Saturday, 31 December 2011

The obligatory "year in review" post

2011 was a pretty good year overall.  It was our first full year of being homeowners which had its ups and downs but I don't miss apartment living in the slightest.  I planted my first garden, the Enabler started making his own beer, and I have room for my ever growing stash of yarn.

Ah the stash.  It has changed quite considerably since a year ago.  At the beginning of the year it consisted entirely of brightly coloured acrylic and cheap dishcloth cotton.  Now most of what remains of those have been relegated to the storage bins underneath my bed while the wool (oh glorious wool!) takes the place of honour beside the couch which is where I spend most of my knitting time.  I can't get rid of the acrylic outright, it certainly has its place (cheap and durable machine washable toys for example), but the days of me waiting for a sale on Vanna's Choice yarn and rushing to the big-box craft store to stock up when it hits $2.50 a ball are over.

2011 didn't just provide an awakening in terms of wool, it was also about gaining confidence and realizing that I do have the skills to do things that I thought I would never be able to do.  Before I would reject 90% of patterns that I came across outright due to their perceived difficulty.  Now instead of evaluating whether or not I CAN do something, the factors to consider now are usefulness, cost, care, and time.  Whether or not I have the skills to do it doesn't even enter into the equation, because I know I can do it.  If I can't do it, I'll learn.  Throughout my life I've been pretty good at a lot of things, but I've never been great at anything.  I think if I can only be great at one thing, why can't it be knitting?

That said, I haven't tackled a sweater yet.  Not because I don't think I can do it, but because I haven't gotten around to it.  But I'm ordering the yarn for it and once it comes that adventure will begin, and I have no doubt that it will be quite the adventure.

Okay so enough patting myself on the back for personal growth and blah blah blah.  I've now given away all of the gifts that I made this year so I can finally post pictures of them!  I'm sorry if you were expecting one and didn't get anything.  All I can say is, better luck next time!  ;)

Cupcake hat from Crochet Goodies for Fashion Foodies.  Ridiculous and so much fun!  Made out of some of that stash acrylic I was referring to earlier.  It worked well for this hat!

Bella's Mittens out of Cascade Soft Spun, which sadly is no longer available at my LYS.  It was nice to knit with though and I managed to buy up a bunch of it at half price when they were clearing it out.

Hitchhiker made with Punta yarns Mericash (80% merino, 20% cashmere).  Sooooo soft and lovely to work with.  I didn't have to block this as it had amazing drape already.  This one was hard to give away, but it was for my mom so I would have felt bad keeping it. The name Hitchhiker comes from the designer's original design, when she knit up an entire skein of the yarn called for in the pattern following the 8 row pattern she'd devised, she ended up with 42 points.  I used 2 skeins of the Mericash and there's a small chance that I may have been able to get another point out of the tiny ball of yarn I had left, but I got to 42 points and stopped.  Because seriously, that's awesome.

Pepperoni Pizza scarf for my bro.  From the same book as the cupcake hat above.  I made it for two reasons:  1. I wanted to give something handmade to my brother, and 2. HILARIOUS.  The cheesy part is actually quite soft, it's malabrigo worsted which was awesome to work with and I definitely want to use it again.  The pepperonis and crust are Cascade 220 which is always useful.  It was fun to make (although sewing on all the pepperoni was a little tedious), and the crust used crochet techniques I'd never used before.

A variation on the Noro Striped Scarf popularized by Brooklyn Tweed.  It's a running joke with my friend that these were for that she loves anything that is blue and brown.  So I picked two skeins of Noro Kureyon, one which was primarily blue and one which was primarily brown.  However, as is the case with Noro, how it looks in the skein is totally different than how it looks when it's knitted!  I used Helen's Basic Mittens pattern, and did alternating 3 row stripes using Eunny Jang's jogless stripes method, which is basically slipping the first stitch of the second round of each colour instead of knitting it.  It's amazing, and really does work!  A good soak in Eucalan and they softened up nicely as Noro can be scratchy at first.

Sunflowers Satchel out of Noro Silk Garden Sock.  After taking this photo I ended up lining it with a green batik fabric in order to make it more useful as a handbag.  It turned out quite lovely I think.

I had a couple of other gifts too but I'm awesome and gave them away without remembering to take photos of them.  One was another destroyed cowl (the one featured in the photos of this post) but I didn't get a picture of the totally finished product.  The other was a pair of fingerless mitts for my dad because he is a pianist and sometimes has to perform outside and his hands get cold.  The pattern is Dashing and I made them out of Berroco Blackstone Tweed in a nice maroony colour.  They were lovely and I'm sure he'd let me get a picture of them at some point but I may never get around to it because that's just how it goes sometimes.

Anyway this post is definitely long enough.  And now, because it's kind of silly when people say this when you know you'll be seeing them soon, regardless of what calendar year it is, I must do the same.

See you next year!

Monday, 26 December 2011

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Holy crap I made it.

Christmas is tomorrow!  If you're not ready for it by now, you're screwed!... Just kidding... but seriously, if you are crazy enough to brave the malls and grocery stores today, maybe say an extra goodbye to your friends and family because you may never see them again.

This will be my last advent blog post.  I briefly considered posting tomorrow but I think advent calendars generally just go to the 24th.  And anyway, I'm sure everyone has better things to do, including me!

I'll be honest with you guys, I'm kind of shocked that I made it.  I was not expecting to stick with it the whole time.  But I did it, and now I'm going to take a blogging break until 2012.  I promise I will have lots of great stuff to post by then!  I might even post before then, we'll see how much I miss it, but I make no promises.

So I was searching for one last free pattern to share, and when I found today's pattern I literally gasped.  It may not look like much, but it's the kind of thing that is totally me.  I would wear it all the time.  I'm actually really sad that I don't have it in my wardrobe already.  Of course this all means that this is definitely going on my "to knit" list, perhaps even the "to knit as soon as I can buy more yarn" list.  It's called Dream Stripes, and it's a simple triangle shawl but it's got a pretty geometric lace border and the body is in striped stockinette.  Stripes!  I love stripes!  It is also available on ravelry in many different languages if you are so inclined.  Reading a knitting pattern in Japanese can't be all that hard, can it?  :S

That's all for me, I wish you all a safe and happy Christmas!  Catch ya on the knit side!  

