Tuesday, May 30, 2006

accidents of a fibrous nature...

I'm here, I'm here. I've been away, I'm having computer problems (I'm at a public internet terminal), boy problems, and it's stinking hot, and I've been grumpy as all hell. So I went shopping. More than once...

Let's see... in order, I believe Victoria happened first. I went to the Beehive Wool Shop in downtown Victoria at the recommendation of my Secret Pal spoiler. I had some high pressure work stuff in town, so my head wasn't all together and I didn't buy much. But it's an amazing little shop, chock-full of beautiful yarns. Lots of Fleece Artist. And a super mohair wall. I found them a wee bit expensive, and I went in kind of sock-obsessed (their sock yarn selection was so-so), so nothing really jumped off the shelf at me, but I picked up something for my secret pal spoilee, something for my mom, and some needles I needed to work on a project I brought incomplete supplies for. (whoops!)

After returning to the Toronto area (staying in Burlington), I needed a cheer-up fix. Mom and I drove to Ancaster, to the Needle Emporium. Oh wow, go to this shop if you possibly can. I never knew it was there... My fibre accident really began here, when I just couldn't put down the lovely, soft, touchable, it's-attached-to-my-hand skein of Mountain Colors Bearfoot. This stuff was Really. Rather. Expensive. But I was like one of those toddlers you see in a toy store. It was in my hand and it was unquestionably coming home with me. End of discussion. Tears will fall and screaming will ensue if you try to take this out of my hot little hands. It followed me home, I swear.

Allow me a moment to go on about this stuff. I keep touching it, simply because it makes me happy to do so. Is that so wrong??? It's called "obsidian". I looked it up on dictionary.com: (n) A usually black or banded, hard volcanic glass that displays shiny, curved surfaces when fractured and is formed by rapid cooling of lava. It's a good name for the color. It's 60% superwash, 25% mohair, 15% nylon, and 100% can't wait to get it on my feet. Get yourself some of this.

Also picked up more Rowan Kidsilk Haze in Majestic for an open-work scarf. Along with socks, I want to start experimenting in lace, so a repetitive pattern thing might be a good start, and RWK is dreamy to knit with. (*If anyone knows of a simple lacy sampler kind of pattern, let me know. Otherwise I'll make something up.)

Also got Nancy Bush's Knitting on the Road, and the Fibre Trends Pacific Northwest Shawl pattern. Nearly picked up some Donegal Tweed for the Sunrise Circle Jacket, but felt I ought to spread out the joy a little bit so I don't go broke all at once. Save that one for fall.

Then on the drive from Burlington to Kingston, more accidents of a fibrous nature. I braved Toronto traffic during the TTC strike to stop at Lettuce Knit. I love Lettuce Knit. I picked up 3 skeins of merino joy that I have been fingering an awful lot in the last 24 hours, but since some of this is secret-pal bound, I will leave it at that...

It's not even over yet. On my way home, I stopped at my LYS to pick up the Fibre Trends Hedgehog pattern that I'd ordered. And of course, sock yarn doesn't count, right??? So there may have been a small Lana Grossa accident in turquoise tweed. And some sock needles, because obviously I can't use up the sock stash if I don't have the appropriate tools. Obviously.

So there we have it. I'm not sure it's "cheaper than therapy" anymore, but it sure made me happy. And it could have been a lot worse. Actually I showed great restraint. Right???

I have to go home now and knit.

Monday, May 22, 2006

I think I can fly...

Does anyone know for sure whether or not knitting needles are allowed on airplanes again? I know there were some serious issues with security immediately following 9-11, and many a threatening granny was denied entry with her arsenal of hooks and needles... but I did read on Harlot that she was knitting while touring. So can I, or can't I?

I am flying on WestJet on Wednesday morning, and of course, I want to bring some knitting. I've checked their guidelines, and can't find anything that says no, but I wonder... does anyone have any recent experience with this? Thanks!

since you asked...

