Monthly Archives: July 2008

And the rest is knitting

There are times (ultra mope-tastic times) when I feel like printing up a t-shirt that says “I turned 30 and all I got was a PhD and a bunch of yarn.” Because most of the time the world doesn’t actually care if you have a PhD, or yarn, even if if it’s very nice yarn. Much of the world would prefer that you have a husband or children, or pets, or property, or a full time job, and I don’t actually have any of these things. Mostly I would be OK with having a job (and I’m working on that), the rest can come later if it needs to.

But then there are days like yesterday, the day I did actually turn 30, when it did actually feel OK to say “I turned 30 and I have a bunch of yarn.” Because yarn and the people who come attached to it are pretty darned cool. And it is cool to have a twin to turn 30 with. I’m just sad for my see-stor that she ended up feeling under the weather for the later stage of the day and couldn’t enjoy it all as much, but that’s OK because we’ll do a re-do with dinner on the weekend and properly relax for a bit. I wonder what my fellow birthday-mates did with their day?

Yesterday, though, there was yarn. If it’s your birthday, it’s OK to come back with a small haul, right?

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Some of this, I anticipated. The Malabrigo Lace is going to be a Bleeding Hearts Stole (I’m copycatting Emily on this one), and I did expect to come away with a bit of sock yarn, even if I ended up with more than a “bit”. The sweater’s worth of Cascade 220 Heather was unexpected, but when Romni has a 20% off sale, that’s when you get sweater’s worth of things, I say.

We did a good effort crawling Toronto yesterday, me and a lovely posse of knitters and knitting supporters:

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Natalie, Steph‘s hubby D, (blog-free) Dee, my partner in all birthdays, Steph herself, hiding behind Kim, hiding behind T, who has absorbed a shocking amount of knitting and yarn knowledge for someone who so far has not actually learned how to knit. They were an awesome birthday posse.

We need to go…over there…

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Thank you for having such lovely yarns, Toronto. We did some fondling…

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Pondered Life, the Universe, and Everything:

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And then the day was over and I fell into a coma sleep and woke up this morning with more yarn than I woke up with yesterday. In my world, that’s a good day. Onwards to my 30s!

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Philip’s Socks

When I cast on with the Dream in Color Smooshy, I fell in love. Now that I’ve cast off, the love affair continues! I will definitely be getting more of this in the future. The Masonic Socks are finished, and will be in the hands of their recipient this evening. They’re a bit bigger than my feet need since they are for a male recipient, which is just as well since if they were my size I might be inclined to keep them.

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Check out that yummy stitch definition right there and please to be ignoring the one wee mis-crossed cable it means no harm it just needs love and forgiveness. It’s a bit hard to tell here with the finished socks displayed on my (makeshift coat-hanger) sock blockers, but that single cable runs down opposite sides of the leg and foot on each sock. One for the outside of each instep. The rest of the pattern is a combination of ribbing and hidden garter rib. Mmm.

Pattern: Masonic Socks by Quelle Erqsome Knits.
Yarn: Dream in Color Smooshy, in ‘Gothic Rose’
Needles: 2.5mm DPNs
Modifications: I increased the stitch count from 70 to 74. I did this by turning the 4 instances of ‘p1′ in the ribbing in the chart to ‘p2′ instead, and re-centreing the heel so that it would all match up in the end. It’s possible I messed something up, but it looks good and they are symmetrical so I think it’s all OK in the end. If I were making them for me I think I would actually stick with the 70 stitches in the original pattern.

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The other, ahm, ‘modification’ was an unintended one. There is supposed to be an inch or so of ribbing at the top of the sock, but I totally missed it. My eyes went right past the ribbing instructions (“cuff”) and started immediately on the ribbing chart instructions (“leg”). Thankfully I think the ribbing has enough snugness on its own and I’m confident they will be worn without slouch.

All in all an attractive pattern, easily memorized, just fiddly enough to be interesting, and worth knitting again. Two thumbs up!

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The survivors

Oh guys, oh my friends. You’re just killing me with the comments on my last post, I just knew we should have left more time to do the selections because approximately 264% of you have commented and said “oh please read [this novel you didn't end up picking]” and now I’m so sad for all the books that didn’t make the list of the First Eight On The List of 20th Century Reads that I sort of want to go hide under the covers with a large bar of Green & Black’s Dark Chocolate and possibly a bottle of chardonnay.

