I'm Back!

What a difference a weekend away with friends and wine and lots of yarn makes.

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Especially the friends and the yarn (which I might have rolled in a wee bit--Keri is demonstrating for photographic purposes, but I also participated).

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This winter seemed to be a series of minor knitting disasters which I chalk up to a combination of lack of inspiration and just plain old tiredness from overwork.  Now Spring is here, I'm getting more exercise (I'm back on my bike and back to a sensible running program), and I have some pretty new yarn to serve as inspiration.

I'm making Carnaby Street--a comfy, loose spring sweater with kicky stripes and a bit of fun knitting.

After much fussing with a more neutral palette, I chose the colours that beckoned me the minute I saw them: Indigodragonfly Uber-MerGoat in Squid Vicious (blue) and Already Frogged (green).

It's tricky to photograph, but this one is about right.  The colours are bright but not crazy.  Just like me ;)

Carnaby

I'm so much back to knitting: the back is done and I'm at the armholes on the front in a mere two weeks.

 Stripes

This yarn is FANTASTIC.  Soft, pretty, easy to knit with.  Read about the MerGoats here (they're special).  I'm actually thinking of how possible it would be to have this sweater finished this weekend (I'm so back, I'm delusional).

I think I'll consider more of this yarn at the Knitter's Frolic.  That's more realistic.

Oh ya, I'm even spinning a bit.  I took poor Imogene out of my room where she has been stashed since the kitchen renovation and started on some pretty fibre.  I remembered why I bought the Little Gem--it's a sweet wheel.

 Getting reacquainted with Imogene, I haven't spun on this wheel for over 18 months.

Feels good to be back doing the stuff I love. 


So maybe I can knit nice things

I'm happy to report two finished objects that I am rather pleased with.

I finally finished the Willow and Oz knee socks I started in October.

Randomly striped knee socks are definitely nifty, but these were a slog. I think it was the knitting with two balls of yarn. Not portable and a bit fiddly.

Emma loves them and that makes me happy. The colours are fantastic: Indigodragonfly merino sock in My world is all askew and Hootenanny: Well it's chock full of hoot, just a little bit of nanny.

And yesterday I finished something nice for me:

Sweetums fingerless mitts in beautiful Indigodragonfly merino silk. This is not a colour I would pick for myself. That the nice thing about clubs. They push you outside of your normal boundaries. Now that they're done I love them. The colour is so pretty (top photo is more accurate; it's hard to photograph your own hands).

These were the ones I stumbled on a few weeks back. Once I got over that it was smooth sailing and for a little bit I felt like I had my knitting groove back.

They're very warm and cozy. And sadly, still needed. Actually, it was too cold to wear them today.

I think I'm going to stick with some small things, it feels good to finish some pieces that I'm happy with.

 


Maybe I should just give up knitting (not really)

This winter has not been a great one for me knitting-wise.  I've made a few accessories that were just okay, but not much else, and I haven't had a project that really grabbed me.  

Well, I shouldn't say that because working on Oshima was pretty great.  Until it wasn't.  

I think I need a knitting win.

Knocking off a quick WIP was the plan last week.  The kids were at my Mom's for the March Break (and yes, it was fantastic), I had all of season two of House of Cards to watch and plenty of Indiodragonfly Smart Ass Knitters/World Domination one skein projects to choose from.  I got back to the Caulking arm/leg warmers and got to it.  

I finished the first one and dove into the second one.  Then I took a little break and started the Sweetums fingerless mitts.  All was good.

Until it wasn't.

Apparently I can't read.  I missed an entire line in the Sweetums pattern and didn't notice until 48 rows later when I couldn't figure out where to put the thumb.  I was silly enough to write to the designer and it wasn't until she explained it that I noticed I missed the line in the pattern.

While Sweetums was working itself out I finished both House of Cards and the second armwarmer.  Tried them on, did the photo shoot and then noticed something wasn't quite right.  

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The second armwarmer was a full repeat (8 sts) bigger than the first one.  (No I didn't write down what size I was making, who does that?!).

