, I'm not getting anything big done, but I am finding small corners of time to play.

I was picking up books around the chair in my study, and my old and now indispensible Mildred Graves Ryan's Complete Enclycolpedia of Stitchery, fell open at the page for this lace. Having recently dug in the pile o' yarn, I knew I had a yarn that would make a fine looking scarf and that a scarf would be a great way to practise this new to me lace stitch.

I can't remember the name of the stitch. The book is at home (sigh for my lack of memory). Whatever its name is, it is one of several I have seen that remind me of a candle's flame or the flower bud of a moonflower just before it bursts open.

The lace is very, very, very simple. I had it memorised after the first half of the pattern, and the second half is exactly the same, just shifted over a half set of stitches. For simple to remember lace stitches, it rivals 'old shale'. So far this lace scarf is proving to be a nice, extremely relaxing knit, full of rewards.

The yarn is Bernat Softee Baby in the Denim Marl colourway. It's a splity, unforgiving and firm to work with yarn, and yet for all that, it is producing a very soft, cuddly and pleasing project. It is harder to make an even 'slip one, knit two psso' stitch combinations than I prefer, but for knitting lacy projects with acrylic, it will do.

All along in my adventures learning to knit, and finding knitters and crocheters online, I've wondered why crocheters en masse have stayed quite comfortably with acrylics and plant fibres. Reading the various crochet forums like Crochetville, and Crochet Me reflect that most crocheters are still using the old easy to purchase standbys. They are using all the newer yarns, but still are more likely to use yarns with very large acrylic content. With all the myriad of very good inexpensive wool and alternatives, why do they stay with what they have used for years? Why did I, until I took up crocheted socks and then came to knitting?

Crochet never left me craving something more from a yarn. In crochet, with its lone needle you don't have the interaction between the two needles of knitting. You are not trying to manipulate two points over a connected fibre below, you just have one needle and one stitch to work with over the fibre below. You end up requiring the stretch and ease of animal fibre knitters much less often.

Knitting this lace in this good quality acrylic is doable but as you work, the knitting needles crave stretch, crave give that just isn't there. In all the grand debates knitters have over acrylic versus wool, I'd be interested to watch how people knit, how they hold their needles, how they hold their hands, to see if yarn choice is aligning with a style of knitting that just requires less ease in a yarn. Do knitters who choose to avoid animal products for health reasons or personal choice, end up adjusting their knitting style to accomodate the yarn?

I don't know that I will ever give up looking for nice feeling strings. My searches at my trips to my LYS are all about playing touchy feely. Feely first, then look at the label. Same thing at the big craft places. It always begins with feel.

What I do know for certain is that I am paying much closer attention to what a yarn can do well.