Monday, 14 July 2014

A prairie girl visits the mountains

At one point in planning this post I thought it might be better to split it up into at least two posts so it wouldn't be so long… And then I thought to myself that I'd never get it done if I try splitting is up.  So here's all of it.  Mostly pictures, not too many words.  If you're just here for the knitting, there are knitting pictures in here too so just bear with me!

A couple of weeks ago, the Enabler and I set out for a mini family reunion in Jasper.  We decided to drive because it would end up being cheaper (thanks to generous and lovely family who let us stay with them!), and we both really love road trips.

I'm a sucker for big dramatic skies, and I've gotta say that the clouds cooperated.  It rained a bit off and on, but it was worth it for the views.



The second day of the drive we made a quick stop in Vegreville to see the Worlds Largest Pysanka.  I'd been there in my youth but the Enabler never had, so he was super excited.


We arrived safely at our little cabin in Jasper, where I quickly had to try on and model my car knitting progress.  The body of my Ease sweater is finished and it fits great!  Please excuse the crummy picture.  I'd blame the Enabler and his shaky hands, but it's probably the poor lighting as much as his picture taking skills.


The next morning we visited the Miette Hot Springs.  I don't have any pictures of the hot springs because it just looked like a pool, which was a little disappointing since I had envisioned something else, I dunno what exactly.  A cave, maybe?  Rocks?  Something that didn't look exactly like a regular hotel pool?  That said, it was very pleasant and warm, although it gave me a bit of a headache after awhile.  Hot tubs can do the same thing to me, so I thought that was all it was.

After drying off and a short walk to see the ruins of the old resort which was closed in 1984, I had to snap a picture of this guy.  I think he looks like a French explorer.  Mais oui?


Upon arriving back at our cars, we were accosted by a wild band of raggedy mountain sheep.  Also at various times on the trip I saw a bald eagle, a wolf, several elk, a very fluffy mountain goat, and its very fluffy baby.  This is the only picture of wildlife I took though, because the Enabler and I decided not to stop our car in the middle of the road to take a million pictures and inconvenience/annoy the traffic behind us.  Memories are good too.


After the hot springs we went to Maligne Canyon which was really cool and very difficult to appropriately capture in pictures.  This picture was taken straight down off a little bridge, and it may not look like it but the water is extremely far down.  Taking this picture made the Enabler very nervous, and he had already crossed the bridge (quickly) and was only watching me bend slightly over the side to take the picture.


I'm really glad I'm not scared of heights because this place was amazing.


Near the parking lot there was a number of small trees with leaves that look like this.  I have no idea what this is or what causes this but I thought it looked neat.


The next day we went to Athabasca Falls.  I took a bunch of pictures here but they all looked the same to me on my phone so I just picked a couple at random.  Yay randomness!



Mountain selfie!!


After Athabasca falls we drove up a very long, very curvy twisty turny switchbacked road to get up to Mount Edith Cavell.  I was driving the car at the time.  It would have been a fun drive, but by that point the headache I had gotten while at the hot springs the day before had started to get a lot worse.  It intensified with each curve and by the time we reached the top I could barely see straight.  I took this picture from the parking lot and that was it.  The greyish white band in the upper right area of the picture I think is part of a glacier, so that's kind of interesting.  It would have been nice to see more of this, but instead I learned something about myself.  Cool cloudy drizzly weather + altitude = Wooloholic gets a migraine.


Then we drove back to the cabin (the Enabler drove, thankfully), and I slept for the rest of the afternoon.  Yay vacations!

When I woke up, the sky had cleared and my headache was gone, proving my crappy weather in the mountains = migraines theory.

That evening I finished the first of a pair of Skyp socks for the Enabler.  It's a great pattern for variegated yarn, even wildly variegated yarn such as this (tosh sock in the Damp colorway).  This pattern is going to go into the regular rotation I think.  It's another one of those perfect socks that's just patterned enough to keep it from being boring.  And it's unisex!


