Sunday, February 27, 2011

Wordless Weekend Wrap-up

How was your weekend? Mine looked like this:

Happy Knitting, Everyone!

Friday, February 25, 2011

I got diddly

Wow. I was going for a "Random Friday" post today (about that? when I first started blogging I didn't realize that's it's really Random Wednesday, and now every time I post something under that label, I wonder if the blogosphere thinks I'm a clueless dumbass), but I've been sitting here for a few minutes (OK five. Maybe. My threshhold is extremely low today), and I can't come up with a single funny/insightful/quirky thing to say. Nothing. Zip.

It's been a rough week, and earlier today I was enabling myself thinking that maybe I needed a little pick me up. Maybe a little "insert random new (because we live in a society that encourages consumerism and that's what we do) thing here" would be in order. New yarn? (I'm craving a black - but not TOO black - cardigan. That should give you a little heads up on my mood). New outfit? Shoes? Manicure? Book? Fabric? A friend of mine sent me a coupon to get a complete body exfoliation and full-body seaweed wrap at a local spa for 49$ (instead of 176$), and all I could think was "Huh, that looks nice". And yeah, I suppose any (or all - hah!) those things would be nice, but I'm just not feeling it. So here I sit, trying to put out a blog post. *Siiiiiiiiiiiiiiiigh*

Where the heck is my enthusiasm, anyway?

You know what? I'm betting it decided it had had just about enough of the soul-suck that is February in Canada and said "Dude? Screw this s**t. I'm buggin' outta here pronto. See you in March, suckah!!!"

Lucky bastard.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

This always happens...

After all that talk about how deeply, deeply smitten I was with my wee strips last week, would you believe I didn't even look at the sewing machine all weekend?

I can hardly be blamed, of course. I was (and still am) in the grips of full-on Lace-obsession-itis, a debilitating ailment that always seems to strike me when I'm holding onto my sanity by the skin of my teeth.

Now, over the past few months I've really noticed that, to put it plainly: my knitting helps me stay sane. It's soothing and repetitive and a process that can't really be rushed in any way. Knitting is orderly, precise, and - perhaps most importantly - entirely under my control. I am the boss of my knitting. Me. No one else.

So when I'm under stress, I (naturally) want to knit. Once the kids are in bed I'll pour myself a glass of wine, sit on the couch with my legs curled up under me, and pick up my knitting. It always amazes me how it only takes a few stitches for the tension to leave my body. It's like I've been holding my breath all day, without even noticing, and suddenly I can exhale. Doesn't matter what I'm working on, as long as I'm knitting SOMETHING, I feel better.

Of course, when things start to get really hectic (like, say, my daughter had a brain-tumour kind of hectic?), I don't just want to knit something. I want to really KNIT. I want something that requires concentration, precision, something I can really sink my needles into. I want to knit lace.

I've known it was coming for some time now, this desire, no, this need to knit lace. I've been trying to put it off, arguing with myself that I've got the Bohus going on, those perfectly lovely socks, not to mention 2 more baby gifts, and did I think those things were just going to up and knit themselves? I gave myself a stern talking to and said "Now is not the time to cast on for another project. You've got responsibilities here. You've made commitments to these other projects. Be a grownup and just suck it up".

And then I snapped out of it. I ran upstairs, rooted through the stash, pulled out some magnificent Tanis Silver Label Mulberry Silk that Kate (that Enabler one) gave me for my birthday last year, and cast on for a lace shawl (this one) faster than you can click your 2.25 mm needles together 3 times.

I remembered that grownup responsibility has no business in MY knitting. Who da' man? That'd be ME, thankyouverymuch. Pass me the laceweight.

Happy Knitting, Everyone!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Wordless Weekend Wrap-up

Debuting a new feature on the blog today poppets: the Wordless Weekend Wrap-up. Because by Sunday night, I'm usually incapable of any coherent thought. (And yes, I do realize I'm posting this on a Monday. I would have thought of it last night, but I was - you guessed it - incapable of coherent thought).

And how was your weekend? Mine looked like this:

Happy Knitting, Everyone!

Friday, February 18, 2011


After hitting "Publish Post" yesterday, I headed to the fabric store for some retail therapy (it was either that or the liquor store, heh). I've been reading a few sewing/quilting blogs, and I've been wanting to try piecework (patchwork?), sort of dip my fingers in the pond, as it were.

