Archive for December, 2013

I love my job.  I love the people I work with.  I love the people I work for.  There really isn’t one thing about my job that I don’t love.  You see I work in theater.  My job is to supervise and assist our volunteers in making sure the patrons enter the theater and get to their seats quickly and safely.  I also have to address all customer complaints, seating issues, assist differently abled or disabled patrons to their seats and to make sure they have all their needs met, such as hearing assist devices, back rests or even just room for their wheelchair or scooter.  It’s a wonderful job and very rewarding.  It can also be very exhausting work.

This past weekend I was exceptionally busy and ended up pulling a 9hr. shift on Sat. and then a 4hr. shift yesterday.  These don’t seem like a lot of hours, and admittedly as far as jobs go I have it easy, but a lot of the time is spent running up and down stairs making sure that all entrances to the theater are operating properly, that the ushers have no issues and that I am available to address any customer questions or generally help in any way I can.  I describe my job as one part guidance counsellor, one part hostage negotiator and one part stand-up comedienne.  Humour is a wonderful thing for ensuring patrons enter the theater in a good mood.  It makes everyone’s lives easier.  So anyway, that is one of the reasons for my absence from this blog.

The other reason is Christmas presents.  I’ve been working on a few but mainly on one sweater.  It’s this one from The Knitter (one of my favourite magazines), issue #24.  In the magazine the smocking is highlighted by a contrasting yarn, in their case, a pink.  The version I’m knitting is in a cranberry colour and I intend to highlight the smocking with silver beading.  I’m also extending the rib above the last row of smocking to match that below.  I can deal with some things not being symmetrical but this isn’t one of them.  I’m hoping it will look alright because otherwise I’ll have to take it out and remove the ribbing detail below the smocking otherwise it will drive me crazy.  I can be a bit like Sheldon Cooper sometimes.  One other modification will be to knit the sleeves narrower to make them tighter to the arm.  I’m not a person who likes wide sleeves.  I have enough loose skin flapping around I don’t need a sweater adding to it, otherwise I might take off.

I’ve also been knitting on a cowl.  It’s in the Manos del Uruguay that I talked about here.  It’s just a simple seed stitch rectangle that I will add buttons to.  I think I like the buttoned cowl or neck warmer rather than the kind you pull over your head simply because my hair always looks untidy so I don’t think I need to help it along.  I don’t know why but no matter what I do I always end up looking like I’ve been pulled through a bush backwards, as my mother used to say.  Well, there was the time when I grew it longer but then I had to iron it everyday and that is just way too much work.  Even with smoothing creams and shampoos and relaxers my hair still seems to end up looking like thatch on a roof especially when there’s any moisture in the air.  I guess it doesn’t matter what style I knit it in since it’s not for me but I like to give people things I like but that I know they will like as well.  But I digress.

The cowl is moving along swimmingly because I’m knitting it on size 7mm needles.  I like the fabric I’m getting, it’s a little more dense than it would be if I used a larger needle but since it’s for winter wear, I don’t think that’s a bad thing.  The yarn itself is soft so it won’t be uncomfortable around the neck.  I like the way the variations of colour show up in the seed stitch, it’s almost like a little surprise and it keeps the knitting interesting.

I’ve also got three other things on the needles – one pair of socks, a sweater that I’m making out of some Pingouin Ruban which has been knocking around my stash for a few years now.  I thought I should probably do something with it otherwise it’s just going to languish there forever.  The sweater is a simple top down, buttonless, loose-fitting cardigan.  I’m hoping it will come out all drapey but it’s still too early to tell.  The other sweater still on the needles is the one I was making for a party last month.  Yes, I know but the front is done and blocked and the back is slowly progressing but since the urgency to have it done is gone, I’ve kind of put it on the back burner while I work on things that matter.  Poor thing but I promise it will get completed, when is unclear but it will get done.

So that is the story so far.  I should be able to make some good headway this week as I’m only working tomorrow night and then I’m off until Saturday.  Then I work the weekend and am off again until the following weekend.  That gives me 8-10 solid days of knitting to get it all done.  Piece of cake.  Hmm, I just may have to make one so I can eat it before I die of exhaustion.  I’ll try to get some pictures up this week now that I figured out how to do it.  Now back to the needles.

Soooooo. I know I’ve been a bit remiss in posting but I have been busy. In my defense I’ve had a few things to do, like shopping for wool for prezzies and going to the thrift store because they had women’s clothing half price and how can you resist a bargain like that especially since I found this spring coat, which is right on trend, for $3.00.

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And it looks great!  I just have to lose about 2 kilos (around 5lbs)  and it will fit perfectly.

I also found this 100% wool sweater from the GAP for $2.00.

