Monthly Archives: November 2007

Book Review: Pretty Knits

My blog fodder is stretched pretty thin this week. I have things I keep thinking I’d have posted about now but they’re not done yet. I am plotting a 3rd Venezia swatch, as for example (just to make sure I give the blue/green palette a fair shake), and then I have a couple of wee small projects on the go but they’re not ready yet. (Stupid finishing). I have 1 ball of SWS waiting to be a matching hat for my Clapotis but, oops, haven’t gotten to it yet either. Thank goodness for book reviews!

This review selection is Pretty Knits by Susan Cropper, of London’s yarn store Loop.

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I’ve had this book for about a month, and I keep looking at it, and pondering, and looking at it some more, and I’m still not entirely sure what to make of it. Are the designs pretty? Yes. The book lives up to its title. Is it an accessible selection of patterns? Yes. There is a variety of skill level required and there are a few pages at the back with discussion of technique and photos for support. Is there a range of yarns used? Yes. Everything from wool to bamboo and back again, sport-weight on up to bulky.

One thing that I can’t reconcile, though, is the sizing. No matter how many pattern collections have come before this one that only fit up to bust size 38″, a book published in the year 2007 should freaking well include pattern sizing for more than 3 sizes per garment, and should go beyond bust size 38/40. What, only skinny people get to be pretty? BAH.

Perhaps my reluctance also has to do with the concept – we’ve had no shortage of pattern books in the last couple of years which profess to be glamorous or sensual or pretty or romantic or [insert feminine adjective here]. So in that respect, each new book of that genre has a reputation to live up to. Overlooking this skepticism and the ‘detail’ of the sizing, I will say that there are some very nicely designed patterns here. Unlike some other possible glam patterns, these ones don’t just limit the “pretty” to appliques and extra finishing with buttons and sequins, but use the yarns in creative ways that achieve the intended look. The wrap on the cover, for example, combines three different yarns in a panelled effect with an attractive drape. (It also uses ribbon yarn in an attractive way – I am always intrigued when people figure out how to do that).

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There are 30 patterns to choose from, about evenly split between home items and garments. Although there are some patterns I don’t want to give a 2nd glance to (the knitted bows necklace is one), some are quite lovely (pics of my choices below). There’s a cabled water bottle cozy that you could probably make in an afternoon, on up to a bedspread with rose appliques that is more ambitious. I call the pattern selection a win, generally speaking. These are divided into four categories – fashionista, accessoires, fripperies, and the boudoir. There are blankets and cozies and pillows, but I’ll focus on the garments because those are generally what I look for.

The beaded camisole top by Leslie Scanlon and the empire waist top by Debbie Bliss, above, are two of my favourites. They look comfortable and classic, and could be mixed with a variety of skirts or slacks or capris, depending on the season or occasion.

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This chevron top by Louisa Harding was a pleasant surprise. The colour selection and off-shoulder styling really appeals to me, and once again it looks like an eminently comfortable and wearable knit. The Anisette wrap by Kristeen Griffin-Grimes is one that didn’t grab me at first but it did grab my sister, who despite some skepticism over the ‘only 2 balls of Kidsilk Haze’ requirement, has been happily working away at it for the last few weeks. It also comes in a scarf version, which I think is a fantastic idea.

I reported above that I’m still not sure where to land with this book. The patterns are attractive, but there is one thing still holding me back, and while I don’t know who to fault for it – the editor? the publisher? the tech copy writer? – it’s still bothering me several weeks later. While the patterns tell you which yarn to use, and how many skeins you’ll need, there is absolutely no detail provided on yardage, weight, or fibre composition. They tell you about gauge, yes, but that magical list of yarns and their details is nowhere to be found. So if you want to know if Yarn Z is a wool or a wool-blend, a sport-weight or fingering, then you’ll have to look elsewhere. In a knitting age when yarn substitution is queen and fibre content can make all the difference for many knitters, this is a disappointment. I am left to conclude that either this is a significant and unintended error of omission (I hope that this is the case), or that the editor really wants you to use only the yarns they’re telling you to use.

So, thumbs up for the pretty, thumbs down on the sizing and lack of yarn specs. I think it’s worth a look, but savvy knitters will arm themselves with a bit of yarny research or pattern modification to help them make the most of this book.


Filed under book review

Quick fix

I take back every bad thing I ever thought about swatches. Swatches are awesome. You know when swatches are particularly awesome? When by your own rules you are not allowed to actually start the project yet but you need to do something to take the edge off because you’re so tired of using the project as bait for Real Life things but making a swatch is not against the rules.