After a good sleep we headed to Jasper for the Canada Day pancake breakfast, stopping to get a quick picture with Jasper the Bear on the way.  Not pictured: the pancake breakfast workers pouring pancake batter onto the giant griddle with a large plastic pitcher, and the lady spreading butter on people's pancakes with a paintbrush.  I kid you not.


After breakfast we all said our goodbyes and headed our separate ways.  We stopped in Edmonton for the night and attended my cousin's church league softball game.  It was a lovely evening.


I learned that lawn chairs come with yarn holders.


We struck out very early the next morning as we wanted to get from Edmonton to Winnipeg in one day.  That's over 1300 km (810 miles), not including a detour in Saskatchewan due to the massive amounts of rain causing overland flooding and certain roads to be washed out.

But we still couldn't resist a trip to Mundare to check out the World's Largest Sausage.  Unfortunately we weren't able to fit in a trip to see the World's Largest Perogy on a fork.

Still though… sausage.  We ended up buying some of the famed sausage in the Esso across the street because, well… sausage.  It was delicious.


The majority of the rest of day was uneventful.  We did have to take a short (30-60 minute) detour due to the aforementioned flooding.  We saw some pretty wet fields, but I think this one might have been nearly this wet all the time.  Those white blobs are all pelicans.


Most importantly for that day, I discovered that I can knit lace in the car!  As long as the road isn't too bumpy, that is.


We made it home late that night safe and sound, and the kitties were very angry happy to see us, and us them.

Now that we're home with no other major trips planned this year, the next post will be back to all things knitting (and probably spinning, since we're 10 days into the tour de fleece!).

Back to life, back to reality.  It's not so bad.  At least I just get normal (manageable) headaches from the crummy weather on the prairies, not migraines!  Reason #157 why I will never live in the mountains.

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Oh, fun!

Once again I've fallen off the blog wagon.  This time it's not really due to a lack of things to write about, but rather too much.  A lot has happened since my last post, I just haven't had the time/energy to try to write about all of it!  I didn't even check when my last post was.  I don't really want to know.

The Enabler and I took a little trip down to Minneapolis for a concert on the summer solstice… which doesn't seem like that long ago but I guess it's like three weeks ago already (whaaaat).  

Upon our arrival with all of our luggage in downtown Minneapolis, we happened to share an elevator with a couple of local women.  The subsequent conversation was roughly as follows:
Woman 1: It looks like you're visiting from out of town.  Where are you from?
Us: Yeah, we're from Winnipeg.
Woman 1: Oh, fun!
Woman 2 (not hearing properly): Where did you say you were from?
Us: Winnipeg.
Woman 2: Oh, fun!
I'm not sure why, but it struck me as very funny that these two women had the exact same response to finding out where we were from.  It could very well have been genuine, but it could also be one of those polite responses that one gives when one doesn't know what else to say.  Regardless, I do think Winnipeg is fun… But I'm not going to lie, so is Minneapolis.  It's one of my favourite American cities that I have visited, and I plan to visit many more times.

We drove down specifically for the Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds concert which was at the State Theatre.  The theatre is one of these old theatres that is decorated in over the top renaissance/rococo themed tableaus and carvings, with fake gilt everywhere.  I hope it never changes, because I really doubt that style will ever come back into fashion.  It's ridiculous and I love it.


It was the perfect venue for an artist like Nick Cave, who is also completely over the top.  He has a style that only he could get away with.


Seriously, nobody rocks the combed back hair and shiny shirt like Nick Cave does.  And nobody else should.


It was one of the most incredible shows I've ever been to.  He's a very compelling performer, and the Bad Seeds were pretty amazing as well.  It also must be noted that one of the Bad Seeds, Warren Ellis, has one of the most amazing beards.

Ok, since this is primarily a knitting blog, of course I have to talk about knitting a bit.

In the car on the way to Minneapolis, this is the progress I made on my Ease sweater.  Further updates to come in future posts.


