Friday, 29 August 2008

Writing down insturctions

I don't know how designers go about getting their work done, but I know that if I am going to make something happen, it will happen on my needles by trial and error. This would be the yarn stress way of making a pattern on your own. I certainly did it with crochet, and I'm doing the same thing with knitting too.

The piece I did for the shop is a very small capelet, more of a collar with a collar than anything. If you added all the stitches I knit up, I have knit enough stitches getting the the finish, for a sweater. (Recall the entire 1200 stitches on a row ruffle problem?) Backwards and forwards, deciding if I needed a row of increases by finding out that yes, to fit, I needed a row, and working back, putting it in and moving forward again. If I had written down every stitch in every row along the way, the instructions would read a lot like knit, knit, burrp, knit, knit, knit back, knit. And don't forget the purls.

Now I have to write down the instructions. They really are simple, and to me, intuitive, but the problem is, not everyone thinks like me. In fact, no one but me thinks like me. My sons say they are not even sure I can understand what I am thinking half the time. I am nervous that what feels so intuitive to me is going to come out weird or even impossible, or just to darn fussy for most knitters.

Is it odd to say, after the fact, that I worked in the special yarns, till it felt right? How can I explain the way the yarns worked along the collar's collar? How can I explain my decision to put the really fuzzy yarns at the end. How do I say that I decided to do a lacy bit because it felt right?

I know that Elizabeth Zimmermann designed always with an eye to the math of the thing. My friend,That Logan Chick, does the same, but I think for both, it is because the math part was deep in the way the see the world.

I don't have a thing for numbers and I don't have a thing for math. Numbers are not how I see the world. I go by feel. I feel when a thing is right or not. I feel if things balance. I feel when scale is right, but how to get everything there is a mystery unless I have the string in my hands. It all plays out in endless stitches and ripping back and playing around with needles and strings.

Now I have to write it down, make it make sense and see if others can follow along with me. I'm off to count stitches.

It might not be every ones cup of tea, but its awfully cute. Look for it on display in the shop some time soon.

Thursday, 28 August 2008

A Hat is a Hat and that is that.

I've been fooling around with learning new things. I ended up with a hat.
Its not pretty, but it is a hat.

I wanted to learn stranded colour work. I've seen one of the ladies doing it around the store and I was fascinated to watch the way she held the yarn in her hands. About the same time, I found an old little tool among the sewing things in the laundry room, a small thimble like thing, with pegs across the top and a little closer piece to hold the yarn between the pegs. It seemed like Kismet but the universe was telling me it was time to learn stuff.

First I tried out the little tool. Did not work for me. I could not manage the tension at all. I sat down to learn how the rest of the western world knits, and did not manage gauge very well doing that either. I persevered and made the hat any way.

The flaws are many, including the imbalance between the yarns. The imbalance means some of my nifty band one stitches like to hide between the heavier grey yarns. The second colour band is much improved.

I still have a lot of learning to do on gauge, but the hat is indeed a hat with bits of stranded colour work.

I've some yarn left over so I'm off to wrist warmers. Or maybe a scarf. I'll need that too come fall.


If this post isn't making sense, its because needing to know this, to do this, kept me up half the night, and I dreamt of doing it the other half. I'm going back to bed now to sleep the sleep of the plain old tired knitter.

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Miles of i-cord

I am almost finished the little shop project I have been working on. I am very very pleased with the way it looks.

After the ruffle adventure, my boss and I decided that it should be finished in i-cord. I worked the attached i-cord yesterday around the collar and edges, and today I am working on the ties. If you finish the edges in i-cord, the appropriate closure is going to be an i-cord tie.

This morning, I went to pick out some dpns from my water bottle storage container to do just that...

and the bottle wasn't there. No bottle, no needles. A quick search through all of my various bags proved the bottle full of needles was no where. How could a person loose their entire stock of dpns in the house, when they are stored in a brilliant lime green bottle, that reason says should stick out by a mile in my house of muted tones.

Don't answer that.

Things like this really bug me, and I was so upset that I put it aside. I thought I might work on the second chapter of Elizabeth Zimmermann's Knitting Workshop to continue my effort to learn to knit western and to learn colour stranding. I set up the bottom of the hat, and was ready to grab the book off the shelf to work along with her.

No book.

I've looked all the usual places, and it is missing in action too. I desperately searched my memory for a time where I would have worked with the needles and the book, but memory isn't serving today. In fact it is totally shut down.

If you come to the shop today, I'll be the spacey one, the one who is staring blankly at the wall.

Cause man, I don't got it, whatever 'it' is today.

I-cord? I am reduced to this.

Which is just fine except I could sure use a longer tool than the short gold pin sold with the spool. A crochet hook ought to work just fine... Oh right.

I've been keeping all but the really big ones in the missing green bottle.


Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Sweater Weather

August is a funny month. Daytime temperatures can be breathtakingly hot. We've had a run of 30 degree days like nobody's business this year, hot August days indeed. But at night, even at the end of the first week of August, you can smell the difference in the night air. The nights cool off, the dew lays thick over the lawns and decks around the yard. August is the harbinger of Autumn.

I realized that this morning. It was 6:30 a.m. and it was dark out. Too dark to read, too dark to sit out and sip a coffee, too dark to do anything other than sit and say, 'its awfully dark out'. Evenings still have the feel of summer with their long twilights, and warm summer air, but the mornings? The mornings are fully fall.

