Friday, 30 May 2008

Simple knitting

After that journey into lace, I'm sort of enjoying this Alpaca Capelet. It is knitting up very fast. The combination of yarn and needles is perfect (ADDI Turbo Lace). This is what you can do when you knit a couple inches and are forced to rip back all the way (because you can't seem to manage to take out the 2 increases you originally made neatly) and reknit yesterday, and a bit this morning. I'm not a fast knitter but even for me, this is going along very well.

There is something hypnotic about stockinette. I suspect I can say that because it hasn't felt like I have knit miles of it yet, but then I do have the added interest of thinking about what sort of lace I am going to use.

The book shows it made up with the horseshoe or arrowhead lace pattern, and it is lovely but it would look equally lovely in many other simple designs. The stitch I used for my blue delft scarf would look wonderful and so would the pattern which looks like leaves alternating down a branch (name not recalled at the moment, only the pattern). I can think of a couple of really nice insertion patterns that would look great done multiple times around the bottom. Simple diamond shapes made of yarn overs would look very nice too.

The only thing that is critical to keep in mind is that the lace is not the star of this piece. The lace pattern is only a supporting player. Beyond a doubt the star of this piece is this yarn.

While I was knitting this morning, contemplating how much fun knitting and purling simply is, I recalled this project. Simple Knitting and Purling. This sweater is moving along very well. I'm almost done the repeats, then there is a short couple inches of plain knitting and then a few increases to shape the hips and sleeve caps. It will start being a take along project in very short order. I just need to take the time to actually do it. Insert Diligence Here .

And this project. This last sweater? I think I am going to rip it back and redo, even if I am past the point of reason. Its too blazer like for my taste. What I really need is a more casual look. I don't mind if it is a heavy looking sweater. The yarn is, after all, worsted weight, I just don't want it to be heavy. I was always planning to use it for crochet since its soft cotton seems to beg for texture, but I am not sure if crochet is the way it wants to go (Or is that me, not wanting to go that way?)

A simple knit with a cable something front? Maybe 3 or 4 cables rising across the width of it? Short sleeves? 3/4 sleeves? I don't know, I just know I have not seen a picture of what I want yet in my head.

I'll have to think about that. The good thing is, my best thinking happens when I am working with my hands.

Thursday, 29 May 2008

Consoling myself for idiocy with yarn

Thank you all for your kind thoughts. SS will appreciate them. She is doing better, surgery scheduled for this morning. I've tried to convert her to knitting for 2 years but she is resistant. I'm wearing her down though. Another couple years or so and she is going to succumb. I can just feel it in my bones.

I know that there was a look that crossed her face, a look of desire when she held this in her hand yesterday. She was deep under the influence of heavy medication, but this is really really nice yarn. It is Alpaca Peru. Alpaca Peru is warm and yet so airy and light, it could be floating. It has that wonderful alpaca silkiness in a double knitting weight. It demands to be something special, a great scarf, a wonderful cape, or an very elegant fall and winter shawl. Don't get me started on sweaters. I know it would make a gorgeous sweater. I can already see just how I would make it in my mind (I think the red wants to come home with me too.) When you decide to treat yourself, do consider Alpaca Peru.

I wasn't sure what it wanted to be till last week, when my friend loaned me her copy of Wrap Style. This is a really nice book, published in 2005, so it has been around for a while. Anne Budd and Pam Allen's approach to wraps is elbow length garments that fit over, around, and across the wearers shoulders without being fussy or shawl like. The book includes lacy delicate projects and warm, comfy, cozy projects. There are formal projects, and casual but utterly lovely things. Of the 24 projects in the book, 10 of them just speak to me. Most of the rest, are 'yeah I could wear that projects. If you click the link check out the 'Look inside' section.

Wandering Aran fields ranks very high. Twisty Turns is going to be mine. In fact, Twisty Turns is the original design I choose for my Alpaca Peru. I started it last night, but the soft Alpaca isn't giving me the stitch definition on the ribs the pattern is looking for. Thinking it might be better in lace, I looked at the many capelet variations and choose to follow Ann Budd's 'Grand Plan' Capelet. In the book it is shown in red with a nice Horseshoe lace at the bottom, and a simple collar. I'm already a fan of her grand plan concept. You choose the increases, the lace, if you are going to have a collar, if you are going to do cables. It make you the designer of your own unique variation on a theme. OK the part that really thrills me is that the math is done for you. It is all laid out, based on the gauge of your knitting.

This yarn deserves unique. It probably deserves lace. It will get them. I may do the Horseshoe lace, but it could be many of the lace designs from my stitch dictionary. I'll think about that as I work through the plain top.

Now off to work. I'll knit for a bit longer, then I'm off to pick up a few things, visit the hospital and see how things went, mow lawns, then home to mow more. It will be a long busy day, and I'd best gird my loins with a little early morning knitting.

Before I forget, I'm giving Wrap Style a Double Treble. For my bookshelf, this is a 'just go out and get it' sort of book with a very strong appeal. For everyone else, it might be more accurate to say it is a Treble. There really is something for everyone here.

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Off the Rails

You know how some days just go off the rails and the best thing, the only good thing is that you did some knitting. And how on rare occasions, knitting came make you feel really guilty.

I am a heel. Certifiable.

