Blogging like it's 2007...A Blog Tour!

The fabulous and talented Julia Farwell-Clay has a new book out and she's cleverly organized a blog tour to promote her beautiful designs. Remember blog tours? I loved reading them!

The book is called From Folly Cove and is full of lovely wearable knits. I'm one of the last stops on the tour so I don't want to say too much. But there are contests! And discounts! Classic Elite, the publisher of the collection is even giving one lucky winner yarn to knit whatever design from the book they choose.

Check it out on Julia's blog or Ravelry.

 

 


Sixteen

(Let's pretend this post happened on January 14th.)

Happy Birthday Emma.

Wow. 16.

It seems like the perfect time for your friends to treat you like a princess. I love that you are surrounded by people who love you for the fun, enthusiastic, joyful person that you are.

 
And it was smart of you not to assume the birthday princess role and try to stage a coup d'état at home. You're a great kid who is kind and helpful and knows when to push for things you want and mostly when to lay off.
 
I'm glad you like that rings we got you. The sunshine reminded me of the necklace you made at your 7th birthday when we did the bead party.
 
You wore that necklace for years; we restrung it when the cord broke, changed the sun pendant when it literally wore down to a blob (I'm a little disturbed to think of what it was made of).

 
This ring is a grown up, more permanent version.

I hope this year is amazing for you!
 

 


Catching Up, #WomanWhoGetsShitDone Style

One of the greatest things about my job is that we close for two weeks over Christmas.  Not only do I have two weeks off (on top of my holiday allotment) everyone else does too--I get nothing but spam in my inbox while I'm away and there's no work piling up.  Everyone returns pretty happy and refreshed and it's probably the BEST benefit ever.

The first week does tend to get sucked up by the run up to Christmas--shopping, cleaning or travelling, parties, and that initial need to sleep as much as possible.  

It was worth it for looks like this:

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Santa Meme and Memere got him the WiiU he's been wanting since they came out.

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The time after Christmas is far far better in my mind.  It's quiet. We're all home (Craig gets almost the same time off from his employer) and while we're a bit lazy, we also catch up.  We have pyjama days, movie nights, lots of computer game time, and for me, a whole lot of fibre fun.

I finished a few things.  Sallah Cowl in Indigodragonfly Rock Paper Scissors Lizard Spock

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A Frankensweater in Collinette Tagliatelli.  It used to be this sweater that I frogged.  And then it was supposed to be a proper Collinette pattern but everything went wrong so I winged it.  The collar and cuffs are some leftovers from my Carnaby Street sweater and it's a super jaunty oversized sweater on Emma (I may borrow it, but fear my jaunty days are long passed).

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I even warped the loom!

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In between all this, I got crazy and catalogued my entire stash of yarn and fibre--it's now all photographed and logged on Ravelry.  Tomorrow I'll probably download and see if I hit "stash neutral" for 2014 (where I used at least the same amount of yarn that I brought in).  I put a few things in the goodwill pile and had a nice hard look at what I have. 

I love it all.  But I should probably knit, spin and weave from what I have for a bit.

I went for a few runs--that felt good.  I will say that I don't think the TVT surgery worked as well as I hoped--I still leak a bit.  It's MUCH better than before, but I was hoping for perfection and well, that may take a bit more time.  At least I can cough and sneeze and stay dry.  

I saw some friends, had some beers, read a book, took a long bath, and baked.

Then I went into full #womanwhogetsshitdone mode and finally filed all the kids school memories and report cards into their memory books--I was about two years behind.  And all of our Epic Road Trip photos are now downloaded, put on Flickr and backed up on the external drive.

Like I said, this break is for Catching Up--I don't fool around.


How to shorten a mitten cuff in ten years or less

Stranded mittens are beautiful but I find getting the fit right can be a challenge since the colour work pattern will determine the size of the mitten and row gauge (something I almost never seem to knit to) is crucial.