It isn't just me with this feeling. I see the difference in the people at the store. Wrist warmer kits are fair walking out the door these days as we all pretend that it isn't a mitten, its just a little something to tuck their hands into, that mittens are still months away, that we have tons of time. People are still looking at shawl designs, but they have left lace and are looking for something else. Time and again, I hear people saying, oh that won't be warm enough, I'd like something in a heavier yarn. For months the high traffic in store samples has been the little shortie scarves, and the light lacy looks, but right now the object of desire and admiration is the well thrummed mitten. Everyone is trying them on and admiring. And sweaters. We are all looking at sweaters, looking at sweater yarn, thinking about what sort of style we are going to wear this year. Big warm and bulky, we don't care, we are just craving the warmth even if the days heat shows 25 C on the thermometer.

The back of summer is broken, and in hearts all across this grand land, it is fall. In the hearts of Canadian knitters, in the middle of hot August days, and the fading blooms of summer meadows, August is sweater weather.

Monday, 25 August 2008

When a shoulder is not a shoulder

when a sleeve is not a sleeve. Nope, not at the sleeves yet, but it sounds poetic don't you think?

I worked on the green Drops sweater again this weekend, and it is going along beautifully, but for one small thing. I can't seem to get beyond the right front. Or maybe it is the left front. Each time I think I am done, I end up having to pull it all out an redo. I'm afraid to contemplate how many times I am going to have to knit these parts before they are error free.

I ripped back the half done front because I realized I was doing the shoulder decreases at the front neck.

Rip Rip

Then, I measured a dozen times, I felt confident that the back and the front were the same length to point where I was to start decreasing at the underarm. I measured flat, hanging, on my knees, on the chair, on the table. I measured with a plastic tape measure, with a metal one, with a piece of string, with some spare yarn. I measured my heart out only to find that when I was at the shoulder seam, and held it all in place, the front side seam was 1 inch shorter than the back side seam.

Rip, rip, sha na na na, sha na na na na na. You know it hardly hurts to rip back anymore. Maybe that is because I like knitting an awful lot or maybe it is because I am numb to its pain.

I do have to lay it aside for a while and let it think about itself. It rested over night, but I am girding my loins this morning, and intend to get right back to work.

Knit, knit, sha na na na, sha na na na na na.

Friday, 22 August 2008

Taking Buffalo to tea.

My sister invited me to tea yesterday. It sounds like it should be a very calm activity, very high class, and restful, an entirely delightful and refined activity. And it was. There was quality tea served, there were proper dainties, shortbread, fine cakes, and finger foods. That it was served to me around the warmth of a campfire from a good sturdy tin campfire coffee percolator in tin cups, sans saucers , sans serviettes made it all the more special. As my sister said, there was a tablecloth and that must suffice for refinements of decor. It was as delightful a day as I have spent in a very long time. We should do this every year.

Getting to tea was an adventure. Getting out of Elk Island Park to go for dinner was even more of an adventure.

My sister was camping at Elk Island National Park just a few miles away from my home. Elk Island is a picture of the way the Canadian west used to be. Its a mix of grasslands, boreal forest, lakes, sloughs, and all the flora and fauna that really belong. It is fenced to keep the animals safe and off the major highway that cuts though the park but once you take the park road in to the centrally located campground, you cross ungulate gates and, you are in wild animal territory. They elk, deer and bison roam free and you never know what you will see. I saw not a single elk, no deer, but I saw a whole lot of these, a lot closer than I really wanted to see them. The pictures make it seem far far away, but oh me oh my, they were close.

There were several of them right along the road, eating the tender new grass where the park people keep it cut. At first there was just a couple in a group. Then a little further down the road, there was another group, and another till I got to a group of about 15 mothers with calves who were right on the road. I was pretty nervous by this time. Some of the mothers were looking at me a little funny. One little fellow did not want to leave the roadway, so his mama came out and nudged him along. As they stood to the side the momma glared at me and took a step forward. I instantly realized that my wee Honda Fit was not so big as her calf, and that she was looking at me exactly as would any mother who thought I was trying to interfere with her babe. I was not feeling really confident about my vehicle. The thought passed through my mind that in an altercation between a mad momma bison, and a Fit, there was only going to be one winner, and it was not going to be me. (I am considering making my next vehicle purchase a Humvee.)

A truck and trailer came along and I wisely decided to get behind him. If anyone was going to be rammed, it was going to be him, being the bigger threat and all, right?

We traveled on and cleared several more groupings, dwindling down to this one old fellow, who seemed to have the right idea.

He just ambled along peacefully in the centre of the opposite lane, minding his own business.

When I finally arrived, I forgot to mention all this bison trauma to my sister, and the day proceeded accordingly. Late in the day, nearing dark, we decided that we were going to head to town for a nice dinner. We were driving along, and she told me that she was disappointed that she had not seen any bison, one of the parks most visible animals (I understand why) on her trip in to the fenced off people area.

We saw the ambler, still just ambling along, though we did see him park to have a wee bite at the side of the road as we passed. We saw a couple groups of other bison, and then we came face to face with the mommas and babies. The whole crowd of them was standing right in the middle of the road. My sister was really really impressed, but noticed that these bison were not moving.

