Tuesday, June 21, 2016

some knitting is slow

Some knitting is slow. Oversize cardigans for plus-size me in laceweight yarn on teeny needles, just for example, are SLOW.

Like this one. Kate Davies' Firth O' Forth in Verdant Gryphon Mithril lace, in the coveted colorway Blowfly. (Blowfly used to be available only one day a year, in a special sale on New Year's Eve, and two years ago I was lucky enough to grab four precious skeins on laceweight.)

It's going to be amazing. Someday.

I have this much done:
almost looks like it could be a sweater some day!


















Actually, I've added a couple more inches since that photo, but ohmygoodness it grows
s  l  o  w  l  y. Still, it's lovely relaxing knitting and the play of color across my stitches is deeply satisfying.


this is what a soul-destroying cast on looks like





This is what it looked like at the very beginning, after I cast on 462 stitches.
(No, that's not a typo; I really did cast on four hundred and sixty-two stitches.)



















But after making three big swatches, the interminable cast on, the bottom band in garter stitch, and a couple of repeats of (finally!) the lace pattern, it was only this big:


only this and nothing more


. . . and I lost the will to live and put it into hibernation for 14 months.












But now it's out again and I love it and have forgiven it everything. I may not finish this baby before I'm 70, but right now it's my favorite project! Perfect for knitting outdoors while enjoying the summer air in my lovely leafy garden.


Saturday, June 11, 2016

even I can't believe I finished it

The big blue lacy thing with beads (and beads, and beads) is done!




I probably shouldn't write about how I hate the white edging (should have made the edging one or two rows wider for the white to work) or how it's so freaking enormous that I'll never wear it (I'm barely 5' 1" and really should have known better), but now that I've typed it out, I'm gonna leave it here.

It's a beautiful piece and I thoroughly enjoyed the knitting. Now I need to find it a good home.





May is for Birding

Yes I know, I disappeared for the entire month of May. And here I was doing so well with this blog! But May is the height of spring migration around here, which means birds, birds, birds. There is nothing I like better than slogging through muddy woods in early spring, looking at birds. I was out there every day, in all sorts of weather, watching springtime creep slowly over the landscape and looking at birds. I live along the southern shore of Lake Ontario, which is a great spot to see birds during spring migration. They stop right here to rest and refuel before heading out over the lake, so we get to see a lot of them!

We had a slow, cold start to the season and never did get the southerly winds that usually bring the migrants in; just lots of north winds off the lake. They came anyway, out of order and in odd combinations, but they came. I'm a new birder, and I’ve seen 123 species so far this year, including 24 species of warbler, all within a 30-minute drive from my house! I was also fortunate to be out at the hawk watch on a 10,000-bird day. That was pretty spectacular (although they usually have a couple of 30,000-bird days per season, which I find unimaginable).
Actually, I don't have to go far at all to see a lot of birds. For a few weeks every May, the trees in my yard are filled with warblers. This year I’ve had black-throated blue, black-throated green, black-and-white, Blackburnian, northern parula, chestnut-sided, bay-breasted, yellow-rumped, palm, pine, Nashville and Tennessee warblers in my trees, feasting on insects and singing their distinctive songs. I had a Blackburnian warbler drinking from my birdbath!
Now it's June. Summer is upon us and migration is over. The trees are in full leaf and it's harder to see the birds. But they're still there. You can hear them; if you pay attention, you can see them. Birds are everywhere, busily gathering food to feed their young; busily preparing the next generation for the long flight south. I'm planning to make my list a whole lot longer before the month is out.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

the perfect pink




A friend sent me a surprise package with a skein of the most perfect pink yarn EVER. It's the coveted limited-edition Rosenquarz colorway from Wollmeise. I never thought I'd get my hands on it! 

Thanks Åsa!!