So, I swatched for Venezia (scroll down). I love these little swatches so much. They are so pretty I might frame them afterwards. I keep going and looking at them and petting them and thinking about the colours. I did 2 combinations, providing me with the added bonus of checking gauge on 2 different needle sizes at the same time (check check for the 3.0mms and 27sts/4ins. I rock.). Both are with Knit Picks Palette. Because it was just so very priced-to-own and so of course I did the thing where I ordered too much and now have a Palette arsenal get to try out a couple of different options.


This is #1, and comes very close to the actual colour combination in the original pattern. That 2nd shade of blue is bothering me just a little, though, so I might switch that out and rearrange it with a different shade, were I to go ahead with this selection.


But on the other hand, there is this combination #2. The pale foreground shades are all the same, but the background shades are instead a mix of reds and purples. It is far, far more “earthy” than I usually go for – just check my closets, ain’t no rusty shades in sight – but I can’t help but be enticed. There’s enough red and purple to stand out that I am starting to get convinced.

I’ll just let these babies dazzle me for a little longer.

Have a great Sunday! I think mine is going to include carrot cake.


Filed under fair isle, stash, venezia

Last gasps

At the beginning of this week I told myself (and other people, out loud) that it was possible for me to finish my draft this week – or at least by the beginning of next week. Then my morale and work ethic took a hit round mid-week and yesterday I declared Personal Snow Day. I sat. I knitted. I swatched. I watched DVDs (hello, Buffy Season 3, it’s been a while). I drank tea and ate various baked goods squirreled away in the kitchen. It was awesome, except for the fact that I still have to get back to work today. Sadly in the interim, my last results chapter has not actually magically finished itself.

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But I did learn some things yesterday. For example, I learned that Miss Beatrice the Cat’s real fascination is not with yarn. It is with Addi Turbos. Sometimes she tries to bite them if one is dangling in my lap. Yesterday, in her quest to annoy me enough to feed her dinner half an hour early, she discovered my discarded Addi with a single cast-on row and proceeded to bat it about, bite it, and then carry it off in gradual steps towards some unknown destination. I can hardly blame her; Addis are indeed sleek and seductive nickel-plated mistresses. (I admired the cuteness of this for a few minutes, then tucked it all away out of sight.)

Michelle requested pics of her with the bee. I think the charm has faded a little bit, but the dangly-ness and the catnip smell are still in the bee’s favour.

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Aaaaannnnd….that’s all I got for now. If you were me, how would you whip my ass into writing the rest of my draft?

Catch ya next time…


Filed under cats

Mirror in the Bathroom

I have been underestimating the skill it takes to stand in front of a mirror and get a good picture of yourself wearing knitted things. Here I thought, hey! Just put the hat on and click, how hard is that? Pah-HAH.

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I think that was the best one. There were several on the cutting room floor. Oh here, let me show you some of those too, I’m feeling extra procrastinatory this morning…

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I think there were possibly a dozen more after that, that were either too blurry, too dark, or too dorky. And dude, this was with an actual digital camera. How do people do this with camera phones with those cruddy 1.2 megapixel lenses? I am baffled. In any case, none of those got a good shot of the top of the hat (I tried. The results weren’t good):


In the interest of full disclosure, I will tell you the reason the hat is folded over is so that I can avoid showing you the horrific charting error I did in the middle of the 5th repeat on the rosette pattern. I am confident that Average Person Walking Down The Street will not notice, though, which is why I did not feel compelled to rip out my 8 colours of yarn to fix it.

But ta da, December Lights Tam from the Holiday Interweave Knits. All in all, a lovely pattern. Super quick knit and a beautiful product. I am just happy the colours I chose worked out, I’d hate for it to turn out like some weird mottled mess.  My only other modification besides colour was that I did the whole thing on 3.5mm instead of 3.25 and 3.0 mm as the pattern says (I think), to make the band a little looser than an 18-inch head-circumference and to come closer to gauge requirement. It was good practice on multi-colour fair isle, seeing as I’m itching to cast on for Venezia still (IK Fall 2006). I am STILL hanging on to Venezia as my reward for finishing my draft, and with my stash as my witness, that will happen before next weekend. It has to. I am not carrying this on into another month, I am so close.

I am also looking forward to the time when I can knit something new, something that is not an enormous blanket (or a thesis draft). These small little suckers are awesome instant gratification. Why did I forsake hats and gloves and mitts and toys? They are the best things ever.


