Monday, 30 June 2014

Intangible Progress

I'm really enjoying working in a pair of fair isle mittens, which is somewhat surprising given that I've ripped parts of them out and tinked back other parts back numerous times. If all of the knitting I've done on them was actual progress I'd be almost done the first one, instead it's about 2" long.

Before we left for vacation I'd swatched, gotten gauge, and charted out all of the design projects I planned on working on. I figured this would virtually eliminate moments like this. When I planned these mittens I'd put a lot of thought into the fair isle motifs themselves, but when I chatted them out in Numbers I just used pair of high contrast colours so the chart would be easy to read later; to borrow a phrase from a friend it looked like a drunk clown picked the colours.  I have a bag of balls of drops alpaca (which I love, I have made about a dozen pairs of mitten with it) all different colours and I figured I'd just pick the colours as I went. I decided I would be spontaneous (which is entirely out of character for me).

I sat down to knit them on Monday and picked 6 balls of yarn, they were beautiful grays and purples that looked lovely together. But when I used them there wasn't enough contrast to make the pattern stand out. I abandoned that color combination and went for another, mixing colours wildly but decided it looked wonky; where the light and dark colours were just didn't work.

I'm still happily working on them, each new motif has gotten ripped out at least once as I fiddle with the colours, but I'm pleased with what I'm getting and I think the fact that I'm enjoying the process is because I'm learning, it's progress, just of a different sort.

Friday, 27 June 2014

An Ode to My Socks

I love this poem by Pable Neruda.  He captures the delight we all hope to give when we give someone something we've made.

Mara Mori brought me
a pair of socks
which she knitted herself
with her sheepherder’s hands,
two socks as soft as rabbits.
I slipped my feet into them
as if they were two cases
knitted with threads of twilight and goatskin,
Violent socks,
my feet were two fish made of wool,
two long sharks
sea blue, shot through
by one golden thread,
two immense blackbirds,
two cannons,
my feet were honored in this way
by these heavenly socks.
They were so handsome for the first time
my feet seemed to me unacceptable
like two decrepit firemen,
firemen unworthy of that woven fire,
of those glowing socks.
Nevertheless, I resisted the sharp temptation
to save them somewhere as schoolboys
keep fireflies,
as learned men collect
sacred texts,
I resisted the mad impulse to put them
in a golden cage and each day give them
birdseed and pieces of pink melon.
Like explorers in the jungle
who hand over the very rare green deer
to the spit and eat it with remorse,
I stretched out my feet and pulled on
the magnificent socks and then my shoes.
The moral of my ode is this:
beauty is twice beauty
and what is good is doubly good
when it is a matter of two socks
made of wool in winter.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Design It, Knit It, Babies

I love knitting books and am always interested in what other people have been looking at so I've decided to start reviewing the ones I've been reading.

Recently I've read Debbie Bliss' Design It, Knit It, Babies. I really love her magazine and I thought the fact that she talks about the design process was really interesting.  That being said, it includes some lovely patterns that are worth checking out even if you're not interested in the design aspect of the book.

I found the book was approachable and well organized, it addressed both visual aspects such as mixing texture with colourwork as well as practical concerns, like making sure a sweater's shape accommodates the bulk of a diaper at the bottom. I really appreciated the fact the the book isn't simply a version of her Design It, Knit It with baby patterns substituted for adult ones, but that the content addresses concerns that are specific to babies such as the importance of being able to wash things easily and that the yarn recommendations reflect that as well.

There is at least one pattern that also appeared in one of the Debbie Bliss magazines, so if you have all the issues of that you'll have some repeats. 

I do find that her sizing is quite big and usually end up knitting a size down. Caleb's average size and when I compare her schematics to his store bought clothes Bliss' patterns consistently come out bigger. That's not a problem but something to be aware of when picking a size to knit.  She also tends to make sweaters in many peices that have to be sewn together at the end. It's not my favourite way to construct a sweater but the patterns are so beautiful that I usually follow her instructions anyways. They could be altered to be knit in the round without too much trouble.

