April 2008


So, I finished some more stuff. One for me:

and one for you. And by “you”, I mean my newly-born, not-able-to-read pseudoniece, Alice:

I like mine, but I loooove Alice’s. Actually, it was supposed to be a sweater for Alice’s big almost-two-year-old sister, Sofi, but my chronic case of I-don’t-know-how-big-kids-are combined with not bothering to knit from a pattern equalled a very tiny little sweater. No matter. Her da (my good friend) had requested “something earthy for [the Chilean] fall/winter, in the 3-6 month range”, so his wish was, after all, my command. Maybe I just like Alice’s better because there are no Stupid Faces attached.

Sometimes I try to avoid the Stupid Face curse by turning my back, but then the Pretend And Actual Backfat shows up and ruins everything.

Mostly that is weird fabric rolling, but at least you can see the scalloped hem. Yes! This is Kate Gilbert’s Camellia pattern, knit more or less as Kate wrote it! It is pretty much my best- and favourite-evar FO (so far, anyway!) I’m sure it would have turned out quite a bit cuter in the drapey bamboo called for in the pattern (and would have saved hours and hours of ripping out and trying again to get something resembling gauge), but I had three skeins of Dream In Colour Smooshy, and I wanted to use it! Remember how I made a thousand sleeves before I even started knitting the pattern? I wager that if I hadn’t bothered, I could have knit the whole thing (albeit maybe a teensy bit shorter) with only two skeins of the stuff. Two skeins of sock yarn to make one awesome short-sleeved sweater! Incredible, but true.

Although if I hadn’t knit so many gauge swatches, I probably wouldn’t have made something wearable. There are many nuanced lessons embedded in this knit.

Mods, mods…not many. Apart from using completely inappropriate yarn, I made the sleeves longer (and wider) than the pattern called for (mostly to reconcile the lace chart with the thinner yarn I was using), and threw in quite a lot of waist-shaping and some vertical bust darts under each boob to make it fit properly. Verdict? It is very, very comfortable, and it holds its shape well through a long day of wear. You know how sometimes knits get all saggy and shapeless after a few hours? Not this sucker! I gave it a real trial by fire last Saturday when I wore it to the Downtown Knit Collective’s Knitter’s Frolic in the morning, lounged on a friend’s couch all afternoon (knitting, natch) and then took it out to the Keg for our second wedding anniversary dinner.

Yes, I spent our second wedding anniversary yarn shopping. And yes, I feel kind of bad about it. I can’t decide whether the fact that I didn’t buy much while I was there is good or bad in this context. Here’s my (very small, especially considering the deals that were to be had!) haul:

That’s it. Two little skeins of Mirasol alpaca/silk bulky singles, five balls of Jamieson DK, and two medium-sized bottles of SOAK. Oh, and some handmade clear glass star-shaped buttons (not pictured). I barely broke $100; not for lack of choice, and not even because I was so overwhelmed by the amount of yarn and people and books and notions and everything (although I won’t deny that I was, a bit). It’s not even that I didn’t particularly like any of the yarn I saw; indeed, lots of it was beautiful, and I could have made many a project with the stuff. Could it be that I have reached a saturation point in my stash?? My Ravelry page shows a mere sampling of the yarns I have tucked away here and there. If there was some kind of crazy emergency and I needed to produce a ball of yarn in less than a minute, I’d have 55 seconds to spare. I think my problem (and I use that word loosely) is that I really do have ideas and plans for each skein I buy, and I feel bad for the balls of yarn lying around, unloved and unknit, being nothing but what they are: ordinary little balls of wool. I am so excited to turn each of them into some awesome and inventive project, but…! I just never seem to get around to all of them before I have more amazing projects in my mind (and, more often than not, in my hands)! One of the things I’m looking forward to most when we move (that glorious, unforeseeable orange-coloured day) is a serious destash. They weigh on my mind, these unrealized projects.

Holy crap, that was heavy. And not at all what I’d planned to write. Truth be told, I rarely have a plan, but still. Here’s another closeup of Alice’s sweater to lighten the mood:

This is almost two balls of Noro Silk Garden, colourway #244. I made up the pattern, but it’s basically a round ribbed yoke with a stockinette body and sleeves. Pretty basic, but very cute! I’m wondering how cute it would look a little (okay, a whole lot) bigger, and how many balls of SG I’d need…gaa!! Another new project in my mind, pushing out the old ones!! Bad, bad, bad…

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So, ever since her fussy cousin, the groundhog, saw his shadow back in February, Betty Lou the Woodchuck has been impatiently waiting for spring. Coming all the way from Massachusetts up to snowy Ontario didn’t help matters much, I am sad to report. Since her arrival in Toronto last week, Betty Lou has been looking out the window impatiently, waiting for a nice day to go outside and explore her new home.

