Monthly Archives: January 2012

Learning curve

As I have started spending more time with my camera the last couple of weeks, forced (willingly) into it through the work of photography class assignments, I am gradually learning more about what this little piece of technology can do – but more importantly, how much is incumbent on the hands and eyes causing that piece of technology to function. It’s hard work, but work that I hope will be worth it in the end.

Each week we are tasked with picking 2-3 photos to submit for our exercises, but it’s just plain hard to narrow it down, as it turns out – despite the fact that I think I am taking a lot of mediocre photos, heh. This past week took me out and about in the city as well as to a party chez Anne and her husband Dan, with many cheerful knitting folks and other geeks and friendly folks. Knitters and their many, many intersecting worlds are pretty great.

These are some of my favourite snaps from the last week. I continue to knit things, write things, photograph things, read things, and have many things in the wings to show you in the coming month. I hope your week has started out well today – and if it hasn’t then, well, I hope you have a refreshing beverage and an even better Tuesday ahead!

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Positivity Jan 25

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Party-Mandy3

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Jan 28 - Positivity

I hope that you too are knitting things, photographing things, reading things, and getting ideas about things. Until next time, knitting friends!

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Construction materials

Yesterday I spent quite a bit of time wandering around downtown Toronto getting in some photography practice (translation: I took a lot of really mediocre pictures) for my class homework, and eventually ended up at the Eaton Centre for a bit of browsing as well. I’m at a point where I’m starting to want to refresh the ol’ wardrobe a bit, but since I do this so rarely I am also perpetually out of practice.

Jan26-EatonCentre

Whenever I do this I also remember another reason why I allow myself to get perpetually out of practice with shopping for clothes. I know that while there must be some very nice cotton and wool and other natural fibres amongst the odd-feeling acrylic/poly blends, and there must be some very well constructed garments even in the well-picked over sale racks, and that it may well be entirely reasonable to expect this to take a bit of time if a person wants to find garments that fit them and their lifestyle, and that people generally do still have to buy commercially-made garments to wear out in the normal world if they don’t want people looking at them weird, and that knitting one’s own sweaters and accessories is always more time consuming than buying them…

…I have still come to prefer buying yarn as a method of acquiring new clothes.

Jan26-CascadeYarn

So then I bought a new sweater (some assembly required). Isn’t it stylish? I rather think so.

[ETA: Admittedly, the 'sweater' did come from Romni Wools and not the Eaton Centre. Surprisingly the major shopping malls expect you to buy your clothes pre-assembled and ready to wear. Who knew?]

Until then, I’ll go re-read my Tim Gunn tips on clothes shopping and prepare myself for the mall battlefield another day. Happy knitting!

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At least it’s a direction

Yesterday I had a day that basically amounted to this:

Jan20-Rrrrrip

I started the day with a project on the needles, and ended the day with nothing but a length of yarn and a cast-on row. You might think that this means that between starting with a project in progress and ending with a length of yarn, I just got to a point where I decided I didn’t like it or it needed fixing, and I ripped it out. The thing is, I did this not just once, but three times. And it’s all in the name of making it better (in this case for a design – the last time it was in the name of getting something that fits me), and I’ve gotten a lot of practice at it over time (ripping and re-knitting, that is), but still. After you’ve begun knitting the same length of yarn for the 4th time (or 5th, or 6th, for that matter) you do start to wonder if there is someone standing around with a hidden camera waiting to reveal the ploy to you.

But of course, there IS no ploy in moments like these, just your own knitterly conscience saying, “uh, you know, you might want to stop and take a better look at that. Maybe from the beginning.” And I’m here to break it to you that, just in case you were assuming that these moments become fewer as you get to be a more experienced knitter – you are completely and entirely wrong. Experienced knitters still have moments like these, in fact some days we have them twice before breakfast and another three over cocktails, all in the same day.

I joked on Twitter about this, that all I had to show for my day was a pile of ripped out yarn, and some other knitters chimed in and said, “you know, I’d take a class in that. Un-knitting. I’d be a braver knitter as a result!” And then I actually started wondering what a class like that would look like.

Jan20-ScratchThat

This is my class in un-knitting. You can take it from anywhere, bring your own materials. Ready? Here goes:

Step 1: Start with a quantity of yarn.

Step 2: Start knitting something. It doesn’t matter what it is, just that it’s a project that you selected with yarn you like. Knit away on it for a period of time.

Step 3: Develop a niggling feeling that Something Is Not Right. This is unfortunately not something that you can schedule or plan ahead for. But don’t worry, it’ll be along eventually, quite possibly at the least opportune moment. Pause. Listen to the niggling.

Step 3b (Optional): Develop a sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach, possibly also accompanied by feelings of a) stupidity, b) despair, c) denial, d) self-loathing, e) anger, f) bargaining. (Choose any of the above that apply.)

Step 4: Come to the conclusion that you would rather re-knit the thing that gave you the niggling feeling, than continue knitting while accompanied by the niggling feeling.

Step 5: Remove the knitting from the needles, and return the knitting to its original state (a length of yarn).