Friday, 23 December 2011

16 Cables

Only 2 days until Christmas!

A few months ago I was listening to one of my favourite knitting podcasts, Never Not Knitting, when Alana mentioned a hat that she had made and loved.  If something sounds interesting to me when I'm listening to the podcasts, I'll check out the pattern.  This pattern was indeed awesome, and it was called the 16 Cable Hat.  Better yet, it was free!  Or so I thought...  I was about a year behind on my podcast listening so this lovely pattern that was new to me apparently had some problems in the year since the podcast was recorded.

Turns out the designer was having some sort of issue with the ravelry store and tax reporting and blah blah blah I don't remember the details, but anyway, the pattern was not available.  I was heartbroken since I had become completely obsessed with this hat since "discovering" it.  Many other knitters seemed to be as heartbroken as I was that this gorgeous pattern was not available, and some had tried to suggest alternative patterns that were similar.

One such pattern was the Star Crossed Slouchy Beret, and this pattern IS free.  It is similar to the 16 cable hat and it's still quite stunning, but I'll be honest, I don't like it quite as much.  So today when I decided to look up the 16 cable hat pattern again, hardly daring to hope, I was thrilled to discover that it is now available on ravelry, however it is no longer free.  I don't really care though, good patterns are worth the money.  Pretty sure this pattern is going to be a Christmas present to myself.  Thanks, self!

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Lemony fresh

If you haven't read A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket, you totally should.  I don't think they're just for kids as they are pretty dark.  There is a warning at the beginning of each book that basically says that if you like stories that start with "Once upon a time..." and end with "and they lived happily ever after", don't read the book.  There are 13 books but none of them are very long.  I listened to them on audiobook which was pretty fun since most of them are read by Tim Curry (who is hilarious).

I haven't seen the movie yet, but according to the designer of the Snicket Socks, they were inspired by Violet Baudelaire's dress in the movie.  I like the simple and classic design of these socks.  They are interesting but they still look functional.  As in, they're gonna keep your feet warm.

I have discovered that I am not a sock knitter.  I enjoy knitting socks, but my socks are pretty basic, and I don't usually go crazy over sock patterns.  I haven't attempted anything beyond one at a time, top-down, 3x1 rib socks that look like this:

In my opinion, socks go on your feet.  They keep your feet warm.  They go in shoes.  I enjoy making them as a small, portable, not too intensive project, and I do enjoy wearing hand knitted socks, but I'm probably never going to make (or wear) anything like these.  Sorry, Matt.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

If at first you don't succeed...

Tri(angle), tri(angle) again!

Sorry...  that was awful.  I don't blame you if you never come back just because of that.

Today's pattern is the Triangles! cowl.  It is gorgeous without being complicated.  I can see this being a really relaxing knit, and in a luxurious yarn would really showcase the simplicity of the pattern as well as the sumptuousness of the yarn.  Plus it would be amazing to wear.  I kinda wanna make this really badly... like, now.

Must.. wait.. until after Christmas.... to buy more yarn.... aaaarrgh

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

This might be cheating

The winter issue of Knitty is out so that's the pattern for today.  There aren't always patterns in knitty that I would make, but this one has some neat stuff going on.  So I'm just going to highlight a couple of my favourites.

Firelight is a beautiful knitted vest that actually looks interesting and flattering.  I would definitely wear this.  Definitely going on my "to make" list (it's getting longer all the time... sigh).

Skyisle, a lovely fair-isle cardigan.  Way beyond my skills at this point though since it is worked in the round and then steeked (a fancy term for taking a pair of scissors to your precious knitting) in order to put on the button band.  Yikes!

The Made in USA mittens are neat because of the customizability and they'd look great in a bunch of different colour combinations.  You know, for those of us who were made in Canada (or elsewhere).

And the Teknika gloves look pretty nice, however the thing I love about them is that they use conductive thread on the fingertips, which means that for those of us who have touch screen phones and are prone to frozen fingers, you can use your phone without taking off your gloves!  Tech-savvy knitting.  I like it.

Monday, 19 December 2011

They can't all be gems

Since it's still technically fall, I'm sharing the pattern for the Fallberry mitts.  I'm sure it's obvious by now that I love fingerless mitts, and not just because I have said so before.  They're such a fun, quick project and these ones I think are really gorgeous.  They make me want to put them on and curl up with a book and a cat and a pot of tea.  Too bad I'm usually busy knitting and I've found it's difficult to knit while wearing knitted gloves.  Go figure.

Sunday, 18 December 2011


We're in the home stretch now.  Only one week until Christmas!

At this point there's probably not enough time to knit something in time for Christmas unless it's a pretty small project, or you are a crazy fast knitter.  So if you're looking for ideas for Christmas at this point, this pattern isn't it.  Maybe next Christmas.  But if you actually made this shawl you'd have to be a saint (or insane) to give it away.

The pattern is called Gail (aka Nightsongs) and as far as I can tell the pattern is only available on ravelry unless you can read French or Dutch.  Also lots of other people have re-written the charts for it as apparently they are unclear.  I haven't knitted this but I found the pattern when searching for patterns that use Handmaiden Sea Silk.  I splurged and bought one skein of it from Mad About Ewe while on vacation on Vancouver Island, so I'm (still) looking for the perfect pattern for it.  I think this shawl is gorgeous but I probably won't ever knit it.  I've discovered that I like my shawls to function more like scarves, which means that they should still look good when scrunched up around my neck.  This shawl is one that kind of needs to be worn as a wrap, probably with a little dress, for a night out on the town in the middle of summer.  So I suppose if you start knitting it now you'd have it done in time for warm weather, but just barely.