I actually turned off the tv and counted the repeats on the first one twice to confirm the number: 56.  When I was casting on, I distinctly remember doing the math in my head as I distributed the stitches on the dpns.  16 per needle.  Because 16x4 is totally 56.

Except it's 64.

Twelve inches, ripped out.  I casted it on properly and it's in the travel knitting pouch.  I'll get back to it.

Sweetums is coming along very nicely.  Almost done the first one.   

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I hope this goes smoothly now.  I'm tired of so many mess ups of the easy things that I've been doing most of my life like reading and counting.

 


Reality Bites

I have to face facts. I'm not going to have enough of my special over dyed cork to make Oshima. The yarn was specially over dyed so there is no more. I've been hoarding it because I love Cork and the colour is so fabulous.

Finding this out earlier (or rather, getting past my denial earlier) would have been nice since I have the sleeves done and am almost at the neck shaping on the body.

Instead of abandoning it completely I'm thinking I could make a plainer sweater. I love the brioche stitch but find it too stiff with the Cork at this gauge and it EATS yarn. I also have 3 skeins of orange cork that I could use too.

I figure these are my options:

Option 1: knit on and use the orange cork in the cowl. I could still be short of yarn and this colour combo could look weird.

Option 2: rip back the brioche stitch on the body work the body in stockinette to generally conform to the pattern, knit the collar in brioche or even just rib I lose some of the design but get a big cozy sweater.

Option 3: put the the whole thing in a bag and put it away. Next Fall find another pattern for the cork (probably a Custom Fit) and find another yarn for Oshima (this pattern is fantastic). To console myself, immediately cast on something that I know will work.

Right now I'm voting for option 3. Especially the casting on part.

Thoughts? I think I need some knitter perspective.

 


Toronto Peeps! Put March 24th In Your Calendars!

Guess who's finally coming to Toronto?

She's a knitter

She's an author

She's one of the original knit bloggers

She's fun, and fantastic and I love her to death...

Rachael Herron!!!!! (muppet flail)

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I'm pretty sure this was the last time I saw Rachael--Rhinebeck 2009--which seems too long ago!

Rachael is on tour with her new book, Pack Up the Moon, (released today) and she's coming to Ben McNally Books in Toronto on March 24th, 6pm.

Pack up the moon

I can't wait to get inside this book.  I know Rachael is really proud of this one.

If you haven't read Rachael's Cypress Hollow books, you should have a look at those.  That series turned me into a person who reads romance novels.  They were happy, funny, light-hearted, engaging stories with some fine, steamy love scenes.  

I think we owe it to her as readers and knitters, to show her a good time while she visits Toronto.  Who's with me?!  


Winter Is Not So Bad

I've been thinking about my poor forgotten blog a lot lately. I have no intention of giving it up, even if no one reads it. I've been writing here for 10 years and still like the process of coming here and writing a few things, marking moments in my life with photos, cataloging my fibre-pursuits and the emphemera of my life.

The sad thing is that when there's too much going on, I don't have the time (or more rightly the energy) to compose a post, upload and edit the photos and contribute to the space that means a lot to me.

In the last month there's been more time spent on work than is normal and than I like and it's been duties that take a lot of mental effort on my part. Sadly it's sapping my energy to even knit some nights, so instead I read tweets or mindlessly play spell tower which makes me feel even less ready to face another work day. The weather has been cramping my small desire to exercise, another blow to morale.

This weekend, I did some fun things and hope they'll recharge my energy levels and get me moving both physically and emotionally. I went skiing for the first time in 20 years and it was fun! I've only skiied half a dozen times and i was expecting a minor disaster. Instead I had a great time and I'm not even very sore. The kids and Craig tried snowboarding and we all got plenty of fresh air and time away from the pressures of work and school.

There's no pictures--we were all too busy! But here's one from our Sunday walk out on a frozen Lake Simcoe.

(I posted a few more on Instagram--I'm docsteph)

I used to think I didn't like winter, but now I realize I don't like typical grey soggy damp Toronto winters. That bright snow and blue sky were so gorgeous.

Let's not be so crazy as to believe I don't want this one to end; another week of really cold temperatures, no biking and little motivation to run isn't what I want. But having the chance to be out doing fun things in the snow is pretty fantastic and got me back here to write a bit.

