Sunday, February 21, 2016

Things I Know Now About Baby Sweaters, Randomly

1. Baby sweaters are oddly satisfying to knit and a great thing to accumulate in your box of future gifts. You know, just in case. 
My current favourite baby sweater is Flax by Tincanknits

2.  I know it takes time to build both a baby and a baby sweater and it is only rarely that either one surprises you with its immediate and unexpected arrival. So it is best to be prepared ahead of time.

3.  Some parents are reluctant to specify the gender of their baby; if they know at all.  So I am prepared and make them in all 3 genders: solid, variegated and striped.

This one is now finished!

4. I try to have at least 3 baby sweaters made and ready for immediate gifting at all times.

5. I'm pretty sure I need some new friends because they all proclaim they are done having babies.

6. Due to my friends reluctance to give me someone to knit for and my own children's insistence at being NOT babies and having their father's ridiculously long arms I've resorted to gifting baby sweaters to neighbours, co-workers, grandchildren of co-workers and assorted strangers.

Orange you glad it's another Flax?

7. Recipients very rarely understand or acknowledge the gift as being hand made without being told. I honestly can't tell if that is compliment or not. In my specific case this may or may not be the result of a new parent being presented a gift from an essential stranger.

8. Yes, it is highly self absorbed to make direct and prolonged eye contact with the new parent while telling them repeatedly that the gift was hand made. By me. With my own hands. And it took a long time. On small needles.  And I did that because I like you/ live near you/ work with you or someone you know/  have only just met you and see that you have an infant.

9. And unless the new parents have a "maker" somewhere in their family tree they still won't really understand. And that's O.K. Either learn to not take it personally or buy commercially made gifts. Get over yourself- you've just made a sweater. They made the baby. Between the two yours really is the lesser accomplishment.

9.5.  Unless you gifted a full Fair Isle sweater and then you totally win! Double win if it is in sticky Shetland wool! Triple win if you worked your colour work with both hands and had more than 2 colours per row.

10. But, seriously, if you did that then you need to question your life choices and your understanding of how babies work. (Spoiler alert: at some point this kid will squirt poop so far up its own back that their shoulder blades will be squishy. #the struggleisreal.) Baby sweaters should be as washable as the baby. Babies are complex enough creatures to figure out- we do not need to level up on difficulty with elaborate washing instructions.

11. Babies are ALWAYS knit-worthy... even if their parents aren't.

It's a process, Knitter!

Saturday, March 8, 2014

February was better... sorta

My new Grease is the Word socks
made with Biscotte & Cie Felix , in Brillantine
I told you all about my goal to NOT buy yarn until I had completed 58 workouts. Well, that plan is not quite as motivating as I had hoped.  You can see by the calendar posted above that I did better on the workout front in February than January (200% better!) But it was still pretty weak tea as far as effort goes.

As it turns out being no where near my goal didn't stop me from purchasing 660 yd of  lovely alpaca worsted weight yarn while in Ottawa last month. It wasn't a free-for-all shop session. I was controlled. I stayed focused by only choosing yarn with a specific project in mind.  This cowl has come to the top of my knitting queue these days. 

Imagine this in black, turquoise and red!
Hilton Field Cowl by Kate Gagnon Osborn
Picture courtesy of Interweave LLC
I have also started a pair of plain vanilla Valentine socks for my husband. Nothing says "I Love You" like knitting a pair of cashmere blend socks for someone who has giant feet. That's commitment folks. I have finished the first sock and have already turned the heel on the second- so he might even get them before March is through. (Just in time for it to get warmer you say. Ba Humbug, I retort. Haven't you heard? Winter is never going away this year.)  These are being made with a lovely rogue skein of Hazel Knits Entice MCN.

Here's an new addictive knit:  Linden Mittens by Jane Richmond. I love this new mitten pattern!  I could, and likely will,  knit these mittens over and over again! And as you can tell I also have a deep affection for self striping yarn too.

