Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Sucess!

We've landed in some interesting times around here. Luke has started working full time with his dad for the summer, Alex was accepted into the YMCA's Summer Work Student Exchange, and I have landed myself a job. Alex leaves this Saturday, July 29 and I start my new job on Thursday, July 27.

I find Alex's situation to be the most exciting. It's such a wonderful opportunity for him and I sincerely hope he has the time of his life. He'll be living for six weeks with a host family in Otterburn Park, in Quebec, and working at La Maison amérindienne. The YMCA plans outings for the kids and their schedule is packed with fun things to do and see.

In exchange, our family will be hosting the the daughter of the family that is hosting Alex. It's a direct exchange. When we got the notice, I was all: "Yippee! It's a girl!" Her name is Cecilia and she likes fine arts. I'm hoping she likes textiles too. *wink* I'm looking forward to getting to know her, and anticipating all the fun activities that are planned for her. There's a trip to see a play at Stratford, local festivals, a camping weekend, games nights, and more.

In the mean time though, Alex and I have been busy running around town, getting him prepared for his trip. We bought some new clothes, got him some incidentals, and so on. Today, we stopped to reward ourselves with a sushi lunch. Alex had fish on the brain:


I'm just so happy for all of us. It's going to be a great summer!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Dreamy

Boo Knits shawls are dreamy.



The Snow Angel pattern is really well written and the lace has a easily memorized repeat. You just drift along, happily knitting the same repeat along the length of the shawl, and slowly accumulating an intricate looking design.


My Snow Angel was fun to block. You pull out the long points evenly and the shape of the shawl does the rest. I didn't even find the need to try to pin the top part out straight. It just went that way. And even without beads, the points stayed pointy and the shawl has movement.

  
Can you believe, it only took me nine days? It just went by like a dream.


Thursday, June 13, 2013

Reminder

I confess, have a skeleton in my closet. Its white and full of holes.

Three years ago I started knitting the lace jacket from Vogue Knitting, Fall 2010. It started out fine. Working lace in the round is a pleasure because the knitting is always facing you. In no time I had the body of the jacket done and started up on the border.

That's when things got ugly. The border is a complicated bit of witchery, with patterning on every row and increases and decreases zig-zagging along to make a scalloped edge. Beautiful? Yes, of course. Fun? Heck no! Why? I just couldn't memorize it. I had to work every row stitch by stitch. I made plenty of mistakes and tinking mohair lace is a nerve wracking bit of fiddliness. My frustration with the project grew, until I stuck it in a closet, out of sight and out of mind.

Having some time on my hands lately, I decided to resurrect my skeleton. Even the weather colluded with me; this spring has been cool enough for a knitter to tolerate a pile of mohair in the lap. I finished up the border, and completed one sleeve before I couldn't take it anymore. I was seduced away from my frustration by a mysterious little number, the Leaf Evolution Mystery KAL.

This project went slow too, but only because there were six clues, delivered to us one each week. And I liked it. I enjoyed the way the KAL forced me to linger over this project. It was a pleasure to anticipate the next clue and to slowly watch the pattern evolve.  The finished shawllette is as sweet as could be:

I love the pattern, and I love the yarn, which is Malabrigo's Sock Yarn in the colorway Archangel, but I don't think the two go well together. The variegation is just a bit too much in this. You should see how beautiful it looks in a solid, like this one.

But that's okay. This pattern reminded me again of the pleasures of lace knitting.

That lace jacket, it's so old, it can wait a little longer. I've cast on another lace project, this one from BooKnits. Go take a look, at her designs. You too will fall in love with lace all over again.

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

One Button

It was a warm May morning and Julie was wearing a pretty dress for the first time that Spring. She reveled in the soft swish of her skirt and the clack of her heels on the pavement as she walked up to her business. Julie’s shop, Knit ‘n Notions, was located downtown, nestled between a trendy jewelry store and an upscale coffee shop. Across the street was a used book store, a bike shop and an artist’s supply store.

Julie hummed a tune as she turned the key in the lock and opened the door. She was greeted by bins of yarn, shelves of books, a wall of drawers containing buttons, and the store cat, named Worsted.

“Rawr.” said Worsted, meaning: “I’m hungry, feed me now!”