One shawl that I made in summer that I've started wearing a lot now that the weather is cooler (except for the last week or so but that's another story) is Juneberry by Brooklyn Tweed.  It looks great as a scarf or just thrown around my shoulders and tucked so it doesn't fall off.  It's not a free pattern but when it's a Brooklyn Tweed pattern, it's worth it.

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Pass the schmauntfat

Bonus post!

The Enabler and I made perogies this morning, menno-style.  By hand, from scratch, using real from the farm cottage cheese.  Oh baby oh baby, this is the kind of food that makes me tick.  It's totally worth the work.  Well, now it is.  The first couple of times we tried making perogies together it ended with me getting ridiculously frustrated at my inability to actually get the dough to stick together when wrapping it around the cottage cheese.  Somehow the perogy-making gene passed me by.  Luckily, the Enabler got it through his Ukrainian roots, and although his past was filled with potato cheddar perogies, the skills are transferrable.  Now we've got it all sorted it out.  I'm the dough-wrangler, he's pinch-master extraordinaire.  It's like clockwork.

The trick is getting the dough and the filling to come out about even.  It's generally not a problem to have leftovers of either.  Cottage cheese filling makes excellent cottage cheese cakes when mixed with some extra flour and fried in a pan, and leftover dough can be rolled out and cut into strips and boiled to make yummy snacks...  That may sound gross but I really like dough.  Today though, we had a small amount of filling left but not really enough to make cottage cheese cakes.  I also had a small amount of dough but it was already scrap dough twice over so it was getting pretty tough to roll out and I couldn't roll it out thin enough to make a few more perogies.  So the Enabler steps in with an ecstatic look on his face (I swear there was a big flashing lightbulb over his head), and said "Why don't we just put the rest of the filling onto that dough and make a giant perogy?!?!?!"

So we did.

It ended up being about the size of a calzone.  Perzone?  Calogy?

We weren't sure if it would hold up during the boiling process but due to our skillz supreme, it totally did.

Giant perogy FTW!

Honey (doo doo doo doo doo doo)

Today's pattern is in honour of the Enabler's homemade mead which we just bottled earlier this week.  It's delicious.  Like, the best mead I've ever had by a country-friggin-mile.  I actually feel kind of bad for you that you don't get to have any.  Wait, no I don't, because I have a ton of delicious mead and that's better than feeling sorry for people.

The pattern is the honey cowl from madelinetosh.  I like how the pattern is customizable for different lengths, and how if you only have one skein of madelinetosh (which isn't out of the question as multiple skeins of this lovely yarn can both be hard to come by and can also mean big $$$) then you can still make a really luscious and useful accessory.  I haven't made this cowl, but I have 3 skeins of the yarn that it calls for in the forestry colourway.  Two of them for sure are being used for an upcoming project but that will leave me with one and it just might turn into this cowl.

I suggest that you make this cowl because it might help fill the void you have in your life left by not having a shelf full of mead.  But probably not.

Friday, 16 December 2011

Rippit rippit

Every knitter has experienced that moment when knitting a project where they start feeling that something is not quite right.  Maybe it's a problem with the size of the project, or with the stitch pattern, or perhaps it's the yarn itself.  The knitter will hem and haw for awhile, perhaps knit a few more rows to see if the feeling will go away.  It usually doesn't, and finally the knitter can knit no more without making a firm decision one way or the other:

To frog or not to frog?

It may seem like a simple question, but I assure you that it is not.  There are many factors to consider.  How far along is the project?  How many hours did it take?  How much does it matter if the project is not perfect?  Is there a deadline?  What is the boredom factor?  And so on...

I've come to these crossroads a few times over the last year.  Luckily it's usually been before I was pot-committed to the project and I could think about it rationally.  In each case I decided the answer was to frog, and I haven't regretted it.  However, all of these projects were for me, there was no deadline, and I am enough of a perfectionist that I prefer things to be done correctly or more attractively, and it's not like I have the money to blow on projects that I will end up hating.

So frog I did.

One example of my successful frogging is my started lace-tipped striped scarf.  Don't get too excited, this is not the free pattern for today.  It's from the book Closely Knit by Hannah Fettig which I do not own but I did borrow from the library, so I suppose it is free if you have a library card...  Anyway, I started out as the pattern suggested with my alpaca yarn (grey) for the lace part at the tip, and continuing on with alternating mohair (green) and alpaca stripes.

I got to about the point pictured when I realized I hated it.  I couldn't figure out why I hated it.  I mean, I liked the colours, and I liked the pattern, and I had followed the directions exactly, so what was the problem?  I started browsing other projects on ravelry and soon realized that many of the other knitters had started with the mohair for the lace bit at the tip and continued on from there, and it looked pretty good.  I did my obligatory hemming and hawing and it didn't take long before I decided it was frogging time.  I started over and I am MUCH happier with the results:

I still can hardly believe the difference switching the yarns around made.  It looked like a dogs breakfast before, and now it looks like mossy rocks.  I dunno, maybe you really like dog food, you're entitled to your opinion and all, but I prefer mossy rocks.

Free pattern time!  I know that's the only reason you're here anyway.  Because, and I know I've said this before but I'll say it again, this blog is the only place to get them.  So it's good that you're here.  You are part of the elite club that is privy to free patterns.  All two of you.

When my buddy Helen showed off the Snowbird Mittens she made last winter I decided I needed them really badly and made it my personal mission to learn how to make them.  Learning how to make mittens was step one (check), and learning how to do colour work was the next step (check... sort of).  So I went out and bought yarn, attempting to coordinate the yarn purchase with the Quilted Lattice Mitts so that I would only have to buy 3 skeins instead of 4.  I started knitting the cuff which was fine...

