Archive for November, 2013

I just want to take a couple of minutes to congratulate Linda Benne for being crowned North America’s fastest knitter yet again. For ten years now Linda has been holding the crown and it doesn’t look like she’s going to relinquish it any time soon. Linda is also the owner of Linda’s Craftique here in Mississauga. I have been to her store which is crammed full of all kinds of yarn and accessories (well, duh, it is a yarn store after all) a few times and each time she has been amazingly helpful and knowledgeable. My stash is jealous. Anyway, if you live in the neighbourhood please drop by and congratulate her on her accomplishment. It’s awe-inspiring to know that she can knit 253 stitches in 3 minutes. Interesting fact, if you look in the video at the way she holds her yarn it is exactly the same way I hold mine. I don’t hold my needles that way and I certainly don’t knit as fast as she does but it kind of blew my mind seeing it.

Today is Friday and it was supposed to be the day I hit the yarn store for a few balls of Noro Silk Garden to knit my daughter a pair of handwarmers, a hat and scarf with. I might make her a warm headband for the days when you don’t really need a hat but still want something to keep your ears warm. Haven’t decided about that yet. Anyway, what ended up happening is that I sat here waiting for a call back from the vet. My cat, Taang!, is having a few issues with his digestive tract and before I adjusted his meds I wanted confirmation from the doctor that is was all right to do so. I don’t want him back in the hospital. It’s way too expensive just before Christmas. So instead of buying yarn I decided to surf the web for some interesting projects.

Yes, yes I know what I said yesterday. I know I have fourteen thousand projects to finish before Christmas but look at this.

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Isn’t it pretty? Guess what I did. I totally convinced myself to knit it and I totally convinced myself that I would have it finished in time for my staff Christmas party in nineteen days. And I convinced myself that while I’m working on it I will also be able to work on these other projects. You see, when I get tired, or sore, of knitting one project I can pick up one of the others as a change of pace. I’m pretty sure I can knit at least three things at a time. After all I usually have two or three books going at once. How different can it be. I figure if I pick a TV show for each project and only knit during that show I should be able to get most things done and the one’s I don’t aren’t worth worrying about. I hope…pretty sure that’s true…listen, denial is my only friend. If I didn’t have self-delusion nothing would get done around here.

The only wrench in the works is the sweater that I want to knit for my youngest daughter for her present at Christmas. A whole sweater takes a lot of time unless you are Linda Benne, then it would take a weekend, but I’m not her and I have limitations such as making sure the cat gets his meds on time, making sure the dog gets his walks, making sure there is food in the cupboards, making sure that the dust bunnies don’t get too out of hand, making sure I get some kind of sleep, and making sure I make it to work on time. Some of those things are important. So in light of all of that and the fact that it is a present, I’m going to have to make sure that it gets done. And without her knowing. So that means knitting when she is in bed. Which means I will have about two hours a night to work on it. And about 24 days to do it in. Which, once the dust settles, totals about 48 hours of work. So if I don’t sleep for two days, don’t eat, and don’t pee I have nothing to worry about. Totally doable. *ahem*

While I was searching for yarn the other day I came across a pattern for the Bloody Stupid Johnson hat. I had forgotten I had this pattern. I had knit it for my youngest daughter last year but it was too big for her so I frogged it and put it aside for reworking and then promptly forgot about it. This is a very interesting hat to knit and works up really quickly so I think I can probably give her this for Christmas with a promise of the sweater. And if I put the sweater on needles and get most of it done, it will shame me into finishing it. I hope. I have a sweater I knit three years ago in a bag still waiting to be blocked and sewn up and the button band/collar worked. I think I’ll finish it and give it to her for Christmas with the promise that I will knit her other sweater for New Years. Possibly.

That nice lacy sweater in the picture above looks simple enough. It’s done in one piece, my favourite kind of design, and the pattern is a pretty simple wave. It shouldn’t be too hard to remember. And it’s worsted weight knit on large needles so that is usually a fast knit. There is a crochet edge and I have a nice bit of silk yarn for that so I’ve pretty much got it all figured out. Except the dress that I’m wearing to the party is a dark teal and I can’t decide if I want to knit this sweater in cranberry or a dark teal yarn that almost matches the dress precisely. So do I go with matchy-matchy or with something a little more Christmasey. Or I might try seeing what it would be like in a fingering weight yarn. It would certainly be a much more open style and the edge would probably need something firm to keep it from distorting but I like the idea. I have some white Rowan kidsilk haze that would be very pretty done in this pattern. Maybe if I double up the kidsilk to give it a bit more body…Hmmm…I have four balls of the kidsilk which means I have 836m, the pattern calls for three balls of Vivaldi @ 280m each which means they want 840m. I think I can squeak by. They usually over-estimate yardage, don’t they? Sure they do.

Well, if the kidsilk doesn’t work out I do have other alternatives. I have a large quantity of Knit Picks Gloss that I can pick through. I know I have a cranberry colour and a green and a black but not sure how they will look with the dress. I guess I’ll have to try them and see. The other colours wouldn’t go really, they are mostly in blues that don’t work with the teal. Those ones I already tried with the dress when I was looking for yarn for something else. Look, I may have trouble making up my mind but once I know what I’m doing I do it. So this will get done. I hope.

