Thursday, March 29, 2007

This just in...

The polls have closed, and the early results are in; it appears that the leader will have been chosen by less than 50 percent of voters. No, I’m not talking about the provincial election here in Quebec. I’m talking about a minority knitting-project government ruled by the Thermal party. Just a handful of votes behind, it's looking quite certain now that Serrano will form the official opposition. And no doubt the fringe vintage candidates will be disappointed with the results, although let's be realistic: they were the underdogs, representing the well-intentioned, yet somewhat unrealistic, Green or Marxist-Leninist party of knitwear options.

What's that, Peter? The official results are in? OK, let's get that graphic on the screen for the viewers.

There you have it, voters. It was a close call, but we have a winner. And we have just been notified of the following brief statement released by Thermal party headquarters: "Swatching will commence in the days to come. Thank you."

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

On-the-sly knitting revealed

It's my Aunt Nance's 80th birthday today. She's one of my two knitting aunts, and whenever she would come over for dinner, she would always bring her knitting to work on during the pre-dinner glass of wine in the living room. I have memories of watching her knitting socks my whole life -- although up until a few years ago I couldn't really figure out how, what with all of those little pointy needles sticking out in different directions. She's probably knit hundreds of socks over the years, and I bet most of them were for other people. I figured it was high time somebody else knit some socks for Aunt Nance. So I appointed myself!

Pattern: Roza's Socks from the spring 2007 IK
Designer: Grumperina
Yarn: Regia 4-ply (colour 315)
Needles: 2.25mm circular (Magic Loop)
Modifications: Eye of Partridge heel flaps

Comments: I enjoyed this pattern. The brioche stitch pattern was not totally mindless, but simple enough that I could watch TV while working on these socks. I knit both socks at the same time instead of one after the other -- not both socks on the same needles, but I'd pick up one sock and knit to the heel, and then put it down, pick up the other one and knit it to the heel, and so on. It worked out well, because I knew both socks would be exactly the same, and because both were finished at basically the same time. And another first: I blocked these socks! As with any ribbed socks, when they were finished they looked loooooong and skinny, so I decided to break out a pair of sock blockers I bought at that church bazaar last month. Obviously the brioche pattern looks better when stretched, but I was shocked at how nice the socks felt after blocking! If I've knit you a pair of socks in the past, I apologize for not having blocked them! It made them look great. I'm very happy with these socks.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Poll: WSBK?

I have 2,200 yards (2,000 meters) (2 kilometers!) of navy blue fingering-weight wool, which I bought with plans to knit the wrap sweater Arisaig. (Remember the sweeve I made?) Well, I've lost interest in that. No particular reason -- although I do suspect that I wouldn't get a ton of wear out of it. So I've been looking around for other sweaters designed for fingering-weight yarn, and I've decided that there aren't enough! Thanks to cosmicpluto Laura, however, there are these two fabulous patterns: the lace cardigan Serrano and the waffle-stitch pullover Thermal.

There are also some very nice patterns in a pattern booklet that I have: Lux Knitting Book, published in Toronto in 1938. In fact, there are two cardigans and four pullovers that I want to make. Two of the pullovers are Pacific and Atlantic:

But of course, there is also the problem of sizes with vintage patterns. Each pattern is given in only one size, and no schematics are provided. The Pacific pullover, for example, will turn out with the following measurements: bust, 34 inches; waist, 26 inches; sleeve seam, 18 inches; side seam, 12.5 inches. [The pattern includes a skirt, though, so the waist measurement may be only for the skirt and not the sweater.] Wait, I'll get my tape measure... OK, here are my measurements: bust, 37 inches; waist, 33 inches; and my sleeve and side seam requirements fit the pattern. Hmmm. So I'm bigger than the ideal Lux lady, and I have no discernable waist. Another pattern, Jasper (a "pullover cardigan"), specifies that the bust measurement is 36 inches after blocking; no waist measurement is given. (Maybe an inch of negative ease would be perfect?)

If I really want to knit one of these vintage patterns, I suppose the thing to do is to read all of the instructions and try to come up with a basic schematic based on numbers and increases and decreases given. Then I should be able to see whether one of them could be made to fit me without too much fussing. But of course, I want to knit now, and I don't have much spare time these days (and won't till late May), so maybe I should put off any project that is too ambitious and just work on one of Laura's ready-made patterns instead.

What do you think? WSBK? You can simply vote, or if you have other suggestions for fingering-weight sweaters (or if you think I should stick to socks until I've finished the three 25-page papers I have to write in the next month), leave a comment instead. Thanks in advance!