We approached a little closer in the hopes that getting closer that they would recognize that we were a car, and would move aside and let us pass. She encouraged me to honk the horn to no avail. A Honda Fit horn sounds like a child's tin flute and carries all the might and weight of one too. No fear factor here. We tried flashing the lights but the buffalo looked placidly in our direction. Then one sat down in the middle of the road. Clearly they were planning on staying right there, and they felt strongly that humans had no business being in their park. A momma placidly started nursing her little fella right on the white centre line. We tried revving the engine, which at least made the babies look at us, and some younglings began to gambol and play. There is evey chance that they were laughing at the silly humans. As the mommas fondly watched their children we noticed the whole crowd was now slowly approaching us. We decided to see how fast a Fit can drive backwards.

We took stock of our options and realized that the we were on the north side of the two southern park exits, and that our only option was going to be heading to the north gate, and finding dinner at the Lamont pub. We turned and drove off north. Buffalo 2, sis and me, 0.

We passed an SUV heading for the south gates, looked at each other and found out that Honda Fits can turn on a dime on the highway at low speeds without the need to back up. We were heading south again, speeding waaaaaay over the park speed limit of 60K to get close to the SUV. Let him be the guy the buffalo will hit. We will coast through on his path.

Mr SUV bravely and very slowly drove into the group on the road. There was a point where Mr. SUV almost stopped. there may have been a bit of panic in the car. We were in the centre of the group, buffalo were fogging up our windows with their breath (or was that me?) and my sister kept saying don't look them in the eye, and Oh my God and other words of wisdom and prayer, but she also said, I think he nudged that buffalo. If she would have looked she would have noticed that my calm demeanour was enhanced by the fact that my my eyes were probably closed (which was very very bad, since I was, after all driving). Magically mystically, Mr. SUV wedged his way between the buffalo and he slowly cleared a path. We traveled through calmly in his wake. We were clear, where only moments before we had buffalo standing mere inches from our doors.

Mr. SUV, pulled to the side and waved us past, then turned around and drove off north. Who that masked man was, I do not know but both my sister and I can attest that super heros still exist.

We had a lovely dinner, drove to my home, picked up Mr. Needles very large truck of the manly horn and the big engine, and I drove my sister back to her tently domicile. We passed several groups still feeding along the side of the road and Mr. Ambler too, but the mommas and babies were no where to be found. We wonder if maybe Mr. SUV was a park warden and turned back to move the herd away from the road for their safety and ours.

No Buffalo were harmed, no vehicles were immolated, my sister has seen plenty of bison and I only have a little laundry to do. It was plenty of excitement for one day.

Thursday, 21 August 2008

Finally finishing

Today I have good news. I am finally finishing socks. I've been working on these socks since March, I think. A few more rows to the bind off and then a couple hours of knitting for the heel. Its darn tooting time. These are for my sister, and she is visiting today, for tea, and surely a tea party demands a good pair of socks.

This is the point in the project where I like to start thinking about what is next. To be completely honest, I am never not thinking of what comes next, but this is where I pull out yarn. I do have a pair of black socks to knit, as a special request, and I am going to use the pumpkin and grey yarn to work on learning stranded colourwork, a la EZ (its the hat I'll be working on), but the project I am looking forward to most is going to be out of the blue and white sock yarn.

In the spring 2008 issue of Interweave crochet, they had a pair of the most amazing crocheted socks I have ever seen. The Troubador socks are a wonder of stranded colourwork. I am really looking forward to what promises to be a new challenge in crochet.

Of course these are just the things on my small and short needles. There are some larger projects I am thinking of too, but they remain only in the thinking stage. I'm going to have to finish a bit more of the sweater I am working on now before the getting out of the yarn for those projects.

And then somewhere in there I have some baby things to do. My nephew and his wife are expecting as I mentioned the other day, but so is the daughter of a very good friend. Both girls. I am delighted for all, and am really looking forward to baby knitting. Its a long time since I did any baby knitting and crochet.

I'm always utterly delighted by the plans for the next projects. I sometimes wonder at why this is. Most often I stop thinking about the why part and just get back to planning, but it strikes me, that it has to do with the endless possibilities.

I love knowing that something I have choice and control over is filled with such endless possibilities. These little project plans remind me that life is a host of endless possibilities, and that just like in my projects, I have choice and control over what I do next. I may not always have a choice about what happens around me, but I always can choose what I will do in response. Always.

Whatever else knitting crochet and all the rest have meant to me over the years, they surely have been an affirmation of life, of strength, and a reminder of life's endless opportunities and possibilities. I might forget that once in a while, but not when I look at yarn.

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Appreciating Elizabeth

The more I read Elizabeth Zimmermann, the more I come to appreciate her. Not just from a knitting perspective, but from a handworking fiber person perspective. She talks good common sense and I could use more common sense in my life.

I am working on a project for the store. It, of the ruffles conundrum, has taken up a lot of my thinking knitting time. Really, there were things that should have clued me in that this approach was not going to work. One was that with everything I was I avoided it. Knitting which is not happy knitting is telling you something. I realized this yesterday as I should have been unknitting, and was avoiding even that.

Instead of unknitting I was reading Elizabeth. Really, when you read Elizabeth, you should be knitting with her, but sometimes, you miss her most hearty common sense that way This time round I was just reading her, and I came face to face with the her belief that knitting should be fun.