I've had this tutorial bookmarked for a while. I figured I could use fabric from some fat quarters I bought last summer, so all I was missing was the linen, the batting, and a coordinating fabric for the inner lining. I'm proud to report that NO fabric stash enhancement was made during this trip (that might have had something to do with Phil being there with me.) Wait - does extra yardage count as stash enhancement? (Insert sheepish grin here)

Here's my first strip:

Can I just say? Cutting wee 2x2 squares is harder than it looks! Sewing them up was no problem at all (well, not after I ripped out about 8 seams because I didn't have the right f***ing seam allowance! *&*?%?!!!), but cutting them took FOREVER! Of course, it doesn't help that I'm completely challenged when it comes to cutting in a straight line. It's like my brain shuts down, I look at all those lines and all I can think is "Huh? What? What am I supposed to be doing here? Whaaaat???" So cutting 24 squares took forever. Well, live and learn and all that.

They're not perfect, of course. The little 2 square-block seams don't quite line up when sewn into strips.

Even so, to say I'm happy with my little (and boy are they little) strips would be a colossal understatement. I am absolutely tickled pink by them. I carried them around with me as I was cleaning up. I put them on the bathroom counter and gazed at them fondly as I was brushing my teeth. I gave them a quick pat on my bedside table before I went to bed... (who me? Unhealthy obsession? Pshaw!)

One guess what I'll be doing tonight.

Happy Sewing, Everyone!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Stand back

I’m starting to feel a little frayed around the edges. It could be due to a variety of things: the first stirrings of my annual “Holy-Crap-Is-Winter-Over-Already?” doldrums, cumulative strain due to Émilie’s health issues (she’s doing well, we’ve just turned – somewhat understandably, I think you’ll agree – into a bunch of raving hypochondriacs chez Dear, and nothing is “ordinary” anymore. Evil lurks in every corner.), or even just plain boredom with what I’ve got on the needles now.

Anyway, the point is that I’m starting to wig out. Wait, strike that. I am officially wigging. I’m reeling it in as far as retail therapy is concerned and trying to channel it into so-called “positive” activities like running on the treadmill and yoga and… honestly dudes, I think it’s only a matter of time before I bug the hell out completely.

So what’s a woman on the edge to do? Cast on for something new? Go crazy with stash enhancement? Book a flight to Aruba?

I’ve no idea. Right now I’m taking the “Try-to-cram-in-as-much-as-possible-in-the-2-hours-a-day-of-“me-time”-you-get” approach (trademark pending), which is both profoundly unsatisfying and a not-a-little exhausting.

I’ve been discussing it with Phil, and we’ve realized that what I really need is a girls’ crafty weekend. I need to sit by a fireplace, drink tea/wine, laugh, knit, and eat chocolate. In short: I need to chill the eff out.

Who’s with me?

Monday, February 14, 2011

Insert FO Picture Here

Here we are, Monday again. How was everyone's weekend? Did you get to knit/sew/craft to your little heart's content?

Sadly, my recent knitting has been on secret projects that I can't blog about yet. Three of my friends (including Robyn and Caroline) have either had their babies or are about to pop any minute now, and I've only recently gotten my act together to knit them something. I know... it's not like babies arrive into the world via spontaneous combustion or anything. I've known about these little dudes for months! But for some reason, I just didn't put "Baby" with "Knitted Gift Knit By Yours Truly" together until last week. *Sigh*

So far one of the intended recipients has received her gift, and I'll be getting started on the gifts for the other 2 mamacitas just as soon as I whip up a pair of socks for Émilie. (I've run out of yarn not once but TWICE while making her socks. I think she's due for a complete pair of her very own, don't you?)

So yeah, secret knitting. But! I also had the privilege of taking a feather from Kate's cap and acting as enabler to a newbie knitter by facilitating her very first visit to her LYS, Espace Tricot. She's been knitting with crap-yarn while teaching herself to knit via YouTube tutorials, but her progress has plateaued lately, and I figured a trip to the yarn store would be just the thing.

(OK that's a lie. I've been itching to go to that store for months and shamelessly used her as an excuse to scope it out. I regret nothing.)

Knowing how I tend to fall down hard when faced with large quantities of yarn, I gave myself some strictish guidelines as to stash enhancement: I would limit myself to yarn for one small project, and could only pay with cash.

