13 December 2010

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel...

It's December. The weather feels warm-ish. I can get away with a sweater, mitts, and maybe a scarf. If it's not raining I don't need a hat. Fortunately we are spending Christmas with the in-laws in Quesnel, where it is expected to be down to -19 by the end of the week, complete with at least some snow. I'm looking forward to it, although before I bought our bus tickets I was panicking about the trip north. Now I am resigned to the will of Providence. Hooray for eleven hours on a bus. We leave a couple days before Christmas, so if I really need to knit myself another winter hat, I do have time. Mittens might be a better investment, since I do have several hats already. And there's this sweater I want to finish. I haven't finished the Christmas shopping yet, either.

I always feel ambivalent about Christmas. There's the pretty decorations, and the food, and the music. The goofy movies about the Christmas. There's the greed. The stress. The guilt. The worry. The futile search to restore the sense of magic we felt during Christmas as children, and the let-down that follows when we realize it's never going to be the same.

And there's Advent, which has become, in recent years, one of the most important aspects of the Christmas season for me. This sense of waiting in anticipation, not for Santa Claus, not for the presents, but for Christ.

I don't talk much about religion on here, but as it is an important part of who I am, it didn't seem so out-of-place, when this is what's been on my mind.

We Christians (well, some of us, I can't speak for all of us), during this season, remember the first coming of Christ, and look forward to the second. We harken back to the years before his coming, to that yearning for God's salvation. And we renew our sense of wonder every year, when, on Christmas Day, we retell the story. "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us." The chasm between God and man was finally bridged.

And so, despite the stress of the season, and despite some of the darker days I've had earlier this month, I keep returning to a sense of peace. I keep thinking about this Mystery: Christ has died...Christ has risen...and Christ will come again.

30 November 2010

the return of an old obsession

It is rare that I follow along with the trends in popular culture, mostly because I don't pay attention to them. I did read the Twilight books out of curiousity. But now I'm going with a book trend that was popular several years ago (yes, it's still popular, there's just not a waiting list that numbers into the hundreds for the library now). Yep. I'm reading Harry Potter.

I did read the first three books some years ago. I think I read the first one shortly after the third came out, and then read the second and third ones. I really enjoyed them and my parents were happy to let me read them, although my mum didn't think much of them. The third one definitely gave me nightmares (and I suppose reading it in one fell swoop didn't help that), but I waited eagerly for the fourth book to come out and got it at the library as soon as I could.

I started reading. I zoomed through the Quidditch match and the return to Hogwarts and then came up against the chapter where the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher shows them some particularly nasty curses, maybe one-quarter of the way into the book. He demonstrates the killing curse that was used on Harry's parents. Only a spider dies, but I didn't care. I slammed the book shut, horrified by the scene. I took the book back to the library, and didn't finish it. I didn't read the next three books. The only movies I watched were the first two. I ended up selling my copy of the first book, and giving my copy of the third book to my cousin, desperate to get the creepiness of the Dementors out of my room. My imagination has always been apt at creating scenarios for my mind to go over, both while I am awake, and while I am asleep, and I couldn't stop thinking about the scarier aspects of the stories.

That was quite a while ago. I am still careful about what I read and watch, but I am less fearful than I was then. I can handle more things. There are episodes of Fringe which I never finished watching because the violence in them was too disturbing, and there's an episode of Buffy which I haven't re-watched. But I can see the line between fantasy and reality more clearly now.

A friend whose field is literary criticism loves the Harry Potter books. She's writing her thesis on them. She's so enthusiastic about the stories that I decided to give them another chance. I put a hold on the fourth book, it came in more quickly than I expected, and I read it Friday night (and yes, I probably should have been sleeping or working on a paper, but these things happen). I'd forgotten that the books were funny. I'd forgotten that I liked the characters.

Now, since, for some reason, the waiting list for the fifth book is longer than it is for the others, I'm wondering if the thrift store or the used bookstore would have a copy of it. The urge to track down a copy of book five is pretty strong. I'd forgotten that the books had this sort of pull to them. The Twilight books were similar, in that I wanted to read to the end very quickly (I suppose my tendency to wait until the entire series is out before I read the really popular books is helpful that way), but it's a very different feel. I can poke a few holes in Harry Potter here and there (I still don't get why they don't integrate their world into the Muggle world more), but the writing's much more solid and there's almost something addicting about it.

Some things haven't changed. I still think that parents should be careful about letting their kids read these books. My parents trusted me to know when I needed to stop, which I was pretty good at, but I know not every kid is good at that. And after the first two or three in the series, I really feel that these aren't for children. I think I'm actually enjoying the series more this time around, as an adult, than I did when I was in my early teens and reading them for the first time. Now, if I finish my paper, I can go out and see if book five is at one of the local used bookstores.

22 November 2010

The weather has changed for the colder. Last week, I'd made plans to head down to UBC on Saturday and do some research at their phenomenal library (first time I went there I drooled all over the place), and I went in spite of the snow and the cold. The UBC Campus (or what I saw of it) was really pretty all covered in snow. The view from the Skytrain of all the houses with snow on their roofs was pretty, too.

I left early in the morning, and when I finally got on the bus to UBC, I put away my knitting and spent some time people-watching. I love watching people on the bus. It's fascinating to wonder what their stories are. I also love to see what people are wearing. I may need to knit a hooded scarf sometime. It looked warm.

I read and took notes until I couldn't concentrate anymore. I found a great facsimile edition of a book originally published in 1655 which provided me with some historical data I needed, and a fantastic treatment of my topic in a different theory that suggests a possibility I need to explore. Everything else I looked at was interesting, but those were the two that seemed most significant.

On the way back into the city, I made a couple of stops. Conveniently, Urban Yarns and Gina Brown's were both on the bus route I was taking, and I hadn't been to either one. I stopped off at Urban Yarns first, did some browsing, and picked up a couple skeins of yarn (Louet sock yarn and Cascade Fixation). Then I went into the bookstore across the street to see if they had a book I've been trying to find for my brother for Christmas. They didn't, so I hopped on the next bus and got off at the stop for Gina Brown's. By the time, I was in need of lunch, so I just admired their wall of Cascade 220 and got some yarn for J.'s Space Invaders scarf. Then I found some food, and, on my walk to the next bus stop, wandered into a tiny bookstore which had the book I was looking for.

My long journey back home wasn't quite so much fun as the trip out. I ended up in a Skytrain car with a lot of noisy teenagers and the beginnings of a migraine. My hands were tired from writing, so I didn't feel like pulling out my knitting. I just huddled there and counted the number of pairs of Ugg boots I could see in the car (a dozen: apparently all teenage girls are wearing them this year). I still don't get their appeal.

But most of the day was a good day. Good reading, good visits to yarn stores. Even some good work on the heel of my sock (I have turned the heel and begun the gusset).

Now, off to do more reading.

14 November 2010

the writing process

A couple of days ago I realized that I hadn't posted anything in a while. I think about posting. I'll even start writing. Then I get stuck or decide not to finish the post right now and by the time I remember it, a week has gone by.

In between everything else lately, I have been getting a good deal of writing done. Inspiration strikes when it will, and I spent the other morning, on a day when I wasn't busy, writing down a story. I don't know if it'll go anywhere farther than the dozen pages I have so far, but it was an enjoyable process.

Years ago I started writing a trilogy. I know, there's probably hundreds, if not thousands, of us, the ones who wrote trilogies in high school. But I wrote it for the sake of telling the characters' stories, not because I wanted other people to read it. While I'd love to get it published someday, the whole thing is in a constant state of revision. I wrote the first draft and then let it sit for years, coming back to it every few months and making minor tweaks here and there. Sometime last year I took a good long look at it and said, "What the hell was I thinking?" and cut the entire second book of the trilogy (It was weird. Like, really, really weird and strange). I chopped the first book in half, and turned that into the second book of the trilogy. This helped a lot, although it meant that quite a few things had to be changed. I realized that one of my principal characters wasn't well-characterized, compared to the others, so he's getting fleshed out. I'm re-writing the beginning of the first book at the moment, because it moved far too slowly, given the pacing in the rest of the story.

It's funny...I used to hate changing major aspects of this story. Now I see it as entirely necessary. I think perhaps I had to let it sit for a time so that I could mature enough to be willing to change things. The characters haven't changed much, although I'm (hopefully) making them more interesting. But I'm willing to re-adjust the plot for the sake of the story, which I wasn't willing to do seven years ago.

I hit a turning point with it last week (or was it the week before?). I was at my desk, doing reading, first for my thesis, and then for a class. I needed to take a break, and it was as though I was coming up for air. Concentrated reading always feels like that for me. I had to do something else, but the building was eerily quiet because it was late in the day, and I had an evening class that didn't start for a couple of hours, so there was no one around to talk with. I'd forgotten to bring a knitting project. So instead, I pulled up one of the books on my laptop, and started reading, thinking I'd do a little editing.

But instead, I read. I read and I was enjoying the story.

