Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Out With the Old and In With the New

With 2010 drawing to a close and January 1st just a few days away, I’ve been giving some thought to my knitting goals for 2011.  I ended up feeling well enough after all to knit Alison’s slippers and finish sewing Morgan’s doll clothes before Christmas so I am beginning the new year with more or less a clean slate.  As I look back at my list of knitting goals for last year I am happy to see that I was able to meet many of them, the most important of which was to finish the Great American Aran Afghan in time for my parents’ anniversary.  However, despite my best intentions, I did not “let it go” as much as I would have wished.  Even though I generally limited myself to only one SKA project each month, I found myself involved in other KAL’s and pushing myself to meet their deadlines.  In the process I put off (yet again) knitting many other projects I have wanted to knit for a while.  As a result, this year it’s all about the queue.

Drum roll please…

1.  Limit my involvement in organized KAL’s.  I will continue to participate in Chrissy Gardiner’s CSK and attempt to knit each month’s new pattern but with no fixed deadline I can work at my own pace.  I may join in other KAL’s as the spirit moves me but my goal is to avoid overcommitting to arbitrary deadlines.

2.  Cut back on yarn clubs.  There are so many yarn clubs out there that entice me but like KAL’s they prevent me from knitting other projects.  I am currently enrolled in two bi-monthly clubs and will likely participate in the next tea version of “Sip ‘n Stitch” but so far I have resisted joining any other upcoming clubs for this year (even though they sound really good).

3. Participate in the Stash and Burn “Sock Stash Knitdown”.  While at first glance this appears to contradict Goal #1, this KAL is extremely flexible. with its sole objective to use up twelve skeins of sock yarn in 2011.  I’ve decided to take it a step further and have matched up yarns with sock patterns I’ve long admired but have never knit.  So far I have almost thirty combinations from which to choose but I am committing myself to knitting only twelve over the course of the next year; if I knit more than that, it’s a bonus.

4.  Knit two pairs of socks for Cameron before the end of winter.  I gave him yarn for Christmas with this intention.  Otherwise…

5.  Engage in more selfish knitting.  It’s okay to give non-knitted gifts.  Lots of people do it.

6.  Knit more sweaters.  I say this every year but this time I mean it. 

7  Knit more shawls.  There are so many beautiful shawls and I want to knit them all.

8.  Buy less yarn.  I have a lot of beautiful yarn and I should be knitting it instead of acquiring more.  I’m not going “cold sheep” or declaring myself on a yarn diet but I will try to be more conscientious about my purchases.

In a nutshell, the objective this year is to get more joy from my hobby by limiting deadline knitting and casting on more of those “must-knits” from my imaginary queue.  While I will most likely always do some gift knitting because I enjoy it I will try to balance it with some “selfish” knitting.  After all, as I keep reminding myself, knitting is supposed to be fun. 

Monday, December 20, 2010

Good to Go

Well, good enough, anyway.

The tree is up, the cards have been mailed, most of the presents are wrapped, and as of about an hour ago the knitting is done.

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Liz’s slippers have been felted, soled, and wrapped and Cameron’s socks have been bound off, soaked, and blocked.  They should be dry in a day or two—I will be hanging them over the heat register whenever Cameron is not around. 

I know he will be pleased to receive them.  A day or two after I blogged last he mentioned that new socks would make a perfect gift, although he was careful to note that with all the other things I had to do that he did not expect them until after Christmas.  I smiled inwardly—little did he know I already had a pair for him half knit.  I’ve also wrapped up two skeins of sock yarn with the promise that I’ll knit them up in the new year.  After several years of trying to convert him, Cameron is finding out for himself that handknit, wool socks are warmer than the cotton sports socks he is used to wearing.  He says he does not even need to turn on the space heater in his office when he is wearing them. 

I haven’t touched Alison’s slippers and mostly likely won’t for several weeks.  Nor have I finished sewing Morgan’s doll clothes but I’ve made enough that she won’t miss them and her birthday is coming up in a little more than a month so I can give the remainder to her then.  The last few weeks have been full with Christmas preparations, family visits, and social outings and I’ve reached saturation point.  To top it all off, I woke up with the beginnings of a cold this morning, the consequence of cuddling a sick Andrew last week.  Except for a few last-minute jobs, as far as I’m concerned I’m about as ready as I’m going to be.  My best effort is going to have to be good enough.

It’s unlikely that I will blog again before Christmas so I’d like to take this opportunity to wish you a happy and healthy holiday season.  Don’t forget to make some time for yourself in the hectic days to come!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Year of the Slipper

Unselfish knitting continues…

Last week I washed up a bunch of “handwash only” socks and noticed that Cameron had added a few pairs to the pile.  He usually wears white sports socks and reserves his handknit, woolen ones for really cold weather so I was surprised to see them, considering that he only pulled them out once the snow and bitter winds had disappeared and the rain and warmer temperatures had returned.  It got me thinking that maybe it was time to knit him another pair.  Why not make them for Christmas? 