But once I got past the cuff and into the pattern part I realized that these colours just weren't me.  I couldn't envision spending a bajillion hours on these things (give or take a zillion), and then be unhappy with them.  I briefly entertained the notion that they could be a gift for someone but Helen quickly stomped on that idea since they really are a ridiculous amount of work.  So I had to go buy more yarn.  Life is rough.  I frogged the blue and white ones and started the purple and grey ones.  Now I love working on them and I can't wait to finish them!

Only eleventy billion more hours to go...

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Another excuse to go button shopping

I really like fingerless mitts.  Specifically, I really like these fingerless mitts.

They really cute and I love the button detail.  I haven't made them yet but I totally will.  Maybe for spring when they are useful again.

For now I'm going to keep wearing these which I finished last weekend.  They are so warm and cushy!  I love them!  Although taking them off when I need to use my phone/find my keys/button my coat is harder than with normal mitts because they go 2/3 of the way up my forearm.  Totally worth it though.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011


So let me ask you this.  What could possibly be better than decorating your Christmas tree with handmade decorations?

Obviously, the answer is nothing.  Unless of course, you are decorating your Christmas tree with...  wait for it...

Handmade decorated Christmas trees!

I suppose I could have made even tinier Christmas trees to decorate and put on the Christmas trees to put on the Christmas tree (and so on)... but that would soon get to the atomic scale and I don't have any knitting needles smaller than a size 0.  So this will have to do.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Scarfy wrappy things

Lately I've been enjoying the scarves, especially those that can double as a wrap.  The office where I work is often too cold and I don't always want to wear a cardigan so a nice scarf or wrap usually serves just fine.

A great pattern for just this type of thing is Clapotis.  I haven't made it yet but I can see it fitting into my wardrobe pretty well.  It's an older pattern but it's one of those things that would never go out of style.  Unless, of course, you made it in yarn that looks like this:

madelinetosh sock in "Edison Bulb".  I mean, madtosh, you're great and all, but really?

Monday, 12 December 2011

Waste Knit, Want Knit

I was born and raised a Mennonite, which means that I am genetically predisposed to abhor wastefulness.  I've managed to get a little better about getting rid of things when I no longer need them over the years, but I still refuse to throw out perfectly good items when they could instead be donated to the MCC.

Herein lies one of the problems with knitting.  Most of the time when you finish a project, you have yarn left over.  Sometimes it's almost a full ball, sometimes it's a few yards.  I'm still not sure what the minimum amount of yarn left over is too little to keep.  I've started to build up a collection of leftovers of all types of yarn, in skeins the size of my fist to the size of a ping pong ball.  There are a couple of ways to deal with this problem.  One is to find projects that use tiny amounts of yarn (such as Christmas decorations or baby socks or The Beekeeper's Quilt), but this can be difficult.  Also, just because I knit socks for myself out of gorgeous hand wash only wool and am willing to put in the time to wash and dry them properly, doesn't mean that the mother (or father) of a new baby is going to want to hand wash baby socks.  Even though they'd be super cute.

Another way to deal with the problem is so simple it's almost funny.  Knit projects that use an entire skein of yarn, so you have no leftovers!  Obviously you can't do this all the time, and honestly I often don't mind having leftovers of certain yarn.  But when you only need one skein of yarn for a project, you can splurge a little and buy some extra special yarn, which is what I did when I found the pattern for the Destroyed Cowl. (This link requires a scribd account to download but it is also available on ravelry if you have a ravelry account.)

The yarn I used the first time around was Noro Kogarashi which is very unique.  I have no idea what you would use it for if you had any leftovers, but it was great for this project and at around $22 per skein I was happy to only have to buy one of them.  However when you consider that you can get a gorgeous hand-knit cowl for only $22, it's pretty much a bargain.  It was a little scratchy/itchy at first but it softened a lot with blocking and multiple wearings.

This pattern is lots of fun to knit because it uses a few techniques that are fun to try if you haven't done them before, like the provisional cast-on

dropping and making stitches,

and kitchener stitch.

Plus at the end when you've grafted both ends together you actually get to pull the dropped stitches apart on both sides of the cowl.  Dropping stitches while you are knitting is usually a horrifying experience, so getting to do it on purpose is kind of a lot of fun.

And in between the first row and the last row is just stockinette so it's a great project to work on when you don't want to think too hard.  The only thinking required is to make sure you leave JUST enough yarn for the last row and grafting the ends together.  The first time I made this I think I ended up with about 12 inches of yarn.  Which, even for my Mennonite sensibilities, is too little to keep.  Problem solved.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Good daughters

Only two weeks left until Christmas!

Finding patterns for variegated yarns is hard.  If you have a variegated sport/fingering/sock yarn and you don't want to make socks, it's sometimes difficult to figure out what to make.  Lacy patterns don't work well because the lace tends to get lost amongst the varying shades of colour, especially among a yarn that is highly contrasting.

Back in June my BFF visited San Francisco and happened to go to a yarn store specifically for me.  Needless to say I was pretty thrilled when she came back with these skeins.

They are both part of the SF Cycle from Sincere Sheep.  Every colourway in the SF cycle was based on a specific neighbourhood in San Francisco and attempted to capture the spirit and personality of that neighbourhood.  The one on the left is based on The Sunset, and the one on the left is based on Castro.  I knew I had to make something special with these, and I still haven't found the right pattern for the Sunset skein... but after perusing endless patterns on ravelry I finally found the pattern for Quilted Lattice Mitts.  I knew I had found the perfect match of yarn and pattern, and I wasn't disappointed.

These were super fun to make, because there is something different happening every row.  It requires concentration but not so much that you can't watch TV or carry on (or at least listen to) a conversation.  Plus the finished project is lots of fun.  I used to laugh at the idea of wearing fingerless mitts in a city like Winnipeg, but I made them anyway, and found that they were all I really needed for the majority of the fall weather.  Plus I didn't have to take them off when answering my phone or responding to a text message (which happens ALL THE TIME because I am VERY popular.  Ahem.)

