Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Review: The Knitter's Book of Yarn

First impression: this book is beautiful. The layout and design are beautiful; even the paper feels beautiful.

Beyond first impression: Yay! The content is good, too.

In The Knitter's Book of Yarn, Clara Parkes (founder of Knitter's Review) sets out to demystify the world of yarn: "how it's made, who makes it, how it gets to you, and what it longs to become in your hands." There's tons of information here, and it's presented clearly. (The glossary is very helpful.) I feel like this book was written for me: I'm not a spinner, I'm not very knowledgeable about different fibers -- I really just learned at Rhinebeck two weeks ago that wool from one kind of sheep can feel noticeably different than wool from another. I don't know crimp from loft. But even though I've really only skimmed TKBOY so far, I can see that it's going to be a useful reference book, like a handy dandy yarny encyclopedia.

To give you an example of the kinds of information in this book, let's say you're thinking of knitting something with cashmere. In the space of a few pages, you'll learn that cashmere is a protein fibre that comes from a goat, probably from China; that the fleece was probably dehaired and the fibres are short and delicate; that U.S. manufacturers may not label a produce "cashmere" if the average fibre diameter exceeds 19 microns; that it suits any weight of yarn, but requires a definite twist; that if it's good-quality stuff it should, according to Parkes, "make you stop dead in your tracks and emit at least one 'ooooooh' as you touch it"; and that while it is good for nearly any garment, it will, sadly, pill and thin over time.

And TKBOY is an encyclopedia with patterns, which is even better. Patterns are arranged according to yarn type; patterns for single-ply yarns are grouped together, followed by those for two-ply yarns, those for textured yarns, and so on. Most of the patterns are for accessories: bags, mittens, hats, socks. There are a few simple tops, too.

My two favourite patterns just happen to be mittens designed by mitten queen Adrian Bizilia. I figured there's no time like the present to figure out continental knitting, and I cast on for the Double-Thick Mittens.

I haven't used DPNs in a while, so my Fair Isle is a little shaky on that cuff. Now that I'm into the solid-gray hand of the mitten, it superfun -- the hand is stranded, too. (Hence the Double-Thickness.) So I figured out how to "pick" with the yarn in my left hand, and now I'm alternating one stitch from each hand. Crazy! I'm not fast at it, by any means, but I'll get faster.

Anyway, if you're looking to buy a book, this is a good one. It's the whole package: beautiful design, useful information, a few great patterns. Highly recommended.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007


(More photos, with info, here.)

I spent Saturday at a conference in Gatineau (the City Formerly Known as Hull), and then on Sunday I took the whole afternoon to be a tourist in Ottawa. Bill and I had driven through it on our way back from Crotch Lake this summer, but it was raining and we didn't get out of the car. Now I know that the Parliament Buildings are much more impressive when you get out of the car. I hope the tourists visiting from warm places appreciated the 15 minutes of fame SNOW on Sunday. Nice of the nation's capital to generate snowflakes just for its visitors, isn't it?

I'm blaming that little snowfall for the fact that after I finished walking up and down Wellington and Sparks streets, I headed straight to Yarn Forward and bought enough sock yarn for two pairs of socks and a pair of Double-Thick Mittens. And then, before ending my little trip and heading back home, I managed to incorporate the two things I miss most about Ontario: Michael's (more sock yarn) and Smartfood (three big bags -- Bill and I immediately devoured one, and I've squirreled away the other two).

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Giving it away

Last month I showed you the sweet little garter-stitch cardigan I knit for a new baby in the family, and lots of people have asked about the pattern. It's from a Patons booklet (no. 117) called "Baby Styles by Beehive." I just happened to do a quick pass through Value Village earlier today, and I came across a copy of this very booklet, so I paid the 50 cents and brought it home. The cover is coffee-stained and has some phone numbers jotted on it, and there are a couple of stains and pen marks on the pages inside. Would you like it anyway?