This was not an aha moment at all. It was more like a D'oh moment, where I realized how silly I have been for even a moment forgetting that basic precept of things we enjoy doing. Everybody in their hearts knows their chosen craft should be fun, and probably stops when they aren't having fun anymore. I seem to get so stuck in my one set way of seeing a project that sometimes I miss the obvious thing a project and a yarn is trying to tell me.

If you don't already have her books in your library, consider them. If you have them, take a time out to re-read them. If you don't knit, get them from the library, and read them anyway. She has the most common sense approach to her craft, that you will be inspired to look at your own loved handwork with new eyes. If I was rating her books they would all be Dobule Trebles, but her books are just simply must haves, no doubt about it. Waaaaay beyond any pithy ratings I might use.

So, next time I have a project that is simply killing me, I intend to take a little Elizabeth break, and read her books. I appreciate the small nudge to better knitting, clearer thinking. Thanks Elizabeth wherever you are.

I am well on my way to becoming a Zimmermaniac.

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

What I have not talked about

Or maybe I have. In the cold light of morning, it is hard to remember. It may be a shortage of coffee. Yeah that's it. When I have coffee, my memory will improve. It may be the sheer loveliness of the yarn I am working in at the store. Yeah that is what I will blame it on. There are just so darn many good things to play in, that each day is wondrous.

Neither of these excuses work for why I have not shown you some of the loveliness that now graces my yarn cabinet. It is blog fodder and I have ignored its fertile territory long enough.

When the new interweave Knits came out, I noticed this design right away. Seriously. How can I avoid thinking about it for 24 hours straight with little or no respite, till I was driven to stop at the store on a non work day, and check out which yarn I was going to use. I had decided on Love It by Berocco, (a seriously fine yarn) but it cost a little more than I wanted to spend. I came across this instead.

Donna from Scheepjes. The price is a couple bucks less a skein and choosing it cuts the cost of the sweater considerably.

Next up, is the green multi-shaded Oasis from Lang Yarns. It seems they are no longer making this yarn, which really is a shame. For my purposes, it will be used with the green sportweight yarn it is pictured with. Though it doesn't quite seem to here, they go together very, very well. I am hoping to do a cabling project with these.

Lang Silk Dream in an absolutely lush red. I may have shown you this already. These will be variation on a theme memory bags, for some old bags (me an a couple of 50 year old friends) Instead of red hats (we are not hat people) we will be the red bag ladies.

And finally, isn't this cool? This is a skein of Socks that Rock Sherbet. I love this brilliant brash colourway. I can't imagine wearing socks made from it and yet I covet the brilliance. Then the other day, after digging for a particular colour of yarn in a particular box at the store, I came across some brilliant cerise Merino Soft, and in that instant I knew what how I could use it, plus that gorgeous Sherbet. A baby sweater for my nephew and his wife who will have a wee girl just before Christmas. Yes it is brilliant but its going to look absolutely fabulous.

Two small things in the works, two big things. when I think of all the other great yarns in my now pretty fine stash, I have a lot of lovely knitting ahead. Even if the sky should fall and I could not afford yarn, I could knit for a good long while. If I looked at all my various stashes, the yarn stash, the linen stash, the fabric stash, the embroidery floss stash, I could do a couple of things for a good long while. Its just really nice to know that knitting and crochet with quality yarns will be among them.

Oh dear I just remembered. I am a little short of cotton and linen yarns. I have both in quantity in fibre, but not in yarn. Hmmmm. I'll have to work on that.

Monday, 18 August 2008

Summer Chevron

I'm really really pleased with the way this sweater turned out. Really pleased, particularly when I think of the changes that I had to make. My good:

I used 2 different yarns, 1824 Cotton in the cream colour and Rowan Cotton Jeans is the green tweeded colour. Though the two yarns work to the same gauge, they are a different gauge than the yarn used in the book. I worked out the number of stitches I needed based on the gauge the yarns gave me naturally. I swatched a couple different needle sizes and used the one that seemed to match the yarn best. I did not worry about row gauge, and figured I would just knit to fit following the design.

Then there was the size adjustment. I needed one size up from what the pattern lists and used a simple percentage for the adjustment. A 1.2 percent straight across upsizing, based on the numbers I came up with in the gauge swatches, gave me enough room across my hips without making the rest of the sweater too broad.

I stopped increasing at the sleeve chevrons on the last 3 rows because I was worried about the sleeves getting to wide, though if I did this sweater again, I would not worry and would just keep working as usual.

I made the top longer using a method I read about on Ravelry. As I worked each side panel, I did an extra 3 inches of length following the pattern increases and decreases before starting the wraps.

I did hip shaping along the sides to allow for good ease on the bottom third of the sweater.

I used a seed stitch rather than a rib stitch, purely a matter of personal preference, along the bottom and arms.

After the sweater was complete, I felt the neckline was a little too dramatic. The deep back v shape meant a less than stable wear. Even while trying the garment on, I kept having to adjust how it sat on my shoulders. I worked a panel, across the back neck, in pattern and I added a seed stitch edging around the entire neckline. The crispness of this edging means that I'll never have to worry about slippage while I reach and lift at work.

My bad.

There was a fairly dramatic pull along the chevron at the centre front and back. The front isn't too bad, due to 2 very very loose stitches, but the back displays a really dramatic pull on the bottom band. I'd hoped that the weight of the sweater would mitigate the problem. It didn't.

