Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Gumball Fairy AND Yarn Fairy

Well, I had a good sleep last night. Thank you, Xanax. And when I woke up, the gumball fairy had been and left me a few. I still feel like a limp dishrag, but the weather is glorious, so I went for a long wandering walk. Mercifully, the boy has gone off to his friend's house to play video games.

Thanks for all the comments of encouragement. I really do appreciate them. And, Ann (from Coquitlam), you lucky girl! I would have loved to hear Margaret Trudeau speak. Yes, I would have applauded.

Starting the day out right: flowers, cuppa joe, and TWO, count 'em, TWO yarny packages. These are the only yarny packages I've ordered since before Christmas, and they both came on the same day. How did the universe know that I needed yarn today?

This first lot is part of (yes I was piggy) a batch of Louisa Harding Kashmir Aran I bought on skookum deal at Hurry up and get yours before it is all gone. I can't say enough good things about this yarn. It is exactly the same softness, composition (merino, microfiber, cashmere) and gauge as Debbie Bliss Cashmerino aran, but with a chainette construction to keep it nicely together. I have been testing it out, and it is delectable! It feels terrific in the hands, and knits up very evenly. I suspect the chainette will keep it from fluzzing and pilling as quickly as soft yarns typically do.

I bought the most of a colour called charcoal heather, a pewter grey that I've got balanced between light blue and black. I want a whole sweater in that colour. Something classic, maybe the Phoebe Pullover from KnitPicks.

The darker green is called Avocado and the lighter one Jalapeno. I think of them both as avocado -- the darker outside, and the lighter inside. I have Ribby Cardi plans for these. A bunch of us over at elann chat are going to Ribby along together. Better late than never. I'm thinking about making two.

This next batch is from Little Knits: Noro Silver Thaw in colour 1 (grays/pinks/lime/teal).

And colour 5 (orangey reds/chartruese/moss/teal/bits of purple)

This stuff is also delectable (wool, angora, nylon). Big generous 100g hanks, and one of the softest Noro's I've met. I love 'em both, but I think I like the orangey-red mix the best. I keep buying up different kinds of Noro, but one of these days I've got to knit with them, not just gollum them away. My precious...

Still no motivation to deal with the lump that is the Mondial Kross jacket.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

All Out Of Gumballs

Nothing for it but to enjoy the pretty tulips I bought today when I walked into town to pick up our car.

"All out of gumballs" is an expression I invented four years ago, at a time when I was very sick. I had no idea a person could be as sick as I was back then and still have to function somewhat normally for part of each day. My kids were younger then. My daughter was six and my son was 10. During the day when they were at school, I walked and slept and tried to breathe my way through a long day of terrifying flashbacks, anxiety attacks, pain and exhaustion. When my kids came home from school, I tried to look like mom for a few hours until they went to bed.

How could they understand that their former super-mom just wasn't her old perky self? I used the metaphor of a gumball machine. I told them that my energy and ability to do things was like a gumball machine filled with a certain amount of gumballs (sometimes not too many rattling around in there), and when they were gone, I had to rest and wait for the machine to get some more. This made sense to them, so we planned our time around how many gumballs I had that day. Enough to play a game of Go Fish. Enough to read a story. Enough to lie down beside them on my bed and listen to them chat about their day.

I have more gumballs these days. A lot more. But some days, they just run right out.

Colin's week and a half off from school is wearing on me. He has been his needy, bored, emotional (and hormonal) self this week. I am hormonal too. Bad timing. Doug's off at Scotch night (don't ask); I had to go to an interview at Hayley's school and pick up the car from servicing. Two blow ups with the boy. That's it. I'm out of gas.

I finished this jacket today, and like me, it is a limp, wadded up lump. I haven't got the jam to wash it and block it tonight, but I'm sure it will look a lot better in the morning.

Monday, January 29, 2007

I'll Show You Mine If You Show Me Yours

Someone asked me just how horifically large my stash is. I don't know...what's a stash? Tell you what, I'll take you on a little tour of my knitting stuff, and you can tell me if I'm in trouble or not. From what I've heard of out there, I think I'm doing okay.

Hey! Maybe a few of you lurkers out there could weigh in on this. I'd love to see who else is reading my blog these days.