I know, I know, I’m crazy to put more pressure on myself but Christmas ideas for him are hard to come by.  And I chose a simple,  easy-to-memorize stitch pattern, just interesting enough to keep me engaged.

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They’re actually working up pretty quickly, considering that a) I haven’t had a ton of time for knitting lately and b) I can only work on them when he’s not around.

And just when I thought I was finished with slippers for a while a couple of things happened.  First, my sister, Alison, happened to mention that she was in need of some new ones.  I told her I had just knit four pairs and was slippered out but would knit her some in the new year and she was totally down with that.  Then my sister-in-law, Liz, gave Cameron her Christmas list and the second item on it was slippers. 

Now, to be fair, she did not ask specifically for felted slippers but she did mention that she had worn through the ones I’d made her a few years back so I knew that she liked and wore them.  Knowing I could knit a pair over the course of a couple of days, I determined her size and asked her what colour she’d like.  And while I was at it, I got Alison to pick out some yarn for hers and placed an order with Elann.com. 

Not only do they carry the suede soles from Fiber Trends, their Highland Wool is a good value and comes in lots of pretty colours.  I’d given it a test run with Ed’s slippers and it felted really nicely.  The best part is that I receive my shipments from them only two days after I place my order which means I didn’t have to fit in another shopping trip.  This arrived this morning, right on cue.

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I never get tired of the sight of stacks of unknit skeins of yarn—I think it’s the possibility it implies.

I warned Alison that I still may not get to her slippers until after the holidays but I have a feeling that I will end up powering through them, just to get them off my plate.  That will make a total of six pairs this year, the most I’ve knit at one time since I first made the pattern four years ago.  Needless to say, they’re a hit.

I’m now attaching suede soles to every pair I make in the hopes that it will significantly extend its life.  With any luck it will be a good while before there is another “Year of the Slipper”.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Whatever Happened to Selfish Knitting Month?

Well, it lasted about five minutes.  Okay, maybe a little longer but suffice it to say that November didn’t really turn out as planned.

It got off to a good start when I cast on Nuppy Diamonds, November’s installment of Chrissy Gardiner’s CSK. 

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After working a few inches on that I put it aside and cast on Liesl with some beautiful Punta yarn I’d bought early in the new year. 

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I might have also cast on a pair of plain, vanilla socks.  I had a bad case of startitis and I was enjoying it.

A few days later a certain someone who shall not be named…cough, Jessica, cough…called and said she was in a time crunch and could I please test-knit something for her asap.  Well, what are mothers for?  I sighed and turned my attention to her project, all the while gazing longingly at my other WIP’s.  (It’s all done now but it’s super-secret so I can’t show you any pictures.) 

Meanwhile, my brother-in-law, Joe, requested a new pair of felted slippers for Christmas.  He’d loved the ones I’d knitted him two years before but had worn holes in the soles and had had to resort to a pair of store-bought.  I hadn’t planned to do any more gift knitting but I’d made that decision before I’d received Joe’s Christmas list.  How could I refuse?  I’m a sucker for people who really appreciate my knitted gifts. 

While I was buying yarn for Joe’s slippers I picked up some for myself since I’d recently noticed some holes in my own pair.  And while I was at it I might as well knit Cameron a new pair—his slippers were practically falling apart and the yarn for a new pair had been sitting in a bag beside the couch for months and months.  Every time I saw it I felt guilty. 

Sigh…add three pairs of slippers to the list.  Okay, one pair was for me but it’s one of the few projects I knit for the product, not the experience, and it always feels like a chore.  It definitely does not qualify as selfish knitting.

Not long after I began knitting Joe’s slippers Cameron received a Christmas list from our brother-in-law, Ed.  You guessed it, it included a request for a pair of felted slippers since his pair had also developed holes. 

Now, technically Cameron has Ed’s name for Christmas and I am only responsible for gifting to Joe but Ed has a special place in my heart.  He has had my name for Christmas for the past two years (and, as luck would have it, has my name again this year) and has bought me knitting stuff!!  Two years ago he even went so far as to phone one of the indie dyers I’d mentioned and ask her for yarn recommendations.  Obviously, he is truly worthy of a knitted gift, even if I didn’t draw his name.

So…make that four pairs. 

Knitting 1957

As I wove in the last stitch on the last slipper I swear I heard angels singing.

By the way, from now on all the slippers I knit will include leather soles in the hopes that they will last longer.  With any luck I will only have to replace them every few years.

In addition to Christmas knitting I have also been doing some Christmas sewing but this has been a labour of love.  Morgan’s dolls are sorely in need of clothes so I have been stitching up an entire wardrobe.

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I still have a few more outfits to go.  Come Christmas, her dolls should be among the best dressed in town.