That was new for me. I've read over old papers, and either wanted to rail at my old self for writing such drivel, or been impressed that I wrote something decently cohesive (My academic writing style has been forced to develop rapidly in the last few years and while it's far from perfect, when I write academically, I worry more about what I'm saying than how I'm saying it, because that part's pretty automatic now). With my fiction...I can change it if I don't like it, and usually when I'm reading it over, it's with editing in mind. I haven't stopped to look at it objectively. This time, I got caught up in the story and forgot to edit.

I'm no genius, certainly, but it wasn't half-bad.

So now I'm writing with a different purpose in mind. I haven't handed it over to anyone to read since I was near the beginning of the first draft, which was at least ten years ago (argh, you think I'd have finished it properly by now, but no, of course not). Once I get the first chapters sorted out again, there's a couple of people whom I'm actually going to ask to read it. I've been scared to do that because I'm afraid they'll tell me it's rubbish. Maybe so. Maybe not. But for once, I actually want to find out.

28 October 2010

handspun


This is what happened to the BFL roving I bought during Yarn Harvest. I spun it up on my wheel and then plied it. It ranges from worsted to bulky weight, and I have three small skeins which total about 170 yards. I love the way it turned out. It's a soft red with bits of white and a shade verging on black in it. You'd think it'd look like candy-cane yarn, because of the red and the white, but it doesn't. Instead, it reminds me more of warmth. Not fire, because the red isn't orange enough for that, but when I look at it, I think of fire and heat.

It's very gratifying to be producing yarn that I feel confident about knitting with. I'm even decently happy with my plying job, although I think that's going to take more practice, too. Right now I don't have anything on the wheel. I have the last ball of some purple merino that needs plying on my Turkish spindle, and I have some of the Wensleydale roving on my top-whorl spindle. There's also some blue merino that I'll be starting on the wheel when I've finished those.

In the meantime, I have other things which need to be done. My cold's getting better. I woke up in the middle of the night last night and suddenly I could breathe. My voice is still a little rough, I'm still a bit congested, but I feel way better than I did yesterday.

27 October 2010

home sick

When I was a kid, I used to think it'd be nice to get sick and have to spend all day in bed and not have to do school (since we homeschooled, getting sick meant getting out of homework). I'd read about it in books--kids who got sick and got to stay home and have lunch in bed and read books all day. Once in a while I'd day-dream about how nice it'd be.

Then when I got my wish, I realized it wasn't so great as I'd thought it might be. I remember one day in particular. I was thirteen. That morning we were scheduled to go visit a school that my parents were thinking of sending my brother and me to the next year. I'd had a sore throat for a couple of days, and I woke up that morning with a case of tonsillitis. I got to stay in bed and eat lunch in my room, and read through T.A. Barron's entire series on the Lost Years of Merlin, but it wasn't that much fun, because my tonsils felt like they were on fire. Four and a half years later, when I finally got referred to a specialist who took one look at my tonsils and said they needed to come out, I refused to skip more than one day of school for the surgery (and the day I got them out, I made it through a pre-calc midterm and French class before heading off to the surgery center, skipped dance class that night and writing class the next morning, spent the weekend eating jello, and went back to school on Monday, and then the next weekend, I supervised preschoolers at the Thanksgiving retreat at the camp I'd worked at the summer before...and yes, it was rather hellish and I probably should have skipped a couple more days of school and really shouldn't have volunteered to baby-sit small children when I couldn't take my medicine while watching them because I didn't want to be high from the painkillers while making sure they didn't eat the crayons).

All this to say, I'm home sick today. It's just a cold. But it's the kind of miserable cold that comes with a sore throat, clogged sinuses, and the inability to sleep deeply because I need to breathe. It's not fun. I'm exhausted and lightheaded and I can't fall asleep and it seems like I'm cold no matter how many layers I'm wearing and I'm sure I've gone through most of a box of kleenex. I called in sick, since spreading more germs around and sneezing and sniffling my way through class tonight are not my idea of fun (the prof I TA for agreed; besides, I might make everyone else sick and that's no good). The hope is that by taking today off, I'll be able to function tomorrow. It's too bad I'm too sick to enjoy having a nice quiet day at home.

But I do remember how much fun it sounded like when I was a kid. Like a day off that you had to take. But it's even less fun when no one's around to look after you. It isn't romantic, like in The Secret Garden or any of those other books. It's just bleah.

21 October 2010

Halloween

One of the few things I like about Halloween is the candy corn. It's colourful, it's sweet, and it's relatively cheap. I'm sure it's full of all sorts of things I oughtn't to be eating, but I don't really care.

Halloween wasn't a huge thing when I was a kid. Sometimes we went trick-or-treating, sometimes we did something else. I think the years we did something else were less about being opposed to Halloween for various moral reasons (like some people we knew), and more about the fact that my parents didn't feel like getting four kids dressed up and walking them around the neighbourhood after dark so they could collect free candy which would then make them hyper. And whether or not we did go trick-or-treating, my grandparents always gave each of us a decent-sized bag of candy.

Add to that the fact that I was a very fearful child, prone to weeping if someone mentioned death (like the time my brother started talking about how the sun was going to blow up in a million years, and my parents tried to reassure me by telling me that we'd all be dead by then anyway. That didn't help). Halloween, where everything that terrified me was celebrated, wasn't bound to seem that great. Spiders, ghosts, skeletons...none of them made me happy. The candy part was fun but the rest of it wasn't.

So the years we skipped Halloween and did something else were actually kind of nice. More interesting than if we'd wandered around the neighbourhood collecting candy. If we had a party, my parents based it on whatever we were studying in history at the time. So once we had a medieval feast. Another time we had a mountain man rendezvous, complete with spitting contest. By the time I was in high school, we just didn't go trick-or-treating. Instead, we stayed home, made homemade doughnuts, and listened to "The War of the Worlds." One year I went to a friend's house for their annual Halloween party, where we watched Alfred Hitchcock and ate caramel apples.

We didn't always stay home, though. We did go trick-or-treating a number of times. I remember the neighbours who handed out fruit snacks and tracts. I wasn't impressed with them. I was impressed by the people who were handing out king-size butterfinger bars one year. I don't remember a whole lot about the kinds of costumes I wore. Once I was a princess. Another time I was Pippi Longstocking. I remember one of my brothers going as Spock one year.

Instead of going to the Halloween party at school my first year of university, my friends and I went Christmas-carolling. I'm not sure whose idea that was, but it did get us some candy. Something to do with people thinking we were funny.

Over the years I've ended up at the odd Halloween party, but it turns out I'm not much of a party girl. I'm sure buying my own candy doesn't really have the same thrill as getting it from strangers, but it's a lot more practical. Plus I can buy the kind I actually like (no more Snickers bars!). I'm a lot less fearful than I was as a kid; one of my favourite TV shows is Buffy the Vampire Slayer. But I still don't love Halloween. I just like the candy corn.

09 October 2010

It's been a busy few weeks, so I haven't been much in the mood for writing on here. A lot's been happening, but I don't really feel like writing about my thesis, since I do enough talking about it already. Nor do I feel like boring the few people who read this with details of literacy class (although literacy itself is not a dull topic).

I'm not really sure what to write about. Between school and work, I don't have as much time for knitting as I did over the summer, but I am managing to work on a few things. My Amelia sweater is still in progress. I've started the sleeves, but I have a couple more inches to go on the sweater body before I have to attach the sleeves and start the raglan decreases.

I don't recall if I mentioned the scarf I've been working on. It's red and the pattern is interesting. I'm trying to work through about 50 grams of fingering weight yarn. I'm knitting until the scarf is the length I want, or until I run out of yarn, whichever comes first.

And next week I start on a new shawl project for a KAL. I'm a little unclear as to how many of us are doing this particular shawl, but I know that I'm doing it. It's gorgeous and I'll write about it once I've started knitting it.

In the meantime, I should get back to work on something. Knitting, writing up literacy homework, or reading more Anna Wierzbicka. I absolutely love the book I'm reading right now. She's got some fantastic things to say. And I'm learning to love semantics, which is good.

26 September 2010

Sadly, I don't have pictures of these, because the camera's out of batteries right now, but I got some fun fiber yesterday during Yarn Harvest.

My team (Team Grand Tour) made it to seven stores. My budget being limited, I was only able to purchase a few things. At Black Sheep I got some hemp yarn. I'm excited about this. I haven't knit with hemp in a while and I like its texture. It is cinnamon-coloured. Then, when we went to Sweet Georgia (it was like walking into a rainbow!), I got 50 grams of Wensleydale roving in blue and green. I had to have it as soon as I saw the word "Wensleydale" on the tag. It reminded me of Wallace and Gromit. And then, at our next-to-last stop, Knitopia, I picked up about 125 grams of BFL (Blue-Faced Leicester) roving in cherry red with hints of white and black.

And with that final purchase, that was my budget for the day. I didn't really want to spend a lot--I was more interested in seeing what the shops had, since I don't usually travel very far afield to buy fiber. I would have liked to buy something at Penelope Fiber, because she has a fantastic selection of roving, but that'll just have to wait for the next time I get out to White Rock. And last time I went to her shop, I bought some merino that I haven't finished pre-drafting yet (I'm turning into a pre-drafting maniac---it makes spinning a lot easier). Turns out a couple hundred grams is actually a pretty good-sized amount of wool.

