Wednesday, 30 April 2008

Ahhhh, That's Better

There you have it, some comfort knitting. I'm not entirely sure that this is the best way to show off this yarn. I might yet go down one needle size, and I might go back to that other garter stitch scarf I showed you the other day.

And then again, I might just invent something. This plain and simple knitting met my every need for pure escape from lace and gives me some knitterly peace and rest.

Now on to dream of other things. I had a look at More Big Girl Knits. I don't own it yet but I will. There are 25 new designs and I think I want to make 24 of them right now. Not just now, but I want these sweaters in my closet to wear today. If I was a fast knitter, or a witch, I already would. If you liked Big Girl Knits, you will like this one even more. This is another book that I don't have in my arsenal, but I will.

Right off the bat, Amy Singer and Jillian Moreno take the plus size knitter to school. They disscuss choosing hand knits based on your unique shape and form, to make the most of your assets. Then they give you a solid collection of designs that start where everyone else leaves off. No size 4 here. (Although you could) Its nice to know that when I choose something from here, I won't have to do the math. It is already done for me.

Both books rate high. Big Girl Knits is a Double Crochet, and More Big Girl Knits is a Treble.

Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Fresh Eyes for Purposeful Holes

I love lace knitting. Seriously I do. I am fascinated that by working two stitches together and then making a yarn over somewhere along the row, I can make all kinds of strange and wonderful things happen.

It is something less than wonderful when the darn holes turn up in the wrong places. In the wrong places holes are not lace. They are just holes and as we all know, a purposeless hole has no place in knitting. I'm pretty sure that others have hit this place in lace knitting before me, and I am quite sure I won't be the last, but right now, all I see is holes.

Its amazing how one moment lace is going along perfectly well, and you have a groove going, and your needles are singing. In a instant, it changes and your needles are croaking and your groove looks a lot more like a ditch or a slough. Or even a quagmire. Maybe when I am knitting longer, I will recognize the point between groove and quagmire and stop before I before I hurt my self.

I have been thinking of simple projects over the last few days. I crave something simple. I have some socks around that need doing, but what I really want to do is to get out and do something without even a hint of thinking.

One of the ladies at knitting Tuesday was making this scarf. Its nice. Its simple, and it HAS NO HOLES. In the world of holes, this scarf is looking pretty darn good. If not this, something a lot like it is on my needles today. I'm going to knit me a fresh set of eyes.

Holes really are just empty spaces. With fresh eyes, you stop focusing on holes and you see the stitches.

Monday, 28 April 2008

Playing on the weekend

Finally. Thursday and Friday, the Tuesday knitting group finally managed to get together, albeit in two shifts. (I'd add the words Wednesday and Monday to the list just to get them in there but that would be just silly.) To mark the effort these ladies made getting all of us together, we have the now semi-customary sock shot. These will on occasion be shot when there are socks of great interest and variety. As you can see... Well not quite, but you do see the wonderful colours. I tell you, its a crying shame we took only one photo. My bad. I didn't want to put the photogapher out, and I overrode her wish to take a second. Next time I will let her! These are some lovely socks you are missing. Note the lovely salmon sock on the right? That is a special sock, whose story will deserve a fitting tell when the time is right.

This journey I have been on with yarn and strings is, at every turn, good for the brain, even if I still can't count past 2. I learned some interesting things about dyeing this weekend.

First off, soak the yarn longer than you think you should. Second, make sure your container is large enough. I was doing a simple dip dye with food colouring, and cooking it to set the colour and the yarn really should have been in a bigger container. Third, patience. It takes a really long time for the colour to be completely taken up into the yarn or did it just seem that way? And lastly, just start. Till you have experience, you won't know what you are going to end up with, so just start and enjoy whatever you get.

I planned for a little bit of a purpley blue, like the colours of a certain kind of wild flower that grows around here on the edges of the aspen stands where there are not too many spruce trees. But I got this, quite rewarding in its own way. It mimicked the colours of yesterdays sky. Maybe that is what this yarn wanted to be most of all. If so, I wish it well. It is lovely.

There are hints of the colours I was aiming for in the heart of this skein. The robins egg blue is so powerful on my monitor that it hides all the softer violet tones. Still it is a first and I am content.

I did learn one last thing about dyeing with vegetable dyes. Those Mr. Clean erasers on the market recently? They can make your blue hands look normal in an instant.

It seems the one thing I did not take the time to learn is to close the food colouring lid after you add the dye to the water.

Friday, 25 April 2008

Japanese Knitting

You recall my telling you I once knew a lady from Japan. At the time she was becoming deeply interested in quilting. She showed me the books her sister and mother would send her from home. The small town we both lived in, in southern Alberta was steeped in quilting tradition, and books and material were easy to find. The books she showed me though that the Japanese sensibility to quilting was on a different level. It seemed to me that they began the process as an art form and made art be what they clothed and covered themselves with.

I think the same can be said of their knitting designs. Check out this from the Rainey Sisters. Seriously, who could not love the delicate beauty of this. I am absolutely inspired just looking.

Needle Arts Bookshop has some lovely Japanese books. This book of knitting patterns, and this one recently hit my must have one day list.

Because of the quality and gaining popularity of the designs coming out of Japan, there are all kinds of resources on the net. Here is just the second of many sites, over 400,000 when I googled Japanese Knitting. There are blogs, and podcasts, and all manner of things. There are people with pro opinions and a few cons too. Everywhere you go though, it says it is for an experienced knitter. It seems to be a matter of reading the language and understanding their symbols, so if you move toward Japanese knitting books, be prepared to think.