Finally deciding that it wasn’t going to get much better than today, Betty Lou gave me the nod. She took a deep breath, and we went out into the backyard.

“I guess it’s not so bad up here, near the house” she said cautiously. “I mean, it’s nothing great, but it could be worse. Look over there!”

“Where?” I asked, squinting down the lawn. I’d left my glasses inside, and I was afraid that if I went back in for them, Betty Lou would chicken out altogether. We were all going a bit stir-crazy as it was, and her constant whinging about how much sooner spring came laaaaaaaast year was getting on my nerves a bit.

“Down there,” she gestured impatiently. Exasperated, she hopped down and scampered to the end of the garden.

“See?” she asked triumphantly. “There’s still some bloody snow down here!”

“Oh, don’t be such a n00b,” scoffed Andre from the rhododendrons.

“You’re embarrassing me. She’ll think we have no manners if you carry on like this!”

Betty Lou, abashed, picked her way carefully over to where Andre was, gingerly avoiding the little puddles of snow. “I guess it’s kind of fun,” she ventured, “to be outside in the warm sun and have snow around at the same time.”

“That’s the spirit!” Andre returned wryly, rolling his eyes slightly.

Betty Lou paused, and then, hesitating only a little…

…threw the fingerguns of woodchuck approval!

Andre grinned for real this time. “We’re going to have some good times this summer, Butty Poo! C’mere and let’s get a nice group shot to send to the folks back home. Good times, indeed!”

Although she looked a bit puzzled (I’m not sure she knew whether to try and nip the “Butty Poo” thing in the bud, or just to ignore it and hope it went away on its own), she edged over to the MiniMantis and smiled nicely.

“Say cheese!” I told them, and snapped the picture.

“Hey,” I said, lowering the camera, “Are you guys related, by any chance?”

“As if!” the woodchuck immediately scoffed. “Arthropoda and chordata?? I mean, no offence, Andre, but the idea of a praying mantis and a woodchuck getting it on is just…kind of gross. I mean, maybe things are different in the human world, but it is just not on. At least, not in MY family.” Her disgust was evident.

“Haha, yeah, gross,” echoed Andre a bit lamely…

…but I noticed he wouldn’t look me right in the eye as he said it.

Oh, Andre!

Betty Lou hoofed it back inside shortly after this last picture was taken, but I stayed out a few more minutes. In a happy accident, I came across Kate Gilbert’s very cute short-sleeved pullover pattern Camellia a few days ago, and since I am of course not using the recommended yarn (or even yarn in a similar weight…sometimes I think I am a knitting masochist) I have been happily knitting and re-knitting sleeves as gauge swatches, just to see what I like best.

The smaller ones are a bit cuter, but I think I actually prefer the gargantuan one on the right; it comes down about as far as a girlie tshirt’s sleeves, and flutters tolerably. Like many girls with bigger boobs, I’ve got the arms to match, so the adorable little sleeves in the pattern act a bit more as showcase frames: “Heeeeeeeeeeeeeere’s the ARMFAT!!” Ah well. We’ll see when it comes to the sewing up part which one I like best. If I ever get to it! After three days of casting on and knitting a bit and ripping back and redoing math and squinting, I think I’ve finally cast on a hem I’m happy with (in the round, of course) and am about an inch into the endless stockinette trek to the boobs, where some short-rows should make things (temporarily) a bit more exciting.

I toyed with the idea of changing the neckline a bit, but in the end I think I really quite like it, and will probably leave it as it is. Imagine, me not altering anything substantial in a pattern! Kate Gilbert, you may have bested me…!

Oh, and the yarn? It’s the hundred dollars I spent in Lettuce Yarn during the Yarn Harlot’s Sock Scavenger Hunt last week: Dream In Color Smooshy sock yarn in Blue Lagoon. I’ve got three skeins, which I think will be enough for this project. DiC yarn has FANTASTIC yardage, and is totally worth every cent (imo). The only downside to this yarn (besides how very thin it is, which will be great in a FO but means lots and lots and lots of little teensy titchy little stitches) is that it is making my hands blue. After a couple of hours of knitting with the stuff, my hands look a bit like I’ve been strangling a Smurf! Luckily, rinsing the yarn seems to get rid of most of the excess dye, yet the colour of the rinsed and blocked swatches are just as vivid and breathtaking as it was in the skeins that seduced me at LK (I’d been doing SO SO well up until that point!!)

