Ready for the Long Weekend!

I prepared for our long Red and White weekend by heading to a local spot that's themed around another colour
It also happens to have some yarn and related items for viewing, squeezing, coveting and it turns out for me - buying!
With Bonbon, the Helix Socks and poor Henry shoved out of sight into a special place I call "denial" I had no business making new purchases - never mind starting to swatch for one!

But it was graduation week for everyone around here and they were all getting awards and acknowledgments and so I thought it was only fitting that I get a little present too - even if my most recent graduation was in the last century!
The store is one of the most welcoming I've visited in Toronto. There were quite a few people enjoying the atmosphere and the snacks - one woman even put her knitting down and came over to help me with my decisions (or indecisions depending on how you want to look at it). I got to "meet" Glenna C.'s "Glowing" up close and personal. (LOVE the way Fiona Ellis' designs are constructed - in this case the way the hood evolves from the front of the sweater. )
I planned the trip as my school year end treat in preparation for summer knitting. It didn't disappoint. Too bad I was so wiped that I couldn't keep my eyes open long enough to knit anything last night but then that's the way its been for the last couple of weeks. Sometimes the mind is indeed willing when the flesh is weak!



A pile of school photos, still incomplete by a few years yet. They represent substantial growth, effort, learning and accomplishment on the part of our kids as hardworking students.
  • 78 is the number of report cards that together with our kids we've reviewed and analyzed, commented on, signed and returned to the school to support them in improving their grades the next term.
  • 2 is the number of languages in which, thanks to immersion style bilingual instruction, our kids are now able to fluently communicate.

People say it seems like yesterday their grown up kids were babies. It doesn't feel like that to me. So far it has been a fun ride but it hasn't been short or without effort!
  • 4600 is the approximate total number of lunches I've packed.
  • 5000 is the estimated number of times to date I've driven to drop off and pick up kids from school.
  • 48 inches of additional height and 200 lbs of healthy body mass is the total amount that two bodies have grown fuelled by healthy, home cooking and baking, active lifestyles, reasonable bed times and unlimited hugs.
  • Too numerous to count are the total number of athletic practices and competitions and music lessons, rehearsals and performances we've watched.
  • 5 are the number of trips to the emergency room we have made with thankfully minor childhood injuries.
  • 13 is the number of academic year ends we've celebrated together with ice cream cones after the last class of the year

This week we will witness two graduations - they won't be our first or, I do believe, our last either but tonight will be number one for this year.

  • 5 is the number of people I need to prepare dinner for and have ready early if we are to get to the school in time to get good seats. (I think all those concerts I attended as a teenager where we got rush seats was excellent training for parenthood!)
  • 4 is the number of batteries that must be charged to capture the precious moments of tonight's event.
  • 1 is the number of pairs of dress pants I just two minutes ago heard need to be lengthened (without the benefit of the body that will wear them tonight) by mid afternoon if they are to be ready to be worn at the ceremony this evening.

And so it goes. Could we be any luckier?


In the Land of Denial

I was knitting blindly along on the neck of Bonbon before I spread out the 200+ stitches of knitting squished onto a very short circ to look at my paired decreases.

I discovered I had missed one set of decreases entirely...

So I ripped back but having removed the markers around which the shoulder decreases are paired and which are the starting points for the neck decreases, the process of restarting the ripped neck feels like an uphill battle coming very late in the war. Soooooo no progress to report on Bonbon.


Baby Knits Part Two

Next in the baby knit cue last summer was the "Striped Sweater" from the Debbie Bliss "Simply Baby" book. It was knit over a long weekend and given away too quickly for photos to be taken. The collar detail is pure style AND pure function as the shoulder buttons allow it to open the full width of the sweater to accommodate big baby heads. On the link for the book there's a shot of the green and cream striped pullover. Clicking on it reveals the square neck detail and shoulder/neck structure that makes the knit such a great gift. Its entertaining to knit the square opening and mitered garter stitch trim. (Not so fun to sew in the million ends the striping creates!)

After that it was on to my second Teddy Bear from that book (the blue one) The white version I made on a prior occasion. I think its interesting how stuffing and placement of the eyes can so effect the ultimate appearance and character of toys knit from the same pattern. I LOVE knitting toys! Gauge doesn't matter and I seem to always have leftover yarn available in toy sized quantities.

The next project was the "Cable Blanket" from that same DB book. It was a tedious, slow knit that perfectly coincided with the worst heat of the summer. Poor planning on my part!