So with all of this and Andrew’s birth too, there hasn’t been a lot of time for selfish knitting but I have managed to squeeze in a few things.  I’ve finished one Nuppy Diamond sock

Knitting 1955

and Liesl.  It was a nice, quick knit but I’m having trouble finding just the right thing to wear with it.

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Sorry for the crappy photo—the weather’s been dreary lately plus my good camera is in the shop.

I’ve also been working on a set of winter accessories.  It all started with spotting a pair of red gloves in the Fall 2009 issue of Vogue Knitting.  I had the perfect yarn for them, Madelinetosh Tosh Sock in “Tart”.  Then I realized that one of the cones of yarn I’d bought in San Francisco had the same red and black tones and would make a great matching triangular scarf.  And if I was going to make gloves and a scarf, I might as well knit a hat to go with them.  I tracked down some Madelinetosh Vintage in the same colourway (not easy to find, as it turns out) for a slouchy beret.

Knitting 1959  

Sadly, I don’t expect that December will yield much time to work on them.  We are expecting houseguests from both sides of the family this weekend and will be caught up in the various activities family visits involve.  Then, of course, with Christmas approaching, we’ll be busy with holiday preparations and social events.

Therefore, it looks like Selfish Knitting Month is going to have to be postponed until January.  We plan to kick it off with another weeklong getaway right after New Years, location still to be determined.  There are so many things I want to knit I’m not sure how I’ll decided what to take along with me.  I can’t wait for the chance to knit undisturbed for an extensive block of time, without thinking about all the things I should be doing instead.

Which reminds me, I have a house that needs cleaning so it’s time to sign off… 

I hope you’re finding some time for selfish knitting.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Part Deux

Here’s Andrew a few hours later, after a bath, a nap, and a good meal. 

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Proud mama

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and grandparents.

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Meeting big sister, Morgan.

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One big, happy family.

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It’s amazing how someone so small can inspire so much love.

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Words can’t describe how happy I feel.

It’s a Boy!

Meet Andrew Ross, born at 3:08 this morning.  He weighs in at 6 lbs 11 oz and measures 20”. 

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Isn’t he sweet?

Mom, Dad, and baby are all doing great.  I’m looking forward to holding Andrew for the first time when we visit the hospital later today.  We worked hard for this one (nobody harder than Jessica!) but it was oh, so worth it.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Keeping Days and Selfish Knitting

Today’s post will be broken into two parts.  What can I say?  I have two things I want to talk about and they’re not related in any way.  And a word of warning:  If you like posts with few words and lots of pictures today’s entry is not for you.  Sorry, but it’s my blog and I can do what I like.  :o)

A Keeping Day

When I was a teenager/young adult one of my favourite book series was The Keeping Days by Norma Johnston.  The first two books were written in the mid-1970’s and were in our school library; then in the early 1980’s they were republished in paperback, along with four new titles.  Set in 1910 in Yonkers, New York, the first book opens on Tish Sterling’s fourteenth birthday.  She informs us that she knew as soon as she woke up that it was going to be a Keeping Day, one of those particularly memorable days that occur only two or three times a year, a day to be cherished and recalled during less happy times in the future.  And although her birthday didn’t turn out exactly as she’d envisioned, it was a Keeping Day nonetheless.

Ever since then I’ve held on to the idea of Keeping Days and have stored away quite a few in my own memory.  They’re not always entire days, sometimes only moments or hours, but they’ve stayed with me over the years.  Driving home from the hospital with newborn Jessica crying at the top of her lungs while Stevie Wonder sang “Isn’t She Lovely?” on the radio.  The time we bundled up young Jessica and Matthew and took them skating on a lake that had frozen over (a very rare thing around here).  Having dinner in a Barkerville restaurant on our anniversary while a trio of musicians serenaded the patrons with old-time tunes.  These occasions and others filled me with a ridiculous sense of happiness and contentment and stand out among the many more forgettable experiences of my life.

Yesterday was one of those days.  Our youngest, Colin, stopped by in the morning to receive birthday presents and congratulations.  Afterwards Cameron and I went out for brunch—something we do once or twice a year—then stopped by the mall to pick up a convertible crib/playpen to have at our house for when our upcoming grandchild comes to visit.  The day before Cameron had suggested that we take a drive to Manning Park, about an hour or so away, to see the fall colours so we set out a little before noon.  We’ve spent a lot of time at Manning over the years, sometimes going up for just the day, other times for a few nights of camping, and once in a while just pausing there briefly on our way to or from somewhere else.  We’ve hiked a number of its trails, both as a family and alone, and have seen it in every season.

It was overcast when we left home and we met a few raindrops on the way but the weather improved as we headed east and crossed the summit of Allison Pass.  Even though there was a dusting of snow quite low on the mountains, the sun was shining, the sky was blue, and the air held only a slight chill.  As I suspected, the fall colours were past their prime but there were still a few trees holding on to their brilliant autumn splendor. 