My mom liked them so much that she ended up asking if I would make her a pair.  Being the good daughter that I am, I said of course and set to work.  I decided to try making the two-colour version for her instead of the variegated kind.  Knitting the two-colour version of these is a good way to get used to having two balls of yarn attached to your work at the same time, kind of like doing stripes.  The best part is that you only carry one colour at a time so the likelihood of brain hurting and yarn tangling is lower than with fair isle knitting.

I had almost finished them when she texted me asking if I had an extra pair of fingerless mitts lying around because my Grandma's hands were always cold.  I said that I was almost finished the ones I was planning on giving to her but if she was willing to sacrifice them I could give them to Grandma instead.  Being the good daughter that my mom is, she said of course and sacrificed the mitts so her mom could have warmer hands.

I haven't started making my mom a new pair yet though.  The good daughter part of me is on hiatus while the selfish knitter in me comes out and I make myself a bunch of stuff.  Sorry Mom, you'll just have to wait.  And anyway, us daughters can't be good ALL the time.  :)

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Fierce! No, not like Tyra.

Ever since I found this pattern a year ago I'd been wanting to make it.  A few days after coming across it I was gushing about it to a friend and he immediately asked when he was going to get one.  I just laughed at him.  But in the back of my mind I knew that I was going to make it eventually, and he was probably going to be the recipient.  About a month ago I decided it was time since his birthday was coming up.  And here is the result:

The wings curled pretty bad at first so I just went foraging in my junk drawer and found some twist ties and somehow managed to thread them through the front and back edges of the wings to make them stand out more.  It works well enough.  It at least keeps the wings from curling and even helps to pose the wings slightly so they can really stand out.


Friday, 9 December 2011

Fudge Friday

No, I'm not giving you fudge.

Instead, I'm taking a break today from posting patterns and I'm going to share one of my favourite Christmas songs instead.  It's from the album Almost a Full Moon by Hawksley Workman.  It's an album about Christmas instead of being a Christmas album.  It is mostly made up of non-traditional Christmas songs which some people might not enjoy because non-traditional Christmas songs tend to be terrible, but I really like it.

My favourite song on the album is called Learn How to Knit.  Since I don't know how to post the song without violating a bunch of copyright laws, I'm just going to post the lyrics and say that you should spring for it on iTunes since the song is only $0.99 (but if you manage to acquire it by some other means I promise I won't tell).

This song is so lovely in my opinion because it really captures the spirit of Christmas, the ideal of wanting to give absolutely everything in the world to someone.  But even if you don't have the means or the ability, it's always the thought that really counts.  Enjoy.  :)

Learn How to Knit

I don't have a cent this Christmas
usual it seems.
So I'm gonna learn how to knit

I'll knit you a sweater
I'll knit you a scarf
I'll knit a cigarette holder
I'll knit you an aeroplane to fly and meet me here
I'll knit you the nicest taxi cab to pick you up from the airport.
You get in.

I'll knit you some mittens
I'll knit you some socks
I'll knit you a cigarette holder
I'll knit you the perfect Christmas feast for us to share.
I'll knit you a setting sun that seagulls fly behind on the water

I'll knit you a blanket
I'll knit you a shawl
I might not knit anything at all
if my clumsy hands don't learn how to knit by Christmas day.
Would still invite me by to celebrate the day in the morning
if all I brought was a kiss?

Thursday, 8 December 2011

A Parliament of Owls

Today's pattern is one that I've made a few times, with pretty good results.  It's called Cutest Little Owl and I really think it lives up to its name.  A few of my cousins had babies this year and I thought it was a great gift for them.  It doesn't take long to make, doesn't take much yarn, and can be made out of any number of adorable colour combinations.

The blue owl was the first one I made, it was for my cousin's baby boy, who I hear enjoys it (even though I'm sure he's too young to know what it is, or at least he was when he got it.)  The green and yellow ones below were for my cousin's two girls.  The green one went to the new baby and the yellow one went to her big sister (I always hated it when my little brother got a new toy and I didn't).  I hear the yellow one's name is "Amy", and once it was misplaced and had to be located before bedtime was allowed to happen.  (insert 'awwwww' noises here)

Anyway, I don't know how wise these owls are, but I would totally vote for them.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011


Do I need to explain why this dishcloth is awesome?  I'm not going to explain, so if you don't know what this is, go watch some Doctor Who.  You won't be sorry.

This cloth was actually kind of a pain to make but it's because I was tired and rushed and using old cotton and I hadn't knit anything on straight needles in awhile.  The bobbles are a little annoying but they actually make a really good scrubby surface for washing dishes.  Anyway it was totally worth it.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Cold Feet

I really want to make this hot water bottle cover.  I've been meaning to get a hot water bottle so I can make an awesome cover for it, but I haven't gotten around to it.  My feet get ridiculously cold in the evenings, and the walls of my bedroom aren't insulated very well, which means that I dread getting into bed because the combination of the freezing sheets and my ice cold feet is not a good one.  I think this cover is super cute and it looks really squishy and cozy, and cables are so fun to do!  I can imagine it knit up in a lovely plush chunky yarn so it would be soft and lovely on my toes.

Actually, I do have a hot water bottle equivalent and it works pretty well, although it has a tendency to either complain about the extreme coldness of my feet, or bite them.  It looks like this:

Monday, 5 December 2011

I win at decorating trees

The Enabler and I put up our tree yesterday, in record time too!  The time it took to take it out of the box, put it together, fluff out the branches, string the lights, place all the decorations, and then clean up the boxes and fallen "needles", was just over an hour.  And we didn't even fight a little bit!  The first couple of times we put up a tree together were a real test on our relationship.  Between the tree assembly and light stringing it could get a little hairy, what with me telling him exactly what I wanted and how I wanted him to do it, and him doing it completely wrong (just kidding sweetie, love you!).  Our fourth Christmas together we solved the problem by me just doing it by myself.  Last year and this year however have gone much more smoothly, and we put up the tree together again.  I think it's because we finally splurged and bought a tree that isn't half broken, and we finally have enough working strings of lights that are all the same colour to actually wrap appropriately around the tree.  I don't know though, it could just be coincidence.