03/29/07: Poll closed. Thanks for voting! Final results are posted here.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

On the bookshelf

Alongside such treasured hardcover titles as Fabric and Dress, Today's Etiquette, and The Nancy Drew Cookbook, you'll find on my shelf two small standing files manufactured by National Geographic for the purpose of organizing one's collection of maps. These files happen to also be the perfect size for storing one's collection of small-format knitting booklets. How handy!

No doubt my fellow Canadians Who Thrift will be very familiar with the Patons Beehive series of pattern booklets, which measure 15.5 by 24 cm (6 by 9.5 inches). Here are some of the ones I have:

None are dated, unfortunately, but they are numbered. The three in the bottom row are the oldest of the bunch, as well as the sock book in the middle of the top row -- these ones carry the numbers 105, 110, 113, and 117. The slightly psychedelic Family Headwear & Scarves and the bilingual-covered Family Sock Book/Bas pour la famille are newer. (You can see that the Family Headwear is numbered 98, but it's a revamped "second edition.") So far, I have only used one pattern from all of these books: my dad's Double Diamonds socks (which, unfortunately, turned out to be too big because the pattern called for old-school 3-ply Kroy and I used today's standard 4-ply). There are some pretty great sock patterns in these books, though -- I should try another pair.

One of my very favourite wee books is a version of the Learn How Book published by Coats & Clark. I actually have a big (older) one, too:

The person who wants to knit, crochet, embroider, and tat need look no further. It's all here. These are great, actually -- how to do all the basics, plus a handful of patterns to which you can apply your new knowledge. For example, once you know how to turn a heel, you can go to the next page and start a pair of anklets! What else would you want to do once you know how to turn a heel?

Well, I'd better label this post "procrastination," since that's what I'm doing. Papers need to be written. Laundry needs to be done. I suppose I'll need to eat and bathe. By the way, Mooky wishes to express his sincere thanks to all of you who left comments on the last post -- especially those who praised his dashing good looks. And I'm pleased to report that late last night, when I got sucked into the vortex of What Not to Wear for an hour (OK, it may have been two hours), Mooky stayed put on his new blanket at one end of the couch while I worked on my blanket at the other end.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Mini-ripple Mooky blanket

Mooky assured me that he didn't need to have the prettiest blanket, as long as it was soft and woolly and big enough for him to sprawl out on comfortably. I was dipping into the yarn supply for my own blanket, and he encouraged me to choose yarns for his mini-blanket that I either have a lot of to use up or that I'm the least crazy about. He's selfless that way.

The big question now is, will Mooky's new mini-blanket help to diminish his obsession with my blanket-in-progress? We can only hope.

Bonus links:
- the pattern I used: Easy Ripple Afghan
- the No-End-In-Sight Ripple-Along blog (I'm not a member; I just visit for the pretty pictures)

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Round up

1. Spring will begin at eight o'clock tonight (Eastern time), they say. Even though it's completely white outside, and cold, it does feel like winter is winding down. Hallelujah!

2. I'm sad that CBC Radio 3's Saturday night show is over. When Grant Lawrence signed off, I may have said "Nooooooo!" to my radio. (You may recall last spring's incident of winning the hoodie.)

3. I've started to read The Friday Night Knitting Club, but I'm also getting to that point in the semester when novel-reading time vanishes, replaced by paper-writing time. I know this not only because of my elevated stress level, but because at the end of yesterday's class no one even suggested going to the pub. We all just filed out of the room, glassy-eyed, mumbling about going home to work on our papers.

4. Bill and I went to see Zodiac on the weekend. I liked it, but I thought it was needlessly long. Amazing (and huge) cast. I also watched The Education of Shelby Knox (on DVD), which was excellent.

5. Oh, my heavens, have you seen Cookie A's new site and its stunning sock designs? The German Stocking? Now that's some sock knitting. I'd better not start any complex socks until the end of the school term, though.

6. I can't remember who blogged about Google Notebook, but thanks! Much better than just bookmarking web pages.

7. My crocheted blanket is big now, so I only work on it when I'm on the couch. What to do when I'm sitting at my desk, working, and need a little reward? Well, start a tiny crocheted blanket for Mooky, of course! It's actually geared more towards keeping my reading chair cat-hair-free than giving Mooky a blanket of his own, although I do think he'll like sleeping on it. But he loves to sleep on my red corduroy chair (at least, he looks pretty happy about it). Instead of continuing to cover the chair cushion in various photocopied journal articles and other pieces of paper that are within reach, I'm crocheting a ripple "blanket" the size of the seat. And I've been doing lots of, um, rewarding work, so it's almost done. (Next post: crocheted seat-cover cat blanket! Sexy, sexy, sexy.)