Since several people have expressed interest in the garter-stitch pattern, I'm just going to do a random draw. You just have to leave a comment telling me you'd like this booklet. I'll keep it open for a week, since I'm going to be busy and away from the blog anyway.

The image above shows the inside front cover -- click to make it bigger so you can see all the designs in the booklet: "Feather and Fan Set for 3 Months," "Crocheted Set for 3 Months," "Garter Stitch Set for 3 Months" (that's the cardigan I made), "Cape for 6 to 9 Months," "Eyelet Wardrobe for 6 Months," "Moss Stitch Set for 6 Months," "Popcorn Ridge Set for 6 Months," "Lace Dress for 9 to 12 Months," and "Panelled Suits for 9 to 12 Months." Here are a couple of closer images:

OK, so if you'd like this booklet, just leave a comment before Thursday, November 1, at 8:00 p.m. (Eastern time). Have a great weekend! I'm off to a conference tomorrow, so I'll see you next week.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Post-Rhinebeck post

Are you ready for the gajillionth Rhinebeck roundup? Want to see more sheep, goats, bloggers, and yarn? If not, I completely understand. But if so, read on.

I had such a great time, and the weekend passed waaaay too quickly. Véronik and I drove down on Friday afternoon and were home again by about 11 o'clock Sunday night -- it was about a six-hour drive each way, including coffee stops. The weather was just beautiful, and the fall colours blew my mind a little bit.

It was my first Rhinebeck, and it actually wasn't as frantic or crowded as I'd expected (although some buildings were pretty packed at times). I ended up spending more time looking at animals (including sheep-herding dogs and Frisbee-catching dogs) than at yarn, I think. And I came home with cash in my pocket. Maybe I'm some kind of freak.

It was great to see so many bloggers in person, some again and others for the first time. I finally got to meet some people whom I feel like I've "known" for years, like Adrian, Christy, Claudia, Joanna, darling Rachael, and Rachel M., as well as newer pal and alpaca-lover Veronique. And of course it was awesome to see a bunch of the NYC and TO knitters for the second or third time, like Jackie, Jenn, Laura, darling Michelle, Stephannie, and Stephanie. (I hesitated to start naming names, because of course I met and talked to lots of lovely people and can't possibly link to them all. You know who you are.)

I didn't take nearly enough photos, but if it's photos you want, I'd recommend Claudia's post and Stephanie's post in which Rachael and I look like a single two-headed creature. I will show you this one of Rachael and me, just to prove a couple of points: that we are in fact not a two-headed creature, that no clouds dared sully the sky over Rhinebeck, and that I did wear my new Woodland Shawl on Sunday.

Actually, I'll show you two more people pictures. First, I like this one of Maia and Véronik sharing a serious two-handed wool-fondling moment:

And second, this one of Brooke and Joanna was taken mere hours after Joanna said she didn't want to learn to spin:

Yep, that's the power of Rhinebeck. OK, so what did I buy? I spent $60, and I'm very happy with my purchases. At the Morehouse Merino party on Saturday night, I picked up six skeins of laceweight from the backroom bargain bin (numbers 1 & 2 below). I can certainly live with breaks in the yarn for $2 per skein. Number 3 is two skeins of worsted-weight merino from Greenwood Hill Farm in a colour I would never in a million years have chosen for myself if Véronik hadn't given a little push. These will probably become a hat or mittens. And number 4 is a 691-yard skein of chocolate-brown Peruvian alpaca from A Touch of Twist, which will become a scarf.

At the last minute on Sunday I bought a pretty Kromski niddy noddy (from ??) -- not because I'm going to spin, but because I unravel things from time to time.

Oh, and I also bought a sheep.

See you there next year? I think I'll have to go back.

(p.s., Ravelry has been in text-only format for me since I've been back. Is it just me?) Thanks, PICAdrienne!