After a brief stop at the day lodge we decided to walk the canyon trail, a loop that originates near the road, goes up one side of a canyon to our favourite campground, then follows the other side of the canyon back to the road.  It had been ages since we’d hiked it and as we passed a familiar hollowed-out rock we couldn’t help but be reminded of this photo of our kids, taken sixteen years earlier.


I love this picture.

About a half hour later we arrived back at the car and headed a short distance down the road towards Lightening Lake, where we did a longer trail around the lake.  We recalled the time we’d hiked it with the kids, when Colin took three steps to every one of ours because he kept going ahead, then running back to us, then going ahead again.  At one point we spotted two Great Blue Herons in the trees on the other side of a secluded bay, which we later regrettably frightened away when we reached that part of the trail.  We had the place practically to ourselves and only passed one group of hikers the entire time.  The familiar sites put us in a nostalgic mood and we talked of the past but also spoke of future vacation plans and, of course, the impending birth of Jessica’s baby, due in only three week’s time.

Just as we pulled into the driveway we received a call from Jessica.  Did we want to join her and Neil for Indian food later on?  Cameron was a little hesitant—he’s not an adventurous eater—but agreed to give it a try.  We had a nice meal with them (we all enjoyed the food), then arrived home just as our first trick-or-treater was approaching our front door.  The rest of the evening was spent quietly (we never get many kids and this year had only five in all) and I went to bed with a perfect sense of satisfaction.  Our “baby” had turned 21; we’d had a wonderful afternoon together, enjoying the outdoors; we’d spent time with each of our kids that day; and, to my great relief, I’d finished the last of my gift knitting.  Which leads us to…

Selfish Knitting Month

I have a cloth-covered blank notebook that I hesitantly call my knitting journal.  I say hesitantly because since November 2008 I’ve only used up two pages.  It’s the place where I keep track of my gift knitting, writing down what I want to make for who, and ticking off each project as I complete it.  Because I knit on gifts all year long it helps to have a list of what I’ve already knit so that I have an idea of where I stand as various birthdays and the Christmas season approach.

In August this year, after making a list of prospective gifts, I had jotted down some projects I wanted to make for myself: a couple of sweaters, a couple of shawls, and some winter accessories.  A week or two ago I realized that while I had worked my way through most of the gifts, I had cast on only one item on my own to-do list (Laminaria), and I’d worked on it for only a day or two before setting it aside.  What was wrong with this picture?

When I took a look at what I’d knit since the summer, and then over the course of the past year,  I realized that it wasn’t only gift knitting that had prevented me from casting on these other items, it was also my participation in various knitalongs.  Every month I cast on for two or three KAL’s, in addition to having one or two gift items on the go at all times.  No wonder I hadn’t had much time to knit on sweaters and shawls and such for myself.

Now obviously, nobody forces me to knit gifts or participate in KAL’s.  I knit gifts for people I know will appreciate them and look forward to seeing their pleasure at receiving them, even if at times I don’t enjoy the actual knitting.  As for KAL’s, I like the camaraderie of the various groups, the motivation of a deadline, and the added bonus of potential prizes.  The downside is that gift knitting and KAL’s prevent me from knitting other projects on my wishlist, many of which I’ve already purchased yarn for.

I’m not about to stop knitting gifts entirely.  There are some people I really enjoy knitting for and many of the socks I knit for others are “mindless” projects, saved for car rides or watching TV, and do not detract from my other knitting.  What I am going to do is avoid large gifts, like afghans, for the foreseeable future and ease the pressure on myself to produce a knitted gift.  If I’m not feeling it, it’s not happening. 

It’s also time to step away from the knitalong.  This shouldn’t be too difficult.  The ZenGoddess and 50 Socks/50 States KAL’s are both coming to an end and I’m also considering sitting out this round of SKA.  I’d already decided that this year I was only going to participate in the mystery sock KAL’s (which take place every other month) but as fun as they are I am reconsidering the wisdom of knitting a sock I may or may not love when there are tons of patterns I know I want to knit.  Besides, SKA has become so large (over 11, 600 members) that it has become impossible to keep up with each month’s discussion, let alone all the other threads on the board.  What I will continue with is Chrissy Gardiner’s CSK.  It’s like the best of both worlds—it’s made up of many familiar, longtime SKA members and although we are united in our desire to knit each month’s sock design there are no deadlines or restrictions. 

Another thing I’m cutting back on is my participation in yarn clubs.  While I’ve really enjoyed receiving yarny packages in the mail every month or two I’m ready to focus on the yarns and patterns I already own.  I’m not giving up clubs entirely—there are still five shipments to come from the 7 Wonders club, I will most likely continue with the Sip ‘n Stitch club when the tea version recommences in six months, and I have just signed up for the Color Co-op—but I have resisted the temptation to sign up for several others that have caught my eye. 

