Friday, 30 April 2010

Measuring things

My natural way of going about things is guess and by golly.  I am still amazed that I swatch for knitting. Honest I do. I have proof.

They even have a card attached with the needle size written on it and any other pertinent information. 

I know.  Shocking behaviour.

But if I tell you that I figure I have enough white duck fabric to make a blind, you have to know I didn't measure the window.  I just sort of 'looked ' at it and 'looked' at my fabric, and thought,' hey I could...'

I was thinking the window was about 4 feet long and about 2 feet high.  That is a pretty standard window size for a bedroom window. The window in my study is that size, and I thought they were pretty much the same.  

I was knitting on the white lace yesterday.  It is starting to get long.  
Really long.  I have 44 inches of white lace.  I almost danced for joy at the thought that I had only 4 or so inches left to knit.  I decided to sew the blind up.  I have some white tape with rings on it that has to get attached.  I have tabs to make to hang it.

In order to do that I had to measure.

The freaking window is 66 inches wide.  Sigh.  5 and a half feet.  Panic ensued.  Do I have enough fabric?  Yes, but barely.  It is going to take every scrap I have to cover the window.  I'll get my length and width alright, but there isn't enough there to make tabs.  There isn't enough left to even make a proper hem on the top.

No need to rush to get the blind sewn up.  I have 22 more inches of white knitting to do. Lots of time to think while I knit.  Oh joy.  Lots of time to think about how I am going to hang the blind.  Lots of time contemplate  the greater mysteries.

Like how did our great great grandmothers ever knit and crochet the miles and miles of white edging they needed for petticoats. Crinolines? Hankies?    

They were, quite clearly, made of sturdier stuff.

Thursday, 29 April 2010

Spring Things

I have so much I could type today.  After struggling to find knitting that is working out, after trying not to start everything under the sun, just to have some cheery knitting to talk about instead of an endless array of fixing knitting stories, I finally have things to say, overflowing topics to talk about this morning, but I cannot take the time.

I, like hundreds of thousands of Canadians am doing my taxes this morning.  Deadline?  What deadline?

So, I must off, and do that most spring like of North American things and file my taxes.  If the result is inspiring, who knows, I may yet wax quixotic on the topic of rain gauges and burgeoning green.

Did you ever wonder if you needed minions?  

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

What I will make?

All that Briggs and Little deserves a wonderful pattern.  I don't have a pattern but I think I have a plan. 

One of the things I think this yarn does really well is show detail.  Things just really seem to pop out and hold shape.  Cables and twisted stitches look really great (at least on Ravelry) in it.  

I did a lot of work on traditional sweaters this year, and wouldn't mind more of the same. I love the gansey style of sweaters and really enjoyed knitting without a formal written pattern, just a stitch pattern and a couple measurements. I think I will use the modified drop shoulder plan though, rather than a full blown gansey.  

But patterning will be something a little different.  I did pick up a copy of Twisted Stitch Knitting. Twisted stitches, not cabled, but very likely the basis of what has become known as a 'fishermans knit'.   I can't wait to try something from this book.    Briggs and Little, with its strong definition is going to be perfect to show off the magic of twisted stitches.

They are a long way off though, probably fall.  There just isn't enough time in a year.  I have a few things in the once again growing pile to finish and a Susie Hoodie to do before I get to knit with this yarn.    

Tuesday, 27 April 2010


A quick trip to Saskatchewan last weekend, resulted in a little stash enhancement.  

There is a marvelous yarn store there, Prairie Lily Knitting and Needlework   I enhanced there last year when I was on my way to Stitches Saskatchewan.  Good things. They carry one of the finest alpacas I have ever handled.  Foxwood Alpaca is a local grower out of Lumsden, just a hop down the road from Saskatoon.  Truly lovely stuff, but I left them behind.  Sigh.  

I stopped with a very clear target in my head.  Prairie Lily carries a very large and marvelous stock of Briggs and Little.  

She has slightly less in stock now.  2 sweaters worth was my goal, and the heathered blue grey and soft greyed green were a marvelous  end to my quest.  The gratuitous extras just fell into my basket by accident. (I could have had a sweaters worth of the red, but I was virtuous.  I could have had a sweaters worth of the cream, but I resisted.)

