Tuesday, 31 March 2009


Just a quick post today. My usual routine is being interrupted and well you all know what happens when a routine is interrupted. Things fall apart.

I found two things to get me out of my funk. 1 is a very, well, I'll save that, and the other, a CAL. I don't generally do these, but Doily Heads on Ravelry is doing one using Elizabeth Hiddleson patterns, and I owe this lovely woman a lot. It was from her patterns that I learned to crochet. It was from her patterns that I learned that sometimes you have to use your best judgment or the picture.

But I won't talk much about that today. I'm in a hurry. what I will show you a new sock.

We went to a dinner the other night, a function of interest to my husband, much less so to me. They do have a silent auction which can be fun, but the things for sale have been weak the last few years. This year, I took along some knitting. It was nice visiting and catching up with the crowd but I was grateful for my knitting. The lady who sets up the craft night at the local library was there and I had a chat with her. Had she known she'd have brought her knitting too.

I got a lot of knitting done using some very pretty yarn.

This is Lifestyles, from Zitron, one of those yarns with bounce and rebound that make delightfully squishable socks. I have been coveting it for a long time. We did some kits of the last of it a while ago, and I thought my opportunity was lost. Each ball was with another plain yarn to make a striped pair of socks and they sold like hot cakes. Only one kit of each of the two colourways remained and then, as things sometimes go, someone unearthed another ball of each. I cleaned it out and brought home both, and picked up the kit with its brilliant turquoise Cool Wool and the loose ball of Lifestyles started immediately to make a farmer pair of socks.

What I call a farmers sock is a sock where the toe, heel and ribbing are done in one colour and the foot and calf of the sock are done in another. Pretty isn't it. That brilliant, springlike, exotic blue just punches the whole thing up a notch or two.

They are knitting up fairly fast and I hope to have them done shortly. A good pair of socks helps get rid of the funk. The doily too, and then one other little thing. Its pretty, simple and is working out beautifully.

Wait till you see it!

Monday, 30 March 2009


I have to admit, the weather has me in its grips. Maybe I should say, the sucky weather has me in its grips.

No matter how much I tried to be cheerful, no matter how much I tried to look on the bright side I could not lift myself from my when is it going to melt funk.

I sat in the sun upstairs with my sweater. I had a snooze on my bed, just when the sun shines into my room exactly right. But nothing would break me from my self imposed gloom. I wanted spring, the weather called for other.

I can't wait for the moment when its nice enough to open the windows, when its nice enough to let the fresh bracing early spring air blow away the last cobwebs of winter. That cool spring rush of crisp morning air just makes me want to shout and jump, and dance with glee.

I suppose if I wished I could dance for these last days of snow instead of waiting for springlike weather. After all, the sun does shine in a most brilliant way, and if you sit right up against the house, it is warm and almost nice. If it was me dancing now in the season of late snow, I'd end up with my shoes full of grainy, watery snow and wet feet.

My knitting, and crocheting is suffering to be sure. I crocheted on my sweater. It is making the nicest fabric, shimmery and drapey without being too much of either. I finished Chris sock's, but for the heel. The heel will be done at knitting on Tuesday, and finished on Wednesday night. there may be some guest knitting. I did knit at a wildlife dinner on Saturday evening but even that with its most interesting yarn, did not appeal yesterday.

So this morning, rather than ruining good knitting, I've been reading books preparing for the next big thing. I hope the weather warms just the tiniest bit (it never takes much to melt if its sunny at this time of year) and that something, some noticeable weather warming begins.

I'm not asking for much. Just a degree or two. Maybe three? Pretty please.

Sunday, 29 March 2009

Bahhh humb ugh.

Dateline: March 29, 2009, yard of the Needles family

I was going to whine and snivel about our extremely slow, cold spring, but seems after checking out a few other places, its not so bad. Our skies are sunny and blue and one way or another fast or slow, the spring will eventually come.

Friday, 27 March 2009

I started a crochet sweater yesterday. I love the way the yarn, Cotton Viscose, works up. It has a sheen to it without being overpowering. I don't love is the way the yarn splits. I know that when I knit it previously, I found makes a beatuiful thing, but you must take care not to get between strands. Same with crochet. You have to take care.

The upside is that I'm working to stay slow and clean so my tension is really nice. When I get going in crochet, I have a tendency to zone out, let my hands fly, and sometimes, the work isn't as tidy as I wish for. Slow is a good thing.

It's a while since I did anything this big in crochet. I think my crochet muscles are a little underused and under worked. By the end of the afternoon, I had to put it down and leave it, and this morning I can feel it in my arm. Seems I'll have to be using a wee bit of common sense about the amount of time I put in on this project. Now if only I could find a little more common sense.

To keep my hands busy without putting any further stress on my wrists, I picked up something new. Its a new colour from Noro, in the Kureyon Sock yarn and to me, it looks like the colours of the forest floor. It was irresistable. From the beginning, I wanted a shawl from it. You can never have too many shawls. This is a simple design, one I have used before.
Its the Eye of Partridge Shawl, one I worked up just after Christmas. Its a lovely thing, the stitch gives it just enough interest to keep the knitting from being boring, it moves fast because you slip every second stitch on the knit side rows, and blends and softens the colours of multi colour yarns. I'm not sure that this will happen with the Noro. Noro still is Noro, with its long colours and slow changes, but the pattern will add a little lift to the thick and thin of the yarn. The subtle texture means the light catches differently giving the finished shawl just a hint of another dimension.

I do have two balls and thought about working from both at once, but I'm taking the lazy man's way, one ball at a time. I want the long colours to remain.

Today is a round of errands, and knitting after lunch, and yes Cotton Crafter, those things are in my front entrance and are coming with me today. (you would not believe how long she has been waiting for me to remember these things) Its probably a good thing I can't sit home and crochet. It will give my hands a chance to rest.