A couple of quick book reviews of my recent acquisitions, for Andrea (since you asked...):

Knitting Rules, well... rules. If you like to knit, if you like to laugh (are there people who fall outside of this category), if you are a person with a crafterly soul, buy this book. It is full of Stephy-good anecdotes, plus some really useful charts and basic widget recipes for hats, scarves, socks, and shawls of all types. And a steady stream of reminders that "there are no knitting police". Some of it is pretty frivolous, but I can enjoy a little frivolity from time to time. One warning: do not read in bed, late at night, with partner who is sleepy. You will laugh, the bed will shake, your partner will get grumpy. Actually, that goes for all of Steph's books.

One Skein is probably not for everyone. I bought it because I like the idea of some suggestions for leftovers, and uses for those precious yarns of which I can only afford one. It's also great for gifts, particularly gifts that you remember you need "next weekend" (how long does it really take to knit up one skein, right???). There are some cute but (relatively) useless things, like cupcakes and candy wrapper sachets, but there are also beautiful patterns for a flower-shaped bib, baby hats, some little clutch purses, plus some nice bath accessories that would take no time and make lovely gifts. The author is really good about giving the yarn weights and gauges, so you can substitute your own leftovers easily, but if you're clever enough to dream up some simple patterns on your own (I'm not quite there yet), you could probably make a lot of this stuff without the book. But it's sweet and inspirational, and I expect I will be sweating over it in late December.

Friday, May 19, 2006

my Secret Pal rocks!!!

This is so exciting. It was a fabulous day. Even the mail-carrier was in a good mood when he came to my door this morning. Actually, I had a really rough night (with about 2.5 hours of sleep... personal life stuff going on), and was feeling really awful when BZZZZZZZZZ. My apartment buzzer. At that hour of the day, it can ONLY be the parcel delivery guy so I dashed to the door and:

I was completely overwhelmed. A beautiful box of beautiful things, all of which I might just as well have chosen myself, because they are EXACTLY what I love.

Dear Secret Pal... or should I say Heather! (from the return address --I'm so glad you have a name now!)
Wow. Wow, wow, wow. I'm am utterly blown away. Your fantastic, amazing, beautiful package just came and I am overwhelmed. It's wonderful. It's perfect. All of it!
The Trekking is as wonderful as people say. The way the colors are plied together like that is fabulous. The colors you selected, it's actually like you were looking into my dresser thinking, hmm... what sort of socks would look best with this girl's wardrobe??? And the sock pattern is such a thoughtful touch, knowing how I am about to gently (yet enthusiastically) approach socks in a few weeks. Your offer of a Kitchener stitch video-tutorial is also amazing (I'll keep you posted!), as was the fleecy-photo on which your note was written. (did you take that? where was it?)
The northern Californian "sustainably harvested domestic birch hardwood" cable needles are absolutely lovely. I had been coveting something similar, and I'm sure they will inspire me (I hope!) to get back at that forlorn cable scarf, begun so long ago.
The Fleece Artist... well, I've scarcely laid eyes on Fleece Artist in these parts, let alone had it in my hands, in my house, and MINE to knit with! It's lovely, and I'll have to select the perfect project for the lovely pinks and purples -- again, such amazing color selection.
The Alpaca Cloud... I don't even know what to say about the alpaca cloud. I love the feel of alpaca, and it's my absolute favorite color. It's a dream to touch, and I don't know how I can possibly knit something worthy of such gorgeous lace weight. Maybe I'll just cuddle it for a while and dream of a pattern I can handle.
Like the dilligent new blogger I am, I took photos which I will publish on my blog as soon as my computer woes clear up some, along with the bulk of this note. (Ed: turns out that my borrowed computer talks to my digital camera without a lot of fuss!)
Thank you for being so generous and so thoughtful. And thanks for the great e-mails we've been exchanging as well. There's something so affirmative about this whole secret pal thing that makes me really happy. People just decide to care about each other from across the country, fill in a questionnaire and treat each other as special people, and random strangers start to become friends. I do feel really special to be included in this, and to have been paired with such a great "pal".
Thank you, thank you, thank you again. You've made my day so much brighter!
big hugs,

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

BBQ! knitting?

