Tight. But Not Terrible.

The ribbon is on the skirt waist.

The skirt doesn't fit.

It's not really a surprise, I've put on a bit of weight in the last year. I have no idea how much because I don't own a scale. I do notice some of my "skinny" pieces are pretty tight right now and there's stuff I'm not wearing because they're not comfortable. A scale will merely put a number on what I already know.

Whatever.

I'm going to be more careful with my portion size, really cut back on alcohol (seriously, I've been doing a lot of social nights out for drinks in the last year for a bunch of reasons--some fun, some as a balm for rough times at work) and just be more mindful of what I consume. 

As for the skirt, well I suspect I was really relying on the stretchiness of  the fabric to make it fit and it makes more sense to add another repeat (or two) and get this right. 

The nice thing about the pattern is that it was easy enough to rip back the button holes and keep going (Confession, I ripped back, picked up the live stitches and then went and spun up some fibre because I need to take this whole unfinishing a finished project in chunks to keep the frustration down). 

Following some clever folks on Ravelry, I also plan to use snaps instead of buttonholes to keep it all nice looking. I do wish I had made it shorter, but there's no fixing that. I was even musing about turning it into a jumper by picking up stitches at the waist and working up (similar to what I did with my Ella coat) but that might be a tad too crazy. Or just too warm a dress even for a Canadian winter.

Now I'm looking at knit dresses.

Amherst:


Bressay

The City in Winter 

Now I'm getting crazy ideas about doing a Custom Fit sweater that I could graft to Carnaby to make a dress. That's what I love about knitting--even when it goes wrong, I have the fun of thinking about how to make my work better. 


Sunday Sewing

My big plan to do Sunday Spinning keeps getting waylaid. This week's reason is my overflowing mending pile. A tiny tear in my down hoodie that explains the feathers, some tears in Xander's favourite hoodie, a hole in one of those thin-as-tissue Gap merino cardigans (seriously, the quality of these pieces is really going downhill) and my Carnaby Skirt that was never-quite-right.

Knitted skirts are a challenge. The knitted fabric wants to stretch and if you want your skirt to stay on, the amount of that stretch has to border somewhere between a bit tight and just enough. Mine was at, "gonna fall off if I take a deep breathe" so I decided, last spring to sew in a grosgrain ribbon around the waist.

Well, I finally got started this weekend. 

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This tutorial came in handy, because sewing is not something I've done a lot of. I'm almost done, but have been doing it in small doses because my ironing board is the only clean surface I have (because I had to vacuum the cobwebs off the ironing board and lug it upstairs) and I can't sit while I work.

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Looking at the skirt now, I realize it'll require more sewing to get it right. I find the buttons tug a bit and looking Ravelry, the ones that look the best are either on those where the pattern repeats align perfectly with their body or those who don't achieve that alignment, do some stabilizing sewing to fake it. My current idea is to sew ribbon down both edges of the skirt and add some  snaps to hold things in place better than the buttons.

If I really decide to get crafty, I will remove the buttons and sew them over the button holes and let the snaps do all the work. 

But let's not get too far ahead of ourselves. 

Sewing on the ribbon already seems to be doing the trick and will keep the itchy wool off my waist. Now let's hope the skirt still fits.


Knitters, you'll understand this one

It was cold today in Toronto. It felt really cold because it's been unseasonably warm lately and suddenly the temperature dropped to like -15C. I wasn't ready.

On a day like today, I did what all good knitters do and loaded up on the knitwear. My Gretel beret, Nordic mittens, a seed stitch cowl and my Grey Mist Bohus; one of the nicest, most complicated things I've ever made (and also hacked to make smaller).

image from acunningplan.typepad.com

What non-knitters notice today? Compliment the most? Talked about as an example of my fine work?

The seed stitch cowl.

image from farm6.static.flickr.com

A project I made with a bunch of leftovers on a whim. The thing I made without a pattern or much thought. Sure it's a nice big squishy neck piece and it keeps out the cold. It's even sorta soft.

But it's not knit with angora/merino at 8 freakin stitches to the inch.

There isn't colour work where you have shades of white, bone, fawn, silver and pewter so subtle you have to knit it in full sun to be sure you're getting it right!

And, truth be told, that cowl isn't as warm as my Bohus.

 

Really, non-knitting people? Really?!

 

I just needed to get that out. To feel appreciated by my knitting-folk. I knew you'd understand.

Perhaps the cowl is the pinnacle of knitting when you're surrounded by piles of white acrylic scarves at the mall and when you look at them, they don't look all the difficult to make. It's familiar compared to a sweater that one can't even comprehend someone sitting down and knitting.

