Thursday, December 31, 2009

When taking risks really is not a good idea

I visited the ER yesterday, not for fun, not to see cute doctors, not even out of curiosity. I visited the ER because I believe my throat was closing due to the beginnings of an anaphylactic reaction.

I put on my Benadryl Mittens yesterday morning, picked up my bags, and walked out to the garage. I opened the car door, and felt my throat swelling.

I closed the door, walked back into the house, took off my boots, and went into the bathroom to take 2 and a half capfuls of Benadryl. I took the mittens off, and the ball of the same wool out of my knitting bag, then put my boots back on and walked back out to the car.

I started the car, and started driving to work. That's when I started to gag.

Luckily, my house is seconds away from the hospital, and it was in the direction I was going. I talked to myself, calming myself, trying not to panic.

I walked into the hospital and told the lady at the desk I thought I was having an allergic reaction. By then, the gagging feeling had stopped. She took my details, even updated my phone number. I figured by then that I wasn't going to die, but if I was going to have a reaction, this would be the place to do it.

The nurse took me in, checked me out, made sure my tongue wasn't swelling, took my heart rate and blood pressure and temperature. A little high, but I was scared, after all.

The doctor came into see me, and checked my throat, asked me some questions. He said my throat didn't look swollen, but that didn't mean it wasn't further down (which it was). I told him about the Benadryl, and he said that's what they would have given me if I hadn't already taken it. He suggested another antihistimine, told me to take it for the next few days, but to come right back if anything changed.

And, that's how I stopped using Lamb's Pride Yarn.

This is not meant to be a slanderous post about the Brown Sheep Company. Just a word of warning. If you think you might be allergic to something, stop using it immediately. You won't get any awards for ending up in the hospital.

'Nuff said.

Monday, December 28, 2009

The Benadryl Mittens

If you read my previous post, then you know that I've been experiencing some difficulties working with some yarn for a pair of mittens. I've been wanting to make these mittens for a while now, but it seems that projects keep popping up here and there that took precedence over these.

Well, after lots of thinking, I decided to try working with this yarn with a bottle of Benadryl next to me, to see if I felt any allergic reactions, and then to see if the Benadryl quelled them. It was probably not the smartest thing to do, and I'm sure all those with allergies out there are screaming at me for doing so.

I started knitting, I felt the itchiness in my throat, and then I took a dose of Benedryl. I kept working, and then promptly forgot about any weird sensations because I was distracted by the episode of Family Feud my dad was watching (he loves game shows - and so do I).

I worked and worked and worked, and then finished the mitten. Then, I took a nap, because the Benadryl makes you drowsy. Then, the next day, I made the other mitten. No strange reactions.

Maybe I was reacting to something else.

Anyway, I finished both these mittens, washed them, blocked them, and here they are:

They are LONG mittens. I wanted them to go well up my arms so that my wrists wouldn't get cold. That worked out fine, except that, when I blocked them, they grew a little, so my fingers have LOTS of stretching space, should they decide to stretch, I suppose.

If you look carefully at the right mitten, you can see there's something a little weird about the space an inch or so below the thumb:

This was the original thumb hole, but after I created it using Elizabeth Zimmermann's Afterthought Thumb, I realized that it was much lower than I needed it to be. So, I finished the mitten all the way to the tip of the fingertips, then went back and inspected this hole I'd made, did a bit of research, and concluded that I would have to graft it shut and make a new thumbhole further up the mitten.

Now, I did have it in the back of my mind how I was going to do this. I was going to find the area where I would need the thumb hole to exist, and then snip one of the threads of yarn, unravel it a few stitches, and then pick up the live stitches and knit myself a thumb.


I don't know why this didn't frighten me as much as steeking does, but I had read another one of EZ's books about how she made afterthought pockets in this manner. It made sense to me.

So, I cut open my mittens. I took the cut ends and spit-felted a length of yarn to one, then darned it in, then spit-felted the end of my ball of yarn onto the other one, and then picked up my stitches normally.

I make it sound so easy, but sometimes, spit-felting (yeah, I know it sounds disgusting, but I do it) sometimes just won't work for me. It took a lot of moisture and twisting to get that thing to work, and I did end up tying a knot in it in the end, just to be sure it stayed attached.

Anyway, my mittens are done, and I've started a hat. I'm still watching out for reactions, though. Now that I'm back home in my own house, eating my normal foods and all, and I really make sure nothing is amiss with me and this yarn. At any rate, at least I made these mittens. If I can't wear them in the end, well... we'll call them art. Art, for mitten's sake.

A little note about gameshows: my family takes them very seriously. We were all sitting around watching Wheel of Fortune (which, in all honesty, I can't believe is still on), and this guy is spinning the wheel, guessing all the right letters, filling in the puzzle.

"Solve the puzzle!" my dad yells. The guy decides to spin.

"No! No! You're going to lose all that money!" I yell. Gameshow-time is loud at our house. But he doesn't hit a Bankrupt. He guesses a T.

"Noooooo!" I yell, because I know he's thinking the wrong answer. And he loses his turn. The next person spins the wheel, guesses a correct letter, and promptly solves the puzzle.

"He got greedy," dad says. "That's what happens when you get greedy."

"He was only thinking of himself. He got blinded by the money, and lost his good sense," mom says.

"He did all the work, and then let someone else win," dad says.

"You get greedy, and then you lose everything. That's what happens," mom says.

And so, this is how gameshows become lessons in morality at my house. Pat Sajak has no idea how he has contributed to my life. Come to think of it, I've knit enough with Vanna's Choice to be heavily influenced by Vanna White, too!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


It's been a disappointing few days, much of it my own doing.

I made a neckwarmer for a good friend of mine for Christmas. It started off as the Reverse Rib Neckwarmer from Sqwish, but I got bored with it. I scrolled up on Sqwish's blog and found her pattern for the Horseshoe Lace Cowl. I decided to change my plans and use this lace pattern, but to orient it so that the horseshoes came out sideways. It worked. I lined it with grey jersey-knit fabric. I sewed buttons on.

It came out too short.

I messed around with the buttons and experimented with different ways to wear it, and finally came up with something wearable. Luckily, she loved it, and loves how different it is.

I find this is happening to me a lot lately - things turning out too short, too small, too big. I think I must be rushing my measurements or something. It's frigging annoying. And, I'm rushing so much that I keep neglecting to take photos of things before I give them away. Sigh.

My next disappointment is that I think I might be allergic to the wool I'm currently using. It's Brown Sheep's Lamb's Pride, worsted, 85% wool, 15% mohair. I was excitedly knitting away on a mitten that I'm basing on the heart cable pattern from Vampire Boyfriend, a sock pattern on I reached a point where I ripped out a few rows to make a few changes, and I started noticing an itchiness in my throat, and a tingly tongue. I don't have many allergies (just to cats, and my symptoms are different), but I've got a friend who has a lot of allergies, and that's just how she describes her reactions. I put the mitten away and the itchiness and tingly feeling went away. Now, every time I pick it up, I feel the symptoms. I don't know if it's because I'm looking for them, or if I am genuinely reacting, but since I'm home for the holidays, I figure it would be better to put it away than risk making a memorable Christmas by ending up in the hospital.

My brother is picking up some Benadryl for me, but I think I might just let this one sit for a while until I can figure out what's going on. Worst case - I get one pretty mitten out of it and give away the rest of the yarn. So much for the pretty mitten and hat set.

Well, actually, the worst case would be to have a fatal anaphylactic reaction.

On the upside, since I'm home in Winnipeg, I paid a visit to Ram Wools and picked up two lovely skeins of laceweight yarn to make Hannah Fettig's Featherweight Cardigan. I've been thinking about this one for a long time - such a lovely light and beautiful cardigan, perfect for wear all year round. I've been searching for the perfect laceweight for it - I wanted greens, lots of greens. I really wanted an apple green, but it's hard to find a heathered apple green lace. And I also decided I wanted to choose it in person, where I could see the colours, rather than buy it online and risk getting something that wasn't quite right.