I love barbeque season. I love the char, the smell, the sauces, the possibilities. I don't have a barbeque (I have a balcony), but I manage to find friends who do, and who are willing to allow me to come over and 'que with them. But tonight I developed a whole new respect for the possibilities of barbeque tools.

Tonight a met a woman knitting socks on bamboo skewers. She buys the package of 100 for $2 or so, cuts them down to the lengths she wants, then files and sands the tips to her desired "sharpness" (how 'bout that, Grumperina?!). She seeks them out in Canadian Tire, Loblaws, wherever, and even finds various "sizes". If they happen to break, she simply files herself some more. She had 3 (amazing, btw) socks on the go, and the least expensive sock needles you can imagine. And I suppose when the socks are done, you can always cook shrimp.

Now, I'm not sure I'm going to run right out and jump on the bbq bandwagon, but it *is* really rather resourceful. Go Gladys Go!

In other news, expect a FO soon! I started a set of silk sleeves from One Skein tonight, and I need them for a birthday present Saturday night... wish me godspeed. Rowan Kidsilk Haze is heaven, but it's like knitting with cobweb. Still, I'm nearly half through the first, so there's hope.

Friday, May 12, 2006

sock it to me...

I am starting to itch for the summer time. It's my (practically) unemployed season, the time when I can sit on my balcony with a pitcher (of sangria, long island iced tea, margaritas, as the mood strikes...) and knit, with no one to bother me for hours at a stretch. I've already dubbed summer 2006 "summer of socks". I've been wanting to knit socks for a while, have created a nice socky stash, and am going to do it this year.
I like the idea that I can follow a simple formula (the Harlot's basic recipe, for example, but I also like following interesting patterns, browsing through pics of awesome socks. SO... the question is, as inspiration for this plan, what are your favorite sock books???
I already have a SWAK basic sock planner (every gauge, every size, just find the numbers on a chart), and a Spin Off Socks booklet with a few interesting designs (like the twisted rib!), but could use some more ideas. I've been toying with ordering a few different ones:
Socks Socks Socks, is a collection of about 70 winning designs from the Knitters magazine contest. Mainly I'm intrigued by a very cool pair of sideways stitched socks (knit in long rows from toe to ankle and back), and there are some great looking socks, but lots I don't think I would actually make... crazy little barnyard things, and colorwork, which I'm not big on.
Cool Socks Warm Feet, has the very cool Mermaid sock pattern, and a Latvian cuff thing that looks neat, but there are only 6 patterns, and they seem kind of, similar???
Then there's Nancy Bush's Knitting on the Road, which looks awesome, and of which I am truly covetous. But I haven't actually seen most of the patterns, just some of the one's people have blogged about. (I am also waiting my turn for the Vintage Sock one from the library, which I've heard is good, but I'm not usually a Vintage kind of girl.)
There's also this whole circular needle sock thing (Cat Bordhi), but I'm not sure I can imagine getting into that... too fiddly for me???
So, long story short (too late)... does anyone know these books? Are they good? Clear? Inspiring? Or, are there others you like better? Suggestions welcome. (I never did meet a knitter without an opinion!)

Monday, May 08, 2006

the week in review

I've been to Winnipeg and back. I made it to mecca while there... for those of us who aren't Canadian, that's Ram Wools. I had to take a bus-cab combo to get there (and the longest bus ride ever to get to the airport after spending cab-fare on wool), but it was worth it. Walking in I thought I might have a stroke. ::drool:: The first thing I saw was the wall of Rowan, and then I saw the prices (sooooo good), that it was hard to move away from the Rowan wall. I managed to walk through the entire store (I only had about 30 minutes), and chose a few SUPER deals from the clearance wall. YES, they have a clearance wall. And a discontinued colors area. I managed to escape with only some Jo Sharp Mohair and some Gedifra Kid Royal. I was a little restricted by time and luggage limitations, and also by the fact that I still have to pay for the airfare when the Mastercard statement comes in.