There it is: my modest collection of knitting mags, books and patterns.

Sweater Stash: it's no secret that sweaters are my favorite. These are my current faves, though not by any means all the sweaters I've ever knit (many have left home for other lives).

If it's in my bedroom closet, does it count as stash? There's a box of R2 Rag 'cuz I thought I'd knit rugs all summer (and didn't). There's a bin of WIP projects, and a small bin of quarantined thrift store yarn (with sachet to make purty smelling). And a big blanket project that is also in process.

Oh that's not stash, those are just my "working bins." This drawer unit used to hold toys when my kids were younger; now it's mine. I keep all my tools, ball bands, swatches, sample skeins etc. in some of the drawers. Other drawers have all the leftover bits of balls and oh...a few projects' worth of yarn (things I plan to do soon) and pettable yarn that I have to keep nearby at all times. That kind of thing.

This is the spot on the couch where projects I am working on right now hold court. They sit next to the ass-groove I have worn into the couch from all my hours of knitting.

Okay, now this here is what I officially consider my "stash." These few bins. They contain only wool and wool blend yarn, sorted by weight. I'm not responsible for resulting explosions if you lift the lids.

These next two pictures are of...overflow stash. It hides in the cupboard where I also stockpile gifts for various occasions.

That section there is pretty much all the summer type yarn that I own. That's not very much.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

In Praise of Yarnplay

I know that I have sung the praises of this book already, but I recently discovered that Lisa's book has received some unkind criticism over at (U.S). Personally, I love this book and have written a review (below) that is going straight to (Canada). If you don't have any opinions one way or the other, that is fine too. BUT if you like this book and want to support the author's work, how about take a minute or two and post a review at or

Yarnplay by Lisa Shobhana Mason is, as the title suggests, a book that encourages knitters to play with yarn in some new ways. I was sold on the book by the cover photograph alone, and I was not disappointed. I would have been satisfied with the purchase simply for three patterns in it: The Lorelei Tank, Poppy (the cover sweater), and the EBTKS (Everything But The Kitchen Sink) sweater. I have knit the EBTKS sweater and can honestly say that is was a very fun knitting experience, and it is now one of my favorite sweaters to wear too.

Besides these, and other appealing sweaters for men, women and children, the book covers a wide range of projects from household items to accessories and winter-wear. Projects range from simple to complex, from those that would take a few hours to those that will keep a knitter busy and challenged. The instructions are clear, and the author maintains a web-site under the Yarnplay title that features photographs of her projects that have been knit by real knitters out in the real world. The website contains any error corrections that have come up, and links to knit-along projects (for Poppy, for example). The author is friendly, accessible, and encouraging.

Personally, I think that the book's two greatest strengths are in its photographs and in the deceptive simplicity of Mason's designs. Every page of this book has beautiful photographs of finished projects, knit with, and set among colours that provide as much instruction as anything the author says with words. This book does not contain lessons in colour theory or detailed instructions on choosing colours, but it certainly points a creative and intuitive knitter in the right direction. The idea is to play with colours in some exciting new ways. Some of the patterns are quite basic; others have attractive construction details that take them out of the range of ordinary. All are exactly the right kinds of patterns on which to experiment with colours. The author of Yarnplay provides good artist tools (patterns, photographs, written instructions, and examples), and then encourages knitters to express their personal individuality and creativity. That is what I like best about this book.

If you are looking for inspiration and a chance to explore and play with your knitting, it is an ideal book to add to your collection.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Does Anyone Know This Yarn?

Found it at Valu-Village yesterday whilst gathering up jeans and hoodies for my ever growing son. Ten balls, all the same lot. Came home to google and discovered it was made waaaaayyyy back in the mid-90's.

I like it! It's the same composition as Patons Shetland Chunky (75% acrylic/25% wool), and it feels woolly, rather than acrylicy. Plus it is washable and knits up fast into cozy, durable items. I think it is just a hair bulkier than Shetland, but basically a chunky weight (14-15 st = 4" on 6 to 6 1/2mm needles). You get 164 yds in a 100g ball. Did I mention that I got ten of them?? I like the colour -- a rich, deep espresso brown. And I especially like the more rustic, single strand, spin.