I decided on these two skeins from Tanis Fiber Arts - a Canadian hand-dyer that has really made a name for herself!

I chose these skeins purely because of their beauty, and for their reasonable price. I had heard about Tanis Fiber Arts before, but only noticed the label when I got back to my parents' house. I'm so very glad to have supported a Canadian small business.

The colourway is Mallard. They don't have any apple greens in them, but they're lovely, and they're going to make a perfect cardigan!

I also bought these skeins of Alpakka, from Sandnes Garn. This was a standing-in-line purchase - so pretty! And I immediately pictured an entrelac scarf - perfect project for three skeins of yarn. I may start on it now, since the mittens are grounded. I feel so strange sitting here without something to work on.

My throat is still funny. Wow - I never thought this hobby would get me into so much trouble!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Which came first, the project or the chicken?

I'm mixing up farmyard animals and yarn. You can tell it's been a busy week. Holidays coming, parties to attend, things to bake, make, cook and knit. This must be what it's like to be an elf.

In the midst of all these holiday preparations, we booked a holiday to Los Angeles at the end of January. Woohoo! Winter sun!

I'm really excited, because the last time I was in Los Angeles, I was not nearly the prolific yarnie as I am now, and this time, I intend to visit at least a couple of yarn shops, especially in my favourite area of L.A. - Santa Monica!

Oh yeah, and we'll do some sightseeing, too.

I'm also really excited to be going home to Winnipeg for a week over the holidays, especially since I can go to Ram Wools and Wolseley Wardrobe and see what goodies are there.

Oh yeah, and I'll see my family too. Yay, mom's cooking!

When I have pending visits to urban centres, I start thinking about what I'll see, what I'll do and what I'll buy. Being the budgeter I am, I try to have a limit to what I will spend, but that just gets me thinking about what yarn I'll buy for what project.

Now, I generally try not to buy things on whims, but sometimes, it's so hard to find the yarn for a specific project at a price I'm willing to pay. Then, after circling the store a few times, I end up buying things just because they are pretty, and I think I'll come up with something to make with these things.

Problem 1: This is a good way to build up a horrendous stash.

Problem 2: This is fine if you are made of money, which, last I checked, I am not.

I have to say that I am mostly a big project knitter. I don't knit socks (but I might start soon), and you can only have so many hats and scarves and cowls (I have not yet hit that limit). I just hate the idea of having so many things just lying around, waiting to be made into something. And, I always like to buy enough to make a sweater or blanket. Something big. Something I can wear or use a lot.

Case in point: I'm still struggling to think of what to do with this huge yarn cake of Evilla I bought in Alaska. I gave up on trying to make it work with the Rambling Rose pattern - just too busy. But what? What should I do with it?

This indecision can quickly descend into stress. I do not want stress associated with my hobbies. Because, in case you didn't know, stress sucks.

So, if you have any bright ideas about what I should do with the following yarn cakes, I would be happy to entertain your thoughts!

Below is a yarn cake of Kauni - it's about 600 metres. Wool, 8/2, fingering weight. Shown in the centre, here:

This is the infamous Evilla - it's about 800 metres. Also wool, 8/2, fingering weight.

Please place your ideas in the comments below! Thanks for your brain energy!

Please also note that your suggestions will totally justify my yarn purchases. And hey, that's not a bad thing, right?

Sunday, December 13, 2009

My Gremlins

Wow, it's been almost a week since my last post! I have a terrible habit of sitting back after writing one and basking in its doneness that I forget that I should write another one!

Part of the reason I haven't been writing is that I had a serious attack of the winter blues. Bleegh, sigh, cold, argh... It's cold and it's dark, and I'm gravitating towards sad stories of things gone wrong, people not well, and standing around shaking my head, tut-tutting and wondering what it's all about. Really, what is it all about?

Luckily, all this hmming and hahhing and sighing gives me ample time to sit down and knit whilst I contemplate the meaning of it all. As of last night, I finished the sweater for my mom, the Chic Cables and Lace Cowl Neck Sweater by SweaterBabe. It hasn't been easy. In fact, it was a struggle, but I think that's my own darn fault.

First off, even though it explicitly says in the instructions to go through and highlight the information for the size you intend to make, I didn't. "Nay," I said. "I am a seasoned and experience knitter. Highlight, you say? Pish. That's for suckers."

So, I didn't. And then, after knitting that luscious cowl, I starting on the shoulders... and after 5 inches of knitting, I was ripping back to the cowl, because I got mixed up in the sizes.

I must say, however, that if you're thinking about knitting this sweater, it is an extremely quick knit (provided you don't get cocky, like me). I probably could have finished it in a week, if I'd stuck to my usual lunch-hour-and-three-hours-after-work routine. Bulky weight yarn and big needles. What more can I say?

There are still modifications in my version, however. In the notes of those who did make this sweater on Raverly, it is mentioned again and again that this is a close-fitting knit, which, if you knew my mom, she just doesn't do. So, instead of decreasing five times towards the waist, I only decreased three times, then knit it straight until I increased for the hips (five times, instead of six). I also made it a touch longer, 25 inches instead of 24.

As I was knitting, however, I started to worry. It looked so small. All the little gremlins of worry started to circle around my head. "You should have knit the medium.," one said. "She'll never fit into it," another said. When I bound off and wove all the ends in (of which, there were only four - I love wool), I looked down at my bag, and saw that I still had a whole other ball of wool in there - this after thinking that I wouldn't have enough. "See," gremlin three said," you have a whole ball of wool left. You could have made a medium. What a bad daughter you are."

I shook off the gremlins, and they went squealing behind the couch. I grit my teeth. It might be fine, I said to myself. "You are delusional!" gremlin two said, before I kicked it back under the cushions.

I wet-blocked it immediately, and you know what? It's fine. I may steam-block it to set the size, but for now, I think it's ok.

It's interesting, this handmade clothing-thing. It's been a real opportunity for me to try to embrace my mistakes and my imperfections, something that I've always found hard to do. And it's a real balance between trusting my instincts and accepting failures.

I can't wax philosophical for too long, though. I have to cast-on for another Christmas project, but it's a small one - should only take me a week. Those gremlins are still behind the couch... but maybe they have a purpose after all.

Looks like one gremlin has emerged, though! And he's really not supposed to be up there:

Monday, December 7, 2009

I wish I could download images from my brain

It's been a tiring weekend. Sore muscles from working out and shoveling snow, and sleepy from dealing with my sick doggy this weekend (who is doing fine now, by the way).

I took a break from knitting my mom's sweater (or rather, I ran out of time to work on it) to make a lining for my lacy skirt (blogged about here).

Now, given that I can only really sew in straight lines, and that sewing patterns frustrate the heck out of me, you can imagine my trepidation at the start of this. It's the reason I've put it off for so long, when I usually can't stand having things half-finished lying around.

I obtained my sewing machine free through when I lived in Calgary. It works great, now that I've cleaned it up and oiled it and all that. It's a great thing to have for doing quick seams and making linings for mitts and hats (which I like to do in flannel).

And linings for skirts, of course.

I began the task at 10:00am. I cut the fabric to an appropriate height, then started measuring out the waist. I pondered how to achieve a perfect cone-like shape. I practiced on a piece of paper, and then transferred ideas to the fabric. I cut out the shape.

Totally too small.

Never fear! I have another length all ready to go, which I'd bought just in case I screwed this up. We went swimming, then when we got back, I measured, measured, seamed, hemmed, sewed into the waistband.

Totally too short. It looked like I was wearing a skirt over a pair of boxers.

