Saturday, 29 March 2014

See my vest! See my vest!

Made from real gorilla yak chest!  Weird...

Anyway, about a million years ago I started knitting the Honeycomb Vest.  Okay, two years.  That's still a long time though.  I used Lang Yarns Yak which is a soft and squishy blend of merino and yak wool.

This was a bit of a different project for me from the start, because although I thought the yarn was dk weight when I bought it, it turns out that it was aran weight which is thicker, and therefore meant that I had to do a gauge swatch.  Yes.  Actual swatching.  And math.  How crazy is that?  I worked out that I would need to knit a smaller size than the one that looked like it would actually fit me, but I decided to trust the swatch and go with it.

I started the back in July of 2012 and maybe got a third of the way up before needing a break and knitting something else.  This stitch pattern is extremely fiddly.  Extremely.  It might not be so bad if it was knit in the round, but given that it was knit back and forth, it made it that much worse.  So when I got back to it, months after starting it, I was only able to handle doing a bit more before putting it back in time out.

This cycle continued over the next year and a half.  The back (eventually) got done, and the front (eventually) got started, and (finally) it got to the point where the back and front could be grafted together at the shoulders.  I think that was near the end of last year or the beginning of this one (sorry for the blurry picture).

And then that's where it stayed for a couple of months, because the next step required it to be blocked before all the finishing could be done.  Even though, truthfully, blocking doesn't take that much time or effort, I have a bit of a mental block (pun intended) about it.  Especially in this case.  Usually when you block something, that means that it's finished and ready to be worn.  In this case (and with other garments that are pieced together), it needed to be blocked to the proper measurements before it was ready for a lot MORE work.  I wasn't going to rush it.

Then, a few weeks ago I got invited to tag along to a small weekend retreat of quilters (some of whom are also knitters) and decided that it was time to bite the bullet.  I blocked the vest in anticipation of a weekend away with no other distractions.  I still brought other knitting with me, because if I only had the vest along it might drive me crazy, but my goal was to get it as close to finished as I possibly could.

The first evening I googled how to do mattress stitch and sewed up the side seams.  That took all evening but they turned out well.

The next day I spent picking up stitches and knitting the twisted rib around the neck and one of the arm holes.

And on the final morning of the retreat, I picked up the stitches for the second arm hole, and without counting as I was going picked up EXACTLY the same number of stitches as for the first arm hole.  I took that as a good sign so I powered through and finished the ribbing around the second arm hole, wove in the ends, and breathed a huge sigh of relief that this monkey was finally off my back.

It even fits.  Not perfectly, but pretty well.  Maybe it would have fit my July of 2012 self even better, but who cares.

Thank goodness that it's still cold enough outside to be able to wear a knitted vest without sweltering!… Just kidding.  I'd prefer if it was too warm for the vest.  I've waited long enough for the vest, I could have waited a bit longer.

Monday, 10 March 2014

Slog breaker

After writing last weeks post I decided I needed to knit something to break up the boredom of everything else I was knitting.  I had already picked out a pattern and wound the yarn a couple of months ago but hadn't gotten around to knitting it yet.

I chose the Knotted Pine hat because it would be a relatively quick project with some really interesting stitch patterns.  There was no way it would be able to become yet another slog.

The yarn is some dk weight super wash merino that I picked up in a tiny little shop on Salt Spring Island in BC.  It's a yummy hand dyed grey with flecks of orange and navy every so often.  

I cast on and quickly made some good progress.

Even Olivia was super impressed.  That's her impressed face.  

The honeycomb cable panel in the front is flanked by braided cables on each side, and an embossed rib section on either side of that.  No chance to get bored on this hat!  There's stuff going on every few rows.

Even the back of the hat, while it doesn't have cables, is more interesting than plain stockinette.  It could easily be modified to be knit as plain stockinette if desired, but instead of knitting every row, every other row is knit through the back loop which makes it look really neat and also gives it some extra squish.

Once the hat is as long as it needs to be, the top is grafted together and then the corners tucked inside and sewn together.  I used the same technique for the lumberjack hat and beard for my brother's Christmas present.

I love this technique for hats because they still fit well once finished, and it means that a complex cable panel like this doesn't have to be messed up or cut short due to decreases.