Yeah, thinking that will keep me warm...


Checking Back, Moving Forward

2015 was one of the first years I have ever felt relieved to end. It wasn't the worst year of my life, if I was to think of my life in chunks of 365 days, but there was an undercurrent of bleh-ness to it, a feeling that I've been anxious to let go of and move on.

Some of moving on comes with a change in me. I want to look at things differently, let go of some of the anger and bad feelings I've been carrying around, and frankly, just say Fuck It, and mostly do what I want. I want to be the person I want and not let those feelings and their accompanying bad-mouthing gremlins get me down.

Having the last days of December off of work and hanging out with my family and friends gives me a chance to slow down, relax and envision how I want to approach 2016. I certainly can't determine how the year will turn out, but I can decide what my outlook is going to be and what things I want to accomplish (because I'm the boss of me).

Since it's the thing to do, a few more resolutions:

♥I want to write here a bit more. I say that every year, so this time I'm going to attempt to plan a bit better and think of things to write about. Some will be knitting and ephemera but I'm also hoping to take what I often say on Twitter and turn it into something more than 140 characters. 

I did resolve to run 500km in 2015 and made by goal with a few kilometres to spare. 

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♥I've already set a goal of 600km for 2016. Running is good for my body and my mind so I plan to stick with it. I want to have a few less of those small bars and keep things more routine. I'd like to run a half marathon this year too. Let's see if my body thinks that's a good idea this Spring.

♥I subscribed to Ply Magazine after taking a class with Jacey Boggs Faulkner at Rhinebeck (see I need to blog more and tell you the cool stuff I do!) and have been trying to spin on Sundays to keep up my skills and learn some new ones. I also have a large stash of fibre that is so beautiful and I want to enjoy it. So Spinning Sundays will continue.

♥In 2015, I knit some stuff, but was surprised how many times I didn't knit because I was too tired/angry/drained/done. I would say there were almost no days in my past where I didn't spend at least 5 minutes knitting or on something fibre-related. In 2015, I sometimes went a few days with no knitting and it really bothered me because it's one of the things I do for ME and which I really love.

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That's 2015's finished projects. I'm casting on a bunch of things now so I have a knit for every mood. This year I plan to prioritize the little break that knitting gives me and make sure it's part of my day, even if for only five minutes.

I don't want to quantify how much or what I will knit, but instead, make sure that I'm knitting things that make me happy whether it be the process, the yarn, the product, or the time spent.

I wish you all a Happy New Year and hope you have plans for 2016 that make you happy! 


I have a raw fleece. Now what?

A work friend gave me an interesting gift a few months back.  A raw fleece.  She has a friend who raises Dorsets and was around when Billy the lamb was being sheared.  She collected the fleece and thought I would like it.  That she thought of me totally made my day.  I've never had a fleece before.  

Now I've got this fleece at home and I have no idea what to do with it. I googled and, well, my stuff looks like a very dirty bag of stuffing, not a flat coat removed from a sheep.  So much for those skirting instructions.

So I crack open a beer and take the fleece outside.  It's got a lot of VM (vegetable matter) on it and it's pretty dirty.  I get to work and start separating the really bad stuff from the rest.  

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I intend to send it to a processor for washing and carding into something I can spin or if it's not suitable for that, then wool batting for a pillow or a quilt (I don't quilt, but I can learn, or give it to someone who does).  With that in mind, how clean does it have to be?  It doesn't appear to have been skirted or if it was, this was a happy dirty lamb.

I worked on it for a bit and here's what I have:

What I started with:

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What I plan to keep for processing:

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What I plan to compost:

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There's lots more to pick through.  Am I doing this right?  Being too picky?  Not picky enough? Wasting my time?

Let me know.  I'm planning to drop it at the Royal Winter Fair next weekend and am happy to talk with the processors, but also don't want to seem totally clueless.


All About Kates

I took a spinning class with Jacey Boggs Faulkner at Rhinebeck.  My first class since learning to spin.  It was a nice way to kick myself back into spinning and during the class I realized I wanted a better Lazy Kate, as mine are both fine, but not all that great.

My preference is for an angled Kate, something compact as space is limited and I would like to take it with me if I go on spinning adventures. Pretty is also important--nice tools make for nice experiences.

Here's what's made the short list.  I would love recommendations, comments on my choices, suggestions etc.  

TravelKate

Love the look of this one and that all the pieces go into the case.  It's also beautiful and the most expensive.  I like that it holds 4 bobbins (not that I've ever made 4-ply, but I might want to some day).