Almost matching mittens.
Linden Mitten by Jane Richmond
made with  String Theory Colorworks Momentum Self- Striping
 in Megallanica

Well, I had better put more effort into destashing because it seems like not buying yarn is not working so well.  Although I am trying very hard to be mindful of what I am buying and to plan projects from stash first.  I destashed 2,320 yards in February so I figure that I am still ahead in the game.

March will be another issue as I may have looked at (and maybe purchased) sock yarn on the Webs website yesterday... this will only be a problem if I can't accomplish 46 workouts by the end of the month.

That's doable, right?

Sunday, January 26, 2014

A New Year and New Goals for 2014

I had better get my act together!
Firstly, Happy New Year, albeit about 26 days late but the sentiment still applies  Did you accomplish all your knitting goals of 2013 before the end of the year? I did alright.

Last year was a great year for knitting for me. I completed 30 projects!  I made 11 hats, 8 "pairs"* of mitts, 5 baby sweaters, 2 pairs of socks, 1 big batch of knitted facecloths, and 3 child or adult sweaters.  Totaling just about 9,000 yards of yarn knit. Not too shabby. Finishing the year I have 4 unfinished WIP.

My last year's goal of finishing 5 big and 5 small projects was more than achieved. So yeah me! Yes, I totally count socks as a big project even though the result is actually quite small.

I actively put myself out of my comfort zone by trying some more complex projects than I have completed in the past. I tried- and loved- stranded colour work. I tried- and hated- intricate lace with beading especially as a knit-along project.  We'll call that one a draw.

My favourite project was definitely my LH and RH Snowfling Mittens.  The knitting of these mittens was fun but the games we've played afterwards have been so much better! I have big plans for 2014 on this front!

RH Mitten and me goofing around at
California Adventure Park this summer.
My least successful project was Georgia's Dream in Lime.  The sweater is lovely and so was the yarn.  I even enjoyed the knitting. Putting it all together resulted in a very stretchy sweater that will never fit G properly. EVER! I really don't believe in ripping projects but I am still seriously contemplating it for this project. The yarn is too lovely- and eye searing- to waste.  I keep trying to talk myself out of it!

I still haven't decided what to do with this.
I seriously thought about how to set goals for 2014.  I have a few specific things that I would like to  complete in 2014:
  • a sweater for each member of my immediate family. (This is a pretty big goal and will involve me deciding what to do with G's sweater above.) 
  • I have one specific UFO that only needs sleeves- my Early Evening Cardigan.
  • I would also like to knit a new pair* of mittens for my sister; and
  • a couple of pairs of socks for myself.
My issue for 2013 and a go-forward goal for 2014 will be to slow the stash acquisition!  I bought A LOT of yarn last year. Seriously! About 6 years worth. Now, some of that was vacation yarn shopping, a small portion was yarn clubs, and the rest was out of control on-line shopping.  I need to get my act together and actually use the yarn I have. Although I will have to buy yarn for Scott's sweater.

So that brings me to my ultimate to-fer goal for 2014: I aspire to not buy any yarn until I have completed 50** + 8*** workouts.  I will work from my stash until then.

For those of you thinking- what does that have to do with knitting? Well, admittedly, not much. I do, however, need to work on balance of my activities and working out more will join in well with other life goals for the year. If I hustle I could be shopping again in 10 weeks or if I continue as I have gone so far it could be more than 8 months. Either way I am not lacking for projects- or yarn- until then.

What are your goals for 2014?

* For me a "pair" of mittens is not necessarily a set of two. In the circumstances of anyone playing my LH vs. RH games a pair is typically only one mitt from their designated side.
**Full disclosure- this goal was originally going to be 100 workouts but with the calendar above it is easy to see that this could take me YEARS. So I have brought it down to a still-difficult-but-achievable-if-I-just-get-off-my-ass number.
***More full disclosure I have already cheated and bought 780 yards of yarn this past weekend while travelling; thus the  extra +8 workouts as penance.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

The good stuff

The shelves at Purl Sho, New York City

The shelves of The Yarn Company in New York City

I've done a fair bit of travelling over the last couple of years and one of the things that I love to do is to find a LYS and to see what they have to offer. On-line shopping is fine but nothing compares to being able to hold the yarn in your own hands and see the colour yourself!