Hrmm... well, ok. I'll just make a cylinder from the first length of fabric and sew it to the bottom of this lining. Measure, sew, hem, press.

Totally too long. Goldilocks, what the heck? Time for a coffee.

By this time, it's 4:00pm. I like to sew in natural light. It's getting dark. I'm getting tired and grumpy. Hubby is suggesting we take sick doggy out for some fresh air. After noting my pending tantrum, he suggests that he will take doggy out for a quick stroll if I bathe him when he gets back (doggy, not him).

I lay down on the couch, pull my hoodie over my head, and promptly fall asleep. I wake up to doggy sniffing at my face. Mutter, mutter... give doggy a good bath and blow dry (which I don't normally do, but the poor little guy was sick and shivering), and then return to the dining table, where my big mess of a skirt is lying there. Sniff.

I decide to go into the kitchen and start making a bang-up dinner - sausages, roast potatoes, roasted asparagus and peppers, and yorkshire puddings (which usually set the house into dream sequence because of all the hot oil). Yep, I am feeling accomplished now.

After dinner, I return to the lump-o-skirt, and I lay it flat, and start examining, tugging, turning... I take my cutting wheel and chop off the inch-wide hem I just made. I try it on...

It's right! Yes!

I make a folded hem and sew it all in place. And now, it's finished.

It's too dark to take pictures of it right now... which is why I wish I could download images from my brain! But I'll get them taken asap!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Ever have one of those "duh" days?

I've started working on a sweater for my mom for Christmas, a little number from SweaterBabe called the Chic Cowl Neck Sweater. I bought the yarn for it way back in August during a visit to Winnipeg at Ram Wools. I'm going to make the long-sleeved version without the belt and with simpler 3/4 sleeves.

Let's rewind back to that day, shall we...?

I knew I wanted to make this sweater for my mom way back in the spring, because she's going through lots of health issues, and is one of those people who is perpetually cold. I'd been on the lookout for a natural fibre yarn to make this from, and came across GarnStudio's Alaska on sale at Ram Wools. Perfect weight, great colour. I'd brought the pattern with me, and checked the meterage and thought, "Hmmm... eleven balls oughta do it." When I got to the till, I discovered I'd actually picked up twelve. Well, what the hey. I'm always running short of yarn, so I took the extra ball anyway.

Fast-forward to Monday evening. First problem: I'd swatched to find my gauge and to check how the yarn would wash when knitted up. Perfect swatch. Only thing was I'd done it so long ago that I couldn't remember what needle I'd used. Great.

So, I made a second swatch. Ah... size 11 was fine. Good. Now I'll start. Now... what size was I going to make? Hmmm... I think it was a large. Wait a minute... do I have enough yarn?

I counted the balls. Yes, twelve. Then I checked the meterage for the pattern. Size large requires 1125 metres. Yeah, I think I've got that, right? 75m per ball times 12... gasp! That's only 900 metres! Goodness gracious me!

After looking through several photos of my mom and reasoning with myself that I'd always got her clothes in medium, and that she is always much smaller than I think, I started the pattern following the instructions for medium, because that requires 825m of yarn. Ahhh... all is well... or so I thought.

I just looked again, and lo and behold, I'm following instructions for size freakin' small. But! It fits a bust size of 32-34", and that is BANG ON. Whew! I'm saved.

Geeeeeeeez.... why can't I just do things right the first time? Sigh...

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Can a blog entry change the world?

I wonder.

I bet it could. If everyone who felt the same way shared it.

Ok, here's the backstory:

Sitting in the bath tub this weekend, I was flipping through a Canadian Living magazine, and came across an article with the tagline:

Nurture your children's passion and compassion, and they will change our world forever.

My eyes glanced it over, then stopped, and went back to read it again. Hmmm...

Compassion. Change the world. Forever. I like this. I want this.

This article was an excerpt from a book called The World Needs Your Kids by Marc and Craig Kielburger and Shelley Page - siblings, who have very compassionate parents. It's about how their parents realized at one point that, when they stopped at the dollar store to buy gifts for new immigrant families in their neighbourhood, their children would shrink down into their seats in embarrassment. They realized they were raising snobs. After that, they strove to raise their children to understand the world, in all its bumps and imperfections, and to know their ability to make it better. To quote their article:

Your children are watching. If you are compassionate, they will also try to be. If you counsel compassion but are not that way yourself, there is a good chance you'll end up raising a cynic. For better - and sometimes for worse - you are the guiding force.

I worry sometimes. About the world. About how easy it is for people to stand by. Including me. I don't have children, but sometimes, it scares me to think about bringing children into this world. Into a world where 15-year old girls get gangraped while others stand by watching. Into a world where you can be bullied for not having the right phone, the right clothes, or for just trying to stay out of people's way. It's easy for me, not being a parent, to say this, but how come nobody is stopping them? Why do they think it's ok?

I think we could change the world. Don't you? If you could sit down with your children, your friends, your family, open a newspaper and have frank discussions about what is happening around the world, and what you could do to make it better, wouldn't that motivate change?

If you could hold the door open for the next person behind you...

If you could welcome a new neighbour into your neighbourhood...

If you could vocalize your disagreement with unsocial behaviour...

If you could ask your children who they are spending time with, and why they choose to...

If you could give up your next appointment, tv show, or golf game to spend time with your children or people who are lonely...

You could. And so could I.

Buddhism teaches compassion. I am not Buddhist, but I like that. Compassion so complete that you are empty- empty of all that is superfluous. Where all your anger or frustration is transformed into compassion, into an understanding that the person opposite you is engaged in some sort of battle that you have somehow stumbled into. We all are. And we are all entitled to kindness.

It frustrates me greatly to meet people who don't think of larger global issues as their own. I can understand why: it's not here. It's not in front of us every day. But it still matters. It matters more than the phone you one or the clothes you wear. It's just not immediate. And yet, it is.

And it's not just large global issues. It's the issues outside our doors. Bullying. Antisocial behaviour. Being happy to sit by, texting away while people vandalize your neighbourhood. It's not our problem.

But it is.

It's difficult to address anger, pain and struggling, but if we don't, how do we know what comfort is?

The last paragraph of this article (the introduction to their book), it says:

Our hope is that the parents of today can raise a generation of children who can stop dreaming about a better world and begin to live in one.

Ok, so what do I want? I want people to stand up for compassion. I want to remind myself that it's not all about getting ahead in life. It's ok to give an hour or two to someone who needs to talk or a few dollars for gifts for the less fortunate. And that it's important to disagree with behaviour that is hurtful. And, if I have children, I want them to know what compassion is, and why it is important.

John Mayer says,

It's hard to beat the system
When we're standing at a distance
So we keep on waiting
Waiting on the world to change.

Please, share this blog entry. Discuss it. Argue over it, I don't mind. But we need to talk about this. It's not enough to shake our heads and sayc'est la vie.It doesn't have to be.

Nurture your children's passion and compassion, and they will change our world forever.

Begin discussion now.

As a postscript, I want to share that I was very fired up about writing this yesterday, and when I woke up this morning, it didn't seem so important. I knew that would happen. I forced myself to sit down and write this tonight. And I'm really glad I did, because I know now how easy it was for me to let it go. I'm glad I'm not.

Friday, November 27, 2009

I'm thoughtful. I'm just not organized.

Every year, I try to be organized for the Christmas holidays. I buy little things here and there, make little gifts here and there, and then then squirrel them away for later on so that I don't have to do a bunch of emergency shopping during the holiday season.

This year, I collected up a bunch of things for gifts, as early as August, in fact. I made it to September and said, "Well, all I need to get now is a gift for my dad and for my husband, and to knit the gift for my mom." And so, knowing my staff discount at work would kick in during the month of November, I sat back, looked smug, and relaxed.

And then, this last week of November rolled around, and I realized I actually am not as organized as I thought.