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Because it would be impossible to have too many...

I don't really have anything else for you, so I thought I'd link to a few more free sock patterns (all PDFs):

- Alhambra Socks by Ryan (Mossy Cottage Knits)

- Diamond Lace Socks by Michelle (miknits)

- Fools Rush Socks by Cassie (Too Much Wool)

- the exciting and kind of scary-looking Gansey Gusset-Heel Sock, provided by the Dayton (Ohio) Knitting Guild

- Mirabella Socks by MJ (yummyyarn)

OK, I have a lot of work to do this weekend. Bye!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Blanket progress report: Hic!

Did my assistant have a few cocktails before this photo shoot? Hmmm, Mooky? No drinking on the set! Pull yourself together!

The blanket continues to grow, although I spent last night's TV time weaving in all the ends along one side instead of adding more rows. I'll end up crocheting a border around the whole thing at the very end, I think, just to neaten things up. Oh, Mooky just left -- I think he's going to sleep it off and try to come back into focus -- so let's have another look, shall we?

As always, the colours look richer in person. I have no idea how big this thing is going to get. I've got lots of yarn left, in a box next to the couch that-- Hey! Mooky?

Time to lay off the sauce, little buddy. You're only hurting yourself.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

A little yarn love

I'm one of those seemingly rare knitters who doesn't have a stash problem. In fact, my stash of sock yarn doubled this week when two new skeins came into my life! New yarn is pretty rare chez Brainy, so I'm going to share the love.

First, I bought this skein of Colinette JitterBug for myself at local yarn shop Mouliné earlier this week:

It was love at first sight. The colourway is "Toscana" (#55); the yarn is washable merino. I did some tweaking in Photoshop to get as close as I could to the true colours, but the olive green is actually warmer than it looks in this picture. (The colours look nothing like the product shot on the Colinette site, which is bizarre.) It's gorgeous. Gorgeous!

Then, much to my suprise, reader Sandra sent me a skein of Mountain Colors Bearfoot in return for a small favour:

Again, I tweaked; again, I didn't get it quite right: the colours are actually a tiny bit darker than this. Beautiful. The colourway is "Bitterroot Rainbow"; the yarn is 60% superwash wool, 25% mohair, and 15% nylon. It is so soft! It's my first Bearfoot, and I keep picking up the skein and squeezing it and petting it. Love it.

Now I have four skeins of really great sock yarn in my stash (the other two are Fleece Artist merino that I've been holding onto for more than a year), so I'd better get knitting! As I said, I rarely buy yarn, but I'm making an effort to add quality to my stash. My natural tendency is to be cheap, which means I often end up with something that isn't quite what I actually wanted. But I buy yarn so rarely, and I love knitting so much, that I am really trying to splurge a little bit. It's worth it -- looking at my beautiful four-skein sock-yarn stash makes me very happy, and four skeins is plenty to have on hand.

By far, most of the socks I've knit have used sturdy, practical, inexpensive yarns (e.g., Patons Kroy, Regia 4-ply). That stuff is great -- it wears really well. And because I'm cheap and thrifty, I've always kept the leftovers, even though I had no idea what I'd ever use them for. (What? Not another pair of these eyesores?) And then Robyn came to my rescue! She's making one of these amazing mitred-square baby blankets, so I passed on all of those leftover bits of sock yarn to her at last week's knitting get-together. I loved being able to pay it forward, after Nicole and Jenny both sent me fabulous worsted-weight wool leftovers for my crocheted blanket. And, of course, I loved getting rid of yarn that I wasn't going to use. I'm happy when things that come around go around.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Sock pattern PDFs

I've bookmarked 18 gazillion knitting patterns over the last couple of years, and saved copies of 3 jillion PDF patterns. In sorting through them this morning, I thought I'd gather some of those links here. There are loads of great free patterns online for socks, as I'm sure you know. Here are a few of the ones I've bookmarked (and have yet to knit) -- all are PDF files (because that's how I like 'em best):

- Cable Twist Socks by Adrian (Hello Yarn)

- Campfire Socks by Cider Moon (yes, I'm linking to these two days in a row -- what?)

- Clementine's Baltic Socks by Di (clementine's shoes)

- Elfine's Socks by Anna (My Fashionable Life)

- the new Leyburn Socks and the older Zokni Socks by Mintyfresh (pepperknit)

- Poseidon Socks by Elinor (exercise before knitting)

- worsted Traveler Socks by Diana (d-made)

* * * * *

Totally unrelated link:
One of my very best friends in the whole world is in a band, and their new record is coming out next month! Watch for it, buy the record, go to a live show -- you won't regret it. (Unless you have no sense of humour or hate electronic dance music, in which case you very well might regret it.)