I was at knitting yesterday, at our new location at a public library. There was a big sign on the outside of the building to turn off cell phones to avoid disturbing other patrons. I didn't turn mine off because I very seldom get any phone calls. So of course it rings, and since it never is important, and they would leave a message, I picked it up, flipped it open and closed it again, to make it stop ringing. Checked it about half an hour later, and it was son1's girlfriend.

She had been planning to do some sewing at my house, and I thought maybe she was looking for something. But no.

SS is a horse trainer and she was bucked and broke her ankle. She tried to call Son 1, but his phone was not with him. She tried to call for the fella at the place where she trains out of but his phone was in his car. She tried his house. she called and called, but he was working in a barn a fair distance away from her. She called her mom in Vancouver (we are in Edmonton), she called her dad, she tried her sister in Kelowna. All this calling with no one answering was making her pretty desperate, so she finally called the office, who can reach my husband anywhere during the day. She hoped to avoid the ambulance fee, but he said nope, it looked like too bad a break, and she really needed to be moved by pros.

So he called the ambulance and waited with her till it arrived. By the time she was on the road, we had all checked in found out what happened and we were all feeling pretty stupid and lame and awful. But I took the cake. I hung up on her.

Our patient is going to need some surgery, it is a pretty bad break, right at the point where the leg bones and ankle bones meet. So she is still in hospital, but she is doing OK but is distressed about all the things people are distressed about when life rears its ugly head. I'm heading in today to work (yarn is good) and handily enough she is right down the road, a mere two blocks, so I can check in with her off and on through the day.

Tuesday, 27 May 2008

How you know when summer comes in Canada

We are a northern nation. Summer can be late coming even in the best of years. Most of the landmass that is Canada requires traveling clothing to include winter wear, no matter what season it is. Old winter coats are frequently seen in July on cool summer nights round firepits and I personally take long johns even to Saskatchewans dry summer heat, because, well, you just never know.

In Canada, snowfall has been recorded in every month of the year in all but our most southern climes (and maybe even there).

So how the heck do we know that summer is here? Its easy. The beer companies tell us.
I socred my first cooler of the year. Clapclapclapclapclap.Maybe the title of this post should be 'Move along nothing to see here'.

My excitement is really way out of proportion to the coolers importance in the grand scheme of things. Its a just a beer cooler but this puppy is going to keep my yarn and workbag safe and dry no matter where we travel this summer. And I'll be able to fit an extra project in there under what the workbag usually carries. No way am I going to run out of stuff to do this summer. Maybe I can fit a spindle and some unspun fibre in there too.

You can find liners like this in diaper bags, and you can buy collapsible coolers just like this in many stores at this time of year. When the knitting companies figure out that people need bags like this, with moisture proof innards and outtards, we'll be paying hundreds of dollars for them.

Me, I'll wait for the beer company's version. It's free. The beer? Well, we buy some of that anyway.

Monday, 26 May 2008

Imaginary Friends and Hands on our Shoulders

Part Two

Earlier in May, I posted about some of the wonderful things I have going on in my life, and how grateful I am. My secret project, which I think first appeared on blog April 21, has been about finding a way to thank those who are directly responsible for this. I spoke about the secret project's trials and troubles here and here, here and spoke of it more thankfully here. I even posted a rough picture of them here.

Last week I wrote about my Imaginary Friends and about how I was meeting a some of them from DC, and from Calgary. This visit was the reason I had a deadline on the secret projects. These people are not just friends, they are the delivery service. TBG will arrange delivery at the next BPH. Mostly, your is coming by expedited mail. I'll hug you when next I see you. Seattle is not that far away. On to my story.

I spoke about the Achenblog, and how the regulars there have become friends. As I said we go off topic, and among the science and the politics, some of us talked doilies. The fellas scoffed at doilies (not really) but the early goofing around revealed just how many of us do play with string.

Mostlylurking sent me a link to the Yarn Harlot, which led me to the wild world of knitting on the Internet and got the ball rolling. CP, who thought I knit when I only crocheted and embroidered ( I did it a lot - like the knitting), commented once on something another Achenblogger, MO, said about loving lacy knit wrist warmers, and how Mo could really use some. One thing led to another, and I was cast as the person to make the wrist warmers, though I originally planned to crochet them.

With all the talk with Mostly and CP , I yearned to knit. I hungered to understand. Knitting was the itch I had given up scratching. A really quiet morning at the office, and a hung up Internet connection revealed the secret of my inadequate knitting. I finally saw the very tiny, stupid, silly thing I was doing differently, that stopped me from feeling good about knitting all these years. I decided then and there to know what else there was in this land of knitting. I posted about my dream, my hope, and my plan on May 28, 2007, and as everyone can see, it has been going non stop since. The wrist warmers hit the skids several times, and with regret, were put aside.

Giving up that quest was hard. It made me feel like a failure, yet again, at a time in my life when I felt like such a failure at every waking moment. I was not good at the job that sort of landed on my plate (supervising a bunch of people) and I could no longer properly put in the hours of the work that I really really liked (the accounting) because of vision problems. The vision problems were leading to longer and longer hours at work and left me feeling like my life was work and sleep. In a lot of ways it was.

By fall, when I gave up my quest to knit Mo's wrist warmers, I was deep under knitting's magical spell. So I could not knit the wrist warmers. Does this mean I give up knitting? Not a chance, bub.