“Good morning sunshine.” replied Julie, going straight to the back kitchen to drop her luncheon salad into the fridge, start the coffee maker, then give Worsted fresh water and some kibble. After doing the necessary clean up on the litter box, Julie settled in with her coffee to put together her notions order for the salesman coming that day.

“We’ll need more shawl pins.” Julie thought out loud to Worsted. “The weather is so nice people will want to wear their shawls. And I must order more of the matte-black buttons.” Julie continued down the list, ordering more needles and other items for a good half hour. People had no idea how much work went into running a yarn store, but Julie didn’t mind. She loved what she did and she loved her customers. People were what kept a business alive and Julie knew she was lucky to have such a great location that drew in a diverse clientele.

At ten o’clock, Julie opened the store and was greeted by a couple of regulars, come in for a morning’s stitch and bitch.

“Hi Roxanne. Good morning Kelly. How are you ladies today?” asked Julie.

“I am loving this weather!” exclaimed Kelly, as she bent over to give Worsted a pat. Kelly was a university student who liked to drop in for a chat and a coffee on her way to class.

“Not so good myself,” replied Roxanne. “The sun makes my skin act up, and those noisy birds woke me up too early this morning. But I’m getting on now. I don’t know how many more springs I’ll be around to see.”

Julie and Kelly exchanged a glance, before offering sympathy and support to Roxanne. The older woman had a heart of gold, but a crotchety nature hid it from most.

A bit later, two out-of-towners dropped in, saying they’d heard good things about the store. Julie was happy to hear that and gave them a brief tour of the store layout before leaving them to browse. 
Just then, the button guy walked in. Julie didn’t know his name so that’s what she called him. Kelly and Roxanne were deep in discussion about short rows, but the two out-of-towners watched the button guy. He wore tailored trousers and a soft grey collared shirt, open at the neck, with the sleeves rolled up on this warm morning. Button guy went immediately to the buttons and straight to the drawer containing the matte-black buttons. He took out one button and went to the cash to pay.

Julie smiled at him, but couldn’t catch his eye. “Will that be all?”

“Yes.”

“I’m placing an order today for more of these buttons. Perhaps you’d like to buy in bulk? I’ll give you a discount.”

“No thanks.” Button guy held out his money.

After he’d gone, one of the women from out-of-town spoke up. “That guy knew exactly what he wanted.”

“He should,” grumbled Roxanne. “He buys the same button every day.” 

“What?”

“Yeah.” Kelly piped up “It’s his thing.”

Julie smiled. “I actually just put in an order for more of those buttons today. He’s been doing this for over a year now.”

“But why?” asked the other lady.

“I think he has a compulsion,” answered Kelly, who had taken some psychology courses in first year. “It could be OCD, or maybe he has something like pica and eats them.”

Roxanne scoffed. “He’s just nuts.”

“The banana bread of life would be pretty boring without some nuts,” mused Julie.


Julie was tired. It had been a full day. Her feet were aching, she felt dirty, hungry and just done in. The store had been swept, the shelves faced and neatened. Her last task was to feed Worsted, and then she could head home to her own dinner.

Julie shook the container with the kibble. “Worsted?” Shake, shake. “Worsted? Where are you kitty? It`s dinner time.”

But there was no answering meow. No thump of soft paws as Worsted jumped down from a high perch. Julie did a quick scan of the store, and Worsted wasn`t in any of his usual hiding spots. Julie`s stomach did a quick flip. Opening the front door of the store, Julie called for Worsted again, but no answer. She went to the back and performed the same ritual, again with no results. Now she was beginning to feel sick.

Worsted had come to her as a small kitten. She found him in the alley behind the store, licking up foam from an empty latte cup, covered in ants. The small creature was starving and so pitiful. Julie had cleaned him, fed him and did all that was necessary for him at the vet`s. And in return, Worsted had become her buddy.

Julie locked up the store. With the kibble container in her hand she headed out to look for her friend. Customers knew not to let Worsted out the front door, so the most likely culprit was the notions salesman who had delivered her order that day. He came in the back door, through the alley.
A half hour later, Julie still hadn`t found Worsted. She had searched the alley behind the store and was now across the street, looking under the wooden steps of the artist`s supply shop, thinking that perhaps he had taken refuge under there. And that’s when she heard it: a cat’s meow, sounding like a world of complaint.

Julie called, waited, and heard it again. She looked up and there in an old maple tree was the sleek grey body of Worsted. He was flat down on a branch, his tail twitching with nerves and fear.

