Monday, November 29, 2010

a quick Christmas project

Sunday morning, Nancy and I decided to spend our time sitting around in PJs on the couch. I'm overtired from the last week - too much work, too much stress and way too little sleep. And Nancy doesn't need a reason; hanging out in PJs is one of her favourite ways to spend a Sunday morning.

While drinking coffee and catching up, we decided to pick up the crochet hooks and some scrap yarn to try out this pattern for a Snowflake potholder. Ever since I saw this pattern crocheted by Allison on her Dominant Hands blog, I'd been itching to give it a go. It's meant to be a pot holder with two squares crocheted back to back, but Nancy and I decided to work our squares in Handicrafter cotton and call them dishcloths.

Both our squares were done in no time, so I suggested that Nancy give them as a hostess gift at her first Christmas party later that afternoon. Yes, you read that right; Christmas parties are starting already! Seems much to early for me!

This time tomorrow we'll be halfway to Cuba. I doubt we'll have internet access, so I'll likely be offline for a week or so. But there's bound to be lots of pictures to share when I get back!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

check out the first shelf liner

Some time ago I knit a shelf liner for my friend's kitchen. You may recall she was using folded tea towels to line her bare wood shelves, when I thought - hey, what about knitting her some shelf liners? I toyed with the idea of surprising her with all three finished shelf liners, but then I had another thought. What if the fit of the first one was off? I'd hate to go ahead and knit all three only to find that none of them fit!

So this weekend, after the surfing competition at Crystal Beach on Lake Erie, we bunked down at her place and I took the opportunity to check the first shelf liner. Turns out, it's perfect! So full speed ahead with numbers two and three.

And, if you're wondering about the surf competition, Gavin placed first in his category - "legends" (for surfers over 55 years of age). Mind you, as the only guy his age crazy enough to brave the icy temperatures and bone chilling winds to surf there really wasn't any competition for him at all. But we're celebrating nonetheless!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

the smell of damp wool mitts drying on radiators

When I was a kid, Mom was constantly knitting mittens from an old Patons booklet - Paton's Gifts and Accessories. At the old house on Paisley Avenue, a large assortment of hats and mittens were jammed between the balusters of the stairs in the front hallway from November to April. On winter days my sister, my three brothers and I would our select mitts and hats from between the stair railings. Or reclaim warm ones from where they were drying out on radiators.

When I started knitting for the Warm Hands Network, Mom offered to lend me her mitten pattern. I assumed that the pattern for Mitts knitted on 4 needles were the mittens, but she laughed. “Oh no, I knit them on two needles! Always have.” And then she ripped the page with the mittens knit in the round from the book for me. So now this is my pattern for knitted mittens - these for my nephew with Cascade 220 wool in his favourite colour, orange. Although for my next pair, I'm changing the top shaping to keep the decreases at the mitten sides and grafting at 12 sts remaining for a blunt top.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

a riddle

Riddle me this:

How is it that when you book a week's vacation, you end up trying to jam three weeks of work in the few days leading up to that vacation?

And, you end up three weeks behind when you get back?

How is that possible?

Monday, November 22, 2010

working on the railroad

It's a very simple stitch pattern - Railway Stitch - just a combination of knit and purl stitches across 5 stitches and 6 rows, but it makes a very nice textured fabric. It certainly didn't look like much in the little chart I made myself before casting on. To tell you the truth, I even considered changing the pattern to something with a bit more going on. But now, halfway up the instep, I'm glad I stayed with it.

And yes, the yarn is pooling. It's quite a dark and subtle colourway so the pooling is not very obvious or distracting. I had to hold my foot just so to catch the silvery stripe across the instep in the light. Interesting, huh?

