Posts Tagged ‘books’

As I mentioned yesterday, I bought my daughter The Knitter’s Book Of Yarn for Christmas. Now don’t get me wrong, this is a good book and I’m enjoying reading it but there is one thing that bugs me about it. From what I’ve read so far, and from my independent research and from talking to sheepy people, Clara Parkes really knows her stuff but there is one little niggly thing that will bug me every time I pick the book up. It has no impact on the information contained inside the book but it’s there just the same. And. It. Bothers. Me.

Now before I get into this there is something I think you should know: I’m a stickler for detail. It drives the people I know crazy and no one more so than my youngest daughter. She has had to bear the brunt of my tirades against movies that were made from books that I loved but miss the mark – I will never forgive Peter Jackson for not including Tom Bombadil in the Lord of the Rings movie nor will I forgive him for casting Viggo Mortensen as Aragorn but that’s another story – and I have been known to carry on for days when I’ve heard a particularly egregious cover of a song I love – Avril Lavigne’s cover of Coldplay’s “The Scientist” is one of the worst things to happen to music since Britney Spears (although Miley Cyrus is right up there). Yeah, so I think I’ve established that I have a closed mind when it comes to certain things.

So back to the book. When you crack open the cover, Ms. Parkes has a lovely graphic illustrating the animals that wool comes from as well as the categories of yarn. It’s a very good graphic. She includes things such as corn, modell, polyester, cotton, hemp, linen, angora, silk, yak…and then, there it is, a glaring error. Staring me right in the face is a picture of a certain little critter that often comes to my bird feeder at night. It’s got a ton of sharp little teeth and a long tail and is pudgy and…white. Yes, it’s a North American opossum. She carries this error into the text by proclaiming that this opossum is from New Zealand and Australia where it roams around in large numbers and is a real pest. Well, you know she got part of it right. The fur that she is referring to does come from an introduced species in New Zealand that has become a pest but it isn’t an opossum and it certainly doesn’t resemble the picture she has in the front of her book.

Here is a picture of the critter she has referenced: North American Opossum

Now as cute as that little guy is and let me say that it could have a very nice, soft undercoat, I wouldn’t want to try to catch that thing. These guys have 50 sharp little teeth! I would rather try to take a peanut from a squirrel. Now compare this to the critter responsible for some of the loveliest, and softest, yarn I’ve ever had the good fortune to hold in my hand:

Brush-tailed possum

This is a brush-tailed possum and that cute little guy is culled regularly by the thousands in New Zealand because it has become a pest. Fortunately for us knitters, the fur is harvested and spun into an amazing yarn. Now if only I could afford some of it.

The problem with Ms. Parkes error is that someone will see it and think that they can trap that rat-like animal roaming around, and causing mayhem, their backyard. They may even put out a trap thinking they could kill the beast and get some free yarn. I am doubtful, however, since it would take a few…dozen…to get enough usable yarn but you never know, there are some strange people out there and I would hate to think that some other creature, like a feral cat, could get caught in someone’s misguided attempt to obtain some opossum fur. In any case, it is a small and insignificant error and the little bit of information she gives about the yarn is truthful but, still, it is an avoidable error. It is an error a careful editor would have caught. And I know a lot of people will shrug their shoulders and carry on, as well they should, but me? I’ll think of it every time I open the book even if I’m looking for information on Llama yarn or hand-dyed yarns. And it will drive me crazy.

This is going to be a real problem for me and my enjoyment of this book. I know that every time I turn a page I’m going to be waiting for the next trivial thing to set my brain on fire. I will be reading it with an eye kept wide open looking for typos, or grammatical errors, or questionable research. And the really sad thing is that I won’t be happy until I find another mistake. I will go through each and every pattern looking for errors, I will probably even look online for the errata for this book. I won’t rest until I’ve found them all. And why? Because when I buy a book I like to think it is perfect. Yes, I am that person. Nothing is perfect. I realize how silly this all sounds and I wish I could stop myself from obsessing over such trivial little details but it’s been like this ever since I cracked open my first book.

It’s funny, though, that this kind of obsession doesn’t translate to my knitting. Oh sure, I have been known to rip out an entire back because I didn’t like something about it or I’ve noticed a mistake that I didn’t catch earlier but generally, if the mistake is not that noticeable and doesn’t affect a pattern or cable or the fit of the garment, I leave it alone. It’s kind of like those Persian rugs that the weavers supposedly purposefully make a mistake on. It’s my way of making it my own. Oh, who am I kidding. If I make a mistake I’m not happy until I go back and fix the damn thing because I. Am. That. Person. Sad but true.