After I had my revelation a couple of weeks ago I made a determined effort to finish up all of my outstanding gift knitting and KAL projects, with an eye to finishing them by October 31st.  I missed the deadline by a mere hour and a half, casting off a fingerless glove for my Mom at 1:30 this morning.  All that’s left is some blocking and finishing work, which will take a few hours at most. 

Therefore, I hereby declare November “Selfish Knitting Month” and plan to work on whatever takes my fancy, with no deadlines in sight.  The first thing I’m going to do is rummage through my stash to find the perfect yarn for this month’s CSK sock, “Nuppy Diamonds”.  I think it will feel strange at first to be free of deadlines (even if they are usually self-imposed) but I am looking forward to a more freeing and relaxed knitting experience in the weeks leading up Christmas.  After all, knitting is supposed to be fun, right?

Sunday, October 10, 2010

To Frisco and Back in the Blink of an Eye

It was just a week ago that I was packing our suitcases for our trip to San Francisco but as I write the bags have already been emptied and the last of the holiday laundry has been washed and put away.  I’m not sure where the time went but I know we had fun.

We left the clouds behind as we sailed under the Lion’s Gate Bridge and out of Vancouver last Monday afternoon.

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They say a red sky at night is a sailor’s delight and that proved to be the case.  The weather was perfect for the remainder of our trip.

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After a lazy Tuesday at sea the cruise portion of our holiday came to an end when our ship passed beneath the Golden Gate Bridge and into San Francisco Bay on Wednesday morning.   

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After checking into our hotel we spent the afternoon shopping.  Or rather, Alison and I shopped and the guys patiently tagged along.  A few weeks before we left for our trip I’d learned that ArtFibers was reopening in a new location, which just happened to be on the same street as our hotel.  It had to be a sign, I’m sure of it.

ArtFibers is not your ordinary yarn store.  It carries only its own line of yarns, which are wound onto cones and sold by the yard.  There are samples knit up in almost every colour of every yarn, along with suggested yardages for common projects such as sweaters and scarves.  If you like, you can indulge in a little “yarn tasting” and try out the yarns for yourself before you make your final choices.  There were so many beautiful yarns it was hard to decide but I finally narrowed it down to four.

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Just after we arrived at the shop and began looking around I heard some familiar voices.  A quick peek at their faces confirmed my suspicions—it was Jenny and Nicole from Stash & Burn.  They were there checking out the new store and recording their next podcast.  I have been a longtime fan of their podcast and am a member of their Ravelry group so it was a pleasure to meet them in person.

The next day we went on a wine tour in the Napa Valley.  We visited four wineries in all and each had its own style and offered a different experience.  We tasted all sorts of different wines, had an amazing picnic lunch, saw grapes being crushed, and toured a vineyard.

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That evening we had a delicious seafood dinner at Fishermans Wharf before heading back to the hotel to watch the Giants beat the Atlanta Braves in the first game of the playoffs.

We’d planned to go to Alcatraz on Friday but discovered that there were no more tours available until the following day so we did some other touristy things instead.

We rode the cable cars,

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checked out the crookedest street in the world,

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and spent some more time at Fishermans Wharf, where we did a bit of shopping and were thoroughly entertained by some California sea lions,

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There was an airshow going on and we got a good look at The Blue Angels and a few other performers.

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After another seafood dinner we returned to the hotel for our last evening.  Once again we tuned into the Giants game but this time they were beaten by the Braves in extra innings.

Saturday morning it was time to say goodbye to the sunshine and head back to rainy Vancouver.  As much as I enjoyed our holiday it was good to return home, despite the weather.  Tomorrow we celebrate Thanksgiving and I am looking forward to having the family together for turkey dinner.  With great kids, good health, and a grandchild on the way we have a lot to be thankful for.

And yarn, of course.  Every day I am thankful for yarn.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Practically Perfect in Every Way

You know how some days you feel good just to be alive?  This has been one of those days.

First, there’s the weather.  We’ve had a real mixed bag lately, alternating between sun and clouds and pouring down rain.  Today there is not a cloud in the sky, with just the hint of a soft breeze. 

I mean, there’s no other way to describe it other than soft.  I sat out on the swing this afternoon and was struck by how the light touch of the breeze felt neither cool nor warm, just soft.

Meanwhile, the air has been continually filled with the sound of birds chirping and chittering.  The feeders are a buzz of activity these days.  I’m used to seeing house finches, chickadees, house sparrows, and Stellar’s jays year round but I’ve recently spotted many of my favourites, including juncos, white-crowned sparrows, towhees, bush tits, and flickers, returning from their summer grounds.  The goldfinches are still hanging around but are wearing their winter colours and will soon be migrating south.

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I also woke up this morning with a sense of satisfaction.  Last night I finished the first pair of what I am dubbing “the Alaska socks”.