I might never get to the level of knitting understanding needed to read the design books. I might never ever learn to understand and translate the symbols on the charts, but sometimes, just looking at these lovely things, inspires me and I am a better knitter for it.

Sometimes you just cannot get the idea of something so beautiful out of your head.

Thursday, 24 April 2008

If you can't connect.


That is the first response to no Internet for the thoroughly modern connected mind, and I am nothing if not a thoroughly modern connected old fashioned person.

I tried working the secret project from the picked up stitches after yesterday's amputation. I had hoped to transpose the lace pattern for knitting down, but I did not have much luck. (Smarter, less stubborn people than I would have known this) Knitting the pattern without transposing the lace design would have meant giving someone an upside down 'horseshoe', which as all westerners know, is bad luck. Horseshoes (and therefore all horsehoe-ish shapes) must be placed so your luck does not run out. I must knit and then graft a garter row to a garter row. Before I attempt it, I wanted to practise.

Out comes my trusty ball of leftover 1824 Wool (Always use nice bits to play with. It makes practise much more fun.). I like to try to figure things out on my own first. I have often gained a better understanding of my successes if I fail a few times first. Failing first is easy. Failing and learning from it is harder.

Since grafting mimics the knit stitch, and I understood how to graft two stockinette pieces together, grafting two garter rows together couldn't be that hard to figure out. This is my first attempt. Since every row is a knit stitch, I figured every row should be approached that way first. Regular stockinette grafting, after the set up row, is knit, purl, purl, knit.
Turned out nice. On one side. Predictably, the other side looks like a nice stockinette stitch. I played with a few other variations and gave up. Failing was good, and I learned a few things about the way grafting is going to perform when you do different things and what different grafting errors will look like. But I was still missing something simple.

This is where the Internet let me down, so I hit the books. I received Vogue Knitting as a gift for Christmas. I actually chose 2 reference works. One is Nancy Wiseman's Knitters Book of Finishing Techniques and the other the Vogue. I have ended up using the Wiseman book on a regular basis, and was beginning to regret ordering the Vogue. This morning Vogue save my buns.

Right there, page 101 and 102, spelled out in a nice simple line of drawings and text, was how to graft for a garter stitch.

The last half of the row is the correct work. So simple. After the set up stitches of two purls, Knit purl knit purl. Of course!

I'd have gotten there shortly by playing with it and thinking about what the different moves would do to the stitches on the needles. The reasoning behind it is quite simple. Vogue saved a bunch of time I just don't want to waste. This morning was just a further reminder that knitting happens by standing on the shoulders of all those who have knit before, just as much as it happens on the needles.

No matter how long you have knit, you still should have access to good reference material. A good book, like Vouge Knitting - the Ultimate Knitting Book will stand you in very good stead.

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

Come by Chance

Sure it is the name of of wonderful town in Newfoundland, but to me, it is how the best kind of knowledge arrives.

Little things get filed away and pulled out at the oddest times. In the fall as I was getting stocked for a trip to the coast, I was talking with one of the ladies, we'll call her H, at my LYS about my inability to purl when working in the round and about how I hated cuff down socks because starting with ribbing was about as pleasant as dental work. She recommended a provisional cast on, and working the ribbing to the top. It was a great idea and I used it once. And since then, have just gone and done toe up socks like usual.

What stayed with me was one small comment, 'you can't really tell the difference if you knit the ribbing bottom up or down'. I have often wondered if she meant with simple things, like stockinette or garter stitch or that for certain things, like ribbing, the differences are so small, it won't matter.

Man I hope so. Because once I finished the first skein of the gorgeous Drops Alpaca I am using for part of my secret projects (no pictures, sorry), I realized something was very wrong with the first row.

The cast on recommended was the knitted cast on, so I used the opportunity to teach myself the knitted cast on**. I knit the first row of live stitches producing a really really nice row of stockinette. Would have been fine but for the fact that it was supposed to be garter stitch.

In this particular piece there is a couple rows of garter stitch eyelets, followed by a small pattern, and then a repeat of the two rows of garter stitch eyelets. Which was lovely except that one of the rows of eyelets was worked in stockinette and the other in garter.

And last but not least, the second set of eyelet rows had an extra plain garter ridge. sigh

After correcting all the other errors I made in the main pattern, after sticking to it, not giving in to my fears that I would not have enough yarn (you knew that was coming, didn't you) I was crushed. Utterly crushed. Till I remembered what H had said.

Would it matter here? Was this the kind of knitting that it wouldn't matter which direction I went? Could the rows of garter stitch be a way to escape the error without having to rip apart all my hard won feet of lace in this lovely delicate yarn? I pondered, I worried, I thought. I would have discussed it with my knitting group except the weather was awful so I didn't go.

I had sip of 'courage' in my coffee and reasoned that I could try taking all the offending parts off, to re-knit them. If it didn't work, I wouldn't be in any worse position than I already was. I could always just skip those rows and do a garter stitch border, and then add the reclaimed yarn on to the main pattern if I could not manage anything else.

I was smart enough to make the decision yesterday but to leave the actual surgery till this morning. So that is where I have been since 5 a.m. Cutting the yarn (be still my fearful heart), picking up stitches on the edge, and taking apart the lace from the entire bottom section of project.

I faced success at 5 a. m. There is only way it can go from here. If I was not a fearless sort of knitter, I'd probably stop, and just work on socks. But no, I am going to tempt fate by working on my sundered lace.

Today lace, tomorrow the world......