The size of the finished blanket (32"x20") and the stretchy quality of the cables along with the feel of the Baby Cashmerino make it something I think will be worth keeping long after babyhood has passed. I envision it being perfect for wrapping around the shoulders of a chilled toddler just in from a romp in the snow while the hot chocolate warms up or as a cozy layer under the covers after first getting into a cool bed in the winter. When you consider the work that goes into it what more could you ask for from a hand knit for baby than longevity?

I was proud to give it as a gift so its worth making for someone special in the future. Next time though I'll save this knit for working on in the cooler months of the year!

Next up from the book, two "Crossover Jackets" made for a set of set of fraternal twins known to be a boy and a girl long before they were born. I was drawn to the unique asymmetrical collar detail on these.

It was great to move to Debbie Bliss Cashmerino in Aran weight and larger gauge needles after the blanket. I finished both jackets in about 10 days - very satisfying!

I think the pattern, using two different contrasting colours for the trim worked very well for a set of boy/girl twins.

The ties are lengths of dyed leather thong I bought at a craft store - I lucked out getting colours to match the yarn. I soaked the thongs in vinegar and water to make them colour fast after rinsing and rinsing them in clear water to extract as much excess dye as possible. Can you imagine having both knits destroyed with the first washing if the colour ran from the leather to the knits? These were knit in the 3-6 month size so they would get worn before the issue of babies sucking on the ties would arise. I used the leftover pieces of thong to tie up the packages that also held identical denim overalls from Baby Gap.

The Twins' parents have a bit of a rocker style about them and I thought denim and leather would be cute for their first born babies.

Finally last September my '07 baby knitting marathon hit the home stretch with a gorgeous piece - again Debbie Bliss but this time from a book borrowed from the library. (I didn't record the title)

Its knit in Debbie Bliss Cotton DK in the "Stone" colourway. The gender of this baby was unknown until birth so I thought the colour (its quite true to life in these photos)would work for a boy or a girl. Imagine it with pink or blue or what about chocolate brown or white...its a colour that will work well with just about everything.

I love how the cables and wide ribs come together at the seams!

The collar detail is also great. It creates a nice finished front and you can easily see how it will effortlessly slide over a squirming child's head.

I made this in the 9-12 month size because it really is a three season sweater so I wanted it to hopefully last from before 9 to after 12 months. The sleeves will readily roll up when the sweater is still a bit big yet you can see how this could still work very well once its fitting more closely as the ribs give it a lot of stretch. As the pattern points out it will be great to pull on over everything from a bathing suit on a cool day at the beach to long pants and turtle neck when playing outside in spring or autumn. It would even work well as an added layer in the winter under a coat. As I've said I love baby gifts that will last beyond a few weeks of use.

By the time I was done this FO I had completed eight baby knits in about 12 weeks - each time working to a deadline.

I was satisfied with all the results but nonetheless happy to see the back side of this sweater along with the end of my baby knitting marathon.
This summer I think it will be all about ME!


Baby Knitting

I thought it might be fun this week to take a look at the glut of baby knits I was in the midst of working on and looking forward to knitting this time last year. 2007 was a bumper year for babies in our little circle of family and acquaintances so naturally it was also a late winter through early autumn of baby knitting for me. Much of it came from a Debbie Bliss book titled "Simply Baby - Adorable Knits for Baby's First Two Years". I really like Debbie Bliss designs for babies and small children. They are classic but always have a stylish detail or two that makes them stand out for gift giving. In this case I love the moss stitch cuffs, collar, yoke contrast between the cables and the trim along the lower edge.

I also like Debbie Bliss yarns and my closest LYS carries her whole line so its easy for me to get in the colours I want. They will hold a ball in my dye lot for me in case I need more, which, as a tight knitter, I often do and they are handy enough to me that its easy to return unused yarn quickly after a project is done.

My first baby project of the spring was the Cable Yoke Jacket from that book.

I made it as pictured in the book in the Debbie Bliss Cotton Double Knitting colourway called "Duck Egg". A lovely little jacket to knit but it was hateful to find a zipper for the thing once it was finished.
The pattern calls for a 10 inch, white zipper. I made sure to knit and block to the measurements but then discovered that at least in Toronto, zippers in that length and style are pretty rare. I probably spent more time travelling around looking in notion shops than I did knitting!

Nonetheless I would make this again in a flash. Its cute and with the moss stitch, cables and stockinette shaping its fun to knit. The Debbie Bliss DK Cotton yields a very satisfyingly squishy texture but if I make it again, I'll find the zipper first and knit the length to match in hopes of saving a lot time driving around!