Well, I kind of want to do that anyway since I’m turning 30 on Wednesday and still very ambivalent about it, but I digress.

In any case, Liz and I talked on Sunday and our selection process went like this: We’d each made our list of 20+ suspects, and 2 overlapped, and those 2 were the first 2 on the list; Then we each picked 1 from our own list, then each picked 1 from the other person’s list; Then each picked 1 from either list. This is what we ended up with:

Rebecca, by Daphne DuMaurier
The Name of the Rose, by Umberto Eco
Catch-22, by Joseph Heller
The Flame Trees of Thika, by Elspeth Huxley
Cryptonomicon, by Neal Stephenson
The Wicked Pavilion, by Dawn Powell
Midnight’s Children, by Salman Rushdie
The True History of the Kelly Gang, by Peter Carey
Lolita, by Viktor Nabokov

This is a list that we can start with. I have no doubt that once we get towards the end of these first 8, we’ll have to solicit more suggestions or do votes or complex polls or some other feat of internet democracy, but both Liz and I are pretty pleased with this. It’s a list that strikes a lot of compromises and reaches into several literary areas. There’s a mix of genres, styles, authors, lengths (Cryptonomicon is 900-ish pages but then The Wicked Pavilion is only 250 or so), and so on. In retrospect my only concern is that we’ve neglected the more post-modern and post-colonial selections. But we can rectify that in the next set I think right now!

Late Breaking News – Liz and I decided to rescue ‘Midnight’s Children’ from our original short lists and tucked it up there between Dawn Powell and Peter Carey. It’s an acclaimed book, it’s about a non-North-American part of the world, and it’s a slightly different genre (what exactly is ‘magical realism’? I’m curious, that’s for sure).

I think it is also a list that not everyone will already have read in high school/college/every other book club known to creation, which is probably good.

Our Ravelry group link is here: Knitting 20th Century Novels

The whole idea is that it is a sort of virtual drop-in book club, with the optional choose-your-own-adventure knitting action. The knitting portion happens as you want – back in Knit The Classics just over a year ago, we read Dante’s ‘The Inferno’ and that’s when my flamey legwarmers happened. I wonder what Rebecca’s romance and suspense or Peter Carey’s Australian band of outlaws will inspire?

Join us and find out!

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Reading the 20th Century

(First, and as an aside: I am winning over knitting. The socks are 90% complete and all they need is a Sunday afternoon movie and they will doneski. Take that, knitting ennui! You are not the boss of me!)

Once upon a time there was a group blog called ‘Knit the Classics’, a project in the shape of a virtual book club where participants would read a ‘classic’ book each month and have the option of doing a crafting project to accompany that read. Then, something happened in the Blogger brand of internet and the KTC blog got nixed. The KTC project was revived in part by a Knitting 19th Century Novels group on Ravelry (Ravelry link there), which I’ve been happily participating in (I’d never read Alice in Wonderland before and am excited to read Dracula).

And then I got to thinking that the 20th Century could use a companion group. I started thinking about it months and months ago, and finally now that I’m using my brain to think thoughts again post-thesis I have had enough wherewithal to start on this. Naturally every project needs co-conspirators, so I enlisted the help of my friend Liz who is both a Ravelry user and a knitter, avid reader, and generally friendly and all-around groovy person.

To get this party started we have to come up with a half-dozen or so titles to put on a reading list (I’m sure we’ll end up soliciting suggestions as the group continues, but hey, we gotta start somewhere), so we each went off and tried to come up with a list of 20 titles and are planning a chat this afternoon to start whittling them down. She’s posted her list and since all’s fair in knitting and Reading List Elimination Death Matches, I figured I’d do the same and post mine. Impressively, our lists are almost 100% different, which should make this all the more interesting to choose the first few. Do we go with the most widely-known? Even balance between male and female authors? Alternate late-20th C with early-20th C? A mixture of genres? Short ones? Long ones? Prize-winning ones? Obscure rarely-read ones? Oi with the poodles already.