**I now know two cast ons. Is this where I can start calling myself an early intermediate knitter?

Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Shawls at Ravelry

The last day or so, I have spent some time playing at Ravelry. I'm focusing on shawls right now, because I love the things. Lace knitting is fascinating. I don't know if I will ever be good at it, but I will enjoy it anyway.

One of the wonderful things about Ravelry is the patterns that are listed. Thousands upon thousands of patterns for shawls, over three thousand as of this morning. The variety is astounding.

Light delicate lace, so fine that surely the ancients brought it from heaven and ladylike lace . There is lace that is delicate looking but warm enough to be practical spring and fall wear. There are beautifully beaded shawls, and shawls that are simple enough to do even if you don't think you are a knitter. There are shawls that are scarves and scarves that are shawls.

Shawls have a lot of uses. They are wonderful dressy accessories for special events. A lot of them are gifted or made for wedding wear. They can be for when you don't want the full bulk of a sweater, on chilly mornings, and where you want your arms free but your shoulders covered. Depending on the stitch the size and if you use a closure or not, you can wear them everyday around the house. You could treat your walls to their art, and dislpay them by hanging them on a small curtain rod.

There is a lot of room for creativity in shawls. They start with simple shapes, but you can work them in any number of ways. You can work them on the diagonal, from the neck down the bottom up, from the center out, meet in the middle with grafting. The possibilities are endless.

I'm going to have to go do some work now. This afternoon considering the road conditions and vehicles with summer tires, I'll be pretending I am at knitting Tuesday, but for right now, I'm going to play at Ravelry.

Ravelry, is one big knitters sandbox, and we all get to play. Gotta love it.

Monday, 21 April 2008

This is winters last gasp right?

Even the poor little deer made of logs looks weary of winter. Forecasters are expecting the stormy conditions to keep up for a while yet.

I know I said I was going to practise diligence, but there is only so much diligence I could take.

I diligently worked on the Picovoli cardigan, and it fits! I'm starting the increases in the back sooner in than the pattern says but the giftee is really quite tiny, and to keep the look slim and close fitting, the earlier decreases are needed. I might delay the front decreases a few rows more, to make sure that they start below her natural bust line.

I worked diligently on socks, and both pairs are coming along just swimmingly.

I diligently worked the same 2 rows on my secret project all of yesterday and this morning I am ripping it back. Again. I have redone this row at least a dozen times, and have made a different error each time. Its a simple pattern and really if I could just count...

(I'd have been driven to drink if it were not that all we had was wine and I needed something significantly stiffer than that. I'd have had it too but for the snow and said wine. But I digress.)

I was pondering while I was so diligently ripping,why couldn't that facial recongnition software they use on CSI, be adapted for knitting? We'd call it stitch recognition software. We could mount a small portable drive attached to a little camera on a headband of some sort, and let it monitor rows as they are knitted. It could bleep out a little alarm if a mistake is made.

I know that most of you have this already. The camera is your eyes, and the computer and software is your brains, but seriously, yesterday proved to me that my internal stitch recognition software is performing waaaaay below par.

I wonder if I can buy replacement software at Dell? HP? Microsoft? Dollar store?

One =

Two =

Three =


Update: They are all blinking at the same time. Its a little mesmerising.

Friday, 18 April 2008

Unexpectedly Diligent

Diligence is a great theory. Normally it stays that way, as a theory. Yesterday, I got beyond the theory and worked diligently on the Picovoli cardigan. I knit, and knit and knit some more. When I was tired I knit again.

Actual inches of sweater have been completed and I will soon be back where I was pre-ripit. I was feeling very successful but there was a point in the day where I just had to put the needles down.

I picked up the crochet hook. Recall the blue crocheted sweater with the short row shaping. This is a project that I'd like to complete in short order as well. This too was a project that had to be ripped.

I'm working on the second front. Ought to be simple, right? Repeat everything you did on the first side. Sure. No problem. Easy peasy. But you have to start with the right number of foundation chains first.

Now that I know there are 67 stitches along the front, not 65, it should match. I am at the start of the short row shaping and am working on the proper side of the fabric. Life is good and I hope to have the fronts done today. Diligence works.

But since my mind doesn't work in only one direction at a time, when my hands were tired, I pulled out the crochet books. I have a significant library of knitting and crochet books. I did not mean to have a significant library, it just happened and the knitting part of it is pretty recent. The nice thing about having a significant library of books is that I am able to pull the pile off the shelf and find the next project among those shiny pages.

I have spoken before about my fondness for Jane Snedden Peever's Crocheted Aran Sweaters which is distressingly out of print. Pick it up if you see it anywhere. Her second book, More Crocheted Aran Sweaters is still available. These books are a masterwork in the possibilities of crochet post work. Each time I look for a new sweater for myself, one of these books is sure to inspire me.

This just popped up from Crocheted Aran Sweaters.The pattern is called Summer Solstice. It has such a strong gansey flavour with its single stitch bottom section and its more strongly patterned top and sleeve section. I have yarn in the stash that will work, but I'm really fond of the cream coloured original made of a cotton blend. There are some really great looking cotton blends out right now and I'm sure there any number of great yarns that will work, but it would be a lovely early fall sweater in a fingering weight wool. I'll have to think about it.

My horoscope this morning says 'There are significant thoughts running around your mind' I should probably be afraid, but this morning, even with the small next sweater diversion, my thoughts are the same as yesterday.

Two Days of Diligence. I'm going for a personal best.

Thursday, 17 April 2008

A Good Dose of Diligence

After years of working more than full time, I determined that now that I am at home full time, I would get so much done. Not so, I think I'm getting less done overall, but I am having a lot more fun not getting there. If you know what I mean. I've been thinking about the Agatha shawl a lot and there are other things piling up. Time to be diligent and stay on task.