If the mitten has a cuff without the main pattern there's a opportunity to adjust the length a bit but again I can't always tells how it will all come together AND interact with my various coat sleeves. I like my winter outerwear to be free of gaps to I can keep warm.

I made these mittens almost ten years ago, wear them often, but never liked the length of the cuffs. They are a bit too long and bunch up against my coat sleeves or I have to tuck them in like when I was a kid, but I have no mom to do the second sleeve (remember when your mom did that?)

Last week I decided to fix them by shortening the cuff. Crazy? A little. But I got out my scissors and got brave.

The pictures are of the second mitten. The first one took a LOT longer and had to be redone after the second mitten because it was longer and I didn't like the bind off. Hacking an old knit can take a lot of time and may yield unexpected issues.

Step one: figure out how much you want to remove and use a stitch marker to hold that stitch. I used my absolutely perfect Fiddlehead mittens as a guide. Also, I found that I ended up taking off an extra row or two because the corrugated ribbing is more complicated to undo, so plan for that.

Step two: cut, yes snip, one stitch and start unravelling that row. It's a bit like doing a reverse Kitchener and is a bit fiddly. I found it easier to use a needle to unpick the stitches. These mittens are well worn and the stitches are happy and snug where they are.

 
I'm about halfway here. Don't worry too much about the live stitches. Knitting doesn't easier unravel this direction so the stitches will stay put until you need them.
 
 
Step three: once the cuff is off, use smaller than called for needles (guess if your mittens and really old and you have no idea what needles you used) pick up the live stitches. They're a bit weird with the two colour ribbing and because they're upside down, but the idea is to get all the stitches back on the needles. You might have to unpick another row to get this accomplished.
 
Step four: this one is easy. Knit a row. I used the brown yarn because it was the colour I used for the cast on and would be the one I'd use to bind off. There was no way I would try to do any ribbing on these.
 
Step five: with a larger needle, bind off neatly. This took me a few tries. A sewn bind off would have been really nice, as would an icord, but at this point I wanted them finished.
 
Step six: try on an admire. Now the mittens graze the cuff of my coat without bunching!
 
 
Should have done this year's ago. I'm wearing them a lot more now.

 

 


Forty-Four Fixer-Upper

Many women remark that their being in their forties is pretty fantastic. I was doubtful because as a woman in a youth obsessed society forty is old. And I would get chin hairs and grey hairs and get all peri-menopausal and shit. What I didn't realize until lately is that, yes all that is true (and what the actual fuck is up with the chin hairs?!) but that I don't actually care one bit what anyone thinks of my looks or my mood or any of it.

I have zero fucks to give. That's magic.

But while I don't care what others think of how I look, how old I am, and except for those I love and respect, what I think and do, I do care about how I see myself and how I want to feel in my body and be in my world. So I started fixing stuff.

First was my skin. Almost 30 years with psoriasis was enough. I was tired of being itchy, applying greasy ointment, having to pick clothing that would hide ugly red patches. And I was tired of spending time on treatments that only sorta worked. Last spring I took a leap and chose a new biologic systemic drug (Stelara) and I'm almost completely clear. I was afraid of systemic treatments because of risks and side effects but realized that I don't want more children and am at a time in my life where it's my turn to do stuff for me. It was the right time and I still feel good about making the decision. It used to seem shallow to want to fix what was essentially a cosmetic issue but taking this drug has changed my life. Both in the time I spent treating my skin and worrying about how I could be in the world with ugly skin. And it feels great.

Next was something a bit more troublesome. Stress incontinence. Super common in women. Almost never discussed. And while I've tweeted that I had lady-part surgery, I haven't said what until now (eep!). But I realized it's important to tell my story.

I've lived with it since I had my kids and it was getting worse. It made doing things I enjoyed like running, ball hockey, laughing, sneezing and sometimes walking, well, messy. I talked to my doctor a few years ago but decided to not get a referral. She pushed but not too hard. Then after the stelara victory I realized that I need to fix the things that bug me or I'll be unhappy. So off I went. Met the urogynaecologist, did the tests (email me if you want the details--they're uncomfortable) and booked the surgery. I chose to wait until ball hockey season ended so I wouldn't lose my spot on the team and it was a long summer and fall because I had decided and was ready.