I showed the project to C at the store. C has one of those very questing knitterly brains. She can tell you what is wrong or right about a project in an instant. She has watched me knit before, and diagnosed my error.

On combined knitting yarn overs, you have to yarn over from back to front (or is it front to back) rather than the normal way to avoid twisting the stitch when you knit it on the next row. I didn't even think about that when I did the centre and back increases, and just added a stitch. Each and every increase stitch is twisted, and that twist gives the chevrons a firmness rather than the drape the fabric should have had.

I'm considering correcting. Do I try try to correct by dropping down to redo each twisted yarn over, or should I try some sort of short row magic to make the bottom hang better at the back v.

So, before this sweater goes public, I have to have some touch up work to do, but overall, this pattern is a winner. A quick simple rewarding summer knit.

I know a lot of people have had issues with this sweater, principally gauge issues, but if I read the designers extra input on Ravelry correctly, row gauge is in the pattern stitch, not just a plain stockinette swatch. Don't give up on this design because of row gauge. It gets a little more intuitive as you go along and come to understand the interesting construction.

Interesting construction, a very simple adjust to fit design, and endless possibilities for an attractive answer to stripes and striping yarns for a broad bottomed girl means this is a sweater I'll be making again.

Friday, 15 August 2008

Tomatoes and Olympics

After losing a tree last fall, and cutting down its dead partner tree, we thought there would be a lot more sun on the back deck. We were in fact a little worried about the amount of sun turning the backyard into a heat sink.

We decided to try planting in containers, which until now, seemed impossible with all the shade. I planted beans, carrots, peas, cucumbers, lettuce, radishes and tomatoes. The radishes were a total bust, and I am losing hope of getting any cukes at all. The peas and beans are doing well, and we should be eating some this weekend. The lettuce is OK, and there are carrots below the carrot tops. But our grandest success is tomatoes.It is entirely possible that no one else in the world would consider these a grand success, but here at the Needles, our gardening standards are a lot lower. There are 4 tomatoes on the regular tomato plant, pictured last, whose name I have forgotten, but it most likely is a variant of Early Girl.

The other is a grape tomato, whose name I will never know. If you look closely, you can see that one of them is thinking about turning. It has a mildy yellow cast to it. Right there, is success on the vine, even if, to the worlds jaded eyes, this is a small success.

With the Olympics on right now, I have been thinking a lot about the nature and value of success, and the nature and value of winning. Those big successes are wonderful and I'm certain that in the grand world scheme, they are important. Humans have placed value on competing and winning since the dawn of human prehistory.

But I think I like little victories more. I like the victory in a wee ones face when he first pulls himself up against the sofa. I like the victory in a child's voice when he realizes that he has read an entire chapter book. I like the victory you feel when you jump out of your regular scope of activity and try something that you only dreamed about doing. I like the success I feel when I learn a new stitch properly, or when a project is complete.

I'm very pleased with my small tomato success. In fact, I have felt like a successful tomato grower since the plants decided to live and grow, despite my less than green thumb.

I'll never be an Olympian athlete (or any kind of athlete). I'll never be an Olympian tomato grower. What I will be is successful.

My world. My kind of success.

Thursday, 14 August 2008

I ought to work on socks

But I am sort of really enjoying this instead. It is, by its nature, akin to a prayer shawl, and there are a lot of hopes and wishes for ease and consolation for the receiver in every stitch.
It will be made of simple garter squares, but eloquent in its simplicity.

Which brings to mind my growing fascination with all things Mason Dixon. I am fascinated by the colour sensibility (check the pattern preview) these lovely, funny ladies have. There is something about this complicated simplicity that gets right to my heart.

I have to wonder if this very very strong appeal of Mason Dixon is part of my process to simplify my life, to search for the less busy, the less rushed.

I am eagerly anticipating their second book, coming out mid September.

Support your local LYS. If they carry it buy it there.

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

A ruffly hellish place.

I'm sitting here this morning unable to sleep because of a ruffle.

I've been working on a design for the shop, to feature a couple of yarns we routinely sell, and the start went brilliantly. It was kismet, it was fate. It flowed off my needles so fine and free that I knew it was just meant to be. The yarn really wanted to be one with the design.

This last bit is just anguish. Torture. It is the matter of a ruffle. After thinking long and hard about how to do it, and trying all sorts of different things, the ruffle exists and is finished. 1200 freakingly long stitches along the edge. Maybe more. Each row took an entire ball of yarn. That really should have told me something was not right. And it is wrong. So very very wrong.

A ruffle should accent and highlight. A ruffle might display a flash of delicacy. A ruffle should be an insouciant little finish, it should gild, but a ruffle should never ever take over everything in sight.

This one does. It takes over the delicacy of this knit, and just drowns the wearer in ruffles in a most alarming way. This ruffle says shut up and hear me roar. It is a standing on a soapbox, shouting in the park sort of ruffle. It is an elbowing everything else out of the way, the ruffle is going to get to the front of this line kind of ruffle.

I'll have to show it to the shop ladies first, it is after all their yarn, but I think it is wrong the way it is. I'm going to have to come up with something just a little less ruffly.

Like the Peter Principle, there ought to be a name for this principle where just when I am feeling really, really good about a thing, where just as I am about to feel my moment of triumph, where I really feel I am about to take off and fly, and then it all turns into the most amazing plop upon the floor.