So I knit and learned and knit and loved every moment. Each little thing I learned made me happier. Turning a heel, doing yarn overs, knitting i cord were small accomplishments, but they warmed my heart. The happier I became, the more deeply composed knitting made me feel, the more I knew that I one day soon, I must, for my sanity, give up my very good paying and once loved job. And so I did.

When I did, I had no idea where life would lead me. I only knew my life had to change. Through winter there were some signs of good things to come, and some of these very good things came to be. The others will be along shortly, I'm sure. When the time is right, they will be along and if the time isn't right, it really doesn't matter, I can still knit. When my eyes go fuzzy, I will still knit.

One day, while cleaning up the blog, I realized how close to my blogging anniversary I was, which meant that it was only moments till my knitting anniversary. I realized I already had knitted lace, and the goal I spoke of in that first knitting post was met. I realized how very far I had come, and how very rewarding it has been.

My imaginary friends were coming west, could pass on personal hugs and oh how I wanted to be able to send something that would say just how much these small conversations about string and lace and knitting and wrist warmers have meant.

Nothing would come of it, but to knit the three principles a little something. I tried wrist warmers, but I am still not ready (you never know, it might not be that much longer though). I had enough time for scarves. I had some lovely yarn, chosen with the help and advice of CP and Mostly, for Mo's scarf. I had some really fine yarn given to me by my sons at Christmas, which would be just right for the others. Mostly had sent me a book, Arctic Lace, which contained a fascinating pattern which says exactly the right thing.

So began the secret projects, where I learned that knitting holes is hard (you thought it applied only to clouds) and that I cannot count to 2. Oh I learned a lot of other things along the way, but that is how it goes in knitting. If you just slowly go on, step by step, stitch by stitch, magic will happen when you knit.

Sadly, I don't have a picture with all three together. Only two were completely finished by the time the Northern BPH was held. Mostly's scarf posed for me today in a tree in the backyard, and is just below, and these are Mo and CP's (the black for Mo, and the cream for CP). I wish you could feel their softness, and their delicate warmth. The yarn for Mo's is an Italian 100% Merino lace yarn, Centolavaggi, knitted two strands together, and CP's and Mostly's are 100% Drops Alpaca.

This pattern is called a chevron in Arctic Lace, but to me it says 'Hands on our Shoulders' and that is what this project is named.

Mostly, Cp, Mo. They were small things you said and did. They were insignificant silly words, but they have meant so very much to me. Little did you know that you were changing a life, Mostly, when you sent that link. Little did you know that you were restoring a soul, CP and Mo, when you chatted about lacy wrist warmers. Who could have said where it would lead?

In every way, my life is better for the it. When I look outside, my world is coloured just a little differently. Its a warmer, richer, cozier place. I do work that just makes me giddy with joy, and I have a whole pile of new yarny friends. Without the three of you, I don't know that I would have had the strength to find it myself. If I never knit another thing, I could live happily, knowing that I did

I believe that hand worked things are a gift of generations. Each of us learns from those around us, from aunts and friends, from grandmothers and mothers. Each of those who have taught us some small part of our craft have touched our shoulders and steady us as we work on. Each stitch carries with it something of all those many hands.

Among all the threads of my life, there will always be knitting to remind me that your hands were on my shoulders, guiding, believing, inspiring me on. I hope these scarves will remind you of mine.

Friday, 23 May 2008

Severe Case of SpinOlution-itis

Someone had to hold her feet to the floor. If I had not been there, who knows what would have happened!

My friend, ThatLoganchik took delivery her first spinning wheel, which explains why I am green with envy. Those of you who know her, know that she is a masterful spindle spinner. And spindle collector extraordinaire.

Ms Chik was the person who helped me learn to spin decently by teaching me the fine art of drafting. Sitting, waiting with her was the least I could do. Officially my role was to keep a record of the events.

And then my camera battery died. The spares also were dead. But I am pleased as punch to say that spinning happened.

Now let me tell you about the machine. It is a SpinOlution, a new product out of the US. the wheel is the Mach 1. You absolutely must check out this link and play the video to see how very unique this wheel is. It comes almost completely assembled. All you have to do is place a small spring, and screw the tension knob in place. The wheel is supremely quiet, so much so that the maker has included a part for beginners that makes a clicking sound so you can learn to time your feet to the spin of the wheel. It has no orifice for the yarn to pass through and with its generous sized bobbins, you can make anything from the finest spun silk to heavy yarn suitable for horse reins.

This is not a wheel for traveling. Its hefty, but its solidity is part of its charm. It is made completely of birch plywood. Every surface from front to wheel edges a thing of stunning beauty.

I am thrilled for ThatLoganChik, but I am very, very jealous, so jealous, that I have to go mow the green with envy patch.

but after that, I'll dream about wheels and wonderful yarn.

Thursday, 22 May 2008

Breaking news.....

Dateline: North American continent, 22 May 2008A.D.

This just in. An ancient form of handwork known as Knitting was re-discovered recently by this reporter, and scientists have only now discovered its hidden secret.

Knitting is Borg.

Resistance is futile.

Oh you can try to fight it, you can say you aren't going to fall under its spell. You can say you are only going to knit some baby gifts or learn how to do socks, but you will fall under its spell and pretty soon you will share the feelings of a commenter.

After reading the backwards knitting blog item, she says " I may just have to check out the videos... because god knows, I need another technique to suck up my time..."