I forgot about the four children that will come to visit me this year, as their family has every year, and how last year, my mom had to dig out some of her "emergency presents" to give them (now that's an organized woman).

I forgot about my friend of over 10 years that was my matron of honour at my wedding (don't worry, I'm pretty sure she doesn't know about this blog), and how she remembers my birthday, and how she always comes to visit at Christmas.

I'm hoping I haven't forgotten anyone else.

I know - I've got lots of time yet. It's just that I hate rushing around at the last minute, digging meaningless things out of bins at the shops just for the sake of having gifts. I find it quite pleasant to know that I've chosen things that people might like. And really - I hate a crowded shopping mall!

I ran down to the gift shop at work today and exercised my holiday staff discount and got a few things for the children. Nice things, actually - stuff they'll probably keep for a long time, like a height chart that doubles as a stuffed toy! Aha!

And then, on the way home, I remembered this skein of Louet Gems Sport I bought a few weeks ago when I went into the city for some yarn.

I intended to mix it with another skein to make some Norwegian-style mittens, but well, mittens, shmittens - that kind of fell by the wayside when I found a few shawl patterns I liked! But I think that this black yarn will make a lovely hooded cowl, like the Reverse Rib Neckwarmer from Sqwish. I think that would do nicely for a gift for my friend, and it should knit up relatively quickly. Besides, it'll give me an excuse to use these pretty little buttons I just got from buttonsgalore!

So that means, all I have to do is finish my current project, knit a sweater for my mom, and then knit the neckwarmer. Hmm, four weeks right? Uh oh...

In other news, I feel like I've gained a few pounds this week. Time to get my butt in gear and get exercising again. It's awful to have a couple of weeks of illness and weariness to knock me off the wagon. Besides, I've just bought a pair of boots that I hope will fit over my rather womanly calves. Yep - time to get to work in lots of ways!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Karate Kid Knitter

I'm sitting here with a bowl of chocolate cake and ice cream with my greedy little doggie next to me. I suspect he's not feeling well, but he seems to think that the chocolate cake will make him feel better. I understand completely what he means.

Hubby made this cake for me yesterday for my birthday, which was earlier last week (during my mysterious illness). It's darn good cake, albeit from a box of cake mix which I purchased and instructed him of its purpose. Hey, if you want good cake, you have to put in some checks and measures to ensure its existence.

Which brings me to the purpose of today's blog entry: sensuality.

Almost a dirty word, ain't it? But it's what makes my world worthwhile. The ability to feel, see, hear, smell and taste.

Behold the example below, of five skeins of yarn. Four of Salvia JL fingering weight merino, one of Bernat Handicrafter (did you ever see such a bright green?).

I look at that and revel in the colours. I need to see those colours, and look at them over and over again. And that Salvia merino is lovely and soft, perfect for a cowl or lacy hood for the wintertime. Or a shawl of riotous fuschia, yellow and brown. I've dreamed so many possibilities for it that I've lost track of the plans, while in the meantime, made new plans for other yarns in my basket.

Sometimes, I'll sit and gaze at my basket, hungrily drinking in the colours, reveling in the sensation of each ball. Lots of yarnies will say that yarn is "yummy," and while none of us has actually eaten any (I hope not), I'm sure that if we could, we would taste it. Some of us smell the yarn (squeakybuddha, you know who you are), and... ahem... I have to say I'm becoming one of those who smell it, too.

I'd say my motivation to knit, crochet, bead, cook come from my need for sensuality. My ambition to learn to spin is directly related to this need - to feel the yarn being made, the twist that spreads along the length of drafted roving, to watch it form the single ply that will ultimately become a strand of yarn. I yearn to know how it feels when yarn is being spun correctly.

I suspect that part of this is related to a desire to return to my instincts, and to learn to trust them. I could rely on a recipe or a pattern (and goodness knows that I do), but there's something magical that happens when you make decisions about something you are doing based on your gut, and then have those decisions work out for you. Trusting yourself to plant your garden because you can feel that the chill is gone from the breeze. Looking in at the cake in the oven, and just knowing it doesn't look right, to give it five more minutes. Knowing to keep the door closed when the person who is knocking just seems a little too urgent to get in. It's part of the meditation that occurs when you are searching for nirvana - clearing your head of all the distractions that come into it, and just letting your cells and atoms be what they are meant to be.

There''s something kinda Karate Kid about that, isn't there? Gimme a pair of chopsticks and let me catch that fly...

Thursday, November 19, 2009

I Really Shouldn't Say Such Things

It turns out that that title for my last blog post was a rather ominous one. I spent the two days after writing that post at home, battling a rather strange illness. Thankfully, it passed fairly quickly, but every time I look at that last post, I want to go and find a piece of wood to knock on.

Anyway, back to relative health and to more creative things, I finished my baby blanket, and I'm finally fairly happy with it. The stitches aren't perfect, but then, who's perfect? When I took it off the needles, I was a little worried because it looked a little too much on the long-and-skinny side rather than the nice rectangular shape that I wanted it to be. Darn it.

I looked longingly at the next project I wanted to start. I looked back at the blanket. Meh, the baby won't know, I said. But the parents will know, I said. And they are people I work with. You can't make crappy things for people you work with.

I contemplated picking out the bound-off stitches, but then figured, you know what? I'm gonna bite the bullet and block this thing into shape. It's a cotton blanket, and therefore my fear of blocking is dramatically lessened by this fact, since I knew it wasn't going to felt.

I started off by taking a piece of homemade prairie sage soap that I got at a local shop, and shaved a few flakes into some tepid water. I stirred it around to dissolve the flakes, and then I placed the blanket in. Wash, wash, wash, rinse, rinse, rinse, squeeze... and then, I put it into the dryer. Goodness, I love cotton.

When the blanket was almost dry, I took it out, gave it a few shakes, got out another blanket, moved the coffee table, and pinned my blanket into shape. Doggie was intrigued, but a look from me sent him away. (I did find him there the next morning with one paw on the edge, but he hastily retreated when I entered.)

And there you have it. My Baby Blanket for Two Palaeontologists.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Famous Last Words

Today is a repair day. I've been fixing all the things that I've been putting off for ages. I'm terrible for that, especially when I have a bunch of knitting or crochet projects I want to get my hands on. I couldn't put it off any longer, though. You can only have so many broken things sitting around.

I worked on my shoes first. They're my bargain wonders. I got them at the Salvation Army for $10, and they were almost brand new! The button that held the straps in place had popped off both shoes. I fixed one a few months ago, and lost the other button about a week ago. I ended up gluing velcro onto the straps so I could get them on and off comfortably. Shoes: check.

Next, I re-shanked the buttons on my jacket. This isn't the first time I've had to re-sew these buttons on. I think I've re-done every single button on this thing (there are 12!), and now I've lost one. I ended up taking one button off the pockets and flipped the flap over them so that you can't tell. Jacket: check.

After that, I moved a button on a long black wool coat that has been missing the middle button for a while now. I took the top button (which doesn't have a buttonhole, oddly) and moved it down, then re-sewed the bottom button on, because it looked like it was about to fall off. Coat: check.

Wow, looks like I have bad luck with buttons!

Then, I turned my attention to this cardigan which has been languishing in my closet for about a year. I made it with Amy Swenson's Mr. Greenjeans pattern.

Listen, children. This is one of those examples of why you MUST make a gauge swatch. I did not. And it's miles too big.

I remember just knitting a short little section, and thinking, "Well, it's only one stitch too large. How bad could it be?" Famous last words.

It's bad. I can't figure out one single way to wear it. There you have it - a bunch of hours of work down the tubes.

I've only just restrained myself to fixing this with my sewing machine and a pair of scissors. In short: steeking.

No way, baby. This one's going to Goodwill. Someone with a much larger bust can wear it. Not me.

Moving on: check.