Good thing I have all this patience I spoke of yesterday. I really wasn't planning on having to use this much all at once.

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

How knitting changed a world.

When I cleaned out the study on the weekend, I found a couple of projects that need just a little bit of finishing work.

Remember this lovely blue capelet begun in May or June of this year?
The hem needs to be redone. When I tried it on, it felt like a line was drawn across my back and was being pulled tight. It doesn't look bad, but to leave something so soft and airy and light feeling stressed would be just wrong. There is also the small matter of fronts bands and some kind of finishing at the neck edge to complete. It's a good month and a half till we need to turn up the heat in the house so this one can wait.

Then there is the matter of the green and cream top from More Big Girl Knits. When this top last appeared on the blog, the bottom band was completed, and I was thinking about the neck edge. After my cleaning work was done on the weekend, this is the project I picked up. I redid the bind off on the seed stitch bottom edge to loosen a too tight cast off.

I did not like the deep back v so I needed to make an insertion in the pattern design. I started by picking up stitches from the cast on edge of this top down design and worked short rows just as I did along the bottom side sections. I knit till I thought it looked about right, and moved along and did the seed stitch neck edge. I tried the sweater on again, and (oh my this is going to look great when it is done) and found a couple of things that I know I can do better. I am determined to repair them.

First off, the cast on edge at the back neck seems to show up as a line of very tightly knit stitches. I picked up at least one wrong strand of yarn.

Next, the neck edge is worked just a little too many rows up the back of the neck. The seed stitch edging appears to be climbing my neck, rather than laying nicely flat and fitted.

Third, I am in the middle of reworking the bottom bands of seed stitch because the larger needle and knitting the bound stitch cast off I used is just too loose. It looks downright sloppy. The technique is right, but I should not have used larger needles. No more biggie needle for sweater bottoms. Maybe. We'll see.While I am at it, I just might make the seed stitch border a little deeper than the first incarnation.

I am so pleased with the sweater that these little re-workings are not bothering me a bit. No tossing it into the corner in frustration, no putting it down while I contemplate what a harsh task master knitting can be. All there is, is the urgent desire to wear this sweater and the desire to do it well enough to wear it to the shop.

The old me, the stuck me, the frustrated by everything in the world me, the angst ridden supervisor of people who was completely unable to supervise people me, the living to the edge of the Peter Principle me, would have seen this small knitting problem as just another confirmation that I was not good enough or smart enough to knit right. The old me would have castigated me unceasingly and would never have forgiven me for my failings.

Knitting changed me. Knitting taught me how to give myself permission to fail and screw up endlessly. Knitting showed me where I was hiding my persistence, my patience and strengthened a vague sense that there just was no reason that I couldn't, into belief that, heck yeah, I can.

A lot of people including me talk about how knitting is a meditation. It is, but the real secret of knitting is that when I was busy meditating, knitting changed my world.

Tricky stuff, this knitting. I so very glad I found it.

Monday, 11 August 2008

New Stash Storage

Friday's post was not really a sign that I am a sad lonely person who focuses just a bit too much on a collection of beer bag coolers(which may or may not be true), it was an ode to the beer bag coolers as I send them on their way.

The beer bags are now back to their original use. No, not for beer, silly. Their original use was as storage for times when I didn't have any more space in my original stash bins. They were to be occasional work bags, large project work bags. They only became stash storage by need.

I picked up this rather nice cabinet a few weeks ago from the lady who sold me the knitting machine. I did not see how I could possibly fit it in my study. The last empty wall space was allocated to the knitting machine, and it barely fit. Moving a bookcase over to the other wall, and accepting that my chair will sit in in front of the bookcases, meant that the machine, and the cabinet fit.(Pardon the picture quality. I'm having some issues with settings)

All my yarns but the sock yarn and lace, fit in this one small cabinet. I could, if required, fit at least another 2 sweaters worth of yarn in there.

It is really nice to have the yarn out where I can see it. I can see how lovely those reds really are (Maybe I won't covet the reds at the store). It even nicer to see how that yarn I searched for, for weeks, fits with the green sportweight. I knew it was exactly right the minute I saw it. Then there is a yarn which is a lovely shade of blueberry, and a cotton in a shade named Victorian grape, that I have fallen in love with all over again. There is some SWS soy yarn there too, just waiting to be a warm heavy middle of winter sweater. On top of these, there is yarn for Mr. Needles sweaters. Good stuff all.

Maybe now that I can see all my really nice yarns, I will stop having that little problem where the world stands still and I must have a yarn... Nah, didn't think so.

Besides, all those empty beer cooler bags? I have room for more stash.

Friday, 8 August 2008

Defining moments

I've always had a very strong definition of and a very grounded belief in who and what I am. There have only been two times where that sense of identity has been shaken, the first when I was just out of high school, and then more recently, as I was struggling to leave a job with an employer who was and is important to my family. Both of these crisis of faith have led me to good things. The first time it was to find the man I would marry and have children with, and this second to bring me back to work, personally and professionally, that I really love. I play with strings. I play with needles. It is who I am without question. These things have accompanied all the days of my life.

These days, should you happen to wander into my study, you would be confronted by beer can corner, between two book cases, tucked right beside the treadmill, all along the wall. I was showing pictures taken inside my study to someone the other day, and they asked what those things were in the background. (They used a very odd tone of voice. I think they were worried) The universe shifted ever so slightly, and I had a defining moment.