Now I'm going to cast on the body of a sweater. Let's see of I can get my knitting groove back too.

 


Bohus Repair in 6 Steps

Not a good way to start the morning:

I must have been a bit rough when I was putting on my beloved Grey Mist Bohus. I heard a bad ripping sound and it looked like this.

It was knit top down and I had broken the yarn on the hem bind off. Some stitches had started to unravel.

Not. Good.

To add to the complexity, I had modified the sweater awhile back to fit me better and the sides are steeked. This means I couldn't just rip back the whole bind off and do it again.

I will also say that at 9 sts to the inch that didn't seem necessary to fix 2 inches of hem, so I concocted a different plan.

This morning I made the repairs. It was easy enough that I took the time to have fun with the Halftone app and did a little photo essay.

Step One: Capture all the stitches.

Bohus yarn is 50% merino, 50% angora so the stitches aren't really going anywhere, but I needed them all on needles so I could have something to work with. I put the last bound off stitch on a marker and picked up everything not worrying if they had unravelled more than others. I just needed to get everything on the needles.

Step Two: Fix All the Stitches

Now I took the time to arrange all the live stitches, knit up any that had dropped and to make sure I got them all. This is not so easy with tiny fuzzy yarn, so I made sure I was thorough.

Step Three: Unravel the Bind Off a Bit More

I didn't have a lot of yarn on one end of the broken bit so I unpicked the bind off about 10 more stitches so I had something to work with. Since I was "going backwards" this meant undoing the stitches manually with a tapestry needle and catching the live ones before I pulled out the yarn--no sense in having to wrangle more live stitches.

Then I transferred each stitch back to the left hand needle, checked again that I didn't miss anything and was now back at my orange marker.

Step Four: Attach New Yarn

I decided to use the Magic Knot to attach my new yarn to bind off. It figured at this gauge it wouldn't show. It was also secure. Spit splicing would also have worked.

Step Five: Bind Off

The original bind off was a regular one, but since this must be where I put pressure on the sweater when I put it in, I decided to use Jeny's Surprisingly Stretchy Bind Off for these stitches just to be on the safe side.

When that was done I had two ends. The end of my new bind off and the end where I picked out the old one.

Since both ends were already secure (picking out the old one was challenging so I figured it was staying put), I just prettied it up and wove in the ends.

Step Six: Admire

No one will notice unless they inspect the hem up close.

If anyone does that, I'll know they're a knitter.

 


Custom Fit: My first custom sweater

Pssst, have you heard about Custom Fit?  

I just finished my first custom sweater and it's pretty fantastic.

While I haven't said anything about actually knitting this sweater, it's mostly because from a knitting perspective that makes this remotely interesting.  But now that it's done,  I thought I should give a quick review of custom fit by Amy Herzog because this sweater is a perfect fit!

Custom Fit is the brainchild of Amy Herzog.  She's built a website with a "method" whereby you get a sweater pattern that fits both your measurements and your swatch.
 
She has a number of plain recipes and some of her designs now have custom fit recipes where you input certain things like sleeve length and neckline and ease to generate the pattern for you.  Then you get the pattern embellishments like cables to add in as needed.
 
The two things you have to do to start a custom fit is a) get someone to measure you in a lot of places (we had a measuring party at Rhinebeck) and b) swatch a big piece for each sweater.
 
You join the website (free) and add your measurements and your swatch (your measurements are stored and you add a swatch for each project).  Then you let the site take you through the process of generating a pattern built for your body and your gauge.  There are lots of instructional videos to explain things and the interface is simple to use.
 
The nice part is that it will make a pattern in any gauge.  Even if one of Amy's designs is in dk and you want fingering, her elves do all the work.  Sure I could do the math, but I'm happier to have it done for me!  
 
With all that, you input some things on the site and it generates a pattern for you.  It's $10 for the pattern and an additional $2.50 for the recipe if it's from one of her designs.  That might seem like a lot, but you're getting a pattern written specifically for your measurements for $10.  And if you want the specs to add her pattern beauty to your custom fit, it's $2.50.  A made-to-measure pattern in your gauge with her design flare for less than a 3-D movie.
 