I'm now daydreaming about making a version of Rambling Rose from Interweave Knits Winter 2006. I'm thinking about using the Evilla I bought from Alaska in the centre lace section, and then using a rust orange for the main body.

Problem1: The Evilla is a fingering weight yarn. The pattern calls for DK. Could I make this with such a lightweight yarn? This yarn is typical of the Fair Isle or stranded colourwork of Scandanavia. If they can knit sweaters out of this stuff, surely I could. It would just take me a hell of a long time.

Problem 2: The pattern is written for a 30" or 43" bust circumference. I am neither. That would mean I'd have to work out how to make it my size. Different yarn weight, different gauge, different size. Hmmm...

Problem 3: The pattern is written for the sweater to be made in pieces. I hate making things in pieces. I'd rather change the pattern to knit it from the bottom-up in one piece. Different yarn weight, different gauge, different size, different way of knitting.

Problem 4: I don't even have the pattern yet, and I'd have to find an old copy of the magazine to purchase.

Well... how bad could it be?

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Presenting: My First Reverse-Engineered Project

Here it is: The Sears Copycat Cardigan.

For a quick recap, I wanted to make something that looked like this:
And I ended up making this:

I won't pretend that it was easy. In fact, it was a lot of work, and a lot of thinking went into everything I did with it. I've never had a project that required so much ripping out of stitches and re-knitting of sections. First time making pockets, first time knitting a cardigan from the bottom up with cables.

And I love it.

The blocking process was really important in this case. It relaxed the seed stitch sufficiently to give me the extra length I was looking for, as well as to reduce the "bunched up" look of the stitches. Seed stitch is really just a type of ribbing, and tends to pull up on itself. Blocking really helped to settle it down.

I may steam block this a bit further, but for now, I'm happy with the result. Happy, and exhausted. Sure, the buttonholes could be better, the buttons could be lighter, the collar could be longer. But it's finished. I've declared it.

And yeah, I still love it.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Living this Knittery Life

I've officially finished my Sears Copycat Cardigan, but have not yet taken any photos of it, because all natural light seems to be extinguished by the time I get around to getting my camera set up. I'm very proud of it, and taking them pictures in anything other than natural light would do it a real injustice, in my humble opinion.

I'm now working on a baby blanket for someone at work, and I'm making quick progress on it. Worsted weight cotton knitting with size 10 needles, in combo of stockinette and garter stitch - a breeze compared to what I have been working on. I need to get it done fairly quickly, and so the lace scarf that has been languishing in my knitting basket must wait. It's killing me. That's what I get for breaking my one-WIP-at-a-time rule. It bothers me when my knitting projects are unfinished.

Working on things like baby blankets often invites speculation on the state of my womb. Surely, I must be pregnant if I'm working on baby things. Sigh. Really, no. I would think that, if I were expecting a child, someone out there would make me something.

This is often a discussion that comes up in the Selfish Knitters Group on Ravelry, this question of motivation for knitting. It's either, "You must have a lot of children, that's why you knit" or "I see you love knitting. I'm sure you'd love to make something for me" or "Why would you spend all the time knitting if you can buy it for $10 at Walmart?"

TECHknitter wrote an excellent essay about the "Work-to-glory ratio" vs the "product-plus-product" ratio recently. It's a fantastic essay, and I encourage everyone to read it. In basic synopsis, sometimes you knit quick, amazing things, and sometimes you get all sorts of joy from the process. Until you make something with your own two hands, it's hard to understand.

I'm still exploring my motivations for knitting. I marvel at the creation of a fabric, and the challenge of fixing problems. It's a part of me, of who I am as a person. And thus, I'm very sensitive to the intrusion of unwanted criticisms of my projects, innocent as they may be. I would go so far as to say that, as cliche as it sounds, these projects are an extension of myself - a great investment of my concentration, my brainwaves, my muscles, my breath.

To a new knitter, here is what I would beg you to remember:

1) To knit, or to create whatever it is you make, gives you power. You can manipulate matter to your will. Believe it or not, this power is a difficult one to wield, as the order you create will often return to chaos. Therefore, don't take your errors too seriously. Accept that you are learning to control your new-found abilities.

2) Sometimes, your projects will disappoint you. It can be hard to take. You make something too big, too small, the yarn doesn't work, you accidentally felt your sweater. But here's the thing: without you, this object would not have existed. If you never had been born, the possibility of this thing existing would be zero. And that is an awesome thought.

3) It's alright to take breaks, and to say no when you just don't want to make something. You might think this just applies to people asking you to make something for them, but this actually applies to your own desires that go awry. You'll invest hours, days, weeks into something that just doesn't inspire you anymore. It's alright to say, "I'm not liking this anymore. I think I'll stop, and maybe I'll finish it one day, or maybe I'll rip it all out and use the yarn for something else."

4) When you receive compliments on your work, say thank you. It's not just etiquette. Believe it or not, people can find it scary to compliment your handiwork, because so often, the creators of this handiwork come back with some self-deprecating remark. Those remarks negate the compliment. And that's not nice.

5) Rejoice in your abilities. You may not have them forever. Love your hands, take care of them. Massage your aching muscles. What you do is not easy. Be thankful that you can do what you do.

You know, I never plan these blog posts. So often, I open the editor, and just start typing. I'm glad this came out today - it's been a good mediation. I hope it helps someone out there. It sure has helped me today.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Like I Needed More...

We made a trip into Calgary yesterday. We hadn't really planned it, since I had to work on Saturday, but the schedule changed, and I ended up only needing to be at work for an hour in the morning. Since I needed another ball of Cascade to finish my Copycat Sears Cardigan, and we needed a few things for the house that we can't find here, we packed up the car (mostly with food and with our doggie's supplies) and hubby, doggie and I drove into the big city.

I must say, it was a WINDY day in Calgary yesterday. I'm really bad for just jumping into the car in a t-shirt and jacket and hoping for the best, but I immediately regretted it when we reached Airdrie, and found I couldn't even open the door to put gas into the car. But, more on that later...

I made a stop at Make One Yarns (I'm actually planning to go in again next week, but a preview is always nice) and picked up one more skein of Cascade 220. And heck, while I was there, I had a little stroll around. I have this little seed of an idea to make a hat, mitts and scarflette set in different tones of red (I love red, I can't help it), and I thought I'd take a quick cruise around to see what was there. I wanted a worsted weight yarn, one that would knit up relatively quickly, but that was just... different.

It was then that I discovered Lamb's Pride Worsted, in wool and mohair (*snicker) in the Cranberries colourway. It is PERFECT. I did my usual, "Don't get too excited, it might not work" routine, where I pick up a skein, turn it around and around in my hands, read the label, and then put it back down again. Then, I make another tour around the shop to look at absolutely anything remotely close to it, then eventually make my way back to fill my arms with stuff.

And lovely stuff it is. The pictures don't really do it justice. They have such a nice mixture of cranberry, red, and almost pink. I have to confess, I've carried a skein of it around the house today, even into the bathroom to admire it. I'm sure there are detractors of it out there, but for the price I paid for that sort of yardage and for such lovely colours, how could I resist?

I did resist, however, making some impulse buys from the sale bin. Don't get me wrong - I love a good bargain, but I'm on a budget, darn it. Doesn't mean that I won't have a look in there when I go back in next week, though.

We also met some friends for dinner, and we had lots of time to kill until then. We walked the doggie at Eau Claire, visited a few parks, and then decided to find a Chapters to settle down with a coffee and some magazines. We hit our old stomping grounds at Signal Hill (we didn't live there, but I worked at the Michaels there for a short time), and I took a quick run into Zellers, because darn it, I was cold!

Now, I will refrain from describing the confusion and frustration that ensued, but I will just say that a little organization in a store can save a heck of a lot of running around. I eventually did find a sweater that I thought would work, disregarded the price, and rushed to the till to pay for it. And hey, who knew? It was on sale for $12. Sold! I paid, went and stood next to the kiddie rides and candy machines, pulled off the tag, and put it on.