The discovery of a new LYS is somewhat of a gambit. Sometimes you find a small selection of novelty and cotton dish cloth yarns with some plastic needles on a round rack. Sometimes you find a treasure trove of exclusive colourways or yarns you've only ever seen on-line or in magazines. Usually it is somewhere in between.

The joy of a good yarn store is to broaden your horizons and to inspire you with different colours or textures. A good yarn store doesn't have to be a big place. After all, you can fit a lot of yarn into a small space if you have to! My idea of a good yarn store is one with a large selection of a variety of yarns and in a variety of colours. You can so often tell the colour preferences of the yarn shop owner by what is displayed about the store. A good store, in my humble opinion, offers a broad palette of colour options. 

While in New York City last week I visited 3 of the best yarn stores I have ever seen!

I had only planned to visit one store while in New York and I had  chose Purl Soho, top picture above. It was a bright and colourful store. Now that is an impressive colour palette!  I loved the atmosphere and the way the yarn was displayed. It was like jumping into a impressionistic picture of colour. You had to step back to see the big picture but the close-up view was a happy blur. The staff were exceptionally friendly and helpful. I bought some gorgeous worsted weight wool made by the Swans Island Yarn Company. A Maine company with a commitment to high quality. I also bought some yarn to make the Simple Pleasures Hat. This is a hat , presumably, designed by someone who works at Purl Soho. I thought that was a good keepsake of the trip. I loved that they offered to wind all of the wool that I bought for me immediately.

I hadn't expected to have the time to find any more stores but my travels brought us near enough to the iconic The Yarn Company, that it would have been foolish to have walked on by without a quick peek inside. This store is now run by a brother-sister team and this famous yarn shop is full of exclusive colourways and unique yarn. One of the owners asked if I wanted a tour and then proceeded to show me, shelf by shelf, what her store had that others did not. What I saw was a commitment to independent dyers, designers and specialty yarn. The selection  of "the good stuff" was almost overwhelming. The owners personally knew and had collaborated with many big name knitwear designers and had the yarn selection to support that. I tried to buy exclusives only but walked away with a small bag of treasures all the same.

My last store visited was a complete fluke but a very happy one! I popped out of a restaurant and was waiting for the rest of my party to come out of a small shop next door when my husband spotted a sign that said Annie & Co Knitting and needlepoint. I skipped down the street and was mesmerized by the impressive colour selection of Madelinetosh yarns. This was a very cozy and welcoming store. You got the impression that the staff would sit you right down and chat with you, if given the option.  I didn't walk away from that store empty handed either.

Yarn is such a tactile pleasure and one that so many people do not fully appreciate until you have the choice between a soft scarf and one made of scratchy wool at your neck.

In one of the stores one of my friends, who doesn't knit, whispered quietly to my husband "Did you know that yarn was so expensive?"

My husband replied wryly "Did you expect her to like the cheap stuff?"

The friend, holding a tiny skein of 100% cashmere in his hand with his eyebrows to the sky at the price said "No wonder she says nothing at all about your comic book collection. She's in no position to complain."

My husband smiled slyly and said "Exactly. You'd better find a seat, she could be a while."

It's a process, knitter!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

FO and WIPs- The Good Stuff

I have been making good progress on my projects of late. I have a great stack of FO to show off! You can see that I have been focusing on smaller items lately.

Top row: Frukttradgard, Cabled Canuk, Squall Hat
Middle row: Cascade baby, Dream in Lime, Tangerine Sunnyside
Bottom row: Emperor's New Socks, Knotty Baby Hat, DK socks
Most of these items are gifts for specific people. Some are future gifts for special people. Babies are definitely special people!

These were for Brody. His mother likes monkeys!
Ziyah was also gifted with an extra special sweater.

Georgia's Dream in Lime is a bit of a conundrum. Georgia picked the yarn and the Boathouse Mini pattern.  Both are lovely but only the colour suited Georgia. As you can see below the combination of a disproportionally wide sweater, a boatneck neckline and very stretchy fabric combine to make an unwearable sweater.