This past week has been busy with many adventures. Last Saturday I went to one of the local area yarn shops to meet a bunch of Ravelers who could not make it the first time due to a spring snow storm. I did plan my purchases carefully knowing full well how I am in a yarn shop when I don't have a plan. Monday, I picked up a large package from the post office.This isn't stash. It's educational materials. (yarn to dye)

Yesterday there was only a very little knitting happening. I went visiting instead. My inspiration for learning to spin has come from many sources, none more so than Mrs. R. She is elderly now, and no longer actively spinning, but I suspect she has more knowledge about spinning in her little finger than I could ever hope to know. I aspire to Mrs. R's skill.

Mrs. R broke her hip last week and is now confined to hospital. She is doing well, and should be going to the rehab hospital soon. I spun some yarn on my spindle yesterday morning and took it along with me. She was pleased as punch to have been involved in the enabling, and we spent a good couple of hours talking about fibres, and fleece. Mrs. R said that Mr. Needles, whom she has known for years, was going to have to get some sheep. I agreed.

She talked about spinning poplar fuzz (with wool) and cattails, and the fluffy seed heads from fireweed too. She spoke of felting long before felting was cool, for bed pads, and horse blankets. She talked of washing wool, and recommended Custom Woolen Mills as a very good place to get your yarn ready to spin. She is a treasure and a rare gem and I was pleased I could bring a little brightness to her day.

I was inspired by stories of what she did with her first yarn to do something with mine. So I spent the rest of my evening knitting this small swatch from the initial yarn to be added to swatch central. (Bad photo alert. Swatch central is a bulletin board on the back of a door that I plan to fill with swatches of all the yarn in the stash.) With my first decent yarn, Mrs, R recommends a good garter stitch scarf and I think I agree. The variations of thicknesses won't matter at all, and I will have something sturdy for long winter walks next year.

And last but not least in my list of things piling up while I was thinking about the Agatha shawl, is the Picovoli sweater converted to a cardigan. I finally got someone near the right size to try it on. From the front it looked wonderful and I am very encouraged by the way the seed stitch edging looks. From the back, not so much. Can you say burlap sack (but out of really good yarn). Very distressing. So I will take out about half of the underarm stitches and try again.

What wasand what is.
With some effort, I should have the second go round ready to be tried on by my assistant to the surprise this evening. April is half over and May is going to show up faster than I am willing to accept and if this is going to be a summer sweater, it has to happen now.

Diligence produces many things. One of them is yarn, and the other, I hope, is a sweater.

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

Finding Memories

Spring is here even if I still have a foot of snow just off the back deck. Spring makes me want to clean all the corners and forgotten areas in the house. Earlier this week, I cleaned my dresser.

My dresser has a drawer for 'stuff'. I put the word in quotations because it isn't just ordinary stuff. This is stuff that has no where else to go but is filled with memories, things like my first communion prayer book, now somewhat tattered. Inside is the page where my younger sister once wrote her name, as small children will, when they are looking at the cool things big sisters keep.

Stuff like the obi, given to me by a a Japanese lady who lived across the back alley in a small southern Alberta town. She, with her Japanese city background, used to talk about how it was so quiet that she could not sleep. I, with my prairie girl farm background, used to talk about how with all the noises of the town, I could not sleep. She quilted, I cross stitched and somehow speaking barely a word of each others languages, we became friends. She came visiting with a very, very good Japanese English dictionary, and we would sit and drink tea, and converse through the pages of the book, with the actions of our hands to the giggles of our little boys.

I came across things like this. This is a handmade box my Grandmother gave me for Christmas a long time ago.

Back in the days before email, before letters were typed and printed and back before long distance was cheap, women wrote cards and letters regularly. They wrote for special occasions and for none at all. The perfect gift for Grandmas was a fancy box full of pretty paper with matching envelopes and sometimes a matching pen. Grandmas would keep boxes of all occasion cards on hand because you just never know who might really like that pretty card with a note inside from you.

Grandma saved all these things, all the cards, the gift wrapping, the ribbons from everything she would receive through the year. When she had enough she would sit down and make things with the bits and pieces. The basic construction of the box is a layer of thin cardboard (cereal boxes, no doubt) then two layers of fancy paper and then a layer of card weight plastic.

Fastened to the fancy paper are little flowers cut from cards, and carefully centred on each side. Each panel of roses is different but all coordinate with the rose and fan on the top. Once each panel was assembled, holes were punched around the edges and crocheted shells were worked into each hole. The crochet not only held the parts together, but also joined panels to each other to form the box. The lid was edged and with a single stitch (possibly two) crocheted to two corners of the box to keep it in place.

Over the years it has held tiny treasures, like the wrist bands identifying my boys at their birth and my treasured cache of double sided safety razor blades , which are simply vital in the sewing room to take apart the stitches modern day seam rippers cannot penetrate. It has held the flotsam and jetsam of life, like the spare keys to the mail box, and buttons and thread for the mornings my work wear needed a quick repair. Lately it was consigned to the corner of the drawer, stuffed with receipts and bits and pieces of paper I'll never need again. Old, forlorn, a bit forgotten.

Grandma didn't just give me a box made of bits and pieces and left overs. She gave me ties to her place in the world, her way of making do when life was tough, her way of thinking, but most of all, Grandma gave me a legacy of love.

Its going to its new home in my study, in a place of honour among the pictures of those I love best.

Tuesday, 15 April 2008


I went to bed last night not feeling the love for the beautiful yarn and not sure I like this pattern for it. The combination worries me.