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The picture doesn’t show the colour of the sweater but the collar and button bands are a deep plum and the body of the sweater a tweedy dark emerald.  It will be a nice warm sweater once winter really starts to blow.  I almost bought a robins egg blue 100% mohair sweater for $1.50 but it wasn’t my colour and the collar came right up under the chin.  I think that would drive me crazy and the previous owner probably would agree.

There really were some great bargains there.  My youngest daughter bought a really nice 100% wool coat for $10.00.  It’s a lovely shade of dark crimson and is double-breasted.  It looks great on her and she was looking for a good coat to wear out instead of her down jacket which is too hot to go walking around the stores in.  She also bought a GAP 100% lambswool cream-coloured sweater for $2.00 that will be really cozy on a cold day.  And, of course, we bought books.  Lots of books.  About 15 books.  But it’s hard to resist when you find interesting books from 1935.

I’ve said before how my kids will take a book as a present over just about anything else so when I told my daughter I would buy her some books as part of her Christmas present she kind of went overboard.  This is what we got:

1.  The Music Story Series – Printed in 1968 this book traces the history of hymnology and carolry from ancient Greece and Rome through to more modern times.  On the way it describes how this type of music gained in popularity and lost popularity through different eras.  It also contains sheet music and lots of examples of poetry that would have been set to music and sung on special occasions.  It’s looks to be very interesting especially to a musicologist like myself.

2.  Canadian Home Gardening – Printed in 1938 this book is exactly what it says.  I find these old gardening books interesting because they had to deal with enriching the soil and dealing with pests in an all natural way.  Also there weren’t the amount of hybrids or imported seed that we see now so it’s a good way to learn about native plants and what type are best for our climate.  Yes, our region is at least 1 degree warmer than what it was in 1935 but it should still give valuable information on the challenges of gardening in Canada.  The chapters are laid out by month so you know exactly what you should be doing and when.  Also any book that has a section called, “December, the Month Of Christmas – and the Annual Slaughter of Trees”  is a keeper.  For my green-thumbed daughter.

3.  The Good Housekeeping Needlecraft Encyclopedia – Printed in 1950 this book is an extensive look at everything to do with needlecraft.  If you can use a needle to do it, it’s in this book.  They even have a section on how to make your own fishing net.  It has everything from simple sewing to tailoring to tufting to net embroidery to rug making and weaving.  I love these old needlecraft, and homemaking, books because they often have tips and techniques that have long since lost favour but are very useful just the same.  After all, who knows when you may need to make a fishing net to catch your own cod fish?   For both my girls.  They both love needlecrafts of all kinds so should find this useful.

4.  Our Witchdoctors are too Weak – This is one I got for my daughter bought because it looks at a pair of missionaries who lived with a remote Amazonian tribe, Wilo, and learned about their language and customs as they try to teach them about God.  Now we are not Christians but it will still be interesting learning about the language and customs of people you never knew existed.  Now, I’m not one to agree with missionaries trying to convert people but there is no doubt that they do good work in any case so I try not to judge.  It looks like this book will be a fun read as the pieces I’ve already read are humourous without losing sight of the incredible difficulties these people face.

5.  Robert Service Biography – Robert Service is my favourite poet.  I love his romantic view of the high north.  I love how he paints the people who live there and I love his sense of humour.  He was also my Dads favourite poet and I still have the books he used to read.  I can still see him sitting in the kitchen chair with a cup of tea in one hand, a cigarette in an ashtray on the table and the book open in his other hand.  I can’t wait to read what motivated this man to want to live in the Yukon.

6. Phantoms in the Brain:  Probing the Mysteries of the Human Mind – Printed in 1998 so a little out of date but still useful in learning about the brain.

7.  Ideas and Opinions – This book is a collection of Albert Einstein’s most popular writings.  So it has his essays about relativity, nuclear war, religion, human rights, economics and the role of government.  I studied his philosophies a bit in university but always wanted to read more by the man.  Interesting fellow with a lot of good things to say.

8.  The Complete Woodsman – Printed in 1974 this book will give you all the information you will ever need to know about living out in the woods of Canada.  You can learn how to make a shelter, rafts, mocassins, bows and arrows, sun goggles, how to start a friction fire, how to navigate by the stars, which plants are safe to eat and which will kill you, and how to pack for travel in the forest.  Good things to know when the apocalypse comes.  Christmas present for dear daughter.

9.  The Workingman in the Nineteenth Century – Printed in 1974 this book is a collection of documents that paint a picture of the life of a workingman.  It talks about the formation of unions, working conditions, living conditions, his health, diet, recreations etc.  A good history lesson on the way ordinary people lived back in the day.  All the information is from books, newspapers and evidence supplied to the Royal Commission on the Relations of Labour and Capital of Canada, so it’s not just anecdotal evidence.  This is another Christmas present for my daughter.