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The yarn for this pair was bought at Mission Street Arts & Fibers in Ketchikan.  It’s Bear Feet by Raven Frog Fiber Arts in the “Northern Lights” colourway knit into a basic stockinette sock.

Ketchikan was our last port and Raven Frog was the only yarn left on my souvenir list (I’d already purchased yarn from two other Alaskan dyers in Juneau and Skagway) but, truth be told, there wasn’t much of a selection so I chose what I thought was the best of the bunch.  I wasn’t quite sure how I felt about the bright, neon green and purple bits but when I began to knit I was pleasantly surprised with how they knit up in predictable spirals against the navy background.  And with its cashmere content the yarn is oh, so soft.  I am going to enjoy wearing these this winter.

I also finished another pair of socks yesterday afternoon.  Two in one day—not bad, huh?

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These are “Archery Socks”, the second installment of Chrissy Gardiner’s CSK.  We’ve been gearing up for October’s sock, featuring yarn from The Unique Sheep’s Gradiance Collection and got our first glimpse of the pattern today.  Instead of simply knitting the shades from light to dark along the length of the sock, Chrissy has designed a sock that combines the shades from either end of the gradiance in a colourwork pattern.  As much as I’d love to jump right into this one I’ll have to wait until I receive my yarn order from The Unique Sheep, which probably won’t arrive for a couple of weeks. 

What did arrive on my doorstep and added to today’s perfection was my goodie bag from the CSK, which was awarded to the first 100 members to sign up.

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Besides a canvas bag, we received all sorts of goodies, including a needle case, a couple of yarn samples, a sock-blocker keychain kit, a scarf pattern, a stitch marker, a ruler/needle-gauge, notepads, pens and a pencil, a button, and a box of yarn-themed gift cards.

As if life wasn’t good enough, it is about to get even better.  On Monday afternoon we are setting sail on a two-day cruise to San Francisco, where we will spend three nights before heading home on Saturday.  My sister and brother-in-law, Alison and Stan, are traveling with us and we are all looking forward to exploring the city, touring Alcatraz, and going on a Napa Valley wine tour while we are there.  San Francisco is one of those cities I’ve wanted to revisit so I am very excited to finally get the chance.  Cross your fingers that the good weather there holds.

BTW, Hallett’s Ledge is back on track.  I’ve finished the sweater body but I’ve had to put it on hold for the time being while I work on some gift knitting.  I’m hoping to get back on the ledge before too long.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Falling off the Ledge

You know how it is when you start a new project and you’re all enthused?  You knit and knit and ooh and ah over your progress and don’t want to put it down for anything.

That’s how I feel felt about Hallett’s Ledge.

I cast on yesterday afternoon and happily knit my way through the ribbing.  When it came time to begin the decreases I plotted them all out in my notebook and began to tick them off as I worked each set.  By the time I went to bed I had several inches to show for my effort.

This morning I eagerly picked the sweater back up again and continued to work the ribbing.  I determined how long I wanted the lower half to be and worked a few extra rows to make up for the smaller row gauge of my DK yarn before beginning the increases.  Just after dinner I finally finished the ten or so inches of ribbing and prepared to begin the upper part of the sweater.  In only two days I’d knit about 2/3 of what it had taken me well over a year to accomplish on Fylingdales.  I was feeling great.

Then I counted my stitches and came up eight short.


It didn’t take long to figure out where I’d gone wrong.  Instead of decreasing every 4 rows once and every 6 rows 4 times I had decreased every 4 rows once and every 6 rows 6 times.  I’d obviously had six on the brain.  Sigh…

Resignedly, I frogged the sweater back to where I should have worked the final decrease and put the stitches back on my needle, ready to continue the pattern as written.  That’s when I realized that by doing so I would have to add an extra couple of inches between the last decrease and the first increase, significantly altering the lines of the sweater.  Blame it on the smaller row gauge and my long waist. 

Well, I’d rather do it right than do it quickly so I reworked the frequency of the decreases (every 8 rows 5 times) and ripped back a few more inches.  It’s on the needles again, ready to go, and with any luck I’ll be back on the ledge in a day or two.

I love knitting.  Especially ribbing. 

No, really… 

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

A Fresh Start

In another week summer will officially be over and autumn will be upon us.  I love this time of year, when the temperatures cool down and Mother Nature treats us to one last blast of colour before the grey of winter settles in. 

Fall also signals the return of sweater weather and, for us knitters, sweater-knitting weather.  For the last week or so my fingers have been itching to cast on a sweater, particularly Hallett’s Ledge, which was featured in the latest edition of Twist Collective

I really wanted to use some yarn from my stash but the only thing I had that was comparable to the Rowan Felted Tweed Aran that the pattern called for was some Joe Sharp Silkroad Aran Tweed.  While lovely, I didn’t feel that the cranberry colour really suited this design; I kept picturing it in a light neutral, similar to the original design.  In fact, I couldn’t stop envisioning it in the very yarn that was half knit up into my Fylingdales cardigan.

