Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Ripped, redone, and relieved

A row had been bugging me: a bright pink row of Peace Fleece that was the eleventh row in my blanket. The Peace Fleece was just much thicker and stiffer and rougher than any of the other yarns. I told myself it would soften in the wash, and it was just one row out of hundreds, and I kept going. Then last night, when I finished my work, I gleefully pulled out my box of new blanket yarn and arranged the blanket in my lap, ready to go. Bill looked over (we were on the couch watching TV) and said, "What's going on there? Look -- this part is all bunchy, and it doesn't look as nice as the rest." And he was pointing at the Peace Fleece. Arrgh! I knew it had to go. So I ripped back nine rows, pulled out the pink PF, felt relieved, and then started to work on my blanket again.

I started using the new colours right away, and it's so interesting to me to see how it's changed, and how different certain colours look next to other ones. Choosing colours is a big part of this project, and a challenge -- of course I could go out and buy yarn in my chosen palette, but it's much more satisfying (says me) to work with what I've got. Anyway, when I finally went to bed last night, I was two rows past where the blanket had been before the big rip. But just think of how much I can get done tonight!

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The blanket lives!

I've had to ignore the urge to crochet for almost a week, since a certain pair of podcasters (Nicole and Jenny -- "Yay!") had let me know that they'd each be sending some of their own leftovers my way. Since I want some overall colour unity in my finished blanket, I had to set aside enough of my own leftovers so I could use those colours throughout. And I didn't want to go too far before beginning to incorporate some of the yarns that were headed my way. But now I can resume, because this box arrived this morning!

Is there anything lovelier than a box filled with yarn (that has your name on it and is delivered right to your door)? I'm so excited! Not only because I can work on my blanket again, but because this is a whole new set of colours (compare the pink/gold/orange/purple to my own dark greens, blues, darker pinks, and beiges) and a bunch of yarns that are completely new to me. I've never used Lamb's Pride before! I know it's very common south of the border, but I've never even seen it in Canada. And -- but wait, there's more! -- I'm relieving Nicole of some yarn that she no longer wanted, so it's a win-win situation. Hooray! Thanks again, Nicole. I'll be a happy hooker tonight!

Saturday, February 24, 2007

It's back, and I couldn't help myself. Instead of working on a paper, I bought the procrastinators T-shirt from Threadless. (Thanks to Anne for the heads-up way back when.)

OK, so that's done... Now what am I going to do? Oh, yeah, work on my paper. Sigh!

Friday, February 23, 2007

Found object

My friend thrifted a bag of acrylic baby yarn a year or so ago, because -- why else? -- she and her roommate were having a pompom party. Anyway, tucked into the bag with the partial balls of vintage pink and yellow Sayelle was an index card, onto which had been typed a pattern for "Babies' Bootees." My friend recently passed on the card to me, and I thought I'd share it with you.

I have not used this pattern (I'm not even sure I understand parts of it), so I can't tell you what the finished bootees will look like. I also don't know if it's meant for sport- or DK-weight yarn. I do know that the needle sizes given on the back are Canadian; metric equivalents are 3.0mm, 3.25mm (US 3), and 3.75mm (US 5). I love that -- for different sizes, don't change the pattern, just change the needles! Anyway, if you use this mysterious pattern, let us know how the bootees turn out.

(I was going to photograph the index card on the living room carpet, but Mooky said, "Have you no shame? You poured catnip on this very carpet the other night, and although I rolled in it and thoroughly enjoyed it, I didn't eat it all. And you haven't vacuumed yet. It's a mess! I must insist that you move along, while I continue to lie on the offending spot, which, incidently, still has the faint aroma of my precious narcotic... Please, just leave me be.")

Thursday, February 22, 2007

The obsession continues

So far I've used 9 different kinds of yarn, in 13 different colours. All have been leftovers, until last night. I bought a skein of O-Wool Classic because I figured this blanket gives me the chance to try new yarns and see if I like them. (The O-Wool is just slightly rough -- not rough, exactly, but kind of sticky -- but it's gorgeous. It's the second row from the top in the photo above.) I think this blanket needs some yellow or orange soon...