I don’t know who’s going to survive the bloodbath of the selection process, but by tonight we should have a starting selection. Even a short list of 20 was hard enough that we both copped out and added extra. Here’s mine:

20 from the 20th Century

Lord Jim (1900), by Joseph Conrad
Mrs Dalloway (1925), by Virginia Woolf
The Great Gatsby (1925), F. Scott Fitzgerald
All Quiet on the Western Front (1929), by Erich Maria Remarque
The Maltese Falcon (1930), by Dashiell Hammet
Rebecca (1938), by Daphne DuMaurier
Nineteen Eighty Four (1949), by George Orwell
The Wicked Pavilion (1954), by Dawn Powell
Catch-22 (1961), by Joseph Heller
Slaughterhouse Five (1969), by Kurt Vonnegut
Watership Down (1972), by Richard Adams
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (1979), by Douglas Adams
A Confederacy of Dunces (1980), by John Kennedy Toole
The Name of the Rose (1980), by Umberto Eco
Midnight’s Children (1981) by Salman Rushdie
The Color Purple (1983) or Meridian (1976), by Alice Walker
In the Skin of a Lion (1987), by Michael Ondaatje
Oscar and Lucinda (1988 ) or The True History of the Kelly Gang (2000), by Peter Carey
The Remains of the Day (1989), by Kazuo Ishiguro
Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture (1991) or Girlfriend in a Coma (1989), by Douglas Coupland
A Fine Balance (1995), by Rohinton Mistry

But first, I’m going to finish these socks.

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Big talk

Oh, sure. Going to “finish a sock or a sweater”, I said. “All week to knit” I said. I should have known that as soon as I made such plans for myself, my brain would do an about-face and say, “no, maybe not so much.” The kitties were darling and would have happily allowed me all the knitting I pleased. At the beginning of the week I had 1 unfinished sweater and 1 unfinished pair of socks. Now on Saturday I still have 1 unfinished sweater and 1 unfinished pair of socks, although the socks are arguably close, since I have turned the 2nd heel and need to only do the foot.

I did actually manage a bit of work this week, and also some visiting with Toronto people – 2 knitting nights in a row! Purple Purl and Lettuce Knit! A trip with a friend to find her sock yarn at Romni Wools! (AND I escaped without any yarn myself, which I feel shows remarkable restraint. I know I’ll be back for my birthday this coming week.)

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I have also been enjoying a return to Reading Books. (Did you know you can read books? You just get a book and then you read it. And then when you finish it you can read another one. Groovy). I’ve spent the last couple of months tearing through paperbacks and have lately been moving into the contemporary literature area, ranging from the “OMG someone actually published this?” (The Friday Night Knitting Club was sadly not for me) to the “OMG why have I not been reading this sooner?” (Jasper Fforde and the ‘Thursday Next’ novels).

Strangely I have been seeing very few films (maybe I need more movie-appropriate knitting projects), but I suspect it is only a matter of time before I finally see WALL-E, The X-Files, and perhaps even Mamma Mia. I am tired of the endless Summer Boy Movie Blockbuster Extravaganza of Money-Making and would like to see something with at least one non-vacuous female character in it. (No really, Hollywood. Just one. That’s all I’m asking.)

It’s a shame cables don’t make good movie knitting though, because I tells ya, this Halcyon sweater has been on the books too long – I note that i cast on in April which is now at least 3 months ago. Come ooooon, cables. It’s you and me. Let’s finish this sucker.

Next post: Either the WIPs will have the glory, or I will. Coming soon to a suspense-filled blog read near you. Have a great weekend!

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Change of Scenery

I’ve relocated for most of this week chez Ladylungdoc, who is letting me mind her kitties while she and her husband are away. It’s a pretty good deal; the kitties get food and meds, and I get to be a Torontonian again for a few days. After living back in Hamilton for almost a year now, I’ve sort of forgotten what that’s like. I’ll be able to get down to the campus library pretty easily, check out some former favourite lunch spots, and maybe even investigate the Purple Purl knitting night for the first time ever.

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So far, so good. The cats have explained to me that although I am not one of their usual humans, I am plenty adequate for depositing cat hair on/scratching ears/sitting around with. (Well, it was more like a glance and a “meow”, but I could tell there was more.)

While there are various things resembling “work” that I should be doing at some point, this was a nice chance to limit my knitting projects in the face of impending startitis, and so I have brought with me only Halcyon and Philip’s Socks, and would be thrilled to pieces if I could manage to finish one of them this week. (It is in the realm of possibility – I’m well into the leg of Sock #2 and have only to do the front piece on Halcyon…OK, a bit ambitious, but still…possible.)

I hope your Monday is/has been a good one!