Thursday, 26 March 2009


I love lace. It isn't something I wear. It isn't something I have around my house, but I am fascinated by lace. Always have been. I still look out for Elizabeth Hiddleson crochet booklets at the Sally Ann. I still pick up every new magazine and look to see what lace it holds before I check out anything else.

I learned to crochet with doilies from the master of crochet lace, Elizabeth Hiddleson and now I am learning to knit lace from the masters of modern lace knitting, and admire the lace styles from just a little longer ago.

You never know who you will meet in a yarn store. I think I spoke to a local master of lace the other day. A lady called the store, looking very hard for some very small needles. She was hopeful that we might have something smaller than a 2 mm needle. We do. I told her we had several different lengths in 1.75mm dpns plus circular needles, she just held her breath. I told her we had 1.5 mm needles, she was thrilled. She hardly believed me when I told her we had several lengths of 1.25 mm needles.

She said she knitted lace doilies, and had been doing so all her life. She said she crocheted too, but the dearest were the lacy knitted doilies. Knitted lace spoke to her heart, I think.

She came into the shop with her son on Sunday in some pretty miserable weather to pick up some new needles. I wasn't there. It was a day off for me. I could have cried. I wished I'd have been there. To meet people like her, I wish I could be there every day in a way, but she delighted the rest of our staff. They showed her my very meagre little samples. She is a really sweet lovely person.

She brought some of her knitting with her. She gave a gift in being able to share in her joy at finding needles in the right sizes and gave a gift again when she left a small bit of her work behind with us.

I'm so thrilled to have almost met her at the beginning of my journey of knitted cotton laces, so amazed at the ways of the world that brought her to call the store at this moment in time.

Knitted lace in fine cotton thread is very much a part of our North American heritage and this lovely lady, this master knitter is part of that heritage. One day soon, I hope to get a chance to talk with her, to discuss patterns, to talk about blocking, to explore the art from someone who knows it so well.

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

People are really strange

and have way too much time on their hands.

I have finished Clapotis. See the nice drape of it? I've got to make a full size version. It will be a fantastic shawl.

And this morning, I'm working on hemming and doing finishing details on the wee blankie. Not my favourite kind of work, but I do love the way it is when it is all done. I shall persevere.

Update: More info on the sheep video. It is real. cute and real is almost too much for this time of the day.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

The Next Big Thing

I worked on the Clapotis last evening till I just could not stay awake any longer. The first sad thing about that statement is that it was 9:30 and the second is that I was not knitting, I was re-knitting.

Clapotis is such a rhythmic thing and every once in a while I find myself counting each and every stitch. I came to a section where I did not have 3 stockinette stitches in a row, the rhythm was gone, and a quick search some 15 or so rows below revealed a dropped stitch.

Part of me said to leave it, to put it away and not look at it again for a while, but I really like this scarf so I shut that inner voice up, and carefully went back and tried to repair it. No good. It didn't work in part because the yarn is not a woollen or animal fibre. No stretch and no rebound meant that the stitches looked oddly pulled, so I went back row by row (I didn't want to interfere with the dropped stitch area I had to go past) and carefully picked apart to the error and re knit. And then put it down and went to bed.

Almost. There is always something new to think about and lately when I am thinking, its about the next project. I need a couple of sweaters for work. Or tops. I need something just a little different to give my collection of tees a lift. And to make it seem like I actually have some clothes. The silly thing is I have lots of clothes but I can't wear all the nice polyester blouses I used to wear to an office job here. It has to be a natural fibre so my skin can breathe.

I have that lovely red Cloud Cotton to work on, but I have not decided what I want to do with that, I have some cotton and some linen that I really want to use for a t type top. I have a rather funky textured blue yarn that I know what I want to do with (EZ polo neck shirt) but it needs small needles, and I'm just not mentally ready for that yet. I have some lovely soft cotton coloured in what the maker calls Victorian Grape and I know what I want from that but I think its going to be more wintry than summery so I'll leave that till later in the year. That leaves me with a nice pile of cotton viscose that I bought with the gift certificate the kids gave me for Christmas.

I love the sheen of this yarn. I always have from the first time I saw it. (I must be on a sheen kick)

And I came across an interesting little pattern from Amy over at the Hook and I.

I've been looking for a trendy little topper that would look good on me. I love the February Lady sweater, but it isn't going to do anything for a hippy, short person, and the Leisl isn't much better. That open bottom short cardy look just isn't a good one for me. This one will do though. The design doesn't count on an open cardigan front to make the look. It relies on the yoke to carry the day.

I love the round construction and the design on the yoke. I love the way the sleeve caps get just past that fugly bit of arm. I love the way the design changes to something that is as simple and quick as single crochet, but doesn't leave you with single crochets very linear look.

And I love that it is top down all in one piece. It means that I can work it to size and adjust for fit as I go. Amy designed this with the idea that sizing is something you do for yourself, based on you. A few quick calculations and **bing**, you have it. Though the calculations probably will need some tweaking to account for the differences we plus size ladies need (like a deeper yoke), they are going to be reasonably close.

Last evening before I went to bed, I swatched. I'm going to finish Clapotis this morning, and then am picking up my hook and setting to work.

Knits are being abandoned round here with ease and I have the perfect excuse. 'But it's for winter, I need summer' is my new motto.

Monday, 23 March 2009


Did you know 10,499 registered users of Ravelry have made or are making a Clapotis? Till this morning. This morning I became Clapotis maker 10,500 on Ravelry. Is that cool or what?Clapotis was big news when I first really began to knit some 2 and a bit years ago. Since the inception of Ravelry, its gotten bigger. I often wondered why so many people liked this pattern, what makes it so great that 10,000 users of one single online entity like it.