Based on what I read in the Ravelry forums, and in talking to my knitpals who are over the moon happy with custom fit (I link to their testimonials below), I decided to start with something simple to see how the whole process works.  And I like knitting stockinette sweaters.  
 
I swatched my Miss Babs Yowza Whatta Skein! worsted and asked for a simple vee neck.  The pattern gave me the sleeve length I wanted, with the hem hitting me exactly where I like it and shoulders that fit.  It was also knit to the gauge of the swatch I made.  It's perfect.  
 
 
I will confess I don't have a complicated figure compared to many women (there was only 2 waist decreases and 1 increase) but I hate swatching to someone else's gauge so I LOVE that feature.
 
My pals Keri and Kim however have more complicated shapes and both of them are converts to this system.  They're making beautiful sweaters that fit them perfectly.  
 
 
There's a Ravelry forum: http://www.ravelry.com/groups/customfit
 
And here's Keri's testimonial: http://www.amyherzogdesigns.com/2013/10/11/ff-from-scratch-iii/ (she is rather busty and has never had a sweater that fit well until now).  
 
And Kim is a freakin' knitting machine!  She's cranking out a wardrobe of beautiful sweaters.
 
Pretty nifty eh?  Check it out.  I'm already plotting my next one.

 


Two Weeks and Back Again

One of the great things about my job is my employer's committment to developing a family-friendly workplace.  They've moved away from the term work-life balance because its difficult to define and somewhat personal, but it's still something they value.  Not everyone is personnally good at finding that balance, but my university has a lot of structures in place which tell me they acknowledge that I have a life outside of work and I should have time to spend doing other things that I love, with whomever I define as my family.

Shutting down for two weeks around the Christmas holiday is one manifestation of that commitment.  Two full weeks off, with pay... and it was fantastic.  A bit of Christmas stuff and a whole lot of lazy time.  I knit, I spun, I watched a lot of Damages on Netflix, saw some movies at home and in the theatre, slept late, cooked, even cleaned and I hung out with my family who also took advantage of the time off and relaxed. We spent more days in our pyjamas than in clothes.  It was perfect.

It's a privilege to have such leisurely time, and I also think it's important to just hang out sometimes since our usual life pattern is to be on the go--work, school, activities, homework, housework, obligations etc. I was happy not to get through my super ambitious Winter Break To Do List in favour of just letting the days take me where I wanted them to go. I was almost ready to go back to work this morning now that I'm rested and feeling good.

Except for the getting up part.  Early mornings are early.  And it's cold out.  The whole family successfully got back into the groove of everyday life.  But we're still kinda wishing for a snow-day.


2013: Crafty Round Up

I love Ravelry.  Not only does it keep me organized but it gives me data.  I love data. 

For example: I have a lot of yarn.  56,268 meters worth.  That doesn't include yarn being used in WIPs because Ravelry knows that it's spoken for (at least for the moment, I have a few WIPs that need reconsideration).

Do I have less yarn than last year? Not sure.  I think the spreadsheet with that information is on my work computer so I'll have to check when I'm back next week. (By the way, two weeks off at Christmas is amazing...by far the best benefit of my job).

I do strive for stash equilibrium whereby I knit as much as I purchase or spin and therefore don't make more stash.  I'm pretty sure I'm close to last year's number and not near the over 60km I've had in the past, so that's something.

As for what I did accomplish knitting/weaving/spinning wise...it was a fine year.

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5 sweaters

3 scarves/shawls

3 hats (one that never made it to Ravelry)

6 cowls

1 pair armwarmers

1 pair of knee socks

1 amazing blanket

I even managed to spin some yarn (but not very much!)

I don't generally set crafty goals because I want to use that time freely and work on what strikes me as fun, motivating, challenging, easy or whatever it is that I need from my fibre pursuits.  Everyone in the family needs socks so I will try to work on some plain ones so no one's feet are cold and I could really use a new hat, but otherwise, I'll keep working on things that please me at the time.  It's a luxury to have the time and resources to have something like that in my life and I'm not going to mess with it.

I bet some of you have knitting goals.  I always like to hear them if you want to share.