Added: Have you seen the knit vs. crochet mockumentary Wooly Bullies (found via Yarn-a-go-go)? Oh. My. God. It is so funny. (On crocheters: "It's just ridiculous, the things these people try to pull off as legitimate.") Go watch it now if you haven't already.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Interweave thoughts

The spring issue of IK arrived today, and I'm really not a fan of the changes in its design. Lots of the editorial pages look like ads, which is confusing. And I miss seeing the designer's name with each piece -- now you have to flip back to the patterns to see whose work you're admiring. Still, I like lots of the patterns, and the springy colours are lovely.

I simply must have a Dollar and a Half Cardigan. I love it so so so much; as always, Véronik is a genius. (And she's finally blogging!) There are other designs that I really like, but will not likely make: Kate's Keyhole Top is so pretty; Stefanie's Cable-Down Raglan is awesome; and Eunny's Entrelac Socks are stunning. I'll probably make Grumperina's Roza's Socks at some point. The Clementine Shawlette is awfully cute, too (without the little flippers at each end).

And did I mention the Dollar and a Half Cardigan? I don't just want to knit it -- I want to marry it.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Review: When Bad Things Happen to Good Knitters

I was sent this book, and my first thought was, "How can there possibly be a need for yet another how-to knitting book? I hope it's not terrible." So I read it, and I was pleasantly surprised; mostly I thought how great it would have been to have this book when I was a beginner knitter. Still, there are a few things in here that are useful to me as an intermediate knitter, too.

It's a small book that holds a lot of information. It seems pretty easy to navigate, but I'd recommend having a read-through before your knitting crisis, to familiarize yourself with the book's contents and organization. Besides the main text, in which info is presented as answers to questions (e.g., "My pattern doesn't say what kind of increase to use; does it matter?"), there are sidebars with extra info (e.g., "Six Rules on Weaving Tails"), charts (e.g., US/UK/CDN/metric needle conversion), and lots of illustrations. The first knitting resource book I bought for myself when I was starting out was the Dummies book, and I remember feeling overwhelmed by it (and thinking it had an ugly layout). This book is cute, it's small, and it contains solid info on the basics and a little bit beyond the basics (e.g., knitting on two circs, holding a different colour in each hand to knit Fair Isle).

The book doesn't claim to be absolutely comprehensive, but a few notable techniques are missing. There is no mention of lace knitting, for example. There are three pages on Kitchener stitch, including good illustrations and a paragraph on Lord Horatio Herbert Kitchener (who knew?), but nothing on turning a heel. There's nothing on buttonholes, or short rows. What it does have is a nice, casual (but not forcibly clever or sassy, thank god) voice that continually reminds the reader that you're the boss of your knitting and that the world will not end if you don't rip back 10 rows and fix that purl bump that was supposed to be a knit stitch. This might be frustrating to perfectionists or more advanced knitters -- for instance, we all know it's (usually) possible to drop stitches down to a miscrossed cable and fix it, or to cut, fix, and graft the yarn, but the authors only say to rip the whole piece back to the mistake, or to "deliberately cross another cable or two in the same wrong direction and create a new design" -- but those knitters probably have other, more serious resource books at hand.

I'd definitely recommend Bad Things to beginner knitters, and intermediate knitters might consider it, too. I can tell you that I've always avoided mattress stitch, opting instead to knit selvedge edges for easier seaming, because no matter how much I read about how to do it, I just didn't feel comfortable with it. But I think I get it now! (It's the same as the "side-to-side join," right?) When I need to do it next, I'll have this book beside me.

(Click on the book cover above to read the introduction on the publisher's website.)