So in the meantime, I've started the BFL roving on my spinning wheel, and the Wensleydale roving on my top-whorl spindle. The Wensleydale is, of course, a longwool and has a decent amount of crimp in it. It spins up very easily, and my goal for this is to ply it so it will self-stripe fairly well.

And with that, I'm off to bed. I'm tired.

06 September 2010

Today being Labor Day, I cleaned the stove-top. Haven't finished cleaning the rest of the kitchen yet, but I will.

My knitting projects are coming along. The pair of socks that's been on the needles for far too long is nearly finished, and I'm coming up to the waist ribbing on my cardigan. The lace doily is at the stage where I have over a hundred stitches in a single round, and 100+ stitches in laceweight on 2 mm needles takes time. I've already accidentally dropped a few stitches that then had to be rescued. But I am getting to the outer edges of the lace pattern (at this point it isn't difficult, just time-consuming).

This week I have to do some sewing, though, rather than a lot of knitting. This will probably have to wait until tomorrow, after my sister-in-law gets her stuff out of our spare room (she came down too early to be let into her dorm at school and has left some of her luggage with us for the time being). Her stuff is in front of the sewing machine right now and I don't feel like moving it since it'll be gone tomorrow anyway.

On Saturday, we were helping J.'s other sister and her husband pack up a truck of their stuff to put into storage before they headed back overseas again, and they asked me to hem up a dress that they'd brought for my sister-in-law's husband's mother, since it's too long. And then, as they were getting rid of a lot of stuff, my sister-in-law let me go through all the clothes she was getting rid of and take the ones I wanted home. I now have what amounts to a new wardrobe, mostly in shirts and jackets and sweaters. There's a pair of really nice dress pants that need to be re-hemmed (hence needing to use the sewing machine). Most of it is the sort of thing one would wear to an office, which is great for me. I've been slowly turning my wardrobe into one with things a grown-up would wear for an office sort of job. Although, since one of the hand-me-downs was a Homestar Runner hooded sweatshirt, my wardrobe isn't entirely grown-up yet (I couldn't pass that up, since I was a devoted watcher of Homestar Runner and Teen Girl Squad five or six years ago).

I've been wanting to get some of my quilting things back out and finish a quilt top that I haven't been working on for a while. I have 2 out of 8 rows finished right now, and a lot of pieces cut out to make into the third row. I like quilting, but I don't like the piecing part of it as much. I like the quilting part--the bit where you sew all the layers of the quilt together in pretty patterns. So I really should get to the point where I can do that.

As it is raining today, I definitely need to go for a walk, probably very soon. I love walking in the rain, even though then I usually get soaked and have to come home and take a hot shower and drink hot tea to warm myself back up.

27 August 2010

Naturally, after I posted about my life getting better, it all went to hell. I had several of my bad days in a row, complete with careening into a doorknob and then jumping up and down because my arm hurt from the doorknob and then making my ankle hurt from the jumping up and down (that was Wednesday). There were a few spots of good stuff. I'm starting to feel more on the mend this evening, but am reluctant to trust it, given what happened last time--I felt pretty decent again and then all of sudden, spiralled back down into whatever it is that's not working quite right. But, list of good things:

1. I ran across some walking trails through a marshy park near here that I had realized existed (I knew about the marshy park but not the trails). They are pretty.

2. I got a copy of the pattern for the Ranunkel doily by Herbert Niebling from Doilyhead, and am working my way through it. I like it very much so far. I'm on row 18 out of 40. I have never knit a doily before, nor have I really seen much use for one (I have some crocheted ones made by my great-grandmother, and they live safely in a box so they won't be damaged), since I much prefer coasters and trivet-tile things for setting stuff on, but something about Niebling's patterns makes me want to knit doilies. Maybe it's just that I need something complicated to do.

3. Had to go to the bookstore today, and when rummaging through the sale books, found Diana Wynne Jones' House of Many Ways in hardcover for $6.99, but when I got up to the till, I was told that it had been further discounted and was now a whopping $2.00. A toonie for a brand-new hardcover Diana Wynne Jones book? Sweet. (Why don't they ever do that with the knitting books?)

4. It poured down rain today, which improved my mood no end.

5. And finally, I'm sitting here with a fresh hot cup of tea and just-out-of-the-oven ginger cookies.

So I'll risk saying it...life would seem to be getting better again.

23 August 2010

This summer has felt, weirdly, like a summer in Limbo. You know, that's the shadowy in-between place that isn't hell but it's not purgatory either. You're just stuck there, with no chance of moving foward. Granted, the days go by, so time moves on. It just hasn't felt much like that for me over the last month or two. We moved and then it seemed as though life slowed down. Or, at least, I spiralled into something where it felt like nothing was moving, and all I could do was get through a single day at a time. Sometimes I'm still in that place, and some days are better than others. So far this is a fairly decent day.

However, life seems to be getting back into motion again. The countdown to when classes and my job start up again has turned into a couple weeks, rather than a couple months. I'm both nervous and excited, since my job at the school this fall involves working with actual people, rather than shelving books. I'm also starting my thesis. That should be fun, but it's an intimidating project. I suppose it's a good thing that I have more than one semester to finish it.

I'm still knitting like a maniac. I have a shawl I want to finish up this week, as it's a gift. There's a sweater I want to finish within the next month or so. And of course, there's the list of projects I want to knit. Seems like every time I take something off the list, I add something new. One of the newest items is a Herbert Niebling doily. Just because I want to be able to say I've knit one. There are some Christmas gifts to knit, too. I promised my mother a pair of socks, and I've had the yarn for them since July. There are some small-ish shawls I want to knit for various grandmothers, and if anyone else gets knitted gifts, they'll probably be dishcloths.

Now I need to get back to the kitchen, since there's a cake that requires frosting. I promised J. a cake since it's our anniversary, and a cake isn't a cake unless it's been properly assembled.

07 August 2010

The rain came back! I looked out the window this morning and the lower mainland I love has returned (although, according to the weather forecast, just for a couple days, then it's going to get hot again).

I finished my Ballet Camisole a couple days ago. It turned out well. It actually fits, for one thing, unlike the Askew top I knit last summer, which didn't. I had the good sense to shorten the armholes by an inch on each side, so the neckline is low but not plunging. The only problem I can see is that I wore it outside yesterday, when it was still sunny, and forgot to put on sunscreen. It reveals just a tad more skin around my neck than anything else I have, so now I have a lovely bright red sunburn.

The sunburn's just in time for that wedding I'm in next Friday. Hopefully it'll fade by then.

The spinning is going well--I spun up a couple bobbins-worth of single-ply, and now I'm plying it into a 2-ply, which fills the bobbin up very quickly. Plying isn't difficult, but fine-tuning it is. Now that I have a spinning wheel, I'll have to learn how to Navajo-ply. I'm guessing that's more complicated but probably worth it. I think I'll want to refine my technique with the single-ply first, though. It's still messier than I'd like, but I think some of that is due to the wool. I'm using some of the Clun Forest wool I bought last year (something like 200 g for $6, so I bought it for practicing with). It's much rougher than some of the other ones I've tried (so far, just BFL, Corriedale, and merino) and there's still lanolin in it. But practicing with it before I move on to the merino seems like a good idea. I think I might use the yarn for a teacosy when I'm done with it, because the teapot doesn't mind having rough wool against it.

Speaking of tea, a cup of tea sounds lovely. I'm going to go make one.

03 August 2010

We have been living with sunshine and no rain for what seems like far too many weeks. I seem to be one of the few people who prefers the cloudy, rainy skies to the bright sunshine (although at least one of my friends is a kindred spirit in this regard, so we can complain about the sunshine to each other). I don't hate sunshine, but the heat and I are not friends. I feel like a wilting plant when it's hot outside.

Today, I walked to the library, and the sky was clouded over, but it was hot and humid. By the time I came out of the library, it had started to rain. I walked home in the rain, delighted with it. Sadly, our little cloudburst lasted a very short time, and soon the muggy heat was back. But there was rain. I got wet in it, I looked up at the sky and let the rain fall on my face. I felt renewed. Autumn will come, and bring with it the cool, damp weather I love. And that time is not so very far away.

02 August 2010

introducing the spinning wheel

This is Caitlin. I briefly posted yesterday, mostly to get pictures I could put up on Ravelry while I was asking a tech question. But here she is, in the living room, by the balcony.

And here she is in the spare bedroom/study/storage room/place where all the craft junk ends up. She has an eighteen-inch flywheel, and stands, at the tallest, about 35 inches. If you don't count the bit that looks like a distaff (I don't know if it is or if it's just meant to be decorative), she's somewhere between 28-30 inches tall.

According to my research, Caitlin is a bobbin-lead spinning wheel. There is no marking visible on the wheel, so I don't know where she was made. I do know that she was a fairly decent bargain, as most spinning wheels I've seen on eBay have been over twice what this was and we only had to replace the hooks on the flyer assembly. Also I need to buy a washer or two tomorrow because the bobbin slides forward a tad and then the fibre wraps around the spindle shaft. Other than that, she needed cleaning, and the spindle shaft had to be twisted back to its proper position so the hole for the orifice was actually visible. That's it.