There was room in the big yarn sweater bin, so it is hardly stash enhancement.  It was stash maintenance.  


I love the feeling of these small mills yarns (though Briggs and Little is hardly small).  I love how you sink your fingers in and you know that this stuff comes from sheep.  You know it is only one step away from the farm.  There is a trueness, a clarity of purpose and a simplicity that appeals very strongly to me. 

For all that there are hundreds of soft delicious yarns on the market,  for all that I have a goodly stock of these in my stash, sometimes I just need to feel a closer connection to where I come from. It is like knitting with a little piece of home. 

Monday, 26 April 2010

White Knitting

I have been knitting my fingers off to make feet of something white. I did better than I thought over the weekend, but less than I hoped.  I couldn't knit as much as I thought because it is spring, the pollen is out and my eyes don't get along with pollen at all.  Eye drops.  Stat.

The white knitting is pleasing though.  It is lace, but crisper and firmer than a wool or other fibre would be.  What wonders are wrought with good old crochet cotton.  

The edging is Godmother's lace from a Barbara Walker treasury.    It is the same lace I used on my Shawl that Jazz interpretation.  Its a lovely quick to knit, old fashioned lace.  It is wide which is what I was looking for.   It will be an edging at the bottom of a blind.

The white is a fabric I used to cover a problem wall in the guest bedroom.  I have enough fabric left to use it for a blind for that room.  The knitted lace will be the bottom edging and I dug in the deep resources of the yarn store for Malizia.  That is the pretty little flowery bow looking strand laying along the top of the edging.  It is going to be a single touch of something else oin the blind.  

I have collected odds and ends over the years.  I still have several doilies that I crocheted a very long time ago that I thought would be great framed or attached to pillow tops.  I have a lace edged dresser scarf that I always thought would make a great neckroll pillow with.  I have those lovely floral sheets from my daughter in laws grandmother.  I have a quilt top that I may actually have a reason to finish and turn into a blanket.  I have a hardanger throw that gets lost in my own room.  I'm not looking form a lacy girly room.  That just isn't me.  But I am  looking for a pleasing way to put these small touches together.    

These things are important to me.  They each capture a memory.  If I lost them I would still have the memories, but if I have these things, and don't use them, they are just stuff in a drawer.  Stuff in a drawer tends to clutter up the corners of your life.  Stuff can be a burden if there is no purpose to it. 

For me these things have a purpose.  It took a long time collecting them.  A lifetime.  And now it is time to use them.     

Friday, 23 April 2010

More about beads

Photos requested.  OK.  I'm game but I think you'll see what I see.

3 choices, a purple blue metallic bead, a silver lined clear glass bead, and a pearly white bead.

My choice is the clear glass beads.  My hope was for a bit of sparkle.

The clear glass beads.  In the first picture, you can barely see them.  In this photo, the best of almost 20 attempts, they show up.  

The blue-purple metallic beads are a little too strong in my opinion, though if a bead is supposed to make a statement, these do at least show up.  

The pearly white bead shows off nicely too.  But I have a bit of a bias against these.  Pearly white beads attempt to look like pearls, but don't.  I think they ummm...sort of tart up this very very fine yarn.  They don't live up to this very fine yarn.  

I like the silver lined glass beads, but with the yarns slubby nature, they just wouldn't show up very much.  

Beads are meant to add to a project, and I am just not convinced that any of my choices really do.   

I'm working on something unusual in the meantime and it is going faster than I could ever have imagined.  Its interesting and fascinating, and slightly old fashioned.  Suits me fine.  With luck, I'll have it complete by the end of the weekend and with luck, Monday I will show you what I am up to.      

Thursday, 22 April 2010

To Bead?

I'm still working on the Bitterroot.  After consulting many other knitters and asking if they would bead or not, the answer is yes, Bead.  

I'm still not convinced.  I was scoping out bigger beads last evening, but the next size up begins to look gawky and awkward in scale in comparison to the fine quality of this yarn.   If you use big beads on this shawl, they have to be things of great beauty.  It would need Swarovski crystals, the cube ones to feel right to me.  