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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’ve already written a post about what I intend to do for Christmas this year so I just thought I might write about the 10 things I really cannot do without. These are things I find invaluable for my knitting experience. Things that after 52 yrs. of knitting I have learned to keep near at hand, some of the more obvious things like knitting needles and scissors I won’t mention simply because they are obvious but while I’m on the topic I might just include a footnote about my favourite knitting needles and why. So here we go:

1). The Knitters Companion – I’m working on my second copy of this indispensable collection of knitterly information and instruction. The first copy is lying on the bookshelves, the pages fused together by a good cup of tea. This is no way to treat such a handy little book nor a good cup of tea. I got my first copy many, many years ago and my current copy, when not in my knit bag, is never far from my elbow. It is a great gift for someone wanting to learn to knit, who has just started knitting or just wants a practical and easy-to-use guide for such questions as sizing (good sizing charts); yarn substitutions; cast-ons and offs; gauges; buttonholes…and it also has a handy ruler and needle conversion chart.

2). A Second Treasury of Knitting Patterns by Barbara Walker – There are actually three in this series but I like this one the best. I use it whenever I want to add a little spice to a plain cardigan. There is enough variety here to keep me entertained for years and years although I still don’t think it would make a dent in the stash if I made one garment out of each of the patterns included. The beauty of this collection is the clear instructions and helpful pictures. It is organized into pattern groups that make looking for a particular pattern easy. I recommend a stitch dictionary to everyone even if you don’t design your own things simply because it allows you to make modifications to a pattern so you can have a garment that is uniquely your own.

3.) A small bag to keep stuff in – I made this myself but you can find them inexpensively on the net. Something like this style is what I like so you can customize it yourself. I keep cable needles; tapestry needles; scissors; a couple of crochet hooks (for catching dropped stitches); a seam ripper; a small retractable tape measure; a sewing guide great for measuring gauge; a needle conversion chart; a row counter and stitch markers. By keeping them in a bag I never have to search the house for them and it keeps them out of the cats harms way.

4). Hand-Knitting Techniques from Threads – An excellent book to have around for information on things like casting on in rib for a nice clean edge; knitting to fit; how to knit from sewing patterns; finishing techniques; sock knitting tips; glove knitting tips; beading; how to knit raglans to really fit well (hint: there is a difference between the back and the sleeve widths), and many, many other useful hints. My copy is paperback and is currently being held together with scotch tape. I reference it a lot.

5). Knitter’s Handbook by Reader’s Digest – Another reference book I cannot do without. This one has tips on how to use colour; cutting after blocking to repair big errors or add length; grafting; 30 pages devoted to casting on and casting off…so many tips and tricks that I never learned at my mother’s knee.

6). A box of yarn – The first step I take after deciding on a pattern is picking the yarn. I generally choose 2-4 yarns of the same weight, although I do like to add a yarn that is slightly lighter in weight than the pattern calls for as well. I put them in a box and have them right to hand when I’m knitting for gauge. It saves me time by having alternate yarns available just in case my preferred yarn looks like crap in the pattern I have chosen. Sometimes you think a yarn and pattern are going to work but once you get knitting you see that the pattern stitch is lost because the colour is too dark or the yarn, although the right weight, is of the wrong density. Some patterns look very different, and awesome, when knit with a light-weight yarn as long as you get the right gauge. I once made a very light and airy sweater that I wore for many summers as a cover-all by doing this. I generally take yarn recommendations as a guideline rather than a strict rule.

7). Baby alpaca yarn – There is nothing quite like it. I always have a few skeins around simply because if I need an impressive gift and don’t have time to look around, I can haul out some of this yarn, knit up a cowl, or a scarf, or a pair of fingerless gloves and know that it will look like I spent a lot of money when I didn’t at all. I don’t like shawls but I have knit them for others and if I have the time I can whip one up as a last-minute gift. I also like to keep a couple of balls of a cashmere/merino mix as well for the same reason. People open the present, feel the cashmere and they never have to know that you didn’t get it at some expensive boutique.