I got up this morning with every intention to finish the swatch for the Sit 'n Knit group. I was hoping that maybe they could give me guidance, but when I sat down to work on it, I realized that there was yet another error, and that I'd have to rip the swatch back. Again.

All I see is errors. Big errors. Massive errors. Errors tantamount to utter failure of knowing how to knit. Every flaw in my technique shines. My eyes see flaws I am pretty certain I didn't create. All my inadequacies, every little problem laid out bare before me. This yarn is tearing holes in my fragile knitting self esteem. To make matters worse, I can't see the beautiful flow of the design.

Here is my first pattern swatch in Classic Merino. Can you see how the border folds back on itself to flow around the top of the lace medallion in the centre? See how that those stitches gently surround the base of the next medallions above?
That is what I see when I see Agatha. I see the waves of rows that this design creates and I am drawn to it. I don't see that on the Cotton Viscose partial swatch. You be the judge.

Hey. Wait a minute. If I look past the bad knitting, the pattern errors, the very flawed second medallion, it is there. The graceful folding back of the rows on themselves is right there in the photo.

I can see it in the photo, but not when it is right in front of me. The camera is seeing with different eyes.

I had pretty much given up this shawl in this yarn when I sat down to write this morning. I have gone through the stash yarn and had chosen which one I would make the pattern in. It was all worked out in my head before I sat down here this morning. I thought that was what I was writing. It seems not.

Looking at the pictures gives me a whole new perspective. It isn't a forgiving yarn, but I knew that from my first try. I will have to make a concerted effort to take care with the pattern stitches, no sloppy slipping allowed. My technique is going to have to better but everything I had hoped to say is there. I see challenges ahead and I think I understand the path.

This is going to be a project of small moves accomplishing great things. It is there, and I can reach it.

Monday, 14 April 2008

Before Breakfast

For years there has been a little family joke about my mother in law, a perennial early riser, who once told my father in law to get out of bed so she could fix it. I used to laugh at the story, but you know...

I woke up today full of energy. Vim and vigour were my middle name. The coffee ass on and I was ready to go. I had visions of clean sheets for the household, beds made, laundry put away, closet and dressers organized. I was raring to go.

The fact that it was 4:30 in the morning meant all I could do was retreat to my study to do something quiet.

So I did this. Only it kept growing and I had to go out of the study to the family room. (The slug-a-beds are all upstairs.) It just kept growing to the point where I may have to go back to the store to get another 4 pack of the floor tiles. Even this relatively small shawl has its points off the corners of the blocking tiles. You can also see why you really should get yourself some blocking wires.

That isn't all. The first of my sister's socks out of that nice Fabel, purchased at River City, is at the point where I can see through the skein as it unwinds while I knit. This means sock 2 is imminent.

I really like this point in a sock pair. Sock one is where you have to plan what you are going to do, where if you are doing stitch pattern from a book or following some of the marvelous sock patterns out there, where you are in your learning phase. Toe up? Top down? Ribbing? Picot edge? Heel? There are a lot of questions in the first of even a simple pair of socks. You can entertain yourself with hand painted colourways and commercial yarns where stripes and colourwork appear as if by magic. The first sock is all about planning and what will happen next. Ah but the second sock. With a second sock, you already have the answers.

Second socks are all about what comes next. Will it be that Noro sock yarn you could not leave alone on Saturday's expedition? Will it be some scrumptious Cats Pajamas yarn from Lucy Neatby? Will it be black socks for a son who has been nagging for months about how he really wants one black pair of knit socks, and all you have given him to date is a crocheted pair that he loves? Will it be the Arequippa yarn that you nagged your sister to choose, because she deserves two pairs and you were desperately looking for an excuse to buy the yarn? Will you do a crochet pair of nice thick camping socks? Second socks are the future, they are hopes and dreams. They are possibilities.

Now that the blog has been written, I've had some coffee, and I'm looking forward to the second sock and its rewards, the slugabeds are up and on their various ways. I've hit the wall between my dreams and my reality. I've got do laundry.

Honey, next week, when I feel energetic early in the morning, could you get up?

I need to wash the sheets.

Friday, 11 April 2008


I tried the Agatha swatch chart last night. I seemed to lose stitches, so I put it down and decided to come back when I was fresh and chipper.

Here I am, fresh from a good night sleep, coffee in hand with one attempt at the Agatha pattern under my belt. I feel utterly confident. So back to my gorgeous yarn. It is working up much better this time, and I am starting to get a feel for how this yarn will look worked up. All I can say is wow. Just wow. It glows, it shines, it looks just amazing. I have absolutely no doubt that this is going to drape exquisitely.

Or it will if I could remember yarn overs.

When I started knitting, I did so following Yarn Harlots generic sock recipe. I am really attracted to the idea of a recipe rather than a rigid pattern. I think it appeals to the rebellious follow no authority part of me. That only works so long as I want to knit things that are simple and generally square. Following a pattern is a whole other ball game. I knew this from my work on Picovoli, but felt surely with the support of a few good people around me, that I could master pattern following. I can if only I would remember to actually do what the pattern says.

If you look at the rust swatch, and follow the lines, you will see I am missing things all over and the increases and decreases are happening a stitch left of where they should be. There is a 'chunk' of knitting on the left edge where I am not sure what is going on. In order to produce a proper swatch, I am going to have to pull this apart and try again.