“Oh, Worsted! You scared me!” Julie exclaimed with relief. But then she started to worry. How was she going to get the cat down? Calling the fire department seemed such a cliché.

“Maybe I can help?” Julie heard a man’s voice ask.

It was the button guy carrying a ladder. Julie’s mind buzzed with questions, but she was too concerned about Worsted to ask. Instead she just stepped aside as the button guy put the ladder against the tree branch and climbed up to get the cat.

Worsted would have none of it. He hissed and swiped out with his paw at the hand that was to deliver him from his perch. Button guy rolled down his sleeves and tried again.

“Be careful!” Shouted Julie as Worsted inched away and button guy was forced to lean way over to grasp Worsted. She jumped forward to steady the ladder just as button guy’s foot slipped from the tread. Worsted wriggled and button guy was forced to jump to the pavement to keep his grip on the animal. His landing was awkward and he grunted with pain, but his gentle hands held Worsted firmly.

Julie scooped the cat from his arms with exclamations of thanks to the button guy and reproach to Worsted.

“Are you okay?” Julie asked as the button guy sat upon the curb.

“Not quite. I think I sprained my ankle.”

“Just sit tight there.” Julie said. “Let me put Worsted back in the shop and I’ll come back to help you.”

“OK” said the button guy. His face had gone pale.

Even going as fast as she could, it was a few minutes before Julie returned. But button guy was still sitting there, the ladder still propped against the tree.

Julie felt that this was a moment where some very important questions could be answered. She took a deep breath and let it out.

“I can’t thank you enough. I owe you big time. What is your name?”

“Tom.”

“Well Tom, are you hurt bad?”

“Yeah, pretty bad. I can’t stand on it. Maybe it’s broken.”

“We have to get you to the hospital. I’ll call us a cab.” Julie got on her cell phone. When she finished with the cab company, she asked “Do you have your OHIP card with you?”

“It’s up in my apartment. I live over Art Stop.” Tom had left the door unlocked, so he gave Julie directions to his apartment and the location of his wallet and keys.

Julie climbed the stairs as fast as her heels would allow. Her fingers tingled as she turned the knob that would open the door. She felt like Lara Croft, Tomb Raider, about to unveil the secret of the century, the answer to the question: What did he DO with those buttons?

Opening the door, Julie stepped into the entrance way, from which she could see a little galley of a kitchen and a bedroom beyond. She walked forward, looked to her right and gasped. The wall at the far end of the apartment, the one that spanned the whole back of the building, was two-thirds covered with matte-black buttons. But that’s not what made Julie gasp. The buttons weren’t just covering the wall; they were carefully placed to form an image. It looked like a stippled ink drawing and it was breathtaking.
Julie quickly took her cell phone from her purse and snapped a picture. Then she grabbed Tom’s wallet from the kitchen counter, his keys from the hook by the door, locked the apartment and scurried back down the stairs.

The cab was already waiting when she arrived, and she handed Tom his keys and his wallet. Julie insisted on coming with Tom to the hospital, given that it was her cat that caused the injury. Plus she just had to ask.

“So, I couldn’t help but notice your wall."

“Yeah.” Tom was quiet and wouldn’t look at her.

“She’s beautiful. Who is she?” Julie showed Tom the image on her cell. It was the face of an old woman. She was smiling, which brought up the laugh lines in her eyes and the wrinkles in her cheeks.

“You shouldn’t have taken a picture. But yeah, she is beautiful. It almost looks like a real photo on this tiny screen.” Tom took the phone from Julie and studied the image for a moment. Then he swiped the screen to delete the picture and handed the phone back to Julie.

They rode in silence the rest of the way to the hospital.


It was getting on for midnight and they were still in the emergency waiting room. Tom had given up on trying to get Julie to go home. The woman had a stubborn streak. Dinner had been a limp sandwich from the vending machine, chips and a chocolate bar. If not for her knitting Julie wouldn’t have had the patience to sit there for so long. Tom only had the entertainment of being questioned by nurses, X-rays and Tylenol-3.

“So, why don’t you tell me about the lady on your wall?” Julie finally asked, as much to keep awake by this point as for curiosity’s sake.

Tom sighed, and shrugged his shoulders. “She’s my Nona, and more than that. She raised me from when I was just three, after my parents split. She got sick and died last year.”

