Monthly Archives: October 2008

It’ll be okay. Just think of mittens.

I said this very thing to a stressed out friend the other day. While it is true that she is also a knitter and might have successfully interpreted “just think of mittens” as “maybe you should take your mind off stuff by knitting some mittens, because they are small and fun and very useful now that the temperature is dropping,” I’m not even sure that’s what I meant to say, either. I think I was having a day of wanting to do nothing but knit, and it’s starting to get cold, and mittens are so comforting and warm, that even just thinking about mittens would help me out so why wouldn’t it make somebody else feel better?

Sounds completely reasonable to me. I’ve been coveting mitten patterns over on Ravelry (oh bless that advanced pattern search) like nothing else. I want to make these, and these (at the bottom), and definitely some of these, and have already started on a pair of these (Ravelry link).

But first, I had to make these:

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These tiny adorable mittens are linked up with a tiny adorable i-cord to be used as a bookmark, and they have been sitting around for a few days waiting to be sent to their (very very patient) recipient, in a swap for the 20th Century Novels group on Ravelry. I was going to do this with mini socks, but now that it’s nearly winter I had to go for the mittens. I hope my swap partner likes them. They were a little fiddly but not too difficult, and only require a tiny bit of spare fingering weight yarn – I used some leftover bits of Socks That Rock lightweight. I may need to make more.

In other news, Steph has every so generously tagged me to post 7 pictures/facts about me. I will make this a weekend project.

And, oh yes – Happy Halloween! Have fun if you’ve got kidlets goin out, and if not, well, you can come over to my house and eat cookies.

Otherwise, it’ll be okay. Just think of mittens.

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Filed under accessories, mittens

Book Review: Mason-Dixon Knitting Outside the Lines

I’ll admit it, during the first moments when I started to catch wind of the new Mason-Dixon Knitting book, I became a little skeptical. I heard it contained patterns for things like knitted liners for rubber gloves and re-usable knitted Swiffer covers. I started to wonder if the awesome Kay Gardiner & Ann Shayne had suddenly veered off into full-on Holly Housewife territory, forsaking the knitted garment altogether and ditching the beautiful use of colour and whimsy I had grown to love from their first book.

And, well, as you might have guessed, I was wrong to despair. As soon as I started looking through a copy of it in my own hands, my whole opinion changed. This, my friends, is a sequel that does its precursor justice.

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The first hint I had that Mason-Dixon Knitting Outside the Lines might, in fact, be a pretty kick-ass book, was when my friend Liz messaged me out of the blue on Ravelry, pointing at the Liberty throw (below), and blubbering something incoherent about the sudden need to knit this throw and oh wow it involves STEEKS and that’s a bit scary but she really NEEDED to make the blanket and could I please talk her down from whatever Crazy Ledge she was on.

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Well, of course I didn’t talk her down. Have you seen this blanket? I think I might need one. You might need one too, and there will be no talk of how scary it is to do steeks or stranded colour-work or fair isle either, because Ann and Kay devote pretty much an entire section of the book to talking everyone down from whatever collective ledge they may have gotten onto about those sorts of things. This is something my sister responded to pretty instantaneously, as the colour-work blankets were what made her stop and fondle the book lovingly. “They tell you how to do steeks! They show you with technical pictures and everything!” she said.

I looked at her sort of dumbfounded and said, “But but but Martha I could show you how to do that! I’ve done steeks, I could totally explain it all to you!” And she continued to clutch the book a little bit sheepishly but devotedly and said “well yes, I know. But sometimes you need a book to explain it all to you.”

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And I think this, in essence, is what this book is about. Because it’s not just about the technique – there are plenty of other publications in existence which will explain things to you like steeks or colour-work or sweater sizing or top-down construction or knitting for the household or knitting for children or knitting for comfort and style. What Ann and Kay manage to do is absorb all of this information and turn it back out again in a way that is comforting and funny and says, “we see what you’re saying with this fair isle thing. But we’re going to take it over here for a sec and see what happens. Please come along, it will be more fun that way.”

The ‘Dotty’ blanket above is another example from their colour-work chapter, a Kaffe-Fassett-esque foray into stranded knitting that is easily adaptable for a range of yarns (though I admit I like the Silk Garden sample they have there, and would require very little convincing to drop the cash required to purchase materials for same). I am quite sure that Martha is also entertaining visions of knitting a queen-size version of this, despite the fact that she is (possibly as I type this) currently casting off a 6-foot circular blanket and needs no reminders about the mental commitment required for blanket knitting.

But the new MDK book is not just about knitting blankets, or colour-work. It is divided into five sections: Decorating Yourself (women’s scarves, socks, jackets, and sweaters), The Fairest Isle of All, Covering the Small Human (children’s knits), Occasional Knitting (home knits), and The Sophisticated Kitchen (new things to do with dishcloth cotton). I am if nothing else, a sweater knitter, and make a pretty direct beeline to the sweater patterns in any new knitting book I encounter.