I visited my mom this weekend for a birthday gathering (Happy Birthday Richard!!!). And the Michaels where she lives is renovating, so there's quite a sale on. I got some cute, cute wooden buttons (will likely end up on adorable little girl purses at some point). I got some ribbon yarn (that my mom picked out, hinting for a scarf) for next to nothing, and some Lion Brand Thick'n'Quick to make a shrug.

In knitting news, I am NEARLY done my first shrug sleeve. We're talking moments away. Then I have to cast on and do it all again. I can't wait for the second sleeve to be done, because I think knitting up the neck (the home stretch) will be fun.

My computer is still not quite operational (which is why there are no pictures) :(
But I'm told soon... soon...

Last but not least, my copy of One Skein arrived today!!! I haven't opened it yet; must do some work first, or the whole day will be lost to languishing on the couch with knitting and new book. Sounds a bit too good...

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

up close and personal with miss ewe

In a recent interview for Secret Pal 8, miss ewe revealed the following juicy tidbits about her knitting life.

SP8: What is/are your favorite yarn/s to knit with? What fibers do you absolutely *not* like?
ewe: Hmm... I've developed a real taste for merino, but I like lots of things. Natural fibres -- soft wools, alpaca. Blends with mohair and silk are great. I have decided I don't like knitting with "fun" yarns -- eyelash, fun fur, or those slippery polyester chunky types. Knitting is all about the tactile sensation for me, and I just don't like how they feel. I'm not crazy about ribbon knitting because of the way you have to keep untwisting it, but I love the way it looks. And I'd really like to try knitting with bamboo, but I'm waiting for inspiration to strike with the perfect project.

SP8: What do you use to store your needles/hooks in?
ewe: Ungh. Where aren't there needles? I have a plastic crafting drawer thing that my "notions" are supposed to be organized in, but they never are. There are two baskets next to my couch, and then assorted random bits in a knitting bag. The dpns always go back in the sleeve they came in and most of my straights came in a set together and (usually) end up back there after a project. But the worst are circulars, because how ARE you supposed to store them?

SP8: How long have you been knitting? Would you consider your skill level to be beginner, intermediate or advanced?
ewe: I'm an intermediate adventurer and have been knitting for about 3 1/2 years. I'm in the try-out-everything stage. I've knit several each of scarves, hats, mittens, blankets and kids sweaters in all different gauges, fibres and styles, but I'm interested in new techniques right now. I've recently acquired stash for lace and some really nice stuff for my upcoming "summer of socks".

SP8: Do you have an Amazon or other online wish list?
ewe: Unfortunately not. But I do tend to covet things out loud or online.

SP8: What's your favorite scent? (for candles, bath products etc.)
ewe: I love sandalwood, vanilla, cinnamon, bergamot. As a general rule, I'm not into floral or fruity, but I do love citrus scents. Nothing sticky sweet, and mostly more earthy.

SP8: Do you have a sweet tooth? Favorite candy?
ewe: Indeed. I'm a sucker for a good brownie. I love chocolate... the darker the better. Rogers Cremes are possibly the nicest indulgence. Truffles. Mmm, truffles.

SP8: What other crafts or Do-It-Yourself things do you like to do? Do you spin?
ewe: I'm pretty obsessed with knitting right now, but I've dabbled in all sorts of crafts in the past. At the moment I've been making some beaded stitch markers, and generally I'll craft if I need or want something that I think I can make. Then I'm willing to try anything.
I love the idea of spinning, and someday that would be lovely to try, but I just don't have space at the moment, and time is so limited these days that it would only take more time away from knitting.