Today's pattern is another cute, quick and easy ornament.  In fact, it's actually called Cute Christmas Ornament.  I made a bunch of them last year, and it was really nice being able to put up a bunch of handmade ornaments this year well before Christmas, and not worrying about having to make a bunch more to fill up the tree.  Here are a couple of my favourites.  Please don't judge me for my barely-existent embroidery skills.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Latin 101

So now that I've spoiled you with stories for the last few days, I have to come clean and admit that I don't have a story for today's awesome free pattern, Opus Spicatum.  I just think it's a great looking hat.  I haven't made it yet but I totally have yarn in my stash that would work for it.

Also it's a fun name.  I didn't know what it meant so I just googled it and Wikipedia tells me that it is "a type of masonry construction used in Roman and medieval times. It consists of brickstiles or cut stone laid in a herringbone pattern."

See, knitting is educational as well as useful!  I should totally learn Latin.  Hmm...

Eethray eeksway unhayiltay istchrayasmay!


Saturday, 3 December 2011

Team Charlie's Mustache

I have a confession to make, and this time it doesn't involve wool.  I went to see Breaking Dawn last night annnnnnnd I kinda loved it.  Now before you judge me, I must explain myself.  Back when the first Twilight movie came out, I mocked it and all of its fans and avoided seeing it as long as possible.  And then I read this blog post.  It just sounded too hilarious to pass up (I must add that the writer of that post is a self-professed Twilight fan, by which I mean that she read all the books).  So The Enabler and I procured a copy of it and sat down to watch it one night.  We laughed our asses off but we were thoroughly entertained.  So when the second movie came out we were like, yeah okay, we'll give it a shot...  And it was also pretty entertaining.  Same with the third.  And now... well... I'm not sure what Breaking Dawn was exactly, but I walked out of the movie theatre kinda giddy and totally looking forward to the next (and last) one.

Another confession.  I haven't read the books so I don't know how it all turns out.  I tried to read the first book after seeing the first couple of movies and it didn't work out.  It's probably the only time that I've ever felt that the movie was an improvement over the book.  I couldn't wade through the pages upon endless pages of tortured inelegant descriptions about how beautiful Edward was and how painfully moody Bella felt.  After about a quarter of the way through I gave up.  So sue me.

So to get on with the point of all this...  Whether you love it or hate it, you can't deny the appeal of Bella's Mittens which were inspired by the mittens Bella wears in the first Twilight movie (The link to download the pattern is at the bottom of the post).  They are simple and elegant (unlike Stephanie Meyers's prose), and work up quickly using a heavier weight yarn.  If you've never tried cables, this is a great pattern to learn with.  The instructions say to use the magic loop technique, but I did it with 4 dpns, using the 5th needle as a cable needle and it worked just fine.

And yes, I brought my knitting with me to the movie.

Friday, 2 December 2011

A bright idea

Happy December 2nd!  Only 3 weeks and two days until Christmas!  Perhaps it is time to put up the tree if you haven't already.  I always feel that the first weekend in December is a good time to put the tree up, if I can wait that long.  Sometimes it's earlier, I'll be honest with you.  My tree is not yet up, but if it was, I would totally take a picture of it and show you that it's covered with these!

When I say "covered" I mean that I have (I think) about 8 of them in different colours.  I made a bunch of them last year.  Actually, I probably made around 20 of them, because I kept making pairs of them and putting them on my tree, and people would come over and say "Ohmigosh those are so cute!" and before I knew what I was saying, I would always blurt out "Oh you like them?  Well you can have those ones, I can always make more!"  And so of course that's what happened, including a set of six for my mom.  I had already made her a pair of them and she decided she wanted more.  Mothers, eh?  It was a couple of weeks into January before I had actually made a set of them for myself that I was planning on keeping.

There are a number of things that I like about these.  They're super cute (obviously), they're really quick to make, they are great stash-busters, and they are virtually indestructible, unlike most ornaments.  Well don't take me up on that.  I basically mean that if the kids or the pets get their grubby little paws on them, no one is going to get hurt.  And if it doesn't turn out, the cats can always use another toy.  It's win-win!

Thursday, 1 December 2011

It's beginning to look a lot like Knitmas...

Happy December 1st!

I decided I'm going to pose a little challenge for myself for the month of December, which will be to post every day in the days leading up to Christmas.  I don't really have the time or energy to come up with a full-blown blog post every single day (come on, you can't expect me to give up that much knitting time!), so what I'm going to do is this:

Every day I will post one of my favourite free knitting or crochet patterns.  I'm not sure but it might be necessary to sign up for ravelry for some of them, but really if you're a knitter and you're not already on ravelry, perhaps this will give you the push to sign up.  Some of them will be Christmas themed, I can't say at this point how many.  Lots of them are small things to make as a quick gift or decoration if you're looking for ideas.  Some of them are things I want to make but haven't yet, and some of them are things I've made over and over.  <shameless bribe> I'm not totally sure yet how it will play out yet so you'll just have to come back every day to find out!  Because obviously there is no other way to find free patterns than by reading this blog.  </shameless bribe>

So without further ado, what better way to start out than with Smitten, the knitted advent calendar slash mitten garland.  I think this is just the cutest thing and I'm definitely going to be making it at some point in the future, hopefully before I have kids.  I didn't grow up with the supermarket advent calendars with the chocolates behind the windows.  In fact, I had the audacity to be jealous of my friends that DID have them.  I know better now that what we had instead was much better.  My mom had sewn 24 little stockings and would pin them up on the wall, and every day my brother and I would take turns to pull out that day's treat which would be a sparkly pencil, or candy, or a tiny toy, or any number of awesome things!  It was a lot of fun and made a really nice memory, and I'd love to be able to pass on that tradition to my children someday.  Okay that was a little sappy but my point still stands.  What's the point, you ask?.....