10.  And here we come to a real treasure.  I bought these for my endlessly curious daughter.  This is a collection of five books from 1934, ’35, ’39, ’41, and ’45 entitled Funk and Wagnalls New Standard Year Book.  Along with these we also found and 1931 edition of Funk and Wagnalls New Standard Encyclopedia of Universal Knowledge.  The year books are exactly that.  They are books that chronicled the events and economic changes  that happened in countries around the world during that year.  These are going to be endlessly fascinating, I expect.  Can’t wait to find some time to sit down with one and just read until I pass out or something.  This is a great find for people like us that just love history and are always curious to know what went on before we were born.

These treasures aren’t the only things I bought today.  I also went to a yarn store.  *gulp*  And although I went with the intention of buying a couple of balls of Noro Silk Garden in order to make my oldest daughter a new pair of fingerless gloves to replace those she lost, I didn’t end up buying any.  Apparently she found them at the bottom of her backpack.  But I didn’t learn this until I had already crossed the river Styx and entered into Satan’s lair.  I have no excuse whatsoever for what transpired after I opened that door.  I have very little recall as to how the yarn I am now staring at found its way into the plastic bag that sits at my feet.

Just in case you are wondering, this is what followed me home:

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Three skeins of Manos del Uruguay Wool Clasica in Flame colour #115.  The picture doesn’t really show how vibrant this colour is.  I was thinking of knitting someone a cowl.  Or maybe two someones because that is a lot of yarn.  Approx. 414 yds. of a bulky weight pure wool.  It’s gorgeous.

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One skein of Cascade Heritage Silk Paints in the Vino colourway #9958. It matches the Manos pretty well so I thought I could make a pair of gloves or fingerless mitts for that someone. There is 437 yds. per skein so I might be able to eke out two pair of fingerless mitts for two someones if I’m really careful.

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Four skeins of Cascade Yarns Pastaza in #068.  It’s no longer available which is a shame since it is a nice, soft Llama/wool blend.   I was going to make a cowl for the same someone but changed my mind because I like the Manos better.  So now I have 528 yds. to make something out of.  Still could make a couple of cowls.  They never go unappreciated and in this weight are a quick knit.  And last but not least:

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Two skeins of Cascade Yarns Pastaza in #079.  This is a rich, deep forest green.  Love the colour.  This is for me although I haven’t a clue what to make of it yet.  I may go back and get the rest of this because I left about four more skeins behind.  And there were a couple of skeins in the blue and one in a mulberry colour and one in a camel colour…

Oh, yarn, you sweet siren you, calling my name until I am helpless to resist your allure.  Your bright colours, your soft texture, your endless possibilities!  I am powerless, impotent, to resist you.  Oh, yarn, I shared my hopes for the future with you, my dreams of what you could be, lofty goals of that wonder of wonders – the perfect sweater,  and, oh!, the many disappointments you have thrown at me when you refuse to live up to the swatch .  Yarn, to quote Pablo Neruda, “I love you as certain dark things are to be loved, in secret, between the shadow and the soul.”  except I don’t love you in secret.  I love you openly, wantonly, with passion.  Oh, yarn, look at me, a woman covered in lint, with knitting needles in one hand and an empty wallet in the other.

Oh, yarn, why do you torture me so?

I’ve been doing a bad thing and instead of working on projects that I need to get done for Christmas, I’ve been searching the net. Why? Well, one reason is that I’m curious and have to see what’s going on in the world and the other is that how can I be sure that this is the sock pattern that is finally going to pull a non-knitter over to the dark side if I don’t look at every freaking pattern on the net. Lets just say that I have a passion with matching the right present to the right person instead of throwing the “anal” word around, mmmkay? I do the same with a pattern and yarn. I will knit the thing three or four times before I’m happy with the fabric I’m getting. Not the whole thing, of course, just half the back or maybe half a front or sleeve. I’ve mentioned before my total avoidance of swatching but I have to admit it would save me time. If only I could trust them.

So while I was searching for the perfect sweater pattern I found a load of other stuff that I thought I could share, and I also have a few tips for some inexpensive presents that you can still make in time for the holidays. So here we go:

1) If you have someone who has a pet, be it a dog or cat or rabbit or hamster, I would recommend looking into getting Pet Projects – The Animal Knits Bible by Sally Muir & Joanna Osborne. In this book you will find things like a knit curtain for the front of your rabbit, guinea pig or other small animal cage. This is a nice gift as it is fairly easy to make, the sample in the book has a carrot motif but I made it much larger for our dogs crate. I found a chart for a pattern of bones and knit that instead of the carrots. Turned out great. It’s a great way to give your small pet some privacy especially at night.

I’ve also made the puppy papoose for a friend who has a Chihuahua. Both she and the dog love it because it is knit from wool it keeps the dog cozy and warm. Her husband made a frame for it so that it hangs it like a hammock and the dog sleeps in it all the time. Very cute. And I’ve made a couple of the knitted animals at the back of the book as toys for my cats and the neighbours dog.