I had the surgery November 5th. Tension-free, vaginal tape. Like a face-lift for your urethra! It was day surgery and I got over my fear of everything medical, sucked it up and it wasn't awful. The recovery was uncomfortable for about a week (catching a cold five days after seriously sucks) and I got two weeks at home to watch tv and movies and knit (I finished 5 cowls) and now a month later I'm feeling pretty great and leak free. All I wait for now is the all-clear appointment at 6 weeks so I can start running and riding my bike to work. That'll be the true test but I'm feeling optimistic. And again, taking care of me for ME was the right thing to do.

The time off work also gave me time to think about what else needs fixing. Not just my body, but who I want to be in my forties. My kids are teenagers and need me a lot less. What do I want to achieve professionally? What outside things do I want to pursue? What shape does my life take as my kids get closer to leaving home (they do that, right?!). I don't have real answers, but it's cool to have the freedoms to think about it.

I'll let you know what I come up with.

The next fix is my hair. I decided to stop dying it. I'm telling my stylist tomorrow. I will have her help me plot the grow out. I'm tired of paying the money and taking the time and resent that men get grey and sexy (like George Clooney) and women get grey and old. Fuck that.

Though once it's natural, I do plan to get a streak or two or cobalt blue, because I can.


More catch up

I slept just over nine and a half amazing hours last night and now I'm getting shit done.

I feel like I'm always playing catch up on the blog and can't quite seem to find my way out of that. I always have something to say and I say a lot of it on Twitter, but feel like I should be taking those ideas over here to a better space where I can express my ideas more fully except I don't have the time for that kind of reflective writing. Or, when I do, I'm just too damned tired because I have a mentally demanding job and the brain just tells me that I need knitting, or running or TV or just stupid Two Dots on the iPad instead (omg can I please just get the last level and make it end?)

Enough of that, now let's look at something pretty. I finished my Rickenbacker Shawl and I'm so happy with it.  I made this out of handspun and I spun the yarn so it would stripe and it all went so well.  The shawl is a tad small but that was all the yarn I had so I have no complaints.  

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I would also knit this pattern again--super easy and really fun.

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And I finished my Rhinebeck Sweater: Brandied Orange (aka Brandied Cherry).  This was a fun knit.  It didn't come out quite as I imagined it in my head, but I love it all the same.  I had this idea it would look great with a skirt and well it doesn't.  But it is a perfect cozy on the couch, skinny jeans sweater and I'm wearing it a bunch for casual wear.  The Lorna's Laces Shepherd Worsted is divinely soft (though it does pill) and I'll be wearing it a lot.

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It did stretch a bit funny in the photo, but I was also in the car for 10 hours coming home from Rhinebeck so I'm a bit rumpled.

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I should say more about Rhinebeck, but that deserves a post of it's own.  Instead I'll show you what I knit on the annual pilgrammage.

Smile and Wave.  I needed a new portable project and didn't feel like knitting socks.  So I grabbed a skein of Indigodragonfly Mergoat sock in Obviously You're from District One and got knitting.  I LOVE the colours and the planned pooling.  

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While Emma is modelling, so far these are mine.  I might make the next pair a bit shorter for variety--these are in heavy rotation for biking to work right now--just a little extra warmth for the morning.

Well, that's a start.  Now I need to get some stuff done around the house and I'm going to bake bread because it's November and snow flurries have already happened and today is about woolies and soup and warm fresh bread.

 


Lost a month somewhere

Ack! It's October!

I knew it's been a while since I've blogged, but over a month!  Where did September go?  I'm very sure I didn't fall asleep August 31 and wake up now (even though that running out of yarn thing was rather traumatic) and I'm still surprised it's October, even though it's the 10th...