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Bill's vest

It took a couple of months, but I finished Bill's black vest a week or so ago, and it's a success! He loves it and has been wearing it all the time. He has wide shoulders and a bit of a short torso, so he has trouble finding sweaters that fit properly without being too long. He also doesn't like shallow V-necks. I'm very pleased that this vest fits so well, since I had to do a bit of math -- my yarn was thinner than what the pattern called for, plus I knew from swatching and washing that it would shrink in length by 20 percent.

The reluctant model -- doesn't it go well with his pajama pants? Yarn is KnitPicks Swish (washable 100% wool) -- I used 9.5 balls. The pattern is free online from Berroco: Peter Easy. To end up with a 44-inch size with the Swish, I followed the numbers for the largest (52-inch) size. You can't see any of the details in that photo. (It's like photographing a black cat!) Here's a close-up of the V-neck, in which the colour is way off:

I'm very happy. I've knit him two scarves that he never wears, and I've knit him several pairs of socks that he wears all the time. I must admit, I wasn't thrilled about making a black stockinette vest, but I enjoyed knitting with the Swish, and the most important thing is that it's what he wanted and he likes wearing it. And that it's finished!

Friday, February 16, 2007

Craft much?

In their comments on my last post, Chris and LoriZ rightly called me out as a big procrastinator. It's pretty obvious, I know: knitting the Arisaig sleeve, learning to crochet so I can start a blanket -- and I haven't even showed you Bill's new vest, which he's been wearing for almost a week already. And this was before I received a quilt kit in the mail today:

Even though I do have a small stash of fabric, I decided to dive into quilting with a kit. It's small -- just 40 inches square when finished. It will be my learning quilt, and I'm so excited to get started. The fabrics (more than 30 different prints!) are fabulous. I think I'm going to take the rest of today off and start arranging these little squares on my floor, and maybe I can start sewing this evening!

(In the photo, you can see my reworked crochet. I started again with a looser foundation row -- thank you, commenters Alison and Steph -- and decided it really needed a strip of pink before I went much farther. Then, in the background, is a novel [!] I have to read for school: What We All Long For by Dionne Brand. This is the first time since I took an English class at Concordia in 1993 that I've had to read a novel for school -- and that time, it was Ulysses, for pete's sake.)

It's probably for the best that my copy of the latest Interweave Knits hasn't appeared in my mailbox yet, don't you think? I'd probably just have to drop out of school.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Blanket progress report: "Interesting"

I added a few rows to my latest obsession, the crocheted blanket, using leftovers from my Must Have Cardigan, my So-Called Scarf, Bill's Leafs socks, and my Backyard Leaves scarf. Bill looked at it and said, after a significant pause, "You have an interesting way of putting colours together sometimes." I said, "Thank you."

(Yes, I do realize the colours are a little obnoxious, but these are only the first few inches of a whole blanket, so I figure there's lots of space for things to come together. They may actually be rearranged just a little, as I'm finding that my cast-on row -- or whatever that's called in crochet -- is tighter than subsequent rows, and I'd rather rip back and start again at this point than to crochet for miles and end up with one tight and puckery edge.)

* * *

What a wintry day it is! We have a foot or so of fresh, powdery snow here -- not much compared to some places. I'll show you my frosty front window:

OK, back to work. I'm revising a paper and trying desperately to stop thinking about crocheting! Who am I?

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

It's a sweeve! Or a slawtch?

This is my swatch for the lace wrap-around cardigan Arisaig. Funny how it turned out in the shape of a sleeve, isn't it? I'm still deciding whether I want to commit to this project. I'm pretty sure I will; after all, although it sounds like a lot of work to knit a sweater on 3.0mm needles (and smaller for the ribbing!), it's reasonably fast doing it with all the yarnovers of the lace pattern. Still, I suspect that I'm mostly just seduced by the lovely and dramatic photos of designer Ysolda modelling her version on some windswept Scottish beach.