Kate 45 

Simple design, nice looking and would do the trick.  Downsides are the weight (it would cost a mint in shipping) and it's not portable.

Kate 45 - Portable Lazy Kate - Maple

Ogledesign Kate

Smaller than the TravelKate, similar design but not as pretty.  I read one review that notes it bounces a bit due to the fold-back design.  Price point is good.  Like how everything folds away for storage.

Lazy Kate - Cherry

I'm also looking at the Anything But Lazy Kate but think it's too big and fiddly.  There are too many options and pieces.  I like compact and simple.  If you love this one, and I'm mistaken, let me know.

 

Anything But Lazy Kate by Nancy's Knit Knacks 

If I could find a Will Taylor Clever Kate--I would buy it.  Not as flat as the others, but it comes highly recommended.  I'm told he retired.

Clever Kate, pegs stored in base

Any other Kates I'm missing?  I'm also considering making one myself, but it definitely won't be as pretty as any of these.


Spinning Spa

Last month I had some time alone.  Craig was away on business, Emma and Xander were away at camps and I had a whole week alone at home.  

(I'm just going to let that sink for those of you who never get a moment to yourself.)

I had to work, but was absolved of the responsibilities for life at home.  I managed to stave off malnutrition (seriously, there is no motivation to cook for one; I ate a lot of popcorn), watch far too many episodes of The Good Wife, went on a bit of a running binge (I ran seven days in a row) and got my fibre groove back.

I started a sweater (which just needs a zipper to be finished), finished Xander's socks AND took some fibre out for a spin.  I had no plan for the fibre except for it to join me on a relaxation exercise.

This is a Grafton Batt from the deep stash.   

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Check out the colours (I could already feel myself getting calmer as I rolled out the fibre for the photos). 

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There are so many colours in there. 

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I sat at the wheel and made a soft, fat single.  Slow spinning.  Watching the colours.  

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I was thinking it would be a lovely single, but it was a bit too loose and fat, so I decided to ply it (but not too tight).  I've been very wound up for a number of reasons and I was trying to make this yarn be what I needed to be: relaxed, calm, soft and a bit bouncy. 

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I think I got it. 

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Once it was dry I started on a cowl.  A relaxing project for a relaxing spinning project.  

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Review: Custom Socks - Knit to Fit Your Feet

It's HERE!

Kate Atherley's new, fabulous book that will become THE guide to making socks that fit your feet (and the feet of anyone you wish to knit for).  

Custom Socks

I have been waiting for her book since I had the privilege of reading a very early draft a few years back.  Kate knew that I've had some troubles making socks to fit the growing-boy in my life and her advice has made me a better sock knitter and ensures Xander will have the hand-knit socks he loves.  

Full disclosure: Kate is a personal friend--we share a love of good beers, spreadsheets and general geekery.

I know I sound a bit fan-girl about this book, but I can't help it--it has DATA (and I love data).

For this book, Kate conducted an online survey of sorts, asking knitters of the internet to provide foot measurements--lots of measurements from lots of feet.  She used this information and her clever math skills to determine the dimensions of an "average" foot.  Kate noticed that a lot of feet had similar proportions: foot length to foot circumference, heel diagonal to foot circumference etc.  Using this information she was able to provide both a standard sock construction (in a bunch of sizes and gauges) and could also provide instructions for "outlier" feet to customize the fit.

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Her research is outlined in the book and it's the basis for what amounts to about 100 standard socks patterns fitting children through to adults (with large feet like Xander's) in a range of gauges in both top-down and toe-up configurations AND a guide to knitting the socks that work for any foot you can measure.

Like all of Kate's books, measuring and planning is everything.  Custom Socks provides detailed instructions on how to measure a foot and determine where the not-so-average parts are.  She takes a gentle approach for the measuring- and math-shy, walking the reader through her method in an easy-to-read fashion with good visuals.  Knowing the foot you are knitting for makes all the difference and by following her guide you can plan for the problem spots and knit a sock that fits.  The book has lots of advice that isn't measurement dependent including where to add reinforced stitches to prevent premature wear, how to choose the right yarn and how to break the rules when needed (e.g. if your feet aren't the same size, knit two different socks!)

There are also chapters on Yarn, Needles and Gauge and Adding Stitch Patterns which is where Kate starts showing her beautiful designs--plain socks are great, but sometimes a knitter wants to have some fun and these patterns don't disappoint.  

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Patterns for lace, cables, stitch patterns, fair isle and the most amazing knee socks are in this book (I've already purchase my yarn to make these).  

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Makes your knitting heart sing...right?

