Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year!

With the first repeat of the Bison Tracks lace finished, I thought I'd better thread a lifeline through my Heartland Lace Shawl in case I need to rip back later. Although - knock on wood - the knitting has gone very smoothly so far. This is definitely easier than the Swallowtail Shawl I knit last year, and without Nupps, it knits up much more quickly. Here's hoping that I have enough yarn for quite a large shawl.

With our open house planned for tomorrow, today will be a busy one. Lots of shopping, cleaning and food prep to be done. Gavin and I don't really celebrate New Year's Eve; maybe because I'm not much for staying up late? For the last several years we've celebrated New Year's Day instead. Friends, neighbours and family drop in and stay as long as they like - lots of food, drink and conversation. Happy New Year everyone!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

pondering resolutions

Now that I've turned the heel on my second Tart Lime sock, I know there's just a few days more to finish it. Which means I can start thinking about my next project just in time for the New Year ... a good time to think about my knitting resolutions for the coming year. My first resolution? To choose projects to knit the yarn I already have.

With that in mind, I've cast on a Heartland Lace shawl. Many years ago I bought some dk weight cotton/nylon blend yarn because I loved the colours. And ever since I've been at a loss as to what to knit from it; that is, until a fellow Raveler messaged me to ask if I could spare some so that she could finish her shawl. Absolutely. And after looking at her project pages, a lace shawl seemed an ideal use for this yarn. Last summer I knit a swallowtail shawl - one of the most interesting and challenging knits I'd ever attempted. Another challenge seems like a good way to start a new year!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009


I'm one of those annoying people who is bright-eyed and bushy tailed as soon as I wake. A riser and shiner. A morning person, through and through. All of which is in sharp contrast to Gavin, who mumbles and stumbles through mornings until several cups of coffee later. So it was a big surprise this morning when, within seconds of waking up, he pulled a birthday card out from his bedside table and a present from somewhere nearby. Now that's thinking ahead and shows an alertness in the early morning hours that I hadn't expected.

My birthday gift? This knitting bag for hauling around my knitting projects. Much nicer than my usual ziploc bags, huh? Tidily tucked inside are the six pattern pages for Tart Lime Socks, the first finished sock and the second sock still on needles, as well as all my knitting bits and bobs ... stitch markers, measuring tape, stitch holders, craft scissors, crochet hooks, and so on. The actual gift wasn't a surprise; I'd emailed him a link to the etsy shop weeks ago! But I'm feeling pretty lucky and spoiled all the same.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

relaxing at home

With wind, mild temperatures and steady rain, it's been a very green Christmas. That's good for Gavin who spent a couple hours surfing on Lake Ontario this aft. And good for me; I spent the late afternoon curled up with my knitting in front of the first few episodes of season one of The Tudors. I turned the heel of my sock as William Courtenay fell to the swords of assassins in Urbino. And picked up my gusset stitches as Lady-In-Waiting Elizabeth Blount finds herself pregnant with Henry VIII's child. By the time the child was born and Henry VIII acknowledged him, I was well into the final chart for the top of the foot. Now the first sock is done. Despite my early setbacks, that really took no time at all!

It's been a very relaxing couple of days. Thanks to Roxanne McQuilkin's book "Canadian Bread Machine Baking" I've sorted out where I was going wrong with my new bread machine. Without a preheat cycle, I have to remember to use hot water. Mmmm ... is there anything better than the smell of fresh baked bread?

Thursday, December 24, 2009

fresh socks

Not much to see yet, but it's the start of a Tart Lime Sock in Trail Sock yarn by Fleece Artist. After knitting so many socks by designer Cookie A., I thought I'd better branch out a bit and try some offerings from different designers. And this pattern from Mimknits has been in my queue for months! Although, had I known how much cabling was involved, and how many different charts, I may have reconsidered. I've started and ripped out twice already - first, when I lost track of where I was in Chart 2, and the second time, when I dropped a stitch towards the end of Chart 2. It's frustrating, but worth taking the time to do it right. Thank goodness I'm not on a deadline!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

a successful sweater

Bella's mitts are done - how fabulous are they? I'm thrilled with how they turned out, and hope that the recipient likes them as much.

The emergency Christmas sweater is also done, just in the nick of time. As we drove Highway 6 south towards Port Dover, I raced to finish the arm and side seams. And then wrapped it and tied it with a bow at the Tim Hortons in Hagersville much to the dismay of the rest of the coffee-drinking public.

When we arrived at Nancy's cottage on the Lake Erie shore we sat on the sofa with coffee and exchanged gifts. Good news: the sweater fits and she loves it! And she was very surprised. I'm sure she knew that I'd make it for her, but I don't think it ever crossed her mind that I'd knit it from start to finish in time for Christmas. And frankly, there were moments when I wasn't sure it was going to happen either.