And now I know. It's mesmerising. There are only 3 stitches in a row that you do the same thing to, lots to focus your attention on and repeats on a row are across only 6 stitches, so its not hard to get a really strong knitting rhythm going. Top that off with a pattern repeat ending by dropping one stitch all the way down your knitting and you have mesmerising.

Then there is the incomparable drape that comes from the bias orientation of the stitches and the drop stitch rows when it is done. A single Clapotis can be a scarf to keep the chill off your neck on a cold winter day. It can be a large wrap to snuggle in with a cup of cocoa and a good book when pajamas are your fashion statement. It can be a lacy little something to top off the elegant and ubiquitous little black dress. In the right yarn, this shawl could be your everything shawl.

Mine is more of a scarf, maybe a really small wrap. I'm looking for things to wear to work, that don't get in the way. They need to be shorter and a little smaller than the long luscious scarves to wrap a couple of times around your neck. They need to be cool for summer and able to keep off the chill of all the big windows on a cold windy winter day. I can't say enough about how suited Bonsai is for this design. The yarn shines in exactly the right way. The long strands of the dropped stitches show off the particular elegance of a flat tape yarns. The colour moves along, never too firmly placed, lightened and shifted by the magical drop stitch. I would love to do another one, bigger though, to be more of a shawl than a scarf. A special yarn, something soft that just hugs your shoulders, something that caresses you and makes you feel beautiful.

An everything shawl for me is going to have to be cream or a not quite white. Berocco has some very warm creams and whites in the Bonsai and Seduce lines. There is a marvelous new yarn from the Mirasol collection, Nuna and the Punta Mericash, both with warm light creams. There is a soft oatmeal Drops Alpaca, and a true marvel of softn white in Misti Alpacas Suri Silk. There is a warm baby camel fibre, more camel coloured than white, but it would be stunning. I have a lot of choices, but its not one I have to rush on. A real Clapotis shawl is going to be a down the road project, for winter perhaps, when I need a little something simple to knit, but not dull, not boring, just easy, and comfortable.

Clapotis knits up fast. I'll finish tonight, block tomorrow, and wear on Wednesday.

All my knitting should be so well behaved.

Friday, 20 March 2009


I think all knitters these days are on a search for good needles. My own experience has shown it is a search of epic proportions, and with the variety of needles out there, it is a herculean task to find the perfect needles, much less the perfect needles for every job.

I started many years ago with a complete set of old Aero straight plastic needles. These are the spawn of the devil, and should be consigned to the depths of hell in my opinion. I know Aero made better needles, I have some, but this set from the late 70's has tips that are short and rounded rather than having anything like a long straight slope on the tip. The newer needles from Aero are pretty good, much improved tips that spawn of hell plastic set.

Then there are the old needles I have in slightly smaller sizes, whose maker I don't know. Some are good. Some have that darned rounded tip. The good tipped ones are still in use.

These were from the dark time (the dark and bad needle time) before I even really knit.

When I really started to knit, I bought a few Susan Bates straights. Good quality needles, easy to find, and available widely in a shorter than average needle. At the time, not so very long ago, I thought this would be all I needed.

Along came my Truly Tasha's Shawl. It needed something more than I had in needles. I picked up my first set of Addi Turbos for it. I liked them. A lot. I hoped to get by with only a small investment, buying only really long cables, figuring that I could always manage to work with a longer than needed cables, but too short and you are plumb out of luck. This has pretty much been the case, except that these Turbos are now my most used needles, and I have plumb run out of patience playing with the long cables. I have a good 'collection' of these in my most used sizes, and many lengths.

After you pick up a few Turbos, you have to try a few lace tips from the Turbo people. You discover that they have a tip you really like for certain kinds of projects. Soon enough I amassed a fair complement of needles with these tips too. I am trying really hard to avoid total duplicates, but there are some times where the lace tip won't do and some times where the regular tip won't do. You know?

And then when a crisis struck, and the size I needed was not available at the store in the Turbo line, I picked up a couple of Denise individual needles. They are great needles and surely have their place, but the best thing about these is the cables. Nothing like these cables for trying projects on. You just pop the ends on the big cable, and you can securely try on your sweater no matter no matter how much mangling and stretching you do. Decent tips, great cables, and the nicest of all the connection systems, and more. They are probably the only needles that will never be taken from you on a plane. (Though I am sure it has happened, these cannot be seen in a scanning device.)

My son and daughter in law gave me a set of needles that have tips that light up, a bouquet of needles really (she wraps things in the most creative way). These are not like the old plastic at all and I really like the way the yarns slips along them. I hope to use them for camping, to let me knit a little longer in the light of the campfire or on dark nights on the back deck while looking at stars. I can even see them being used to knit black yarns, if I ever am so bold and lunatic as to knit black yarn again.

I have some wooden straights from a couple of different makers. You just can't beat Nova Scotia's River John's needles for some yarns, some projects and if you like a little more cling to a needles than you get with steel.

So if someone can explain to me why yesterday in the mail I took ownership of two sets of tips in my most 'needed' (wondering how I can justify 'need') sizes and 3 sets of different cable lengths from Knit Picks, I'll never know. Furthermore, if someone can stop me from thinking that I could use the other two lengths of cables, and a few more tips in the smaller range of sizes, and maybe a pack to put it all in too, I'll be forever grateful.

Don't get me started on my 'need' for the Addi Click set, which I have seen (its the most beautiful thing) and heard very good things about, but which is extremely short supply here in Canada. Don't even make me think about Hiya Hiya needles which some of my knitting friends feel quite strongly about. Don't even make me wonder about wood tips, or bamboo circulars. Don't even start on how I dream of owning just a few Signature Needles, the short ones, just for scarves and nothing else.

I'm not even going to go into double pointed needles, because that is a whole other blog post.

Honestly all this selection exhausts me. I can't make up my mind which I like 'best'. I'm not even sure there is a best. Some of my personal journey through the land of tools is because I sell needles. I like to know that I can make an informed suggestion to help people find a needles they will enjoy.