I had to test drive it right away, so I cast on to make my beloved son a pair of thick 'n cozy around-the-house socks. I made him a pair a few years ago, and he loved them to death. And wore holes in the bottoms of them by wearing them around a sail boat one weekend.

This is a very easy pattern. I found it at Knitting Pattern Central. It's a Coats & Clark called "Dorm Socks" that you can find here.

One sock took about 100 yds of the Patons Norspun.
I knit on 5mm DPN's
I followed the third size (cast on 36); knit 2 1/2" of cuff and a total of 8" of leg. Heel is 2 1/2". I knit the foot for 10" then shaped the toe. This gave me a men's size 12 sock. My husband wears a men's 12, and he test drove the sock for me. It fit him well. He tends to be on the 13 side of men's 12. My son just moved into a size 12 men's shoe, so it should be great for him.

Best thing is that it is a quick knit for socks. I cast on last night and knit for an hour or so. Today I knit for two or three hours and the first sock was done.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Daisy's New Digs and Other News

Today is the first day of Colin's dreaded (by me) semester end. I decided to leave the house for several hours. I hit pet stores and thrift stores and had lunch and enjoyed the fact that it was not raining today. My favorite thrift store has half price Thursdays, and today I bought a cozy zippered hoodie for Hayley and a set of audio tapes for me. Have you ever read any of Bill Bryson's travel books? They're a scream. I loved his book on Australia. The audio tapes are of him reading his book Notes From a Small Island -- about his travels in England. So for two dollars, I get several hours of listening enjoyment to accompany my knitting. I had fun until I returned home to find my grouchy son slouched in a chair, having eaten nothing but shreddies. It was 2:00.

Today I bought supplies for Daisy. She is growing like a weed and needed something bigger than the little wire cage and tiny wheel that worked when she was a baby. This is her new apartment, fitted out with bigger wheel, new food bowl, and corner bathroom (yes, she uses it). She sniffed around and disappeared into the igloo to sleep. I won't see her for hours.

Since Daisy was getting a fresh house, I cleaned out Peppo's house too. Peppo is our old girl, and she gets the big twenty gallon condo. Daisy's is a ten gallon with a wire mesh lid. Daisy is a Houdini. Peppo, on the other hand, couldn't climb her way out of a paper bag. Peps hated the igloo from a very young age and kept flipping it over until we got the hint and removed it. Now she makes a nest in the corner, but whenever we clean her tank, she forgets and goes to sleep in her bathroom for a day or two. No one said hamsters were that smart.

Last night Doug woke me up with his breathing machine around 4:30 am. He has one of those machines that prevents sleep apnea. Normally it is quiet. Last night it started making whistling noises that drove me out of the room. I fell asleep on the couch to the sound of hamsters running on wheels.

I finished the second front of the Kross hoodie. I just realized I posted a pic of the sleeve. Must be loss of sleeve. Sleep. Oh well, just imagine it is a front. Now I have to sew up the right side and sleeve and then pick up around the neck edge for the hood. It is so close to being done.

Except for that tiny matter of the zipper. Ew.

Even so, my eye keeps wandering to this yarn I have all ready for a Ribby Cardi. It is Berroco Ultra Alpaca in denim blue and charcoal. Won't that look fab with jeans and a black t-shirt. Or a white t-shirt. I've been itching to get going on it, so the last bit of this Kross jacket has been feeling like a trudge.

Current socks on the go:

Ball of sock yarn that is waving arm in the air and calling, "Oh Mistah Kottah!! Mistah Kottah!!!" I think it wants to be next.

Someone has asked to see pix of the Noro Silver Thaw I ordered. Gladly! But it hasn't come in the mail yet.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Let's Go Puddle Jumping!

These socks are an accident that turned out fine. I had only knit a few other pairs of socks before these, and those in chunky, aran and DK weight yarns. This was to be my first pair with something lighter, sportweight as it turned out. I took a ball of Lion Brand Magic Stripes sock yarn along when Doug and I went to Tofino in November, thinking I'd knit a pair of socks while away. I worked until I had about six or seven inches of leg before I realized that they were going to be way too wide. I had cast on the wrong number of stitches. Who knows why? I hated the thought of ripping it all out. I realized that if I made them a lot longer, the wide part could be up around my calf, so I improvised a decrease section, and bravo! I had a long sock. Only one though, since it took a lot longer to knit a long one than a short one. The project got shelved until a week or so ago. Now finally I have my Wellington Socks.