Knit in a week, from start to finish.  I don't even think it needs blocking.  I might end up blocking it before next winter (who am I kidding, no I won't), but for now I'm going to wear it every day until it's too warm to wear a hat.  On one hand, I hope that day comes soon since I'm ready for winter to be over.

On the other hand, I wanna wear this hat!  Maybe I'll hope for just a few more cold days.  Sorry, but if you had a hat this awesome, you'd want to wear it too.  If it makes you feel better, you can blame the rest of winter on me.  Just leave the hat out of it.

Saturday, 1 March 2014


It's March now, and we're still completely frozen.  There is ice in all of my windows, and my house keeps making alarming popping noises.

At least the furnace is still going strong.  If it cuts out for some reason we'll be in trouble.

I'm really hoping this is winter's last hurrah.  I know I mentioned last week that I try to stay slightly pessimistic about things, including the arrival of spring, but with the days getting noticeably longer it's really hard to convince myself that we're still in the middle of winter.  I can't help but get hopeful for the arrival of spring, even though I know it could be some time yet.

As I wait for it to warm up outside, I'm just trying to stay warm inside.  I've got plenty of knitting to keep warm with, but it's hard to keep my attention on it.  All of my knitting is at the slog stage.  It feels never-ending.

I put in some good work on Viajante, to the point where I'm now fully done with the first ball of yarn.  I started switching between the the first and second balls of yarn every new round when I had about 1/4 of the first ball left, and now it's all gone so I'm just knitting from the second ball.  That means I have to be well over halfway done, right?

The problem is that it never seems to get appreciably bigger.  I know it is getting bigger, but it doesn't seem like it.  Stockinette stitch in lace weight.  What was I thinking?

I've always been a knitter who enjoys the process and the product, but I've had enough of plain stockinette I think.  I'm tired of the process, I just want the product.  Until I can find some house elves to finish it for me, I think I'm outta luck on that.

When the lace weight stockinette gets too dull I've been working hard on another project too, more out of a desire to see it finished and move on to the next thing than a real need to get it done immediately.  It does need to get done though, so I can't ignore it completely.

Right now it's at a stage where it's not difficult to knit, but I do need to pay attention to it because if I made a mistake it would be very obvious.  However, it's also very repetitive, so it's easy to lose focus and make mistakes.  The best of both worlds!

The Hermione's everyday socks are continuing on nicely and I don't consider those a slog, but I'm also trying not to finish them too quickly because I'm not sure what kind of portable project I want to knit next.  They're great for carrying around in my purse and knitting on my lunch break or whenever else.  I know that they'll be done before winter is really over, so I'll still have plenty of time to wear them before it's too hot for socks.

Not pictured (because they're all buried in project bags somewhere in the house) are other sloggy WIPs.  A shawl that is just two row stockinette stitch stripes (more stockinette, yay!), a vest that needs blocking before it can be finished (so that may not happen for a long time yet), striped socks (yet more stockinette), and that crocheted shawl that in November I was dreaming would be done in December.  There may be more but those are the ones I can remember now.  I'm trying really hard not to start more things before finishing one or two of them, because everything I'm knitting is stuff that I want to wear, I just don't feel like working on them right now.

I keep thinking about the other yarn in my stash that I haven't gotten a chance to knit with yet.

Like these.  The colour combination drives me crazy and I've been dreaming about knitting something with these since I first put them next to each other.  Of course, I just need the perfect pattern.  Maybe the Great Divide Shawl?  Or Bryum?  Either way, it would be fabulous.

And this.  I think this needs to be a cowl (perhaps a moebius) of some kind.  I don't have a pattern in mind but I'm sure there's one out there.

Can you tell I need some new colours in my life?  There aren't going to be any flowers around for some time, so my yarn will have to do.

Friday, 21 February 2014

Visible mending

You might think that I haven't written a post in nearly a month, but it only seems like almost a month because February is short.  Yep, that's why.  No other reason.

Ok but seriously folks, what the heck happened to February?  There's only a week of it left!  We're down to only four (technical) weeks of winter!  I'm not sure why, but the passing of February always seems to take me by surprise.  I'm trying not to get too optimistic yet though, because that only leads to disappointment.  I try to go through life with a healthy but slightly pessimistic attitude.  It means that more often than not, I'm pleasantly surprised instead of disappointed.  The Enabler bugs me about this sometimes but it works for me so I'm not planning to change it anytime soon.