I had to wear it right away--sometimes knitting takes too long :)



and while we're on the subject of pink:




Wednesday, April 20, 2016

getting started: birth of a Big Lacy Thing with Beads

I started with the infamous belly button cast on. Well, no, I started with the disappearing loop cast on, but after trying it seven or eight times with unsatisfactory results, I switched to the belly button. I think I've learned my lesson. I'll do the belly button first from now on.

the perfect purple belly button

For the uninitiated, this piece is started from the middle and worked outward. "Casting on" is what you do to get those first stitches onto the needles. When you start from the center, you start with a very few stitches arranged around four double-pointed needles, and use a fifth needle to work them. All of this is managed with two hands. And now I feel some math coming on....

Five needles > two hands, and when you factor in fine yarn, tiny stitches, and skinny little needles that slide out of the tiny stitches, the end result = language I wouldn't share with my mother.

sad, sad disappearing loop cast on heard all the bad words

The belly button solves all this. You use a nice  heavy yarn, get it started on just two needles, then work in the round for a few rows 'til you have a nice firm tube as a foundation. Then change to your project yarn, leaving the end hanging, and just keep going. You remove the belly button later and tighten up the central stitches with that dangling free end. Voilà! A perfect in-the-round cast on.  I love the belly button.


deceptively fast at first
Progress seemed fast at first. I zoomed around that central star, placing my oh-so-carefully chosen beads as I went. Then I put stitches on hold on three sides of the central star while I worked double leaf motifs back and forth going out to the side, until I had a total of fifteen (including the central ones). For the sake of symmetry, I repeated the process on the opposite side. At about the fourth repeat on the second side, I realized it would have looked just as symmetrical with three or four fewer repeats, but there was no turning back. Besides, fewer repeats would make a shorter stole, and I want to be able to wrap it around my ampleness a couple of times.


a zoomed-out view. 15 sets of leaves on each side may be excessive

But now it's a few days later. I've finished all the pesky leaf motifs and moved on with my life. I picked up nearly 500 stitches (yes, that's a five followed by two zeros) along the long, long, 15-motifs-long side pieces, scooped up the live stitches waiting on the sides of the central star, and now I'm knitting this whole long skinny rectangle in the round! Of course, a long skinny rectangle is a far cry from a circle, so this presents its own set of challenges (no bad language was required), but now that I'm 10 rows in, it's getting easier...and I have a beautiful blue baguette to show you.


blue baguette

Yeah, I know, it doesn't look like much. The thing with lace is that it requires blocking to be at its best. Blocking is done to almost all knitting after it's finished. It involves soaking the item in water, then stretching it gently to the desired shape and size. With lace knitting, the stretching is not gentle. You pull on it in every direction until it can't possibly be pulled any more, then pin it down and let it dry. It's a near-miraculous transformation. But for now, we're going to be deliriously happy with the beaded blue baguette.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

decisions decisions

I decided to make another Big Lacy Thing with Beads.

I dunno why; I am not a lacy kind of girl. But I love knitting big lacy things with beads. And they're having a Round & Holey KAL on one of my Ravelry groups. KAL = Knit-A-Long (and yes, I do need to get to work on that glossary of Knitting Terms for the Uninitiated). Round means it's knitted in the round (although it doesn't have to end up round--it might be square, or a rectangle, or any other shape on the spectrum between circle and not-a-circle). Holey means it has holes in it; in other words, lace. I do love to knit lace. Too bad I hate wearing it. Oh well. Big lacy things with beads make awfully pretty gifts.
Himmelblau



I chose the yarn easily enough. I've had it for a while, waiting for the perfect project It's blue. Specifically, Himmelblau. Possibly the prettiest blue on the planet. Certainly the perfect blue for early spring when we are starved for true-blue skies.



The pattern is Amillë, by Emily Ross. It's a looooong rectangle, knitted mostly in the round. I may actually wear this one--it looks nicely scarf-shaped. Wrapping it around a couple times tends to neutralize the laciness.