Tuesday, 29 November 2011


There is some debate among knitters about giving handmade gifts for Christmas, about whether or not potential gift recipients are "knit-worthy" or not.  I am not totally sure about where I stand on this issue.  On the one hand, I would love it if gifts that I make and give are loved and used and cared for properly, but on the other hand I really enjoy making things and then giving them to people.

I have heard horror stories about gifts gone bad.  An heirloom sweater being thrown into the washing machine and felted beyond recognition, a scarf getting full of burrs and then burned, dogs chewing holes in woollen blankets, etc.  But something almost as bad is giving someone a knitted gift, and having them feel that it is "too precious" to use, so it gets put carefully into a drawer or closet and never sees the light of day again.

I settled the debate for myself by deciding that if I wanted to knit something for someone, then they were knit-worthy.  As a result, most of the gifts I'm giving this year are handmade, which also accounts for the lack of project pictures on the blog up until now.  I wouldn't want to ruin any surprises!  I feel pretty lucky to have friends and family that seem to appreciate handmade gifts.  Either that or they're just being nice to my face and they secretly hate everything I've ever made.

So, a word of advice to all of those who receive a handmade gift this year (whether from me or someone else), if you want to remain knit-worthy, use it, and take care of it to make sure it lasts as long as possible.  If you don't know how to take care of it, ask.  If you don't do these things, don't be surprised if you don't get anything handmade next year.  But keep in mind that if you're not knit-worthy, then it must be determined whether or not you are mall-worthy.

Note: Almost nobody is mall-worthy.  I can't stand shopping malls.

Monday, 28 November 2011

Public Knitting Scandal! News at 11.

I have started bringing my knitting with me almost everywhere I go that there is even a conceivable possibility that I may get in a little knitting time.  I bring it to family events, I bring it to work, I bring it to the doctor's office, I bring it to the movies.  This past weekend I even brought it to a rehearsal for a concert I was involved in.  It's a good thing I did too, because us trombone players had a lot of downtime while the director was working with the musicians that needed more help...  Okay actually it was just that we didn't play at all between movements 6 and 12 but that's beside the point.  The point is that I've been burned too many times in the past where I've thought to myself, "Now why didn't I bring my knitting with me?"  So to avoid mentally kicking myself, I just bring it with me everywhere.

Which leads me to something that happened last week.  There was a morning meeting scheduled at work, one of those where the whole division gets together and all the managers present updates on the quarter and we don't have anything to do except sit there and try not to fall asleep.  I had accidentally-on-purpose not taken my knitting out of my purse before heading to the meeting, and as it happened we got there early for snacks before the meeting started, and I ended up having about 15 minutes to kill before the meeting started in earnest.  So, obviously, I pulled out my knitting.  I knit for 10 minutes or so and was finishing up my last row before I was going to put it away, when the Vice President of the division (read: the boss of everyone in the room which was 150 people or so) looked at me with interest and asked me what I was knitting.  I told her what it was and that it was a Christmas gift for someone, and she said that was neat and remarked on me taking advantage of the meeting time to get it some knitting time.  I asked if she thought I should put it away for the meeting and she said emphatically, "Oh that's up to you, it doesn't matter to me.  You're multi-tasking!"  I agreed and thought to myself, "Well, if the VP says it's okay, then it's okay!"

I blissfully knit through the meeting (which was a good hour long), and made some serious progress on the project.  I should also mention that I managed to pay attention far better than I usually do because it was a simple project that didn't require any thinking, so my full attention was devoted to what was being presented.  I even practiced knitting while not looking at my hands to show that I was actively paying attention.  And it worked!  I've never been so awake and attentive during a morning meeting.  Usually I'm fighting off yawns, or daydreaming about being anywhere else, or fidgeting with my hands/pen/water bottle/anything else I can find.

After the meeting finished I went back to my desk feeling proud of myself for pulling off an hour of knitting during work hours and ready to take on the rest of the day.  I even heard from a friend who works in a different division that some people near his desk were talking about some girl who was knitting in the meeting, and how it was smart and productive because they were all sitting in the meeting falling asleep.

The next day about two minutes after I got in to work, my leader (who hadn't been at the meeting the day before) pulled me aside to say that she had heard from her manager that I had been knitting during the meeting and how it was unprofessional and disrespectful to the presenters and she was shocked that one of her team members would do such a thing.

Wait, what?

I couldn't believe it.  I mean, I guess I can understand how they might interpret it that way, but I couldn't understand how me sitting there and knitting and actively paying attention was somehow worse than all the other employees who were sitting there and falling asleep.  I did get a chance to explain that the VP had said she didn't mind, which got me off the hook and out of trouble, but I'm pretty sure I'm not going to push my luck for the next meeting.

...However, I'll probably still bring it with me just in case I've inspired others to take up public knitting.  We can take a stand together.  Public Knitters Unite!

Friday, 18 November 2011

Drop it like it's hot

In my last post I mentioned that I had taken two classes at the knitting retreat, one successful, and one not so successful.  This is about the latter.

Back when I signed up for the classes I was going to take at the retreat, I signed up for the basic spindle spinning class where we were going to learn how to spin our own yarn.  Not many details were given about the class, so I was dreaming about learning how to spin on a spinning wheel.  I'd been wanting to learn for a little while already and thought that it seemed like a neat thing to know how to do.  A few weeks before the retreat I found out that we weren't going to be learning how to spin with a wheel, but with something called a drop spindle.  I had no idea what that was, so naturally I decided to google it.  I'd heard references to drop spindles before but never thought to actually look it up.  Since now I was actually going to be learning how to use one though, I decided to investigate a little more thoroughly.  I found out that this is what a drop spindle looks like:

And then I went, "huh??"  I couldn't, for the life of me, figure out how this thing was supposed to make anything resembling something you could knit with.  I decided a little more research was in order, namely the kind of research that one does on youtube.  This is the video I found, and I watched the whole thing.  It's 11 minutes long which is pretty long for a youtube video, but if you want to see what this crazy process looks like, this is it.