The patterns are easy to follow, the charts in the back are in colour and the things I made turned out really well and the animals they were intended for loved them. Besides, any book that includes a blanket for our equine friends is a keeper for me.

2) Another useful book(let) to have, especially if you have children to knit for, is The Knitted Farmyard by Hannelore Wernhard. I’ve made everything in this book and my kids loved them. The only one I had problems with was the pattern for the horse/donkey. I could not get that one to look like the pictures no matter how hard I tried. Everything else turned out exactly the way they look in the book. My girls especially liked the kitten, the chickens and the ducks. I also put a very small piece of velcro on the backs of the vegetables so they could pretend to plant the garden and have the vegetables “grow”. And because she uses pipe-cleaners as a stiffener for the people and some of the animals they are safe for all but the youngest children. My kids played with this for years and I think I still have some of the pieces around here. I know we definitely still have the chickens because I found some on my youngest daughters bookcase recently.

3) Any of the Jean Greenhowe’s books are a real life-saver if you need a small gift for a child. My kids loved the dinosaurs, the sheep, the food, and the topsy-turvy doll. She has some amazing books out there but a lot are hard to come by and expensive so if you find one, treasure it especially if you come across any of her folk costume books.

4) For the dog lover/owner any of the Patons dog sweater books, Dog’s Life or Another Dog’s Life are worth picking up. I’ve knit countless sweaters from these books for various dogs and all have fit well and been well received by both owner and dog alike. Don’t raise your eyebrows at the cost of them on Amazon because you can get them elsewhere cheaper.

5) I love Garn Studio (Drops) household patterns. I’ve made a few things from them and they have been well received and much used. One person asked me to knit her a few more facecloths to replace the ones I had given her because she had worn them out. I think I might make her these for her birthday next year.

Drops has so many lovely accessories for the home – blankets, baby things, crochet flowers and rugs, Christmas decorations – that you could choose anything from their selection and probably have a hit. I also love their clothing patterns and if you are looking for some cozy slippers or socks to make for someone you know who has cold feet, they have some lovely ones and I can say from experience their felted ones are like little furnaces for your tootsies. And they look good, too. Bonus!

6) If you have someone who will not make Santa’s nice list you could always stuff Grumpy in their stocking. I think this pattern is so stinkingly cute that I wanted to make a couple of dozen of them to put in the coal-scuttle I have on the hearth. I was talked out of this idea when someone pointed out to me that we have two cats. Two cats and a pail of knitted things. Yeah. Nothing wrong with that picture. But he’s still darn cute!

7) Then there’s the Christmas pickle. I really don’t know what to say about it except that I have never heard of the Christmas pickle.

8) If you are looking for something to put on a table or mantlepiece these are a cute idea. I love the look of them and the floppy hat just makes these little gnomes look that much cuter! If I have the time I might whip these up for my mantle. I think next year I could make them a lot bigger and put them in the front hall. Hmmmm….

9) If you are looking for something silly to give someone you could try a nightcap. I know exactly what my husband would say to me if I gave him that as a gift but I’m sure there are people out there who know someone with a sense of humour who would find a nightcap a charming gift. I think it’s quaint and I have to admit that I find it somewhat endearing to see a man running around in a nightshirt and cap. Maybe there is some kind of ancient gene memory floating around my subconscious but I think it’s adorably old-fashioned. I’m sure Alex Langlands or Peter Ginn from the Victorian Farm would wear it.

10) A mitten garland is a cute idea for an Advent Calendar but maybe for next year as we are already four days in and then the time it takes to knit all those mittens. Still it’s a wonderful idea for anyone with children who doesn’t want to buy one of those awful cardboard calendars with that itty-bitty piece of old chocolate behind each “door”. I have to admit that I wonder how fresh that chocolate is and besides it really isn’t as good as say…Lindt.

11) You could always knit up some Christmas balls for your tree. These ones are really nice and if you did them in red and white or gold and white would be very festive. I especially like the third one with the silver snowflakes circling the middle. A friend of mine has gone on a knitting binge and decided that next year she is going to hang 50 of these things on her tree. Yes, she is as crazy as me. Maybe a touch worse.

12) And in case you need some ideas for projects here are 23. I love the chairs and I don’t think it would be that hard to figure out. I have a couch that is desperately in need of a new cover and my dining room chairs could use a redo and I don’t think it would be that difficult…there I go again planning projects that probably will never get done. Oh how I wish there were two of me…then again maybe not…I mean, can you imagine? *shudder*

13) To charm the kids or grandkids you could knit some fairy mice decorations for the tree. Or these little knitted stockings that you could put a small candy cane treat in. Or these bonny little felted mice. Or anything from Frankie Browns Ravelry page. Her Pocket Teddy or the Daisy Chain kit are so enchanting I just want to pinch their little cheeks. Now that’s adorable because anyone who knows me knows I don’t go in for all that cutesy-cutesy nonsense.