It’s much more ‘solid’ than the Dusky Aurora, which I appreciate. I am such a sucker for semisolids/varigates in the skein, although I find that I often don’t like them so much when I’m doing the knitting up. This is something I’ve been struggling with for awhile now, and I think the answer is to get more into colourwork. If I am gobsmacked by a sock yarn’s colourway, it would probably be more useful for me to translate that colourway into a group of yarns, and knit something using those colours. Especially since I am slowly coming to the realization that I am not a sock knitter or knitted sock wearer, even though I am an avid coveter/collector of sock yarns! I will have to think about this some more…

If a Toronto-wide Sock Scavenger Hunt and Yarn Harlot book launch can’t break me out of my blogging funk, what can?? What can, indeed.

So, yesterday was April Fools’ Day here in Toronto (and, I imagine, in the rest of the world, tho I have only your word on that, Rest Of World). After a brief period of hesitation (“Do I want to run around Toronto taking pictures of socks and generally being ridiculous?”), I decided to finangle the day off and join a few of my fellow Ravellers downtown for Stephanie Pearl-McPhee’s book launch and Inexplicable Knitter Behaviour Sock Photo Scavenger Hunt (because I love running around and generally being ridiculous!). Although we didn’t win (or even, to be honest, come close to winning…the first prize winner of the $100 gift certificate got seventysomething points, whereas I think our best team member only got somewhere in the thirties), it was still hella fun. And here are some pictures to prove it!

To start, we have the bonus pic for the GTA Fibrefaces group: The Bemused SO. “You’re spending the day taking pictures of a half-knitted sock with internet strangers?” Note the eyebrow action: it is the essence of bemusity.

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“Heck yes I am! And what’s worse, I’m going to spend all day making stupid faces in pictures. To start, check out mah dollahs! Canadian Tire, yo! East Side represent!” And so on.

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But enough arsing about. Time to get moving! I jumped on the subway at Kennedy where to my surprise and nervous delight, an off-duty TTC driver ambled onto my car! They were worth 2 points, and although I was in the scavenger hunt for the fun and not the prizes, I thought that passing up an opportunity that had fallen into my lap was foolish indeed. So I girded my (shy) loins and went over to explain the (admittedly crazy) concept of the Sock Scavenger Hunt and to ask if he’d hold my sock and pose for a quick picture. Well, you may conclude from the absence of a TTC driver pic in this post that my request was refused, and you’d be right. Apparently, I might be a terrorist if I took a picture, and he might be fired. The first is a bit silly, but the second is fair enough so, blushing a bit, I went back to my seat, plugged in my iPod and waited for Dufferin station.

It’s been cold here for ages (stupid groundhog seeing his stupid shadow grumble etc etc), but despite the wind, it was pretty warm and sunny when I exited the station and hopped on the bus to go south to Queen St and the Visual Arts Ontario Gallery, our meeting spot. In fact, it was so warm that I was a little annoyed; I’d worn my newly-finished Phllyo Yoked Pullover (made from Dream In Colour Classy in ‘Dusky Aurora’), and was starting to get hot! It won’t upload for some (stupid) reason (probably because it’s stupid), but here’s the Rav link to the pictures in my projects. It’s pretty cute, if I do say so myself (and, clearly, I do)!

Anyway, despite the weather, I got down to Queen just fine…but I didn’t go into the gallery right away. See, the VAO was attached to Woolfits, one of my favourite art stores (although, sadly, too far away to visit often). And they might have the articulated wooden artists’ hand model I’ve been searching for over the last few months to make the trophy for our upcoming Rock Paper Scissors trophy! Apparently, these hands have become something of a rarity, at least in Canada (I could order one from the States, but with taxes and shipping and everything, it would be a lot more money and hassle than it was worth, I thought). Cheekily, I ducked into Woolfits and enquired after the long-sought wooden hand…but no. They didn’t have any. Although…the girl behind the counter gave me a wink and dialled the phone. Success! Aboveground Art had one last hand in stock, and would put it aside for me until I could come and get it! Result!

With victory in my step, I entered the VAO Gallery and immediately found my people: they were the ones giggling and snapping pictures (natch)! There weren’t very many of us, but we felt like a big group as we took over the small gallery and bothered the minions. It was okay, though; the boss lady was One Of Us!

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Look at that gorgeous Dream In Colour sweater! It’s a bit hard to see in this picture, but a lovely Saxon Braid (the same one I used to make the brim of my dad’s hat) runs all the way around the front edges (and I think it’s hooded, too…hmm, it’s not listed in her projects, so I can’t check, but anyway, it was gorgeous!) Between us, we sparked the Dream In Colour craze amongst our little group, which later culminated in a trip to Lettuce Knit and me spending $100. But that’s for later.

I did mention bothering the minions, no?