Now I was getting a little concerned.  This didn't look easy.  It didn't even look enjoyable, but goshdarnit I was determined that I was going to try it, and I was going to be good at it, and I was going to love it.  It was around this time that I began chatting with my knitting friends that were also going to be at the retreat about what classes I was taking, and when I told them that I was taking the drop spindle class they would invariably say something like, "Oh... well I hope you like it.  You'll have to let me know how it goes."  And then they would give me a pitying look and change the subject.  I could see their concern, but I decided to ignore it.  I didn't want anything to dissuade me from my soon-to-be favourite new hobby!

I've already described portions of the retreat, but I will say that the drop spindle class took place on Sunday morning, starting at about 10:30.  Not really all that early, but when one has stayed awake into the wee hours knitting and indulging on Diet Cake, and then slept poorly due to 10 snoring roommates and a thin, plastic covered mattress, and then forced herself to get up early anyway and go for a walk to wake up and shake off the cake-induced grogginess... well... you get the idea.  I've had better mornings.

There were only four of us that had signed up for the class, and this probably should have been another clue, but I was still determined to be the best at this.  I was going to be spinning like a BAWSE by the end of this class.  Our teacher started running us through the steps to spinning, starting with drafting the roving, and attaching it to the spindle so that we could start spinning our yarn, and we followed along as best we could.  I drafted a bit and spun what I had drafted, then had to stop spinning in order to draft some more, and so on.  This got old pretty quickly.  I didn't like the idea of stopping the spinning to draft more every time I had spun up the already drafted roving, so I started to try drafting as I spun and this basically just meant that instead of slowly spinning new yarn, I was constantly respinning and re-winding the already spun yarn because it kept dropping on the floor and unwinding itself.  Oh, I should also mention that we were standing, and the class was in a large echoey room with a hard tile floor so every time the spindle dropped, it clattered loudly and didn't really help to soothe my cake-induced "grogginess"...

An hour and a half later, I was exhausted.  In case you didn't watch the video above, it is a very labour intensive process.  Oh, and I wasn't getting the hang of it, either.  I still struggled just as much, and I think I actually got a little worse.  I started drafting too thinly and the roving pulled apart a few times.  And I was still pushing myself to try drafting as I spun despite my prior failings, and that just meant more re-winding.  I was getting more and more frustrated, and I was certainly not good at it, and I was very much not loving it.  At the end of the class I had silently decided that if I ever saw a drop spindle again, it would be too soon.

When all was said and done though, I had a little ball of yarn.

Granted, it's the ugliest yarn I've ever seen and I can't imagine that I will ever use it for anything, but it's something.  Something to remind me of why I'm going to stick to knitting and leave the spinning to the experts.

(Although I still would like to learn how to use a wheel spindle.  Also, my hands look weird in photos.)

Friday, 11 November 2011

Fairly Isle

I mentioned a few posts ago about going to the annual knitting retreat hosted by my LYS, Wolseley Wool.  There were opportunities to take up to three classes but I'm an underachiever so I only took two, only one of which was actually somewhat successful.  The successful class was taught by Odessa, one of the co-owners of WW, and it was on learning how to do fair isle knitting by knitting a small project - in this case it was coffee sleeves.  We were each given a kit full of tiny balls of Cascade 220, and a sheet with a few patterns on it.  Wanting to push myself (but not too hard, I repeat, I'm an underachiever), I picked the pattern that had five colours instead of three, but according to Odessa was still one of the easy ones.  The starting out was nothing I hadn't done a bazillion times before... just a few rows of 1x1 rib in the base colour.

After that is where it got interesting.  The first two-colour row of the pattern I picked required switching between the two colours for every stitch.  Easy to keep track of, but annoying if you're dropping the yarn between every stitch.  Odessa had suggested a few different ways to avoid dropping the yarn every time you are changing colours, and I decided that the method I was going to try was by holding the foreground colour in my left hand and knitting those stitches in the Continental style (my usual method of knitting), and holding the background colour in my right hand and knitting those stitches in the English style (I had never knitted this way before).  Needless to say, it took awhile before I didn't feel like the, um, most "special" kid in the "special" class.  My brain kept chanting clear, simple instructions at my hands (pick that stitch, wrap the next stitch, now pick the next one, and wrap the one after that, etc.) and my hands were like "Hurr durr derp?"  I swear, my hands were even drooling.  Okay my palms were sweating but that's basically the same thing right?

So anyway, the completion of each row felt like I had won a bloody effing war.  I had never concentrated so hard in my life, except for maybe when I was knitting my very first lace project, but that's another story.  My hands were cramped, my brain hurt from all the fruitless chanting, and if anyone said anything I felt like yelling at them, "SHUT UP I'm TRYING to KNIT over here!"  But slowly, surely, the pattern started revealing itself.  By the end of the class I was about half done the first sleeve.  By the time the retreat was over, my brain had wrestled my hands into submission and the completion of each row felt more like winning a round of rock paper scissors - still awesome, but much less epic.

I didn't finish knitting the coffee sleeve until I was back in the comfort of my own home.  Then came perhaps the worst part of the whole process: weaving in TWENTY FOUR ENDS.  Yes, I counted.  That's the downside to multi-colour fair isle knitting.  Every time you switch colours there are ends to weave in, and I have no love for weaving in ends, but I'm enough of a perfectionist that I can't leave them unwoven.

FINALLY, I had the finished project:

It was a lot of work, but I was hooked.  I made the other two patterns that came with the kit over the next week:

Another piece of advice that Odessa had given us was that blocking makes fair isle sparkle.  So I steam blocked the crap out of them (I had never steam blocked before so it is possible that I did it wrong), and they still look about the same:

But I don't really care enough to re-block them to make them the perfect shape.  Also I'm not sure why the one with the birds is bigger than the other two.  I'm not too worried about it at this point.  I don't even drink coffee.