The really happy news is that now I have a pair of long socks to wear inside my wellies so that they don't rub against my bare leg.

I reviewed the Lion Brand Magic Stripes in an earlier post, but just to reiterate. You do get a big 100g ball that is enough to make a whole pair of normal length socks. I used about 1.5 balls to make these. The yarn is 75% wool/25% nylon and machine washable. Socks knit up quickly on 3.25mm needles. The colour quality is a bit yutz, but the stripes were fun, and on a gray rainy day should bring a smile. The yarn is perfect for kids' socks as well as for ADD sock knitters like me.

This is my third pair of socks completed in the last four weeks. Today I grafted the toe of the second sock without looking at the instructions for grafting. Now that's a first.

Monday, January 22, 2007

The Grouchy Knitter

I'm grouchy, and I'm not going to hide it. Pardon me while I gripe for a minute.

I am a person who needs hours and hours of personal time so that I can stand to be around people. I spent most of my life extended beyond my capacity to be around people. Over the last four years, I have become much wiser and more protective. I focus my people-energy on my husband and kids, a few friends, church and other positive events. I have been very grateful to have the house to myself during the day while Doug and the kids are out at work and school. This year I'm feeling deprived. Doug works at home now as a private contractor. There are perks to having him home during the day, but I am aware of his presence in the house, and this tends to wear me down. On top of that, we've had endless bad weather, power outages, and other stressful disruptions that have seriously eroded my ability to cope. My kids' lives are more complicated this year: they are both unusually independent and unusually needy, all at the same time. I'm going a bit mad.

I had just booted the kids out of the house and back to school from Christmas and was beginning to celebrate a month of total alone time at home while Doug works a contract out of the house. The very day that he left the house to work away from home, my darling 14-year-old son came home from school to announce -- to my ENORMOUS shock and horror -- that he was getting a week and a half off of school for semester break. Starting this Thursday. Please, can I trade lives with a hermit for a couple of weeks?? Cottage in the woods, shack, all sounds good to me right about now. I'm furious that the school would give a bunch of grade-9's a week and a half off so close to Christmas, and with spring break just around the corner.

Pissed off, grumbling, and plain old depressed...but knitting anyway.

I'm working away on the Mondial Kross jacket. I have done the back, both sleeves and one front. I have sewn the front/sleeve/back on the left side and tried on the half jacket. It's going to fit more closely than I thought, but this is a good thing. It's going to be a cute and cuddly sweater. The yarn is super thick and next to the skin soft 100% merino. The camo makes it a bit hard to photograph, and the left sleeve looks all shriveled since it is knit in ribs/cables and not yet blocked.

In this shot, you can see the left front in place, and I still have to knit the right front and sew up the seams on the right. Then I pick up stitches all around the neck edge for the hood. The pattern has pockets that you knit separately and then sew on the front, but I'm thinking of skipping them until I see how the sweater looks without 'em. I don't think I'll want extra bulk on the front (who does?).

This is some pretty Koigu Painter's Palette Merino I bought last summer for socks. Once I'm done that rainbow wellington sock on the go, I'm going to cast on for a pair of socks with this.

I also treated myself to a few colours of Noro Silver Thaw. Little Knits has a tempting sale on those right now, and I got three 100gram balls each of number 1 and number 5 (before those two colours sold out, which they did in a day). I know that one lot will make a shawl, and the other lot will make up the top part of a Poppy sweater from Yarnplay, but I'll have to see them before I'll know which one will do what.

I'd still rather be a hamster...

Sunday, January 21, 2007

I'd Rather Be a Hamster

They sleep...

And eat...

And play...

What's not to envy?

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Free Yarn! and My Next Project

First off...thank you all very much for the kind compliments on my EBTKS sweater. Not to be a total name dropper or anything, but did anyone notice that Lisa Shobhana (the author of Yarnplay) left the first comment?? She has a blog that shows off Yarnplay projects that other people are knitting and blogging. You can visit it here. Oh, and would you look at whose sweater is featured on that blog today? Why, that looks like MY sweater. Big grin.