Friday, October 19, 2007

Destination: Rhinebeck

Finished Woodland Shawl to wear to Rhinebeck? Check! I didn't get around to blocking it until yesterday afternoon. I blocked it on my bed, but it wasn't going to be dry by bedtime; at 10 p.m. I was in there blow-drying my shawl. Anyway, it's done, and it's gorgeous, and I love it. Details again:

Pattern: Woodland Shawl by Nikol Lohr
Yarn: 2 skeins Cherry Tree Hill Supersock Solid (colour: teal green)
Needle: 3.75mm circular
Finished size: approximately 20 inches x 68 inches

OK, time to go! If you're going to Rhinebeck this weekend and you see me, say hello. If you're not going to Rhinebeck, have a lovely weekend wherever you are!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Fall Fire!

Knitting night in NDG is getting out of control -- when I got to the Second Cup last night, there were at least 15 knitters and someone had clamped a swift onto one of the little tables! Hilarious.

Then the lovely and generous Robyn gave me a fabulous birthday present: the October sock kit from her online shop, Robyn's Nest. The kit includes a 100-gram skein of LuLu's Yarns Supersock (wool/nylon; colourway: Fall Fire), a sock pattern by LuLu herself (Lucia Tedesco), and four pretty stitch markers made by Robyn. (Robyn is behind the Stitch Marker Exchange, so she knows her stitch markers.) The colours in this yarn are fabulous -- all the colours of the leaves that are outside on the sidewalks are in here: brown, orange, red, yellow, and a dark brownish-purple. Perfect for October. (You're jealous, aren't you? Too late for your own October kit, I'm afraid, but there's always November....) Thanks, Robyn!

Monday, October 15, 2007

Knitting, crochet, and sewing

1. Knitting

My hot water bottle is now cozy. I finished the BAWK (with whoreshoe cable) yesterday, but our landlord turned on the furnace in the afternoon, so I didn't actually need this in bed last night. It's adorable, though, isn't it? Maybe I'll use it tonight even if I'm not cold.

2. Crochet

I found (via Ravelry, of course) this great free pattern: Bark Sedge Stitch Washcloth on the Lion Brand site. (Confession: I just realized that "Bark" is the colour of Lion Brand cotton used in the pattern, and this is just a "sedge stitch" cloth. For the last couple of weeks, I've thought I was making a green Bark Sedge Stitch dishcloth, and a blue Bark Sedge Stitch dishcloth, and ... duh.) I sent two of these to my mom, and she reports that she loves them. So I will make more. I don't enjoy knitting with cotton, but crocheting with it is fun.

3. Sewing

Remember the wonderful Scrap X Quilt at happythings? (She's even made another one since then!) I've been working on one of my own for the last week or so -- arranging strips of scraps and sewing them into blocks. It's so fun. Lots of this fabric came from the lilybug scrap pack I bought last weekend; some is stuff I had in my closet, including leftover bits from my first quilt; and I admit that I bought some brand-new stuff for my "scrap" quilt. (How else was I going to incorporate leopard print? It simply had to be done.) So even though I really should be knitting my Woodland Shawl so I can have it finished and blocked in time for Rhinebeck, I'm obsessed with assembling these quilt blocks. Obsessed!

Thank you for your birthday wishes yesterday. I had a nice day -- largely because it involved going out for eggs benedict. And because the furnace came on.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

35 and freezing

We're in that very cold period where it's 10 degrees outside (7 at the moment, actually) and the furnace in the house hasn't been turned on yet. Brrrr! This is what hot water bottles were made for. I started knitting a cozy for mine yesterday, and I'll finish it today for a toasty sleep tonight.

(I'm using Rachael's pattern, but with an 8-stitch horseshoe cable* instead of a 6-stitch twist. The yarn is Cascade 220 Quatro, from Jenny.) Other than that, I plan to do a whole lot of whateverIwant today, because it's my birthday. Yep, 35 isn't the temperature -- it's my brand-new age.

* This is my tribute to the Whoreshoes, one of my favourite bands, which just happens to feature Rachael's partner, Lala, on banjo and lap steel guitar. So it's actually a BAWK with a whoreshoe cable!