It seems I have a collection of beer bags. It is starting to be impressive in its own right.

Hello, my name is Needles. I play with strings and needles, I read, I collect cheap blue and white china, and free beer bags.

Beer bags are where my two personal crisis of faith have collided. Mr. Needles (who drinks the occasional beer) the pleasant result from crisis one, and a reinvigorated joy of yarn from crisis two. The universe is unfolding as it should.

The universe has a strange sense of humour.

Thursday, 7 August 2008


From the first day, working at a yarn store has been a joy, an eye opener and a mystical magical experience. I find the process of handling great yarn just an absolute pleasure. It feels like Christmas as each box from suppliers is opened. It is a gift all over again, to fondle each yarn as the yarns are priced and put away. Among all the glory that is yarn, I managed to stay just a step removed for the first little while. I had the dream of yarn in control. After a 15 years doing accounting, the entire yarn store experience was just a little surreal and I did not trust that I would not wake from the dream.

About 3 weeks in, I recovered. The yarns started being something just to enjoy, and play with and it has stayed that way. I enjoy them. Nothing is finer than digging through hanks and hanks of yarn, touching and feeling them. Sometimes the quantities are overwhelming, like not too long ago when 10 chair sized boxes came to the store at the very end of the day. Even you are overwhelmed by volume, it's fun. Peeling back the layers of bags and bags of yarn is like turning the pages of a good book. You just have to go through it, urged on by the story that is unfolding as you turn the bags of yarn to see the next layer.

Each bag of yarn arrives sealed, and has to be priced and labeled before it can go on the floor or back into the stockroom. That is when the real fun starts for me.This is also where it gets hard.

I can see the skeins of special yarn sitting on a shelf in the very neat stash room that I have in my head, I can see me sitting enjoying its company while I have a well mannered cup of tea, while I visit with it. I would get to know the yarn, become friends with it, and then I would knit it into a lovely lovely sweater, or hat, or soft warm wrap. I can see myself swathed in the comfort of it all the rest of my days.

Not a day goes by when I am in the store, that I don't fall deeply madly in love with yet another yarn. Sometimes it is the colour, sometimes it is the feel of the yarn as I hold it. There are so many wonderful colours, fruitful reds and eggplants, fields and forest of greens, soft waves of blue, so many wonderful textures, smooth, soft, crunchy, warm, papery, buttery, that each day there is a moment when I know nothing could get better than this.

Working as many days as I did through late June and July, I was becoming accustomed to the rush of good yarns. It was part of my expectations of how a day would feel.

Returning to work after a spell of days off? Whammo. Smacked upside the head, sunk, snookered, landed flat on my back. I was absolutely overwhelmed by the loveliness of a yarn, and by its truly rich colour. For a short time, the earth stood still and all I could see was this one absolutely lovely yarn.

I fell under the spell of a pile of hanks of rich red Cloud Cotton. (Colour 112) It doesn't look like much, sitting there among the other colours, does it? It looks like a nice mannerly red, an ordered red.

But I tell you, I swear, that this mild mannered soft deep rich red, has a wild and dangerous heart. It will sweep you off your feet, even if you have a hundred hanks of other reds, even if you already declared a new favourite yarn for the day. Why yesterday, a day when things were going along just fine, when I had already chosen a new favourite yarn, when I knew and had seen the colour before, did this yarn make me weak in the knees?

I have no idea, I just know that someday soon, there will be a bag of great red Cloud Cotton in my real world. I wouldn't have been able to control myself at all, but the kitty is empty.

Will work for yarn. Literally.

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Humans are like cattle

When I was a kid we lived on the shores of a very deep lake, formed when a chunk of ice fell off the glacier as it was retreating. Ancient soils filled and piled against that great chunk of ice, leaving some of the finest farmland in the world and a very very deep hole which promptly filled up (more or less) and was our own lake. It was ours because it commonly bore our name since only Dad, my uncle and Mr. Potts lived along its shores.

In my childhood it's edges were fenced pasture, and along its steep sides, the cattle had carved trails and paths through the bush that took you right round the lake but for the really steep side. This wild glade of well trodden cow paths, and deciduous forest was my childhood wonderland. Like all childhood wonderlands, you are left with impressions of the world and mine is how animals like to follow along the same day after day. So do people.

Ever notice how you just don't feel settled when your day can't start as usual? Ever feel just a little off kilter when your normal morning isn't your normal morning? My regular coffee buddies are unavailable due to a program upgrade, and I feel like a sweet moo cow without a path to follow.

To top it off, I slept in. If this is not going to upset the day, I don't know what will. Darn good thing I have knitting and very pleasant work.

The same technical problem kept much of yesterday free for knitting. The sweater is positively zooming along. I have another 8 or 10 cm to go till I have the length we want, and then I will start the arm decreases. The top of this sweater is supposed to be reverse stockinette stitch, but I don't know. I have a feeling that I'm going to make it just stockinette. I find I'm not uber fond of the trend to inside out looking stitches.

Looks pretty skinny for a sweater doesn't it. That is one of its charms. No fit issues and still great fitted design. It's other great charm is how simple this is. Mindless knitting at its finest. I can see more of this sort of ribbed look for sweaters in my future.

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Big Thunder

I am going to try to make this quick. We are midst thunder storm at the moment, and my satellite Internet connection sometimes goes wonky when there is lightning and thunder about.