SP8: What kind of music do you like? Can your computer/stereo play MP3s? (if your buddy wants to make you a CD)
ewe: I'm a professional violinist, so I love Classical music (obviously), but I'm open to lots of different types. Actually, I love getting recommendations based on music I already like. I'm pretty into Sting, Dave Matthews Band, Jack Johnson, Blue Rodeo, Sarah McLachlan, Sarah Harmer. I also really like jazz, and Cuban music has really been growing on me.
My computer is sick right now, and I'm doing this interview from a borrowed computer, but it never much "liked" MP3s, and crashed when I tried to play them. Neither my car nor my stereo read MP3s either...

SP8: What's your favorite color? Or--do you have a color family/season/palette you prefer? Any colors you just can't stand?
ewe: I love everything in the green family, especially sage, and deep greens. I'm also pretty partial to pinks (everything from girly pink to fuschia), and I love orange and purple. I like things bright, although I'm not a big fan of yellow. Proximity to yellows and beiges makes me look jaundiced, so I tend to steer clear of them in general. Black is always good (although it's sooo hard to knit with!), and grey always makes me feel cozy.

SP8: What is your family situation? Do you have any pets?
ewe: I live alone (but I have a boyfriend around the corner), and have a very cool black kitty named Fritz (you can see Fritz causing trouble a few posts back). My Mom lives a few hours away and is also a devoted crafter (although rug-hooking is her poison), and my brother lives in the Northwest Territories.

SP8: Do you wear scarves, hats, mittens or ponchos?
ewe: This is Canada. Big giant YES on scarves, hats, mittens. But a big giant NO on ponchos. Ponchos make me look like an ugly doily-covered box. Shame on ponchos.

SP8: What is/are your favorite item/s to knit?
ewe: I'm not sure about that. Up to this point I've mostly knit gifts, so I guess I'm usually considering the recipient and occasion rather than what I want to make. I'm still experimenting, but so far I think kids' sweaters have been my favorite... they're small and manageable to complete, but the satisfaction of creating a three dimensional garment out of a ball of string has been hard to beat. I suspect socks will hold a similar thrill this summer.

SP8: What are you knitting right now?
ewe: My primary project is the Turtleneck Shrug from Scarf Style. I've got improv arm-warmers going, and a few scarves, including a cabled project begun too long ago to contemplate. I'm also about to start a cute hooded baby sweater for my boyfriend's upcoming niece!

SP8: Do you like to receive handmade gifts?
ewe: Yes!!! 'nuff said.

SP8: Do you prefer straight or circular needles? Bamboo, aluminum, plastic?
ewe: Depends on the project. I love Addi Turbos, and would choose circular needles over dpns most of the time, but it really just depends. I've only ever used metal and plastic needles -- oh and once I was convinced to buy those squishy wobbly flexible needles... never again! -- but I've recently picked up a pair of bamboos to try them out. I'm afraid to break them! Also, I've got a needle in my mouth perpetually as I work, so I think those casein ones are out for me. I'd love to try rosewood or something a little different like that!

SP8: Do you own a yarn winder and/or swift?
ewe: I have an old winder (recovered from someone's basement) but no swift. Feet can make a surprisingly good skein holder. (Necessity is the mother of invention. And inventiveness.)

SP8: How did you learn to knit?
ewe: When I was a little kid, we always had crafty things going. Remember spool knitting??? I must have created miles of that stuff. I have a vague recollection of being taught actual knitting by my mom, and a distinct recollection of the yarn: soft, variegated purpley-pink. I was going to knit Barbie a bedspread. I think I enjoyed it so much that one of my teddy bears got a scarf and Barbie's bed was cold. Then it was over, and I don't know why I didn't do anything else with it.
A few years ago I got a hankering for it, I have no idea why. I think some part of me really wanted to knit my at-the-time-boyfriend a scarf or something. (He eventually moved to Texas and had no further use for either me or the scarf. Oh, the irony.) When I mentioned it to my mom in passing, she leapt into action. I got Debbie Bliss's How To Knit and a set of several pairs of straight needles for Christmas. I signed up for a class, then had such a bad experience with the rude woman at the store that I quit the class 10 minutes in, got a refund, and went home to teach myself. And have been ever since. Every so often I'll go to a drop-in class in town to get some help if something in a pattern doesn't make sense to me, but I'm a pretty independent sort, and I've figured it all out, trial and error, with the help of Debbie Bliss.