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Begun way back in January 2009, this sweater has spent most of its life languishing in a partly-knit state.  Every so often I would pull it out and knit a few inches but would soon grow bored with its repetitive stitch pattern and shove it back into its bag.  I really like the basic design of this sweater but the fact that it has drop shoulders kept niggling away at the back of my mind and I wasn’t sure that I would even like the finished product, should I ever manage to actually complete it. 

The yarn is also Jo Sharp Silkroad but in a DK rather than an Aran weight.  But the yarn is not your usual DK—it knits up more like a worsted and I didn’t think it would be too difficult to rework the numbers.  In fact, a quick check of the pattern showed that one of the cast-on numbers corresponded almost exactly to my required number of stitches making it relatively simple to sub in my preferred yarn.  Easy peasy.

So with very little regret and a great deal of relief (no more UFO on my conscience) I frogged Fylingdales, reskeined the yarn, and gave it a good soak to restore it to its original condition.

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Then I picked up an unused skein and cast on for Hallett’s Ledge.

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Now that I’ve given this yarn new life I am determined to knit it up into the sweater it was meant to be.  It has spent way too many months at the bottom of a knitting bag and deserves to see the light of day.

Friday, August 6, 2010

There and Back Again

Well, so much for staying quietly at home!

My sister, Jeanine, phoned me Wednesday afternoon and the conversation went something like this:

Jeanine: Hi, what are you doing tomorrow?

Me:  Nothing special.  Why?

Jeanine: How’d you like to make a quick, overnight trip to the cabin to surprise Dad for his 80th birthday?

Me: That’s a great idea.  Count me in.

Now, there had been talk of doing something special to celebrate Dad’s milestone birthday but between the cruise earlier this summer and everyone’s work and holiday schedules we just hadn’t been able to put anything together.  Jeanine, herself, had expected to be away but thanks to some vehicle troubles her own family vacation had been postponed and she found herself at home instead. 

Another sister, Anna-Marie, was also free and up for the surprise so we quickly coordinated food and travel plans and arranged to leave first thing the next morning.  It was so fun to see Mom and Dad’s expressions when we pulled up in front of the cabin mid-afternoon, bearing supper fixings and birthday cake. 

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Our visit was short but sweet--just over 24 hours later we were back home again—but we’ll all remember Dad’s impromptu birthday celebration for a long time.  There’s definitely something to be said for spontaneity.   

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Good Mail Day

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Look what arrived in my mailbox this morning! 

It’s Miriam Felton’s new book, Twist & Knit, a collection of twelve designs, mainly featuring shawls and scarves, but also including a cowl, fingerless gloves, and socks.  Miriam’s aim was to create a set of patterns that could work for a variety of yarns so each design has small pattern repeats, flexible gauge, or special construction methods so that you can get the most mileage out of your one-of-a-kind or hand-dyed skeins.  In addition to the lovely designs, beautiful photographs, clear instructions, and excellent charts, the book includes a substantial resource section with tutorials for the cast-ons, bind-offs, and other techniques used in the patterns.  At $20 US it is well worth the cover price but for only $2 more you can also purchase the digital files for all the patterns but one (which is under contract for digital distribution), making it an exceptional value.  If you’re only interested in knitting one or two items the patterns are also available for purchase on Ravelry individually or as part of three digital pattern collections (shawls, scarves, and accessories).  Personally, I think the hard copy/digital option is the best of both worlds.  You can flip through the book for inspiration (knitting books make excellent bedtime reading) then print a digital copy of your chosen pattern for easy portability. 


Tuesday, August 3, 2010

There’s No Place Like Home

This morning I woke up in my own bed and it felt good.  I love to travel but I’ve been away a lot this past month and have missed the rhythm and routine of ordinary daily life.  There has been way too little time lately to just be.

Having said that, we spent a wonderful week on Vancouver Island.  The weather could not have been more perfect.  On Tuesday we took Cameron’s mom to Port Renfrew to see the tree the family planted a few years ago in memory of my late sister-in-law.  Afterwards we walked the Botanical Beach loop trail, where we admired the rugged coastal scenery and spied some sea creatures in the beach’s tidal pools.

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Then it was off to Nanaimo for a few days by ourselves.  Our hotel was right by the waterfront and we took several walks along the pier.  The fishing boats brought in fresh seafood daily and we ate our fair share.

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We weren’t the only ones craving seafood.  One morning we spied this seal near the dock, hanging out alongside some crabbers, hoping for a handout.

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On Friday it was onto Courtenay, where we spent the weekend with Cameron’s brother, Trevor, and his wife, Linda.  On Saturday we took in the Filberg Festival at Comox and on Sunday we played a round of golf at Arrowsmith, near Qualicum Beach.  My lucky number must be seven because I sunk a birdie on the seventh hole; the same thing happened the only other time I played this course!