I wasn't actually in the market for a spinning wheel, given how expensive they usually are. The last time I'd seen a used one for sale locally, it was at an antique shop, and then it was a couple hundred bucks. It was very pretty, but it would have been impractical at the time, and I don't even know if it was in working order. I was pretty happy with my drop spindles, although I wasn't really looking forward to spinning up some beautiful blue merino I bought at Christmas on my spindle, given that there was a decent amount of it. I haven't been doing much spinning over the last few months, but I'm slowly making my way through some purple merino using my top-whorl spindle. I love spinning but between school and moving and everything else, it's been easier to shelve it for a while and just knit.

J. dropped by Salvation Army on his way home from the produce store on Saturday, noticed the spinning wheel, and told me about it when he got home. We did the practical "can we afford it?" bit before I went to look at it, then we bought it and brought it home. I've been practicing treadling, and I started trying to spin when I ran into the problem of the bobbin moving a bit. That'll be fixed tomorrow and then I can practice properly. I have some practice wool I bought last year and there was a decent amount left over from my practicing with it on the drop spindle.

My efforts so far have not been encouraging, as coordinating treadling and handling the fiber is not as easy as it looks. I'm so used to the vertical aspect of spindling that feeding the fiber in horizontally feels very strange. A decent amount of practice should fix that, though.

In the meantime, it is getting late. Good night!

01 August 2010

new member of the family

Look what we found at Salvation Army! It's not in working order yet because it's missing the orifice, but I'm working on fixing that. Hopefully, in a few days, it'll be useable.

25 July 2010

creative process

I've been writing again. I go through periods, where the stories and the characters insist on being written, though I sit down at least once a week and try to do some writing, regardless of inspiration. I've been writing a lot more this last week. I feel like I'm moving out of my darker moods to somewhere else, and being in this in-between stage has made me want to write. I've been revising, filling in parts that I hadn't written yet in one story, and working on another I'd barely started just to explore the characters. That one isn't terribly good, but the characters just won't go away.

But the longing to write something solid hit me tonight. I was listening to some music and I realized, that, although in much of what I write, I make my characters unhappy on their journey, I do bring them to happy endings. But the endings I admire and find satisfying when I read are not by necessity happy ones. I love happy endings, I do, but when an author chooses the happy ending over the better one, I am disappointed. I was unaccountably annoyed with the end of the Harry Potter series, for example. When I watched Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog for the first time, I was stunned by the ending. It was the better ending, so, although I was sad that Penny died, I liked the story all the more for its tragic ending. I loved Sunshine because so much was left unresolved at the end.

There's a story I was playing around with a few months ago, and I had a beginning, an end, and a decent idea of the middle. But I really had several endings, and I didn't know which one to choose, and was dreadfully afraid that I wouldn't choose the best one. I thought of writing them all. I started on the happy ending. Looking it over tonight, I realized that the better ending is the less happy one. It makes more sense, for one thing. So now I have a beginning, and an end, and I have to fill in the middle. But it feels right. It feels better than it did when I started with the other ending. This is the story it wants to be.

18 July 2010

I finished the Peacock Tail and Leaf Scarf a few days ago (no pictures yet) and started on the Ballet Camisole. After some swatching, I learned that I needed to use the needles that were in use on the scarf for the camisole, so I spent all my knitting time working on the scarf and finally finished it. It is lovely, although I screwed up a little bit on the edging. The Kauni yarn I used shifted from red to darker red and back to the lighter red, etc. Since it had looked like the centre of the ball was the lighter red, I thought I'd be fine knitting both edgings from the lighter red on the outside. Sadly, the very centre was actually the darker red, so it looks a little off. Not enough to make me want to unravel and fix it, but enough that I've learned my lesson for next time. I ended up with a total of 33 repeats. Next shawl on the list is the Miralda Shawl, from the same book. I also want to do Madli's Shawl with some pink laceweight I found at the thrift store (definitely some type of animal fibre, based on the burn test--think it might be a wool blended with alpaca or some other fluffy-type fibre). That one will be a Christmas gift, I think, although I like the pattern enough to knit another for myself sometime.

The Ballet Camisole is knit from the bottom up, in one piece until the armholes. I'm a little over half-way through the waist-shaping decreases right now. I don't usually enjoy knitting stockinette in the round, especially with solid coloured yarn, but this isn't so bad. The next couple sweater projects on the list use worsted-weight, but since this sport-weight one isn't so hard, I might give a fingering-weight sweater a try sometime, too. I have promised to knit J. an Aran sweater this winter (yes, he specifically requested it, I shouldn't be invoking the sweater curse), so a fingering weight sweater for me may have to wait until next summer.

Other news...we went hiking with some friends yesterday. I couldn't move very well last night after that and was pretty out of it earlier today. It was fun but exhausting. And with that, good night.

06 July 2010

I'm currently making very good progress on a scarf/wrap, and not-so-good progress on a pair of socks. I also cast on for my lovely angora sweater, but I doubt I'll be spending much time on it for a few weeks. It is very warm, and there's a summer top I want to knit and wear before the summer is over.

The scarf is the Peacock Tail and Leaf Scarf from Knitted Lace of Estonia. It's a fairly easy ten-row repeat, so I have the main chart for the pattern memorized. I've modified it slightly (can't seem to help myself), and instead of working nupps in the centre of the leaves, I'm putting on beads with a crochet hook. I'm somewhere around 15 or 16 repeats of the main chart. The pattern calls for 32, but I will do less, or more, depending on when the yarn runs out. I've knit the edging for the end already, so I just have to make sure there's enough left to graft it on.

The socks are a pattern I've planned to knit for a long time, and in a colourway I love. But the lace is so much fun that I've barely been working on the socks. Since it's supposed to hit 30 tomorrow, I don't really feel the need to work on wool socks.

Which is, of course, why I'm going to start a summer top. I'm using the Ballet Camisole pattern, because it's pretty and simple. I might add cap sleeves, but I'll have to see how it looks first without them. The yarn I'm going to use is Berroco NaturLin. I wanted to get it in a shade of dark pink they call "beetroot" but since 88 Stitches was out of that colour, I got "cinnamon" instead, which is one of the many shades of brown that I like (yes, much of my clothing is brown). It really does look like cinnamon, though. I think I might cast on tonight.

30 June 2010

Bunnies

(Photo by NCP)

Some years ago (eight, maybe nine?), my youngest brother's pleadings for a rabbit paid off. My parents caved and began the rabbit search. Why on earth a family with a beagle would think that buying a rabbit is a good idea is beyond me. Fortunately, there was a method to the madness. That year, my brother got a black and white Rex rabbit for his birthday. His name is Joshua, and he is adorable. Rexes are good-sized rabbits, and their fur is incredibly soft. Petting him is a little like petting a skein of cashmere. He and the dog, Albert, actually got along pretty well, partly because we only let them be loose in the same room with a lot of supervision. When the dog died some years later, and my parents got another beagle, the puppy, Southwell, was delighted to find that there was someone his size in the house. He kept trying to get into rabbit's cage, not to eat the rabbit, but to eat the rabbit's food. Joshua, by this time, was middle-aged and not thrilled with this. His favourite pastimes are hopping around the laundry room or the backyard, nibbling on things and rubbing them with his chin. He was very fond of me, but then I moved away. Whenever I'm back for a visit, he's happy to see me, though.

Now, I hadn't really realized, until I started knitting, that you could actually find yarn made of rabbit fur. I hadn't tried it before, seeing it as one of those fluffy yarns that are a nightmare to frog. I've branched out a bit. I swore once I'd never want to knit with mohair. Now I have three balls of mohair in my stash. One went into a pair of mittens, as the liners. The outer layer is Manos del Uruguay. They are impressively warm. The pattern is Sheltie, by Robin Melanson, from Knitting New Mittens and Gloves.
The other two are going to be a pair of striped mitts, based on the ones Alice wears in the new Alice in Wonderland movie. I'm considering using the same stuff I used for the mittens (SandnesGarn Kitten Mohair) for a sweater. After knitting with it and trying the mittens on, I'm fairly sure it doesn't irritate my skin. Alpaca has a tendency to itch a little bit for me unless it's the nice, expensive kind, and that was the fluffiest yarn I'd use on a regular basis.

I've given a cashmere blend a try and loved it but cursed the yarn when I had to frog back a row, and discovered, after wearing the cashmere mitts I'd knit, that it was like wearing a furnace on my hands. I'm unlikely to knit a cashmere sweater because I get hot and cold easily. During the school year, I get warmed up on the walk from the bus stop to the classroom (it's a decent walk, after all), so I take off my sweater, hang it on the back of my chair, put my scarf, mitts, and hat on top of my backpack, and then by the end of an hour-long class, since the rooms are always cold, even in winter, I'm wearing it all again. Cashmere is probably not the best idea for me since it's so drastically warm.

Anyway, all this to say that I hadn't tried knitting with angora. It was a fluffy yarn, which I had sworn to stay away from, and it didn't really appeal to me. I've seen angora bunnies, and am forced to admit that they are adorable, although they look a little funny with all that fluff. If we had a rabbit, it probably wouldn't be an angora, but you never know.