Not that I am picky or anything. Or have a really really stong feeling about this yarn.  Or anything.  I really did think about the crystals, but 2 things stopped me.  Price and availability. Where available, the price was more than I am willing to pay, and where the price meets my level, no availability.  If it takes this much effort, it isn't meant to be.

Nope.  It will be what I have or not.  I haven't accumulated this mildly vast stash of beads for nothing.  They really are nice beads.  

OK, I just tried taking a picture of them on the fabric.  Disappear completely. I'm feeling very skeptical again.  

I think I need to look at the bead stash again.   I'm pretty sure I have some purpley ones.  I know I have some pearl look beads.  Perhaps I just need to change my choice of bead.  

I won't give up, but I am not going to go outside of what I already have.  The beads will enhance and add to the final shawl, or I will let this lovely yarn and a really fine pattern speak for themselves.  

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Weather worries

I've  been thinking about the weather a lot lately, but haven't posted about it.  Its just too sad. I thought about taking photos of awakening earth, but I have not been in the mood.  

It is very dry here.  Very very dry.  We had virtually no rain last summer.  We had none of our usual fall rainy cold weather.  We had good snow coverage through the winter, but slightly less than usual.  

The spring has brought hot dry weather. Not warm spring breezes, with crisp cool nights.  The air is a reminder of  hot August days and beaches.  For the last few days it has been well over 20C. 

There isn't any snow in my yard.  This is the first time in years that it has been gone by the middle of April.  We are usually looking at at least one small bank of snow till the middle of May.  

Its dry and that worries me.  

Then, the other day, driving home from work, I passed these marvelous beasts.    We saw cranes flying overhead on the weekend.  The robins are about and the trees are budding.  It is dry, yet still it is spring.  

Life will out.  The trees will bloom.  Soon buffalo babies will be taking their first steps.  Little robin chicks will take their first flight.  
The goslings will hatch and will soon be seen waddling by mama as they eat the rich green grass at the edge of the road.

No matter the weather, life will out.  Its dry.  It may feel catastrophic, but it isn't.  It is a cycle as old as the earth.  My forest of trees may suffer and I might loose some but there will be something in their place.  

As much as I know that humans are part of the cycle of the earth, and not just observers of the natural, I'm not looking forward to a dry hot summer.  Not even looking forward to a dry cool summer, though that would be infinitely preferable.  I'm praying for rain. I'm praying for it hard.

And I am praying that the idiots who ride offroad vehicles  through ditches filled with tall dry grass or who toss cigarette butts out the windows of their cars, will just stay home. 

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Monday, Monday

OK, it might be Tuesday but I am still working on yesterdays things.   I haven't spun a lot lately, but I have read a lot, watched videos, played with fibres, and things related to spinning.  

Yesterday, after giving my study a good cleaning, sorting and ordering the cotton zone, I pulled down some fibre and began to spin.  

I'm going to keep on doing that this morning.  I'm going to try to spin just a little every day.  Half an hour on a regular basis and maybe I will be satisfied with my work.  

Monday, 19 April 2010

Making it right.

Isn't it the way it goes, when after a success like a finished sweater, you feel like everything you touch is a bit of a disaster.  

Every project I touched had problems last week, but that is over now.  It is going well.

I'm working on a Bitterroot Shawl.    Last weeks adventures were an endless round of knit and tink, knit and tink.  This week I have forward progress.  I'm well on my way through Chart D and have a big decision to make.  

To bead or not to bead?  The yarn, with its soft colours shifts and its slubby texture, might hide beads unless they are large and chunky.  This just doesn't feel like a shawl that needs large and chunky.    

The yarn is Flaxen from Handmaiden. Just scroll through her yarns and you will find it.  It is a sort of unassuming yarn there among the beauties that are Handmaiden.  It isn't up front soft.  It doesn't glow or shout your name as you walk by.    

But oh, knit with its silk and flax blend a while and see how you feel.  Flaxen is seduction in a skein.  It doesn't have to say a word. Its sits next to you and is quiet and soft and in a moment you realize you have magic in your hands.   

I'm almost wishing this shawl would go slowly. Truly, ripping back the little mistakes have not been a cross to bear at all.  