The great thing about having kids is that you can get them to do things that you don’t have time for. I can get my kids to do all the baking that needs to get done, make dinners, walk the dog, vacuum, and just generally be a slave big help while I do all this knitting. And if I tell them it’s their Christmas present I’m working on they will leave me alone…for the most part. The cats on the other hand…but then all I have to do is shut the door. So with only 24 days left to plan, knit, bake, clean, wrap, buy, sort, block, stitch, freeze, cook…and I don’t even really celebrate Christmas. But I have friends and relatives who do and they are important to me so there are certain expectations that have to be met. So with a lot of love and just a tinge of panic I will be knitting my little heart out until I hear on the roof the prancing and pawing of each little hoof…

After posting yesterday about my stash, I decided that I would sort out my sock yarn to see how much I really had. It’s a sad, sad, sad state of affairs when your sock yarn out numbers the money in your bank account. True story.

I also decided that I would get busy and finish the socks I have on the needles. The one pair are a simple toe-up knit 3 purl 2 rib with a single rib cuff and really don’t take long at all to knit. And the other pair are a toe-up in a box stitch pattern and don’t take long to knit. I figured out the reason I didn’t finish that pair is because I was trying to figure out which heel would be best suited for that pattern.

Considering how small socks are it’s amazing how many options you have to knit them. My go-to is a toe-up sock because I like trying them on as I knit. The other advantage is that you can see how the thing is going to look on the foot so if you have a complicated pattern in mind it’s good to be able to see if it will work or if it will be uncomfortable. Also some patterns, like cables, pull the pattern in so you need to add stitches to accommodate for the loss in width. If you don’t do that you can end up with a sock that is too tight and the cables end up stretched out. Not a pretty sight. I also like toe-ups because I’m lazy and I don’t like taking the time to kitchener stitch the ends together. Yes, I am that lazy.

My go-to heel is usually the wrap and turn heel (Knitty.com has a very good article on socks and discusses various heel options). I like the way it fits my foot and I find it a quick way of turning the heel. I also find it easier to remember. However, if I’m using a dark sock yarn then I go with a flapped heel because trying to see those wraps on a dark yarn with bad eyes is a lesson in frustration. And since I have enough frustrations and knitting is supposed to be relaxing I say forget that crap and go for simplicity.

So I’ve had a really productive day. I got one pair of socks finished and off the needles, blocking on the floor in the family room (heated floors are wonderful for blocking knits) which by now are either being sat on by a cat, dragged around the floor by a cat, or bunched up in the towel against the wall by a cat. Heated floors may be great for blocking knits. Cats? Not so much. I don’t mind the hair, I figure it makes them warmer but I do like to have the knits that I took the time to lay out on the floor to look like someone cared for them instead of like they were used to mop spills. I generally don’t pin socks for blocking and if I have a bigger piece(s) that I need pins for I put it up on the wide bookshelves we have. Cats don’t like pins and I don’t like vet bills so I think it’s best to keep the two separated.

The sock stash filled two bins. One bin full of Patons Kroy and the other bin is full of misc. sock yarn of various wools and cottons. Well, I did say that Kroy is my favourite sock yarn, didn’t I? And this is my favourite colourway. It knits up into a nice striped pattern of red/brown/grey that I find very appealing. It may not be exciting but I like it. But I like red in all its glory and variations so anything that has a bit of red in it generally gets my attention.

This is my one of my current favourite knitting books on socks. This is my other favourite. I love the Finnish Paivatar Socks in the Knitting Socks from Around the World. I love the colour work and the toe and heel details. I would never knit them in white. Around my house socks that start out white end up grey in no time. We have a dog and that means the floors are sometimes not as clean as they should be so white socks are worn rarely around here. And I love just about every pattern in Around the World in Knitted Socks. You do have to have experience in knitting socks in order to follow these patterns, though. Stephanie Van Der Linden includes basic instructions with clear pictures at the back of the book which is very welcome.

One of the best sources for good solid knitting patterns is my perennial favourite, the local thrift store. You can usually find old Patons Beehive booklets for next to nothing. Some that I have found are long out of print and those that aren’t, well, you can’t beat the price. My favourite of these is the Socks, Mitts and Gloves for Children booklet. It has good basic patterns that are easily modified to make something truly unique. I also like this book for the same reason, simple basic patterns that you can customize anyway you like.

I knit socks in fits and spurts. When fall rolls around and the leaves start turning I start feeling the itch to have warm feet. Warm feet for me is a pair of comfy hand-knit socks. So out come the needles, I prefer double points although I have certainly used the magic loop method, and on goes the TV and any night of the week you will find me watching the new crop of shows while socks come flying off the needles. This fall I have been knitting to: Sean Saves the World; The Crazy Ones; Mom; Game of Thrones (not technically a new show this fall but a new to me show and has there ever been a better written, and acted, character than Tyrion Lannister?); The Blacklist, and Agents of S.H.E.I.L.D. I have to say that I knit a lot slower during Game of Thrones. And it may be because my little heart goes pitty-pat whenever Peter Dinklage is on-screen. What a great actor! If anyone was going to make me end my fake marriage to George Clooney it would be Peter Dinklage.