SP8: How old is your oldest UFO?
ewe: I was just talking about this a few posts ago. 3 years. Cabled scarf in sock yarn. First time knitting cables, first time knitting such "small" yarn. Way too new a knitter at the time to do that for 6 feet.

SP8: What is your favorite holiday?
ewe: Christmas, undoubtedly. Holiday baking, perfect cold season for knitted things, and you're supposed to give presents to the people you love. It's ideal!

SP8: Is there anything that you collect?
ewe: Stash would indicate I collect yarn that may or may not ever get knitted. Book shelf would display that knitting mags and books are also collecting at an alarming rate. (Inspiration). I also seem to have an inordinate number of cookie cutters in interesting shapes, but (and maybe this is a bad sign...) I wouldn't consider that a "collection". Other than that, NO. I'm trying (somewhat unsuccessfully) to have less "stuff" around. I'm a bookworm (fiction too) and a knitter, but I don't like nick-nacks.

SP8: Any books, yarns, needles or patterns out there you are dying to get your hands on? What knitting magazine subscriptions do you have?
ewe: This is a tough question to answer. There are always new things I'd love to have, but I tend to obsess over them for a while, save up a bit, then just go for it (since I know the only person who's really going to treat me is usually me!). I keep hearing people talk about Opal painted sock yarn, but I've not been able to find it anywhere yet. I'd also like to get my hands on some of that beautiful Trekking that the Harlot has been using. And I think those Go-Knit pouches are pretty fab too, especially if I ever get back to a city with a subway!
As for knitting magazines, I "manually" subscribe to Vogue Knitting and Interweave Knits, which means I buy every issue the moment it's on the shelf. I have thought about getting an actual subscription, but in Canada it's not much cheaper to do that, and the mailman has a bad habit of crushing my magazines! (I don't mind that with Macleans, but VK/IK??? No way!)

SP8: Are there any new techniques you'd like to learn?
ewe: YES! Every new technique! I am poised on the edge of my first lace project, and of course there's the sock thing, so Kitchener stitch is on deck. I'm thinking of trying out Entrelac sometime soon, but it doesn't seem complicated so I'm not worried. Actually, what I'd like to get a handle on are a zillion different cast-on methods, and what they're best for. I just got an old Montse Stanley guide out of the library, so that's been a good reference for everything! At the moment (I'm embarrassed to say!) I'm a one-trick pony with the cast-on. I'd like to get better at colorwork too, but I tend to prefer less fussy knitting... I'll do anything with one strand, but dragging something else along the back always feels like a pain. That said, this two-handed knitting that people talk about sounds interesting, but I'm not convinced I'm that co-ordinated! I can't even conceptualize it at the moment.

SP8: Are you a sock knitter? What are your foot measurements?
ewe: I'm soon to be a sock knitter! They're my planned-portable-projects for the summer. No heavy wool sitting on your lap! I have a pretty average size 7 foot.

SP8: When is your birthday? (mm/dd)
ewe: (Ed: a tech-savvy friend who is obviously more intelligent than me pointed out that given how many password type things are reset or tested based on your birthday, perhaps I shouldn't have put my date AND age here for all the world... I'm a Virgo; that's late August to mid-September . If for some reason you want to know exactly when, e-mail me and I can tell you. The world is a wacky place. Sigh.)

SP8: Thanks, miss ewe. We've all learned a lot about you today!
ewe: My pleasure, Secret Pal. I can't wait to get started!