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But, of course, it’s all fun and games until somebody learns to knit!

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It’s no easy task to make your first knit stitches on tiny DPNs with dark-coloured sock yarn. But he did it (even if this picture doesn’t show it very well)!

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Ah, West Side. My natural enemy. But there is no time for revenge today. Today is for hunting.

And what things we found! I won’t post all the (sometimes boring) pictures of something-with-a-sock I’ve got, but here are some highlights:

I mostly looked for entries for the Yarn Harlot’s ‘Freestyle’ category (although I don’t think I have any that can compare to Margaret Atwood…there’s also a rumour of a Gord Downie sock picture, but I haven’t seen that one yet). First up, the hair salon next to Romni Wools:

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In that vein, we also passed Stephanie St on the way to Aboveground Art. Harlotastic!

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And one last yarn-related signpost: One of the artists who designed the Kensington Market sign on Spadina is named Yanover. Get it? Yanover? Yarnover? Okay, maybe it’s just me.

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Another something unexpected was this sculpture of a bike…it’s hard to tell if it is a topiary sculpture this time of year because there are no leaves out yet, but it was cool nonetheless. ‘Walk More’, indeed.

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Because of this guy, we decided to walk an extra thousand blocks to find another pub for lunch. Can you see him, behind the reflections in the glass? I’m sure he’s a very nice man, but… 😛

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After lunch (complete with Canadian beer…two points!) we finally made it to Lettuce Knit to fondle the Dream In Colour (and the Alchemy, and the STR, and the Handmaiden, and the baby alpaca and and and). While we were there, a delivery of lovely knitting bags arrived to much fanfare and excitement! Unfortunately, the delivery guy was camera shy (and possibly at risk of being fired…by terrorism…or whatever):

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By this time it had turned COLD. I was glad not only for my Phyllo, but also for the extra fleece I’d brough. O Spring! Even more my enemy than West Side dwellers! You are a jerk. Meh.

Anyway, by the time we had spent an undeterminable amount of time at Lettuce Knit (the yarn fumes sort of make time irrelevant), it was time to head to the Isabel Bader Theatre to hear Andy Maize and Michael Johnston from the Skydiggers open for Madam Pearl-McPhee, the Yarn Harlot herself! The pictures I took at the gig were crap, so I’ll spare you, but it was a fantastic night of music and validation. Of course, she’s preaching to the choir at these things, but it was still pretty magical to be one amongst hundreds of fibre artists of different ages and backgrounds and beliefs and skills and feel that what we did was important and creative and beautiful. I could go on, or I could just advise that you pick up her new book, which is full of pithy and interesting observations like this. So I’ll do that.

Our group (along with many, many others from the gig) descended on the Foxes Den for a drink and something to eat. Although the rumour was that they’d been warned in advance, they were clearly not expecting such a crush on a Tuesday night! I decided to skip the food and go straight to the liquid bread (that’s beer, dudes), since I didn’t know how much time I’d have. My parents were at the Royal Alex for a show and I was planning to grab a ride home with them whenever it was done. But I had a quest: I had boasted to my Selfish Knitters group that I would get a shot of the Yarn Harlot herself for our Travelling Veruca Swap (kind of like a travelling Flat Stanley, but with yarn). My cell phone rang; my parents were pulling out of the parking garage! They were on their way and I hadn’t gotten the picture! Bolstered by my cohorts (and a big slug of beer), I approached Stephanie’s table sheepishly (she’d been up for ages at the back of the pub where most of the knitters had snagged seats and had only recently sat down to her dinner) and, embracing my Inner Dork, explained my predicament to (I think) Joe and Rachel H. Hurrah! Stephanie very graciously hopped up and smiled brightly with Veruca…

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…and then convinced her mum to pose, too, explaining (with a wink and a nod) that I got “double points” if she would consent to be in a picture!

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Double points with knobs!

The yarn I used for my sock, by the way, is my precious single skein of Socks That Rock ‘Dutch Canyon’ which was a colourway for offer quite awhile ago, but had been phased out by the time I discovered the yarn. Before I got my first skein of Wollmeise, I though it was pretty bright stuff:

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The socks are plain vanilla toe-up with a gusset till the ankle, then I switched to garter rib for a bit of visual interest. I’ll post more about them later; I think I’m just about out of words!

Happy Inexplicable Knitter Behaviour, everyone! And thank you to my group of gnomes: Terrie, Cheryl, Nancy, Brooke and our honourary gnome, Kim! You guys made yesterday awesome! Can this be an annual event, please? Kthxbi.

…oh! The wooden hand I got at Aboveground Art? It saw some knitterly action:

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Good times, good times.