Then I had to pick the beads. This part took a little longer. Teeny beads or bigger beads? Sparkly or matte? Clear or blue or light green or dark green or purple or dark purple with a rainbow-y coating or pearl or bronze or gold? I have a significant stash of beads, so I restricted myself to beads already in my possession...which meant I couldn't use the tiny bright silver ones I was already picturing. *Sigh* But when you have stash, you must work from stash. And man, do I have stash. (Bead stash, that is. Bead stash. Well, and yarn stash too. I have, um, epic yarn stash. And fabric, but there's no need to get all confessional in here.)

pretty picture of a few of  the beads
pretty picture of a few more 
the bead drawer isn't that pretty
particularly enjoyable fish button

I couldn't just go through my bead drawer, because my bead drawer had been overwhelmed by buttons (somewhere along the line I thought it was a good idea to start a button stash, too). I had to pick all 796563 buttons out of the bead drawer, sort them by size and color, put them in ziploc bags, and find them their own little storage bin.

I particularly liked the fish buttons. I left one out so I could enjoy its little fishy face.

And then, at long last, I started stringing beads on my yarn to see how I liked them. Funny thing happened...I liked all of them. I strung increasingly unlikely colors...and I liked them too! Clearly, this was developing into a situation. Indecision does not suit me. I decided to wait until daylight.

daylight photo of all the pretty beads on the heavenly blue yarn

It would be fun to draw this out longer, but that would be deceptive. I never exaggerate. In the cold light of day, it was easy enough to make my choice. Fifth from the right, tiny silvery gray beads. (Of course, I don't actually have enough of them and they are no longer available, but whatever. When I have to choose a complement, I'll blog about it again.)

Watch this space for updates on the Big Blue Lacy Thing With Beads.



Friday, March 18, 2016

I'm sorry, Spellcheck, but 'pompom' really IS all one word

The pompoms from my latest hat are so cute and such a source of maker's pride that I decided they deserved their own post . While writing it, I nearly yielded to my spellchecker's insistence that pompom should be written as two separate poms. But social media has taught me skepticism, so I hopped over to Dictionary.com before I made any changes. Hah! Pompom it is and shall remain! (Unless I feel fancy and go with the equally correct pompon.)

Now that I'm done arguing with my computer, I bring you the happy little yarn puffs:

happy little yarn puffs

I planned to blog about the poms before I blogged about the hat, but life intervened, and now the whole process post idea seems a bit drab.  Suffice it to say I learned three things:

1. Pompoms use a LOT of yarn.

2. Pompoms do not grow back, so one must take care with the scissors when trimming them to shape. 
Corollary: Sometimes a flat spot is best ignored.

3. Pompoms can make a heckuva mess. Trim them in an easily swept-up spot.  
Corollary: Do not not trim over your computer keyboard, your contrasting-color wool sweater, or your lunch. 

Note: The pompoms, while delightfully plump and plush, are now measurably smaller than they were in the photo above.

you don't want this in your lunch

I really can't wait to make pompoms again!




bluebird on my head

I wanted another hat. This desire fell well outside my recent hat obsession (no really, it did!), because this was a specific hat-want. I wanted a lightweight-but-not-too-light hat, for springtime birding and dog-walking.

I have several much-loved hats in my collection, but all of them are designed for cold weather. This hat would be for chilly weather, transitional weather, the kind of weather where you can go without a coat if you wear the right sort of hat.

I wanted it to sit lightly on my head--no squeezing--to minimize sweating and to avoid smooshing my hair, because this hat is likely to be taken off as the day warms up. An earflap hat seemed the perfect solution. Earflaps warm the ears without having to pull the hat way way down on the forehead, and the hat can fit loosely because the flaps and strings act as counterweight, employing gravity (rather than squeezing) to hold it on the head.  Yes! Light but not too light--probably sport weight. (Fingering would be too light.) And cute! It had to be cute as well as functional.  Cables seemed the obvious choice, since colorwork with its double layers would be too warm, and lace has holes, which I've always thought a poor choice for a hat.

So:
Sport weight (which I achieved by holding heavy lace weight double).
Earflaps (with nice long strings ending in pompoms, for even more counterweight).
Cables (really cool organic-looking cables, with even more mini-cables worked into the ribbing).
Turquoise (this wasn't an official criterion, but I only ever seem to wear the turquoise hats).