I was at the thrift store yesterday, and as is my habit, I wandered through the sweater section, touching sweaters and wondering why so many sweaters are made of really heavy cotton. I don't like knitting with cotton, and don't feel the need for a sweater's worth of it. I always hope to run across a cashmere sweater that I could take apart and turn into a shawl, but that hasn't happened yet.

Then, I found it. It was really soft, and it was charcoal-coloured, which meant it actually stood a chance with me (bubble-gum pink does not). I dug out the tag. 54% nylon, 6% wool, and 40% angora. I bought it without even trying it on. When I got home, I did try it on. It was too big for me, and the shawl collar and buttons on the front didn't suit me. So I got out my seam ripper, reduced it to pieces, and started frogging. I've about finished the two sleeves, but the fronts and back still need to be taken apart. I can salvage some of the button band, but the buttonholes were cut, so that section is no good. It's coming apart very well--much better than I had expected. I'm probably going to use it for a cardigan. I think I'm in love. It's so soft, and it doesn't itch at all. I may have to see if the LYS carries angora in worsted weight. It'd be perfect for that one sweater that I was going to use mohair for. Turns out fluffy yarns have their charms.

22 June 2010

We survived the move but it took a few days to get our internet back up and running. I spent nearly two hours on the phone with Telus yesterday, and someone came and fixed it this morning.

My parents and one of my brothers drove up Friday night. Saturday morning was spent shuttling boxes to and fro and then, in the late afternoon, we picked up the U-Haul for the furniture. J. was really excited to get to drive a truck. He didn't squash anything, much to my relief. One of our friends showed up to give us a hand with the furniture, and with his help, the furniture was moved in pretty fast.

I've been doing most of the unpacking, since J. did most of the furniture arranging. Also, because he's at work most of the time. The second bedroom turned into The Pile for a day or two, but The Pile is much smaller now. Mostly some book boxes and the box of pictures that I haven't hung yet. We don't have enough bookcases, really, and haven't bought new ones yet, so the boxes of non-fiction are stacked against the wall right now. I unpacked the fiction on Sunday and re-alphabetized it, which wasn't too hard because I'd boxed it up in sections. The Pile will be our guest room slash where my desk and sewing machine go.

And I suppose that's about it. I've been doing a little knitting here and there but haven't had much time for it lately, and since the sewing machine isn't set up yet, I haven't done any of that, either. Instead I've been unpacking, re-arranging things, and having an unholy amount of fun loading the dishwasher.

If I get around to taking pictures, I'll probably put a few up on here. In the meantime, I need to eat lunch.

17 June 2010

We're currently in the in-between phase with the moving. I've taken a few things over to the new apartment, but since we don't have a car, I have to carry whatever I'm taking. So J's board game collection has been mostly transported over, since board games are easily put in bags and carried, but the place is still pretty bare, and over here, everything's mostly in boxes. The official moving day is Saturday. I might have to come back next week to do any additional cleaning that we don't finish on Saturday, and I do have to come back to go over the place with the manager and to hand in our keys.

It feels strange to be leaving--we've been here for nearly two years, and while I'm glad to be leaving (when you get a ride home from a fellow student and feel compelled to explain that "the rent's cheap, we're hoping to move sometime this year," it's probably time to move), I've felt a tad nostalgic once in a while during the last couple weeks. Not nostalgic enough to want to stay, though. Our new apartment is much better. There is a medicine cabinet in the bathroom, along with a fan and an electric outlet (if I ever want to buy and use a curling iron, I can use it in the bathroom, in front of the mirror). Yes, the new place has the normal, legal number of electric outlets. I will no longer have to unplug to microwave just because I need to vacuum. The windows have screens. The door to the balcony can be opened without a wrestling match (we have a really large balcony but because the door sticks, we don't use it often--the new one is much smaller but I think we'll be out there more frequently). The heaters are actually connected to the thermostat. And of course, the whole dishwasher, garburator, four closets, normal-sized fridge, and decent-looking stove are terrific, too.

I managed not to do any knitting yesterday, and a minimum of lifting and carrying, so my hands are doing much better. I might give the Endpaper Mitts a shot sometime later today, and see how my hands do with it. I'd still love to finish them this week. In the meantime, I should probably go run some errands.

15 June 2010

The other day, when I was checking my email, one of the newsletters seemed like fate. I'm not sure how it happened, but my wrists and hands have starting aching in earnest. Badly. This isn't like the strain I had last summer when I was simply knitting too much and hanging onto my needles too tightly. This is in my wrists, not just my thumbs. Typing isn't really painful, and oddly, knitting mostly isn't either, but picking things up, especially in certain ways, is painful. It may stem from hauling boxes home from the liquor store last week--they don't have handles and I have to carry them by holding tightly to the box flaps. My hands start hurting after less than a minute. But it's been in the last couple of days that it's been really bad. And, of course, I'm supposed to be picking things up and putting them in boxes.

Anyway, Sunday night, I was looking up the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome and worrying that I was developing that. I don't have all the symptoms, though (especially not the numbness and tingling, yay), so I'm probably just worrying too much (lately I feel like the Peanuts collection, My Anxieties Have Anxieties, was written about me). Monday morning, hands still aching, I checked my email. The Knitting Daily newsletter was about exercises to help prevent hand problems in knitters. So I've started doing those, in the hopes that this will help. And the Endpaper Mitts may not get finished this week. Now I'm going to stop typing, since I'm sure that isn't helping.

12 June 2010

it's a blur

A couple days ago, I hit the point with the packing of the boxes where I couldn't really pack much more until next week. I think I'm stressed about the move. So stressed, in fact, that I finished a pair of socks in less than a week. An entire pair. Cast on sometime Sunday late afternoon, finished the second sock Friday evening. Oh, and I finished a hat somewhere in there, too. Now my wrists hurt a bit. I need to slow down.

Thankfully, this week, I get to clean like the OCD person I'm not, and finish the packing. I will have more things to do, which is good, since I've been going a little stir-crazy. We get our keys on Tuesday, so I can take a few things over to our new place and decide how I want to organize the kitchen. We're moving Saturday, which means I have to skip WWKIP day. I skipped today's events because I was kind of tired. My wild and crazy dreams last night included watching Wicked (finally!) with Data from Star Trek NG and several people who were apparently transformers in disguise. I haven't been watching Star Trek or Transformers, or listening to Wicked at all lately, so I have no idea where this came from. But the wacky dreams left me feeling a tad off-kilter today.

Anyway, because of that, I anticipate doing less knitting this week, which is fine. I started the Endpaper Mitts a few weeks ago, and the first one is done (except I have to undo the bind-off and re-do it again because it looks weird), and the second one is well begun. Ideally, I'll finish it sometime this week. The red and black looks very cool, and I'm definitely happy with how the project is turning out. And that's about all for now.

07 June 2010

the packing saga

My project for today was to pack books. I've packed up a lot of the kitchen things that aren't always required (all of the teapots except one, most of the teacups, the double-boiler, the wine glasses, the ramekins, etc). So today, I headed off to the liquor store to fetch boxes. They told me on Saturday that they get their shipments Mondays and Tuesdays, so they'd have boxes then.

Turns out I can only manage about half a dozen boxes at a time. I made three trips, so I have eighteen boxes with assorted labels on them. I didn't even know they made blue raspberry flavoured vodka. I started with the non-fiction bookshelf. That took about six boxes, with a few books left out. Turns out I have four or five English dictionaries. So I'm getting rid of a couple. I don't really need two versions of Webster's or two thesauri. I left the enormous Webster's dictionary out because it's really heavy and I should probably pack it in a box with lighter things, like socks.

Then I moved on to the fiction. Twelve boxes later, nearly everything except the shelf with all the extra-large and children's books was packed away. I left out a couple books. One because I know I can pick it up and re-read it for the next couple weeks, and the other because J. is working his way through that series and he'll want me to leave the last book out so he can read it.

Anyway, now I'm tired. And dusty. I need to remember to dust more often.

03 June 2010

some knitting but mostly waxing lyrical about a dishwasher

It's the beginning of June, and I am contemplating mittens. It's been cool and damp and cloudy, instead of sunny, and I'm not complaining. There's this pair I want to make that have an inner layer of mohair and an outer, lacy layer of wool. They'll be great in the winter. My hands and feet get cold really easily (so does my nose, but wearing a nose-warmer is really reserved for people under eight or so), and something that warm will actually be nice. I'm finishing a pair of socks right now. When I catch up to where I bound off the first sock, I'm going to undo my bind-off, join the other end of the ball of yarn to it, and put it on a second set of needles. I want to use up the entire ball of yarn.

Since I have put most of my yarn in a box, except for a couple projects that went into the knitting bag, the mittens will have to wait. If I start something new, it will be more socks. We're moving in a couple weeks and that means lots of packing. It's happened pretty fast...we gave notice at our current place on Tuesday and officially have a new place as of today. We get our keys on the fifteenth, which gives us lots of breathing room to move in between then and the last day of June. I'm looking forward to moving. Our current apartment isn't bad, and we've been pretty happy here, and the building's gotten better since we got a new manager, but we have been wanting to move for a while.