One more thing - I'm glad I ripped out and restarted for 60 stitches. There's not a lot of stretch to this sock, so I definitely want some negative ease. Reworking for a good fit appealed to me more than taking Gavin's not so helpful suggestion: keep going and find someone with really big feet to give them to.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

the nicest socks

Constructed of mostly K1tbl P1 ribbing, these Julia socks fit perfectly. I can imagine that these'll be the first pair pulled out of the sock drawer after laundry day. They're very wearable - snug around the ankle, snug at the heel and the arch - but never too tight. The pattern is interesting without being lacy, so these socks are also very warm. Aesthetically, I think these are some of the nicest socks I've ever made. Gavin agrees. In fact, when I finished them and put them on my feet he said exactly that: "Those are the nicest socks you've ever made."

That won't be the last pair of Julia socks I make, but with that pair off the needles, it's time to get started with the next pair on my Christmas knitting list - Gentlemen's Socks in Railway Stitch. In fairness, I'm not really following the pattern, but instead, I'm using the Railway stitch pattern in my usual toe up, heel flap and gusset sock. The pattern called for 80 sts - eighty! that's crazy! - but instead I cast on and increased to 70 sts. Still too big! I've ripped that out to retry it with 60 sts. With all these alterations to the pattern I'm calling them "Railway-ish Socks".

You might recognize the yarn colourway - it's Misty Highlands from Wandering Cat Yarns. These Railway-ish Socks will match up with the Leyburn socks I made in August. Now, can I get these done before I leave for Cuba in ten days?

Friday, November 19, 2010

stealth knitting

Working the "pull stitches" in the Julia sock pattern involves "slipping" the third stitch on the left needle over the adjacent two stitches - no easy feat on 2mm needles. And sadly, the Lantern Moon needles just weren't up to the task. I broke three. Gavin repaired one but warned that it wouldn't be strong enough. He was right. Not only did the stitches not slide smoothly over the glued join, but I rebroke that needle at the original break twice.

When I met the Yarn Harlot in the summer she was knitting socks on Blackthorn needles. I hadn't heard of them but a few weeks ago an ad for them on Ravelry caught my eye. Blackthorn needles look and feel like wood, but they're made of carbon fiber composite. Gavin's windsurfing masts, booms and some parts of the windsurfer itself are made of carbon fiber - strong and lightweight. Sounds perfect for knitting needles, doesn't it? And virtually unbreakable!

For a few days I considered putting them on my Christmas list. Trying to explain sizes, needle lengths and the advantages of five needles over four in a set to a non-knitter proved too daunting. Never mind; I'll just treat myself. Got them yesterday, and so far, I love them. Did I mention that carbon fiber is also used to make Blackbird stealth jets for the American military?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

the blustery day

That's today: the blustery day. Gusts topped 70 kmh and pretty much every leaf from every neighbourhood tree fell in our backyard, necessitating an emergency outing for more yard waste bags. Ugh, fall.

Last night I turned the heel. On the train ride home I completed the gusset decreases. In the next day or two the second Julia sock should be finished. Is anyone else starting to feel the pressure?

This morning I sat down with the calendar to see if we could fit in a weekend visit to family out of town. As it turns out, we have plans every weekend until Christmas. Yikes! I'm running out of time!

Monday, November 15, 2010

oddments and other things

With the second Julia sock tucked away for knitting on train trips back and forth to work, I wanted another project to play with on the weekend. Something different. Something fun. Something quick. So I made a start on the quilted centrepiece pattern I purchased at the Creativ Festival last month. Turns out I didn't have a 20x20" square of muslin in my stash, so I got off to a slow start piecing that together. Then, I sorted through my batik fabric scraps and cut the necessary 3x2" rectangles. Next I need to iron two folds into each rectangle before I can get going with the piecing. Different? Yes. Fun? Yes. Quick? Not so much.

But there's some news on the yarn destash front. My cousin, Joanne dropped by for coffee on Saturday morning and mentioned that her son's class was going to be doing some spool knitting. Did I have any leftover yarn that might be suitable?