I bought yarn off of eB@y specifically for this -- inexpensive wool made by Jojoland. (What? You've never heard of Jojoland? Where have you been?) (Quebec residents: It has nothing to do with that JoJo.) I bought ten of these navy balls of wool. It feels very similar to Kroy sock yarn, or other slightly scratchy wool/nylon sock yarns, even though it is 100% wool. The sweeve/slawtch you see above has not been properly blocked, just roughly pinned out, so I don't know how much the fabric will soften after a wash.

When you're considering a new project, do you google around to see whether others have knit it already? (And do you know about Google Blog Search, which makes that task a lot easier?) There are a few finished Arisaigs out there, and they look great, which makes me think I should follow through. For example, this modified version is really pretty (although one of the things I really love about the original design is the deep ribbing). I think I would close mine with buttons, like this version, instead of knitting the long tie. And I'd definitely sew the shoulders together, then attach the flat sleeves, and then sew up the sides and sleeves -- as alerted by the notes accompanying this version.

Anyway, you'll never guess what I did last night after finishing that sweeve/slawtch! Seriously, you won't. I'll give you a hint:

It's true! I have never had any desire to crochet, and the only reason I own a crochet hook and can do a chain stitch is for provisional cast-ons for knitting. For a month or so I've been thinking about making a small blanket for myself, as a way of using up some worsted-weight leftovers, but none of the knitted options appealed to me. And then I saw this: the Vintage Vertical Stripe Crocheted Blanket Pattern at Bella Dia. So last night I grabbed the leftovers from my EZ sweater, followed her links to learn how to do a double crochet stitch, and I was off! And look what I did!

This strip is about five feet long. In a few years, I'll have a blanket! It was fun to learn to do something new, but it did hurt my hand a little bit. I can feel a little obsession taking hold, though -- I need to read today, but my mind keeps wandering off and thinking about my crocheted blanket. We'll see if this new enthusiasm lasts long enough that I actually finish a blanket. I suppose if it doesn't, I'll come back and try to convince you that it's really cool to have a crocheted belt.

Winter weather warnings all over the place today. Be careful out there. And happy Valentine's Day to you! (Mooky thanks you for your cat-love and admiration!) xo

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Just because it's been too long...

Monday, February 12, 2007

So 1968!

In her pattern for the Shocking pink coif (see my last post), Megan explains that she was inspired by a cap found in a costume shop, which she figured was "supposed to be a Medieval biggen or coif." That's what I'm going to tell people, even though I have a knitting booklet from 1968 that features the "Earwarmer" patterns above. (They're pretty cute, though, aren't they? Just not as romantic as a biggen or a coif.)

I picked up this booklet -- called "Teach Yourself To Knit The Easy Columbia-Minerva Way" -- a couple of weeks ago for 49 cents at V@lue Vill@ge. I'm not especially interested in designs from the late '60s, but there are a few patterns in here that I like, including this basic baby set:

Actually, I think it's the birds in that shot that I like best. And I would've paid double (98 cents!) just to post this shot for my weiner-dog-loving friend 2L:

Friday, February 09, 2007


When the temperature dips below -10 or so, it's really too cold to be vain. Still, there have been a couple of days recently when I've put my hair in a ponytail only to have it seriously messed up from being under a toque. Then I remembered a pattern I've loved since I first saw it almost four years ago (about 16 in knitblog years?) in Knitty: the Shocking pink coif designed by Megan of Not Martha. Now, I know the more recent Calorimetry pattern is sweeping the knitwaves this season, but I'm not convinced it's got the ear coverage necessary for seriously cold weather. But the coif? Ohh, the coif. Here it is again, this morning, passing the warmth-and-coverage test with flying colours -- and in flying snow, no less:

Very toasty. I knit my coif from one 100g ball of Gianna (50% wool, 50% soysilk). According to the website, colour 048 is "coffee bean," but in reality it's a dark reddy-browny eggplant. It's warm and soft, but I've never come across so many knots in a ball of yarn! It was ridiculous. The first knot came about half a meter into the ball; a few meters later there were two more knots within a few inches of each other; and after I'd knit the i-cord I went to pull out some more yarn and the strand pulled right out of the ball! What's worse, knots or separate pieces that aren't even knotted together? Sheesh. So I can't recommend the yarn. I figure if you're going to charge $15 for 100 grams of yarn, you can give me a continuous strand thankyouverymuch.