Today the Yarn Harlot had the audacity to mention these verboten words “about 27 days to knit”. I don’t know what she was thinking because if anything is going to put a jinx on Christmas knitting it is the acknowledgement that there are only a finite number of days left to accomplish it in. I have approximately ten pairs of socks to knit. On average if I forgo eating and insert a caffeine drip, I can churn out a pair of socks in a little over two days. Maybe two days if I wear Depends so I don’t have to take time out to go to the bathroom. Eww, I just reread that. That sounds so gross! Anyway you look at it there is no way I am going to get all those socks done and the handwarmers for my daughter and a sweater for my other daughter and a couple of hats for some people I know and I think I want to knit a shoulder wrap for my upcoming Christmas party. Don’t you roll your eyes at me. I know I still have to finish the sweater I started for last weeks Christmas party. And I also know I have twenty days to find a pattern, find the yarn, find the needles, and find the time to sit down and knit a lace shawl. *sigh*

Why do I think I can knit faster than I actually can? Knitters optimism? Pride? Denial? Have I overdosed on lanolin causing me to have delusions of grandeur? I really need a time turner like Hermione had in Harry Potter. Or maybe if I could find a radioactive sheep and if it bit me I would gain super knitting powers. Or would that just make me sprout glow-in-the-dark wool from the top of my head?

Today I thought I would sort out my stash before I headed to the yarn store to pick up the Noro I need. *ahem* I also thought I just might have a ball stashed somewhere but that turned out to be a negative. I couldn’t even find the remnants of the ball I had used to make the handwarmers my daughter lost. Lost, I tell you. That is no way to treat a pair of hand-knit mitts. Poor things. Dropped on a cold sidewalk near the Christie Pits in Toronto. Abandoned in the dark, lonely city. I hope someone found them and is enjoying their warmth.

I started with the boxes of yarn I had in our home office/sewing room. There are about eight boxes of various sizes here. I put them here because they were the yarns that I had projects for and I thought if they were close by I would be able to just go from one project to the next. The problem with that is that I am me and not someone who is, you know, organized so I just put them in boxes without labelling them and without any indication of what project they were for. So there am I surrounded by yarn, hopelessly trying to remember what it was for. In these situations husbands/partners/children/MIL’s/neighbours are completely useless. I fail to understand how those closest to me could tell me, with a straight face no less, that I had not informed them about what that yarn was to be used for. And then for my husband to tell me that I should have put a picture of the project in the box…

I decided, since I couldn’t remember what it was for, that it was now free yarn and therefore available to make whatever I wanted from it. But before I did that I thought it would be a good idea to gather all the balls of the same yarn together to see how much I had. So that started a search through the house for all the errant balls that I had put aside to do some test knitting with. What I didn’t expect to find was about 12 bags of various sock yarns that I absolutely do not remember buying. Some of it was gifted to me, that I remember, but I really don’t remember buying so much of the Fleece Artist BFL sock yarn. I seem to have acquired 1 ball of the Red Fox colourway, 1 ball of the Cosmic Dawn colourway, 1 ball of Frozen Ocean, 1 ball of Puffin, and 1 ball of Spruce. I know nothing about this yarn, I have never knit with it, it’s not my usual sock yarn but there it is in my stash. Someone is going to get some nice socks for Christmas, I think.

The problem with a stash is that it’s kind of like a Tardis, it’s bigger on the inside. The more I dug out of it the more there seemed to be hiding behind things, in cupboards, in knitting bags, in storage bins, and in reusable grocery store bags. I even found a sweaters worth of some garish yellow Caron Sheep(ish) yarn. There is nothing wrong with this yarn. It’s perfectly good yarn but yellow? Seriously? On me? That colour would make me look like I’d been at sea too long. I don’t know what I was thinking.

I also found some balls of Red Heart Eco-Ways Bamboo/Wool yarn – four balls of Peacock and four balls of a red colour – some balls of Stitch Nation Bamboo Ewe in various colours, and some balls of Loops & Threads Luxury Sock yarn in various colourways. Now I know what you are thinking and you are right. I am boycotting Michael’s and Michael’s sells these yarns and Loops & Threads is their exclusive yarn and I’m a bloody hypocrite for going there and buying that stuff. But wait! This is stuff I picked up on sale before they pissed me off. I think the sock yarn is self-evident but what the other yarns were for I haven’t a clue.