OK fine, so I didn't exactly hold entirely true to my guidelines (was there ever any doubt in your mind?), I figure since only ONE of these is technically going to the stash (Émilie requested I make a pair of socks with the Zauberball as soon as I took it out of the bag), I didn't do too badly.

Happy Knitting, Everyone!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Shall we do lunch?

A long, long time ago, I bought some fabric, and helpless perennial optimist that I am, I became enamoured with the idea of (re)learning to sew.

I don't know what came over me, really. Ever since early childhood, I've nurtured a vague dislike of everything related to sewing, much to my maternal grandmother's dismay. I can't say what turned me against it, exactly. It could be the many times I had to stand patiently still for fittings, or the endless mind-numbingly boring hours spent accompanying her while she shopped for fabric...

This was only compounded by my home economics class in junior high school. I hated the project (a drawstring pouch), hated the fabric ("crap" fabric boosted from my grandmother's stash), hated how it seemed both incredibly slow (all that measuring and cutting and pinning - ugh!) and way to frickin' fast (my machine only had 2 speeds: crazy-fast, outta control stitching and off.)

Whatever the reason, I've always associated sewing with tediousness, with an aftertaste of ennui thrown in for good measure. So it was quite a surprise to me that, out of the blue, I wanted to learn how to sew*. And lucky for me, turns out I've got a seasoned seamstress/quilter living right across the street from me :)

Now, it took a while for us to get out ducks in a row (what can I say? Sometimes even the best impulses need time to mature into glorious fruition, heh), but over the past few weeks, we've swapped our weekly wine-drinking cheese-plate-consuming Knit Nights in favour of sewing sessions, and it's payed off.

It is with great pleasure (and no small amount of pride) that I give you my first finished sewn project:

Pattern: Quilted Lunch Bag, from One Yard Wonders
Fabric: Oh crap I should know that, shouldn't I? Sorry, I'll remember next time :)
Modifications: None. Except our mitered corners blow theirs outta the frickin' water.

It's not perfect. My seams aren't necessarily always straight, the bias tape sometimes puckers, and despite having measured quite carefully, one side is a wee bit taller than the other. But for all that, it's still the most stylinest lunch bag in the office fridge, and that's good enough for me.

Happy Sewing, Everyone!

* I wasn't the only one who was surprised. When I told my mother what I'd been up to these past few weeks, she just blinked at me a minute and asked me if she'd heard me right "You? Sewing??"

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

It shall be mine

A while back I knit an Aestlight shawl. I really liked the pattern, and happened to have some lovely Malabrigo sock in the stash. At the time, I didn't really know who I was making it for, I was just jazzed about knitting it.

Now, I've always said that I'm a process vs. a product knitter, but that went right out the door when I blocked this shawl. It was so beautiful (well, to me anyway) that I actually gasped when it was all pinned out. I remember calling Phil up to see it, saying "Isn't this thing just the most awesomest shawl ever?!?!?" (I believe he sort of smiled, mumbled something along the lines of "It looks great, honey" before slowly backing away from me.)

Sadly, by this point I knew it wasn't to be mine. My wonderful cousin Jessica's birthday had crept up on me, as it is wont to do every single September (you'd think I'd get a clue by now...), and she's a good person and we all really love her and she's a great knitted gift recipient and... well... much as I wanted this shawl, I did the grownup knitter thing, sucked it up, and gave it to her.

This left me in a state of considerable Aestlight yearning, of course. Yes, I had accepted that that particular version could not be mine, but I still wanted one, damnit. And a few months later, when the yarn I had selected for that month's Hat Trix pattern didn't pan out and I found myself with a skein of fingering weight yarn, all wound up and ready to go, I knew what I had to do.

Pattern: Aestlight Shawl, by Gurdun Johnston
Yarn: The Knittery 4Ply Sock (discontinued, sorry)
Colour: Kelim
Needles: 3.5 mm circulars
Size made: largest size
Modifications: none, I knit the pattern as written.

One of the great things about this pattern is that it works with variegated yarns. Both the garter and edging sections break up the colour sequences without too much pooling. The only thing that bothers me a wee bit about this shawl is the striping you see at the (sideways) lace edging.

I think this one's a keeper :)

Happy Knitting, Everyone!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

My new favourite

Many Canadians have developed a coping mechanism to get through the 5 months of winter we get here: they ski (downhill, cross-country, kite), snowshoe, ice skate, ice fish, play hockey, toboggan... they throw themselves into the great outdoors with wild abandon and incredible enthusiasm. I, my friends, am not one of those people. Winter, and the cold, pretty much suck arse in my humble opinion, and it's a rare winter day that doesn't see me counting down the days until spring (42, in case you were wondering).