Now everything promised for Christmas is done. What to cast on next?

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Bella's mitts

With a few days left before Christmas, I decided to knit one more pair of mitts to accompany an already completed hat. After all, I have lots of wool left over, and with a bulky yarn, mittens should only take a few days. I decided on Phenomenon - modeled after mitts that Bella wears in the car accident scene of the Twilight movie. And from what I can see in this YouTube clip, they're a good facsimile.

The mitts are very long, almost up to the elbow, and the pattern features an interesting texture of crossed stitches on the inside of the hand. Initially I wasn't sure I'd like the finished mitts, but now I'm loving them. They're very comfortable and fit beautifully. The cable pattern is a very attractive detail. And the textured palm adds warmth and padding. These might be the perfect mitts for a snowball fight, and would also be good with a sweater and a down-filled vest.

The pattern instructions are very detailed and thorough - including line by line instructions as well as charts. It's definitely not mindless knitting; there's lots happening in every round and the crossed stitches can really slow you down. But if you've got the time, these mitts are worth the effort.

Friday, December 18, 2009

done, done and almost

Yes, the red mittens are done. Very comfortable and warm - perfect for scraping the ice off the windshield on these frosty Canadian mornings. Might have to make another pair for me, because immediately after the last end was woven in, they were wrapped and placed under the tree with someone else's name on the gift tag.

The Popsicle socks are also done. After breakfast this morning I grafted the toe of the second sock to finish the pair. It was with a pang of regret that I finished them - the pattern was really fun and easy. I'm very pleased with these, especially the bobbles. The bamboo stretch yarn knit up beautifully and the pink, orange and yellow colours make these the happiest socks ever. Hopefully the person who unwraps them Christmas morning will enjoy wearing them as much as I enjoyed making them!

The emergency sweater? Almost. The knitting's done, including the neck. Just seams and weaving in ends left. Should be ready to wrap tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

suddenly mittens

My plan was to finish the emergency sweater and the Popsicle socks, and then see if I had time to knit some mittens. But after rewinding the skein of Cascade 220 while uploading files for work I had an urge to cast on. And then I got carried away. The pattern is very simple - a ribbed cuff, mostly stockinette hand with a centre cable on the back of each hand and an afterthought thumb.

This is my first experience with Cascade 220, a workhorse yarn among Ravelers - used in over 40,000 projects so far. Why so popular? It's available in dozens of solid and heathered colours, it's well priced with generous yardage, and the stitch definition is very good. I'm happy enough with it for these mitts, but I doubt I'd buy it again. For the amount of time I spend knitting, I'd rather knit with yarn that inspires me.

Monday, December 14, 2009

emergency sweater: reloaded

A quick trip to Dundas and Ancaster on Saturday put me back on course with the emergency Christmas sweater. True to their word, the Needle Emporium had dozens of balls of the colourway and dyelot that I was after - thank goodness! Reloaded with yarn, I was able to complete the first sleeve on Sunday and make a good start on the second. It's a cap sleeve - something very common is sewn garments, but not something I've ever knit before. I've matched it up to the armholes on the front and back, and it looks like it'll all fit together fine.

And we stopped in for coffee to see my brother's new home in Dundas. It's very nice - big, bright sunlit rooms with high ceilings overlooking Spencer Creek. Must feel great for his family of two adults and two teens to be out of the two bed/one bath apartment of the last several months!

Friday, December 11, 2009

the second Popsicle sock

I'm well into the leg of my second Popsicle sock. With baby bobbles every four rounds, it's easy enough to keep track of the round numbers to match it up to the first sock. Looks like I'll be using about a quarter of the second skein - possibly leaving me enough for a pair of child's size socks. I wonder if I'm clever enough to adapt the pattern to a smaller size? We'll see about that in the new year. Ideally I'd like to finish this sock in the next day or two, leaving me clear to finish the emergency Christmas sweater. With two weeks left until Christmas, there may still be enough time after that to knit another pair of socks, and maybe a pair of mitts.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

a small hurdle

The emergency Christmas sweater is chugging along - front and back now done, sleeves and finishing left to do. When I bought the yarn Saturday Nina only had six balls in stock. No problem, she assured me, she'd get more on Tuesday. And then Tuesday rolls around and there's not a single ball of this dyelot available from the distributor or on the shelves of any yarn store in Toronto. "Have I started it?" Nina asks. "Can I wait until January next year for the remaining yarn?" she wonders.

Oh, this sweater is more than started, and, no, waiting until January is not an option. Thanks to Ravelry I was able to find more in a yarn shop a few cities away - near my brother's new home. Guess we'll be visiting them this weekend! Back to the second Popsicle sock in the interim.