Then I have a box of Paton’s Classic Merino Wool, a box of miscellaneous cotton, a box of Sirdar yarns from when a yarn store went out of business, a box of Knit Picks Alpaca Cloud; a box of Knit Picks Wool of the Andes; a bag of Rowan Kidsilk Haze; a couple of skeins of some really nice merino that has no label on it in pink which is a colour I would never wear so I can only assume they were for someone else; two skeins of the same yarn in purple; a couple of skeins of some mohair/wool yarn I picked up at the Royal Winter Fair a few years ago; four skeins of some llama wool I picked up at the Royal Winter Fair; some recycled cotton/linen yarn I got from the thrift store; a couple of thrift store sweaters made of some beautiful silk/angora blend that I intend to repurpose; about 24 balls of Kroy sock yarn (don’t judge me); a sweaters worth of Knit Picks Gloss; a couple of bags of Knit Picks Andean Treasure; a sweaters worth of Jo Sharps Silk Road in the Highland colourway…

Lots and lots of wool. Wool everywhere and it doesn’t end there. I found in the deep, dark recesses of the basement a bin full of acrylic yarn from when my kids were small. I used to make them sweaters from it because they would wear them everyday if they could and acrylic really can take that kind of abuse. So I found about six skeins of some kind of Knit and Save “mohair” and a lot of Astra. Then there is the box of tapestry yarn that I put away when I couldn’t get the size of tapestry fabric I needed to complete a project I was working on. And then there is the cotton crochet thread I use for summer socks, not the really fine thread, about a medium weight. And a box of White Buffalo pure virgin wool. And some skeins of some sort of wool that still has the lanolin in that I think I was going to use to make a waterproof sweater for my dog.

And it doesn’t end there. I still have to go through the closet in the bedroom and a cupboard in the family room. I’m afraid to do that because I have the sneaky suspicion I will find more than just wool hoarded in there. I have a feeling that there are shoes in that cupboard. And I don’t want to think about them. If I have to deal with boxes of shoes then I’m going to have to admit I also have a shoe addiction and since I already admitted to a yarn addiction some people will be thinking that I am right bonkers and then I would have to admit they have a point and I would have to do something about it. And if I am forced to deal with my yarn and shoe addictions, is my make-up addiction far behind? And what about my addiction to books? And magazines? Good grief, people, is nothing sacred?

The end result in this whole foray into the black hole of my stash is that I crammed it all back where it came from, half-heartedly put labels on the outside of the bins, kissed some of it longingly and promised that I would make something of it one day, and pretended it was a lot smaller than it is. If I don’t then I won’t be able to justify what is surely going to happen on Friday when I head out to the Wool bin looking for one, maybe two, or three balls of Noro Silk Garden.

If you happen to be in Oakville on Friday and you see a red Hyundai Elantra careening down the road filled with yarn and a small red-headed woman driving, please be good enough not to point and laugh. I would really hate to have to run you off the road.

This trying to write a blog post every day for a month is hard. As you can see I think I’m a bit late with this one. It is already Nov. 27 so this should be Day 27 not 26ish but I’m holding onto the ish because my clock read 12:03 when I started it. So tomorrow/today I’ll be back on track.

Coming up with something to write about isn’t easy, even though I have said that I have a overactive good imagination. And that part is true. The part that’s difficult is the actual sitting down to write. Life is busy-ness, you know. Even if all you do all day is sit and watch television, it takes up time to do that. Time that could be used to do other things. But since I knit, if I’m watching TV I’m already doing one other thing. I’m knitting. And that takes a lot of time.

A sweater is impossible to make in a day, just as Rome wasn’t built in a day. I think the fastest I’ve ever made a sweater and this was knitting almost non-stop – just potty, tea, and food breaks – was three days. But that is a marathon I don’t wish to repeat. It’s funny how far away a deadline is until it looms over you. I had three months to make that sweater but I procrastinated until I looked at the calendar and freaked out. The biggest problem in making a sweater in three days is that you over-estimate your abilities over and over again. “Oh, I’ve got lots of time. I’ve knit a sweater in three days.” But you forget that sleeping became an option.

That sweater was a birthday present a friend wanted to give to his mother so he commissioned me to make it for him. And, no, it wasn’t just a plain old stocking knit cardigan, it was a Fair Isle yoked sweater like these. Yeah. You can imagine the panic that set in when I got the call from Peter asking if his sweater would be finished on time. “Oh, yeah, no problem. I’m almost done.” I lied through my teeth as any good procrastinator has done. Then I drove like a maniac to the yarn store, bought the yarn and pretty much did nothing but knit for the whole three days. My cats were wondering if they would have to feed themselves. However his mother loved it but it almost killed me. I certainly almost killed anyone who came near me. But I was paid handsomely for it so it was a win/win.

For the knit Olympics a couple of years ago I took on the challenge of knitting a sweater in 14 days. I chose the Whisper cardigan because I thought it would be a true challenge in the spirit of the games. Knitting a sweater with all that ribbing and stocking knit in a small gauge was something I thought would take me a while. Nope, I was done in about ten days and that was leisurely knitting. The problem with that sweater was I enjoyed knitting it so I was happy to knit along on it for hours at a time. And because it really was simple construction it wasn’t as much of a challenge as I thought.