We also made an obligatory visit to StevenBe.  I was just planning on stopping in to take advantage of the opportunity to get some Stephen and Steven (this would be Stephen West, knitting rockstar and one of my favourite designers, and Steven Berg himself, the owner of StevenBe) tour exclusive yarn (since the tour included a stop at StevenBe on the very day that we were in Minneapolis with time to kill, what are the chances??).  But then I fell down accidentally on purpose several times and ended up buying all of the yarn that I had fallen on… okay not really but honestly I blame the Enabler partially for this one.  He earned his nickname this day, oh yes he did.  Now that all of this yarn has found a home in my stash, the yarn diet is officially back on.


So as I mentioned, I was theoretically in the shop just to get the tour exclusive yarn (which is the green yarn in the bottom right of the above picture, plucky knitter yarn in the "with a PH" colorway.  The very helpful and persuasive shop assistant insisted that we also go to the upstairs area to actually meet Stephen West who was teaching a class on how to make swants (pants made out of an old sweater).  So we went upstairs to meet him and I fangirled a bit and we chatted for a few moments and then he said that I should stay and make some swants too!  The Enabler (being the lovely, patient, enabling husband that he is) said that he didn't mind.

So I stayed.

And this happened.


Wooloholic's bucket list:

- Make swants with Stephen West - CHECK

That's it.  I'm done.  I can die knowing I've lived a full life.

Sunday, 1 June 2014

You Are My Sunshine

Last weekend, my BFF and her high-school-crush-turned-long-time-partner got married.  Several months ago I had decided I wanted to knit them a blanket as a wedding present, and now that they have the present I can finally show it off.  I'm really excited, because this is one of my favourite things that I have knit.  Ever.

As soon as I saw Stephen West's Old Forge pattern, I knew I needed to knit it.  Part of the reason may have been the model's "come hither"/ "I'm not wearing pants" look, but honestly it was the blanket that drew me in more than the model underneath it.  I swear.

I decided to knit it with Berroco Vintage because it's a great worsted weight yarn that is soft, machine washable, reasonably sturdy, and comes in lots of great solid colours.  Oh, and it's relatively cheap, which means that knitting a blanket with it is fairly affordable.  Once I browsed the colours available at my LYS I quickly decided on grey and yellow (grellow) because I really like them together and I knew my friend would like them too.

I started knitting it at the end of January, and it grew very quickly because I just couldn't put it down.  The "just one more stripe" pull was very strong.


Before long it came to resemble a giant jellyfish.


Partway into the solid grey section of the blanket, I realized that my colour choice reminded me of the sun breaking through the clouds on a grey day.  It was at that point that I began to get the song "You Are My Sunshine" in my head nearly every time that I worked on it.

You are my sunshine,
my only sunshine.
You make me happy
when skies are grey.
You'll never know, dear,
how much I love you.
Please don't take my sunshine away.

Even when the blanket threatened to become a slog (the chevron ring just before the border edge has 600 stitches in every row… and the knitted on garter stitch edging has 12,000 stitches alone), I would sing this song to myself and smile.  I would be reminded of the good things in my life and how much my friendships and relationships mean to me, and the feeling of drudgery would dissipate.


I finally finished the blanket in early April, and blocked it a few weeks later.  

I think the blanket was either almost finished or already done when I was spending the evening with my friend and she mentioned that they were thinking of having the song "You Are My Sunshine" as part of the wedding ceremony.  I could barely keep a straight face as I thought of this blanket, and I knew for sure then that I had made the right choice.


The ceremony was lovely, and when all of the friends and family that had gathered together spontaneously started singing along to the familiar song, there were more than a few eyes that were less dry than they had been before.

If it had been intended for almost anyone else, I might have been tempted to keep this blanket for myself because I love it so much, but since it was for my friend and her new hubby it was a joy to finally give it to them.  

I suppose I'll have to make another one for myself.  But first, I need a nest chair, because it would be the perfect blanket for a nest chair.  And I'll also need a bigger house that can fit a nest chair.  With the costs of the chair and the house it will become the most expensive blanket ever…  Totally worth it.