In this post from June last year I briefly mentioned a pillow that I had made in memory of a dear friend's cat.  This pillow became a permanent fixture on her couch and I was always a little proud to see it being well used and well loved when visiting her house.

The love she had for the pillow was obvious and apparently contagious, because a month or so after adopting a new dog, the dog decided to show how much she loved the pillow too.  Unfortunately, the dog expressed this love in the form of trying to eat the pillow.

It was a couple of weeks before my friend gathered up the courage to tell me that the pillow now had several "love bites" taken out of it, and would I please take a look at it to see if I could fix it?  Of course I told her that I'd be happy to take a look at it.

And look at it I did.  It sat, with its four little mouths gaping sadly at me for a couple of weeks after she gave it to me, before I worked up the nerve to try and make it better.  I am not a great sewer or mender of things.  My skills with a needle involve little tasks like sewing buttons back on when they fall off, or reinforcing a hem that's threatening to unravel, but it doesn't go much beyond that.  I recently had a few small forays into the world of mending knitted things, when my mom's Forbidden Forest mittens started to unravel in several places, and a pair of the Enabler's socks started wearing out on the ball of his foot.  If I hadn't recently had those experiences, I'm not sure I would have been able to take this one on.  I might have said to my friend, "It's fine, I'll just make you a new one… out of phentex."

Thankfully for everyone, that didn't happen.

I grabbed my darning needle, the leftover grey yarn, a stiff drink, and dove in.

Before I started, I realized that I didn't have to make it look perfect.  Trying to make it look perfect would just make me crazy because it would never happen.  My only goal was to keep it from unravelling further and to close up the holes.

Thinking back on it now, I probably should have read up on how to fix holes in knitting but then I thought to myself that when my grandmother had to fix something, she didn't have the internet, she just had to get by on moxie (and possibly a mother or grandmother showing HER how to do it, but never mind).  Also, if I had stopped to read methods of fixing holes in knitting I probably would have just slipped into an internet knitting spiral that undoubtedly would have ended with me either scaring myself out of even trying, or browsing patterns on ravelry for several hours.

Truthfully, I dove right in because sometimes that's the only way I can do something that I've been putting off.  When the thought "I should really do ___" flits through my mind, most of the time I ignore it, but once in awhile I seize onto that thought and jump right in before I can think myself out of it.  That's what happened this time.

So, I started mending each hole by doing a running stitch all the way around a little ways back from the perimeter of the hole, and then worked inwards.  On some of them I mostly did a whip stitch, and then some back and forth for good measure.

On others I tried to imitate woven fabric by doing a bunch of strands going back and forth all in one direction, and then weaving strands up and down perpendicularly through the first strands.

None of them are pretty, but from a distance you can barely tell.

I've noticed a movement among other crafters touting the virtues of visible mending.  The idea that it doesn't matter if an item doesn't look perfect is really appealing in a world that seems to demand perfection at every turn.  If you can clearly see that an item has been used so well that it had to be fixed, it speaks to the quality of that item.  Someone clearly cared enough about it to fix it, and it's okay if the scars show.  The idea of visible mending could even be seen as a metaphor for life.  Sometimes things hurt us, and although we may not ever heal completely, the love people show us can -...

Hold on a second, that's getting way too sappy, and that's not my style.  This post actually isn't about "love heals all wounds" or any of that sentimental crap.

It's about dog shaming.

Bad dog.  

Friday, 31 January 2014

Winter therapy

The Umaro blanket is finished!  It was actually finished on Sunday, but I haven't had a chance to post until now.

I'm really happy with how it turned out, now I just have to block it.  I don't know how well it will block due to the high acrylic content of the yarn, but I'm hoping the 20% wool part of the yarn will listen to what I want it to do and whip the rest of it into shape.  And if not, well, it still looks pretty great.

It was a lot of cream though, and as much as I love cream (the colour and the food), I was ready for a bit of a change.  I've been reading Yarn Harlot's posts about how winter partly seems so long because it's all one colour, and how knitting bright colours (as opposed to cream) can help you feel better.