Friday, 16 April 2010


What is wrong with these pictures?

Exact same number of stitches. Same number of rows.  Exact same point in pattern. Same needles.  Same yarn. Same knitter.

Different gauge.

Nuff said.

Thursday, 15 April 2010


Thursday is one of the days I almost always get off.  I've only worked a few here and there and it has become the standard, the flag bearer of my week.

It is a day for bits and peices.  I don't go to town.  Singular Thursdays are not for starting big projects. Its a day for housework and setting things to rights. It is a day for those little tasks that are only noticed when you don't do them, like cleaning your fridge and wiping the fingerprints from around the light switches. Thursday is a day of ordinary, a day of mundane, a day of simple, regular things.

Thursday is a good day for socks. Socks fit in the bits of the day between bathroom cleaning and vacuuming and tidying and putting. Socks are a great accompaniment to the days coffee breaks and pauses.  They fit well with the fits and starts and the odd little victories  that are housekeeping.

Today, I really feel like knitting socks. I need a break from the cotton and I need a break from all the thinking and planning.  I need the mundane and the simple.  Socks are the perfect place to go.  

I am going to finish the Earl Grey Socks today and if there is time, I'll cast on for another pair.  Simple prosaic socks for a simple prosaic day.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Small things


Here I sit knitting parallelograms out of this not at all red yarn.  There will be 6 small shapes.  Beyond that,  I have no idea where I am going or what I am really doing.  I have only a vague notion of intent.  

This way of knitting without a road map is taking me where it wants to go and that is OK.  I've always liked going off the beaten path, following the less traveled highway.  A few bumps and potholes don't scare me. 

If the less traveled path and my notion of vague intent, don't meet at a point of interest, it is still OK. I will have some very plain and rather skewed dishcloths. 

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Just Foolin' Around

I did knit yesterday.  I knit a lot but mostly I fooled around.  

Blue foolin`around.  I have 2 cones of this stuff.  I have no idea what it is, but I suspect, because of the source, that it is something from Harrisville.  Pretty blue with pink and white flecks of tweedy goodness.  

Mixed foolin`around.  

It`s not red.  Really.  I`m knitting it for the taupe and sage colours in it.

Monday, 12 April 2010

A second red sweater complete

When I was a kid, my dad used to sit and colour in our colouring books with us.  If there happened to be a little girl in a dress on his page, he always coloured the dress red and made the collar white.  He said red dresses were swell.

I must have been affected by this, because I still think red is swell and it seems I find knitting red sweaters swell too.

REd Sweater No. 2, Cloud Cotton from Estelle Designs, knit following the instructions for a top down raglan in Knitting from the Top.

All buttoned up  

and how I will probably wear it.  In the end, the sleeves are a little large.  I may still redo the lace on smaller needles to lessen the effect because it is only at the end of the sleeves that they seem large. They fit nicely through the cap.   

The other interesting thing I learned is if you want a wider neckline, you are going to have to start with a lot more stitches than this.  This fits quite beautifully at my neck as you can see but isn't the wide low neckline it seemed to be when I was first knitting it.  I was worried that it would be too low!  Silly me.

It may have been a season of sweaters for me, but there is something I get from the sweaters that I don't get from some of the other things I knit.  The sense of accomplishment is really very different, fuller, deeper, richer.  It is a little addictive.  It surely is beyond satisfying.

It has also been a season of red.  It is time to knit another colour, methinks.  Blue perhaps.  Nice gray green?  Black and turquoise accents?  Soft grape?  Warm purple?

I think that is where I am off to today.  Finishing a purple thing.  The purple sweater is ripe for sleeves, and I finally understand what I need to do to get the right fit with them.    It would be nice to start with a different colour and go in a completely different direction, but there is a lot to be said for getting the WIP basket by my chair emptied.

But you never know. Swatching is always an excuse. I might sneak in time to play with some blue yarn too.  

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Fridays are for Finishing

No, it isn't the second Red Sweater.  But it is an oldie  but a goodie from last year.  

I finally blocked my Shoalwater Shawl.

