Monthly Archives: July 2012

Another year

Today is my birthday, and while it’s a working knitting day (still finishing up some of those pesky deadline projects), at least it’s a day I get to spend with yarn, and the non-yarn bits have been a bit relaxed so far. I’m planning a full do-whatever-i-want-day sometime next week as recompense for having to use my brain on my birthday – heck, the “have a pedicure then go buy an armload of Madelinetosh” seemed to work well on my day off a few weeks ago, perhaps I’ll repeat that endeavour. Practice does always help matters, after all.

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But speaking of yarn – this morning I discovered that the mail had brought a lovely enormous box of it on my doorstep, from Knit Picks (to be revealed later in knitted object form, if all goes as planned), which I don’t think I have to tell you is a pretty great thing.

Then I had lunch with a friend. It was poutine. (I decided today would finally be the day I tried lobster poutine. It was pretty good but, I concluded, not actually necessary. Regular poutine is still awesome no matter what.

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Now I am ensconced with my knitting and some cake, with a little new knitting reading to add to my bookshelf courtesy of one of my gifts – not too shabby.

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Thanks for being out there in internet-land, knitter friends! If I could share my cake with you through the blog, I would.

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Summer camp for grown ups

I spent this past week in the company of a group of knitters and other artists and art students at the Haliburton arts workshops, teaching my ‘Knitting Sweaters That Fit’ class that I did last year. It was a good week and I look forward to returning again – I not only had a great bunch of students but the weather was mercifully cool and calm, with the exception of one day of rain. (July has been trending towards the unbearably hot and humid this year, and I emotionally braced myself accordingly when setting off for a week in an un-airconditioned cabin, grateful to discover the peaceful weather report ahead. Excellent for knitting.)

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Having a full week to teach is really an extraordinary thing, since I’m used to doing half-day or single-day workshops. In this class we spend time alternating knitting on sweater projects to talking all about the many details that go into sweater knitting like swatching, fit, measuring, finishing steps, considering your yarn and substitution possiblities, even making duct tape dress forms, and on and on. And because it’s knitting, everyone gets to chat while working away, and this week my students finished their time with hugs and a hope to see people again next year – it really is sort of like summer camp for grownups.

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It is also an intriguing thing to be doing a class like this down the hall from such a diversity of other workshops – pastel drawing, painting, fiddling, jewelry-making, clowning, and so on. Chatting with the other instructors inevitably brings up interesting comparisons between our work and it is fascinating to try to place knitting amongst or in parallel to so many other creative pursuits. I think there is a lot of common ground in that everyone is trying to make something, create something, in a way that pleases them and meets some personal need in their lives or expresses something about themselves. I have no doubt there is artistic truth in knitting, but most days of my knitting life pass without me thinking directly about it.

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In the mean time though, I’ve now gotten myself back to the real world, remembering how constant connection to the internet and reality is both wonderful and horrible all at once, and diving right back into the final stretch of my deadline projects before figuring out the next batch of things for August and the fall. And maybe catch up on a bit of sleep in there somewhere too, heh. It’s that re-entry, as they say.

My teaching page (up there on one of my blog tabs at the top) is on its way to filling up for the fall! Lots of day workshops scheduled for Toronto, and I’ll soon be adding a few more for Peterborough and who knows where else along the way.

Happy knitting this weekend!

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Dispatches

1. Last weekend I realized I was remiss in not photographing my new acquisitions from the TTC Knitalong – and having new yarn to squeeze and fondle is, of course, half the fun!

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I came home with some Socks That Rock mediumweight (Bleck – gotta love that colour name), Malabrigo Rasta for a winter cowl and hat (for some reason the Rasta stock is pretty high in the middle of July), and a pair of striping sock yarn skeins from Turtlepurl yarns. (This is the sock yarn seen in that pretty picture of striped swatches, from my Knitalong post.)

2. I didn’t think I needed any striping sock yarn in my life just now, but then I was at the Purple Purl the other week and they’d just gotten in a bunch of the Turtlepurl stuff and the striping variations were just so charming and that red and green I got one was called ‘Poisoned Apple’, and a girl can only resist charming yarn for so long.