So there you have it, my friends, thirteen alternative gifts to make for the people in your life. The books come in handy all the time when you need something quick and different. I like all these things because they don’t take much time to knit and you can probably find something in your stash to use so they are very economical. And since my mantra this Christmas is “Why buy when you can make”, these ideas are just right up my alley. I plan on making a few more posts about how to economize this season so stay tuned. Not all of the ideas will be knitting. Ooooo, I can feel the suspense even now.

I had a whole different post rankling around in my head today but then I heard something that made me a bit angry. Ok more than a bit. How about a lot. A lot angry. Oh so very angry. Sooooo mad. Someone was talking about knitting for a living. They took on projects for people and designed custom sweaters/socks/scarves/hats/mittens. When I asked how much they charged for a custom sweater she said it depended on what the customer wanted to pay. Say what?!?!? No, no, no, no, no. Not what the customer wants to pay. Please say you didn’t say that.

And that reminds me of a conversation I overheard the other day while waiting in line to pay for my groceries. It seems the checkout girl needed a skirt for an event she was going to but wasn’t going to get paid in time for her to buy one. The guy(!) doing the bagging said that he knew how to sew and he would be glad to sew one for her. She was pleased to say the least. She was very impressed that he knew how to sew and would take the time to make her something to wear. Then he said that he knit as well and could make her a nice knit skirt if she wanted. That was when it got a bit risky for me to be standing there with my keys in my hands because she sneered and said, “Who would want a hand knit skirt.” Her lip actually curled and I could see her roll her eyes. Well, not really but the implication was there.

Both of these anecdotes are examples of how hand knitting is marginalized and de-valued in our society. In the first instance she is trivializing her own hard work and in the second instance the girl is openly disdainful of the guy’s ability to knit something but impressed that he can use a sewing machine. Some people might ask what is wrong with allowing the customer to set the price for a hand knit object. Well, lets see…firstly the customer will never, ever pay what that object is worth time-wise. And secondly why would you think so little of yourself and your talent to allow anyone to take advantage of you that way? What if the amount they want to pay doesn’t even cover the cost of materials? What if all it does is cover the cost of materials? Oh no, she said she always makes sure they pay enough to cover the materials but how much more she didn’t or wouldn’t say. But considering she was allowing the customer to dictate the price, I’m sure she couldn’t have been making much per item. So for all her hard work and creative inspiration she was selling herself rather cheaply from what I could see.

I know there are some people who value the amount of work put into a handknit and they are mostly people who are creative and either knit themselves or work in the arts in some capacity. Most non-creative/crafty people have no concept of how long it can take to design, test knit, and then knit a sweater. No concept whatsoever. It’s like the time I just about fell off my chair when someone asked a friend of mine how long it took her to write her book. They offered that it must have only taken her a month or two, after all anyone can write a book. Same for musicians I know. They always get asked why anyone should buy their music when anyone who knows how to play guitar can write a song. Intellectual or creative work is really undervalued in our marketplace unless it is technology based, then, for some reason (is it because more men do it?), a lot, not all but certainly enough, of the people who do that job are paid handsomely. Very handsomely. In some cases obscenely handsomely. I know, my husband is a systems architect, although not one who is paid handsomely. More like somewhat attractively. Ok, if his paycheck were a celebrity it would be Steve Buschemi (who I adore but that’s a different post). But it’s enough for us to get by. But some of his colleagues make way too much money for what they do.

It’s different in the arts and crafts world. Artists have a hard time trying to justify the price they put on a painting. It doesn’t help when paintings like this, this, this, and this are sold for obscene amounts of money and people are left wondering why. Now I’m not saying they aren’t worth it, I am not a painter and have no idea the amount of work or what was in the painters head when inspiration struck them but most people look at them and think they could have done better themselves. And so it is for writers, 50 Shades of Grey and the Twilight saga make it harder for really good writers to sell their books. It is true that the marketplace will always cater to the lowest common denominator and if that denominator keeps getting lower and lower then it’s harder for real talent to make money unless they debase themselves as well. Anyone remember the disco era and how the Rolling Stones and David Bowie were forced by their record companies to make disco sounding records? Yeah, lowest common denominator at work. So when I hear that someone who is talented and works hard to make a quality product devalue her own work it makes me see red.