I need to fix this but I am not just sure how. I have a couple of ideas... Plan A: I am contemplating ripping out or cutting off the neckline and knitting a more fitted yoke upwards from there. Short rows will be involved and I will be completely winging it. The thought of cutting the sweater is giving me the shakes.

Plan B involves leaving the neckline intact and picking up stitches on the inside of the collar and making rectangular inserts that will come up over her shoulders and help the sweater stay in place. This is the much easier plan; however I am concerned that the stretchy fabric will still fall off her shoulders.

Plan C- and I REALLY don't like this plan- is to rip it all and start over. Sigh.  The yarn is too nice to waste.

Anyone have any suggestions?

I have one WIP to show you.

I told you about the mystery lace shawl project with beads, right? It is going fairly well but I am WAY behind schedule. (Had I really expected to be able to stay on track with this one?) I am only mid way through Clue #2 with the last clue, #4, coming out on Tuesday.  Here is my progress so far:

I like it so far.
I finished Clue #1 twice. I frogged my first attempt because I was using lace weight yarn and was making way too many mistakes due to the fine gauge. (Note to self: stop buying lace weight yarn- I do not like knitting with this!) So I restarted with some fingering weight, Tanis Fiber Arts, Blue Label in the Dove colourway,  from my stash.  The yarn is gray with hints of pink, purple and blue. It is hard to tell in these pictures but the beads are both silver and a muted purple- so I think it works well all together.

I like the beads in the yarn. They add a very subtle sparkle that I think is pretty.  I'm still on the fence on whether I am enjoying the making lace. Beading is a lot more simple than I had expected. I am enjoying the results but this seems like very fussy work.

I'll continue and see what the final project looks like.  It's a process, Knitter.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

The season is changing and so is my mind

The season is starting to change and that, for me, means that snow and cold weather is coming.  Probably sooner rather than later.  Autumn is my favourite time of year and colder weather gives me lots of excuses (as if I needed any) to wear my warm and woolies.

I have so many projects on my mind right now. I am days away from starting a mystery lace shawl KAL. I'm excited about it BUT it is easy to mentally put aside a project where you don't know the end result. I am going to try to keep up with the clues but knitting 800 yds of lace in a month may be a little much for me. I just need to get started before I get completely distracted with other things.

I had also promised to knit Finn a sweater. His project is technically first in the queue. We finally have the right yarn and have found the picture of the skull he wants- the skull from The Punisher. The real problem is that if I make this Scott will want one too.

Now I just need to make a chart for this!

So what else is on my mind and in my queue:
  1. Cabled Canuck by Tanis Lavallee.  I belong to Tanis' Year in Colour yarn club. I just received my September yarn and it is gorgeous! She provides yarn, in this case her Orange Label Cashmere/Silk Worsted (yummy!) and the pattern. The pattern she sent is also a lovely cabled hat but I like this one better. This hat is going to look absolutely gorgeous in the Mosaic colourway.

Photo Courtesy of Tanis Lavallee of
Tanis Fiber Arts

2. The Lonely Tree Shawl by Silia Bo Bilivia. I really like this worsted weight shawl. I imagine it wrapped around my neck in a bold, yet subdued colour that accents my grey winter coat. It also could be one of those shawls that works well wrapped around or on top of your seasonal coat.

Photo Courtesy of Silivia Bo Bilivia
3. Love Potion by Nadia Crétin-Léchenne. This woman designs fabulous cardigans. (She also designed my Early Evening Cardigan, known to the rest of the world as the Miss Marple Cardigan.) This looks like the kind of cardigan you could live in. Warm and snugly yet stylish and chic. I like the detail of the icord for contrast. (That being said right now when I am not in the throws of knitting 2 miles of attached icord.)