3. I’m keeping it on ice but first I have to finish the current ribbed socks on the needles, this time Socks That Rock Mediumweight (a touch speedier and warmer than socks in Lightweight), in Carbon, pulled from the stash.

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4. This is one of those colourways that looks totally different in the sock as you thought it might in the skein, but I’m going with it anyway. They look sort of starry-night-ish and will be cozily understated for winter.

5. I’m also still industriously knitting away on All The Design Projects that have been keeping me busy for much of the summer so far. It’s been consuming work but I’m finally starting to see the finish line up ahead a little bit in the distance, which is reassuring.

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6. I’m spending a lot of time thinking about the Sequoia-red-orange Madelinetosh I bought a couple of weeks ago. I think it’s going to be my first fall-sweater-for-me and it is among my August knitting plans. Me and August are going to spend some time knitting for me, me, me, me, it’s going to be fantastic.

7. But before July is out I am heading off to the woods tomorrow, to teach for a week at the Haliburton arts school workshops – a repeat of my sweater knitting class I did last year, and it’s going to be a nice change of pace from city knitting for a bit. I also hope to emerge with a few more stories and fun photos for all of you.

Happy knitting this fine weekend!

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Another great year for Toronto knitting

About ten years ago, the first TTC Knitalong happened, and it was a fairly small affair run by a couple of enthusiastic women in the Toronto knitting community. It ran for a couple of years but then lapsed as the volunteers organizing it moved away or moved on, and about five years ago it was picked up again, the organization spearheaded largely by knitters Michelle and Joyce (sans blog). I’ve been involved as a team captain and general co-organizer for most of that time, and I remember after the revived event happened a few years ago we all sort of looked around at each other and said, “you know, we have to make sure this happens again next year.” And it has kept going, and astonishingly gets not just bigger but better every year.

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This year we had a few challenges up the ante for our enthusiastic participants – the weather forecast was warm (35C+ with the humidex), and the actual TTC (Toronto Transit Commission) which helps us get around from yarn shop to yarn shop on the day, suddenly started a bunch of streetcar track repairs that would divert major routes and affect every single TTC Knitalong team on the day. People were still gung-ho anyway! I think we were all flagging a bit by the end of the day, and I’m not going to lie, I’ve never been so glad to see a cold beer in my whole life. By the time the dust settled and it was just the captains sitting around when it was all over, I think we were reduced to sentences like, “I bought yarn good pretty. Drink beer now.”

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(I think my new goal in life is to be as awesome as we all look in this picture – snagged from Michelle’s photostream. It is such an irony that all of us are friends and yet hardly see each other at all on the day of the event.)

I was a captain on the Green Team this year, which routed from Lettuce Knit to Knit Cafe, Purple Purl, and Romni Wools. It was a great group and also really neat to see both familiar faces and new ones, and many who had never been to some of these Toronto stores. A lot of folks register from out of town and use the day as an introduction to the knitting retailers in the Toronto area. I think one of the best parts of the day was seeing the reactions of people who set foot in Romni Wools for the first time. (It is big.) The familiar shops are always welcoming and although July carries the risk of warm weather, it is also a time when many places have sales, and so we benefitted from a few of those on the day.

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A few things stood out for me upon later reflection (yesterday I was just about good for sitting and knitting and that was it), after the event. One was how valuable it has been to experience this kind of event from the inside-out, so to speak. There were thirteen team captains this year and all of us had a job. From printing route maps to inviting prize sponsors to participate, to getting in touch with the shops and making buttons for everyone to wear during the event, we were all doing something to make it happen. Everyone has a skill and a piece of expertise that gets used somewhere. The event is the result of many many hours of work, and a result which carries a pretty prominent profile that we all respect a great deal. But at the same time, man, we are all regular knitters. We do this because we love knitting and want to experience a day with knitters and to help raise a bit of money for charity in the process.

It’s also always very affirming to be in the presence of a group of knitters for a day, who have absolutely no qualms about trouping around the largest city in Canada with bold tote bags and knitting in hand, chatting and knitting away and being extremely visible with their craft. We do so much of our craft in isolation, even though we are connected through the internet, and roaming with a group of knitters in public for a day is an experience I really think every knitter should have at least once in their lives. It reminds us that we really are connected to a lot of other human beings through our craft, and reminds people who see us that, why yes, knitting is still going on – quite strongly, actually.