This is, in fact, a bee for Bea. Knitted cat toy courtesy of Christine Landry’s free pattern, great for using up a bit of ACK-rill-ick still lingering in the stash and soothe wee kittie brains with a bit of catnip at the same time. I placed the finished bee on the carpet and she promptly sniffed it, then clutched it and rolled around for a proper greeting. Awesome.

Happy Wednesday, my friends! May your knitting be close by.


Filed under finished object: accessories, finished object: toys

Purple = Awesome

First, just as FYI, I have added a “Pattern Notes” page up there along with the other blog tabs. Pattern errata, miscellaneous notes, whatevs – they now have a home. Hooray for making the patterns better.

But second, and most important, I must report from my day in Toronto yesterday. There was the “work” time in the earlier portion of the day, but what I’m really here to post about is the grand opening of The Purple Purl, Toronto’s newest yarn shop on Queen St. East. I met Jennifer back in May and she has been a great knitting friend and now she and her friend Miko have made all knitters’ fantasy their own reality, and taken the plunge into LYS ownership.

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It was a great evening. I had to skeedaddle around 7pm to get to something else (nothing like being double-booked when fun things are happening), but I bet they partied on for many hours after that. And dangit, I forgot to get a free goodie bag! Oh well. I’ll just have to go back ;)

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The yarn portion is open for business but they are just waiting on a bit of beauraucracy for the cafe part to open. Then it’ll be yarn + lattes and good relaxing times. I chatted with the woman whose company sold them the Espresso machine, and it turns out they also sold Alterknit their espresso machine. I think she was under the impression that all yarn shops are also cafes. If only that were true.

Anyhow, thanks Jennifer and Miko for making me yet more depressed that I no longer live in Toronto The Land Of All Awesome Knitting Places. I want to be just like you when I grow up. And maybe come and live in a corner of your shop after my dissertation is done. Heh. Only partly kidding.

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They are stocking a variety of Canadian yarns (oh hello, Indigo Moon, you beautiful dark mistress), and development-conscious ones as well, like the lovely Mirasol line. Metal and bamboo needles can be yours, nice selection of SWTC stock, and a great bookshelf that I could totally sit in front of for an hour.

There were lots of great people there and I wish I could have stayed longer. I could not, of course, resist getting a picture of wee Clara (great visit with her and mama Emily), even though her cuteness is so great that it seems to defy focus.

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So anyhoo, totally go check out the Purple Purl next time you’re in the T-Dot. And say hi for me!


Filed under coveting, design, knitting in public, yarn stores

Baah. Baaaaaaahhhh.

I did enough work today so far that I am rewarding myself with blogging. And some Cheetos. Mmmm, fake cheesy orange Cheetos, mmm…

But anyway. Hey, so there’s this super cool easily customizable scarf/shawl pattern thingie. Maybe you’ve heard of it? One or two people have already knitted it. Well, okay. Maybe one or two thousand.

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I’d seen Clapotis out there in blog land for a while, but didn’t really feel drawn to it. Then suddenly something flicked on in my brain last winter when I was sitting in our chilly common room on campus and thinking, “gee, if only i had a neat little shawl/scarf thing to just cover up but look nice at the same time…” so into my mental queue it went. I always feel a little sheepish casting on for patterns that are just. so. popular, because I wonder if I’m just being, well, a dumb sheep. But then I remind myself that sometimes people do flock to things because they’re actually really awesome, aside from being really popular.


I bought this yarn (Patons SWS in Natural Plum) back in August and cast on in early October. When I got to the middle ‘straight’ section there was a while where I couldn’t look at it, it felt like it was going to go on forever. I stun myself to realize that this project was only with me for a little over a month. Pretty snappy, all things considered. And it really is a genius pattern, I see that now. You could customize for any length or width you want, any gauge or weight, whatever. In retrospect the SWS was possibly a less wise choice, since the dropped stitches were very snaggy (in this pic I had not yet dropped all of them, but I have now), but I do love the colour. And since it’s a little bulkier, I could get away with doing only 1 less repeat and still ending up with a nice shawl-sized Clapotis. I think it’ll live on my desk chair for a little bit.

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It is also kitty-cat-approved. But my next project is very much not kitty-cat safe, since it is currently attached to no less than 4 balls of wool:


This is my interpretation of the December Lights Tam. I’m still a little “hmmmmm” on the colour combination, but I think it’ll work. I am heartened that the pattern is still clearly visible and that the yarns do clearly belong to only 2 colourways. And it’ll be a nice preparatory knit while I wait to get the chance to cast on for a full fair isle sweater. (Soon. Soon, my precious).