It doesn't look like all that much, but it is about 6 and a half feet long, almost 7 feet really.  It takes up 4  - 2 x 2 blocking tiles in length.  It is mere inches less than 2 tiles or 4 feet deep.

The photo quite simply doesn't do it justice.

Sadly, the colour looks really washed out.  It is the sea.  Waves and waves of sea washing in to shore.  Its truly a lovely thing.  

Taking a wee break

Wednesday is a work day for me.  It is also my evening Knitting with friends day.  I should have knit on the sweater, but it was just tto much to drag along.  This morning, I find I am better  for the wee wait.  

Tuesday evening, I took a count of all the stitches.  I have been adding shaping stitches to a particular sequence without worrying too much about the final count of stitches.  I need to have a number perfectly divisible by 7 to fit the lace panel in.  Close but no cigar. I have 4 stitches too many, or 10 stitches too few.  

Tuesday I thought I would have to pull back my knitting.  This morning I realized duhhhhh... 

I could leave the stitches as they are and decrease the 4 stitches on the last row before the lace row.  The lace flares out a little bit and will hide those pesky getting to a 7 stitch repeat decreases perfectly.     

Putting pesky little problems down for just a few minutes often helps me find the simplest solution.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Hearing Lace

I don't change the CDs I listen to in my car a lot.  I don't do radio, but I have a couple of CD's that I could listen to for a VERY long time before I get tired.  Being spring and all, I decided it was time for a change.  I pulled out one of my favourites, Essential Bach.

Its been a while since I listened to the purity and genius of Bach.  I was also struck by how much Bach understood my knitting.  Listen to this:

The Tocatta and Fugue in D Minor for Organ.  

The opening notes perfectly describe the way your heart feels when you discover an error rows below in you lace knitting. Discovery to 0:47.  Disbelief.

1:20, a raging debate:  Do you throw the whole thing in the darkest corner of the coset for eternity?  A year?  A day? Yes. No. Yes... Oh heaven help me.

2:13 throes of agony.

2:40, your decision is made.

3:00, dropping stitches .  How to fix?  Which are the bad stitches?  How far back must you go?  Tiny questions racing thorugh your mind as you begin the repair.  Hundreds of questions and doubt.

3:40.  The truth of what needs repair becomes clear.  

4:20 the reknit. Up. Down.  Good repair. Bad repair.  Rip back.  Redo. Better.  

5:18, it just might work. You hope. You wish.  You pray.  

6:18 Composure.  It worked, and you move forward, rhythmiclly, joyously, with careful deliberate moves.

7:34, Only moments of pleasure knitting this lace are left.

7:46, you delight that it is done.

7:53 You are proud of your work.

Then just as you reach the end, you realize you will miss it even as you know it is out there for the world to see.  

It is doubtful that Bach knew lace knitting, other than to wear it, but he did understand the spirit of knitting lace.

Listen again.  Imagine your hands, and watch them move.  It is lace.  Lace with a problem, and you fix it.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

With a little bit of lace.

It isn't just a red thing, it is a red thing with a little bit of lace.

I am really pleased with the way the lace looks.  The perfect sleeve end for a summer sweater.  Just right.  I used the same size needle, 3.75, as the rest of the sweater and it might look a little tidier, crisper, cleaner, if I redo it on a smaller needle. 3.5 maybe.  3.25?  I'll redo the lace on the sleeves before I do the lace along the bottom.  

As Mrs Spit pointed out the other day, it is moving along extremely fast now that I am on the body.  If I had the whole day to knit, I would probably have it complete or very close to it, but I work today.  It must wait until tonight.  

I should be able to squeak out a few inches tonight.  With luck. I am just where I need to start hip shaping.  That might be a one time knit but if my plan doesn't work as I hope it does, it might be a twice knit and maybe a threepeat.  

Right to the lacy hem, this simple little sweater is going to stay interesting.  

Monday, 5 April 2010

How many Red Things...

I'm back to red things in a big way.  I've been working on it almost exclusively.  Its mostly stockinette, so you could fall into the trap of thinking it is miles of stockinette but  I am having too much fun to think that.  That one stitch purled every 7th stich is a winner.  It keeps it moving right along, without feeling like it is miles.  It was a very very good decision, made long before I was thinking about the look of the finished sweater.  