And this is the hat!---------------->

The pattern is Into Trees by Hanna Maciejewska. I had to make some modifications, of course, because I can't leave a pattern alone loved the look of the hat but not the intended tight fit. The pattern is written with 3 1/2 inches of negative ease, and I just didn't want a hat that squeezy (but I must call down many, many blessings on this designer for including that information in her pattern description!). I simply knitted one size larger than I needed, opened up the gauge just slightly, and I had the perfect hat! I also made it shorter than the pattern, because I didn't want a slouchy top to pull it backwards off my head.


The yarn is Posh Yarn Lucia Heavy Lace, held double to approximate sport weight. Posh Yarn is fabulous luxury yarn from indie dyers Dee and Tony Bamford. Every color is one of a kind, the bases are superb, and it's hard not to buy them all. This color is called Bluebird.
If you would like to know more about the pompoms (c'mon, you know you do!), you may read about them in their very own post.






I love this hat!!!  I've already worn it three times.


Saturday, March 12, 2016

drumroll, please

aaaand.....glamour shots!







The pattern is non troppo wrap by Åsa Tricosa.  The darker yarn is Wollemeise Lace-garn in Petit Posion Dark WD--the second half of  my very first skein of Wollmeise! The lighter yarn is Posh Yarn Chloe. Chloe has lovely silver sparkles, but they don't show up in photos.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

so very done

Sitting here feeling bereft. Last night I finished the big troublesome stripey mindless knitting project. I blocked it this morning. ("Blocked," you ask?  "Blocked," I repeat. Perhaps it's time for me to get started on our Glossary of Knitting Terms for the Uninitiated.)

So it's done. All 1,607 yards of it. All .9 miles of it. All 154 stripes of it. All 99 knitted inches of it. Done.

I don't have anything else on the needles.

Here's the leftover yarn, looking slightly angst-ridden on the windowsill. Coffee cup for scale.


I'll share some glamour shots when it's dry.

Monday, March 7, 2016

reading and counting

Reading and counting: I've been doing both for years. I have an undergraduate degree in English, which demonstrates a modicum of reading ability, and as for counting, well, I have a full complement of fingers and toes. And yet.


I've been working on this knitting project. Of course I'm always working on a knitting project, but this is a particular one, the one that is currently my mindless knitting project. A mindless knitting project, dear uninitiated reader, is one that goes on forever, is easily memorized, and can be knitted while having a conversation or even while reading. Most knitters have at least one of these on the go at all times. (It's the non troppo wrap by Åsa Tricosa in case you want to knit one of your own.)


decent approximation 
It feels like I started this a year or two ago, but it was actually December 2015. I wasn't knitting on it regularly, but every few days I'd pick it up and knit some stripes. It appeared to be growing at a respectable rate, and it was oh so glowingly pretty! I had to keep stopping to stretch out the knitting and gaze at the play of color across the two gently variegated yarns. (I waste a lot of knitting time gazing at my work. It's one of the hazards of knitting.)

 My camera has a hard time with colors in the red-violet range, but this pic isn't bad. You'll have to invite me over if you want to see it in person.


I was happy with my progress until I recalled how long the finished object was supposed to be. 122 stripes. Yes, 122. A lot of stripes. The stripe pattern is written out in an eight-row sequence, with four rows of each color making up a full pattern repeat, so when I started counting stripes, I counted two for one. It takes about an hour to knit one eight-row sequence. You can probably do the math here. I'm a fairly quick knitter, but this was starting to look like a multi-year project.  (I tend not to enjoy multi-year projects.) But I kept knitting. And knitting. And knitting. And I kept seeing other people posting photos of their finished non troppo wraps on Ravelry, while mine hardly seemed to grow at all. Well, the wrap was growing.  The stripe count was stubbornly resistant.

stubbornly resistant stripes

One night, after hours of knitting added just a tiny increment to my stripe count, I posted a cris de couer on my Ravelry project page.  This is ridiculous, I wailed. When will I ever finish? How are other people knitting one, two and even three of these monsters while I languish here, fingers cramped and shoulders knotted, my stripes barely into the double digits?!!!