I have knit on commission. I’ve done it once or twice but learned quickly that if I wanted to make an income that would make it worth while no one would use my services. So I stopped doing it. My fee was the cost of materials plus 25%. And the one person balked at it. She said that since I was doing it on my own free time she didn’t see why she should pay for it. She was happy to pay for the materials but that was all. Eventually she did pay up but it really wasn’t worth it in the end simply because of all the grief she gave me. She figured that since she was paying for my time then I had to be chained to my chair and knitting her sweater from the minute I got home from work to the minute I went to bed. The other person paid me more than I asked and waited patiently for the sweater even though it was a birthday present for his mother and it was a complicated pattern. But he was grateful for it, his mother loved it and I was paid handsomely for my time and trouble.

So why are crafts so undervalued? Is it because it’s “women’s work”? Is it because it’s viewed as a “hobby”? Is it because many of us sell short our accomplishments? When someone marvels at our work do we pooh-pooh it and say it’s nothing when what we should be saying is yes it took a lot of work but it was worth it? Is it because it is hand-made and therefore viewed as inferior to mass-produced? In this day and age when sweatshops are making headlines and workers rights are being eroded daily, you would think that hand crafts would be looked on more favourably. After all, for every sweater that is hand crafted and sold in your home country, be it the U.S., Canada, the U.K., France, or even India that is one less that is being made in a sweatshop. That is one more dollar being paid to a countryman who will then use that money to support another small business. And economists keep harping on the fact that small business is the backbone of a healthy economy.

For us knitters, crocheters and weavers the importance of supporting a healthy yarn industry can’t be understated for each ball of yarn supports a small farmer, a spinner, or a hand dyer. Each ball of yarn also supports a home-grown mill, a small store, an on-line seller, an independent knitter, a designer, or a magazine industry. There is so much more to this knitting thing than it just being a hobby. With more and more yarn manufacturing being outsourced to Turkey, China, India, Uzbekistan, Pakistan, Thailand, Peru, Romania, Brazil – all becoming their own kind of sweatshop – it is important for us to support our own. And yet we continually cut off our nose to spite our faces while we look for cheaper and cheaper yarn.

I have mentioned before that I don’t think most designers make enough off their patterns to live off of. Most designers that I know, and that includes some of the better known ones, also have a job either with a magazine, with a yarn store, teaching somewhere, touring and giving lectures or workshops…the fact is the majority seem to have a second job, whether that’s by choice or necessity. Some manage to make a good living off their efforts and in spite of the large number of free patterns available on places like Ravelry and yarn websites. I honestly don’t know how they do it but they manage. And many, many people refuse to buy something they can find for free. And that’s fine, after all for some people paying $7 for a pattern just isn’t in their budget but it’s when I hear them say, “Why should I pay for something when I can get it for free.” or “Why should I pay seven bucks for something anyone can do.” That the hackles stand up on the back of my neck. What you are doing is saying that someones hard work, creativity and inspiration are not worthy of respect but a mass-produced shirt manufactured in a sweatshop is because it’s cheaper.

It’s the same when I go to craft sales and I hear people look at a handknit and say disgustedly that it was too expensive and who in their right mind would pay $10 for a pair of handknit mittens, meanwhile they leave in their Lexus or Range Rover or a similar expensive SUV. Or they are standing looking at a beautiful handknit lace shawl and think it’s too expensive at $75 while they are carrying a Coach bag or wearing an expensive leather coat. Just because they are handknit and any fool with two hands, two pointy sticks and a bit of string could knit that if they wanted to. We have to face the fact that mass-produced knitwear and clothing have been better at promoting themselves than us hand knitters and yarn producers. We really need some good PR.

So I think it’s about time we stamped our pretty little feet and stood tall and proud and said, “I am a hand knitter and I am proud of it.” I think we need to do more visible things like the yarn bombings and the knit in public events. How about some of us Torontonians and environs knitters getting together and doing an installation for the next Illuminato or Nuit Blanche show? What if we held a fashion show or a knitwear fashion week? What if we all became pro-active knitters and every time someone says something like why are you knitting when you can just buy it we tell them that this is our way of saying “no” to sweatshops or it’s our way of saying “no” to the fashion industry. That we are doing this in protest to the obscene profits being made in the fashion industry. What if we said that instead of “because I like knitting” or “because they are warmer”. What if we said we are tired of low quality clothing that falls apart after one wash. And what if we said that we knit because we are unique individuals who are tired of the cookie cutter fashion industry that tells us what we should wear, and how we should look. Damn it, what if we just said “I am a knitter and I’m not going to take it anymore”. What then?