It was one little waver , one tiny split second choice, made while doubting my ability to keep the raglan increases symmetrical.  That one small stitch, made of self doubt, is one of my favourite things. 

That one purl stitch gives the sleeves and body an interesting convergence point along each of the raglan increases. a(I planned the convergence but not a lot else.) It gives diversity to the fabric and keeps your eye focused vertically as flows over my shoulder.  It gives shape in an unexpected way.   

Knitting teaches me things.  That is half the fun.  I thought this sweater would teach me a lot about raglan fit and proportional increasing.  I wasn't really expecting to find benefits from a small moment of doubt.   

Karen, the time was right.  3:48 a.m. Mountain Time. I sometimes have trouble sleeping.  I don't worry about it.  I get a lot of knitting done when sensible people sleep.  

Sunday, 4 April 2010

More Winter Knitting

The really really pretty and fun to wear Topsy Turvyd from The Rainey Sisters

This was hiding in the pile waiting for blocking.  What a nice surprise!  

The perfect thing to wear for Easter dinner after all the cooking is done.  Fresh, green and delicate that speaks softly 'Spring is here'.

Friday, 2 April 2010

New things

When the big projects are finished, it is time for new projects!  This one is flying off my needles.

The Lillia Hyrna Shawl from the Book of Wool.  I'm working this up in New England Shetland rather than the original Icelandic laceweight but only because I could get the Shetland in the store.  Two soft grays blending together.  Simple stitches.  It is exactly the right thing after the challenge of the Gansey.  

I'll do another when I get my hands on Icelandic laceweight.  I am currently begging the boss to bring some in.  Its pretty pitiful.  It would be a wonderful way to showcase the difference a wool can make.  

And there is another red thing.  

Top Down raglan, just for fun. And to learn.  It looks like a plain stockinette, but there is a hint of a rib happening if you call a single purl stitch at the end of a 6 stitch stockinette section a rib.  I'm using Cloud Cotton, a richly coloured medium weight cotton. 

 I worked on this most of yesterday, and don't seem to have a lot completed.  I keep telling myself that it is because I am working on all the parts of the sweater at once.  I'm not believing me yet.  
These will keep me going through the weekend.  And the socks. There is that pair of socks ongoing too.  

By the end of the weekend, our snow ought to be pretty much gone, with only the most shaded parts of the yard left frozen.  It is unseasonably early.   We have not had any rain. This isn't unusual I suppose.  It is early for rains, but it is the cumulative effects I worry about.    With no rain last fall and little last summer, we are in a full on drought.  Not good for my trees and other living things.      

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Finishing photos

I was looking at my Ravelry page and noticed that a lot of my finished project photos are not the actual finished photo.  They are the finished knitting photo.  Somehow the finished photo never happens before the item is sent on its merry way. There are photos of scarves with ends unworked, mittens unblocked, Shawls blocked but not draped and displayed.  I am determined to do better.

To that end, I woke Mr. Needles a few minutes earlier than usual.  Not a really popular decision, I'm sure, though he did not say anything.  He cooperated but did point out that we could have done this last night when he was wearing the sweater.   

I redid the collar to add short rows for a more modern fit, a very good decision, and commented on by the wearer.   

It's a very subtle difference, but one I think I will add into all the sweaters I make with a very traditional shaping.  I think I'm going to include it in the gansey notes too.  

This is a sweater I dreamed up.  It wasn't a written down anywhere other than in the clues Gladys Thompson left in her book, with hints and tips from other master knitters added along the way.  Its cables and seed stitches satisfied the yarns demands.  It happened on the fly.  I winged it. Its not a pattern, it just is.  

It is enormously satisfying to make a sweater this way.  There is nothing quite like knowing that no matter where in the world I am, no matter what is going on around me, if I have needles and yarn enough, I can knit clothing for any person who needs it.   I feel a little more deeply connected to the generations of women who didn't have written patterns, but who made clothing we still marvel over today.  

It is doubtful my work could ever stand along side the quality and sheer mastery of knitting that their work attained, but I am pretty comfortable thinking I am at least walking the same path.