I’m trying to pick out a sweater to do for next years Olympics in Sochi, Japan. This time I’m thinking I want to do something with cables or a cable-like design so I was pleased to get the new Twist Collective Winter ezine in my email today. In perusing it I found quite a few things I wouldn’t mind knitting and I may just do several small items instead of a whole sweater. For instance, I love these mittens (and I love the name, Pixie Farts. Hahahaha). I think these would be interesting to knit and also fun to wear. And I love the colour scheme.

I also love these mittens. Moggies is a name my Mum used to use all the time for a cat. Having owned or having been owned,depending on your perspective, cats all my life, I appreciate the work that went into designing these. I think I would have to knit the cats in orange and white in honour of my boys. And it might even be fun to try to make one a tortoiseshell. So cute and so many possibilities for colour combinations. Love it!

The winter collection at Twist Collection has a lot going for it. There are many amazing patterns. Of course, this happens to be one of my favourite websites when I’m looking for a pattern so I’m a teeny bit biased. I haven’t bought a pattern from them yet due to budgetary considerations and I’m trying to work through all the patterns I have in my queue before I buy any new ones but that may change this time around. There are so many delicious looking designs and a lot of patterns that anyone could wear and look great in. Things like this, this, and this. Nice sweaters with interesting designs, although someone like me who has a bigger…um…derierre might not want all those cables marching across the back of their sweater as shown on the second sweater. Still it’s quite beautiful.

I think I want to make some of the accessories for my kids for Christmas. I had already planned on making them things and was looking around for an interesting hat pattern. I think this one will fit the bill quite nicely. I think my eldest daughter will really like that hat just as I’m sure my youngest daughter will love this hoodie. In fact I think I would like to knit that for the next knit Olympics. It looks challenging enough and maybe with a bit of luck, I could crank it out in 14 days. Not sure with the hood how fast it would go, although it is a worsted weight so it should knit up pretty quickly. But then there is the pretty cable pattern up the front and around the top of the hood…Ah, what the heck, I think I’ll do it.

My other favourite website for patterns is Knitty.com. I’m sure there are a lot of people who are familiar with it. I just love this hat from their early fall collection. I love the fact it is done all in garter stitch but still manages to be interesting and fun. Face it an all garter stitch garment can look a little uninteresting at times but this hat is just perfect. I love the squared off top and the pointed brim. Adding some really funky buttons would just put it over the top for me. Of course, I would be tempted add a pompom but I do think that would be a bit too much. After all, I love the simplicity of it all.

I love this sweater, too, although I couldn’t wear it. Something about all those horizontal stripes especially across the bust makes me think that I wouldn’t really do that sweater justice. I think people would look at me and wonder what I was thinking. But for someone slimmer, like my daughters, I think this is a stunner.

I had thought I had this Christmas thing all sorted out for this year. I knew what I was going to make and approximately how long each item would take, give or take. I had it all scheduled and spreadsheeted out and colour coded and marked with highlighter and everything and now I can see I totally have to change things around. This is going to take some time. A spreadsheet isn’t made in a day. Ok, for some people it is but I’m not one of them. Doesn’t help that I don’t really understand them nor do I use them a lot but this time I thought I needed a better organizational system than a sticky note on a box of yarn.

I had also thought that all I needed from the yarn store was a couple of balls of Noro Silk Garden to make my daughter a pair of handwarmers and, maybe, a hat to go with them. So already, as detailed in this post, my yarn addiction is starting to get out of control. I mean, I will get the Noro…probably…maybe…if I don’t get too high on lanolin fumes and forget it during the wool frenzy. Wool frenzy is kind of like a shark feeding frenzy with less blood…well, maybe with less blood but certainly with no water and no one gets hurt…possibly. That last time wasn’t my fault.

What I am going to have to do is write out a list of the yarns needed to make some of these things, that is after I sort out which items I want to make. Then I’m going to have to give myself a strict talking to about buying yarn responsibly. I’m going to have to look at my face in the mirror and remind myself about the fact that my bank account is looking a little famished and that food, especially dog and cat food, is something that you really cannot do without. Food and lodging. Kind of need those things. I’m sure I could knit myself a house but it might be a little chilly on these cold Canadian winter nights. And I could knit some food-like items but they wouldn’t be very tasty. Food vs 100% cashmere…Well there is always Kraft Dinner…

I really admire anyone who can design a knit sweater. It takes a special person to be able to go from a mere idea in their head to a finished product that appeals to a broad variety of people. That’s no easy task. It’s something I am incapable of. I can modify the heck out of a design, I can knit without a pattern any number of socks, or hats, or scarves, or mittens/gloves, or cowls, or blankets, or dish towels…anything simple like that I’m your woman. But please don’t ask me to design a sweater.

I thought, and still do, that I should take the Masters Knitter Program from the Knitting Guild Association because I thought it would teach me things that I’ve been reluctant to try, improve the things that I already do well, and provide me with the confidence to try to design my own patterns. I truly believe from the bottom of my heart that no matter how much you think you know about knitting there is always something else to learn. So even though I’ve been knitting since childhood and there really is nothing I haven’t knit at one time or another (yes, I have even knit underwear – it’s very cozy in the winter by the way) I have never designed a garment.