Happy Wednesday! Pushing Daisies, anyone?


Filed under cats, fair isle, finished object: accessories

November 12 of 12

I owe a few blogging things – FOs for one, and some pattern errata for the Brennan Cardigan for another (thanks for the catch, Rae!), but this 12 of 12 post will start to go stale if I don’t write it up soon. Thankfully my lunch break has allowed for some blogging time. I slept horribly on Sunday night and have felt zonko ever since. I wonder if there are any nappable chairs around anywhere…zzz…zzz…

But first! The 12 of 12 for November. I did this last month for the first time and decided to give it another go. (Incidentally, if you click on that link, Chad Darnell also has a great deal of info on his blog about the Writers’ Guild of America’s current strike. I totally support the writers. Studios have lots of money already, thanks to being able to profit from scripted programming, and archaic writers’ contracts. The writers on the other hand, are not so much with the profiting at the moment. You strike, dudes, I can totally live without my stories as long as it takes for you to get the deal you deserve.)

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(1) 7:30am, just off my bicycle at the Hamilton bus terminal. I am not thrilled to be awake, but at least I am here. I had a deadline to pull things together for that morning and spent the whole night waking up every hour and a half. Boo-urns for bad Sunday night sleep. But at least I have my cute shoes. And my Jaywalkers, which I did not enjoy knitting but I am very much enjoying wearing. Curse those Jaywalkers, making me re-think them.

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(2) 7:37am, from inside the terminal. Apparently there is a new cafe/cafeteria opening up and there was a woman coming around giving out free samples of something, but by the time I bought my ticket she was gone.

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(3) 9:45am. Reviewing my course reader material at [Spoilery Campus Name], where I will be teaching a course starting in January. (All together now: eek! I will be responsible for teaching other people! Assembling course reader material and coming up with a general outline was an unexpected timesink over the last week.

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(4) 10:45am – at a discount store in town which I know carries yarn. I look long and hard at the Patons Classic Merino, even take some in my hands, but I eventually do not buy. I do, on the other hand, buy some DPNs on sale and some loaf-sized baking pans for continued baking exploits. (Hey, did you know that you can bake your own bread from scratch? What they won’t think of next…)

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(5) 11:00am – from the fitting room at a discount clothing store nearby. I try on 4 skirts, and marvel at the laughability of women’s sizing. Of the 4 skirts that were all marked as the same size, one was too tight, one was so big it was almost falling off of me, and the two that fit didn’t look very good. Le sigh. I may have to just throw myself on the mercy of the in-season sales racks.

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(6) 11:15am – tea and knitting break at Tim Horton’s. I note that they have switched to their “holiday” theme cups by now. I’ve cast on for the December Lights Tam from Interweave Knits Holiday 2007, in some Knit Picks Palette from my stash. I am quite sure the people from the next table over were looking at me as though I was a complete nutso, mild-manneredly pulling out my 7 colours of yarn at Tim’s.

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(7) 1:45pm. Back in Hamilton now, having leftover salad for lunch and checking my internets. I discover I have a 9:30am Tuesday meeting that I’d forgotten about. This means another 6am alarm for a second day in a row, whimper whimper.

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(8) 3:00pm – running errands. I scoot into the bank just before a line begins to form behind me at the ATM. I then make my way over to the My Dog Joe cafe in Westdale, which my sister and our friends have been raving about. It is just as cozy and awesome as everyone says and I quite possibly want to live there every afternoon. Martha turns out to be there too, so we sit and try to accomplish things.

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(9) 4:45pm – still at the cafe, still sweating my Chapter 4. My draft is so close and yet so far. If only there was a magic Thesis Wand to make it finish itself. I think by the time I get to the conclusion that chapter will read. “Please read the previous 5 chapters. The End.” I did have a delicious broccoli-cheddar muffin, though…

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(10) 5:30pm – at home again, doing various tasks and getting munchies and discovering that Beatrice the Cat has quite possibly spent the entire day sleeping on my crumpled up pyjamas.

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(11) 7:30pm – the scene of a bubblebath. My tired brain has short-circuited and won’t let me think or concentrate even on knitting, so I give in.

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(12) 9:30pm – already in bed with book and kitty. Oh yeah, baby, exciting times here at Knitting to Stay Sane! Film at 11! ;)

Catch ya fer the next 12, provided I am not, by then, running around in circles or muttering to myself or crying over my thesis draft (which will, God willing, be done before then.)

More knitting catch-up tomorrow!


Filed under 12 of 12