(She should know. She knits with beads. Just scroll down a few posts, you'll see what I mean. She does some serious knitting with beads. Can't seem to help herself)

Only this morning, I was contemplating this very thing. Have you checked out the new Interweave Knits? The entire issue is filled with variations of colour work. See the Tidewater Wrap?

If you are feeling particularly strong, you go right ahead and click on the link to its details. For heavens sake, whatever you do, don't click on the 'Bonus Photos' (you have to like a magazine that includes bonus photos). Don't for a moment consider how lovely the inside of the shawl looks (which was the first thing I wondered about when I was salivating over the magazine photos). Don't even stop to consider how cozy it looks for those days when the ocean breezes might be a little too chilly for a lacy wrap. You know perfectly well you live in the middle of the continent and its going to be a little while till you see any ocean, much less feel ocean breezes. No, no, you go ahead and pretend you are never going to make this shawl, you are never going to snuggle in its cozy colour work.

No, you go right on and keep pretending that you are immune from colour work, and stranding. You go right ahead and pretend that the colour work mitts (down to the bottom of River City's March Newsletter , the Gotland Island Mitt cuff) on the counter at the yarn store have not been talking to you when no one was looking. You go right ahead and pretend you did not peek inside Folk Knitting in Estonia (available at River City Yarns), and see the most lovely colour work of all. You go right ahead and don't even think about the yarns in your stash that are just begging to be used for colour work. You are a strong woman. You can get past this, right?

Resistance is futile. Knitting is Borg.

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Knitting Backwards

Last Saturday morning, I was sitting around waiting for a son to arrive, and I decided to do something which has intrigued me for some time. I taught myself how to knit backwards.

Knitting backwards sounds like a good idea for those little projects where you are knitting and purling over just a few stitches. I cast on 10 stitches, and played around with it for a while and got something like this video from the Knitwitch. (Here is hoping the video thing works)

Remember how I said sort of?

Because I hold my yarn in my other hand, a holdover from being gauge comfortable with crochet technique, I had to sort it out by myself. The results look the same, a perfectly knit stitch, only the placement of needles and possibly the direction I need to wrap change. If I was a smart videophile, I would have video of myself knitting backwards. Then even I could see what the heck I did to get there.

Please note the lack of such video. I am no videophile. Search the net. someone will be demonstrating it.

There are dozens of how to videos on YouTube, 17 if you search using knitting backwards. Some of them don't seem to be knitting, but the search results in enough that surely some of this is going to help.

If you can't find a teacher or a friend who knows how to knit, you can have someone show you via the Internet. Knitwitch is a video maker I particularly like. She has a very long list of things on knitting over at YouTube.

Now I just have to come up with a reason to use the thing so I can become smooth and speedy with it. Though, before I worry about smooth and speedy backwards knitting, I should probably figure out the speedy part going the regular direction.

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Imaginary friends

Part One

Yoki, TBG, dmd, and Daughter of Yoki

This past weekend, I met some people I have known for several years. We met virtually via the Achenblog, writer Joel Achenbach's blog at the Washington Post.

Joel's blog (We all call him Joel), drew a bunch of funny witty people together, and when a bunch of funny witty intelligent people from all over the world get together, hi-jinks happen. Joel's job is to write the kit, and our job is... Joel may have an entirely different view of what our job is on his blog, but I think it is fair to say that what usually happens is that we go off topic as soon as is humanly possible.

We discuss gardening, home renovations, science, global warming, sports, religion, manfood, other food, politics, the 70s, the 60s. Even though everyone has a different opinion, our friendship and respect for one another, and for Joel, keeps the blog comments section conducive to discussion. Differing opinions are not seen as personal attacks, they are seen as the view from where you stand. It isn't that personal attacks don't happen, rather that when they do, the poster is called on and is held to a community standard of behaviour. The comments self police, and what results, is friendly, respectful, pithy and hilarious commentary.

With our shared blog 'culture', meeting these imaginary friends in the flesh, is like running into old friends and sitting down to have a beer. The Washington locals have been gathering for some time, holding irregular BPH's (Boodle Proching Hour, a blog lore reference) and this time, it was part of the Canadian contingent gathering in Calgary, to meet up with a part of the DC contingent.

The BPH north was hosted by one of our regulars, Yoki (who is a masterful chef) and her family, who accepted us as friends and compatriots. (A general round of applause for Yoki please.)

I'm a little overwhelmed at meeting them all, and my head is still spinning that it was possible to do so. My head is spinning even more at the thought that when I met these people from so far away, it, I could sit down and be instantly comfortable, with none of the usual 'meeting people for the first time' awkwardness.

I have a group of imaginary friends, and they are just grand.

Friday, 16 May 2008

Short row heel class

The secret project is finished. Well close but no cigar, which is OK. I don't smoke. If I smoked, there probably would be a cigar because I have finished the knitting part. The parts all need to be grafted, and blocked.They don't look like much yet, but there is a world of meaning in these projects. I won't say much about that now, but these mark a journey that has come to mean a lot.

I sat in on a Sock class again last night. Very interesting. I can to make a short row heel. Not only that, in very little time, I can make 2.

The instructor showed us how to make a garter stitch heel from our Lucy Neatby patterns. Idiot simple. So simple I had to ask the instructor why everyone online talks about and obsesses over working the wraps . The instructor, being the very smart knitterly person she is, asked if the heels I saw online were stockinette heels. They were. She had me work up a stockinette version using the same technique.