(And also we get to buy a bunch of yarn and that’s pretty great too.)

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The bare minimum things you need for a TTC Knitalong or similar event? Yarn shops, knitters, and a way to get them from place to place. I hope that your city has something similar, and if not, that local folks can get on that. And if you can’t do that, well, Toronto knitting shops would be happy to see you for a day!

Thanks to everyone for knitting with us on Saturday, and happy yarn-snuggling to all.

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The price of admission

Lately I’ve been in the thick of it behind the scenes here at Knitting to Sane, beavering away on several design projects, and have a couple of weeks to go still before I’m cleared for a bit of respite. I love knitting, I love yarn, I love creative work, and these are all projects that I love and are in really lovely yarn, and this is all of the good. At the same time, it’s work, and like any other kind of work, there are only so many full-tilt days you can string together before your brain starts resisting it. Yesterday morning I put my sliced English muffin in the toaster and didn’t realize until a few minutes later that I hadn’t actually pressed the down-lever to, you know, toast it in the toaster. Then later that afternoon I accidentally forgot my bank card behind at the drug store, but didn’t discover that it was missing until I went to buy a book at lunchtime today. (Executing things like complex knitted cables: check. Executing mundane tasks like eating and shopping:….errr…not so much.)

So today I declared Wednesday to be Saturday and took myself into the big city. I allowed myself the excuse of needing to pick up some things at the Purple Purl (design yarn was waiting for me there, along with a latte and some sitting time), and made a friends date with fellow knitter Lisa, who frequently works doctor weekends and thus is also often to be found taking a Saturday on a Wednesday, and we tra-la-la-ed off for pedicures and afternoon tea. I don’t think I need to tell you, it was delightful. I’ve never actually gotten a pedicure before, and I’ll admit it sort of feels a bit ridiculous to be sitting gaily knitting and chatting next to your friend while people go to work on your feet, but you know…now I’ll have pretty toes to look at when I’m doing all those sun salutations in yoga, and I’ll take it.

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While I’ve been furiously trying to churn out a few deadline projects lately, in the back of my brain I’ve also been baiting myself with the very lovely thought of having a bit of time to myself when I get to knit whatever the heck I want – a project for me, me, me and only me. And it occurred to me a couple of days ago that, actually…I have no idea what that project is going to be.

But then, Lisa and I stopped by Passionknit, post-pedicure, and I suddenly found myself staring at a bunch of Madelinetosh. They had that lovely reddish orange shade called ‘sequoia’, which is a colour I’ve been trying to make friends with lately and is the same colour I used last fall in my Phellogen socks, and before I knew it I was holding a sweater’s worth of it and cashing out. Maybe it’ll be my Rhinebeck sweater this year. I don’t know what sweater yet, exactly, but it’ll be a fun sweater nonetheless.

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Here’s to having Saturday-on-a-Wednesday, knitter friends. I hope you have some respite of your own in the week ahead, yarn-ish or otherwise!

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A different kind of enabling

For anyone who’s been around me in person lately, or listening to my blatherings on my Twitter feed (sidebar), you’ll be fully aware of the fact that for the past 2 months I’ve taken up yoga. After 9 weeks of at-home practice, 3-5 times a week (thanks to the aid of DVDs, much reading, and patience), I have to tell you I’ve completely drunk the Kool Aid. I used to do yoga off and on for the last several years, but committed myself to trying it again more thoroughly as a way of recovering the strength and flexibility I lost in my hip last summer after my running injury (or, more likely, the lack of strength that allowed the injury to happen in the first place). It turns out yoga really does do everything it says on the label – i feel a great deal more flexible and strong, and am gradually learning to focus my concentration long enough to hold some of the more challenging poses. (Though I draw the line at attempting to stand on my head. For now. Until I get to a studio. Never say never, after all.)

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At first I was mostly focussed on my leg and hip mobility, but I am discovering more and more how much this really does influence the entire body. I am finding myself more aware of my posture and how I sit, and – much to my pleasant surprise – the parts of my arm and shoulder that are often prone to repetitive strain injury during times of heavy knitting (which I am currently experiencing, prepping some fall designs), are feeling fantastic. Knitters, get thee to a yoga mat. (Are knitting-related yoga classes a thing? Can we get on that?)