Friday, October 12, 2007

Back to knitting

Here is my progress to date on my Woodland Shawl. To recap: yarn is Cherry Tree Hill Supersock in teal green; needle is 3.75mm; free pattern is fabulous. I'm using two skeins (800+ yards) for maximum wrapability. The arrow shows where I attached the second skein.

Thursday, October 11, 2007


I bought a pair of glasses today. At my eighth glasses store in three days -- I shopped till I nearly dropped! But then I found The Right Glasses. They won't be ready for a week or so, since I opted for the anti-scratch, anti-glare coating. (I took this photo in the store before I decided to buy them. The head-on shot was just not nice, so you get the side view.)

Anyway, thanks again for taking the time to write such thoughtful comments on my last few posts. Your input really helped me. And to show my gratitude, I promise not to post any more giant fish-eye photos of my own face for a long time, and I promise many crafty show-and-tells in the posts to come.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Hey, how about these?

Yeah, I'm just kidding. (But I think it's kind of great that if I really did want to look like Wheels from Degrassi, it's an option that's still available in the twenty-first century.)

OK, so the quest for my first pair of glasses continues. And I'm so glad I asked for your advice, because I am now armed with all kinds of information that I never would have thought of. I went to three new places today and tried on, tried on, tried on. I didn't find anything that had all the necessary ingredients -- light, comfortable, right for my face -- but I don't mind spending another day or two looking. As many of you have pointed out, I should love my glasses, and I'll be wearing them (right on my face!) for two or three years. (Plus I'm still holding out hope that I can find prices that allow me to buy two pairs.)

And for the record, choice C is still in the running due to a landslide victory in the polls! Thank you for voting. Bill got really into checking the results. :)

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Poll: Which frames?

First of all, you guys are so awesome with your eyewear advice! Keep it coming, please -- I'm learning a lot.

OK, I headed back out with my camera. The first two choices are the two pairs I'd tried on this morning, and the third choice is from another place I went into this afternoon. You can click the pictures to make them bigger (i.e., to see my face closer than you probably ever wanted to), and then you can cast your vote at the bottom. (I'm going to vote, too.) Thanks!

Poll closed at 8:45 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 11. Thanks for voting! Final results:

Shocking turn of events!!

I need glasses!

I went this morning to have my eyes checked, because (a) it's been about twenty years since my last eye exam and (b) my eyes have been feeling so hot and tired all the time. And it turns out that I don't have the perfect vision I've always thought I had! The eye doctor said my eyes are working hard to keep things in focus all the time, and I'm just starting to notice it because our eye muscles weaken with age.

Shocking! I'm shocked. I figured I'd need glasses eventually; let's face it -- have you ever seen an academic over forty who doesn't wear glasses? But I also assumed the world would start to look blurry first, and it doesn't. Although, I must admit that recently I've found myself letting everything go out of focus in an effort to relax my eyes. And as the eye doctor pointed out, when a person with perfect vision relaxes her eyes, things remain in focus.

So there you go. I need my first pair of glasses. I did try on a bunch of frames right away and narrowed the choice down to two, but I'm indecisive, so I'm going back later today with my camera so I can get Bill's and your opinions. So come back tonight, please, for a vote -- I need your help!

Do you wear glasses? Is there anything I should know before I choose frames? Should I get anti-reflective lenses? (I think so, right?) I don't know anything about this. Helllllllp!

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Happy Birthday, Mom (and more!)

My mother will tell you she's not crafty, but I have evidence that she taught me to sew. This was at Christmas (I know because there's an advent calendar on the window -- maybe 1980?), and I got my own little sewing machine (my mom has a big one, on which she later taught me to sew for real). I distinctly remember this photograph being taken, actually; my brother took it, but insisted that he pose his favourite bunny on my sewing machine. And look at the vest I'm wearing! Now there's a chunky knit -- most likely made by my Aunt Nance. So there you go, Mom. Happy birthday!