Small holes appeared along the sides, which is of course, why everyone uses the obscenely complicated working the wraps process. There are other knitters out in the webby world we share, who say knitting through the back loop closes that little hole. I understand what 'hole' they are talking about now that I have created some.

It was enormously satisfying to learn this heel. More satisfying still, I understand what drove people to come up with the more complicated working the wraps short row heel. It was like an itch that needed scratching.

You can live without scratching these knitterly itches, but it feels so darn much better when you do.

Thursday, 15 May 2008

Work as Play

I mentioned last week that I have a new job. In a yarn store. Have I mentioned how much fun this is? No? Well, let me tell you.

In my old job, first thing was to get coffee. That life sustaining liquid gave me the ability to get through the rest of the day. Some days I never got much past the coffee pot ( should have been a sign), but most of the rest of the day was reading numbers, counting numbers, and talking to people about existing numbers or about developing new numbers. I never really liked numbers a whole lot, but I loved the people I worked with, and I loved the endless opportunities for growing. As an answer to a quest for knowledge, it was great, but it was after all just numbers.

My new job is very different. I am working in a yarn store, where the first thing you do is play with yarn, and then you play with more yarn, and oh yeah, did I mention, then you play with more yarn? I never even thought about coffee.

I tried very hard to work with the yarns, to do all the things that have to happen in a yarn store, like pricing, restocking, finding yarn for people, taking calls and messages. I'm pretty sure I did some of those things. I do recall being asked to price some new yarn, and I think I did it right, but I confess I don't recall that clearly. I remember everything about the yarn though.

When I first opened the box yesterday, I picked out the warm earthy rust red skein as my personal choice. That lasted only minutes till I opened up the pack with the soft greens and tans. And the other one with the soft ivories and greens, And the other one with the soft bluey blacks (or is it blacky blues) that just drew you into their rich depths. Sigh.

Each bag was something to swoon over, and by the end there were no winners. I couldn't have picked a personal favourite colour for my life.

In the afternoon, I played with more yarn. I'd tell you about it, but I think I have to go lay down now. Just thinking about that lace weight...I'm going to swoon.

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Matching yarn to needles

The last while at knitting group some of our conversation was about what size needles do we use for socks. Group knitters use needles between size 2.5 mm to a size 2 mm for the average sock yarn. They seem to knit to a specific gauge.

Here are some of the sock yarns that I have on my needles right now. Left to right, we'll call them 1 to 4.At first glance they look too close in size to tell apart, but the 4 pictured yarns, felt extremely different as they ran through my hands. Kroy sock yarn is fat and fluffy, Trekking is fine and strong, Fixation is stretchy, and the Fabel feels...well like really good sock yarn (I can't seem to get past its long colour changes, and brilliant shades for descriptions).

Kroy sock yarn (4), is too tight on 2.5 mm needles. The yarn loses all its squooshy goodness, and what the heck good is a sock without squooshy goodness? Kroy, I work on 3 mm needles.

Cascade Fixation (2) is labeled with the very unclear notation of '4,5'. I tried a few different sizes and used what felt right, a 3.75 mm needles (a US 5 it seems). That produced the best feeling fabric.

The Fabel socks (3), are being worked on 2.25 mm needles, and the most recent acquisition, some Trekking XXL (1) (I love the orange in this) is being worked on 2 mm needles, because it was what I could find fast for use in last weeks sock class.

I use this variety of needles because it feels right. Other people may stick more closely to one size because that is what feels right to them and by working to the same gauge, they don't even have to think about when to start and stop increasing or decreasing. Their socks will always be the same size in a basic fingering weight yarn. Everyone says smaller needles are better, that small needles produce a tougher wearing, sturdier sock. This is probably true and a wise knitter heeds her friends.

As an unwise knitter, I operate to a different tune. Smaller might be better, but if I am going to wear handmade socks, I really am going to insist on some squooshy factor in them.

I figure when I am as skilled as these Knitters are, I will probably know what size gauge my socks are in. I will probably care how tight the feet are worked, and will always knit for that tightness. I'm still in love with the very idea of me trying to knit. This probably is not a good way to do it. I probably should put on a more knitterly sort of glasses to help me see things clearly before I massacre any more sock yarn.

Till then, laying in a stock of darning needles might be a very good idea.

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Cloudy Skies

When clouds are hanging overhead, you might think it is going to rain. Not always. Sometimes clouds are the most amazing things.

Lets say you have a project that you are working on. Its a great pattern and you can't wait to see it all knit up. One day, you realize that your gauge is off. That cold hard reality has shattered you. For an instant you stand there and just wish you did not know this. Then, even as the last shattered bit of you is slithering to the floor, you realize that because you are a smart knitter, and you really really like this yarn, you patiently and carefully take out the offending stitches and make it better.

I hit this sort of a hiccup in my general personal plan. There was an instant this morning, where all I could see was clouds gathering, looking dark and a lot like rain. I have to rework my personal yarn a bit, change some increases to decreases and ssk's to k2togtbl's (knit 2 together through the back loops). Even as these clouds hover,

there can be magic in them. All it takes is looking at the clouds with a different perspective.