* * * * *

And that's not all...
It's two degrees above zero today! I'm wearing a skirt! Woot!

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Knitting? Most peculiar indeed...

From this week's Mirror (Artsweek section, p. 48):

"Yarning for a brew: Whether or not this is specifically a Montreal thing is hard to say, but a new mini-trend has seeped its way into bars in this town, and, most peculiarly, indie rock shows: knitting. While a wholesome and productive pastime in other milieus, sitting in a corner with needles and a spool during a rock 'n' roll concert is right up there with standing in the front row text-messaging emoticons to your friends down the street. Unless you're knitting a beer, that is. Okay that doesn't fit either, but the point is, you can knit beer bottles -- out of yarn, of course. The pattern can be found at"

I'll forgive the use of "spool" because through this link to a knitted beer bottle, I found a very nice free sock pattern (check it out) and spent an enjoyable couple of minutes drooling over some really pretty colourways (I want this yarn, please).

Friday, March 09, 2007

I still knit

... in case you were wondering whether I'd permanently traded in my needles for a crochet hook. Perish the thought!

I'm knitting a simple pair of cozy house socks, with some unlabelled sport/DK-weight wool that Mia sent me ages ago.

I looked very quickly at the new Knitty patterns yesterday. The only must-knit item for me is Clessidra -- those gorgeous long, cabled socks. The Carolyn cardigan is cute. I'm too cold to look at most of the other patterns. It's not spring! It's -16C outside!

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Happy day, ladies!

March 8 is International Women's Day. Mark it however you like, but take a few minutes to read Zoe Williams' column from yesterday's Guardian: "This is idiocy, not feminism." She makes a good point, that while IWD is supposed to be about women's rights and equality, it has been largely hijacked by irrelevant, feel-good events that have no real effects on women's lives. (Excerpt: "Fashion is to international women's rights as Agassi kitchen utensils are to gay rights. Yes, some women are interested in fashion; some gay men own more than one brightly coloured fish slice. But it is an outrage against people who take liberties seriously -- who embody the core of feminism by interpreting it as a war that hasn't been won until it's been won for all women -- to trivialise these matters.")

I suspect that IWD is also going down the well-lit, shop-lined road of corporate philanthropy, like "breast cancer awareness" before it. (For more on that, see Think Before You Pink.) When I was looking for a general-info link about Women's Day, I came across this one, which at first glance seems pretty neutral, except that its corporate sponsors are given an alarmingly strong presence on the page. In fact, this is itself a corporate website, trying to look like activism. So let's move on.

I'll point you instead to IWD info from Status of Women Canada, the UN, and the International Development Research Centre. These ones are about action -- and not the shopping kind. There are a few more things to read -- on women's political rights worldwide, women in the military, human trafficking -- in's "In Depth: Women" section.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Wow, Jean Baudrillard is dead. I feel like I should share some profound quote about postmodernism, hyperreality, and simulacra, but that's what everyone will be doing. So instead I give you my favourite lyric by The Ballet, from the song "Personal":

I saw you on Gaydar;
your profile was so clever.
The references to Baudrillard
must've taken you forever.

I also want to note the passing of Doris Anderson. She was a remarkable woman -- a "rebel daughter" (the title of her autobiography), an officer of the Order of Canada, and an important figure in Canadian journalism history and "second wave" feminism.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Blanket progress report: Halfway?

It's getting harder to photograph my blanket; as you can see, it's now wider than a chair. Since this is a vertical-stripe blanket, you're looking at the width here. I think I'm about halfway. I don't really have a plan, though, so I'll probably just keep going until I run out of yarn. Will it be a throw for the couch or a cover for the queen-sized bed? We'll see!

It's also hard to photograph because the colours just don't show up correctly. They look washed out in the photo. Trust me, the colours are richer.

And here's a completely unrelated link, for my friend Jeanie: Technorati-tagged images of cupcakes. Hi, Jeanie!

Friday, March 02, 2007

Snow day

I wish my blanket was already finished so I could curl up under it, because it is nasty outside today. It kind of looks like this picture, but with blowing snow. Schools are closed. The university is open, and I'm supposed to be in class right now, but I'm not sure I'd be able to get back home this afternoon, so I'm staying in. And no, I'm not going to crochet all day, but I do plan to add a row at regular intervals as a reward for working on a paper that's due on Monday. Bill and Mooky have both gone back to bed. I don't really have anything to say! Time to get to work, I guess. And to make another coffee. And to feel very happy that I'm inside and not outside.