There just aren't any bad needles on the market anymore. I really think it is a case of best for each kind of project, for each style of knitter, for each individual set of hands.

Meanwhile back in my study, I think it is fair to say I am collecting needles as much as I collect yarn.

Thursday, 19 March 2009

It's Not a Rootbeer Baby


Ever been so pleased with a thing that all you can do is sigh? Yeah.

That is exactly how I feel about this. It is everything I wanted to get out of this spur of the moment project and everything I wanted it to be in the end. I still have to bind off the hem (I'll be doing a sewn type bind off) and a few snaggly ends to weave in, and a decent blocking to do, but the bulk of it is done.

I am going to write the project up for the store (there will be a few changes to this prototype) and it will be available there. It may be available here too, but that will be up to my bosses. My blankie plan, but everything else is theirs. The need to find something to do with a few balls of a yarn in discontinued colours, (they like to make kits of these bit and ends) and chatting about what the yarn would be great for, how much would it take to do something decent sized, some colour guidance and voila, cute little baby blanket. Without being surrounded by the stimulating conversation and the amazing yarns, these little things would never come off my needles.

I still think the Root bear baby thing would work though. Imagine a warm deep carmel-ly brown instead of the blue. Nice huh? Or what I like to call the Neapolitan Ice Cream colours of pink standing in for the yellow, cream for the orange, and that carmel brown for the blue. The 'Neapolitan' ice cream sunday sort of colour combination is what set this whole adventure off, if I recall correctly.

Anyway, I am pleased the knitting is done, I am very pleased with the colours, and I am absolutely pleased with the way hemmed edging looks on the outside.

So sigh, just sigh. Its all very good.

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Plodding my way back to Bonsai

I am working feverishly on the wee blanket to get it done. I can't wait to see how the whole project turns out, once it has been blocked and pinned and bordered. Part of me is wondering if knitting a proper hem was smart. It is after all, like knitting the thing twice, but part of me is quite convinced that this is right for this blanket.

All this feverish knitting isn't very photo friendly. The blanket still looks like a blob, maybe even like a potato dumpling. No pictures of it yet.

What I am thrilled to show you, now that the Sundog Alpaca scarf is done, is this lovely fabric. This is the Berroco Bonsai (I'm using one of the Bonsai Colors line)that I picked up a couple weeks ago. I began knitting a small Clapotis, a scarf size version with it, stumbled (made a mistake) and set it aside till I felt stronger and more able to cope with my error. I just needed to think about it for a while.

I wanted to show you how nice this fabric is turning out to be. Thephotos show just a hint of what is happening (the photo also shows a funky strand of yellow that isn't there). There is a wonderful play of light off the strands of nylon that wrap around the bamboo core. You can see glittery bits all through it.

The effect is really quite subtle. Its not as if you put a shot of metallic through your work. Its a soft sheen with no sharp edges. It's tiny pearls of light softly winding their way through the fabric. Very elegant and an absolute pleasure to knit with.

On top of that lovely little play on light, there is the feel of bamboo fibre fabric. I spent a lot of time working with Rowan Bamboo Tape last year, and loved every minute of working with the yarn. As with the Rowan tape, Bonsai stays soft and cool against your skin. Knitted Bonsai reminds me of those stunning bias cut gowns out of satin. Looking at the photo, knowing what satin feels like against your skin, well, that is what bamboo reminds me of. That same soft drape that just makes you feel like something special when you wear it.

There is one caveat though. Bamboo fibre is essentially a rayon. Some more good information here, and Amy Singer of Knitty fame has some interesting details. It is friendly to the environment in some aspects of its production and not so friendly in other aspects, rather like most cotton.

Whichever side of the green line you choose to follow, just make sure you are making an informed decision. If you love to knit and are looking for something that feels summery, try bamboo. If cotton isn't your thing, try some bamboo. If you haven't yet done so, try some bamboo.

If knitting is wasting time (as some muggles would opine), knitting with Bonsai is time wasted wisely.

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Big News

Some days at the store we play with lovely things. We actually started on Saturday, but until it is all put together, you just don't get the full effect. It is all done now. I feel just a tiny bit sad, and yet... Let me explain.

Punta Yarns has arrived in Canada, and we are carrying them.

Saturday, we took out the Kid Mohair. I'm not much of a mohair person. Knitting with mohair is a kind of quiet torture to me, probably a feeling I got from a short time working with poor quality mohair. I know I really should break out of my shell of mohair-less-ness but I'm not quite ready yet. This Kid Mohair might do it though. It is hand dyed, and the range of colours is almost hard to believe. You just don't often see this kind of range in a multi coloured mohair. There is a rich, almost navy that is oh so tempting.

Monday, we started with the next box in the line, the Merisoft Hand Painted. The yarn is very softly spun, lushly spun yarn (if there is such a thing as lushly spun yarn. If not, there should be and this is it). The hanks are quite firm, but once you let them free, the yarn is going to bloom and bloom some more. The colours of these hand dyes, the rich, deep, warm, sultry colours, will be like having your own little vacation in an exotic island garden coming to life right there on your needles. It is impossible to imagine until you see it in front of you and hold it in your hand.

There was more.

The Thousand Island is a little harder to describe. Its softness surpasses the Merisoft. It is little lighter (18 stitches to Merisofts 16 on 10 centimeters or 4 inches) Its colours tell a different story. On the skein the yarn has an almost marled effect, but the colour swatches don't quite support this. Or maybe they do. The colour isn't quite so much of a knock you to your knees vibrancy (its a good thing - I don't know how much more I could take). The core of each colour of Thousand Island is softer, ever so slightly softer, as if a veil of mists lay over the shade card. The colours hint at sighs and whispers yet the marl is the steel in their hearts.