The final portion of the book is all about customization.  Kate takes some of the more common non-average situations and provides expert advice on how to customize a sock to fit: skinny and shapely legs, larger and smaller ankles, low and high arches (my sock nemesis, we meet again) and toe shaping (bet you haven't considered that one before--I certainly didn't).  Again, the book takes a guided approach to the measuring and math, walking the knitter through the steps to determine a solution to the sock knitting issue.  

Kate's approach can be a bit of tough medicine: you have to measure, and swatch and plan before jumping into a project (even the simple sock) but the payoff is worth it--you make beautiful socks that fit, you rip less and you become a better knitter.

Want some proof?  Kate has been tutoring me on how to make a sock to fit Xander.  He has size 12 feet thin legs and an enormous instep (seriously, that's a 7.5" dpn), and he has socks that fit!

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I've already measured Emma's foot for her next pair of socks and was almost disappointed to find out her feet and absolutely average--I wanted to take Custom Socks through the full method for this review.  Then I realized, knowing this was just as good.  I can knit the standard sock for her foot and be confident it'll fit and I'll have a happy kid in Spock Socks (yarn is Live Long and Prosper by Turtlepurl).

Custom Socks is an excellent addition to any sock-knitter's library.  And a great guide for a new-to-socks-knitter or the sock-knitting wary.  I highly recommend it.


Grey*

Remember way back in the Fall when I mentioned I would stop colouring me hair and see what my natural colour was?  It's done and it's pretty spectacular.

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Aside from my regrowth roots, I estimate that I haven't seen my natural hair colour since just after I had Alexander in 2000.  I cut it very short and then in a fit of sleeplessness and a "OMG I have two children" moment, I bleached it (which turned it pumpkin orange) and then tried to fix it (which thankfully, the sleep deprivation has wiped the results of that out of my memory) and I've been colouring it ever since.

When I made this decision (inspired by the fabulously awesome Julia Farwell-Clay) I went looking for photos of women in their 40s with grey hair.  There aren't many--though there are a million photos of Jamie Lee Curtis who looks amazing--so I thought I would take a picture after each hair cut so that those of you considering this could see how the grow-out goes.

Having pixie-short hair makes this an easier process.  I made the decision in October and I was 99% colour free by June, completely natural after my July 29th cut.  I get my hair cut every 5-6 weeks (which seems economical since I stopped paying for professional colour) so it's a fairly fast process.

October (just had a cut and colour for Rhinebeck):

Brandied orange

In mid-December my stylist suggested adding light blonde highlights just to the top to even things out and hide the obvious root line.  It looked great, but I probably could have skipped this step.  It was December and cold and I usually have my head covered.  I think I panicked a bit.

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January: sorry for the bad lighting. I really have just a bit of re-growth and I discover I'm not as grey on top as I am on the sides.

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March: mostly blonde on top.  Stylist kept the top longer to maximize my colour investment.

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April: sides and back are natural, still have blonde colour on top.  It did look a bit weird by this point, but the fabulous white streak I discovered in the front made up for it.

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I just happened to get the chance to have some professional head-shots done a few days later (and the photographer insisted on a knitting one!).  I'm still mostly blonde on top.  

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May: I started loving my hair at this point. It was a mix of grey and blonde and I started getting it cut shorter which I personally prefer.  I was feeling good about my decision to ditch the colour.

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June: I'm grey.  Both greyer than I thought and perhaps, not grey enough.  My natural colour is pure ash-blah.  I remember when my hair went from blonde to this non-colour and how washed out I used to look.  The silver gives it a pop and I like it, but it there are moments where I feel I look old or perhaps not so stylish (dowdy would the word fashionable people might use, but that's too-judgemental--greying men don't get told they look dowdy.)

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That white streak is amazing though.

July: My hair is natural and pretty fantastic.  I like it.  I really like colouring my hair for fun, but feel much better not HAVING to colour my hair to hide the grey or maintain a shade that isn't mine. Natural hair colour has far more depth and shade going on--I'm a hand-dyed yarn compared to a commercially-dyed one :)

I also like the quiet (or perhaps not so quiet) fuck you to gendered ideas about aging that comes with showing my grey.  I was referred to as "the silver haired woman" recently and after the hit of feeling old, I decided it was an okay description because there aren't many silver-haired 45 year old women around. 

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If I get bored, I can add some colour.  Something fun and completely unnatural.  I'm thinking electric blue.  

 

 

*I just have to say that those books and that movie have totally messed with my desire to use the term shades of grey to refer to my hair.  A quick google tells me that grey is the newest trend and all the cool kids are dyeing their hair.  WTF?