I got this book from the library but now it's on my list to buy, I plan to make a number of patterns from it and will enjoy this book for quite some time.

I'd love to hear what you're reading in the comments!

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Sweaters and Food Scales

The knitting for Caleb's moose sweater to done, I have a ton of ends to weave in and some sewing to do.  I'm not sure when that will happen as the next couple of days are really busy, but we'll see.  It was a close call with the yarn, I made some changes to the pattern to accommodate it and some of the colours I have about a meter to spare.

If you see the post on June 9th there's a picture of the sweater.  I did the main colour two different colours, and the sleeve cuff's are the same as the collar rather than continuing in the orange.  I also make the arm's stripes slightly thicker because I had ample yarn in those colours and adding a few more rows of that yarn meant I'd be able to get all the way to the cuffs in the main colour.  I'll post pictures when it's sewn up.

Sweaters are a bit finicky when trying to use up leftovers as we usually want the two sides and the two sleeves to match one another.  I've found my food scale really helpful for situations such as this.  Before I started the sleeves I weighed each ball of yarn and wrote down how many grams I had, then as I was knitting the first sleeve I'd periodically weigh the ball of yarn that was left.  When it got to half the eight it was when I started I knew I had to save the rest for the second sleeve.

When I started knitting I'd be really faithful to the pattern and wouldn't have tried to make something without knowing I had the right amount of each of the colours.  I've gotten a lot more comfortable in problem solving, and if you're stuck because you've run out I've found that a really good solution is to look at what other parts of the pattern do and see if I can incorporate those elements into the solution.  This helps tie things together visually and makes it look like it was a motif instead of just what happens when you run out of yarn.

Also, it helps to remember that the people who see the finished garment (usually) won't have seen the pattern.  They'll think it looks good or it doesn't, they won't be focusing on ways it was different from the original instructions.  It's easy to loose sight of that fact when we've been working on something for a while and are hyper-aware that things are not the same as what the designer originally did.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

The Trouble With Packing

I'm trying to do all the swatching and knitting planning for our upcoming vacation.  I find it's a lot easier this way because it means I have to bring less (and by less, I mean I don't feel compelled to bring all of my needles in case I'm wrong about what I need to get gauge) and because it makes things a lot nicer once we're there.  I can just knit.

This means, however, that most of the knitting related activities I've been doing for the last couple days have been swatching and charting things out, which are my two least favourite parts of knitting.  I do it while fighting the feeling that I just want to get one with it and knit.    So far this is what I have:

1. Plans to make two pairs of mittens, the charting is part of the way done for the first pair, but I feel like I've gained some momentum and it won't be too bad.  (That being said I was feeling pretty twitchy by the time Caleb woke up from his nap yesterday which was when I gave myself permissionto stop working on this.)

2. Plans for a pair of lined mittens.  The fleece lining has been cut out and sewn and the planning of the stitch pattern is sorted.  I still need to swatch but then it's mostly a case of doing that then picking the correct number of stitches I'll need (it needs to be a multiple of 6), which isn't too hard or time consuming.

3.  The shawl I've been working on and put on hold for the drive, just need to pack the right needle tips (I'm using the addi clicks, and have taken the tips to use on Caleb's sweater, but that's almost done).

4. The hat and mitt set I was working on before I started Caleb's sweater--just need to throw everything in a bag and go.

5.  An idea for a tea cozy, this requires me to do a little math and typing today, and it feels like a chore.

6.  Enough yarn to make a second shawl if I finish all the other knitting (this is my contingency knitting, I don't actually care if this happens but I'm worried there won't be enough knitting otherwise).

7.  The pattern for my niece's Christmas present that I have to remember to pack because I want to get the materials at our destination.