I felt pretty good about it, until I sat down with my coffee later and saw that the jersey-knit stitches on the left sleeve at the shoulder were running. Shoot. No big deal, but highly annoying. As soon as I got it home, I pulled out a tiny crochet needle and fixed it. Aha! Victory! I love it when I win over the throw-away culture!

Today, I knitted the button band onto one side of my cardigan, and am now pondering how to make the buttonholes... another victory in the making, I hope!

*As for the snicker, the word mohair makes me giggle, but that's a story you'll just have to ask me about!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Second Most Scary Thing About Knitting

I've got my Copycat Sears Cardigan blocking on a towel on the floor of my living room. I knew I had to block it. I mean, it's just what you're supposed to do.

I really didn't want to do it. I'll happily block scarves, hats, shawls, blankets, but sweaters... oh my goodness. It's scary. Think about it: you spend all these hours knitting away, carefully following (or, in this case, reverse-engineering) a pattern, measuring, trying it on... and then, you're supposed to give it a bath??? I think not. All I can imagine is a big pile of wet, squishy wool, slowly turning into a pile of wet sheep.

I've run out of wool for this project (again), but I've only got the button bands and one pocket border left to do, and I figured that it would be a good idea to block it before I put the button band on. I reasoned with myself, talked quietly to myself while I did it. "People do this all the time. You need to do this. The seed stitch will relax if you do this, and you'll get that extra length you need. You wanted that extra length, didn't you?"

Into the water it went (along with some wool wash). Gently dunked it. The wool sucked up all the water in the basin. I added more tepid water, little by little, until it was completely saturated. I gently turned it over in the water, lifted the sleeves, repositioned it without swishing or agitating... breathe... breathe... Then, after a couple of minutes of it soaking, I dunked it into the water again.... more breathing... please don't felt...

I found the neck and did the snake squeeze - hand under hand, squeezing water out without letting any part of sweater dangle. I rested each freshly squeezed part on the sink. Squeezed each sleeve, then down the body.

I got out a big towel and carefully laid the big, soggy lump of wool in the middle of it. I rolled my neck and my shoulders. So far so good. Carefully arranged the soggy wool into something that looked like a sweater. Took the short edge of the towel and started rolling it all into a jelly-roll. Hubby walked by. I waved him away... this is not for the faint-hearted. I knelt onto the jelly-roll to squeeze out more water, reposition, knelt again.

Hubby let my doggie out for his evening commune with the trees. I went into the living room with another towel, my wet jelly-roll and a pin cushion.

And there it lies. My doggie keeps eyeing it, like he'd like to go and rub his whiskers all over it. He knows better. It's mine. Hopefully, it'll dry enough overnight so that I don't have to worry about it. I've already threatened hubby that I will hold him personally responsible if anything happens to it.

Of course, if my doggie decides to sleep on it, I suppose it won't be the end of the world. I can always re-block it.

Besides, who could stay angry at this face?

Oh, as for the MOST Scary Thing About Knitting, well... it's steeking. I can't talk about it, though. It makes me faint and woozy, and it's far too late for that sort of thing!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Know What'd Be Cool?

I'm thinking that, now that I've hit my 30s (ok, I've been in my 30s for a decent while), it's natural for me to go through a third-life crisis at least once a week. Where should I be? What should I be doing? What more is there to life? What's it all about, anyway?

I have to say that I have never been especially ambitious in life. I've never needed to be the top of the heap, never yearned for fame. Money, well... who doesn't want that? This lack of ambition, however, is a double-edged sword, as I've never had anything pushing me in a certain direction.

What do I know? Well, I've never been afraid to explore and move around, although, the older I get, the more I think I really ought to settle down. I can't help but think, though, that all this moving around has done me good. It's made me very open-minded about new situations. The only problem is that I yearn for something different all the time.

I also know that I've always liked solving problems, organizing events, writing articles, and meeting people. I've also always liked technology. Pushing buttons - woohoo! That's me. Show me a big red button, and I want to know immediately what it does. And I'm always the one who wants to know how it all works, and when it breaks, I'm the one hollering for it to be fixed. I have very little patience for people who don't need to have everything working all of the time.

So what am I saying? Well, I think it'd be cool if we could just meet people and trade jobs for a day. Like, constant secondment, a little of this and that here and there. I suppose that would mean that long-term projects would need to be put on hold, and I'd never want to leave anyone hanging. I just like change now and then.

Some countries give you the opportunity to take a career break to try something else. Sometimes, these breaks last a couple of years. I'd take that. My only problem is that I'd want a break every few years. I'm sure there would be a limit.

At this point in my life, I think I'd like to try:

* working in a tv studio, maybe behind the scenes in the control room
* test-knitting for a magazine
* bringing a project from sheep to sweater
* running a B&B
* writing for a knitting or crochet website
* a travel writer, but for countryside retreats
* an event planner with a team of people

Of course, one of the main pressures is my family. My parents paid for an education for me. Surely, I should be using it. My parents want me to be secure and safe. How could I go against those kinds of wishes?

I suppose life takes its own turns, and I should just wait and see what happens. The more proactive thing would be for me to find a goal and work towards it, but that, grasshopper, is the problem. My only goals in life are peace, mental stimulation, and a good laugh daily. Believe it or not, it's the last requirement I have the hardest time with. It's really easy to slip into melancholy.

The rub - wanting what I have right now. In Soak Up the Sun, Sheryl Crow said,

It's not getting what you want
It's wanting what you've got.

Which reminds me of something else - I wish I knew how to look as good on a surfboard as she does!

So, struggle on I will, but not without wistful gazes into the past and into the future.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Could I Spin?

I've been toying with the idea of learning how to spin over the past few months, ever since I went to Alaska. I keep seeing all of the incredible handspun there is out there, AND all the incredible roving as well.

From what I understand, roving is the fleece that has been cleaned, carded and then made into strips, ready to be fed onto a spindle. I'm especially interested in trying out a drop spindle. It's simplicity is really attractive to me, and I like the idea of being able to bring it with me to different parts of the house. Who knows? If I get brave enough, it may accompany me to a coffee shop somewhere!

In my web travels to learn about spinning, I came across a blog by Wind Rose Fiber Studio, in Chandler, Arizona. There are lots of posts about spinning, and I appreciate the stories and personal touch there is to each entry. And, lo and behold, they have an Etsy shop! And wow - was I amazed. It was the first time I'd ever seen soy silk roving anywhere.

It looks like hair, doesn't it? It made me think of Rapunzel, and how it might be like to spin silky smooth hair. What kind of yarn could that become?

Needless to say, my head is now spinning with all of the possibilities. The selection of roving in this shop is certainly helping to fuel the ideas! Here's an unusual colour I haven't seen before - pewter!

I might start off with the Dye Your Own Merino Gift set, an inexpensive kit of dyes, roving and instructions that could help me get over those early kinks of learning to dye my own stuff.

The longer I look at the shop, the more I see how reasonable the prices are, which, for me as a novice, is really, really attractive.

And, the best part? They ship to Canada! Hurray! That alone really makes my day!

I'm tingling with the possibilities!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Little Happy Things

Check out these beauties! These are buttons that I purchased a year or so ago, just as a random purchase from Etsy. I think I was looking for buttons to sew onto a scarf as decoration (which, come to think of it, has yet to materialize), and I stumbled upon these and added them to my collection of crafty beauties!

These buttons are going to look great on my Copycat Sears Cardigan. After much perusal on the great wide web, I think that I will be attaching them by using a clear button on the wrong side for them to anchor onto, and will make sure the shank sits horizontally, and then I will wrap the shank with the thread a few times to prevent it drooping or flopping around. Thanks to TECHknitter who offered that advice on a Ravelry forum. Man, that knitter is a genius! Run, don't walk, to visit that blog. You will not regret it, and you will come away ten times wiser!