This fine yarn won't stand up to a third rip back. It is wonderful to work with, don't get me wrong, but... You know how pantyhose catches its teeny tiny fine little threads on anything with the tiniest bit of roughness? And how the more expensive the pantyhose, the faster those teeny tiny threads catch? Following this analogy, this yarn is pantyhose you would send to Paris or Milan for. Splitting is not a problem, but catching tiny unseen snags is.

I have worked the yarn in the sample through twice, and I will use that section again for the proper swatch, but I expect some haloing on the twice worked yarn instead of crisp glossy edges. If like me, you have fallen for Cotton Viscoses absolute beauty, choosing a simple pattern is probably the best route.

I am committed to my path and this yarn will be Agatha, so I am proceeding carefully. I decided to do a pattern swatch in another yarn. I want to have a good understanding of just what the pattern does, how the edge stitches work, how the increases and decreases play along with the knits and purls. I am looking for the rhythm of the lace, and I am close to finding it. This swatch of Patons Classic Merino is helping that happen. I have a small issue with stitch count on the left edge, but the basic pattern stitches are looking much better. It is beginning to have a very natural feel almost as if the completed stitches are telling me what to do next.

I'm going to go on and work the complete chart so the lace is in my head, and then will rip back and figure out what I am doing wrong on the left edge.

If I can continue to ignore the shouts from the Cloud Cotton Project, by the end of the day, there is a very, very good chance that Agatha will be on the needles.

Thursday, 10 April 2008

Small Moves

Yesterday was all about small moves. And sleep, now that I think about it. I did do this though. I call this 'not good blocking' now that I look at it in the cold light of morning. I feel a redo in my immediate future. As you can see the scarf ended up 6 feet long, longer than I thought the skein would produce at the width I cast on. The borders are a little wider than I intended but are nice and firm. Wearing before blocking showed the seed stitch edge liked to fold back over the pattern stitches when worn. I'm not sure if it is the nature of the combination of stitch patterns or if it is the nature of this yarn. (It has the most wonderful bounce) I hope the blocking will get past this, but if not, well (sigh),lesson learned.

Gratuitous gorgeous yarn photo. (Is it a blogger sin to use the same photo so many times even if it is a really great photo?)

I have my hands on the Agatha pattern. Today's work is to knit up a swatch. The colour of the yarn and the sheen of it, will show off the stitch pattern so beautifully, but blocking is going to tell the tale. Will the yarn be a good match for the pattern?

I expect adventure, I hope for seriously fine things. We'll know the result tomorrow.

Wednesday, 9 April 2008


Hey ho. I'm not feeling very well today. I think it is my version of the flu. I get mildly ill for a day, and then can get right back at whatever I was doing, while everyone else around me ends up ill for days at a time. Sometimes I wonder if I am Typhoid Mary and my mild form of the virus mutates into everyone else's sick-for-days version. If anyone I was around yesterday gets ill, you have my humblest apologies.

I have knit but only in a slow and desultory fashion. I planned to knit up a swatch for Agatha, but I have not even ordered the pattern. Etsy says it is now sold out. I shall see what I can do. I'd worry but I am just not up to it. I have knit on the secret project and now must take a break while I think about how I am going to do the thumb part. Simple slit or gusset? What to do what to do.

When I reorganized my study, my chair moved much closer to my book shelves. I am now surrounded by books and yarn, and cheap blue china in a most lovely way.

Earlier this winter I came across some of the hardcover volumes I was missing from Jean Auel's Clan of the Cave Bear series (I had the paperbacks of the first couple and hardcovers of the others). The first two volumes of the series are sitting right at shoulder level so when I was not feeling motivated this morning, I picked up Clan of the Cave Bear and began reading. I love rereading old favourites when I am not feeling well. It's the comfort factor. There is an Agatha Christie right there too. Not challenging reading but I just cannot find it in me to think.

I'm going to go lie down and die now. I'll be chipper once more in the morning.

Tuesday, 8 April 2008

Sock Parade

Last week I displayed a sock parade from my Tuesday group. This week, you get my sock parade. I've been ignoring these socks to finish up other things, but its time to make them shine.

First the gray socks out of Cascade Fixation. The more I work on these socks the more I like this yarn. Its unusual stretchiness give it a whole other dimension and working it on this size needles, 3mm, means its a nice squishy fabric. I was uncertain how the ribbing would look. I wondered if the stretch would eliminate the look. It eliminates the need for the ribbing, but I still wanted a little something on the shaft of the sock.. I did not need to wonder. Everything looks good in this yarn. I'm liking these so much that I am going to make a pair for myself in very short order. Not next on the needles, but they are in the queue.

Then there is the emergency room pair. These are going to go into the sock basket, forgifting to someone else. The yarn is Sockina Cotton , and is completely wool free. Its comfortable to work with. The acrylic and nylon really add to this yarns feel, and it works up into the nicest self striping pattern. I think I would use it again, but because of the mostly cotton content, I don't think it is a good candidate for high up the leg socks. I think it is going to be great, seriously great for shortie summer socks. OK, maybe these will be for me. I could use a good pair of short summer socks.

And finally, the Fabel socks for my sister.

This yarn is amazing. No repeats! Well not quite true. But the first full repeat is starting just at the heel gusset. Most impressive. And the huge plus? It feels and works up with all the best qualities of good sock yarns. Firm feel, and yet the soft comfort of wool. This is a yarn I will be looking for again.

Last week Tuesday I went to a few yarn shops. One I have not been at for quite a while and my LYS to pick up 2 more balls of that lovely rich Garn Studio Cotton Viscosewhich goes into 'production' this week. Just need to get the Agatha pattern and some beads. I'll disscuss the bead shop later. The bead place needs a whole other post. You have no idea.