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Buttermilk Scones

Last weekend on the family trip to Stratford, Ontario, we stayed overnight not in a B&B but in a small rental cottage-like house. Since the house didn’t come with someone to make breakfast, I decided to take over the kitchen for the morning, and did a breakfast which turned into a sort of extended brunch experience. Part 1 was two kinds of scones with fruit salad to go with it, and Part 2 was a vegetable fritatta with oven-baked potatoes and salad greens on the side. It was all, shall we say, delicious.

Sadly I have mis-placed my source for the fritatta recipe, but I am happy to share the scone recipes with you as they are an amalgam of 3 or 4 ones I found online. Be warned, though, once you make them you’ll want them every day…

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Savoury Buttermilk Scones with Cheese

2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt

1/3 cup butter
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 400 F.
Mix 1st 4 dry ingredients in a bowl, using fork or fingers.
Add cold butter (in small pieces), and work into the dry mixture using fingers, until the butter is worked in – combined mixture is slightly sandy/pebbly texture.
Add shredded cheese, mix in with fingers.
Add buttermilk, mixing with fork then with fingers. Work the dough gently (don’t knead it or over-do it, just work it together with your hands) until it all holds together well. Adjust with teaspoonfuls of flour or buttermilk if too dry/wet, as necessary.

Divide dough into 2 parts. You can do 2 circles and then slice into wedges, or as I did above and do 2 long rectangles and then cut into slices. Place the pieces on a greased baking sheet and bake in the middle of the oven for 18-20 minutes. Be careful not to over-bake.

Cool on wire rack, brush tops with melted butter if desired.

Sweet Buttermilk Scones with Cranberry and Orange

3 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
2 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt

3/4 cup unsalted butter
large handful dried cranberries
zest of 1 orange
1 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 400 F.
Mix 1st 5 dry ingredients in a bowl, using fork or fingers.
Add cold butter (in small pieces), and work into the dry mixture using fingers, until the butter is worked in – combined mixture is slightly sandy/pebbly texture.
Add dried cranberries and zest, mix in with fingers.
Add buttermilk, mixing with fork then with fingers. Work the dough gently (don’t knead it or over-do it, just work it together with your hands) until it all holds together well. Adjust with teaspoonfuls of flour or buttermilk if too dry/wet, as necessary.

Divide dough into 2 parts. You can do 2 circles and then slice into wedges, or as I did above and do 2 long rectangles and then cut into slices. Place the pieces on a greased baking sheet and bake in the middle of the oven for 18-20 minutes. Be careful not to over-bake.

Cool on wire rack, brush tops with melted butter if desired, then dust with sugar. (I am itching to drizzle them with a bit of icing, actually, but I worry that might go too far for breakfast food. Hmm.)

Enjoy as needed!

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12 of 12 – July

Back in the fall I started doing the 12 of 12, but have forgotten about it the last few times. Not this month! Ha ha! I remembered this time!

In case you’re just tuning in, the 12 of 12 is a blog project where you take 12 pictures during your day on the 12th of the month, then post them on your blog with times and captions. This time the 12th was on Saturday, the day when I went off with my famiy for our annual trip to Stratford, Ontario, for the theatre festival. Here’s how the day went. (Um, better 3 days late than never, right?)

7:30am – Mmm, I love a basket of sock yarn in the morning. I’m gradually knitting through this stuff, I promise. It’s been fun to collect.

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8:15am – Off for a run before things get going. New podcast to listen to, thank goodness! Some days a new podcast is what gets me out the door.

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10:00am – Packing for the trip – 1 overnight. I stuck ‘Cause Celeb’ in there at the last minute since I’d just finished a book and needed something quick. I borrowed CC about 2 years ago and still haven’t finished it. In fact, I think I need to re-read it from the beginning because I’ve forgotten what happened in the part that I read.

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11:15am – At R & P’s, with whom Martha and I will be riding on the way to Stratford. (Meanwhile mom and dad jet off separately to drop luggage at the B&B while our job upon arrival is to find a picnic spot.) Martha was playing with Ramona, one of the cats, who jumped for the toy just at the moment I clicked for the photo. She was suitably transformed into a whisp of blurry white.

Ramona the Cat - jumps for toy!

1:00pm – In Stratford now, by the river. I thought these ducks had the right idea.

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2:00pm – Just before the play started. First up was ‘The Trojan Women’, which was great in a soul-crushing, hope-killing sort of way. (It’s OK though, we finished with ‘The Music Man’, which was more with the ‘up’).