I understand all the mechanics of design. I understand what goes into making a good design. I have all sorts of books about design, fashion, patterns (as in patterns in nature or art), and garment making. I understand all about Elizabeth Zimmerman’s percentage system. I understand the importance of properly placed waist shaping and the importance of choosing the right elements such as raglan sleeves or set-ins, top down or bottom up, and where you want a design element to fall. I understand how to design, I just can’t do it.

If you asked me to write a novel about a short person and a giant who meet and fall in love and all the challenges they face, my question would be when do you want it. I have no lack of imagination (some people say I have too much imagination) when it comes to writing. And I can visualize a design for a sweater in my head, but there is something about the way that image translates from my brain to paper that it falls off the rails and ends up looking like a Picasso or Wassily Kandinsky painting. By the way, this is the time when you really don’t want to skip the gauge swatch and I never, ever do. If I’m trying to design something or adding an element to an existing design I swatch like the devil. I also make a mock-up of the sweater to see what it looks like which is how I know I can’t design.

As a complete aside, I swear one day, maybe after taking the Masters class, I am going to make myself a sweater with a Kandinsky design on it (shhh, don’t let the copyright people know, I don’t want them telling me I can’t do it). I love his paintings, they are so musical which isn’t surprising considering he suffered from synethesia. In his case it expressed itself as the ability to hear music when he painted. His paintings resonate deep within me and I find comfort and peace when looking at them. Perhaps it’s because I hear the music when I see the painting.

In one of my many forays to the world of thrift store shopping I found an ancient copy of The Sweater Workshop by Jacqueline Fee by Interweave Press circa 1983. I know! I think I paid $1.99 for it. I know! I’ve been slowly working my way through it and have been finding it immensely interesting even if I somehow mess up even these clear instructions. I think it’s the same problem with a lot of the things I do, I over-think the problem. I also am overly ambitious. I always think that I want something I’ve seen on a runway somewhere but these things very rarely translate into everyday wear. And this is how I end up feeling like I’m in an episode of I Love Lucy where she tries to save money by making her own clothes only to make a complete mess of it.

Maybe it’s the math thing again. I mean, I am a competent mathematician. I’m not great at it, after all I dropped out of math class in Grade 9, but I’ve found the beauty in it and don’t run screaming from the room when confronted with a numerical problem. And, really, math is a beautiful language when you learn to speak it properly. I have a friend who is a mathematician and the rhythm in the way he expresses his love of math is very…exciting. But, for me, wires must be crossing somewhere, I mean, I’m able to figure out how many stitches to cast on, what pattern to use, how many inches to knit but I’m not able to chart it out in any meaningful way that results in something that anyone would want to wear. I just don’t have a designers eye.

I admire people who have that artistic ability. The ability to see a pattern and know how to make it work in a fabric. I can’t draw worth beans which is probably why I can’t come up with a sketch that looks like a sweater. It usually looks like two sweaters that I mashed together. The right side of my drawing never matches the left. Not that I suppose that’s a big problem, that’s what graph paper is for right? But it’s that artistic eye, the ability to see colour in a pattern in a way that is visually pleasing that I just don’t have.

I once went to a meet-up with some other knitterly people and was appalled to find out that one of the women was in the habit of copying other people’s designs and selling them as her own. She would also use patterns she bought off the internet or out of magazines, make the item and then sell it. I mentioned how unethical it was and how illegal it was but she didn’t care. She seemed to think it was her prerogative since she had already paid for them. It’s a bit like what happens in the music world. People don’t feel guilty ripping off an artist because A) they paid for it and B) the artist in question is probably rich or the record company is rich. There really aren’t that many designers of knit wear that are rich, I would reckon. I’m sure some make a decent living but making a decent living isn’t the same as rich so it pissed me off that this woman was so inconsiderate of the person who worked hard to make a pattern that people would actually value.

This is a problem, and always has been frankly, with intellectual property. People think that anyone can write a book, pen a blog (ok, not actually pen but type a blog doesn’t have the same ring to it), compose a song, or design a sweater. It isn’t true. I can write but I can’t draw. I can knit but I can’t design. I can follow instructions and even bend them a bit but I can’t write them out so that someone else would be able to follow them. They are different skills. Valuable skills. Skills that are to be envied and paid for.

I would like someday to be able to sit down and open my bank account and see money pouring into it from people I don’t even know but who thought enough of my work that they were willing to pay for it. I think that is a rare privilege that I will probably never enjoy but I can, and do, try my best to pay for the privilege of enjoying someone elses talent, be it music, writing or knitwear design. I might modify a pattern for fit and for my own use but I would never sell it as my own no matter how much I changed it. I did not design it. I did not imagine it in my head, draft a sketch of it, chart out a pattern, test knit it, change the things that didn’t work, knit another test and so on and so on until I have something that I am proud of. The sweater I make from that persons hard work may appear different but it’s like buying a painting and adding one brush stroke of a different colour and then trying to pass it off as your original work. Someone, somewhere will know you are lying.