8). DVD’s – Invaluable when you have a lot of knitting to do and need something to stop you from going barmy after knitting your sixth straight hat. I like Buffy, the Vampire Slayer; The Princess Bride; Benny and Joon, or Red Dwarf, something that doesn’t require a lot of attention but is still entertaining. Most of those listed are also funny so I don’t have to follow a convoluted plot. I also like really bad disaster movies like Sharknado or Twister because you don’t have to worry about trying to figure out what’s happening if you can’t pay attention for a few minutes or five. Also because they are often the funniest thing on TV.

9). A pad of paper and a pen – Really good for making notes as you go along. Also for noting any changes you might make, any problems that might affect the sleeves or collar or button bands, or anytime you have to make two of something. I also find it’s a good thing to have around to jot down what row you are on if you have to put down your knitting to go make a cup of tea, or a margarita, or make a trip to the bathroom, or rescue your cookie from a rabbit…or cat…but not a dog, they drool all over them and make them mushy. And for the record I really, really, and I can’t say this strongly enough, really do not recommend drinking while knitting. Maybe one drink, or maybe two, but a pitcher of sangria or margarita’s is really not a smart thing to do when holding sharp objects, or when partaking of an entertainment that requires any form of math even if it’s just counting stitches.

10). The internet especially YouTube – I really cannot do without the internet while knitting. There are many helpful how-to videos on YouTube and I can’t tell you how many times they’ve pulled me through a situation I thought I could handle. It’s like a friendly hand guiding you along. Steeking used to freak me out. I still try never to steek but there are times when it is absolutely necessary. YouTube has saved my sorry behind so many times I can’t even say. So do yourself a favour and bookmark sites like Ravelry; or Craftsy; or Knitty; or some YouTube videos. They will always come in handy and give you the confidence to hack away at your hard work with a pair of scissors like a boss.

Now about knitting needles: For me my favourite needles are the ones my Mum gave me when I was 10. They are Aero aluminum needles and sure the points aren’t so pointy any more and some of them are a little bent but I find I can knit along on those bad boys as if they were like some of the pointier modern needles. The double points I like are the Susan Bates ones. Nothing fancy, definitely not expensive but they suit me just fine. I found one thing to be true of knitting, the best results don’t come from using the most expensive materials, the best results come from using materials you are comfortable with and give you confidence. I have pairs of expensive needles such as the Signature line but they generally sit in their package while I’ll dig around everywhere looking for my 40 yr. old Aeros. My Mum used plastic, nylon or metal needles almost all her life. I bought her new ones that languished at the bottom of her knitting bag and never saw the light of day. So don’t let a price tag determine what kind of needles you should knit with. Everyone is different so try different kinds and brands until you find what suits you.

So there you have it, my top 10 things that I cannot do without as a knitter. Whether or not this is helpful to anyone I can’t say. Everyone’s list will be different. But I will say that if there was just one thing that you could get for a knitter it’s a little bag full of gadgets like those I’ve described. I’ve given similar things to various people and it has always been appreciated. It’s also customizable so for a knitter you can give them stuff like I have in mine, for a crocheter stuff that they may find useful, for a geek you can stuff it full of things like a Tardis key chain etc, for a fashionista you could put hair clips, lipstick, nail polish etc. I label it, “A Bag O’ Useful Stuff” and put it with all the gadgets wrapped individually in a box and then duck as people try to throw things at me while they try to pull the paper off forty small items. It’s fun.

Well, with only five more Saturday’s until the eat-fest, gift-giving, gift-receiving, gift-returning, lame excuse-making, tacky ornament display making, tree murdering, over-spending spree day is here. Yes, I mean Christmas.

I don’t do Christmas, at least not in the traditional way. We don’t decorate, don’t put up a tree but that’s mostly due to cats and my husbands ennui, and gift-giving is usually minimal. For me, I’m not a Christian and I feel hypocritical and disrespectful to partake in something I don’t believe in. And I abhor that something that was/is religiously relevant for some people has been made into a crass, commercialized exercise in proving who loves someone more by the gifts they give.

You know I’m right even if no one wants to admit it otherwise hand-crafted, hand-made, and home-baked gifts would get more respect. But unless the person has specifically asked for a hand-made gift the usual response is, “Oh, you made that yourself? How lovely and thoughtful.” and then you never see the gift again until you are in a thrift store you happen to come across the sweater. Or if you give home-made cookies, or breads, or soaps, or hand embroidered dish clothes/pillow covers etc. the words may say one thing but the face is saying quite another. Meanwhile they coo over the new iPhone their dad/mom/grandparent/lover/husband/wife/mailman gave them.