This brings me to this:

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This is the “Margaret” sweater, by Mary Neal Meador. It made me genuinely stop and boggle a little bit. This is a fairly simple skirted sweater that requires a base-line skill level that is no more complicated than the average sweater (in other words, all of you sitting there could make this). What makes this art is the chain-stitch words added onto the bodice, both front and back. It’s so beautiful and yet so simple, and open to infinite variety. You could choose whatever words you want, poetry or political statements or your favourite film quotation, or just ABCs if that’s what you feel like. I think it is only a matter of time before I knit this.

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Another great piece in this collection is the ‘Daily Sweater’ (above), which is a top-down raglan sweater inspired by the comfort and versatility of sweatshirts, and comes in 7 sizes from 38 inches to 58 inches. Seriously, beat that.

The children’s knits are fantastic, too. There’s also a Sk8R sweater for young boys which is pretty darned cool, and an ‘Emma Peel’ dress for girls which is also just about as cool as you might think it is. In general the ‘Covering the Small Human’ section sort of makes me want to weep a little bit, because the sweaters here are all so great but they are all sized for children which means they don’t come in my size. (Well OK, yes, I could do the thinking and the math to make them adult-sized…but you understand). I mean, look at how adorable this Fern cardigan is:

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And just in case you haven’t put enough gift knitting on your list, there are these felted Christmas trees, suitable for standing in groups of 3-4, or as a full set of Advent Calendar pieces to cover-up gifts or written words:

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So yes, all in all I call this book a winner. The written text is a good read all on its own, as you might expect from the humour of the first Mason-Dixon book. I think it’s safe to say that the average reader won’t like every pattern equally, but that you’ll find something in here that you’ll want to knit just the same. The versatility of this book is pretty impressive all around. (Oh yeah – and the rubber glove liners and the re-usable knitted Swiffer covers…well, those are actually pretty whimsical and okay, too).

Coming up for knitting book reviews, Shear Spirit, and Continuous Cables.

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Dear blog

Dear blog,
Today, I ran my first 10K race.

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I wanted to finish in less than 1:10 and I did that. I’d like to thank the rain for not lasting for the whole race, that was very nice of it.

Now I will do more stretching, and later a sushi dinner well-earned.

Love from,
Me.

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Somewhere in there I bought yarn

Re-entry after a knitting/touristing weekend is always hard. On the one hand, it’s fantastic to be back in my own bed, my own routine, and even work is comforting in its own way. On the other hand, after all the intense exposure to yarn, patterns, friends, and all the beautiful hand-knits that were out walking around at Rhinebeck, and the way it becomes so easy to slip into knitting world and the way it seems completely normal to be dashing for a subway one minute and calmly discussing the merits of different methods of SSK decreases the next…After that it seems like the only reasonable way to spend your day would be to stay home, watch all your X-Files DVDs, and cast on for eleven new projects.

I’m still at that point, contemplating my to-do list that easily fills an entire page, but if I just glance around I can see my new yarn which is about to join its friends in my stash, and surprisingly enough I am finding myself just as excited to return to the stuff that was in my stash in the first place. I want to knit anything, everything, and the temperatures outside are falling fast enough that this is not just desirable but necessary if I want to be able to cover my hands and head and feet (or anyone else’s, come Christmas).

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So what did I buy? The weekend went by in such a blur that I almost forgot about that part. In fact, some of these purchases seemed to happen so fast that I hardly remember them. Above, my biggest purchase was from the folks at Wild Apple Hill once again, proving that my Knitting Kryptonite always comes in the form of dirt cheap sheepy wool. After starting to knit my new Twist Cardigan with the Wild Apple wool I bought last year, I knew i wanted at least 1 more go-around with this stuff so I fell upon a dark purple-brown shade not dissimilar from the shade of Berrocco Ultra Alpaca I was wearing that same day. This wool is not for drape or glitz, but it is very servicable for cabled pullovers and warmth, and I’ll sign up for that any day.

The rest of my new stashlets came in a smorgaboard of fingering weight:

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These are 4 skeins of heathery fingering-weight wool from A Touch of Twist, destined very soon to become some form of stranded mittens; 2 skeins of Socks That Rock mill ends from the Fold (an extremely intense purchasing experience – crowded booth and long lineup); and a pleasant find from Sliver Moon, a super long skein of fingering weight of over 1000 yards – an enormous shawl shall be mine!

As far as actual knitting, I also got to start a new pair of socks this weekend, in triumph over finishing the pair I’d brought with me. From the Lorna’s Laces acquired on last April’s visit to Knitty City, a new pair of Jaywalkers is already well under way.

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And now I’ve got the rest of my to-do list, laundry, and stash contemplation to get back to.
Hug some yarn today.

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Filed under rhinebeck, socks, stash

Please stand by

After experiencing empirical evidence (once again) of the failing combination of Air Canada/Newark Airport, I am home after some delay but did at the very least use my time on flight delays to snag some photos off of my camera! At home now, in between gulps sips of vodka cold straight vodka a refreshing beverage I am pleased to be able to share some photos from the weekend highlights as I count down the minutes until I can pour myself into a pre-bedtime bubble bath reminisce fondly over some of the bits of weekend fun that did indeed happen before Air Canada decided to screw over their computer system, me, and goodness knows how many other passengers.