Last year I made my daughter a pair of handwarmers from a ball of Noro Silk Garden I had hanging around in the Royal colourway. What I was doing with one ball of it I have no idea but it came in handy when my daughter needed something to keep her arthritic hands warm. She loved them but I didn’t. I’m not a fan of Silk Garden although I do like Shiro but that may be because of the high percentage (30%) of cashmere. Generally I find yarns that have a high percentage of silk in them hard to knit. Of course silk doesn’t have the elasticity of wool and my older hands don’t like that. And then there is just the general feel of Silk Garden I don’t like. But that’s just me. My daughter loves the stuff.

The handwarmers I knit her were just a generic recipe, nothing special, just a rib cuff, stocking stitch body and rib cast off. It’s a pattern that’s easy to do and needs no special or complicated calculations. Just knit the cuff until you think it’s long enough, decide what kind of thumb you want (I like the thumb gusset), knit the body until it looks long enough and then end in rib. For the thumb I pick up a few stitches and knit in rib for a bit and then cast off. A simple pattern because Noro doesn’t really need anything more than that to still look spectacular. I really do love the colours if not the yarn itself.

My daughter loved them and wore them for much of the late winter and then this fall. Unfortunately she lost them. She was riding her bike and had tossed them in her bag, threw it on her back and off she went. They stayed behind and she didn’t notice until she got home. When she went back to look for them, someone must have picked them up because they were gone. So now she wants another pair which means I have to go to the yarn store to get one ball of Noro Silk Garden in the Royal colourway.

Did I ever mention I have a problem with yarn? Yeah, I do. There’s something about yarn and me and money that gets all confused and when I’ve sorted it all out I find I have less money and more yarn than I started out with. I just don’t know how that happens. It’s like a spirit whispers in my ear, “Sheila…Sheila…buy the Handmaiden…you don’t need to eat this week…by that Yak yarn…food is over-rated…look at the cashmere…the cat can go hunt mice…” I’ve tried to hum so I don’t hear that little voice, so that I can get to the checkout with my one ball of yarn, but something happens and the next thing I know I’m in the car with a bagful of yarn and an empty bank account. I would say I need help but I’m afraid I’m living in the same world of denial that Rob Ford inhabits. That is, I am not an addict, I do not have a problem, and I don’t need help.

Now where I live we don’t have that many choices in yarn stores. There is a Michael’s close by but they don’t carry Noro and besides I have my own personal reasons for never shopping there again. The store that I go to the most is the Wool-Bin in Oakville. I go there because it is just down the street from my favourite grocery store, Organic Garage. This way I can just nip down there before I get my groceries and I don’t have to make a special trip. The problem with this is its appalling convenience. I think on the way over that I’ll just nip in to look around and see if any new yarn has come in or what they have on sale (they have terrific sales) and the next thing I know I’m sitting in the car inhaling lanolin. Fortunately I haven’t been there in a while because I haven’t had the money but I’m going to have to make a pilgrimage if I want that Noro.

I know, I know, I could just order it off the internet but there are some other things I want to look at while I’m there. I need to make some Christmas presents and, after going through my stash, I am surprisingly short on supplies. I mean I have a lot more yarn than I know what to do with but not a single ball that I want to make Christmas presents from. I know I should just bite the bullet and knit from stash anyway considering my financial situation, or lack thereof, but the thought of holding a fresh new skein that hasn’t been sitting in a bin for months and hasn’t been mauled to death holds the same attraction for me as an unfilled crossword puzzle. Just think of the possibilities!

Yarn and I have this long history of a love/love relationship. I love yarn. Love it, love it, love it. It’s like books. Before you crack the cover, even if you’ve read it before, there are still endless possibilities contained therein. Because you are reading it on a different day, with a different view of the world, the story changes. And the same goes for yarn. Just because I’ve knit hundreds of pairs of socks with Patons Kroy doesn’t mean that this pair are going to be exactly the same as the last. Different day, different time, different perspective. When you look at the cover of the book it’s a mystery what you will learn, or how your life might change and the same when you hold a ball of yarn. The mysteries contained in that length of sheep’s wool are endless…exciting…mind-boggling. And I love it.

So when I go into a yarn store, it’s not just a yarn store, it’s a library of wool. There are many, many stories to be told by that yarn, many mysteries that need unlocking with the simple click of two pointy sticks. And after the yarn is made into an object, its story doesn’t end there because there are the stories that will be made with the person who wears it. History’s to be written by the wearer, memories to be made and remembered each time it is brought out. A sweater isn’t just a sweater, it is a person’s diary, a memoir, a book whose pages are rewritten with each wearing but are never forgotten.

For some people my daughter just lost a pair of handwarmers and I will replace them. But for her she lost a bit of her history, the memories of what she was doing when she wore them. Who she was with, where they went, the fun they had. They kept her hands warm while she and her friends biked around the city, or played kick ball in the park, or went to a bar and listened to some good music. Sure she still has those memories in her mind but after a few years they will fade and slowly be replaced by new memories. The handwarmers would have been a constant reminder of those times whether it was a conscious thought or not. She just may have smiled when she put them on not even aware of the thought of fun times long past. So now with a new pair of handwarmers it’s up to her to write some new pages in her history. And perhaps I should attach a string to them so she doesn’t lose them this time.