Monday, 12 May 2008

Playing with colours

I have a wild sort of flower garden. It's on a steep slope and over time, it just happened. There are wild things among the planned perrenials, and it is a riot of colours in high summer with chartreuse, hot cerise pinks, clear oranges and deep reds among the purples and many many shades of green.

Yesterday was like that. It was an accidental colour mix, that somehow, is ok. I separated some of the Old Rose coloured yarn dyed last week, and set some aside. Part of this weeks goal was overdying sections, and seeing if I could match a particular series of fall tones that rose bush leaves turn in the fall.

Since part of the goal was to preserve some of the old rose, I decided to dip dye sections. Section 1 was a rich red orange, much like fruit of a blood orange . On the skein after the dyeing process, the resulting shade was a really nice peachy colour that blended perfectly with the old rose. Section 2 was dyed with a lighter shade of the orange red. This second shade turned out to be a problem. It turned out a brilliant yellow akin to the yellow on the walls of my study. It was absolutely wrong for the soft tones of the peach and old rose.

I decided to try over dyeing the yellow section again. The result was a wonderful shade, an earthy rusty red which I immediately fell in love with.
It was the perfect match for the soft peach. Not so the old rose.The old rose speaks of delicacy and softness. The rusty red and it coordinating peach spoke of mother natures delights. The rose colour was OK, just not quite rich enough.

At this stage in the game, I felt it was not going to get worse if I tried to do something about it. This time, the goal was to make the rose more intense, something that would meet the values I ended up with in the rust, something richer, and deeper. Rather than a deeper more intense rose, I got fuchsia.

OK, this was not happening according to plan. After a thorough wash, it went out to dry. This morning, I had to get rid of the evidence. I twisted it up into a hank and somehow, it did not hurt my eyes as much. It was put down in the 'other' yarn basket, a mix of scraps and pieces, and leftover bits. My eyes just kept going back to it.

I kind of like it. It reminds me of my flower gardens, all mixed up with unexpected vibrancies. Or of this native lady slipper.

If mother nature can do this combination, maybe I can too. I think I'll knit up a swatch of this, just to see what happens.

Friday, 9 May 2008

What you get from sock class

I sat in on a toe up sock class last night. Learned a bunch of new things. Met a very wise knitter. Or 3.

I'm still mired in secret projects. If these were not secret projects I would have taken a whole lot of photos, because there has been a lot to see. Along the way through these projects, I have learned so much.

On part one, I knit and re knit rows, I sweated and slaved. Every error took days, nay weeks to get past. Counting to 2 became the most painful thing in my days. And yet here I am, just a little farther into project, and I cannot believe what I am doing.

I have come to know the flow of the pattern well enough that I am following along not needing to read the pattern a lot. I know how many stitches there are to get to any point and more often than not, they are being counted and tracked as I work through the stitch rows. Yesterday afternoon, I suddenly realized that where I should have 3 plain stockinette stitches there were 4. I also realized that the last section of the set was one stitch short. The row below that had one too many and one too few. The row below that, had one too many and one too few. It was not looking good. I'm working with a doubled strand of very fine black laceweight yarn that is a pleasure to work with but is in league with the devil should you try to tink back or rip. I did think about drinking, but I was still planning to go out to that sock class, so I went out to sit in the sun and contemplate (I had a snooze instead. It was lovely).

Off to class. The class instructor said knitting should make us feel good. If we don't care for or have difficulty doing a thing one way, it really doesn't matter, there are other ways to do that same thing that will make knitting feel good. She said knitting should be a place away from worrying about doing it right and should be about doing what works for us.

This morning I sat down with a good stiff coffee, knowing I had to figure it out. I picked up the needles and found the error. 8 rows below. I was not keen to try tinking 8 full rows, so I decided to see if I could just reknit the bad part. I don't mind trying new things, and I had seen several samples of how to repair something several rows below. There are a number of good photo tutorials on the net. Would this work for me? I decided not to worry about it, and just give it a try. The very worst that could happens was that I would end up carefully tinking the full rows.

I put point protectors on the needles with the unaffected stitches, found another set of needles of same size to work with and the gently and slowly began to unravel 5 stitches mid pattern repeat, down the 8 bad rows.

It was traumatic. I closed my eyes when I was done and took a deep breath, and with the aid of the right sized dpns, a very short time later, about 15 minutes, I was back up and knitting even. You can't even tell there was a problem and my counts are correct.

Before my class last night, I spent a couple hours worrying about what was I going to do. How was I going to be able to save the yarn? This morning after listening to the instructor, I left the worry behind and found a way that worked.

I intended to learn about some new ways to start toe up socks. I intended to learn a different toe shaping. I did learn those things but I took home much more.

The thing that made the difference was what the teacher reminded me of. I let go the worry and let the knitting speak. Letting the worry go was magic. Letting go of the worry let me find a way that worked. You never know what small things other knitters will say that will make good things happen. I only know the other knitters always bring magic.

Even if you are a top notch knitter, take a class.

Thursday, 8 May 2008

Everything is good and interesting

I had a lovely day yesterday. Just right to start. I hope to have many many more. Being surrounded by yarn is comfort, just like being surrounded by books.

This is the weekend Mr. Needles goes off golfing with his buddies, and while I fully support his going, there is a teeny tiny part of me that takes great delight telling you that weather at their golfing location is going to suck. They will be traveling through snow, and the forecast is cold and rainy for the entire weekend. I'm working pretty hard to keep the smile from cracking my cheeks. 'Ain't I a stinka' as Bugs Bunny used to say.