I work for a theater in my hometown. It’s just a small one, seats just over 1300 people. We get some really interesting acts and some boring ones and some unintentionally funny ones and ones that are supposed to be funny but aren’t *cough*DrewCarey*cough*. But all in all I love my job. I love everything about it. I love the people I work with, I love helping the people who come in for the shows and I even love helping the cranky ones who can’t think of anything better to do but yell at you over every little thing. Yep, I love them. I love them all. I can’t think of one single thing I don’t like about it. Maybe if I had to think of something at gun point it would be that they won’t let me knit when there’s a lull in the action.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have a job where you do nothing but knit? I’m sure it could get boring, just like any job…well, except mine. Mine is never boring. I love it. Have I said that before? But what if you could have a job where they paid you to sit and knit. Would you do it? What would it look like? What kinds of things would you knit? I’ve often thought about this. I’ve often wondered if I could convert my loving of knitting into some cold hard cash but I really don’t think there are many knitters who are getting rich off their craft. I don’t think there are even designers getting rich off their craft. Certainly there are designers who do well for themselves and probably make a comfortable living, and there are knitters who make a comfortable living, and there are knitters who also write books about knitting that make a comfortable living but rich? Probably not.

So what would my ideal knitting job be? I would love to be able to design something beautiful and sell it. But I’m not a designer. I don’t have a designers eye and even though I know about the elements of good clothing design, I just don’t have that kind of vision. I can see it in my mind’s eye, the perfect sweater, sock, mittens, but I just can’t come up with it on paper nevermind on the needles. So I sit in frustration with yarn in my lap, needles in my hands and something so abhorrent it could be a sci-fi movie staring me in the face, mocking me. My mind isn’t wired for design.

Pattern making is another thing I would probably suck at. I can write well, I can give clear instructions to the people who work for me, I can usually figure out errors in a pattern without consulting the errata but I can’t seem to manage putting my ideas into anything that resembles words. Chicken scratch, sure, got that covered but words that actually convey something that others can decipher and then make something from? Not bloody likely. What would end up happening is that they would end up sitting in front of the television with a knotted mess on their laps wondering where they went wrong. Then I would get the nasty emails and comments and somebody at some point will write in their blog about how inept I am at writing a pattern and I would end up on the street relying on my two cats to catch me dinner.

Which brings me to a sore point. Nothing can make me screw up my knitting faster than a chart. I know how to read them. I know they have their place especially in a complicated fairisle pattern but please tell me why I found a chart for a simple seed stitch pattern. Or why there was a chart, one of many actually, for a simple alternating colour pattern – one stitch in colour A and the next in colour B. It seems to be that if anything seems more complicated than garter stitch (knit every row) then it needs a chart.

I’m from old school knitting where everything was written down and that may cause me to be a bit biased. Lord knows I can be very close-minded about some things, like favourite songs (hate covers), movies made from books (Hollywood, please stop. No one needs to see 50 shades of anything on the big screen), tea (give me black tea please, hot. If I wanted fruit or flowers in my tea…well, I just wouldn’t), liquor (if I wanted something to sip, I’d drink tea) and baking (look, I’m already eating something that probably isn’t good for me so substituting margarine for butter and Sweet’n’low for sugar is like shouting “watch out” to your friend after the piano falls on him), so I would never write off the possibility of a small bias here. I mean, charts can be useful but does there have to be so many?

This is where the trouble comes in for me. I was looking at a sweater pattern the other day and it had six different charts. Six! It had a chart for every single pattern change even if all it was was a simple four stitch cable that ran the length of the sleeve. There was no complicated alternating cable, no celtic cable or knot, no travelling stitch, nothing. Just a simple four stitch cable. And it needed its own chart. I find all this confusing. I have to print out all these charts and then try to keep them organized so I’m not knitting from chart two when I should be knitting from chart six. It wasn’t a fairisle pattern, no confusing colourwork, just a bit of cabling, and bits of other pattern stitches here and there. But it needed six charts. Needless to say I chose not to do it and went for a pattern that had one chart. I just don’t have time for that kind of thing.

I’m not saying that charts are useless, all I’m saying is that sometimes they aren’t that helpful. It’s like me using a big word when a little one would do…er…um…nevermind. That’s a poor example. How about it’s like having a husband sometimes, you put them in a corner until you need them to open a jar or something. Ok, that wasn’t fair men are more than just jar openers. But I can’t think of anything better at the moment so it will just have to do. In any case, sometimes a chart isn’t necessarily the best thing to use when writing up a pattern. It would take you longer to chart that cable than it would to write it down.

As I’ve said, charts are useful and have their place. Definitely when there is a complicated cable pattern or colourwork or travelling stitch then a chart is the best way to keep things straight. I’m just not sure they are that relevant for simple designs. I really think that when a designer is writing up a pattern they need to think about how all these charts are being received by the potential knitter. Having six charts for one simple cardigan pattern is excessive. How many people, like myself, decided not to do that pattern because they felt intimidated by all those charts. How many decided it was too complicated based solely on the number of charts instead of looking at the pattern and seeing how easy it really was.