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Our campsite was right by the water and on Saturday night we saw the Zuiderdam cruise past on its way to Alaska.  It’s hard to believe that it was just a month ago that we sailed past this very spot on the same ship, as we began our own Alaskan holiday.

Behind our site, high up in the trees, was a bald eagle nest, which was home to two juveniles and their parents.  It was very cool to hear the eaglets’ insistent chirps and to observe the adults’ comings and goings.  What a treat.

Of course, no knitter’s holiday is complete without souvenir yarn.  I had planned to visit one of my favourite LYS’s, the Beehive Wool Shop, in Victoria but it turned out to be closed the day we were there.  I’d already checked out the shop in Nanaimo when we were there in January but I’d done my homework and knew there was an as-yet-unexplored yarn shop in Courtenay.  We stopped by Uptown Yarns before meeting up with Trevor and Linda and I scored a couple of skeins of locally hand-dyed sock yarn.  Imagine my delight when I spied a booth featuring the same Sweatermaker yarn at the festival the next day.  Naturally, I had to add a skein of laceweight to my collection.

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Now that I am home for a while I am itching to sink my teeth, or rather needles, into some serious knitting.  Besides working on my current SKA project, there are a couple of other sock KAL’s I want to cast on for.  And then there’s the half-done Brandywine shawl and the languishing Twigs and Leaves cardi and the umpteen prospective projects calling to me and, well, you get the picture…

If this blog goes quiet again, you’ll know why.  Just sayin’.  

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Dragonfly Summer

One disadvantage of having a fellow knitter and Ravelry member in the family is that I can’t show you all of my projects as I complete them.  On the other hand, another knitter truly appreciates the gifts you make for them so that more than makes up for the inconvenience.

My daughter, Jessica, celebrated her birthday on Friday but had to wait until today to see her gifts.

First up, Dragonfly Socks. 

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Jessica is a dragonfly fanatic so I knew these would be the perfect choice.  I tried to find a yarn that captured the brilliant blue-green of a dragonfly and found it in SweetGeorgia Yarns’ “Tourmaline” colourway.

And, coincidentally, in the same colour range, the Shoalwater Shawl, knit with Knit Picks Shimmer.

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I can’t even remember when I cast on this shawl—suffice it to say it was years ago—and it has spent most of its life languishing in my knitting basket.  Every so often Jessica would inquire about its progress and threaten to kidnap and finish it herself so it seemed fitting that it should be hers when I finally completed it this spring.

These two pieces were gifted together in a dragonfly-print knitting bag, along with a dragonfly card—can you tell I love a theme?  Ironically, Jessica presented us with an anniversary card with—you guessed it—dragonflies on the front.  She says she chose it for the message…

Friday, July 23, 2010

Here Again, Gone Again

This month I am spending far more time away than I am at home.  First up was the Alaskan cruise, then after about a week at home (which included a visit from my mother-in-law and a ball tournament) came a mini roadtrip with my sister, Anna-Marie.  It has become an annual summer tradition for us to leave the husbands at home and spend a few days at the cabin with my parents. 

The day after we arrived we took a drive up the road so Anna-Marie could see the damage from the forest fire last summer.  Although I was once again saddened to see the utter devastation in some areas, it was encouraging to see green grass growing where last fall there had been only ash.

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The forest begins to heal…

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Thanks to some inclement weather I got a fair bit of knitting done, working a pattern repeat on my Bougainvillea socks

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and casting on the latest ZenGoddess project, the Isis scarf.

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When the weather cleared up I went fishing with my Dad.  In addition to admiring the beauty of the lake

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I managed to catch dinner.

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When I arrived home yesterday I eagerly downloaded the last clue for the SKA Mystery Sock by Chrissy Gardiner.  Tah dah!  One down, one to go.

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This has been such a fun pair to work on and I will miss them when I am done.

I’m only home for a few days before leaving again on Monday, when Cameron and I begin a week’s holiday on Vancouver Island.  We’ll have a few nights on our own but will also spend some time visiting my mother-in-law and camping with my brother- and sister-in-law.  Once we return home life will kick into high gear for Cameron at work but with any luck will settle into a lazy summer routine for me, which will include lots of knitting.

Something that I am particularly looking forward to is the first pattern release in the Indie Socks CSK, a new venture by designer Chrissy Gardiner.  This has also turned out to be the year of the yarn club for me and this summer I will be receiving shipments from ZenGoddess, Sip ‘n Stitch, and 7 Wonders, in addition to taking part in SKA and the 50 Socks/50 States KAL on Ravelry.  Okay, maybe this summer won’t exactly be lazy but it should be relaxing.

Finally, a huge HAPPY BIRTHDAY is in order for my daughter, who turns 25 today.  Sorry, Jessica, you’ll just have to wait until Sunday to get your present.  I’ll share pics with the rest of you then.