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(Why yes, this is me doing Legs-up-the-Wall against my yarn stash. I decided it was soothing.)

It has been a pretty solid reminder of how likely we are to tax our bodies doing the crafting endeavours we love, and how even some basic postures and stretches can help counter it. The mental immersion of working on a knitting project often counter-balances other stressful parts of the day, but then, what counter-balances the knitting? It is great food for thought.

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In other news, I can also report that the non-sensical hat-knitting-in-summer continues, this time with a new Frostbite hat in Knit Picks Cadena, currant and cream. (I love this colour combination so much I could eat it.) Thankfully, the iced beverages are also flowing freely, and I am pleased to report I have also fully committed myself to the joys of iced coffee.

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May you have some cool and relaxing times this weekend, knitting friends! Until next time.

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The advantage of being nonsensical

I don’t know about you, but around these parts in southern Ontario we are now reaching that time of the summer when temperatures reach approximately a billion and eleven degrees outside. (Approximately). It happens every July and we always like to hope that maybe this year will be the year it doesn’t happen (there was that time a couple of years ago when it didn’t happen and everyone complained about how cold it was. I loved it), but then the first 30C+ day hits. And then the first week of nothing but 30C+ days. And then just when we’re getting used to that, the weather amps it up and decides that 40C+ days will be in the offing, and where’s the fun in a mild 30% humidity index when 80% would be so much more tortuous?

So basically all you can hope to do is cling to cold beverages and air conditioning if you’ve got it, while slowly going a little bit batty wondering if you’re never going to get to wear socks or things with sleeves ever again. Last week I finished a project and as a palette cleanser, I cast on myself a hat (my Union Station beret pattern, almost done and waiting to be blocked and flattened into beret form, in Knit Picks Wool of the Andes worsted in Amethyst Heather), and something occurred to me.

Guys, July really is knitter’s time. No really, hear me out.

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It’s stealth knitter’s time because nobody would expect you to be thinking about knitting right now. Any sensible person would be clutching a margarita on a shaded porch, not holding something made of wool and motion, surely? But even if you’re not feeling the pull towards the needles, the first thing you’ve got to consider about July is that, if your yarn stores are like mine, July is prime time for sales. It’s often when yarn stores make the transition from spring to fall inventory and have to make room for things, and don’t you want to help out your local yarn shop by giving them less to count? Of course you do. I can think of three Toronto stores off of the top of my head that like to plan sales for early July (or the whole month), and man, this is your time to shine. All those sweaters you were thinking about knitting last winter or spring but didn’t get the time for before you transitioned over to socks and lace? Stock up now. The yarn might well be on sale, and maybe even in the colour you couldn’t find last time you looked.

The other thing about being a knitter in the summer (and this can go hand in hand with the first thing, if you play your cards right and happen upon the right bargains), is that almost nobody is thinking about knitting winter projects. In the heat of July, there is really very little likelihood that there will be a run on the bulky alpaca or the Malabrigo chunky. All that bulky thick-and-thin stuff that you can whip off a gift cowl with in one or two skeins? Get it now. You could score a sweater’s worth or a few scarves’ worth of wintry wooly stuff right now pretty easily, then pull it out in October with a really smug expression when everybody else is trying to find it in the same colour that you already had stashed because you, the stealth summer knitter, were planning ahead.

While we’re thinking ahead to winter knitting projects, (and maybe taking a moment to imagine what it feels like to be standing in a snowbank – go ahead, I’ll wait, it’s highly recommendable) think back to last winter and the kinds of things you were furiously knitting around December. Were there things you were rapidly knocking off as gifts and needed more yarn for? Were you suddenly making hats for everyone in your family and found yourself short of 16″ circular needles for hats? I suddenly stopped and remembered that last winter when I was knitting hats, I was having the damndest time finding 16″ circulars in 4.5mm or 5.0mm, because everyone knits hats in December. You know when people are less likely to be buying up all those needles? July. My December self is going to thank me.

Stay cool and stealthy, knitting friends!

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