I think it would be nice to have both written instructions and charts but also realize that it isn’t very practical. Not everyone has the time to sit down and write detailed instructions for a sweater, sock or skirt pattern, and then do it all over again on a chart. That’s time-consuming to the max, I expect. And then there would be all the complaints, and typos needing to be changed, and proof reading. So written instructions are a lot of work too, I get that. But I’m selfish and think that everyone should cater to my every whim. So I keep hoping I will find a sweater with clear written instructions that isn’t 50 yrs. old. I would design it myself but I don’t think they need to remake Aliens just yet. Besides who ever heard of a horror movie called, “Attack of the 50 Foot Ball of Yarn”?

First I’d like to give a big THANKS to those of you who have taken the time to read this here blog. When I started it as part of NoBloPoMo I had no illusions of actually writing a post every day but totally did not expect anyone to read one word of it. So the fact that some of you have and a number of you have decided to follow me well…*sob*…that just blows my mind. Thank you, thank you, thank you. You have kept me going.

Then I would like to say that I totally exceeded my expectations. As I said I so didn’t think I would be able to write a post a day for a month, and lets face it some of them were close calls and some were a little late, so the fact I did it is quite an accomplishment. I didn’t think I would have that much to say. Some people I know would be surprised I would say that considering they think I never shut up. So lets keep going and see where we end up, shall we?

I have two cats, Taang! and Eric. I had three but Mac passed away almost eight months ago. Still miss him. One thing I miss about him is that I could put sweaters on him and he didn’t mind. I thought I had a picture of him in one but I think it’s still on my phone. His brothers tend to get a bit testy if you try to put anything on them that’s not a blanket. Even then they can be a bit peculiar about that. They aren’t very open-minded those two. So even though I love the thought of knitting them sweaters like this. Trying to get it on them would result in wool carnage that would make even the staunchest knitter cry. Nevermind the blood.

I started to wonder about putting a sweater on a cat. Isn’t that a bit redundant? They have a nice furry coat and if it’s an outdoor cat the fur can be quite thick. But what if it’s an indoor/outdoor cat, does the fur still grow as thickly and then wouldn’t a sweater be advisable. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t like seeing cats outdoors and the number of feral cats in our neighbourhood alone is deplorable but realistically we are never going to get 100% of the people to keep their cats indoors so wouldn’t it be nice to at least keep them warm? But then that brings up a question of safety and would the cat be safe running around with a sweater on or would it get snagged on something. So not sure how practical it is to put a sweater on an indoor/outdoor cat.

All this got me thinking what other kind of attire is out there for our furry feline friends. And I found a whole host of fun things to dress your cat in. Hey, if dogs can get a little black dress, cats can have a fun beret, or a Santa hat. I may actually have to knit that. And these cats have to be the most patient I’ve ever seen. Mine would have shredded the hat before you could even click the shutter. But that Santa hat is so cute it would be worth the risk, I think. And just think of the cuteness if I knitted one for Taang! and Eric and Pete the dog. That would make a great Christmas card if I did that kind of thing. Which I don’t. But it would be cute anyway.

I do love this little vest and think it would be the ideal thing to give to someone who has one of the shorter haired breeds, like Siamese or the Sphynx or something like that. I would so knit it if I had less hairy cats but my boys have thick fur already. I also love this little knitted sweater and the cat that’s wearing it is kind of cute too. I’m starting to think I would like a kitten so that I could dress it up in that sweater. And to think that just yesterday I was thinking I didn’t want any more after these two go. Yeah, right. And I’m not going to buy any more yarn until I’ve used up all of my stash.

Ravelry is always a great place to find odd patterns. And I like this because it is adaptable for many different animals it seems. We have a bunny and she would probably appreciate a sweater. We try to reduce our expenses by keeping the house a little on the cool side and I think the bunny would rather we didn’t. A sweater might be just what she needs. She would look really cute in that. The thing I really like about this is the long legs and back. Taang! has arthritis in his hips so having something that covers them and keeps them warm is something that would be very practical for him. Definitely something to think about. That is after all the other stuff is done. By then he won’t need it because it will be August but then I can knit it for next winter.

I suppose if I started knitting clothes for my cats people would put me in a whole new category of “crazy cat lady”.
It’s funny how many patterns there are for dog clothes – tuxedos, dresses, sweaters, costumes, hats – you name it and there’s a pattern for it but for cats there really isn’t much choice. There are lots of blanket patterns and bed patterns which are really good, and I think it’s illegal to have a cat and not have a nice, soft bed for it, but not much in the way of apparel. I wonder if it’s because we have such a different view of cats that we think they are cute enough on their own without suiting them up. I would like to think that. My guys are.

And just in case you are wondering about the title of this post, you need to watch this.

And just because I was so proud of myself for being able to do a post a day, things conspired to make this post really late. Still I did thirty posts which is about twenty-nine more than I expected to make so that’s something.