Now not everyone is like that. There are a lot of people who like hand-made things. When my daughters were small some of their favourite gifts were the toys I made for them. I knit farm animals, sweaters, socks, hats, mittens, or sewed stuffed animals, dresses, costumes, or duvet covers. One year I made a duvet for my oldest daughter. She still has it. I enjoyed making them things that no one else had. Now that they are older, hand-made things aren’t as appreciated as much and, more so my eldest daughter, store-bought things are worn while the stuff I made sits in a drawer somewhere. I usually end up giving her a gift card so she can just buy her own things. And this is why I don’t like Christmas.

I really don’t see the point in asking someone for a Christmas list, taking the time to make a thoughtful choice, spending the time in the store looking for and paying for said item and knowing that, in all reality, they could have bought the damn thing themselves. And now that she is working there really isn’t anything I could afford to buy her that she just can’t get herself. My younger daughter not so much.

This year, however, I decided that I’m having a very home-grown Christmas, very low-key with all gifts either home-made or thrift store purchases. Have I started on any of these incredible gifts. No. But I did start looking through patterns and matching them to wool. And I also took a good look around the thrift store the other day. What can I get at a thrift store that my kids might like? Books. Books are the one thing that will make my girls happy no matter what. So books are always a high priority gift item. Then there is the glassware, accessories and the happy accidents you can stumble upon. Like finding a copy of The Absolute Sandman Vol. III by Neil Gaiman, for $20cdn. Or a sweaters worth of Briggs and Little Regal yarn in the Horizon Blue colourway for $.49cdn each. Or finding a stash of vintage knitting needles and getting 12 sets for $1.00.

Now my kids love that sort of thing. I’m lucky and I know it. I am also fortunate in that most of my relatives love getting hand-knits, especially cotton socks. My father-in-law and my sister-in-law are both diabetics and say the cotton socks I make for them are by far the most comfortable they have worn. So socks will be very appreciated. I also plan on making some cashmere gloves, cowls and hats for various people. Cashmere is such a lovely yarn but expensive so the things that only take one or two balls make gift giving a little more affordable. I also have some very lovely silver silk yarn which was given me (I have no idea what brand) that will make a wonderful tie or skinny scarf for someone. I might splurge and get some store-bought items but since neither my husband or I currently have jobs they would have to be inexpensive. Well, I have a job but it’s part-time and they’ve cut my hours. Well, technically they didn’t, they just hired a couple more staff which amounts to the same thing. More staff means fewer hours for us all.

If I have to buy anything, it will probably be the following (if I can’t find some of them at the thrift store or used book store):

The Girl Who Played With Fire
The Girl Who Kicked a Hornet’s Nest – my girls have both read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo but we haven’t been able to find these used and they want to read them

Sherlock – the BBC series starring Benedict Cumberbatch (don’t you just love that name?) *I had originally put Elementary but as anyone who has watch these to shows will attest, they are very, very different.

The Game of Thrones – not the books, we have them, but the television series

The Borgias – because my kids loved it but didn’t see all of them

Supernatural – because who doesn’t love Dean and Sam

The Knitters Book of Wool – for my sheep loving daughter

A Sephora gift card – for my make-up loving daughter

Some Godiva chocolate – for my staff

Some treats for the cats, dog, rabbit and degus – we generally don’t give them many treats but since I make them dress up for the occasion, I have to reward them. Well, I dress up the dog and then shame him on Facebook but I just may have to put a Santa hat on the bunny this year. She’s just so darn cute. And since she has cancer I don’t know how long we will have her so it makes sense to humiliate her before she hops over to the other side. I would shame the cats, they really do deserve it for all the things they make me do and do to me, but they have sharp pointy everything that I’ve kind of learned my lesson and tend to leave them alone.

I can’t think of anything else. My husband and I don’t exchange gifts so I don’t have to worry about him and I really wouldn’t be giving gifts if people didn’t expect something so that’s what the cashmere is for. It makes a beautiful gift for anyone.

I have to say this job hunting right before Christmas sucks like a big sucking black hole but there’s nothing you can do about it. You just have to keep applying to jobs and going to interviews and sending out resumes and sooner or later something will stick. Hopefully sooner rather than later because I don’t cherish the thought of trying to sell my home at Christmas time.