September was a wee bit busy at work.  And at home.  Here's a little wrap up:

I celebrated my 20th wedding anniversary September 30th.  That seemed like a pretty big deal.  You can see our wedding photo on my 10th anniversary post here.  That I have a decade of blogging also feels like a big deal.

Kids started school.  Both are now in High School.  How did that happen?  Here's what you get for a back to school photo in grade nine:

 

And grade 10

 

(that's actually cheating--she wouldn't pose for a photo...)

I ran and played ball hockey and even scored a goal! (A slap shot from the point which was one of those things I've always wanted to do.)

And when I wasn't falling asleep on the couch after a long day at work, I would work on my Brandied Cherry sweater.  It was slow going only because I didn't have a lot of time.  It was quite fun to knit and I think I'm going to get a lot of wear out of this one. 

 

It's off the needles and blocking.  This weekend I seam and then I'll have my Rhinebeck sweater.

Rhinebeck is a week away.  I'm SUPER excited.


Knitters, we have a problem

I have knit all my travel knitting.

I thought I brought ample supplies. I had two easy projects and a difficult one. Lots of yarn for a family trip to Ottawa with a short stop at the cottage in Tweed. Usually I don't have a lot of time to knit. In fact, I played a lot of Two Dots and didn't knit when I opportunities. My knitting was even confiscated during out tour of the Parliament building.

It should have been enough.

I finished Rickenbacker before we left Ottawa. It needs a solid blocking and then it will be a perfect little scarf.

I finished the second sleeve of my Rhinebeck sweater (Brandied Cherry) on the drive to Tweed and the first few hours at the cottage. Frankly, that was unexpected...I got into the groove of the stitch pattern and just chugged along.

So I started the front. The hard part. The cables for which I must follow a chart. I haven't knit cables in a long while and it was great. I sat on the deck, half watched the lake and knit. I almost ran out of battery on my ipad which has the chart. That would have bought me some later knitting time now that I think about it.

Then I ran out of the yarn so had to shelve that project. Totally surprised me.

I didn't knit again yesterday because I knew I only had one project left. My always-in-my-purse project. Socks. Almost done socks. Crap, why didn't I bring more knitting socks.

It was a lovely afternoon again on the deck. Interspersed with some Twitter and Two Dots and Netflix. Then they were done. The ends woven in.

I guess I can wear them home in the car. Where I have a 2 1/2 hour drive and NO KNITTING.

NEXT TIME I BRING ALL THE YARN.

 


On Swatching

Some of the great minds in Toronto knitting have been taking about swatching, and I don't mean me. Funny thing was, I was on a swatching spree whilst this conversation was happening on Twitter. Kate and Steph, aka WiseHilda and The Yarn Harlot took apart the myths of swatching in a great thread and exposed the knitter's dirtiest secret: swatching is important. Knitters know it and most of us treat it like flossing one's teeth: they get that we all should do it, but most don't do it all the time, some don't do it at all.

For the record, I came around to daily flossing about ten years ago and almost never miss a day. I feel gross if I don't floss my teeth.

I haven't yet come around to feeling the same way about swatching.

I know the reasons:

  • To make a sweater that fits
  • To see how the yarn behaves at the pattern gauge
  • To test stitch patterns, colours etc.-- if I hate the swatching process, I'll hate knitting the project.
  • To figure out if I have enough yarn to make the project
  • To avoid the anguish of any of the above.

All good reasons, all the bran of knitting. All good for you. Yep. Yawn.

That being said, I discovered this weekend it's not all that bad to do. I knew that, but sometimes I have to do it again to remember.

I decided it was time to figure out my Rhinebeck sweater and to knit from stash. I had some patterns in mind and some yarn I want to use and needed to see what fit in terms of gauge and design. I started with Lorna's Laces Shepherd Worsted in Brick. This is pretty and somewhat precious yarn that's been waiting for the right project. One ball was attacked by moths and was living in the freezer. I took it out and just knit with 5mm needles to see what would happen.