(By the way, the original pattern ties under the chin with st. st. straps; I worked a 2-stitch i-cord on one side instead, sewed it into a loop, and sewed a button on the other side. I didn't block the coif, mostly because I finished it late last night and wanted to wear it this morning, but also because it shouldn't actually be completely flat, or it won't curl around your head properly.) I love this ... headpiece. Don't forget about those bygone patterns! This one is a treasure.

Thursday, February 08, 2007


Well, as you can see, I went with the classic look. Thanks for your input! A full half (?) of those who left a comment preferred the little orange balls, and I seriously considered using them. But in the end, I felt they were just not quite substantial enough. (I do love them, though, so you'll see them again someday on some other project.) Anyway, it's really about the knitting, right?

To recap, this is the smallest (6-month) size of the Knitty pattern Trellis, knit on 4mm needles with one 225g ball of EcoFil yarn (75% cotton, 25% acrylic). I followed the pattern exactly, except for adding a slipped selvedge stitch at the collar edge. It's a bit stiff, even though I put some hair conditioner into the water I soaked it in before blocking. And it's hard for me to believe it's big enough to fit anybody, but I suppose babies really are this small for about five minutes.

(Fisher Price dog included for scale, which will only be helpful to those familiar with the 1970s-era Fisher Price dog. The sweater measures 9.5 inches from shoulder to hem and is about 18 inches around the body.)

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Opinions, please!

The tiny cotton Trellis cardigan is finished and blocking. In fact, it's been blocking for three days -- I was starting to worry that moss was going to start growing on it, but after a full afternoon of through-the-window sunshine yesterday, it's almost dry. So it's time to choose the buttons! I'm going to be coy with photos so as not to reveal the whole sweater yet; hopefully you can see enough to get the idea. The sweater takes four buttons.

1. Orange plastic. These are the easiest to do up and undo, but perhaps a contrasting colour would be nicer/more interesting?

2. Multicoloured. Gender-neutral colours, with a little sparkle. These are fun, but maybe not the right choice for a "classic" sweater style?

3. Flat and pearly. These, on the other hand, seem like a classic choice. They don't actually look as translucent as they do here -- more creamy and pearly. This pairing is probably the safest. The sweater is already bright orange, so subtle buttons might be best, right?

4. White plastic. The more I look at these, the more I think nah. But I took the picture, so here it is; I could be wrong.

5. Metal-backed flowers. These are great little buttons, but are they right for Trellis? Too busy? Too ladies'-cowboy-shirt for a cabled baby sweater?

The best shot of the buttons themselves is the very top one, which you can click to make really big. Help me choose, and I'll be back soon with the first FO of 2007. Thanks!

Monday, February 05, 2007

I bought new long johns last Friday, so I'm feeling very pleased with myself. What's it like where you are?

I guess some people actually watched the game, but did you catch the Superbowl half-time show yesterday? OhmigoditwasPRINCE! The Purple One was divine, as always. (I saw him play live once, at the Coliseum in Vancouver, on the Lovesexy tour in 1988. [Gulp! Nineteen years ago?] One of the best live shows ever.) I thought he was an interesting choice for the Superbowl -- talk about displaying different modes of masculinity! Performance 1: dozens of beefy, "manly" men running into one another. Performance 2: one small and fabulous man with a turquoise suit, immaculately set hair, and a high-pitched voice. A small but nice interruption of gender norms there. Nice work, Superbowl people.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Church bazaar

One of my favourite word pairings ever. I noticed a sign a week or two ago, put the dates in my mental to-do file, and headed out on Saturday to a basement bazaar at the Église St-Édouard (at St-Denis and Beaubien).