Incidentally, she also provides corrections for any errata in Yarnplay. There is one correction for the shaping of the back of EBTKS. And there are lots of good photos of another great sweater in Yarnplay, the currently very popular Poppy.

Now on to the free stuff. That's right, I said free stuff. Sort of. If you want this lovely lace yarn from Handpainted Yarns, it is yours for the price of box and postage (somewhere between eight and twelve dollars, depending on where you live). Here we have two skeins of Handpainted's laceweight merino. It is equisitely soft and has a billion yards per skein (ok, I think it's around 950). The colour on my monitor looks about bang on. It is a soft light/and lighter peachy colour.

Why am I giving it away? Take your pick from the following answers:

a) I thought it was going to be a lot darker in colour
b) I have a lot of lace-weight, and I am just never going to get around to knitting this one in my lifetime
c) It doesn't seem worth selling it for ten bucks or something on its own
d) I don't know anyone nearby who can take it off my hands
e) I am a generous person
f) All of the above goes to the first person who tells me they are willing to pay for postage. We can arrange terms by email. The easiest way to pay me is by gift certificate.

My next project is to finish this Mondial Kross sweater I started in the fall. I plan to make the sweater as pictured above -- but without the scary botox lips.

The colourway is camoflage. I snapped that one up in a hurry when snuck it out there one Monday in October. I quickly knitted one sleeve and the back in the zeal of white box arrival, and then it kind of drifted off to the unfinished bin for a while. I am extremely ADD about knitting when those white boxes arrive.

In any case, it's back out on the couch, where all well-behaved projects get to live when they are in favor with the universe, and I've been sleeving away on the second sleeve so that I can set back and enjoy the rest of the knit.

And finally...though my New Year's yarn purchases have been almost nil so far (does it count that I took some yarn off of Jean's hands?), I did pick up just a few scarves' worth of this new Sean Sheep Yarn I discovered yesterday at Wally World. Check out the Sean Sheep website here. The Wally World had a fun display of several Sean Sheep yarns, and I found I simply could not resist these two. It helped that they were 2.97 a ball.


Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Done Like Dinner

It's done!
Everything But The Kitchen Sink Sweater from Yarnplay by Lisa Shobhana Mason
Knit with 33 different worsted/aran weight yarns on 5mm needles
Gauge: 18 st = 4" on 5mm

This was a really fun sweater to knit. It went more slowly than other sweaters I've done because of all the colour changes, but totally worth the work. I love this sweater! I already have plans to knit a second one in browns and fall reds and oranges.

I knit the body in the round to the armpits, and then finished the front/back on straight needles. The pattern instructions say to knit the sleeves on DPN's, but I knit them flat. The kitchen sink effect is created by switching yarns on a whim every row or two or three. I ranged from one row to five of one yarn and followed only my own intuition as I went along. That was the fun part. I really enjoyed the process of choosing yarns and widths of rows as I went along.

All of the yarns I used were wool or mostly wool, so I spliced them together as I worked (spit splice) and finished with only the cast-on tails and final tails to weave in.

I think that to be truly kitchen sink, the whole thing should be random, but I matched my front to my back and my two sleeves to each other. It worked better for me that way.

As for the thirty-three different yarns...I was thinking of holding a contest to see who could guess the most of them. But then I realized that I would have to receive and "mark" the entries, and that was not too appealing.

You need a lot of different shades and textures of yarn to make the effect work well. The pattern suggests at least 18 colours/textures. I used from ten to about fifty or sixty yards (at most) of the following yarns. All of them were in my stash except for three of them (I bought the two Gedifra living colours and the Cascade 220 skein specifically for the sweater). I would say that at least two thirds of these yarns were from leftovers or one-of balls in my collection. I have a lot of one-of balls for mixed projects and to try out yarns to see what I like. The rest were raided from projects that I know I have more than enough yarn to cover.