Oh yes, where was I? Oh yes, I went to a yarn store... Well you didn't think I came out without yarn did you? But it was sock yarn on sale. Really it was. And a different colour of a favourite yarn...

Excuses, excuses.

Monday, 7 April 2008


Saturday was supposed to be the Edmonton Ravelers field trip. Morning brought a heavy snowfall that did not let up on this side of the city till well after 1:00 (the meeting time) and the shop is about 75 minutes away. I’d have arrived just when everyone else was heading away. I really hated to miss it, but it sounds like some of the ravelers are going to do it next Saturday instead. One of them will be me.

While I sat and waited to see what the weather would do I picked everything in my work project arsenal. Each sock was moved just a little farther down the heel. Once the weather had made my decision, I picked up my work bag. The work bag was crocheted in early February and all it was waiting for was the lining. It seemed like a good idea for something just a little different to work on.

Because I ended up sewing much of it by hand, I had the chance to watch Bette Davis crochet in the movie "The Letter" based on a Somerset Maugham play of the same name.

If you get the chance to see this classic film, pay close attention to crochet. Crochet plays a very big role in this movie and I think Ms. Davis must have at least known the basics. Even though a lot of screen time was given to her crocheting, there was only one scene where the work was not hidden by her hands, and she may have actually worked a stitch. The rest was close. It was just a little surreal to watch.

By the time the movie was done, the work bag was complete. The first lining attempt had the many pockets I was wanting, but it had a fatal design flaw (or is that designer flaw?). When that idea didn't work out and just as I started the second try at the lining, the sewing machine quit working (which led directly to the hand work). This second go at lining, since it ended up hand stitched, was much simpler in its execution. The straps were lined to give the stretchy crochet fabric some backup in the heavy lifting department. You can see just a hint of that above.There are two deep sections, one with a large booklet and document pocket, and a huge cavity for knitting projects and the other, a single large spacious pocket for purse things.

I may go back and put in a couple of smaller pockets on the purse side so things like my cell and my keys don't get lost among the jumble that usually is at the bottom of my purse. The plan was to crochet a pocket for them on the outside of the bag, but now I am not so sure. I'm going to use it for a couple days and see what feels right. I'm also going to have to come up with something to keep it dry when we camp.

Moving out of the old work bag was a little sad. It is still sitting by my chair because I just don't have the heart yet to toss it out. It looks forlorn. The handles are torn through and the corners on the bottom are in tatters. Its only good working part is the zipper and I want to get that out of her before I send her off on the long good bye.

Fare the well faithful little workbag.

Friday, 4 April 2008

Right thinking

You know how sometimes when you are watching TV or a movie, you just want to shout 'left, left. No your other left' to a character doing something really dumb. Well you don't have to do this today with me.

Ta daaaa. Isn't that nice? The first go round the front did what I wanted it to around the hip area. It curved to fit the form, but the top section just sort of hung flat with no curve. See how nicely it is curving around the bust line now? Right where it needs to curve across the side of the bust line, it is. Right where the hips need flaring, it is. Well on several places. There are actually 3 evenly placed short rows across the bottom. Now if I can just get the other front foundation row to match this one, I'll be fine. (3 tries and counting. Gauge? What gauge?)

I spent a lot of time doing something else yesterday. Note how there are two ends? The blue scarf is completed.I really enjoyed how this flowed as I worked it. It felt like perfect symmetry between yarn, pattern and needle. Curlerchik is absolutely right. This is some really nice yarn, and I am grateful for the gift.

The big plus is that there were only 2 pattern rows! Well 4, but 2 of them were purl rows and even I could not screw up a purl row (In fact I did. Several times.) I hardly ever had to tink back to redo a row of this simple old Dutch pattern(big bold lie alert. I got so good at tinking even the tinking had rhythm).

I have about 2 feet of yarn left, enough for two pattern rows, but not the 4 I needed. Since I don't want to waste and inch, I'll be adding a little fringe to Mr. Deer's Trophy scarf .

Hmm, that link is aiming right at one of the other things that has been bugging me. My new workbag. It is sitting there , desperately needed, and yet unfinished. Maybe that is what I'll work on today. I wonder if I can complete the inside in time to use it tomorrow?

What is up tomorrow you ask? An Edmonton Ravelers Road trip to one of the local area yarn shops. I can't wait.

Thursday, 3 April 2008

Waking up with a clearer head

I fell hard for the siren song of Cloud Cotton yesterday. I have a whole front of a sweater done. It doesn't take long in crochet to move along swiftly. For those of us who need to stroke our ego with completed projects, crochet is it. Crochet sweaters work up at lightning speed when compared to knitted ones. The front turned out very well, and I am pleased as punch. So I'll be ripping it back shortly.

Why? Because in this really nice cotton I can see possibilities. I'm not used to seeing possibilities in crochet. I've always known they were there, but I just couldn't see how to get the task done. Knitting has performed magic in my head and so has massive exposure to better yarn. I know exactly what I want to do.

I used short row shaping on the lower front to accommodate my hippy tendency. When I hung the front on my dress form, it looked great. It flared just at the right place, and did exactly what I was asking the short rows to do. I can see more shaping making it look even better. So I am ripping it back so I can put proper darts in, rather than simple gussets and while I am at it, I'm going to make it just a little longer.

The original vision was going to have a picket fence edging along the bottom. It would have suited the simple shape of the original sweater vision. The yarn has announced that it wants shaping and this simple stitch to speak instead. An attached edging will only mute that message.

So onward. Longer and more shaped. Who knows what this top/sweater/ jacket(?) is going to end up as.