I was so surprised to find out for sure today. The lack of pets and the non-smoking thing helped, I think. That and the fact that I'm a geeky grad student with a love for language who likes to knit in her spare time, and J. is a geeky soap maker who likes to play board games. When we have people over, they come over for dinner, and we hang out, talk, watch movies, and/or play board games. Or they come over just to play board games. Sometimes my friends come over for tea. We don't do wild drunken parties, and when I play music, I usually turn it down because I think it's too loud when it's at less than half as a loud as it could be. A night out at its craziest might consist of going to a pub. Well, there was my sister-in-law's nineteenth birthday...we went to the casino because she wanted to see what one looked like. We all thought it was boring, left, and went to a pub so we could buy her a drink to celebrate. Anyway, all that to say that we're fairly mild-mannered.

Our soon-to-be home is bigger, it's on a quieter street in a more residential area, there's a park really close by, it has a dishwasher, it has very decent storage space (and shelves!), and the hallways do not reek of cigarette smoke. My allergies will be less severe. The building has an elevator, which will make my family happy. They've volunteered to come and help us move, and I remember the last time they helped us move, my mother wondered why we couldn't find a building with an elevator. And I feel certain that I will not get "The Look" when they see our new building. I got it when we moved into this one. The building is older and looks like it. The new place is also an older building, but either newer than the one we're in, or better preserved. We still have to pay for laundry, but that's okay, because there's a dishwasher. I'm sort of stuck on the dishwasher. It makes me happy. And the kitchen is bigger. J. thinks it's at least a "one butt" kitchen, instead of the half a butt kitchen we have now.

And while I thought we really couldn't get much closer than a block from a liquor store, we will now be less than half a block from a liquor store. This isn't a plus or a minus, just interesting.

All in all, I'm really happy. But I'm not looking forward to boxing up all the books.

26 May 2010

in other crafts

I don't just knit. While I do a lot of knitting, I also do some sewing and the occasional embroidery. The current sewing project is a dress made from fabric I got when my mum's mum was getting rid of fabric she'd had around for years. My mum let me and her awesome costumer friend divvy it up (the awesome costumer friend let me keep some really nice stuff). I tried to lay claim to only things that I really wanted to use. One of those was about 5-6 yards of fabric with Viking boats printed on it. It's becoming a sleeveless summer dress. I have the bodice mostly finished and now need to cut out the skirt and attach it to the bodice. I'm putting in a side zipper so I can't properly finish that part until skirt's on. So far, I'm pretty happy with it. It looks like it will fit (modified shirt pattern with a basic A-line skirt added), and I think it's going to be fun to wear this summer. Well, if it ever stops raining. I may need to knit a shrug to accompany it.

warming the hands

Apparently this week's "knit two over the course of three days" thing are mitts. I am very fond of knitting these because my hands get cold easily, but I hate gloves, and mittens are inconvenient when I want to write or type.

I recently bought Robin Melanson's book, Knitting New Mittens and Gloves. I knit one pattern out of the book a few months ago, but it was one that's also available online (Rusalka). Mostly I would check the book out of the library and drool over the patterns. They're all so pretty. Now I own it. There are 28 patterns in the book, and I would like to knit almost all of them, even the gloves. I have a feeling I would like hand-knit gloves better than store-bought ones.

I started on Sunday night with the first pattern in the book, "Accomplice." These are mitts with a pattern that looks like ribbing, but is actually made from passing yarnovers over knit stitches. I used a ball and a bit of Filtes King Kiki yarn, which is sadly discontinued. I really like it, and bought a few balls last year when they were on sale. The colourway I have is a blue-green with glints of gold that makes me think of the ocean. The yarn itself is a blend of cotton, linen, viscose, and acrylic. Part of me wishes I'd bought more when I had the opportunity, but I still have a ball of it left, and I have about a ball and a half in a short scarf that I never wear and plan to frog so it can be something else.

Accomplice is basically a tube with a crocheted chain at the top for the thumb, so they fit differently than most of the mitts I've made. The top of the mitt is well below my knuckles. However, they do not hinder my typing, which is good.
I finished Accomplice on Monday and started another pattern Monday night. This one is "Filigree," another mitts pattern. I'd planned to use a teal bamboo yarn for this, but when my husband and I wandered over to the thrift store the other day, I found three balls of the Bernat Bamboo for 99 cents apiece in a pale yellow. This is an earlier version of the yarn, I think, since the label has a higher percentage of bamboo, just blended with a small amount of acrylic, unlike the listing for the yarn on Ravelry. It's very soft and a little bit fluffy, and it worked up nicely for the Filigree pattern. The teal bamboo yarn may end up as another pair of mitts from the book (possibly Glaistig, which has a fun lace pattern).

Filigree knit up really fast because, although the pattern calls for worsted yarn, I used bulky. I also cut out a repeat to compensate for the bulkiness of the yarn. It was a nice, easy pattern and I liked the result. The yarn may be too fluffy, since it's already starting to pill a bit, but that's okay.
I started one more set of mitts this week. This time, they aren't from the book. Instead, they are Eunny Jang's very popular Endpaper Mitts. Mine are in red and black and so far, they look great. I'm on the thumb increases for the first one. Either I'm getting better at stranded colourwork, or these are easy. Or I'm spending an inordinate amount of time on them. Not sure which one.

I like this "two small projects done in a few days" thing I've done the last couple weeks. Now if I could only make that work with socks.

24 May 2010

going to be inundated by hats

I've gone a little beret-crazy in the last week. I knit two brioche berets in the space of three days, so now I have three. This one is the Tree Beret from Nancy Marchant's website. The yarn is Bernat Alpaca Natural Blends again, in Fern and Tomato. These knit up fast because I'm using bulky yarn. I have plans for at least a couple more to use up the yarn. And I cast on a tam with some handspun I finally finished a while ago, but haven't gotten past the ribbing yet. Basically, unless I decide to give them away, I'm going to have a lot of distinctive hats to wear this fall. I can be one of those quirky grad students.

I also finished the Raha Scarf I was knitting (pattern is from Knitted Lace of Estonia by Nancy Bush). I had this discontinued yarn I picked up at the thrift store. It's a wool, somewhere around a DK weight. You can't see it in the picture, but the yarn has some glints of green and lavender that add a nice depth to the blue. It was a great pattern. I had it memorized about half-way through. It ended up over five and a half feet long. It's going to be a belated birthday gift for my mum.
I'm still working on the Skew socks but I'm on the short row section of the leg on the second sock, so they're almost finished. And then when they are I can hide my 2 mm circs in my knitting bag and pretend they don't exist. This is the second pair of socks I've knit on circs and I don't like it it any better this time than I did last time. I'm definitely a DPN girl. When I finish these, I'll get back to one of my other pairs of socks that's been neglected. I'm knitting Skew for SKA's April challenge, so it has to be finished by the end of this month. Maybe I'll get it done today.

20 May 2010

need to start wearing my cloak more often

Lately, the weather has been acting like it is confused. I went to visit a friend yesterday who lives in a different area of town. The walk there took me a while (a good hour of walking) in part because I got lost and walked about kilometre farther than I was supposed to. When I'd glanced out the window before leaving, it had looked a little cloudy, so I wore long sleeves, trousers, and grabbed a sweater. And then it was warm and I was wondering why on earth I had grabbed a sweater, since I felt like I was melting. By the time I arrived, I had to drink several glasses of water just to rehydrate.

In the hour or so I was at my friend's house before having to leave to walk home, some clouds rolled in and it cooled down. I walked down the hill back into town, enjoying the clouds and the breeze that had sprung up. Then it started to rain. The wind kicked it up a notch. And suddenly I was walking into wind that was driving rain into my face with only a long-sleeved t-shirt and a cotton sweater for protection. And I'd decided, on a whim, to leave my hair down that afternoon, so it was getting whipped out behind me and soaked. All I needed was a cloak to complete the image. And yes, I do have one. It usually gets worn in the fall, but apparently late spring is also a good time for it. The wind and rain were so crazy I half-expected to turn a corner and run into Heathcliff.

I had to run a couple errands on the way home, so I went into the grocery store soaking wet with my hair a mess. When I finally got home, I changed into warm dry clothes and had some hot tea. Last night, I curled up with my knitting and listened to the wind's wailing.

And I finished a hat. This is the Yin Yang Beret by Nancy Marchant. I used bulky yarn (in an attempt to rid myself of some stash yarn...and had to buy another ball of the brown so I could finish the hat). It's knit in stockinette brioche stitch on 4 mm needles (went up a size from the pattern's recommended needle size because of the yarn weight). This is the third brioche beret I've knit (the first two were the Pecan Pie Beret from Knitty--one for me, one for a friend). I really like the beret patterns. They're fun, unusual, and easy to knit. Brioche stitch was actually my first introduction to colourwork knitting, which probably accounts for my frustration with stranded colourwork (although it's gettign easier). This took me a day to knit--bulky-weight hats work up fast. I used the Bernat Alpaca, which is a blend of acrylic and alpaca. The green was left over from Sedum, and the brown was left over from the first brioche berets I did last year.

The pattern has a braid at the bottom edge, which was fun to do. I haven't done a braid before, and now I don't have to be intimidated by them anymore.
I'll have to go somewhere today just so I can wear the hat. It turned out well. I like this style of knitting. I may have to invest in Nancy Marchant's new book on brioche knitting sometime.