Monday, December 7, 2009

the emergency sweater begun

That crazy idea about making a sweater in time for Christmas seems less crazy today. On a browse through Creative Yarns on Saturday afternoon, I found a Noro colourway that I decided would be perfect. Nina suggested knitting the body of the sweater in the round - less finishing, consistent colouration from front to back and faster knit without any reverse side purl rows. All good points, but I opted to knit it on straights - shorter rows, lighter on the needles, and longer stretches between colour transitions. Besides, I don't mind finishing and I don't have any circular needles at a suitable size.

On the Noro ball band, the recommended needle size is 4.5mm to 5mm. The pattern was written for 4mm DK yarn, but I'm guessing that larger needles will improve the drape and flexibility of the knitted fabric so 5mm it is. Besides, it won't hurt my pocket book to use less yarn on larger needles. It took a bit of swatching and a bit of calculation to get the number of stitches right for the size I want. The pattern is written for an Extra Small, Small and Medium size, but I wanted something just a touch bigger. Not much bigger, because the sweater styles meant to be comfortably fitting with just a few inches of ease. Fingers crossed that the finished sweater fits.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

in a holiday mood

The Christmas tree is up and decorated - including my knitted Christmas snowballs. The lights and the decorations definitely help put me in a holiday mood. But for the cat, the lights and decorations seems to pose an irresistible challenge. I purposely left the bottom branches of the tree undecorated to keep the ornaments away from her, but she's already knocked a few down.

The icicle yarn I used for the ornaments does reflect the coloured lights around them. The effect is best at very low light - but the photos turn out blurry and grainy. You'll just have to take my word for it.

And yesterday I bought yarn for the emergency Christmas sweater. I settled on Noro in shades of red, brown and burgundy. The pattern is so simple that I thought the yarn better give it some interest and drama. Nineteen days left - I'd better get a move on!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

happy socks

In the good news department, the first Popsicle sock is done. The second should be cast on later today, maybe during the first period of the hockey. This is a very happy pattern - although it just wouldn't be the same without the little bobbles down the leg. They're the best! Just putting these socks on would make a person happy.

In the bad news department, my friend for whom the next socks were intended mentioned that she'd found a pattern for a sweater she really wants. Which makes me think that maybe I should skip the socks and knit this sweater instead. With only 20 days left before Christmas, will I have enough time to complete it? I know it's crazy to even contemplate this, but ... it is a simple pattern ... and it is a DK yarn ... and it should knit up quickly on 4mm needles ... and she's never asked me for anything before ... so I think I'm going for it. Wish me luck!

Friday, December 4, 2009

pink + yellow + orange

Popsicles, freezies and hagelslag - these are the things that come to my mind as I knit these socks. But mostly hagelslag, or "sugar candy" as we used to call it when we were kids. What is it? Sugary fruit-flavoured sprinkles used as a sandwich topping ... very traditional Dutch. My Tante Heidi regularly brought us Dutch goodies and so often brought "sugar candy" that my childhood friends knew her as the Candy Lady. Yummm!

My first Popsicle sock is going really well. I've already turned the heel and worked about half the gusset decreases. And it does seem to me that all those Ravelers who decided against working the baby bobbles - considering them too fussy or too time-consuming - have really missed out. Because the bobbles absolutely make the pattern shine! Although, I was relieved to see the bobbles stop at the ankle, replaced by purls across the top of the foot. Imagine how those bobbles would feel inside a shoe!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

ribbed handwarmers

Finished these up last night. Phew, at least that's one thing finished. And the mega-bright Popsicle socks are going well. With luck I'll turn the heel tonight and start the gusset. All of which suggests to me that they'll also be done well in time for Christmas. Why is it that as Christmas approaches nearer and nearer, more and more good ideas for knitted gifts occur to me? Wonder if I can manage a couple more pairs of socks before the big day?

As I left for work this morning, Gavin was putting up the Christmas tree and hanging the stockings ... with only a few grumbles about those new, easy to assemble, prelit trees. Seems a bit early, but we received a couple of Christmas cards in the mail yesterday. And I'm happy to have the stockings up... gives me more time to look for little things to fill them with.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

24 days

24 days left until Christmas ... and lots to do! One project is a bright pair of socks. And I really mean bright. Colours like these brighten up dreary winter days. The pattern is Popsicle by Nicole Hindes, but it's hard to make out because the yarn is so blindingly bright. It's quite simple so far - just columns of rib with some baby bobbles every 4 rounds - but the top of the foot is where it gets interesting. The Popsicle pattern "melts off the top of the foot".

The pattern has been in my queue for ages. Partly, I suspect, because of all my happy childhood memories associated with popsicles. When we were kids Mom would buy 3 orange popsicles to be split amongst all us kids - they were easily broken into halfs. Why orange? Well, it wasn't anybody's favourite, but it was universally acceptable to all the kids. These days I always have Freezies in the house - my nephew knows the orange ones are for him.