Then I was given a gift. I got to work with Mericash solid colours. These yarns whisper. These kinds of colours, this kind of softness sidles up to you and surrounds you in a warm hug of contentment. These are not the brilliant colours of Merisoft. These are not the quiet strength of Thousand Island. They are lighter, finer, softer than the others, but in every single way, their calm and quiet loveliness will take your breath away.

And then magically the display is all together, and the yarns are there for everyone to see, to feel, to fall in love just a little bit with. There is always a little bit of sadness when a whole thing like this is done. I can still see it, and I can still touch it, and so can you, but there is nothing quite like the first time you see the yarns unleashed from the bags, falling all over the table waiting for you.

When I try to talk about a day like yesterday, watching the whole thing come together, playing with each and every ball of yarn, I sound like an idiot. No one in their right mind, no sensible sales person, could feel like this over a few yarns, but here on the blog, where it is safe and quiet, here in my little hidey hole world, I can tell you how much these sorts of days overwhelm me. Here on the blog I'm not ashamed to have my little lunacy leak out.

Here on the blog, I want to put you right there, to reach your hand into that bag of yarn with me, to touch, to see, to feel how very good it is, how something so small, so insignificant in the big ways of the world can warm your hearts and lighten your day.

As they do mine. Now off you go. Go look and see Punta yarns. See, touch, feel, and gift yourself a wee skein of something lovely.

And if you could just leave a a skein or two of the purple Mericash, life will be very good indeed.

Monday, 16 March 2009


I devoted the weekend to finishing a few little things. Too many little things were piling up close to finished. Too many things close to being done can become a real burden for me. It isn't that I don't have WIP's of long standing. I can ignore the big things for months and months. These small things, all sitting there just needing a couple of hours of work till they can be put away, used or given can be too heavy a load to bear.

First on the complete me pile, was the little scarf made from the skein of yarn my sister gave me from Sundog Alpacas out of Saskatoon. I've followed the Vicuna Scarf pattern from 101 'Small Indulgences: Luxury Yarn One Skein Wonders' It turned out to be the right pattern for the yarn. It holds the ridges beautifully, it shows off great depth and flow and the scarf looks an awful lot like its source. It isn't vicuna, but it is very very nice.

Then I worked on making the edging to the little baby blanket I have been working on. As ever, the internal debate about what to do went on way to long. Waaaaay to long. I'm going to do a nice little hammed edging. I started with the blue, the smallest amount of yarn remaining, and I'm putting yellow on next, and then I'll use the orange to do the rest. The orange should be able to do one row and turn, and then the full backside. It will give the blanket the weight it needs on the edge, and won't be so fussy as some of the other edgings I played around with last week.

And finally, as my dinner was cooking, I finished the first grey Trekking 6 ply sock. The second is well under way, too, and I hope over the next few days to be ready to put heels on the pair. I am impressed with this yarn not just because socks work up so fast in it, but I really really like the colours. I may have to pick up just a little more for Mr. Needles. He could use more socks.

Since half the fun of getting to endings is seeing new beginnings and as busy as my hands have been, my head has been even busier.

Once the blanket and the socks are done, I am going back to play with the lacy bits I showed you last week. I have a plan for a little lacy scarfette.

I also have that fleece. I'm going to pick the first nice day to get to some of that. Been reading up on working with fleece, in particular this very long double coated fleece.

Looking forward, planning out like this might drive some people batty, but it is why I finish a lot of the times. The last bits of a project, where I know what I am doing, where I don't have to wonder is this going to be long enough, will I run out of yarn, will it fit, are a gift in a way. They are free minutes where I can just let my imagination soar. I don't have to do any of these things, but I might. The dreaming about what might be, among these many possible and achievable goals, all these open possibilities are what keep me sane with my feet on the ground.

Well, that and playing with string of course. I'm not the same person when I can't play with string....

Friday, 13 March 2009

Knitting with something different.

I am finding all kinds of little stuff to work on instead of the vest. But the vest requires full brain power, and I don't know, maybe it is spring, maybe it is the time change earlier this week, but I am having a tough time focusing on one task. Or even 2.

As the big department stores seek cheaper goods, their yarn departments are suffering. For decades, a department store was where you went to get good old ordinary crochet cotton. No longer. There is only 1 big store carrying any locally. I don't think they they are carrying much, because everyone who is looking for crochet cotton says the same thing: 'Its so picked over'. I've never met the person who is doing the picking, and never met anyone who says they have such a good selection. I'm thrilled to see that at least one yarn store (River City) around here is carrying it, in a good selection of colours (not vast, but decent) and we are going to see how it sells. If it sells well, who knows, there may be more selection.

Like anything else, people will like to see how it is going to look. Crocheters know, because for far too long, it and acrylic were the only things being crocheted with. Knitters are a tougher crowd. So I am knitting and crocheting and tatting up a few little samples of some of the colours of the fine cotton thread we have.

I decided to start with the knitting, and I hoped to have it done yesterday. The little white edging sample is from the Knitted Lace of Mary Schiffman. It is the sort of thing that was used on the edges of pillowcases, and undergarments, and tea cloths for tables. Most of the lace edgings I am familiar with are crocheted but after working one in knitted lace, I get it. There is the same rhythmic quality that infects (in a very good way) all knitting. I can the understand satisfaction that could be taken from making miles of this braid. I can understand why a person might knit this sort of lace edging rather than crochet.
The green sample is the Little Arrowhead pattern from Barbra Walker's First Treasury (or second. the book is upstairs.) I've already knit a table cloth in the darn stuff - all of it wrong. My frustrations with this knitters inability to count to 2, doesn't dim how nice this sample is going to look when it is finished. This lovely rich moss green dances and glows in the light. I hope this little sample will show some of our younger knitters, that cotton knitting is something to aspire to too.