Anyway, the Etsy shop that I purchased these buttons from was Buttonsgalore. She is a Canadian Etsy seller from Montreal, and has the most beautiful selection of vintage buttons and SUCH reasonable prices. You think it'll be cheaper to visit Walmart, but after a visit to the fabric section, you find out that it's much harder to get 8 buttons the same type and of the same size for a comparative price. And, well... when I dug these buttons out to take the photo of them above, I decided to pay a little visit to the shop, and... ahem... I'll have a few little presents arriving in a couple of weeks. I'm so weak, but go and have a look, and I'm sure you'll be similarly weakened!

Progress on the Copycat Cardigan continues. I spent a couple of hours the other day trying to make sure I had the right stitch count and, in the mess, I thought I'd made it the increases on the body at the wrong point. I thought, "Well, I'll just make drop those stitches and re-make them a few stitches to the right with a crochet hook." Yeah, right. I started working on them, but then, wow... was that a mistake. It looked awful. And THEN... I discovered that I was actually right the first time. By that time the mistake had turned into a disaster, and was rapidly becoming an emergency. I looked down, sighed, and realized this was one of those lessons to remind me that I am indeed not perfect, and to get the heck over it. So, frog, frog, frog, five very long rows down. Ah well...

I'm having some minor palpitations that I may yet need more wool, but I think I'm just a little shaky after that last repair. Breathe, Adriene... just breathe...

Thursday, October 22, 2009

My Favourite Battles

I spent the last couple of days working on making pockets into a sweater for a first time. It was tough, and seemed complicated, almost impossible, while I was doing it, but I've finally got them in, and can carry on working on the body of the sweater. It's been a nice little victory for me, and it's another skill I can tuck under my belt.

Here is one of the pockets. There will be a ribbed edge added to it later, but it looks pretty darn good at the moment, huh?

In case you were wondering, I used the advice from The Sanguine Gryphon for reference.

I love these little battles I have with my knitting. As tough and as frustrating as it is at the time, it is really the best part of knitting for me. Problem-solving is one of my favourite things, really. Thinking about knitting or crochet "challenges" actually helps me to relax before I fall asleep at night. I've been able to get rid of lots of anxiety doing that. Weird, I know, but it's always been soothing for me. I used to fall asleep thinking of necklace designs. It gives me great pleasure to figure out puzzles and problems. Give me a book of Sudoku puzzles, and I'll see you in a few hours!

You should have seen me making the darn pockets. Since I'm knitting the sweater in seed stitch, it's hard to remember which side is the right side. I kept jumping up to find hoodies and sweaters with pockets so that I could make sure I was making the slant lean to the correct side. Every so often, I'd stop, squint, then put my hands on my sides as though I had pockets on to check again. And then, later, I'd take my piece, flip it over and over and over, again and again, to check again.

I must look like a bit of lunatic when I'm working on something, or thinking about how to make something. I'll often stop, mid-stitch, squint at the air, eyes shifting, imagining how to make this sleeve or that cable stitch... I'll draw pictures in the air with my fingers (usually because I'm not organized enough to carry a sketch pad), or start measuring my arms with my hands to make sure I'm not making a sleeve too long. Sometimes, I'll start counting out random numbers to figure out how to decrease properly. They say it's the first sign of madness... or genius...

I'm reading an Elizabeth Zimmermann book right now, Knitting Without Tears. For those who don't know about her, she is knitting royalty. She passed away not long ago, but her knowledge and techniques are revered, re-written, and dare I say, improved upon over and over, but never without strict reference to the lady who told us to be the boss of our knitting. One of my favourite quotes so far is:

Really, all you need to become a good knitter are wool, needles, hands and slightly below-average intelligence. Of course, superior intelligence, such as yours and mine, is an advantage.

It's a darn good thing, too... because most of the time, I am not the latter!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Longing for Community

I've been in a real melancholy mood for the past week. I've been feeling lonely and jealous of the knitting communities that are out there, but that just don't seem to exist here. I do have a small circle of friends that occasionally get together for a couple of hours here and there, but we're all so busy, that it's hard to make it a regular go. I am grateful for it, but I just get lonely sometimes for other people who will sit and talk about yarnie things with me.

Rhinebeck is going on this weekend, and everyone on Twitter was tagging with #imaginaryrhinebeck. I'm still new to Twitter, but I was longing so much to be there that I just added the tag for the hell of it. Who knows? Maybe someday, I'll be lucky enough to go to one of these legendary fibre festivals and meet other yarnies.

I guess I'm just a little bit bitter, because where I live, there just doesn't seem to be that massive interest in quality crafting. How great would it be if there was even an LYS here! I mean, even in Alaska, in towns where half the town leaves in after the tourist season, and the winter descends in cold and fearsome winds, there are thriving communities, beautiful shops, great knitty things to do together.

I know what some of you are thinking: If you want that, then make it happen. Well, no. I know that I could organize events, build a shop or a club or something, but I'm just not willing. In my other life, I recently left a voluntary board position in a local non-profit, and all my "make it happen" mojo is all burnt out. It just would be nice if there were enough of a community to make it happen.

There are other options, of course. There are knitting retreats going on in Montana in January. I've already committed all my vacation days to Christmas and the like, but I'm sure there will be more in the future. If I organize myself and plan ahead, maybe I can go to one later on next year.

I must go and find my people.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Lacy Skirt - Finished!

Yay! I finished my skirt! I finished it a couple of nights ago, and only got around to taking pictures of it today. I haven't made a drawstring casing or a lining for it yet, but I just slipped it over a black skirt of a similar length so that the details could be seen.

Here is a close-up of the beads. I think they look great! I'm quite proud of this skirt, but I'm not sure I would make another one. I always think I could make two of something BEFORE I start making it. It's always different afterwards!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Sometimes, Love Hurts

It's been a great weekend with lots of good Canadian Thanksgiving food and fun. I had dinner #1 at a friend's house on Friday, then made officially the best stuffing ever yesterday for the turkey dinner at my house last night. It was a good choice doing the turkey-thing on Sunday - everyone could stay late without having to worry about work the next day, and we could all just relax.

I've been plagued all weekend with a stiff neck and shoulders. Unfortunately, the likely cause is all the knitting and crocheting I do. I really don't know what to do about it, apart from having hot baths and regular massages. I try to sit up, try to work my core muscles and keep them strong, but the pain and weariness is still there. When I'm stressed, the muscles in the middle of my back bunch up, so much that, when I do get a massage, they literally pop while the therapist runs her fingers over them. Any suggestions for best practice would be deeply appreciated! Especially since I have no intention if giving up my hobbies!

I'm pretty sure that all crafters experience a bit of pain every so often - eyestrain, carpal tunnel, low back pain. I wonder if anyone has ever done a study on it? I know of older knitters who don't knit anymore because of arthritis in their hands. Am I headed in the same direction?

I feel so lucky sometimes to have this body that has arms that can embrace, hands that can knit and manipulate fine tools, and eyes that can see the tiny details of my work. I need to find ways to keep myself as healthy as possible.

I'm almost finished my Victoria's Secret Skirt. I decided last week that I would work the lower edge in beads, to add a little weight to the hem so that the skirt hangs well, and also to camouflage the slight colour difference at the end of the skirt (see previous post). I was inspired by Rosemary Hill's Waves of Grain (which I also intend to make sometime, probably with the left over Circulo I have from this skirt). I hadn't strung the beads before I started, but I used the technique suggested in the pattern, but required a tiny crochet hook. Well, I thought I had tiny crochet hooks, until I started placing these beads. Then, I realized I needed an even tinier crochet hooks. Off I went to the local Walmart (there is no LYS in this town) for a smaller hook.