January was a tough month, as it usually is, but it felt like there was more to make January tough than usual this time around.  I'm not going to blame Umaro because frankly I loved every second that I was knitting it (except when the cat wouldn't leave me alone and it was too big to heave out of the way quickly).

We decided to say goodbye to our old 1997 Toyota Camry after it screwed us over just one too many times.  It was a great car, but it was squeezing more out of us than we were getting out of it, so it was time for an upgrade.  We now have a shiny new-ish 2011 Hyundai Sonata.  That was a good change, but stressful nonetheless.

We also had to replace the locks on our house because the cheap last-minute locks we'd bought a few years ago when we replaced the doors finally had enough of the cold.  Not only did the back door constantly freeze shut, but the handle eventually just broke and stopped letting us through altogether.  Now we've got super heavy duty locks that (hopefully) aren't going to be foiled by a mere bit of -40 (F or C, take your pick) degree weather.  So, another good change, but again, a stressful one.

Aside from that, work has been a pain, and we all know that this winter has been kind of nuts, like the winters of olde.  I keep telling myself that I like winter, and I do, but there's a huge difference between -20 C (which in my opinion is the perfect temperature for winter, since it's cold enough that it won't melt or snow too much, but not so cold that you feel like your face/fingers/legs are going to fall off) and -40 C/F (which is certainly cold enough for the face/fingers/legs to fall off, if you are outside too long).  I have to say that I think it is absolute crap that as adults, we are no longer entitled to snow/cold days.  I get that I'm old enough to know to dress warmly and not stay outside long enough to cause injury to myself, so I'm not saying the rules should be the same for kids attending school and the rest of the population.  Really though, there should be a law stating that if there is a blizzard going on, or it's going to be colder than -45 C with windchill, everyone gets to stay home!

Fine, I know it would never work, but I don't really care.  The point is, I miss snow days.  If I could still have snow days, there would be more time for me to stay home, and I'd be able to start knitting this.

This is the anti-winter colour therapy that is waiting for me.  It will be knit up into another pair of Hermione's Everyday Socks, this time for myself.  I told myself that I'm not casting on until I've finished the pair I'm working on for the Enabler, but we'll see.  It might be that my willpower cracks and they get cast on sooner than that.  I could just quickly finish up his pair, but I have other knitting distracting me now, too.  So much to knit, and not nearly enough time.  Winter may be long, but the days and weeks are just slipping by.  Can you believe January is already over?

Thank goodness for that.  Bring it on, February, I'm ready!

Saturday, 25 January 2014

Umaro, Umaro, I love you, Umaro!

One of my dear friends is getting married in August, and she and her hubby-to-be are throwing a social* at the end of March.  As soon as I knew they were having a social, I volunteered to knit something to be included in one of the prize baskets.  The other bridesmaids and I discussed and it was decided that I would knit a blanket and they would chip in to get an e-book, gift cards, and other various things to fill out a "snuggle up and read" prize package.

I had a few ideas for the blanket, but at the top of the list was Umaro by Jared Flood, for a few reasons:

1. I'd been wanting to knit this pattern for a long time.
2. The yarn called for is super bulky and knits up quickly, so the prospect of knitting a blanket didn't seem quite as crazy.

I've knit blankets before, but I have quite a lot of knitting planned this year and some of it has deadlines, so I didn't want to knit one that was going to take multiple months to do.

Immediately I knew that I had to pick a yarn that was machine washable, because as smart and lovely as I'm sure the social-goers will be, I didn't want to inflict a hand wash-only blanket on a random stranger.  Truthfully, I can't fathom even making a hand wash-only blanket for myself.  I'm even getting fed up with hand wash-only yarn for certain other projects, but that's a topic for another post.

I scoured the internet to find a machine washable super bulky yarn that was also affordable.  It didn't take long for me to realize that I was going to have to relax my yarn snob ways for this project.  I wasn't about to make the blanket out of Madelinetosh ASAP (as amazing as it would be), because that would essentially mean that I wouldn't be able to afford to go to the social, let alone buy groceries or heat my house for a month.