Wednesday, 2 April 2008

What Knitters get up too

No, no, nothing April Foolish. Nothing so grand as what fun was surely had in Toronto at the Harlot's book launch (not that we here in cold Edmonton are jealous or anything - no. Not at all) Bravo Harlot, we toasted to your health.

Tuesday afternoons are Sit 'n Knit days. I really enjoy having this luxury or taking an afternoon just to talk and gab and show and ask questions and work with a bunch of people who are nutty about strings. Its the nicest feeling on earth to be surrounded by your compatriots...Even if they display their lovely socks when all you have on your feet is plain Janenylon sockets, because that is all you have in your drawer and your laundry pile threatens to fall over and crush you.

Don't be thinking the plain pair is 'just' a plain pair. They match colours to perfection, and have a nifty added little gusset to fit the owners foot just right. Even plain can be fancy in this crowd.

Today is not sit and knit day so I probably should be doing the laundry. But I'm not. I found myself falling for the siren song of the Cloud Cotton from my LYS, River City Yarn.

This is the yarn which did not fit into my storage containers. This yarn is the prime reason that I had to get some more storage containers yesterday.

It has been calling me for weeks, seducing me, haunting me. I told it to pipe down a few times, but as we we all know, yarn speaks but it seldom hears (yarn must be in a perpetual state of adolescence). Yarn does not respond to human pleas to be left alone by those of us infected by string things. In the process of putting it away into the container, some of it just happened to touch my hand, which just happened to have a crochet hook in it, which just magically produced this.

Knitting produces a flowing fabric of single layers of yarn, while crochet produces a fabric of multiple layers. Its very, very easy to make a stiff unyielding fabric in crochet in a worsted weight yarn. I took great care because this is too nice a yarn to do that to. I played with it, making swatches till midnight, but finally found that the 'old reliable' 5mm hook worked best.

The fabric is soft (from the yarn), drapey (from the stitch), but is still going to carry itself well when when it narrows stitches at the shoulder carry the weight of the rest of the sweater below. Rubbing it in my hands reminds me of putting my hands into a big bag of cotton balls. Its aptly named. Cloud Cotton indeed.

Tuesday, 1 April 2008

Many things to talk about today

I don't know about anyone else, but this blog is forever inspired by the things I take pictures of. Yes, I take pictures of a lot of yarn, knitting and things like that, but they inspire me to take pictures. Yesterday, I was uninspired and couldn't think of anything much to say.

It was baking day, and it didn't go well. Somebody switched the sacred green sugar scoop (you can tell it is the sugar canister by the colour of the scoop), and switched it for the clear/white scoop which belongs to the salt canister. Muffin batter doesn't taste very good with an extra dose of salt.

Today, back in the comfort zone. I'll talk your ears off. This is what I have been doing when my hands needed a break from knitting and spinning. Two brown shopping bags full of pre-drafted wool. Ready to go.This second is gift roving and I'm a wee bit afraid to spin it yet. I don't want to screw it up too badly. A couple more weeks of practise and I'll be brave enough to try. (Thank you Esther, I'm going to go check that forum out. I need all the help I can get)

I've been admiring other people's stashes the last few days or rather how they store it. A friend showed me her system, and I have seen a few online answers to stash storage. People are really creative about it and for a lot of us, we make our stash art, to beautify our homes.

I'm heading to town for errands today, and one of the errands is going to be better (or should that be more) stash storage options. With last weeks shelf building session, I need some containers that will fit the shelves to finish off the way the books, the collection of cheap blue and white ware, and the yarn go together in a nice HGTV kind of way.

Besides shelves, my study improvements included things with drawers. One of them is a standard side table with drawers in basic white. It holds the lamp, the Kleenex, the books, catalogues, new magazines and whatever papers I 'need' but not right now. The other is one of these.Its a quintessential IKEA product. Looks smart. Costs little. Works for you in unexpected ways.

I found myself thinking did I really need to have two drawer units in a 9 x 11 foot room? One was always going to be in the way. Should I take one back to free that money up for yarn?

You know how it is when you have empty drawers around. They filled up in unexpected but very pleasing way.

I needed a place to put some of the socks I was working on. Too many socks were cluttering up the bag.

Then I needed a place to put the blue scarf project. It was tangled in the bits of leftover 1824 Cotton buried at the bottom of the bag.

And then Picovoli seemed to be taking up way too much space in the work bag, so it got a drawer. Next the nice new yarn, that delicious Cotton Viscose from Garn Studio demanded a drawer all its own. And then I had a swatch worked up with some Knit Picks Wool of the Andes in Iron Ore which was hanging around in all the worng places. I haven't written down the swatch size and needles size yet, so the needles needed to stay with the swatch and skein.

And then the black lace project needed a home. Well its hardly a project yet, but I still wanted to have a place for the goods.

And lo, the drawer unit was full. It seems it is my new at home work bag/work unit. Everything has a home in a most pleasing and happy way.

The drawers are ideal, but you know what the truly unexpected pleasure is? I have a place to set my coffee cup on the right side of me and I can drive the unit right up close. Open the drawer, pick up some knitting and I am set. Totally set.

In case anyone is concerned about metal bits and edges catching precious yarn, doesn't seem to happen. The unit is constructed so that all the edges are facing back, or are on the outside of the drawer box. I work right out of the drawers, and even that fine black lace did not catch.

Ikea, this is a masterful little thing. It's not going to work for really huge heavy sweater projects, but it sure works for these nice smaller projects. Now I just have to finsih the new workbag and I am all tidy for spring.