Hello. My name is Sheila and I have an addiction. To be precise I have several addictions. Ok, I have 22 addictions but that’s it. At least that’s all I’m admitting to anyway. My friends might have a different count but that is their problem. My problem is that if I like something I quickly become addicted to it. Hence the reason I’m not still 97lbs. soaking wet – I discovered I actually like food. Ok, that’s not the reason, I still ate, and ate a ton, when I was skinny, the fact is I was a lot younger and burned through calories like a flame thrower through paper. I couldn’t keep weight on. *sigh* Those were the days.

Well, that went a bit off from where I wanted to go. Let’s see…addictions. Oh, yes. I guess the reason I have so many addictions is because of my short-attention span. No, I’m not ADHD, it’s just that I only have a finite amount of years left and I’m trying to cram as much stuff in it as I can. So in order to do that, I have to multi-task. And that can be downright amusing even to myself.

One thing I have to confess, though, is I’m not addicted to housework. That kind of gets ignored until the dust bunnies start raiding the fridge and eating all the lettuce. The real bunny gets annoyed. Right now there is laundry piling up, the floor needs a good vacuum, I have to sort through boxes of stuff that we boxed up a couple of years ago when we thought we would have to sell the house (I won’t mention that the reason I have to go through those boxes is because we might have to sell the house before the new year if neither of us gets jobs), bookshelves need tidying and the whole place needs de-webbing. It’s bad when the spiders start having to fight for corner space. But, these things get done eventually and in two days it will be back the way it is now so no hurry.

But the things I’m really addicted to are:

1.) knitting. Love, love, love knitting. Love the feeling I get when I finish something and someone says how lovely it is and they are surprised I made it myself…hey! Are they implying I’m too dim to make myself a sweater? Or that they didn’t know people still did that? Or that they are surprised I’m capable of making anything let alone a sweater? Ok, I will give them that last point. But more on that for another time. I am also starting to realize I have startitis right now. I have THE sweater to finish (the one I was making for a party), a shrug (making for same party), a pair of socks, and a lace cardigan on the needles right now. I’m also looking at some very pretty yarn I have to make another very pretty shrug to go over the dress I wore to the party yesterday because, well, you know a person can’t have too many ufo’s after all. I will get them all done but these things take time you know.

2.) The Good Wife. A tv show about a lawyer. But, wait! It’s more than that. It’s about a married lawyer whose husband cheated on her and ran for governor and won largely due to her composure and her support-my-man attitude and because she hates to have her dirty laundry aired for everyone to see but before she forgives him she is hired by the law firm her former never-consumated-the-relationship-due-to-bad-timing wannabe lover is a partner at and she takes up where they left off and has a fling with him but realizes it wasn’t a smart idea and breaks up with him and goes back to her husband only to betray the witless ex-lover by leaving the firm and starting her own because she got pissed off at the way they treated people who worked for them but before she left she had been fantasizing about their fling so who knows why she really left and if they will get back together again. *Whew!* Anyway, I love this show! I love Julianna Margulies’ (Alicia Florrick) character, I love Chris Noth’s (Peter Florrick, Alicia’s husband) chemistry with Julianna Margulies’ character, I love Alan Cumming’s (Eli Gold) character, I love Archie Panjabi’s (Kalinda Sharma) character, and I love Christine Baranski’s (Diane Lockhart) character but I hate Josh Charles’ character (Will Gartner). Hate him with a passion. Icky-poo. But, again, this is best left to another day.

3.) Canning and jam-making. This year we made 18 jars of jam from different fruits, 4 jars of mixed pickles, 8 jars of morello cherries, and 8 jars of dill pickles. This is more than we did last year. Hopefully next year we will make more.

4.) Shoes. I love shoes. If the house ever burst into flames, I would save the animals first and then run back into the burning house for my shoes. I think I’ve mentioned before how much I love Irregular Choice shoes? Well, I do. And I love these the best and one of these days I shall own a pair and then my life will be complete. Ok, maybe not. But I will be happy until they come out with something even better which will be in a couple of months. Unless, of course, I change my mind and decide to go with these little babies. Or maybe these. I won’t mention my absolute devotion to Lamb shoes simply because I can’t afford them but I drool over them every time I see them. Then there is Bottega Veneta (these ones in particular) but unless that guy from Kenya really is my long-lost uncle, my toes will never see the inside of any of their shoes.