Repeat Steps 1-5 as frequently as desired. (More frequent repetition often unlocks Step 6: Locate alcohol and/or chocolate.)

On the one hand, this isn’t hard. Ask your nearest 4-year-old if pulling apart knitting is hard, and I’m betting the answer won’t be “yes.” On the other hand, it is actually very, VERY hard. Ask your nearest adult knitter who is casting on the same project for the 4th time if pulling apart knitting is hard, and I’m betting the answer won’t be “no.”

I think this is true about a lot aspects of our craft. Most things about knitting aren’t actually hard in a skill sense. Working the knit or purl stitch, pulling out a project to re-do it, executing many cable twists once you’ve learned how to do that 1st cable twist…These are all things that an objective knitter would not qualify as “hard.” It’s what happens when you combine all of these things and many more with the emotional and intellectual exercise of producing a garment that you care about, while still carrying on the normal requirements of your daily life, that makes knitting challenging. It’s also what makes it so worthwhile.

At least, that’s what I’m telling myself as I cast on this same length of yarn for the 4th time. It sounds much more poetic that way.

May you have a worthwhile weekend of knitting, dear knitting friends. Catch you next week!
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What ever did I do before

It occurred to me the other day that I’ve been knitting for a little less than a third of my life – which in the grand scheme of things isn’t very much, but in the scheme of hobbies is relatively huge. Sure, I was gangbusters for cross-stitch needlepoint before I took up knitting, but that didn’t last nearly as long as my love of knitting has. How many hobbies have we all taken up that didn’t quite stick? I mean, the universe seeks balance, and so forth, which means there’s got to be scads of crafters out there who took up knitting for like, a month or two, or long enough to churn out a baby blanket or a few scarves as gifts, and then discovered quilting or sketching or glass-blowing or something and decided to ditch knitting forever – and that’s totally groovy. Do as pleases you, crafters, because goodness knows knitters hate too much competition at the yarn sales. (I kid. Sort of. ::cough::) But man, I cannot even remember what I did to fill my time before knitting came along. Like, are there people who go through the world without a portable knitting project stuffed in their handbag/backpack/briefcase? How do they manage?

Jan19-MalabrigoSocks

I take a great deal of pleasure in having knitting around at home, but also in those little gaps of time when I’m out and about. I rediscovered this in full force the other night, when I sat in the first session of a photography course that I’m taking this term through the local college continuing education program. (Up until about a month and a half ago, every single photo I have taken for this blog was with a $200 point-and-shoot camera. I recently finally collected enough cash for a proper DSLR, and I love it. Now the trick is just to learn how to use it.) Turns out the class is going to yield plenty of sitting-and-listening time along with practical instructional time, and combined with the waiting around at the beginning of class, I got a decent amount of my Malabrigo sock knitted. The instructor doesn’t mind me knitting, I can listen and focus better if my hands are busy, and I have knitting and knowledge to show for my time. This is a win on all counts.

Although I fully expect I have now been mentally labelled as ‘that weird knitting girl’, I also don’t care, because dude, nobody else in that class is going to get a pair or two of socks after sitting there for 10 weeks. (I bet they’re all jealous.) I hadn’t thought of officially going for a “12 in 2012″ project this year, but unofficially I was thinking that 12 pairs of socks would be nice, and now I think it would be absolutely do-able. Hurray for portable knitting projects in the handbag!

Jan19-MarchingOn4

In other sock news, I’m pleased to announce that the sock pattern I contributed for the Tanis Fiber Arts 2011 ‘Year in Colour’ yarn club is now available in wide release. These were the offering for March of last year, and the colourway Tanis produced for it (Clover) is just gorgeous. I don’t know if she’ll be including it in her roster of regular yarn colours, but I may or may not have already tried to peer pressure her to do so. It’s a wonderful leafy green, and even on a snowy day like today is a nice glimpse of spring ahead.

Jan19-MarchingOn

You can find the Marching On sock pattern here in my Ravelry store, and on Patternfish as well. It’s worked up with a single skein of Purple Label Cashmere Sock, and would be lovely for a variety of sock yarns that are comfortable at 8 sts/inch. There are a few twisting cables in there, and I sort of fell in love with the little knotty bobble pattern running down the front of the leg and instep. My mother knitted a pair of these as well, and said “you know, it looks hard but it really isn’t, once you get into it!” So there you go. ;)

Happy knitting, this Thursday! I’ll have more adventures to report on next time.

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Sock momentum

The other evening I allowed myself a bit of a break from current projects to go back to a long-suffering Work in Progress, thinking it was still probably a long ways off from being finished, but I figured just doing a few simple rows on a simple project would be just the thing to give my mind a break. As it turns out, as is so often the case with projects I think are light years away from being finished – these socks were just a few rows and a toe away from being finished.

And so, I finished them.

Jan12-STRCoppertree2

You might surmise from the colour of these socks when exactly it was that I started them. I cast on for them during Rhinebeck weekend back in October, and had reached for this particular skein (Socks That Rock, mediumweight, in ‘Coppertree’) because it was fall at the time and this colourway seemed pretty fall-ish. They’ve been my handbag knitting since then, but sadly have only seen very sporadic knitting time.