One of the best parts of my knitting journey has been learning the depth of tradition behind it all. The tradition behind knitting lace is deep and strong. But right there alongside those strong and vibrant traditions of Estonia and The Shetlands, at exactly the same time in history, over the last 150 years, we had our own tradition born out of a desire to have pretty things to wear and born out of what was available. Here in the vast western spaces of North America, the common fibre to knit lace with was cotton. Cotton thread knitting is our tradition, and I urge us not to give short shrift to our own history because few books have been written about it, because it isn't as popular as knitted laces with wool.

Pick up a copy of the Lacy Knitting of Mary Schiffman, or get it from your library. Check out some of the fine old crochet doily pattern writers like Elizabeth Hiddleson if you can. Search, see, find out what our fore-mothers were doing.

And then knit a little something with cotton thread. In garter stitch. Seriously rewarding stuff. An unexpected pleasure.

Thursday, 12 March 2009

So over Red

I've had a 'thing' for reds for a very long time. I always had something red to wear. I had several lovely dresses in reds all through my life. When I was a kid colouring with my dad, I remember the 'swell' red dresses he made for all the little girls dresses. (I think he did this to tease us) But this past winter, since early last fall in fact, my soul was on a misson for the right red. What set it off was a particular shade of red Cloud Cotton. This red set off a search for the right red, the red that would be perfect.

I looked for a long time, and like most searches for perfection, did not find perfection, but came up with several pretty darn goods. I have a rusty red Donna from Scheepjeswol, colour 612, and the more purple fuschia red 610. I have a garnet red from Elann's Sierra Aran line and, most recently, this lovely Cloud Cotton Red, that I could never quite get out of my head.

Yesterday more of the Cloud Cotton found its way to the store, and I swear that another colour has taken me into its feindish clutches.

Yellow. There is a Cloud Cotton Yellow that is so soft and warm that it is like butter cream. Like the soft Sunday lemon of a lemon merigue pie when you make it yourself from real fresh lemons. It is a yellow you can wrap yourself up in and just feel good about the world.

I already like yellow. My study is yellow, a strong clear, wake me in the morning yellow. If I had a white kitchen, the curtains would be yellow ( these were my colours at the farm kitchen.) My favourite dress of all time, was yellow. My bridesmaid dresses were yellow (but this wasn't a choice, it was kismet. The dresses were on sale, they had sizes for all the bridesmaids. But they were nice dresses.) Yellow just makes me feel good even if it isn't my favourite colour. Really, it isn't. Red is my favourite colour. You'd think I would be immune to the power of yellow yarn.

But no. I fell for a bag full of yellow yarn, like a moth to a light in the night, I fell hard.

Its a really nice yellow, and yellow is a good colour to be surrounded with. but I already have a yellow sweater, and I just don't need another.

Maybe I could need a yellow scarf? I'll have to think about that.

Wednesday, 11 March 2009


We have another sock yarn at the store, new for the store, but one of my most favoured yarns for socks for all seasons. Meilenweit Cotton Fun makes the nicest socks. My favourite socks for camping are Cotton Fun.

For those that dare to step away from knitted socks with sock yarn, Cotton Fun is one of those yarns that just does lovely things in solid fabric crochet. With a griddle stitch (alternating a long stitch like a double crochet with a short stitch like a single crochet, and then in the next round, placing the single in the top of the double and the double on top of the single) or a extended single crochet, the colours make wonderful patterns multi patterns. Too often, the subtleties of multi coloured yarns are lost in crochet, but not this. In a way, crochet takes this yarn to a whole different and superior place. This small sample baby sock shows only the beginning of the effect. It isn't the sometimes unlovely pooling that will happen in knitting. Rather the pooling effect becomes desirable. It blends better, the colour moves between the stitches better. If you don't like a pooling yarn, try using it for crochet. You might just be pleasantly surprised.

It also makes very appleaing wee knitted socks. In a knitted adult version, you will have a stronger presence of blue, larger colour sections, but isn't that just the prettiest little knitted baby sock? This yarn would make lovely knitted or crocheted baby sweaters too. Some of the Holly Yeoh, Bee's Knees patterns would be just a delightful way to use Cotton Fun.

I'm going to stick to socks for now. I'm going to have to work hard on several things before I can get these in the queue, but maybe by the time camping season arrives, I'll be ready to work on these.

I can hardly wait. Another pair of superior camping socks suits me fine. And looking forward to warmer weather doesn't hurt either.

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

I crawled back to bed

I'm blogging late today because I crawled back to bed, and really, today, it is the only sensible thing to do. Unless you are in Siberia, Finland, any of Canada's 3 territories, or Alaska. Then you would be braver, stronger and better able to cope with these temperatures than I. -40C last night.

Without the wind chill.

It is still -40.1 C

I was up earlier, working on socks, because really, the only sort of knitting to do in this weather is sock knitting. Heavy sock knitting.

These are Chris's socks. I promised Chris a pair of socks last year at Christmas, and then promptly forgot them. One of the boys (I really should call them men. They are all of them, fully growed) reminded me. It only seemed right to get to Chris socks immediately. The yarn is Trekking 6 ply, a nice medium weight sock yarn, and I am really really pleased with the way the colours are softly fading from grey to charcoal, to black, and back. Its not quite a striping pattern, and yet it is a striping sort of yarn. Very pleased.

You know, the two Trekking 6 ply I have worked with have both been impressive. They make socks that still fit inside a regular shoe, but they work up fast. This is a healthy part of a foot, and was done up in about an hour and a half. We have another brand of heavier sock yarn coming in, one of the usual regular brands, but in a 6 ply. I haven't seen it yet, but I can't wait to try it out too.

There will always be a place in the world for regular sock weight yarn, but don't discount these slightly heavier weight yarns.

I have been thinking a lot about spring things, and summer weights and cotton, but if this keeps up, the only thing that is going to get knit is big heavy winter socks. It is going to be back to Big Fabel for me.