Photo courtesy of Nadia Cretin- Lechenne.
4. Trellis by Lili Comme Tout. If I were inclined to knit a fingering weight cardigan right now, which I might be, this is the one I would make. I may have already ordered a sweater's worth of Hazel Knits, Entice yarn in their new Halloween colourway BooKnits (a Gothic dark purple); but that may just be a unseemly rumour that is being spread by my husband. I love the lace detail on the front. I love the simplicity of the design. A really dark purple seems to be my colour focus this fall. It is a good neutral for me and not too far away from my favourite blacks and greys. I'm already imagining knitting this and have decided that I will knit this as a faux cardigan- it won't really open although I will add the buttons. I think that I would wear this piece closed so as to better show off the lace detail.

Photo courtesy of Lili Comme Tout.
(BTW: I love her play on words.)
Just one more and because mittens are never too far from my mind...

5. Warm Hearted Mittens by Rose Hiver. I am fascinated by stranded colour work right now. I found that I really enjoyed my first pair and I am anxious to do more. As above I may have bought a shit load of fingering and DK weight yarns to make mittens this winter. Those who can see my stash on Ravelry- not my husband!- can see that I am becoming a bit of a hoarder for this type of yarn. I definitely see another pair of colour work mittens in my future; maybe these ones. LOVE them!

Photo courtesy of Rose Hiver.
Pattern can be found in newest issue of Knitty, Fall 2013, for FREE!

So what are you knitting these days?

Friday, September 13, 2013

It's the little things

I have been listening to knitting podcasts lately. I don't have many friends that knit and I enjoy listening to other people chat about their projects and what's in their queue on Ravelry. I am currently listening to: The Doubleknit Podcast, Stash and Burn, and Never Not Knitting.

Here's my problem with listening to these podcasts: stifling my knitter's envy when they discuss their finished objects (FO). Especially while listening to the Doubleknit twins, Jessica and Erin. OMG they are both so prolific!  This is not an actual transcript but this is what I hear when they talk about what they have finished.

Erin: So what have you finished since we last podcast?
Jessica: Well...not much. I've been in a bit of a funk lately. So I knit a charity hat, a pair of socks, some fingerless mitts for a friend, and finished a shawl that I've had on the needles for a long time. Oh, yeah, I finished that blanket I was working on. Oh wait a minute...and that sweater. And started a new one... But that's nothing to your list. (they both laugh) What have you finished?
Erin: Well, I've had a good month. I finished 2 pairs of socks, 7 dishcloths for Christmas gifts,  2 charity hats,  a swap gift, a test knit that I can't talk about, a sweater for my daughter and a sweater for me. Oh, and I started and finished a blanket! And a Rebecca Danger monster for a kid's birthday gift.

Please tell me that I am not alone in saying "Holy Shit!" That is a lot of knitting! Add me into that imaginary conversation and we would say:

Erin & Jessica: So, Jen, what have you finish in the last 2 weeks?
Jen: A hat... for a tiny baby.

I know that it is not fair to compare between knitters. Some are fast, some are slow. Some have an isolated time to knit (me) and others have all the time in the world. It took me a while but I have finally clued into the secret to having a longer list of FOs to brag about in a month... work on little things in large gauge. And knit whenever you can, even if it is for just a few stitches at a time.

A dishcloth doesn't need to be made on 2.5mm needles. Let's crank that up to 4mm needles and get this party started! Are you considering making a fingering weight long sleeved tunic? No, thank you. I'll make a DK weight scarf instead, thanks.

I am adding a few items to the gift basket. Albeit very, very slowly.

Here's the actual FO & WIP list for the last month or so. Not so bad.
Clockwise from left: Stripy Vanilla socks, Squall Hat (purple),
Frukttradgard beret, 2 dishcloths,
rainbow Knotty Baby Hat.

So what's next for me: In October I am planning on doing a mystery KAL for a lace shawl that will have over 1000 beads. WOW! That just screams speed knitting doesn't it? Oh, have I mentioned that not only have I never tried lace but I've never beaded before either.  I'm jumping into the deep end with this one.

I'm not sure October is going to be the month that allows me to join the ranks of the elite knitting circle just quite yet.

But it's a process, Knitter.