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4:30pm – Some post-play shopping, at a favourite tea place. All the different kinds of loose tea you could want. Patricia and Martha each got a selection too, and Martha even got her very own teapot with loose tea diffuser built right in. ‘Tea restores’, I said after the play. Patricia looked at me and I added, ‘Martinis can restore also,’ and that sounded like a good plan too.

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5:00pm – Checkerboard tables outside Family and Company. Martha and I played. Here, I am red and about to get ‘kinged’. I won, which is highly unusual since i have lingering memories of losing about a bazillion checkers games when i was little, and as a result I hardly ever want to play as an adult.

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5:15pm – At Watson’s bazaar, where you can get 101 interesting things for your home. I got a large cup and saucer and the coolest new wallet ever. And these cats just come with the ambiance. They are totally in their own little world and will let you pet them but mostly are happy to sleep the day away on the counter.

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6:30pm – At dinner. Yum, pizza. Mine had sausage, goat’s cheese, peppers, and arugula on top.

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7:50pm – Entering the Festival theatre for the evening show. It’s been a long hard day of being Stratford tourists!

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Next post: a return to regularly scheduled knitting content.

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Why, exactly?

I am designing again. I’ve had no shortage of ideas accumulating in corners of my brain and in various notebooks, but since the last year of the PhD pretty much sucked out most of the creative energy, time, and confidence that I had lying around, I haven’t been acting on many of them.

This past weekend I decided I had had enough of that, and started swatching up a bunch of things and trying some of the ideas on for size. I then spent the next few days after that carrying around my swatches and petting them and showing them to all my knitting friends and thinking ‘gee, this is is cool, why have I neglected this for so many months, creating things from scratch is so damn awesome.’

And then, of course, I get about 4 inches into one project and immediately my self-conscious starts with the questions.

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Why did I choose this yarn? Did I buy enough? What if I didn’t get enough? What if I can never find any more of Araucania Ranco PT496 ever again? (Subquestion: why is it called PT496? Surely there must be a real name? Why does said real name fail to appear on the label?) Why the hell did I have to start these as knee socks anyway? Regular short socks would never be causing me these problems, right? And for that matter why can I no longer do math? Why have I mis-counted the # of calf stitches approximately five times already? Will I be able to read my pencil scribblings at the end of all of this?

At the moment I am calling on all reserves of stubbornness and choosing to ignore all of these questions until such time as it becomes necessary to face them. Lalalallalaaa. Swatch pretty. Sock good. Unfortunately there is another question flitting around amongst all of the others…

Why didn’t I start in with the sweater idea instead?

I think I’ll start a countdown to weekend happy hour.

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Rolling along

This FO has been lingering for a week now, and in fact still needs 2 ends woven in, but I’m pleased with it and it’s done-ski. My Colinette Jitterbug Clapotis:

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I did it according to pattern with slight modification, on 3.5 mm needles to accommodate the Jitterbug. I did omit the final increase repeat, and added a little bit of length, and could have probably omitted another one to give it yet more length. This will be a nice accessory scarf come fall and winter, and I’m looking forward to being able to wear it. The colour is ‘gaugin’, and I used almost exactly all of 2 skeins.

Yesterday a few of us Hamiltonians had a Toronto day for Steph‘s birthday, and sadly this photo from lunch in Kensington Market is all I managed to snap:

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We did a good yarn crawl – Lettuce Knit, Romni, and the Purple Purl. I was fairly modest in my purchases, and it was a good time. We were sad to discover when arriving at the Purple Purl that they were closed to recover from a bit of flood damange from Tuesday night. Thankfully they lost very little inventory but there will still be cleanup to be done and I know they will be grateful for all good vibes and support. I hear they are not the only Toronto yarn shop to have been damaged by the sudden deluge of rain on Tuesday night (bizarrely, we in Hamilton were 100% dry, only 60km away). Our little group definitely had the sympathy and I am sending them more good vibes from afar. I will definitely be bringing treats with me (baked or drinkable…or maybe both…) for the next visit or two. I wish I could do more than that.

We’re planning another day like this all over again for the end of the month when our birthday comes up, and that makes it all the better to have a sunny summer yarn day coming up again.

I hope your summer knitting is going well, and if not knitting then hopefully some relaxation of some kind!

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