Monday, 9 March 2009


The weather here has been absolutely miserable. Friday there was a snowstorm. Saturday there was another, but by the end of Saturday the sky was blue and the sun was shining. It was beautifully warm. Overnight the temperature dropped and once again, the wind rose and blew all that fresh snow around. Visibility on the roads was almost none, and with the windchill, the temperatures were brutal. You could not be outside for long before even the warmest parka left you with a chill.

So that is why we were out on Sunday afternoon, picking up this. The owner met us midway, which was pretty much in the middle of nowhere. The wind was something more than crisp (freaking crisp), and without Mr. Needles being there, it would have been a tough slug. It was packed in a nice box, but Mr. Needles was afraid that the box would blow out of the truck box, and he left the tie downs at home, so we dumped the fleece into the truck box, and pulled the box cover over and away we went.

That left me with the unappetizing task of having to bag it up midst all the wind. What you see in the photo is about half the truck box still filled. It did not take long, but it by the time I was done, my hands were deeply cold and my fingers were wasted for any serious knitting. I wound balls instead and debated what the heck I am going to do with all this fleece.

There are some people who are going to take some, but I'm hoping to keep a couple fleece's worth to try spinning this coarser sheep fibre, and to see if it will make a reasonable quilt batt. Inside a good sturdy cover, It ought to do just fine. There is a long way to go to get it to anything resembling that stage though.

It needs to be completely picked over. It is very very raw. Then it is going to have to be cleaned deeply. I'm going to stock up on some Dawn to help me get through this. And it is going to have to be a day when its nice enough to open the windows. It is very sheepy smelling . Really really farmy sheepy smelling. Then, I'll need some hand carders to turn this pile of fibre into nice little rolags. I've a feeling there is an awful lot of work involved in preparing a fleece before it is ready to be used.

This is a fairly coarse fibre and it was free, so I won't be too disturbed if I make a mess out of it. I'm fully prepared to fail, but I also know that people have been doing this for centuries. It isn't a sophisticated process, just a hard work one. I'm ready for that.

Oh the bliss of ignorance.

Friday, 6 March 2009

For a day spent on wall paper

I did a surprising amount of knitting. And very little wall papering.

I opened the box and read the instructions to find that this mural needed wallpaper glue applied to it. This wasn't really a problem except that the logistics of the application changed. It needed stuff I did not have and since the day wasn't meant for unnecessary travel, Mr. Needles helped me with it when he got home.

It was a good thing I waited any way. These mural pieces are enormous. The figures on it are gargantuan. We played around with the parts last night to figure out what was going to look the best, and all I have left to do today is make the paste, book the paper, and slap it up. Which is pretty much right where I was yesterday morning, par for the course in renovations.

So I kept knitting. I'm almost ready to put the little stroller blanket together. I'm a little short of blue, and I have a lot of yellow and orange left over. I'm seriously thinking about putting a little edging on it. I'm thinking about little garter stitch points on 3 sides of the blanket alternating the blue, the orange and the yellow point by point.

Its been a bit of a yarny sort of week. UPS brought the two walnut skeins of yarn I needed for Mr. Needles vest, and I brought home a few things from the store fresh from the shipping boxes.

Some new really great colours of Confetti sock yarn. Some of a wonderful forest floor sort of green colourway of Kureyon sock yarn destined for another simple small shawl, and some hand dyed Ella Rae Merino Lace. Ella Rae Merino lace is a little heavier weight and quite springy in comparison to some laces and this blue and green Caribbean water colour is my favourite.

What I didn't bring home was the new Footloose, which is the most amazing shades and tones of reds and the other really nice ball of Confetti I was eyeing up. I thought I controlled myself remarkably well.

Now if I can just live through the opening of rest of the 8 or 10 boxes waiting in the back of the store, my budget might just survive the month.

Thursday, 5 March 2009

What I am up today

This is going to be one of those things days. It doesn't happen often as there are so many string things to discuss, but well there you are.

I don't know how it is for other people, but around here if there is room with out a purpose, it quickly becomes what can only be called a 'junk room'. Just like junk drawers in the kitchen, a 'junk room' quickly takes over your life and you will never find anything. Construction tools, empty paint cans, ladders, boxes we might need, Christmas decorations that are too large to fit in the closet, camping gear, junk mail, newspapers. All have resided at one time or another in one junk room or another. In order to stop random formation junk rooms, any spare rooms, are given a dedicated purpose, and are decorated to ensure that no more junk accumulation will happen. It doesn't always work, but we do try.

About 5 years ago we dedicated one room as Mr. Needles study. Loosely translated it means that the computer is in here, along with Mr. Needles strictly personal types of junk that guys have. Mr. Needles collection of guy junk is actually fairly contained and well defined. It's all related to wildlife and fishing and hunting. The only problem with Mr. Needles study was that it was never finished.

The original plan was to build in cabinets so we didn't paint with the very expensive sand paint along one wall. A year or two after the fact (right when the sand paint colour we used was no longer produced) we decided to buy book cases which left us with a wall that did not match and a big problem. It took the wind right out of our sails. Renovation stopped, and the study was left hanging midway between elegant but manly space and junk room.

We solved the unpainted wall with a wall mural. It suits the character of the man, and his passions. For the last 3 years, the mural sat in a box on top of the book cases. Today it goes onto the wall.

Wish me luck.

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Yarn Harlot coming to Saskatchewan

Not just to Saskatchewan, but to Muenster Saskatchewan, to the Saskatchewan Stitches Conference.

Muenster is not my home town but my home town is just 20 minutes from there, my roots in Canada go right back to there, my dad went to the monastery sponsored high school there, the dearest priest that ever there was on the face of the earth rests in the graveyard there and so gosh darn it all, it's my roots.

I've sent in my paperwork, and hope I get in her Saturday class. Be still my beating heart.