16 May 2010

jumping on the Clapotis bandwagon

As I wrote in an earlier post, I've been working on a Clapotis. Here's the story:

Shortly after I learned to knit, I discovered Knitty.com and spent a long time browsing their archives. I remember running across the pattern for the Clapotis scarf and thinking it looked nice. Then I joined Ravelry and found out that Clapotis is one of the most popular projects on there and that there are thousands upon thousands of the scarves in existence.
I hadn't really intended to knit one, but I had this lovely rose-coloured ribbon yarn in my stash that I'd gotten in a destash swap a few months earlier and thought three skeins of it might make a smaller sized Clapotis. So I cast on one evening.

I only did 2 repeats of the increase rows, noted where the yarn for the first skein ran out (two repeats of main pattern), didn't bother counting my repeats for the second skein, and then worked two more repeats after joining the third skein and started the decreases. So it's a much smaller version, but it turned out well. I like it.


One of the the delights of this pattern is the dropping of the stitches. It has an illicit feel, since dropping stitches is usually bad and I've taken the time to learn how to pick them back up properly. It's counter-intuitive, but it's very fun. The pattern is easy to knit and after a couple repeats, not hard to remember. And the finished product goes well with a dress of mine, so I am looking forward to wearing it with the dress (once I adjust the shoulder straps on the dress, since it was designed for a somewhat more well-endowed woman than I).

It did feel a little strange to knit something that's been so popular. I usually try to avoid that, out of a misplaced stubbornness. However, Clapotis has been a popular pattern for the reason that it is a good pattern and the result is lovely. So, that's okay, then. It gets to me when something mediocre is popular, but when it's excellent, then I'm happy to go along with the crowd.

12 May 2010

update!

Seemed like it was time for an update. I keep writing partial entries and then not finishing them. Some of them will get finished when there are pictures to accompany them.

Well, I do have socks on the needles, as per usual. Working on the second Skew sock. First one turned out great and fits like a glove (although not literally since most store-bought gloves are too big for me). The heel was a lot of fun and the grafting wasn't hard. I bought the Spring issue of Interweave Knits almost solely for the grafting tutorial. Also for the ad with Franklin Habit in it. And the Wasabi Peas socks. I have 1 sock out of 2 finished on another pair of socks from Socks from the Toe Up. My goal is to eventually knit each pattern in the book.

And, strangely enough, I have two scarves on the needles. This is unusual because I don't really like knitting scarves. I never did a garter stitch scarf like most beginners do. I knit a moss stitch scarf last year to use up a ball of yarn and a narrow ribbed scarf for my little brother as a birthday gift. There have been shawls, some cowls, and a head scarf, and I crocheted a scarf as a Christmas gift a couple years ago when all I could do was what I thought was single crochet but turned out to be slip stitch. And still, so far, I've only knit a couple scarves.

Part of this is that I have a couple pashmina scarves which get worn all the time in the fall and winter. One is brown, the other cream. They are comfortable and warm enough and long enough and coordinate well with my wardrobe, which is mostly brown with a few other earth tones and the occasional red shirt thrown in. So part of it is I haven't felt the need to knit myself another scarf. The friends who wear scarves already have lots. And most of my family members are not scarf people, other than the younger brother who specifically requested a scarf (and when I gave it to him, wore it on a very warm April day, even though it was wool).

The other part is that scarves are kind of boring to knit. This is why I rarely knit plain stockinette socks (Skew doesn't count--its construction is complicated enough that much of it has been knit in front of the computer so I wouldn't have to print the pattern out). So a scarf, for me, has to be interesting enough that I'm not going to get bored. I'm thinking of trying one that has reversible cables just to learn the technique.

Right now, though, I felt the need to knit something simple that would use up stash yarn. I got this rose pink ribbon yarn in a de-stash swap a few months back and have been idly debating patterns ever since (I think it was from Holly but I'm not sure). Then it came to me. I could give a wildly popular pattern a try and use up the yarn at the same time. So I cast on a Clapotis (smaller size, though). I'm almost done with ball 2 out of 3 and am happy with the result. I can knit a couple of the main repeat with the third ball before I have to start the decreases. I should have not too much yarn left at the end.

And then a couple nights ago, I was tired but not sleepy and wanted to knit something before I went to sleep, but didn't want to take the Clapotis to bed with me. I grabbed some wool I'd found at the thrift store (really nice blue with a hint of green in one of the plies), and started a pattern I've had in my queue for a while. This one is from Knitted Lace of Estonia, and it is the Raha Scarf. One repeat of a lace pattern, garter stitch edges. Interesting but not too complex. And I'll just knit until I have enough yarn left for the border and finish it off there.

And that's all for now. I need to sleep.

23 April 2010

Spoke


I saw the pattern first. I was knitting my first sweater, and while I knit it, I decided that Spoke would be the second. It was simple (fitting my criteria for a sweater I will actually wear--crazy-complex stuff is saved for hats, gloves, and socks), elegant, and still visually interesting. And I wanted to try knitting a seamed sweater to find out if I liked it. Turns out I do, and I don't mind seaming.

I thought of the sweater in blue, perhaps. I knew I wanted wool. The first sweater I knit was in an alpaca-acrylic blend, which, nice though it was, sheds like there's no tomorrow. I wanted wool, and I wanted something a little less prone to pilling. So I bought Briggs and Little yarn at Fibres West in a lovely shade of blue.

I cast on with the first sleeve, remembering how long the sleeves took when I knit my first sweater. A month later, I had finished and seamed the sleeves, the back, and the smaller front piece (though I hadn't sewn the sleeves into the body yet), and made a good start on the half circle front piece, which I finished a couple days later. Yesterday I finished it, did the last seams, and washed and blocked it.

So, now it is finished and I am wearing it even though it is technically not quite dry yet. I made it into a pullover, since I don't have a lot of pullovers that aren't hooded sweatshirts. I'm glad I made the XS size, since it's almost a little big after blocking. It knit up very fast. I may have to try a sweater in DK yarn just to see the comparison in how long it takes me to knit. Also, to compare the thickness of the seams. I only used just over four balls of the yarn, so I have about 100 grams left to make something else with.

And now I'm going to do small projects for a little while before I buy yarn for the next sweater.

16 April 2010

The group from the knit-night I attend is having a get-together this weekend. We are finally having our Christmas gift exchange. It was supposed to happen in January, to give us time to make things, but it kept getting pushed back.

I'd finished a couple things back in January, but realized I needed to add something else, so I decided to sew the gifts, instead of knitting them. Sewing is faster. I have one more thing to finish, and I will take pictures, but I will put them up Sunday evening.

I rummaged through my fabric stash, and there wasn't anything that seemed like it would work with the person whose name I drew. What there was, well, was in bits and pieces. So I went to the fabric store yesterday. I haven't bought fabric in quite a while. I usually go to the fabric store to buy notions, since I have a decent amount of fabric to work through. I'm at the point now where I have enough to finish the current quilt I'm working on, and enough vintage material for several dresses, but most of the scraps I had for small quilts, are well, scraps. I like fat quarters, since you get enough material to play around with, but not so much that it breaks the bank. But this time I thought I'd buy a half a yard of some batik and use that. Then I got a look at the prices and nearly had a heart attack.

I realize that things often cost more around here, and I realize fabric is expensive. I do know that. But fabric that used to be 7.99-10.99 a yard when I bought it in the US is 20.00 a metre! The other thing is, well, if you join the sewing club that this chain of stores has, you get discounts. You get a whopping 50% off on the quilting cottons, and 20% on almost everything else. Which means that it's way more affordable that way. I just don't know how much this club costs, since their website is unhelpful in that regard. I'll just have to ask next time I go in. But it feels a little like extortion.

I browsed around for a while and finally bought a pack of fat quarters and some bias tape. Two quarters each of three different fabrics. They've worked well in what I made, but I'm still reeling from the cost of my favourite fabrics.

Next time I go to Vancouver, I am definitely going to Dressew. I didn't realize it was right around the corner from Button Button, so I didn't go last weekend. Although my husband says that's probably a good thing, since we'd probably still be there. I laughed. Of course we wouldn't. Maybe.

12 April 2010

day out

Since I had to go all the way down to UBC to return some library books on Saturday, my husband and I made a day of it. We went to UBC, admired the gorgeous campus and the really cool library book-drop (seriously, the library I work in could fit on one floor of the Koerner Library). On the bus on the way there, we went past Urban Yarns, so now I know how to get there. We didn't stop there, however. We got on a different bus and went to Gastown instead. I hadn't been to Gastown since J. took me there on a date several years ago. I had been told, by friends at knit-night, that there was a really cool button store down there. They were not wrong.

Button Button is a very cool button store. They have a really nice selection of different kinds of buttons and clasps. I loved the Beatrix Potter and Paddington Bear buttons. We spent a while browsing there, but I ended up buying what were almost the very first buttons I looked at there. I did debate about the medieval style ones, which were simple and elegant. Next time I end up at the store, I may buy those.