Did I? Of course. How much did she need or want? Turns out, they'd be happy with whatever I could spare. And I could spare pretty much all the mismatched oddments of worsted weight in my stash. Win/Win! Just when I thought it couldn't work out any better, Joanne asked if I'd be willing to part with my small supply of fun fur and novelty yarn. The kids use that stuff in all kinds of craft projects, she explained, and it's hard to find in stores these days. She didn't need to ask me twice; in the bag it went. One small bag for the grade threes = one giant leap for my destash efforts!

Friday, November 12, 2010

on some things we agree

Between Scarborough and Danforth stations on my GO Train trip into work this morning, I grafted the toe to complete the first of my Julia socks. Good timing, because Andrea works Fridays and she has exactly the same size foot (tiny and narrow) as the friend for whom these socks are intended.

Andrea and I are in complete agreement about this - we LOVE this sock. It fits great and the pattern is fantastic. The twisted ribbing pattern of the cuff continues seamlessly all the way down the leg, the heel flap and across the instep. Also, there's a diamond pattern repeat centred on the heel flap - a very nice little detail, that. And what to say about the incredible greens of this Lochness colourway from Fiber Optic Yarns and Fibers? I just couldn't be happier with this sock!

All good, right? Well, yes, but now that Andrea's had the first sock on her foot she feels strongly that this pair was meant for her. And, no matter how perfect they would be for her, I'm afraid I can't agree to that. My strategic path for completing my Christmas knitting is already on the crazy side; no room to add one more pair, even if her feet are tiny and narrow. But, come the New Year, my schedule looks wide open ... maybe we can figure out something for her then?

Now, I think I'd better get moving with sock number 2!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

making a start with Julia

This is a very different sock than I've ever knit, this Julia sock. It's almost entirely ribbing. Maybe it's a bit hard to see the pattern in this darkly coloured yarn? It's a much simpler pattern than I expected and it knits up quite quickly. Less than a half dozen rows to go before I start the heel flap.

After reading all the negativity about the pattern in other Raveler's notes I hesitated. But I liked the design, so I decided to give it a go. The most common complaint is that the pattern is not charted. I have mixed feelings about that. The pattern shifts back and forth - I do find that clearer when written out. Patterns can be easier to visualize when charted, so it might have been nice to have both in the pattern download, but really, it's easy enough to sort out. There's also lots of instruction about shifting stitches back and forth between needles - many Ravelers complain about the verbosity of the pattern. No problem; I sectioned off the repeats with stitch markers and am ignoring all the stuff about moving this stitch to that needle. My conclusions? It's a lovely sock. It's a lovely pattern. The instructions are correct and complete. Enough with all the whining! So far I'm glad I ignored all the comments and went ahead with the pattern.

Can't wait to see how they fit!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Happy Birthday Gavin!

Sorry it's taken a few days to post this picture of the finished SKYP socks. I did take the photo during the Leafs game on Saturday but hadn't found time to blog. Check out the time of this post; I'm up early this morning for a special reason. I'm determined to catch up on all my work so that I can skip out early today. I'm planning to be home before 5pm to take Gavin out for dinner. We've got his sixtieth birthday to celebrate!

Wow, sixty. You'd never guess it; especially not with all the surfing and windsurfing he does. Lots of reasons to celebrate. And don't forget his birthday present - we depart for a vacation in sunny Cuba in just three weeks! Mmmm, I feel warmer already.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

yarn ornaments

The other day I came across a forum post on Ravelry that talked about making yarn ornaments, which got me to thinking .... wouldn't it be cute to make little ornaments to decorate the packages containing handmade socks? Crazy, but cute!

Mom and I used to get ourselves into all sorts of crazy projects - my fault mostly - so this idea made me all sentimental and nostalgic. This morning I decided to give it a go, and you know, it's not so crazy after all. In fact, it's pretty easy! The tiny one is made with leftovers of Wandering Cat Alley Cat sock yarn in a Raspberry Beret colourway. And the one behind it? Alley Cat sock yarn in a Tea Time colourway.