First of all, I apologize for the terrible quality of these photos. You just can't take any pictures in my house after sundown without it looking like we live in an FBI interrogation room. Nevertheless, check these out:

The hook on the left is the hook I started placing the beads with, a practically GIGANTIC 1.3mm hook. The hook on the right is the one I bought today, a miniscule 1.0mm. It's amazing the difference it made! Those beads just slid on without any trouble. Now that I think of it, I suppose I could have just made a hook with the beading wire I have from my old jewelry business, but I guess I just felt like a trip to Walmart on a cold day. And hey, I also scored three sets of bamboo needles on sale!

I'm warming up to bamboo needles these days. It's one of those things that I just don't know why anyone would bother until they try. I have a big collection of Boye aluminum needles here, and thought of buying any more just seems ridiculous, but they all have their functions.

Boye and other aluminum alloy needles: multi-purpose, good for big acrylic-blend blankets and some cottons.

Denise Interchangeables
(too lazy for photos, but have a look) - great for seamless sweaters or big blankets, and grip silky and slippery yarns nicely.

Bamboo - also great for gripping the yarn so that it doesn't slide off the needles. I think they'd be great for beginners, although I started with the aluminum ones. A few false starts with some Bernat Organic Cotton had me wishing for them!

There are absolutely multitudes of knitting needles out there, which I won't get into, but until you try them, really, you don't know what you could be missing. There should be a knitting needle "try before you buy" event. I mean, I can test drive a car before I buy it, right?

Perhaps a change in needles might loosen some of the tension I carry with trying to hold the yarn on the needles, especially during a cast on or first row.

Or, I could just get a massage chair! Hey... there's an idea...

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Colour-Mixing and Palettes - or, why I am not an artist

It may surprise you to know that I am relatively unimaginative when it comes to colour (or maybe it doesn't surprise you, and you've just been nice to me all this time). Truth is, I have trouble imagining different colour-combinations, or what items would look like in different colours. It is for this reason that I value Ravelry so much: I can see what other colours people have used with the same pattern.

Recently, I stumbled upon a website called COLOURlovers. Man, if you didn't know anything about colours before, this is the website for you!

At first, I struggled with trying to figure out what this website is all about, and then I realized: duh! It's just about loving colour! And not only that, but sharing ideas about colours, different palettes, different trends, what magazines are using for colours... really, it's an inspirational site about how to give a little oomph to this world. I'm still learning how to use it, but I'm liking what I see so far! Here's a little screen shot of the site:

Is that attractive, or what?

So, all this talk about colours also brings to mind the fact that I had a veritable DICKENS (yes, you heard me) of a time with the skirt that I am currently making. I'm using Anne from Circulo Yarns in a light brown mercerized cotton. I bought three balls of yarn, and checked the dye lots (like you're supposed to), and merrily skipped to my car where my hubby and my dog were waiting, then proceeded to the park...

Fastforward to last Friday. I had switched to the second ball, and noticed that it was slightly darker. Huh. I guessed there was some variation within the dye lots. By Monday, I'd made it two-thirds through the second ball, and then I thought, "I better get that third one out. I'd like to make it longer." So I did. And it was lighter than the second ball. Waaaaaaaaaaait a minute...

I dug out the labels. And guess what? The second ball is of a different dye lot. Aarrrgh...

I went outside with my dog to supervise his evening constitutional (I can't let him out there on his own right now because there's a mouse or something living under the shed, and he is far too interested in being its friend), and while I stood there, shivering, I debated: It'll be ok, right? I mean, they're all light brown. I might not need too much of the third ball. Right?

Well, no. I'd just end up with a dark stripe of fabric in the middle of the skirt. So... a-frogging I went. Sigh.

So really, I can imagine how awful something can look, but unfortunately, I can't imagine how good something might look. Weird.

I'm super-excited, though, because two more balls of wool for my Sears Copycat Cardigan have arrived in the city, my friend will go and pick them up for me, and I'm way more motivated to finish it. THEY'LL be of a different dye lot, but at least I know it, and I can work them in alternately - at least, I IMAGINE I can. Meh. Wish me luck!

Monday, October 5, 2009

If it's got cake in the name, it must be good!

I'm truly drowning in yarn euphoria. Seriously. I hang out in the Ravelry forums, and someone shows off a yarn they've added to their stash, and I'm immediately wondering if I can get some for me. Luckily, my self-control is holding out and I'm sticking to my budget, but wow... I'm loving what's out there. And I feel like congratulating anyone who finds something truly beautiful.

You know what's even better? I've found a second way to enjoy my yarn - winding yarn cakes. Yep... was there ever a better term? It says "yarn", it says "cake"... seriously, I can barely hold back my enthusiasm for it. And, since I bought my nostepinne, I've been able to wind my own. Well, one so far, but it was so cool and so much fun, I may just have to wind all the hanks I've got in my basket!

The one on the right is a yarn cake I bought in Ketchikan, Alaska, during the last docking of our trip. It's Artyarn, from a company called Evilla, in Estonia. The one in the middle is a ball of Kauni, Effektgarn, from Norway, and just LOOK at those colours! Both of those are fingering weight. And the one on the left is the yarn cake I wound from the Rabbit Ridge Sock yarn I bought in Juneau. Not bad for the first time, eh?

The nice thing about yarn cakes, for those who have not yet encountered them, is that they sit nice and flat, while the yarn can be drawn out from the middle. And, you can see any colours that are coming up, without having to guess!

And, not only that, but the Evilla looks something like a yarn burger, too...

... although, probably not that tasty.

Anyway, my restraint has been paying off. My budget is still intact, and I can pay my bills and put some money away, too. I'm quite happy to go and dig through my basket in the evenings, looking at each ball, hank, and skein, and dreaming about all the lovely things I could make from each. I don't need any more right now.

You know, one thing that I've been noticing about myself as I get older, is that too much "stuff" just stresses me out. I mean, I can get pretty feverish when I think about things that are in my possession that I haven't planned for - extra clothes, extra food, extra paper... I don't know why. I think I'm just afraid of things spoiling or getting lost, or just crowding me out. I think it's sort of a form of reverse-hoarding - I must clear out. I won't even go into all the extra jewelry supplies I have left over from my former jewelry business that I want to clear out somehow.

This is the reason that I don't buy in bulk, and I can't shop in places like Costco or any of those "club" warehouses. The surplus stresses me out. I can't handle all that stuff in my space. And sometimes, it actually offends me how much surplus we've got in this country, especially when I think of how little other people have.

Years ago, when I lived in the UK, I watched one of those Comic Relief programs, where celebs went to third world countries to help them get fresh water wells and buildings. There was this old man, who made his living making things out of old oil drums - pots and pans and the like. He lived in a little building, which I hesitate to call a shack, simply because it was quite strong, but very small. One of the volunteers, who was a designer for Changing Rooms, offered to pave his dirt floor for him. The old man was thrilled, and asked him to wait while he moved all this stuff out. And, 20 minutes later, he had. The volunteer said, "You know, we decorate people's living rooms all the time, and it usually takes us a couple of hours to move everything out. And look - there's all the possessions this man has in the world, right there." A hammer. A saw. A blanket. A hammock. A few pots and pieces. But they are his. And that's all he needs.

Now, I know I'm putting my self-righteous hat on right now, and the size of my stash might beg to differ. Really, I know that I could give away almost everything I own and still be ok. What I'm getting at is that, while I might benefit from purchases and have lots of nice things and lots of conveniences as a result, nothing bad can happen if I don't buy something. All that will happen is that I won't be responsible for another thing on this planet, and I'll have more money to travel, to save for the future, to retire someday. And then, when I do buy something, I can truly be thankful for it, and enjoy it all the more.

Especially if it has the word "cake" in it.