Monday, 19 May 2014

Blue and grey

Much has happened in knitting land since my last post.  I finally finished Viajante!  I'm not sure if my decision to alternate balls of yarn in the middle section was totally worth it, but I can't tell any difference from the beginning to the end so I think at the very least it was not not worth it.


After casting off, the edge was ruffled like crazy so it needed some serious blocking.  It took me about an hour to pin the whole thing out properly.  But really, after the 100+ hours that it took to knit it (I'm just guessing, I actually have no idea but it was definitely a lot of hours), what's another hour?


I think it was worth every second. It grew like crazy after blocking and the drape and softness of this thing is ridiculous.  I've already worn it a lot.  It's a perfect wrap for this time of year when it's anyone's guess what the weather is going to be like.


Better pictures might be coming later, if I can muster up a proper photo shoot.  This is the best I could do on my own.

With that finished, I got a serious case of needing to start something new, but for a couple of weeks I just kept working on the projects I already had on the go.  It was partly a case of wanting to continue my stash down philosophy, partly that I was enjoying the other projects that I have going, and partly that I couldn't figure out what else to knit (so many projects, so little time).  

I dug out all of the project bags that had WIPs in them, and found the Dream Stripes shawl that I started early last year and wasn't sure if I should finish or frog.  I opted for finish, and I've knit it almost to the point now where I think I can start the lace border section.  


Knitting that shawl as well as working on the Starfish Stole was enough for awhile, but several weeks ago I got the itch to start something new.  I'm trying really hard lately to knit things that are practical and fill gaps in my wardrobe as opposed to casting on every pretty shawl I see, since I already have several shawls and scarves that I never wear.

I'd been wanting to knit a shrug for a long time, and then I realized that since my oldest friend is getting married next week, I could knit a shrug to wear to the wedding.  It's a rooftop wedding, so a shrug is the perfect foil to the possible chilly air, and also not cover up the whole dress.

I picked the Retro Redux shrug because it was cute and didn't look too fussy, and also because I had good yarn for it in my stash already (Berroco Vintage - my favourite all purpose worsted weight yarn).  It's knit flat from the cuff of one sleeve to the cuff of the other.  After sewing up the sleeve seams, the ribbing around the collar and back is knit by picking up stitches all around the edge.

Usually when picking up stitches for a ribbed edging, I use the BFI method.  I learned about the BFI method from my high school math teacher.  He used it in relation to solving equations, but I regularly apply it to my knitting.  BFI = brute force and ignorance.  So essentially it's the guess and check method, which means that I don't plan it out at all.  I just roughly guess how many stitches for each edge stitch I should be picking up, and hope like hell that it works out, and usually it does.  I tried that this time too since I've had such success in the past, and it didn't work out.   So I ripped it all out and tried again.  It still didn't work.  I tried several more times, and I never even came close to the number of stitches I was supposed to have.  No matter what I tried, the stitches refused to come out properly.

I finally gave in and lay the stupid thing on the floor.  I took my stitch markers and marked the centre of the bottom edge, then marked the centre points of each of those sections as well, and the centres of those, so the bottom edge was divided into eight roughly equal sections.  I say roughly equal, because I was just eyeballing it.  There's only so far I'm willing to go with planning things out.  Then my calculator told me that I needed 13 stitches in six of the sections and 12 stitches in two of them.  I set to it, telling myself that if it didn't work out this time, the whole thing was going to be frogged.

Luckily, that didn't happen.  It worked out perfectly and I was able to complete the shrug without further incident.


I really love how it turned out.  I think it looks cute with the dress, and I can think of several other outfits that it will look great with.  


I just might have to make more of them in more colours.  Next time I'll totally just use the BFI method because now I know how many stitches I need to be picking up per edge stitch.  Piece o' cake.  What could possibly go wrong?

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

Ennui

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.