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I’m happy that they’re done now, though, since having a finished project is often enough of a boost to keep going with the ones that are still on the needles.

Colour is such a funny thing, though. I decided to get the next pair of socks started just to have them ready at a moment’s notice, and ended up bypassing all of the multi-coloured skeins in favour of a simple yet vibrant skein of Malabrigo sock in Tiziano Red. I often reach for this shade of red in the winter, it occurs to me (more than one year in a row has passed where I’ve knitted some red accessories), and it’s a very warm and soothing colour to have on hand.

Jan12-MalabrigoSock

I hope your projects are going well – and who knows, you might have something ‘almost finished’ ready to become something for your closet or sock drawer.

Happy knitting!

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In which I am the boss of my own knitting

After a brief glorious couple of days over the holidays of “knitting whatever the hell I want, please and thank you very much,” then a bit more after rounding up a few deadline projects, I’ve been able to go back to the beautiful Gwendolyn sweater I’ve had going on since, well, for far too long. I love the colour, the pattern is gorgeous, Fiona Ellis is a skilled and trustworthy designer, and let’s face it, I would love a new knitted cardi in my closet. This is all of the good.

This weekend as I pulled it out for a few more spells of working away on the back piece, I was starting to admire the cable repeats now that I could see them unfolding and they were starting to feel fluid. (I don’t know about you, but I eventually tend to get to a point with cables where the chart meshes with my brain and I only need to glance at it every so often. I love it when that happens.)

Jan9-GwendolynBack

But you know, the more I looked at the unfolding work for the back piece, the more I started to doubt my choice of size. The more I worked away, the more it just seemed like it was coming out too small. I tugged at it every so often. “You swatched for this,” my brain argued. “You did the calculations based on your gauge, and it’ll all be fine. It relaxes a bit after washing.” I kept on knitting, and tugged at it a bit more every few rows. “You can block the snot out of it,” my brain reasoned next. “It’ll be fine, you can make it fit even if it does turn out too small.”

I knitted for a bit more, and then when I pulled it out this morning for another look, I realized that I had two choices: Keep knitting, and possibly develop a constant eye twitch worrying until the very last minute about whether it will fit me like I want, or, I could rip it out and start the back over again in the next size up. I thought about it for about five point three seconds, and, well…

I went with door number two.

Jan9-GwendolynRestart

This is, of course, flying in direct defiance of the extremely rational and gauge-swatch-based decision I made a few months ago back when I started this sweater (dear God this is taking me forever, I need to step on it), at which point I reasoned that since my stockinette gauge was looser than the pattern, that I could knit a smaller size that I needed to, and get the size that I wanted. And it’s a well-reasoned argument to be sure, but neglects the fact that I swatched in stockinette and the entire back piece is completely composed of cables, not stockinette. My gut made the final call. Swatch vs. gut – who will win?

Well truthfully, I’m not sure, but I’ve had to keep so much of my brain free for so many other knitting decisions lately, that I’m willing to give it a break on this one and err on the side of possibly too big, than possibly too small. TAKE THAT, KNITTING. I am the boss of you, and I shall take the consequences.

And um, maybe stock up on chocolate. (You never know.)

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Foundational

I rang in the New Year with a group of knitters and friends in Toronto, and stayed over chez fellow knitter Emily for a leisurely start to the day. She is embarking on an ambitious “12 in 2012″ project, whereby she will knit 12 sweaters in 2012. I’ve heard of other knitters doing this and picking 12 of anything they like, as a goal for the year. I don’t know if I’ll jump in, though I will say I’m tempted to go for 12 socks – just as a way to keep myself going on some basic sock projects throughout the year. I always seem to want more basic ribbed socks or Jaywalkers to add to the drawer.

Dec31-Measuring

It is a good time to stop and get set for the year ahead in any case, and I helped out Emily by taking her measurements so she was off and running for her sweater project (it usually helps if you’re making sweaters that have some relation to the size and shape of your body). It’s always easier to do that sort of thing with help, and it occurred to me too late that, dangit, I should have had her take my measurements, too.

So this is my friendly recommendations to you, dear knitting friends: Treat yourself to a few minutes with the measuring tape. Know your key measurements – not just bust and hip circumference, but cross-the-shoulder, head circumference, foot circumference, hand circumference, and so forth. You might be surprised to discover that some of the measurements are different than they were last year. (Likely not your head or feet, though. Heh.) The best way to help yourself knit for yourself in the coming year is to have a good sense of what size and shape these garments need to be. Since it’s the New Year, of course, you may well be resolving to change the size of some parts of your body, but even if this is the case, it’s good to know where you’re starting from so that you can see these changes take shape. (As one how-to example, Sandi Wiseheart at Knitting Daily has a few tips on measuring, with photos included.)

And the best part is: the measuring tape has never heard of dress sizes. How fantastic is that?

On the other hand, if anyone has seen any of the 50 or so dozen other tape measures I am pretty sure I own, please let me know. I’m not sure what they’re up to.

Happy New Year of Knitting!
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