This morning I am moving on to part 3 of the secret project. I hope to have a good part of it done by the time I go to sleep this evening. Without having to break for dinner making, I'll heat some soup, and keep on working. I have finally found my comfort level with this pattern. I'm sticking to using markers as I travel up repeats though. Messing up now would hurt.

I am a little surprised at the Drops Alpaca. None of the skeins have been the same length. I expected more uniformity in projects worked at the same gauge on the same needles, with the same yarn. On each of the two completed sets to be grafted, I will have to rip back rows to have matching pattern rows. It doesn't take a lot of feet of yarn to make up the rows, but I am just surprised. I thought that a commercial yarn would be closer. It will be interesting knowledge as I go forward to other things.

In other knitting news (or not), I have a coned yarn that is going to go into production soon. A while ago, I linked to the Argosy Shawl. This is the yarn I am going to make it in. I love this rich and dusty blue right to its tweedy little pink and white soul.

Like the Agatha Shawl yarn, this stuff has been yelling at me. Loudly. The Agatha, which is also up next, is going to be a more challenging pattern, so in a way this yarn and this pattern will be my respite from Agatha. The Argosy is also going to be the big project I drag along camping. The yarn is sturdier and is going to withstand the traveling better.

So there you have it the next projects already lined up and waiting to go. Agatha and Argosy.

There is another sweater that should be in the works, but I am still searching for the pattern. I think I know the general direction I am heading, I just have to dig through the books to find a basic pattern that is right for it. Then I have to do a little customising to do, to make it perfect.

3 large things on the go at once seems like a lot. This is a place I haven't been before, but each project has limits. One will be something with a deadline (the Agatha), one will be a traveling project (Argosy) and the last will be a just get it done before summer job.

I can do that right? Right? I may just have to talk myself into this. Or maybe that should be out of it.

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

Leaps of Faith

Learning to knit properly was a leap of faith for me. I had given up, decided that I was never going to be a knitter, that I crocheted, that I embroidered, that I did everything else reasonably well, that it was good enough if I did not knit.

One day a couple imaginary friends assumed I could. That they assumed I could, was a greater leap of faith in my abilities than I ever had, and since these imaginary friends are really bright, educated, funny people, there was no way I could have ever explained that I did not knit, that I considered myself incapable of it. If they believed,maybe it was time to look at knitting again.

So I did. And I do. Knit that is. A lot. More than I should.

I just never thought it would lead anywhere other than a comfort and a balm to a weary soul. I never imagined knitting was more than just yarn and needles. I never imagined that knitting would be my map. Sure it was the Yarn Harlot's map ('Stephanie Pearl McPhee Casts Off' ). It made perfect sense for her, but I was just a cubical monkey doing a cubical monkeys job, without a cubicle (plain desk - no walls). Where could knitting possibly take me?

Once I believed in my ability, funny things started happening. Other people started believing in me, and now I have a whole new world of possibilities opening up in front of me.

Today I get to walk through those doors to possibilities. Its a small opportunity at first, but I really like that. Like any new job, I am going into it believing I have something to contribute, and I am sure I will find more I can contribute as I go along. This is not a leap of faith on my part. I have nothing to lose by giving it a try, and gain in every way.

My new employer is taking a big leap of faith. They know me only a little, but they believed in me enough to make the offer. I just wanted to say thanks.

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

Here I go Adventuring

As I said yesterday, much good knitting is happening here at the house of the Needles. So very much good. Even though I really am enjoying the process of the secret project, my fingers are itchy for something new. I had the little drawer open where that really nice Cotton Viscose is kept (not posting the photo of this yarn is very hard but I will spare you) , and just wished there were more hours in a day. Soon.

I did a lot of reading over the last few days, mostly about dying. And then I ended up playing with this.It turned into a very large skein of a really nice dusty rose. This time, because of the size of the skein, I ended up doing it on the stove, and I think that I am going to prefer this method of setting this kind of dye. The whole process was faster, and I was able to get the heat where I wanted it to be with much less fuss and bother. After heating, the dye was taken up into the yarn with much greater speed, so fast that it was hard to believe the process was really completed.
It kept the same variations on the skein that the first blue skein did, which is very pleasing to me. This closeup section is from near the top of photo one, where the greatest variation of colour is. Most of the rest of the skein is much more subtly varied, from a rich wine rose, right through to the softest of baby pinks. All in all, I am quite pleased.

I choose not to split this skein, and it really is a large amount of yarn. I plan to over dye a part of this with some golden orangey tones. How I will do this I'm not quite sure yet. there seem to be several methods to get there.

I also played with the blue skein, and over dyed it in the same tones to get just a little more depth of colour. After looking at it for a week or so, the blue was just a little too pale on some sections. The over dye went well, the colours staying in their lovely variegated tones, but the colour intensifying.

Dyeing is not the hard part in all of this. Waiting for it to cool is. Waiting for it to dry is. Waiting to fondle the lovely new thing is.

I wrote a nice post

I wrote a nice post for today, but it is lost in Bloggers scheduled post thingy.

Dear Blogger is it day month year or year month day? Because if it is month day year, mine did not post. and yeah the time was set to a.m.

It was a really good post too. It had pictures dag gummit. About yarn I dyed. Drat you blogger.