The Puces Pop fair was awesome yesterday. (Are you in or near Montreal? Go today! Get a free lip balm from Etsy!) I bought a lovely tote bag, from Worn Journal, and a very exciting $10 fabric-scrap pack from lilybug.

Of course I would have liked to buy more stuff, but really, being surrounded by such creativity also makes me want to make more stuff -- and that's really more satisfying, isn't it? So today I'm sewing the top of my blue baby quilt, from the kit that Kelly McCaleb sent me. I'm in love with the fabrics she chose.

Are you doing creative things this weekend? I hope you have a happy Thanksgiving (you Canadians, that is). I give thanks for you.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Fantasy, indeed

We went out last night to see Final Fantasy play. I've been a fan for ages, but it was the first time I've seen him play live (other than as a part of Arcade Fire), and it was just as good as I'd expected. Accompanying the music was an enchanting and mesmerizing display of images, done on an overhead projector by artist Stephanie Comilang. And the encore was a cover of Mariah Carey's "Fantasy," which was pretty great. Of course you should seek out and listen to Final Fantasy's original music, but do take a few minutes to check out his version of "Fantasy" -- especially on video (found here). Actually, you should revisit the original (here) first, for the full glory of the cover. (If these links don't make your day, you should probably take your pulse, or have your sense of humour checked, or something. Trust me.)

So we got to the venue at about nine o'clock last night, which seemed ridiculously early, since I don't think I've ever seen a band take the stage before 9:30 in this town, but Ohbijou had already finished. So disappointing -- I'd been looking forward to seeing them. But we did see Basia Bulat's set, and she was completely charming. I'd heard a few of her songs before, mostly because it seems like every time I turn on CBC Radio someone is talking about her. (Go here and listen to "I Was a Daughter.")

The show was part of Pop Montreal. I'm not planning to go to any other shows, but I'm definitely thinking of checking out the Puces Pop fair this weekend. (Impressive vendor list here.) Other than that, I'll be knitting away on my Woodland Shawl so I can wear it to Rhinebeck, which is in two weeks! I'm giddy at the very thought of it.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

A snippet of culture

I've mentioned my friend Allison (a.k.a. 2L) a few times before -- I stayed with her in Vancouver this summer, for example, and I knit her some socks for Christmas in 2003 (!). She recently spent a few weeks in Russia -- the land of her peeps, the Doukhobours -- and she sent me this crocheted cap made of cotton, or perhaps linen. She writes: This quiet old lady sits outside a monastery in Yaroslava, Russia, knitting and crocheting. We had a lovely chat. I wanted to buy all her stuff and pay double for it, but just bought this. Many young people wear hats like this to visit churches, as you're supposed to cover your head if you're Russian Orthodox.

You'll probably be hearing about Allison again this Christmas, as she is feeding my new love of doilies and has drawerfuls of lovely delicate things made by her grandmother -- a few of which, I'm told, have my name on them....

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Happiness is...

... a good haircut.

Now, what can I do today that's Not Reading?

Monday, October 01, 2007

La Brainy's Knitting School

I spent yesterday afternoon with my friend Jeanie and her daughter, Leela, teaching them how to knit. It was my first time trying to show someone how to do it, and it's not easy! I found myself saying things like, "I know this is tricky, but once you get it, I promise it'll be really fun."

At first, I could tell that eight-year-old Leela was getting frustrated, because she'd been very excited to learn but it just wasn't making sense. But then, suddenly, she got it. And as she was working across her second or third row all by herself, without stopping or looking up she said quietly, "I like this. This is fun."

The loops on Leela's needles were very big and loose, but they were right. She got it. As for Jeanie, she methodically worked away on her stitches and ended up several rows later with a couple dozen more stitches than she'd started with, but who cares? Look how hard she was concentrating, her knitting needle all ablur with activity:

There you go: Montreal's newest knitters. They promised to keep it up, so they don't forget. (Right, Jeanie?)