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.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011


Sooooo I was gonna write a longer post today, but then a few things happened.

1. The new Brooklyn Tweed yarn, Loft, along with a new look book, was announced.  Holycrapgorgeous.  I need to make this hat out of Loft but I haven't decided which two colours yet.  So excited!  I'm definitely going to be putting in an order and I'm too excited about that to think about anything else knitting-related.

2. I feel like I'm getting mono again.  I'm probably not getting mono, but I feel really tired, my neck is achy and my throat is sore and I've had an alternating head and stomach ache all day.  Good times.

3. I'm re-addicted to Dawson's Creek.  Almost done the first season again.  Are Dawson and Joey gonna finally admit their love for each other?  OMG I don't know it's so melodramatic I CAN'T STAND THE SEXUAL TENSION.

So there you have it.  I promise more knitting related posts in the near future (DISCLAIMER: may or may not meet your definition of near future)