I decided on Lion Brand Wool-Ease Thick & Quick, which meant a trip to Michael's.  I stalked the flyer and waited until I knew the yarn would be on sale (the 40% off one item coupon only goes so far when you're buying a blanket's worth of yarn).  Luckily they were on a decent sale for Boxing Week (it's the only Boxing Week shopping that I did, actually), and also luckily they had whole boxes of the off-white colour that this blanket looks so beautiful in.

16 balls of the yarn were now mine.  I bought more than I needed, just in case, with the thought that I could return them if I didn't need them.  I totally wasn't thinking that I could just keep the leftover balls and use them to make something else, because that could be considered cheating on my yarn diet.  I don't think it's cheating, because I still MIGHT use all of the yarn, I don't know for sure that I won't… I could decide to make the blanket longer… you never know!  Regardless, once I'm done, it might be that it's not worth it to return the rest of it because of the time it would take and the gas I'd have to use driving to the store and back, so I might as well just keep it.

What I'm trying to say, is that this yarn is great.  I think my yarn snob ways will be permanently relaxed with regard to this yarn.  It is 80% acrylic and 20% wool, so it's machine washable but still has a lot of the softness and warmth of wool.  I'd wait to buy it on sale again though.  If I'm going to buy cheap yarn I'm going to wait until it's even cheaper.

I began knitting the blanket on New Year's Day.  I had to make my own stitch markers out of loops of yarn since the 10 mm needles are far too thick for all of the stitch markers I do have.

It grew quickly, and pretty soon it was long enough to keep me warm while I was knitting it, which has been especially nice for this insanely cold winter we've been having.

I do have to take breaks every few days now because it's quite heavy.  I'm nearly done the 10th ball out of the 12 balls I estimate it's going to take, and each ball is 170 grams.  That's already 1.7 kilos that I'm having to heave around and flip over every time I finish a row.  It doesn't sound like a lot, but for knitting that's a lot, considering much of the weight is held up by your wrists.

It is a really enjoyable knit though, and I'm liking it so much that I'm planning to make another one (and possibly another one after that).

I'm about 2/3 of the way through the 6th and final repeat of the pattern, so it looks like my goal of having this finished by the end of January is going to be achieved.  Then I have to weave in a million ends (give or take a few), and try to wash it as well as I can to get the (black) cat hair out of it.

Funny thing about knitting with cream coloured yarn is that it's a black cat magnet.  The next one of these is going to have to be a colour that doesn't show cat hair so well.  Either that or I'll have to get rid of the cat.

For those of you that aren't from Manitoba, a social is a big fundraising party where people buy tickets to get in, buy drinks, and buy tickets to win prizes.  Meanwhile, there's music playing and people dancing, and there's always a great spread of food available late in the evening.  All of the proceeds go to the people who put on the fundraiser, which is usually to raise money to help pay for a wedding.

Further to that, if you want a chance to win this blanket, get in touch with me and I'll sell you tickets to the social!  :)

Monday, 13 January 2014

Warm and Cozy

I've been looking forward to writing this post for a long time.  So much so, that I finally stopped procrastinating and wrote up the pattern for a couple of gifts that I made for this past Christmas.  This means I can stop looking forward to writing the post because now I'm actually writing it!  Yay!

The last two gifts that I have to show off are hot water bottle covers that I designed for a couple of friends.  I'm not sure what made me decide on hot water bottle covers specifically, other than that I had been wanting to knit hot water bottle covers for some time.  I was partially inspired by the My Favourite Things infinity scarf.  I really liked the idea of making a personalized cover for each of my friends, using a few cute motifs for each one.  A hot water bottle doesn't have a lot of room, though, and when searching for colorwork motifs that reminded me of my friends I couldn't find what I was looking for.  This finally led me to get out my markers and graph paper, and I started doodling.

After I had figured out a few motifs that I was happy with, I realized that what I was designing had a "things that keep you warm" sort of theme, which was kind of perfect, considering that the finished product would also be something to keep you warm.  I hauled out my entire stash of leftover balls of wool worsted weight yarn (mostly Cascade 220 and Berocco Vintage), and started knitting.  I picked groups of six or seven colours that sort of went together for each one, and I'm really pleased with the finished product.

So here they are!  The link to download the pattern is here.