In keeping with the whole "Hope Springs Eternal" thing, I don't change my wardrobe all that much during the winter. Sure, the shorts and sandals are put away, and I don't wear skirts as often as I do in the summer... but you won't find many long-sleeved shirts or sweaters in my repertoire, either. T-shirts are the one thing I can't bare to put away for the Winter.

Now, I may be a hopeless romantic when it comes to spring and summer, but I ain't stupid either. I still want to be warm. Enter the cardigan, and Castlegar (bet you were wondering where I was going with that, eh?) is definitely my new favourite.

Laura Chau's Castlegar cardigan
Yarn: String Theory Caper Sock
Colour: Bee's Knees
Needles: 3.25 mm circulars and dpns
Size made: 35 inch bust
Modifications: slight

There's, quite simply, nothing I don't like about this cardigan. The colour, the simplicity of the design, the fact that it's lightweight... it's the perfect thing to throw on over a T-shirt when there's a chill in the air, and it looks (and feels!) fabulous.

Now, I'm not going to lie: knitting this cardigan up takes a bit of patience. It's knit in a fingering weight yarn, so progress can be frustratingly slow. The fact that I chose a superb yarn that I absolutely love to work with was certainly helpful in getting me through all that stockinette! And the fact that there's no assembly required makes it a winner in my book (as always).

So there you (finally) have it! I hope it was worth the wait.

Happy Knitting, Everyone!

Friday, February 4, 2011


I'm sick. It started Wednesday with a wee sniffle, upgraded to a full on stuffy nose yesterday, and today I feel as though someone were trying to suck out my brain through two tiny holes above my eyebrows.

Nothing I can't handle, of course. I know that if I were just able to hunker down with my knitting, some tea, and seasons 2 and 3 of Buffy, I'd be completely recovered within a day or two. Which would be totally doable, if only I lived in Neverland. *Sigh*

Too bad, I've got the perfect socks for it too...

Nancy Bush's Estonian Socks, from her brilliant book Folk Socks.
Yarn: Knit Picks Stroll
Colours: Fawn (MC), Wonderland Heather (CC) and Sapphire Heather (Border)
Needles: 2.5 mm Harmony circulars
Modifications: extensive

Even though I'd had the book in my library for a few years, I didn't really feel the urge to knit anything from it until I stumbled upon Mustaavillaa's version while trolling researching Ravelry. Her version, though... they were something else, and I knew I wanted my very own pair.

My first incarnation turned out to be... well.... ass. The colours I'd chosen were WAY too busy, and the pattern was just lost in the blue-teal yarn vomit my careful knitting produced. I decided that simpler was better, and re-cast on with just one contrasting colour for the main section of the colourwork, and the results were much more to my liking.

Plus, I was working these babies using my newly acquired two-handed colourwork technique, which just had me completely chuffed, you know? I soon ran into a small snafu though. The calf shaping in the pattern only has you go down to 80 stitches, and you keep that stitch count until you begin the toe shaping. 80 stitches was fine for my calf, but for my foot? No way, that was too big. There was nothing for it. I was going to have to modify the pattern to suit my own body.

Now, if you know me at ALL, you know that it's extremely difficult for me to modify a pattern. Sure, I know it can be done. I know designers aren't the boss of me. I know it's my knitting, and that I should feel free, even encouraged, to adapt it as closely as possible to my body in order for me to have the best possible garment I can have.

I know all of that, and yet the very notion of not following a pattern to the letter gives me a twitch.

But these socks were special, and I wanted them to fit me perfectly. I decided that with the gauge I was getting, I'd be OK with 72 stitches around the foot, and adjusted my calf shaping accordingly. Trouble was that that completely screwed the pooch when it came to the heel shaping.

The pattern as written has no gusset shaping. The gussets are knit into the heel itself (I hope I'm explaining this right), so by the time you pick up your instep stitches, you're already back up to your original stitch count. There are no decreases.

I wasn't going to dicker around with all those numbers didn't feel confident in my ability to reproduce Nancy's shaping instructions with my new stitch count, so I worked a regular flap and heel, then picked up the stitches along the heel flap for the gusset as I normally would have.

They're not perfect, but they're the socks I'm most proud of.

Happy Knitting, Everyone.