So here they are if you are interested: Thirty-Three yarns in my sweater (see if you can find them in the photos)

1. Noro Kureyon 154
2. Noro Kureyon 170
3. Highland Wool in: Eggplant
4. Celadon
5. Peridot
6. Deep Blue Sea
7. Lotus Blossom
8. Patons Classic Wool (merino) in: Leaf Green
9. Worn Denim
10. New Denim
11. Dusky Blue
12. Peacock
13. Navy Blue
14. Brown Sheep Company Worsted in: Amethyst
15. Fuchsia
16. Turquoise
17. Mr Joe Blanket in Fern Green (two strands together)
18. Cascade 220: Turquoise marl
19. Gedifra Living in: Teal
20. Cedar Green
21. Unknown (Schachenmayr??) yarn in my stash in: deep blue
22. Purple
23. Berroco Ultra Alpaca in: Blueberry
24. Lilac
25. Himilaya wool/recycled silk blend in deep blue
26. Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Astrahkan in Cedar
27. Katia Mexico in Green/Blue/Turquoise blend
28. Sierra Aran in Fiddlehead Green
29. King Extra Merino (light blue marl)
30. Fleece Artist Kid Silk Aran in Cosmic Dawn
31. Valley Yarns Charisma in Navy blend
32. Malabrigo Worsted in Geranio
33. Valley Yarns Amherst in Sweet Pea

This was my first time knitting with Brown Sheep Company Worsted, Cascade 220 and Valley Yarns Amherst. I have to say that I really like all three of these yarns. The Amherst is a real honey of a merino. It's from Webs' Valley Yarns line, and it is a lovely yarn. It was also my first time with the Fleece Artist Kidsilk Aran. That yarn really glows with life.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Big (Yarn) Love

A few words on the two projects I have on needles this week: The Kitchen Sink Sweater, and the Striped Knee Sock (see their personal ads in the post below).

I knit the first knee sock back in November when I was away in Tofino with Doug. I called it a Wellington Sock because I noticed that when I wore my wellies with jeans over (not tucked in), the top of the boot rubbed against my leg in an irritating way. I thought to myself, hey! Why not make a really long pair of socks. This thought coincided nicely with the discovery that I had somehow cast on too many stitches for a normal pair of socks, so I tapered down the leg and just kept going until I had that knee sock. Now I'm finally knitting the second one. Not bothering to match. The yarn is nothing all that special. It's Lion Brand Magic Stripes sock yarn. It's kind of yutzy-cheapo in some ways, ok in others.

I like that you get a big ball of yarn for the price. I like that the colours keep changing, and it really is more fun to knit socks when that happens. I like that it's sport weight, and I can knit fast on 3 1/4mm needles. I like that it is a decent wool/nylon blend and that it is machine washable. What's not to like? The dye quality seems cheap, and there are blotchy bits. I can tell that this yarn doesn't begin to match the quality of so many other sock yarns I like and own. But it's fine being what it is, and I'm having fun with it.

The Kitchen Sink sweater is nearly done. I tried it on last night with its one sleeve all done and sewn in place. It's going to fit perfectly, and it looks great with jeans. I can already tell that it will be fun to wear and will end up being a favorite. And I'm already planning to make another one in a different set of colours.

In other news...the pattern for Jayne's AP Bag is now available at Knitting Pattern Central.

An intrepid knitter has made my AP Bag!! I thought that was totally cool, and her bag turned out great. See it here.

Doug and I have been devouring another HBO series this week. Over the past five years or so, we've found several excellent edgy TV gems that air first on HBO before being released to DVD. Then we rent them and gorge on a whole season's episodes over just a few days. We've done this with The Sopranos, Six Feet Under, and Weeds. We've also discovered some good network television such as House, the new Battlestar Galactica, and Dead Like Me. Some of these shows are a bit morally reprobate, but they have such interesting characters and plots, and such excellent writing that we end up loving them all.

So the current feast is a show that came out last year called Big Love. It stars Bill Paxton as a man married to three women. I thought they were going to play it for laughs and that it would be engaging but tasteless. Instead, they play it serious, and it is engaging and thought-provoking, even charming. If you want to know more, check it out here.

Now back to the last two episodes of Big Love and hoping to finish that second sleeve soon!

Sunday, January 14, 2007

You Complete Me

Single striped knee sock seeks compatible partner for on again off again relationship. Foot fetishes okay. Perfect match not required.

Striped sweater seeks sleeve for close permanent attachment. Sweater has established healthy bond with first sleeve, looking for second to complete menage a trois.