• dollar store ornaments - small 1.5" diameter or tiny 1" diameter
• leftover sock yarn - 6gr for small or 3gr for tiny ornaments
• tacky white glue that dries clear
• seed beads in a wood-like colour
• round toothpicks

I poured out some glue and then rolled the ornament to coat it. The first few minutes of wrapping the ornament with yarn were a sticky mess, but as soon as 30-40% was covered it became easier. When the ornament was entirely covered I cut the yarn, dragged the last couple inches of yarn through glue and then stuck it down to the wrapped ornament. For the knitting needles, I dipped the head of a toothpick into glue, pushed a bead onto it as far is it would go, then trimmed the tip of the toothpick level with the top of the bead. Insert two needles through the yarn wrapped ornament and voilà!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

finishing Simple SKYPs

Busy, busy, busy ... that's my work life. Yesterday, when I was starting to catch up, I thought I'd duck out for a bite of lunch. "About time" said Andrea, "it's after 3pm." Ouch! The work days fly by.

As a result I haven't had much of a chance to knit. But with the Leafs playing Buffalo tonight on Hockey Night in Canada, I'll have a chance to finish off the second Simple Skyp sock. These two teams are terrible; the knitting may be more compelling than the game.

For the second sock I'm going to try a sewn bind off. If that's an improvement over JSSBO, I'll redo the bind off on the first sock the same way. Once these socks are finished, that's the knitting for one entire family on my Christmas list done. Finally, I'm getting some where with my list!

Friday, November 5, 2010

blanket raptures

So now that it's dry I just want to walk it around and pose it in different ways. Typically I keep photos in my posts really small but today I made the picture MUCH larger. Click to enlarge if you want to see more detail. But be warned, you'll want to knit this pattern, too!

I can't say enough good things about the patterns that I used. Stephanie Vander Linden has designed many, many beautiful socks, but this one - Grün ist die Hoffnung - is just too gorgeous to hide in shoes. The motif suits me better in a starring role, repeated sixteen times to make up the centre of the blanket. And the border of Jared Flood's Tweed Baby Blanket is simple, elegant and quite sumptuous. I'm definitely going knit the Tweed Baby blanket in its entirety in the new year.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

shhhhhhhh ...

...... it's blocking.

For the last few weeks this blanket has put up a struggle: first when I had to source a complementary colour yarn for the border and then when I ran short of yarn before the border was completed. But the knitting's done, the ends woven in and the blanket's washed and blocking on pins. Phew.

And I'm really, really happy with it. Every tinked stitch was worth it! I'll try to take some better pictures in the next couple of days!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

yarn for Julia

As far as my blanket goes, I've ripped out the iCord edge and have made some progress in ripping back one round of lace. Hopefully I'll get the iCord edge restarted tonight. My second Simple Skyp sock is progressing when I get a few minutes at work and in transit. Maybe there'll be something to show in the next few days?

But look what came in the mail yesterday! It's Fiber Optic Footnotes sock yarn in the Batik colourway "Loch Ness". Now that's green! These skeins are intended for two pairs of socks as part of my Christmas knitting. The pattern for the first pair has been in my queue for ages - Julia by Emily Johnson. It's just one of several stunning patterns from her Family Trunk collection. I better get a move on with the above mentioned projects on needles, because I can't wait to cast on these socks!

Monday, November 1, 2010

blanket news

First, the good news:

The border colour is okay. Once I block it - and block it severely as instructed by Jared Flood - the border will look fine. Not as nice as it would have in the original wool, but fine. I spent weeks looking at all manner of yarn, and I don't think I can do much better.

I love the i-Cord edge. It's easy and makes a nice, thick finished edge. Love it. Now I'm looking at all my other projects deciding where else I can add an iCord edge. Maybe not socks, though.

Now for the bad news:

I ran out of yarn with about 30 sts left to bind off. Well and truly ran out. Not a scrap anywhere that I could salvage. So now I'm undoing the iCord edge and then I'll be ripping out the last row of lace to start the border again.

White stuff fell from the sky yesterday. Not a lot, and it didn't stay, but nonetheless, I typed the s-word yesterday and look what happened. My fault, sorry.