The thing is, I have trouble with numbers. Words are my friends, but numbers...not so much. I'm not even all that good at counting, despite my full complement of fingers and toes. Ever tried to count a flock of birds in flight? That's what numbers are like to me, even when they're sitting still. They just can't be trusted. So when I count my knitting, I count it two or three times and then I go and look at someone else's photos of the same project and count theirs, just to be sure.


So that's what I did. And that's when I realized: I was counting just fine. The words had betrayed me. Yes, the pattern is written in an eight-row sequence...but the stripes are counted as they appear, four rows of one color, then four rows of the other.  Eight rows=TWO stripes. TWO.  I had twice as many stripes as I thought I had. Glory Hallelujah, I was going to finish this wrap!


I really ought to end this tale with a stunning photo series of the finished project. It's just that I haven't finished it quite yet. Once I got the stripe count under control, I decided to make it longer. Yes, you heard me correctly. I traded my despair for madness and I'm still knitting. But it'll be finished soon enough, and it. will. be. glorious.

Knitter's honor.


is it long enough yet?







Wednesday, March 2, 2016

I hate to call myself a sewer, but 'sewist' sounds stupid

Wastewater removal system or precious momblogger moniker aside, sewing is my new thing. I acquired a sewing machine a couple years ago, via a swap for a mulching lawnmower (it was a Craftsman, but I still got the better of the deal. Thanks, Sara!). It took me about a year to get over my fear of it (an incident with a bobbin in 8th grade Home Ec class that I won't go into now), but then one day I really needed to use it, so I did. I found the manual for my 1960s-era machine online, and then a YouTube video where a sweet-voiced Canadian lady walked me through every step of winding the scary bobbin and threading the seemingly unthreadable machine. And it worked! By golly, it worked!

freshly-cut knitting
The inaugural run for my newly threaded machine was to machine-reinforce the knitting before I cut a steek...which, for the uninitiated, means I knit a sweater as a tube, then cut it open.. Yes, I used scissors to cut the knitting. But because I had first reinforced on either side of the cut with my marvelous machine, nothing bad happened. A pullover quietly became a cardigan.

But that's a story for another post. This post is about Kim the Sewer. (Yeah, see, that just doesn't look right.)





Once I conquered the dreaded winding-of-the-bobbin and threading-of-the-machine, there was no stopping me. When I decided I needed matching tablecloths and cloth napkins for the two tables at which I would seat 14 people for a Friendsgiving dinner in my 875 square foot house, I made them.

(See? You can seat 14 people for dinner in an 875 sq ft house! We'll focus on the success of the social occasion and ignore the fact that I don't have a dishwasher nor count the hours it took me to finish washing all those wineglasses.)

     When I wanted a cute little project bag in very specific colors for a non-holiday holiday swap on Ravelry, I made one.
Then I made another one, as a prize for a Ravelry KAL (knit-along, for the uninitiated. Just how many uninitiated folks are reading this thing anyhow?) I liked this one so much I hopped online and ordered another yard of the bird fabric. Birds make me happy.


     I went on to make some zip bags. These look like cute little purses, but I'll be using them as poopy bags. Well, I'll be using them to carry poopy bags when walking the dogs, because it's always nice to pretty up the poopy bags.

     I'll admit, it was a thrill to install a working zipper. I couldn't quite believe I had done it.
pretty poopy bag 1
pretty poopy bag 2


    Then I made the bunny. I'm in the process of making several more bunnies for my knitting-group pals, because they lurved the bunny. 

    So I guess that makes me a sewer now. I've been reading about sewing, watching videos about sewing, and sewing sewing sewing. And, of course, buying fabric, because every good maker has her stash.

    Sewing is a GREAT complement to knitting. It's fast. You can turn out a finished object in an afternoon, which is quite a thrill for someone accustomed to taking a week or a month or even a year to finish certain knitted projects. I love creating things that have utility (which is mostly why I stopped painting), and sewing adds a huge new dimension to the making of useful things. Plus, you can sew the knitting before you cut it, and the knitting stays knitted. That's pretty miraculous just by itself.

I want to sew all the things.


By the way, I replaced that mulching mower with a rechargeable electric one. The lawn still gets mowed.