Here it is washed (washing your swatch is essential since water can change the yarn and I expect you will wash the project at some point).

I got really smart and attached a note so I know what I did. It's a fine swatch but I found the fabric too loose. That disqualified it from a few project ideas.

I decided that I wanted to try Oshima again so got out yarn two: Briar Rose Charity. It's not the colour I remember (I swore it was blue) but knew it was likely the right weight so I swatched away.

The bottom was knit on 6mm needles and was too loose to get gauge so I did a line of garter and went down to 5mm needles. That worked and stayed consistent after washing. I also swatched the brioche stitch which is integral to the pattern and got gauge there too. Swatching also made me warm up to the yarn and colour. It's a mix of greys and blues that I dubbed Stormy Seas. It'll make a pretty Oshima.

Then I thought it might be too hot to wear that sweater at Rhinebeck so I went back to the orange yarn and swatched in pattern for Brandied Cherry. The designer, Thea Colman does a great job explaining what to do if you want to substitute yarns including swatching the cables, thinking about the weight of the finished sweater and ease.

Up to the marker I used a 4.5mm needle and realized it was too tight so I went up to a 5mm needles. I like the cables so decided to focus on the twisted rib which is the pattern needed to establish gauge and worked on that until I was satisfied. I'm a tad worried I won't have enough yarn for the size I plan on making but that is another post!

You will notice that I'm a lazy swatcher. I do four inches to get stitch gauge but fudge my row gauge. I should stop doing that. One day it will cause me problems.

Baby steps.

 

 


Tour de Fleece 2014


Thank the Internet for things like Tour de Fleece. Without it I would never get the nudge I need to spin the small stash of fibre I have and keep my wheels from getting dusty.


I really like to spin. I just like to knit more and I confess I get this weird anxiety about making MORE yarn when I have a huge stash already (somehow fibre itself doesn't seem to produce these feelings; I suspect it's a defence mechanism). It's also because some of this yarn seems unusable because of the quantity, colour, or how I spun it. I do better when I set out to spin for socks or a sweater even though I rather like setting up the wheel and letting the fibre and my mood determine the outcome. I guess that's what happens when a product knitter meets a process spinner...


This year I took a relaxed approach to the Tour and didn't even spin everyday, but I make three skeins I love.


The first involved finishing a project I started this winter. Indigodragonfly Pandabaa 50% merino, 50% tencel in Abstract Repressionism.



The undyed bits did nifty things to the coloured parts and it was fantastic to spin. I went for a long draw two ply with maximum squoosh. This will make a great hat.




Feeling confident, I went for colour. I bought a braid from a little shop in a little harbour town in PEI. I decided to try my hand at gradient spinning.



 



I'm very happy with how it turned out. About 290yds, sport weight, two ply. I'm going to wind this up and make a simple shawlette. The colours are a bit crazy, but it will be nice to wear in the depths of winter. Turns out the key to a two ply gradient is to be willing to stop during plying and cut out the yarn that messes with the striping. I think I prefer chain plying instead, but was glad I gave this a go.



The last project was singles. And it was a continuation of something I started...a while ago. I don't actually remember when. The fibre is good old "wool top", cheap and cheerful for a project like this where I can't predict how it will go.



I spun up 100grams of this before and made some nice bulky yarn. So now I had to make the second braid look the same. My advice: don't do this many months later.


It worked out pretty well, though. I had the same problem as the last time. The yarn was too twisty so I had to run it through the wheel the opposite way to remove some twist.



Pretty close!


I over handled the yarn when I washed it and it felted more than the first skein. I wanted to felt it a bit so it would stay together, but I over did it. It won't show in a cowl (especially with a stitch pattern) so I'm happy with the result. Blue strings is this year, pink strings the older yarn.



I rather like spinning a bulky single. I think this is a good use for those pretty braids of many colours.


Now my plan is to knit up the pink and green and try to spin a bit more often and knit up more of what I spin. At least until something else catches my fancy!