The amount of things still to do doesn't look nearly so bad when written out like that (it may also help that laundry, grocery shopping, and actual packing have all been left off the list).

Wednesday, 11 June 2014


I've been working on Caleb's sweater which is adorable.  I'm a bit frustrated for two reasons, the first being that I've had to rip out and reknit things a number of times which is annoying.  None of the issues are major and are all my fault (a problem with gauge, a mistake in the colourwork, failing to notice the "at the same time" instruction for the neck decreases), but if all of the knitting I've done had actually been progress instead of being ripped out I'd be almost done.

The second reason is I can help thinking that this would work so much better as a top down raglan.  Less sewing, and none of the design bits would be lost.  It's fine though, I should hopefully be able to avoid any more gaffes and get through it, it is looking quite nice.

Monday, 9 June 2014

Using the Stash

I've been reading Debbie Bliss' Design It, Knit It, Babies and have had my eye on this sweater pattern for Caleb.
It's really cute and would be fun to knit, it also requires 4 different colours, which is a bit of a dealbreaker for me when buying yarn because it makes things a lot more expensive.  I don't mind spending money on yarn, and I'm happy to buy good quality materials for something I'm going to wear for years.  I will also buy good quality materials for Caleb, but when things get to be double what they need to cost because I need so many colours?  Not going to happen.

Then I got to thinking about how many projects I've used Cascade 220 for and wondered if I might have enough to make the sweater without buying any yarn.  I have a ton of scraps.  I hurried over to my glass-front cabinet (I LOVE that I can see all of my yarn through it), and started pulling yarn out.

I think I have enough, if I use a different colour for the main colour above and below the colourwork.  They're two different blues, but are close enough that it looks like I did it on purpose (at least that's what I'm hoping).  So with that, and a measure of hope I cast on.  It's blue and green and while I wouldn't have arranged the colours how they are if I were picking them in the store, I think it's going to work.  It's a quick knit and I expect it won't be too long before I have it finished.

I really hope I have enough yarn.

Thursday, 5 June 2014

not knitting but oh so pretty

I'm normally much more enthusiastic about knitting than sewing, but I have a dear friend that loves sewing and came across this amazing bib pattern.  She organized a bunch of us to order laminated cotton from the States (apparently it's difficult/impossible to find in Canada) and we had a sewing party on Sunday.  It was so much fun, and so so nice to get out without children (we will conveniently ignore the fact that the party was about baby bibs).

I had a bunch of fabric left over, so am having a ball cutting fabric for these beautiful lunch bags and these snack bags.  I'm stuck until I can get my hands on velcro, but should be able to pick that up on Sunday.

In the meantime I've decided to put the shawl oh hold (I'm anticipating a long car ride in the next few weeks and that will be perfect), and am making an adorable hat and mitt set for Caleb that is going along swimmingly.

Tuesday, 3 June 2014


I've mentioned before that while I love knitting and designing getting the patterns typed up, formatted nicely, and then putting everything together with the photos definitely feels like work to me.  It could be that will change in the future, I used to hate finishing and now, while not my favourite part, it's something I don't mind at all and maybe eventually this will feel like that.

At the moment though, it's work, which is why I'm incredibly proud to have four patterns solidly on their way to be ready to put up on Ravelry.  Three are for Christmas stockings.  Yes, I know, it's May, this just means that in the fall when people are starting to think about Christmas they will be totally ready.  I made them last year but have procrastinated about typing them up.  I was feeling guilty about that and then I realized that in the last 6 months we have sold our house and moved, which is difficult at the best of times and having a baby around complicates things and I really have accomplished a lot.  I'm trying to be more generous with myself.

The fourth pattern is for a beautiful hat and mitt set for Caleb.  It's not the one I decided wasn't going to work, I have plans to make two sets, because children either loose or soak through mitts and hats so it's good to have a spare set.  I have swatched, and typed up things and am almost ready to start making them and I am so so so pleased with the project already.

It feels good to get stuff done.