I’m knitting a pair of socks. Nothing fancy just knit 3, purl 2 rib with a gusset heel. I’m using my go-to yarn for everyday socks, Patons Kroy Socks, this one in their Burnished Sierra Stripes. This is a very Halloweenish colourway and I started these before Halloween as a gift for my daughter but I put them aside when I decided I needed to knit something for my staff’s Christmas party. That sweater is still in progress. Now there is no pressing need, I’ve turned my focus elsewhere and socks are always needed.

I like Patons Kroy for socks because this yarn wears like iron and I am pretty hard on socks. So is my daughter. She needs warm socks when she walks the dog and these are her favourites as well. She says they are “cozy”. They certainly start off feeling scratchy but once washed they soften considerably. I like to knit socks with a slightly smaller than recommended gauge simply because they turn out so warm that I find I can’t wear them with slippers or I get too hot. And my feet are almost always cold so warm socks are a blessing.

If I want something a little softer or if I’m knitting for someone else then I raid my stash of yarn from Meadowview Alpaca Farm. I love their sock yarn, a blend of alpaca/nylon/merino that is soft and comfortable and warm. After a wash it is even softer and warmer. I get most of this yarn from the Royal Winter Fair that way I know what I’m getting although now that I have had some experience with them I won’t hesitate to order some yarn from them on-line. It’s just finding the money at the moment.

I was going to go to the fair this year with the intent of buying enough of their double-knit, bulky, and worsted yarns to make some gifts. What I like about their yarn is that they name their sources. That is exactly what it says, when you buy the yarn they include the name of the alpaca it came from. I like this idea because if you buy a skein from one alpaca’s fleece and you really like it, you can watch for more and order it. So you could have a whole wardrobe made from the fleeces of one alpaca. How cool is that?

Meadowview Alpaca Farm also sells bedding made from their alpaca fleece. One of these days, I swear I’m going to own one of their alpaca duvets. Can you imagine how warm that would be? I would never want to get out of bed on a cold winter morning. I’m afraid I would become known as the crazy duvet lady because I would wrap myself in it and never take it off. I hate being cold and I drool over the thought of owning something that warm. I have a down duvet but there is something about the thought of wrapping myself in alpaca that gives me the warm, fuzzies.

They also sell kits to make slippers lined with alpaca roving. My toes curl at the thought and not in a bad way. And then you can buy premade socks, hats, scarves, mittens, toys…all from alpaca. And for spinners and quilters they have roving, felt sheets, and quilt batts. And the best thing of all is that for those of us who live in Ontario it’s supporting a home-grown business.

But back to my socks. A funny thing about them. When I was digging around my bag looking for my other ball of yarn so I could finish the second sock, I found another half-finished sock. A sock I don’t even remember casting on. How sad is that? I have no idea how long this poor thing has been languishing in the bottom of my project bag while I crammed all kinds of other projects on top of it. It must have been feeling pretty rejected. And it’s a very pretty sock at that. It’s knit in Kroy FX in the clay colourway and the pattern seems to be just a box stitch so I don’t know why I didn’t finish it. I think maybe I was trying to decide how I wanted to do the heel. That’s probably the reason. At least I’m going with that. I would hate to think I abandoned the poor thing because I found something more interesting to knit.

I do have a problem with socks, though. I tend to knit simple designs even though I would love some of the more complicated ones like Monkey, Kalajoki, or Owlie, for example but it requires too much math to adjust the pattern for my tiny feet. The problem I have is that most socks ask you to cast on too many stitches for me. I like a snug sock and so most of the time I use between 48-56 stitches, depending on needles, yarn and pattern. So for patterns based on a larger number of stitches I have to use real math to figure it out. I can’t be bothered when they are socks and I can just reach for my stitch pattern directory and find something I like that will fit in the limited amount of stitches I have. I mean, really, if I couldn’t whip up a pair of socks after all this time knitting then someone needs to take my needles away from me.

Anyway, back to my Halloween socks which are now Christmas socks and may end up as Valentine socks if I don’t get busy. I am on my second sock and I broke one of my cardinal rules, write down all modifications as you do them so you don’t forget. I can only assume I did not intend to put this sock down at any point so that the mods would be kept fresh in my mind and it wouldn’t matter. That is the only reason why, when I look through my notepad, I can find no mention of the mods I made.

I like the pattern to continue up the back of the heel and around the instep, which worked fine on the first sock but for some strange reason I am having difficulty figuring out just how I did that. It should be simple enough, keeping in pattern I increased at each end of the instep stitches every other round to shape for the gusset. For some unknown reason that I’m not quite sure I understand when I do this I screw it up. Every single time. Perhaps because it’s not complicated I’m over thinking it or perhaps I’m just tired but my poor old brain is just not firing on all cylinders on this one. But I’ll work it out, I’m sure. After all there are still 5 more weeks before Christmas. Lots of time.