So now I have six of the above steampunk-style buttons. I already have a cardigan in mind for them, but I haven't decided on the colour or the yarn. I'll need to go hunting for it sometime this summer. I'd like to use Cascade 220. I've only used it in hats so far and I really liked it.

And sadly, somewhere between lunch, Skytrain, and the bus, I managed to lose my hat. It was the green one, the one that reminded me of the forest. I have a matching scarf which I managed to hang onto. I think I left the hat in the restaurant. I'll probably call them tomorrow to see if they do lost and found. If not, well, I hope whoever finds it can use it. I like the hat, but it's not my favourite. It wasn't quite the shape I wanted, so I rarely wore it.

Spoke is coming along nicely. I have both sleeves finished now, and I started the left front yesterday. I started Skew earlier this week but haven't worked on it much this weekend. I grabbed a different sock for Saturday. Those brown men's socks I was working on months ago came out of hibernation just because I needed something simple for the bus. I'm on the leg of the sock--just a few more inches to go and I can bind off the first one. Also, today I finally set the twist on some handspun I finished plying last week. I'll check the yardage and ball it up tomorrow when it's done drying. I know I have enough to make a hat, for sure. And since I'm sans one hat, a new one will be nice.

08 April 2010

the lint is everywhere

Yesterday, I cast on for Skew. I'm working my way up the foot right now. At the moment, I'm just alternating plain rows with increase/decrease rows, but can hardly wait to get to the heel. It looks like fun. I am using the really great Zauberball yarn for these. It has great colours and long repeats. Short colour repeats might be more interesting for Skew, but we'll see how it goes at the heel. I can always knit a second pair.

For Spoke--I have one sleeve finished and the other started. I'm alternating rows on this sleeve to mix the dye lots. They're so close that they are only really distinguishable in very strong light (and not at all in Starbucks, even though Starbucks has better light than my two favourite coffeeshops), but I want to avoid being discontented with the sweater.

I still really like Sedum, but if I ever knit it again, I will use different yarn. It stretches more than I'd prefer (that may be my gauge, though), and it sheds. By the theories of Chomsky, it sheds! Last time I washed it, after it was dry, I used one of those lint brushes that has the sticky paper you peel off. I peeled off a lot of sticky paper that evening. I had to lint brush the ironing board, where I'd blocked the sweater, after I hung it up. It sheds all over my clothes, and I find alpaca fibres everywhere now. When I'm wearing the sweater, sometimes I find myself with alpaca fibres getting into my mouth (not sure how that happens). And I am a person who has long hair that sheds like crazy (my husband has blamed my hair for a broken part on the vacuum that he had to replace), and because there is a lot of cloth and yarn in my home, I have a lot of lint floating around. And yet, the amount of lint coming off of this sweater seems truly extraordinary. I still like alpaca, but I think that inexpensive alpaca may not be the best way to go if you want a hard-wearing sweater. I'm going with a sturdy Briggs & Little wool for Spoke. It may have the occasional piece of vegetable matter, and it may be a little scratchy, but it does not shed.

The other day, I was knitting a dishcloth as a bus project. The cotton I grabbed from my bag happened to match my shirt rather well. I was coordinated! This is unusual, since I frequently wear socks that do not match my outfit and often pair my practical black waterproof shoes with my favourite pants, which are brown.

05 April 2010

busywork

In between trying to write today, I've been knitting on a sock. I started the pair last month for a group on Ravelry: Sock Knitters Anonymous. Each month, they have a challenge, and if you finish the pair of socks within the time limit, you get entered in a draw for cool stuff. I've thought about doing it before, but the challenge was never something I wanted to knit. Last month, it was lace. You have to cast on before the end of the month, and finish before the end of the next month. I started the Butterfly Socks by Wendy Johnson, because they had double yarnovers and because I'm trying to knit my way through that book. Also, I was using up some leftover yarn.

The first sock was a pretty fast knit. I started it a little over three weeks ago and finished it before a week had gone by (given that I knit a few repeats and realized I had to frog it and restart because I was doing the pattern wrong, I'm proud of that). Then I set it aside, frustrated a little with the yarn (bamboo heels and toes and corn fibre foot and leg) and the needles (circulars don't seem any faster than DPNs, plus, the dangling needle gets tangled up in the yarn). Finally, a couple days ago, I cast on the toe of the second sock. As a break from writing, it's been nice, because it's easy. I have a couple more lace repeats to go, followed by the picot edging. Then it's done. I don't love them. The butterfly pattern just doesn't work for me. I like the yarn better now, since I like the way it knits up. I might even buy more someday. And in the meantime, I have some appropriate socks for summer. Lacy, and not made out of wool.

01 April 2010

I took a trip to the LYS today, and there I met a little girl (3 or 4) with excellent taste. While her mom was busy selecting skeins in the corner with all the baby yarns, she took a basket and made right for the Malabrigo. She tried to give me some, too, but I had already selected my yarns (Araucania, rather than Malabrigo, although I really need to get me some of that yarn one of these days). She even picked up the colourway I liked best and tried to give it to me.

29 March 2010

Fibres West 2010 was this weekend. I went with my friend E., and we had a pretty good time. I spent only about half of what I intended, which makes me want to take my temperature and see if I'm coming down with something. I bought enough yarn for Spoke and a new spindle. And that was it.

I spent of a lot of time at Treenway Silk's booth, looking at the fibre they had available. It's beautiful but I don't feel like I have enough spinning experience yet to do well with silk. I'm doing well with merino, and maybe I'll give silk a go sometime this summer.

I'm over half-way finished with the first sleeve on Spoke. It's doubling as a gauge swatch. I plan to sew the sleeve seam after I bind it off, try it on, see how it fits, and go from there. So far, it looks about right.

25 March 2010

bits and pieces

This hasn't been the greatest week for knitting. I finished a sleeve on the baby jacket, and am in the process of finishing the edging around the lapels and collar. Then it'll be on to the last sleeve.

I finished the first in a pair of socks last week, and have yet to cast on for the second sock. I will do it, but I'm knitting them on two circular needles, and that doesn't make me happy. They're way more fiddly to work with than DPNs, and the only reason I'm doing it is to practice so I can knit the Skew socks. They pretty much have to be knit on circs.

The entrelac socks I started a while back got frogged. They weren't working out and I couldn't figure out a way to be happy with the end result. The yarn will be used in Skew, since it has a nice striping pattern.

I did start a pair of mitts on Monday night, in need of something simple to knit at church (we're in a class where I'm supposed to sit still for 2 hours straight--if I don't have knitting or something, I will go nuts). I couldn't cast on the sock and the baby jacket was at the hem of the sleeve. So I started the very popular Susie's Reading Mitts. I finished the first one, except for the thumb, but now I feel a little confused about where to do some of the decreases on the second one (my version has more decreases to improve fit). I don't have the right number of stitches and I don't know why.

I also have some new yarn in the stash. My SIL had promised me yarn for Christmas. We didn't get around to setting a date to go yarn shopping, so she finally went on her own. So now I have a ball of blue Tove (Sandes Garn, sport-weight, good for gloves), and another ball of bulky, fluffy yarn in shades of green, blue, pink, and yellow which are reminiscent of cotton candy. I think I see a hat when I look at it. A tam, probably. I found a top-down pattern which should work pretty well.

Fibres West is this weekend. Saturday morning, a friend and I are off to drool over yarn and only spend the cash we've brought and designated for yarn (as opposed to being designated for lunch). Should be exciting.

Now I need to have some fresh tea and do a little more writing before I go to bed. I am having the hardest time concentrating lately.

19 March 2010

new (old) hobby

When I started reading A Dress a Day recently, it reminded that I do like sewing. I'd been hoping to do some more sewing this year, after all. I have quite a bit of material lying around that I've picked up over the years. My fabric stash is actually larger than my yarn stash, but since it's had more time to grow, that's only to be expected.

I found a pattern at the thrift store of a dress that was about what I wanted to make. I wanted a dress that would button up from waist to neckline, with an A-line gathered skirt. I had a shirt pattern that would work if I just wanted to add a skirt to it, but finding a pattern for an entire dress was nice. Then I re-measured myself, since I hadn't taken my measurements since July, and took a look at the pattern's measurements.

According to the pattern manufacturer, there should be 8 inches difference between my waist and my bust. I think the difference for me is about 4, and even if I go down a couple dress sizes (a couple favourite skirts are in the size 6-8 range and as I'm a size 10 right now, they are too tight, so I'd like to get a wee bit smaller), it's not going to make enough of a difference. My bust is not going to magically grow so I fit the pattern's proportions. Instead, the pattern will have to be tweaked.

The plan is to make a skirt or two, using the Sew What? book. They make it all about what your actual measurements are. This is so I can get a feel for sewing things that fit well, and just to get back into practice with sewing. Then, using some inexpensive cotton that I don't care about and that isn't vintage (like most of the fabric I have for making dresses is), I'll make a muslin and figure out where the pattern needs tweaking. If it turns out wearable, that's great. If not, I've only lost some fabric that wasn't expensive and that I've been trying to figure out a use for since last year.

So I have the pieces for the first skirt cut out and I've zig-zagged stitched the seamlines, so I can press the seams open, but I still haven't cut out the pocket pieces yet. Just not sure how big I want them.