5.) Reading. I’m currently reading The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker and Bring Me The Head Of Prince Charming by Roger Zelazny. And I just finished The Accident by Linwood Barkley. I tried reading the Game of Thrones but just could not connect with the characters, mostly because of the disjointed storyline. But I love the TV series. I have discovered that I am really not allowed to be in a store, be it a thrift store or book store, unsupervised. I will come home with an arm load of those things. I love the smell of them, the feel of them and the words, mostly, that come off of them. I love cookbooks, history books, novels, old science or medical books. Just about anything except romance or chick-lit. Personally I find it pretty insulting to have a special section called “chick-lit” and then to see how they define that term…

6.) Bad TV sit-coms. That is worth a couple of posts some other time.

7.) Ravelry.com. Love this site. It is so useful for sussing out a pattern. If I see something I like in one of the magazines, I go over to Ravelry and look it up then look at what others have done with it. So nifty for people like me who are not quite perfect because you get to see the sweater or whatever on real people, unlike Vogue who routinely puts their sweaters on women you wouldn’t be able to see if they stood sideways. Never mind that half their patterns are unwearable anyway. I don’t remember it always being that way, in fact I have old magazines where just about all the sweaters would look good on a real live human being. The last years (2013) issues haven’t been too bad, a couple of horrendous “inspirations” that make you wonder who was bribed, but nothing too ridiculous. I stopped buying Vogue though, got tired of paying for half a magazine. Actually I stopped buying a lot of magazines thanks to Ravelry. I can find whatever I’m looking for there, view it on a lot of different people, read about the problems/modifications people had/made and decide if I want to go for it. Much better on the old budget as well.

8.) Music. I love music. I love music so much that I actually had been writing for another blog but took what was supposed to be a temporary leave-of-absence while I sorted out my part-time job but has ended up being a lot longer leave than I intended. I will be getting back into it though. There is too much good stuff out there being ignored for me to keep quiet for much longer. I like singer/songwriters/folk/folk-rock/indie/electronica the best. And anything from Manchester from the late ’80s to the early ’90s pretty much makes my heart go pitty-pat.

9.) My cats but I’m not a crazy cat lady. I don’t dress them, or the dog, up in costumes or clothes, well there was the time I put a sweater on Mac but he looked so darn cute, and there are the pictures of Pete with Christmas lights on. And there may be one with a ribbon tied around his neck. And a couple of others of him in various holiday paraphernalia. But other than that. I do love my cats because they were rescued from the barn my daughter worked at when they were only 5 days old. The mother had 9 babies and try as she might she just couldn’t feed them all and so we took the three smallest. We bottle-fed them and burped them and cleaned their little bums and coddled them and spoiled them until they grew up into giant pains-in-the-butt. But I love them anyway. I also love our found bunny, Ruby. Poor thing. We found her on the side of the road in August looking like she needed a good meal. Now she is into everything and we wonder sometimes if maybe that was how she ended up on the side of the road. And we have 3 degus (they are like miniature chinchillas) who keep me up at night fighting over their wheel.

10.) Make-up. I love make-up but make-up doesn’t love me. When I was younger I could wear whatever I wanted and I did. Now I can wear Almay, Quo and Tarte and that’s about it. Clinique, even though it says it’s hypoallergenic, makes me break out and my eyes itch. I would so wear the eye make-up you see in ads if only it wouldn’t make my eyes swell to the size of golf balls. You know the stuff I mean. Like this, which when I think of it is almost exactly how I did my eyes last night, or this or this. A bit dramatic you say? Certainly and I wouldn’t wear it during the day but for those occasions when I had to go out to a party or event? I would be right on that. Now due to my allergies I have to be careful about how much I put on and what products I use. Sad, sad days for a make-up junkie like me.

Well, that’s my top 10 addictions, not necessarily in any order just how they came off the top of my head. I haven’t touched on clothes, or thrift store finds, or kitchen gadgets, or grocery stores, or gourmet food stores, or British shops, or pet stores, or Homesense, or Winners,or Dollarama, or George Clooney…there are so many interesting things out there I don’t know how to be bored. Mind you I mostly window shop right now because both my husband and I are looking for work but looking is free and other than the lip marks I leave on certain items, it’s mostly harmless.