I know that the Harlot has been to some small places, but this is Saskatchewan. Its a different kind of small. Its a different kind of big.
The town is like all small prairie towns, once dominated by the line of elevators, they are now gone the way of the Crow Rate and history. You could tell the size of a town by the number of elevators. But it isn't a prairie town that is the prairies, its the sense of space, the endless open skies. Its the green and the golden, and the way you can see what weather is coming from a hundred miles away. (in truth, IIRC, 12 miles)

The picture above is my cousins farm (he lives on my grandfather's home place) and the farm I grew up on is on the far side of the curve in the small copse of trees. The lake is where I wet my footsies when I was a wee one.

The picture is pretty representative of the way that part of Saskatchewan looks. It might seem to be flat from the air, but it is a rolling parkland. It isn't the grand beauty of the mountains, it isn't the vast lakes and rocky beauty of the shield, it is its own small and quiet beauty, there for those who look, a very Saskatchewan kind of beauty.

No matter how small a place it might be, the Harlot will enjoy her time there. The hearts of the people there dwarf that endless seeming sky.

The other thing about Saskatchewan...no matter where you go, they understand a good beer in the evening, and a good sturdy cup of coffee in the morning.

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Just fooling around

This is the time of year when the new spring yarns are coming in, when the new colours of existing yarns come in, and often when new combinations of fibre come in. There is a surfeit of really great yarns.

The store has stocked the chosen new Berroco lines, we've put out all the Rowan summer yarns, and that is only the surface of the depth of this springs great yarns. They may be heavily cotton, bamboo, linens, but oh my, oh my, oh my. These are not your momma's cottons.

Yesterday, one of the things we were working with was Carezza, a very well priced 100% cotton. Each 50 gram ball is , well, small. The balls claimed to have 85 metres on them. How could that tiny ball have so much yarn on it? Even more so, how could that fairly small yarn knit up to 18 stitches over 4 inches on a 5 mm needle. It just wasn't that big.

Ever the skeptic, I picked out some colours I liked, for a small baby blanket, a summery stroller blanket or car seat blanket: a soft golden yellow, a rich creamy orange and a warm toasty brown . They looked marvelous...

right up till when my boss came along and said 'oh how cute, the A & W Rootbear baby.' Back to the drawing board. I picked out a dusty blue instead of the toast and took them home and played.
And here you go, a baby stroller blanket, about a third done. I'll need 3 of the blue, 2 and possibly 3 of the yellow, and only 1 orange. I ought to be able to get a pretty fair sized blanket from 6 little balls of yarn, total cost of the blanket is going to be about 25 dollars. Not too shabby.

I know some people don't like to knit with cotton, and non animal fibres. Not me. My first working with yarn was done with cotton and in a lot of ways, I never considered worsted weight anything to be nearly as nice to work with as a good clean cotton. Yes, that was back before my knitting days, and back before I came to find that there were yarn shops with warm and friendly people selling delicious yarns, and yes it was before I discovered seriously fine wool and alpaca, but working with good cotton is a warm and comforting pleasure.

Working with cotton takes me back to places and things from the beginning of my fascination with string things. It takes me back to hot dog roasts in the back yard and quick dips in the lake after dinner. It is like the smell of fresh cut hay and orange Koolaid on a hot summer day. Its popscicles and summer cherries. Cotton is sun and warm and the scent of honeysuckle on a hot afternoon.

Its nice to think of all these things sitting here in -10 C temperatures, recovering from a week of -20 C. There is a foot of snow and the spring melt is a good month off.

If I can't have it outside right now, I'll gladly take my little pile of memories of summer and carry them in my head. But only till April. Come April, I'd better see some green.

Monday, 2 March 2009

The Good, the Bad and the Pretty Knitting

I used to do a lot of counted thread work, not just cross stitch, but hardanger and drawn thread work too. In all the years of those intricate embroideries and many many colours, I have never been so irritated by counting as I am by knitting counting. Knitting really ought to come with a warning label.

I counted and marked every 50 stitches as I cast on, before I placed the marker, I counted those 50 stitches again. I counted each section again before I began working the first row of knitting. Yet somehow I am 8 stitches short of what my count should be. Mr. Needles just lost a bit of ease to his vest, and the button bands just got wider.

Then I painstakingly worked out the tree designs, and knew exactly how the design stitches would work on the vest, but I had forgotten that the vest fronts only had 63 stitches and the full design had 70. These two things combined, meant a fair bit of re-knitting and number fiddling. I am finally content with the layout of the design, adding one place and taking away on another. And except for one irritating stitch, my count works and is perfect. Or so it seems right now.

If all of the knitting I did this weekend would still be on the needles, the vest would be almost done.

And that is not even counting the second colour change. I wasn't pleased with the way the cream stood out harsh against the charcoal heather. I took out all the first batch of knitting and re-did, placing much more emphasis on the walnut brown heather, and much less on the cream. I did end up finding a supplier for 2 more skeins of the walnut, though now that I am knitting, I'll probably only need one.

No matter, I'd rather waste my worrying on what to do with too much than end up running short a couple of rows. I'll make mittens.

I would be very irritated with this entire vest project if I weren't having so darn much fun. But I am having fun. A lot of fun. It's challenging, and frustrating and all together consuming,

but am under the spell of stranded knitting. I love the rhythm. Hands working together, weaving and waving, conducting the yarns into one fabric.

Look at the colours! And I am thrilled with the ways the colours are coming together. Their earthiness and muted woodsy tones are the perfect backdrop for that rich Irish sort of green and the warm rust. (I did have the lichen in the mix, but it was invisible on the background.)

I feel pretty good about my knitting right now. Darn good. A few more rows and Mr. Needles can try it on. Then I can get rid of this nagging worry about that missing inch of ease.

I'm not going to even think about that right now. I'm going to go to my happy place. La la la laaaaa...