“Oh. I’m so sorry Tom.”

“Every day since, I buy a button to remember her by and I add it to the picture. She always wore a black coat and it had buttons just like the ones at your store.”

“That’s sweet.” Julie smiled. “But I don’t understand. It must take forever to make a picture one button at a time.”

“Sure. And it must take forever to knit a sock one stitch at a time.” Tom waved at Julie’s knitting. “Everything worth doing is done one little bit at a time.”

Understanding dawned for Julie. “And it’s just how we live our lives.”

“Right,” said Tom. “One button at a time.”

This story is based on an anecdote I read on Kristie's blog and she kindly encouraged me to write it.

Monday, June 03, 2013

Confession Time

I gave myself a knitting injury. I'm a bit ashamed because I should know better.

It all started with some beautiful handspun sock yarn. The fiber was superwash Cheviot from Dyeabolical that I wanted to turn into a true fingering weight three-ply. So I spun it as fine as I could, only I overshot the mark and my yarn turned out too thin. I only found this out after I had knit most of the foot on a 2mm needle. The fabric was too loose for a sock, so I ripped it.

Then I tried a 1.75mm needle. That did the trick and I burned my way through most of a sock before my hand started to complain. I decided that the leg could be worked on a 2mm needle so I switched out my 1.75mm needles so I could start the second sock. And look how far I got before I broke down:


It started as numbness, then tingles and finally pain in my left hand. At that point I wised up and stopped.
My only excuse for letting it go on so long is how deeply I love these socks. And this was to be the summer of the sock! I just didn't want to stop.

But I did, and after a few days rest, I found I could knit with no pain on larger needles. So I finished up some scarfy things that had been hanging around. Like Nightbird:


And a crescent shawl from handspun, with nupps and beads, oh my!


But I needed a my summer project to replace the sock knitting, and that project is Adrift. It's not that I love mindless stockinette so much, though it does have its place, as it is that I fell in love with this particular rendition. I bought exactly the same yarn, in exactly the same color.

The yarn, Pima Lino Lace, is a cotton-linen blend that doesn't feel like those fibers. I expected it to be rough and stiff straight off the needles but instead it is soft with lots of drape.

I'm putting the lessons learned from previous sweaters to good use here. I started off with a size to fit my shoulders, then added 2 inches extra to each front because not only am I wide, I am also tall and stumpy sweaters do not look good on me. I also plan on adding extra length to the body because I have a long torso.

Just don't expect to see me wearing this little number any time soon. I fully give myself permission to abandon ship when boredom sets in and the siren call of the socks gets too loud.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

I Fit It Twice

I made myself two well-fitting sweaters this winter. The first was Chickadee, and the second was Shibumi, by Vera Sanon.


With this sweater, I learned why I need to use both horizontal and vertical bust darts. For starters, this is another top down sweater. When deciding which size to knit, I used shoulder dimensions. To accommodate my bust, I put increases into the plain stockinette portion of the fronts, and cast on at the underarms for the larger bust size. These modifications took my sweater from a size 48 at the shoulder to a 56 at the bust. These increases happening up and down the fabric are the vertical darts.

Now here's a handy tip I learned to decide if you need horizontal darts, usually added through short rows. Take a tape measure and measure down your back, from the top of the shoulder to the waist. Now do the same on your front, starting with the tape measure at the same location and ending parallel to the first measurement on the waist.  If you notice a significant difference between these two measurements, you're going to need some horizontal darts. On a man's sweater, this may be on the back, to accommodate their shoulder blades. On some women, these may need to be distributed throughout the front of a sweater. For example, on a small busted woman who has a larger belly, the extra fabric may be required lower down.

Here's another way to see it. Ever had a shirt ride up in the front? I have. And it's because both the front and back of the shirt have the same length of fabric. The shirt looks great laying flat on the table, but I'm not flat. My body's dimensions aren't the same in the front as in the back. The fabric travels further at the front to cover my bust and so it rides up when I wear it
.

Again, working the sweater top down made it very easy for me to decide where to put the short rows and determine the fit. Here I am trying on the work in progress.


If you are looking to make a sweater that fits, the latest and greatest guru on the subject is Amy Herzog. I've got her Craftsy class and I highly recommend it. The only point we disagree on is top-down versus bottom-up construction. Amy strongly advocates for constructing sewn, bottom-up sweaters, claiming the fit and wear is much better. It may be true and the only way I'll know for sure is to try to knit a sweater that fits from the bottom up. It may just be my next sweater project...