For lo, I am returned from Rhinebeck, and yea verily, there were good things and good people to be found there.

I found Lisa from Toronto buying Socks That Rock, which I also did and am happily admiring the wares. (However, note to The Fold: dudes, three words: Cash Only Checkout. Would speed things up by half if those of us with cash could hand it over and dash out again).

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I found Emily from Toronto buying Briar Rose (she was also making a good demonstration of the Buy Yarn in Colours You Are Wearing Principle, which Rebecca and I also put to good effect over the weekend)

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I found Franklin, signing his new book (which got me through some good bedtime reading and a few rough moments in airports today, just sayin). I told him he was #3 on my list of Things I Must Get To at Rhinebeck, and he said he was flattered to make the Top 5. Franklin, you are Top 5 in my book any day.

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In the process I also found other knitters waiting to see Franklin, reading and enjoying the book while waiting:

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I found Elspeth from New York, who is indeed as wry as her moniker suggests. We tried the whole “take a fun photo of yourself and the fun people you meet” photo thing. It was off-centre but good. She tried to tell me the wool fingering weight I got at A Touch of Twist was too rough and that I’d have to end up sending the finished mittens to her, but I suspect she is not to be completely trusted.

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Elspeth comes with a posse. (I suspect also that if she did not come with one, she would create one as she went.)

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I found Robyn from Montreal and her band of family and friends and (momentarily asleep) young’un. She was doing quite well considering she had just discovered an hour before this photo that she had lost her credit card.

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I split half of the very last baked potato to be found on the Saturday:

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I observed Rebecca and Melanie making important yarn selection decisions at Sliver Moon. I didn’t buy anything there though until the 3rd visit anyway.

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Rebecca and I admired each others’ finished Rhinebeck sweaters:

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We all observed a lot of yarn:

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And my finished Cabled Swing Cardi came through with flying colours, with perfect sweater-wearing weather all weekend long.

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Next post: More from New York, and more from my newfound stash acquisitions. I’m off to put the feet up and find the bath bubbles.

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Filed under knitting tourism, rhinebeck

Local habitat

It’s been a full weekend, and it’s hard to believe it’s coming to an end – luckily I still have tomorrow morning to cling to some bit of NYC touristing (goodness knows yet what form that touristing will take), but there have been some good moments. I’ll update more later but for now I give you an image of a local knitter in natural habitat. Here, Rebecca knits standing up while waiting for the subway. Note the (full) Starbucks’ cup clutched skillfully in the crook of her arm, ready to be deployed with the non-sock-holding hand at a moment’s notice.

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This evening while riding the subway on the way back, we were sitting and chatting and knitting away on our socks (her on her 2nd sock of current BMFA Rockin’ Sock Club socks, me on my 1st sock of a new pair of Jaywalkers), and the man next to us piped up after several moments of watching us, wondering “do you ever do that and look down and think, ‘I wonder if I’ll ever finish?'” He asked about how long we’d been knitting, if we’d learned in a class, what sorts of things we knitted. He also said that he learned to knit in junior high school and people made fun of him at the time, but in that same class he also met the girl who later became his wife. Instead of the incredulous surprise that one often recieves while knitting in public, it was spontaneous knitting appreciation. A nice little moment on a Sunday evening.

Tomorrow night I’ll be back home and probably even more zonked, but with more photos and yarn to report on. And looking for more ways to knit in public. Keep the knitting close by!

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Filed under knitting in public, knitting tourism

To bring or not to bring

Oh, packing. I thought I had conquered you. Look, I even made nice “outfit” piles, packing sweaters & jeans & tees together so as to make dressing in the morning that much easier. But some things, some things are still perplexing me. To bring or not to bring?

1. Laptop. Pros: ability to do work or blogging at a moment’s notice. Cons: an extra few pounds in the carry-on luggage.

2. Wool coat. Pros: will be well-covered for the low evening temps predicted. Cons: May simply end up being carried around needlessly when lighter layers could end up being functional.

3. Current socks in progress. Pros: Would force self to work on 2nd sock while travelling and possibly complete same. Cons: Would be way less fun to knit than the waiting Lorna’s Laces yarn which is shiny and pretty and new and has not already spent the last month being lugged around in my handbag.

4. Current sweater in progress. Pros: Could get more done on it and feel virtuous. Cons: Would take away from sock knitting time speculated in #3.

5. Reading material. Pros: Will have inevitable time in airports, transit, and lying around in evening, and could get reading done for either professional or pleasurable purposes. Cons: This is a knitting trip and why am I bothering to pretend I will do anything but knit?

And why yes, I DID spontaneously decide to knit a new pair of Maine Morning Mitts last night which would match my jacket if i decide to do the jacket-layers instead of the wool coat option. Why do you ask? (My packing neuroses are also fairly vain, it would seem.)

This time tomorrow (God willing and if Air Canada doesn’t let me down), I’ll be moments away from landing in New York and the fun will begin. Better get a move on.

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