I love storms. I love their elemental feeling, and how they make you feel the grand wonder of things we just barely understand. Storms are life on the big scale. Wild, elemental, primitive. Storms make me feel tied to earth, tied to all the millenia past, back to our most basic human roots. Storms are mystery and awe and fear and wonder.

Sure as I sit there now, watching the storm, I know someone, somewhere back in the mists of time, sat and watched and felt exactly the same thing.

Monday, 4 August 2008

Itchy Fingers

I don't know if other people who do handwork get this same feeling, but every once in a while... OK, a lot of the time, as I approach a finish, I am very busy thinking about what is next. I had a severe case of itchy fingers, and instead of finishing my on the go things, sewing and otherwise, I played around with something new. For some time now, I have been contemplating a sweater for SS. After many long months searching for a pattern, I came up with Drops 103-16 .

We will of course make some changes. Nothing big though. The body will be a bit longer, and we are choosing the long sleeve option, and last, we are changing the collar into a hood. Not too substantial. No waist shaping to add since the ribbed design will take care of the fit, so I am looking forward to a nice tidy, easy knit. (This is where I start to worry when I think something is a nice easy knit)
The FilTweed we are using for this project was not the original yarn choice. In fact we have gone through 3 yarn choices for SS's sweater. I have a lovely mossy tweeded green Jaegerspun Heather that was SS's original yarn choice, but I wanted that for myself. Then I picked up some Cascade 220 in a wonderful loden colour, but I just could not get past the part both SS and I loved about the Heathers yarn. We loved how Heathers had other colours mixed in making up the tweed. I searched for a long time for something that had that same effect, and found the Filtweed on a bottom shelf at the store, looking just a might forlorn. It is forlorn no longer and it is exactly right for this sweater. See how there are tiny flecks of green and yellow and blue mixed in there? It is going to keep this very plain patterned sweater from being just a little to plain.

Megan asked about running out of water. Our water is an issue here. We have a well with a lot of water, an almost inexhaustible supply. The water quality is less than perfect. Though the health department says it is safe for human consumption, it tastes like soap. Coffee that tastes like soap is darned awful, and tea is even worse, so we haul drinking water from town. As to the question about how we ran out of water, I normally would say that would be a question to ask Mr. Needles, only I cannot ask him how we ran out of water, because this morning we are out of coffee filters.

And no way am I going to ask the water question of a man without his morning coffee.

PS: Thank you all for your kind thoughts about my buddy. he continues to do well, and I would have to say the good thoughts are working.

Friday, 1 August 2008

A tough Old Bird

The last several weeks have been filled with daunting news from all sorts of people around me. So many people seemed to be having ill parents, brothers, in laws. I felt for all of them and prayed my small and private prayerful words for all of them.

I'm not a big 'P' prayer, I'm more of a little 'p' prayer, and I don't honestly know if I pray to a deity or if I pray to humanity or just simply believe that good thoughts about a loved one are a prayer. I only know that I feel better if I think about a person who needs a hand for a while. It might not help them, but it helps me and I know my friends appreciate my thoughts.

Suddenly last Monday, I had cause to include a a fellow I worked alongside of for the last 15 years, in my list of people to think about and pray about.

I did not work for his business, but when you share the same small office building for 15 years, you get to know a lot about one another and this guy, well we talked a lot over the years. We became friends one day when the power was out for an entire business day. Without phones and power, everyone else left, but he and I stayed to hold down the fort. He stayed ostensibly to work on his filing, and I stayed to get the door, direct couriers, and be there in case the power came back on.

What we really did was get a case of beer and proceed to drink the afternoon away and just talked, about life, kids, family, things we wanted to do in life. Since then we have just been good office friends and his wife and I have become good office friends. A comfortable work family of sorts, if you will.

He has had a tough go of it the last few years. He lost one of his three good functioning fingers in a home construction incident a few years ago, and took that in stride, considering he is left with several non functioning fingers and a couple good thumbs. He has had a few bouts of pneumonia and worst, a period a few years ago, where he almost died due to a perforated bowel.

Monday last week, his family called the office and told us that he was in an induced coma, and they did not expect him to live. His bowel had become diseased again, and he lost another third and worse, he had pneumonia, and it seemed to be drug resistant. He was in tough tough shape. This Monday, I heard he was doing a bit better, and yesterday I took the time to visit him.

This man is the definition of tough old bird, even if the term usually means a woman. He is in pretty good spirits, just really really tired. We had a good talk about just how he felt surviving all this, how this time his life really is changed, how he is just is not going to lose this second chance at a good life, and how having is not really the point, how good days, and bad days really doesn't matter anymore, he is is going to enjoy them all with equal relish so long as his lovely wife is there with him. That is his only fear. That he won't get to have enough days with her. It was very very sweet. I am thrilled that my good old buddy is going to make it. It is going to be a long road, but he will make it. Nothing pleases me more than when a person figures out what really matters to him and makes his peace with it.

His wife said later that she had not realized how good of friends we are and that he must really feel close to me to speak about his very closely held feelings . I think it is the years, and his need to speak. The way things went at the office, when he needed an ear and someone to talk to, I was there, non-threatening and safe, and just listened.

Sometimes isn't that what we all just need? A place to just be free to speak and know that at the other end, there was a willing listener?