Please bear with me while I try to figure out what I have done (assuming that I am as usual the one who did it wrong)

Harrumph, and umbrage, umbrage, umbrage.

Monday, 5 May 2008

I got Rhythm, I got Rhythm

who could ask for anything more....

But on other far more interesting fronts, I went to the Symphony this weekend. I would have taken my knitting, but I have a funny feeling that knitting at the symphony would have been wrong. I did not want to get this nice crowd of people riled, take their cue from Madame Dafarge and guillotine me.

Had it been proper, I could have absolutely knit while they played. I was not much of a Schubert fan, but have to admit, his Symphony No. 5 was lyrical. There is just something about sitting in the lovely Winspear Centre, with its perfect acoustics that makes you fall in love with what you hear. It was like sitting inside the music. I have gone but once to a live orchestral concert, but intend to make sure this was not the last time it happens.

Watching the Orchestra play, watching the violinists bow their instruments, I was struck by how very much knitting looks like their playing. Tuesdays at knitting circle look a lot like a symphony of knitters.

Without a conductor, we arrange ourselves around a centre table, often in a sort of oval grouping, so we can see each other work. Our elbows bow in time, our hands dance lightly along the strings. Even simple knitting is beautiful to watch. We are a lot more noisy than an orchestra, we drink coffee and other things while we play, we dress a lot more casually than the average orchestra. If you went by dress, we'd look a lot more like the orchestra's cousin musician who was playing outside the theatre. ('Everybody loves somebody sometime' sung just for the pure joy of singing and pennies. I wouldn't have minded hearing him inside the concert hall on that stage. He was very good.) Luckily, we don't have to dress up to play. We can just arrive as we are, and get to the heart of the matter. The Edmonton Symphony Orchestra has music rhythm, and we have knitting rhythm.

In music they teach you to just keep on playing, but in knitting, no matter how strong your urge to just keep knitting is, you absolutely must go back and make it right. You can want to believe that one little oops is not going to matter, and on very rare occasions it might not, but most of the time, you will come to the end of a 7000 row project and realise that you had a tiny error in row 12, compounded and continued through every other row and nothing looks right because of it. Music played live is ephemeral and lives on in memories, but knitting is solid, tangible, and what you end up seeing relies on how well you played.

Knitting might not be music but, they come from the same heart. I got rhythm, so I knit.

I'm playing with Blogger's new scheduling feature. If things seem out of order this week, it is just me.

Friday, 2 May 2008

working endlessley and all I have to show for it is a rock

Since I am still working on the secret project, I cannot show pictures, but much good knitting is happening. It is coming along nicely. I may have found the rhythm, but I worry about thinking that. The usual pattern is that the moment I think I have it, I am about to fail dramatically.

I'm also completing a review of something connected to my previous work, which is why I have nothing to show you but for rocks. Yes rocks in the Charlie Brown way - 'All I got was a rock'.

Raising male children has it's challenges and rewards. Little boys like to collect, and find all kinds of things to wonder about and question.The small boy of the species can entertain himself endlessly looking at all the rocks on a pile of stones. This is further complicated by Mr. Needles B.Sc. in geology, and tendency to take us to the far corners of absolutely nowhere. (Generally nowhere is Alberta and Saskatchewan, but there have been other nowheres.) Add in a family with a penchant for Sunday afternoon drives and explorations on foot. Over the years we found some very interesting stuff.

These specimens were found at the very closed off mouth of an abandoned shaft (likely a coal shaft) in southern Alberta. They were scattered near the entrance to the shaft. Mr. Needles could tell more than you wanted to know about these rocks, but he is not here to ask.

I think the middle sample, which appears to be a very well preserved sample of vegetable matter, a branch or section of woody material, which has been replaced by quartz, was the first sample we found. The boys began to look at all the rocks that had that same sort of colour and we came home with these, and other interesting things. These ancient leaves are forever marked into the rocks. Some of the samples are so clear and well preserved, that you can see the tiny fine veins.

The specimens have no scientific value. We checked this out. There are laws here in Alberta about what you can legally collect and when you cannot collect. Because they were found loose, in a field near a past excavation, whatever value they might once have had is lost. They were quite simply tailings from the past excavations for coal. The value is in our collected family memories of Sunday afternoons and unexpected beauty.

The moral of this story, if there is one, must surely be, keep your eyes, your mind and your spirit open. Some days there is magic in the air, and some days the magic is in the things around us.

Thursday, 1 May 2008

There is a cool damp mist hanging in the air this morning. It whispers spring will come. It softly says patience, wait. The wisps of air and water are a sigh of things to come. The picture out my window entices, seduces with its promise. There is anticipation and expectation just beyond the forest edge.

I love mornings like this.

Before dawn, I picked up the lace. The magic had returned and in mere minutes, I was laying down the grafting row. Part One will now be set aside and I will do all the grafting for all the parts of this project in one sitting. On to part 2 of the secret project and even taking all Part One's travails into consideration, I am looking forward to getting this on the needles.

Everything I have learned along this project's path has shown me that I must have patience, and be willing to step back. I must learn to trust the voice when it says slower, gently, softly. I have learned that there can be no urgency in lace. Small moves, soft edges, sighs of form, and line. These are the magic of lace knitting.

The forest and this simple magic are speaking to me. I heed their sirens call.