I tend to think of church bazaars taking place in the weeks leading up to Christmas, but a quick search of the local papers shows that I've been quite wrong about that. How exciting!

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Quick fix

I bought a top at Old N@vy last summer when I was going to a conference and needed respectable tattoo-coverage. It was the very end of May, and so too warm for long sleeves in Toronto, but almost all women's short-sleeved tees seem to have cap sleeves, or at least very short sleeves. So I picked up an inexpensive black top that had sleeves to just above the elbow, rolled up once and fastened with a button flap. (Those were big when I was little -- long-sleeved blouses and shirts with that flap hanging inside. Remember those?) Anyway, I haven't worn this top many times since, but it has a deep V-neck that I like, and yesterday I decided to give it a minor facelift. Can you see the difference?

These photos are terrible -- I took them last night under a lamp. I just want to take the little hand-shaped cursor and pick off all that lint! Anyway, a few buttons from the collection are all it took to make things a little more interesting. (Both buttons shown are black, even though the matte surface of the sleeve button makes it look not-black.) Next, I plan to replace the boring white buttons on a brown button-front shirt with some nicer, pearly buttons. Why not? No boring buttons!

Have you listened to the debut episode of "Stash and Burn"? It's a new podcast about knitting and destashing, starring the charming Nicole (of Big Sister) and Jenny. Excellent accompaniment to a half hour of knitting!

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Knitted Perennials

I thrifted last weekend and found three pattern booklets, including this one from 1945:

Imagine -- a colour cover in 1945! This is the first U.S. booklet I've come across, published in Passaic, New Jersey, by Botany Mills. Inside the front cover, under the title "Designs for Tomorrow," is the following paragraph (ellipses in original):

"Hand Knit Fashions that have longevity ... up-to-the-minute today, these undated fashions will be just as new and stylish tomorrow and through the years to come ... whatever style changes the future may hold, there is no improving on the fundamental simplicity of classic designs ... the principle is one of quiet and lasting beauty and it is expertly applied to fashions for men, women and children in this volume."

I love this assurance of (quiet) timelessness. Certainly if I'm going to knit an entire dress at 8 sts./inch, I'm going to want it to be stylish for more than a year or two. Here are some of these perennial knits -- all can be made big with a click:

These enterprising young ladies appear to be signing up for the Women's Auxiliary Army Corps. Their sweaters, knit in Botany Saxatones, are "3 Variations of a Basic Theme" -- from left to right: "Tri-Color Bow Blouse," "Shirtwaist Blouse," and "Ruffle Blouse."

I really like the noir styling of this shot -- the model reminds me of Jane Greer in Out of the Past. She is wearing "Bow-coup Jolie," knit at a gauge of 7 sts./inch.

The snowflake sweater on the left is my favourite of the lot. Without the bow and pompoms at the neck, I'd wear this all the time. I imagine the main colour as red, don't you? The design is called "Cardigan -- Knit-in Snow Flakes," knit in sportweight yarn. (At right is "Jerkin -- Navajo Motif.")

Look at those pleated trousers! What a smart couple these two are, in "Cable News" for him and her. I imagine they are best friends, dishing and watching handsome young men amble by. "Oh, dear -- that one looks like the cad who cornered me by the punchbowl at Winky's shindig last Friday night, boring me to tears with his tiresome account of the insurance business." "Oh yes, he was a dreadful bore. But look over there, Babs! Isn't he delicious?"

My camera batteries died before I could photograph the other two pattern booklets, so I'll show highlights from those soon. I know there are a bunch of sites that show vintage patterns in order to make fun of them, but that's not at all why I love these images. I don't want to disparage them at all. Forget the ironic, postfeminist, this-ain't-yr-grandma's-knitting thing. The knitting I do? It is my grandmother's knitting, and my aunts' and my other female ancestors' knitting. I have nothing but respect and admiration.