Oh, one more farewell shot of Shibumi. Here's the pretty patterning on the back:


Saturday, May 25, 2013

A Sweater that Fits

My proudest knitting accomplishment since the last time I was writing here, was learning to knit a sweater that fits. Today, I want to discuss my first well-fitted sweater, Chickadee.

This lovely little pattern from Ysolda Teague is a top-down sweater that combines a yoke with raglan shaping. You can read the details of yarn, gauge and modifications on my Ravelry project page.
What I want to discuss here is what I learned from this knit.

For one thing, I loved the top-down construction. It seems to me that all the tricky bits of sweater knitting happen at the top. Getting that out of the way first was a huge stress reducer for me.

At the beginning of a project, I get all fired up with excitement and enthusiasm. I make plans and have ideas about how to create the perfect fit. But over the days and weeks of knitting the body and the sleeves, enthusiasm wanes, plans become foggy, and even though I may take detailed notes, often when I come back to those notes, I can't remember what I was thinking! So working a sweater top-down lets me work out the most complex details of the sweater while my enthusiasm, ideas and plans are still fresh.

And I can try it on as I go! I can verify if I'm on the right track and if I'm not, ripping back is not an emotional event because I'm not so invested in the work that's been done.

The other thing I learned was to knit a sweater that fits in the shoulders. I used to knit based on the bust measurement. Being well-endowed and plus sized to boot, my bust measurement is a much bigger portion than my shoulders. My Chickadee sweater incorporates the difference between my shoulders and my bust with increases right after the yoke. There's a ripple of fabric as a result, but I consider that a feature, and it's not very noticeable when I'm wearing it.


Finally, this sweater would not have been possible without the support of the gang at the Knitting At Large Ravelry forum. I needed their support through the initial set up and planning. A big hug and thanks to Julie for her work promoting sweater knitting by and for plus-sized people. She is an inspiration to many.



Thursday, May 23, 2013

Well, hello there...

To jump right in to the deep end, I stopped blogging because I was so very busy with work. There was overtime, and weekends and stress. Something had to give, and this blog was just one of those things. Now here I am starting blogging again because I am not so busy. My position was terminated and I am now looking for work. Of course, I can't go into details. Suffice it to say that the termination was not performance related and that many of my co-workers were very sad to see me go.

Onwards and upwards! I'm seeing this as an opportunity for a career shift. I'm very lucky to have a versatile skill-set and a strong personality.

Jim and the kids are well. Luke's doing a co-op and Alex is hoping to get into the YMCA's Summer Work Student Exchange. They've both grown into men in the last year.


Startling isn't it? Just last week, Alex and I were out getting him a new spring jacket. He didn't like anything in the stores, and we decided to hit the Goodwill. You know the teenage stage, the one where you don't want to be trendy, but you still want to have style? Anyway, at the Goodwill we found him a light jacket he liked and also scored him a beautiful golden suede jacket at an incredible price.

We were just checking out, and I asked him what his vegan girlfriend would think of him wearing suede. He responded with the typical, "Mom, she's not my girlfriend..." When the sales lady piped up with "Oh, he's your son? I thought you two were a couple."

On the ride home we had a laugh and decided that it's because he's so tall and has a full beard. Once home, Alex shaved. 





Monday, July 16, 2012

Hot stuff

Whew! Patio knitting was curbed by the heat and the rain. It's like a jungle out there now. I did push on and finish Shogun though. It bloomed like a jungle flower.


The pattern was fun because it was interesting, yet simple to remember and the color play just keeps going. Because I used a 4mm needle, instead of the recommended 5mm, I worked 4 extra repeats for a total of 14. The finished dimensions are 77x16 inches. So a little longer than the original, and not quite as wide.


The finished project weighs about 142 grams. I had two small leftover skeins of Noro sock yarn and almost one full one.


This is likely to be a gift for someone who's not afraid of color. I think it would make a lively addition to a winter wardrobe. It was refreshing to me. Now I can go back to all those boring blue knits in the queue and find them cool and wonderful again.


Friday, July 13, 2012

Sound familiar?


I've said some of these. How about you?

Hooray for Friday! I'll be on my patio with my knitting. I hope you've all got a shady corner and a fun project to while away the summer weekend with.