The next project was knit for the older sister of the baby for whom the jacket was made. Its my own design loosely based on a pattern from Family Circle Easy Knitting Magazine (Fall 2004). For obvious reasons I call it the "Daisy Sweater". I love the colour of this sweater, knit in Cotton Ease - just the shade of gold from the centre of Daisies. The original pattern was for a cropped style pullover but I wanted it longer, more like a tunic with slits at the side to allow the two year old for whom it was intended to be able to move easily around. So I added a panel of eyelet at the bottom of both front and back. The idea was to infer the soil from which the daisies were sprouting. (Oh and I love the look of eyelet!) I wanted to put a daisy or two on the back but I was afraid the buttons might make the sweater uncomfortable so I fought that urge and left the back unadorned except for the eyelet.
I was very pleased with how the Daisy details turned out. I made the flowers themselves from small pearl buttons sewn on with cotton embroidery thread. (I collect the buttons from husband's cast off dress shirts when I cut them into rags so I have quite a quantity.) Then I added a simple running stitch in the embroidery floss so each little daisy would have a stem.
I also wanted to add something fun to the "Welcome the New Baby"package so I also made a doll for big sister from scrap yarn. It was based on a pattern in a book called "Knit a Square, Make a Toy". I found the book in the magazine section of a grocery store years ago when I still had delusions my daughter might learn to love knitting if she could only experience success with it once. She never even attempted to knit a square because as she told me at the time, she didn't want a toy. Charming.

On the other hand her mother loves knitting toys! Garter stitch squares pile up in no time and before you know it your scraps have disappeared and you've got a very cute and essentially free gift to give...

Too cute!

In the end I packaged all three items up together in a huge cello bundle with a big label addressed to the two year old. It can be hard to be deposed from only child status so I thought it might be fun to make the focus of the gift commemorating the arrival of her brother something about which she could get excited.

Tomorrow, the trip through the results of the Great Baby Knitting Marathon of 2007 continues...


Happy Birthday Ms. Pearl-McPhee!

I like having heroes - individuals who inspire me as I fumble through life. I've listed my knitting heroes in the side bar so I thought every so often I would write a post featuring one of them and why they are on my list.

Since its her birthday this weekend, I thought I'd start with Stephanie Pearl McPhee.

My son once asked me what the equivalent of the Yarn Harlot would be in "the real world" (his term). I told him "Oprah without the major appliance giveaways or Tom Cruise jumping on the couch" - although, just imagine it - it would make a great picture with the sock!

Her blog draws bajillions of comments a week - even generating comments on posts when she only states she won't be writing a bonafide post!

She's a productive and accomplished knitter. I've seen her designs on Knitty. She's in every knit bloggers' list of favourites. Her pre-released books sell on line before she's finished writing them. She's funny, insightful, frank and yet apparently approachable. She's raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for charity. If you've heard her speak, and by all appearances most knitters across North America have, her intelligence as well as her wit is extreme. All this, however, did not make her one of my knitting heroes. She became a member of that group on March 13, 2008 when I saw a photograph of her on her blog.

In one picture in that post, in the dead of the snowiest Canadian winter in 30 years, she's standing alone in the woods. Her husband who had driven her to this locale and who snapped the shot must return to the city, four hours away. She must get herself to a cottage an hour's hike distant through snow to her thighs along an unexpectedly unplowed road the car cannot maneuver. Darkness is imminent and having already struggled to and from the cottage once, she is already tired. If she doesn't make it the second trip she may not...

a) survive (if you've spent time in the Canadian Woodland in winter you know this is not a joke!)

b) facilitate the intense solitary writing she needs to meet a looming publisher's deadline.

She writes that she will transport her "essentials" (laptop, yarn and wine) wrapped in garbage bags to the cottage by towing the flying saucer snow rider they've managed to find on their first trip on foot into the cottage. She is leaving the majority of her supplies behind for retrieval the next day. The light is failing, but as the famous poem about the snowy woods by Robert Frost says "...(she nonetheless has) promises to keep and miles to go before (she) sleeps".

In the photograph her expression is across between uncertainty, professional resolve and nausea. It should be - there is a lot at stake for her. (see a) and b) above).

She is very alone, in a strange and inhospitable, snow smothered wild place with a heck of a hike ahead of her and once her husband drives away, no one to whom she can turn for help. ('Sounds a lot like life doesn't it?)

To get the writing job done in the time available she must nonetheless stick to the plan. (Even if the plan didn't include an impassable road and a snow saucer!) So despite the prospect of the challenges she doesn't leave in the safe, warm car. She decides no matter what she will take care of her family and her responsibilities by getting the book across the finish line and to do that she will get herself to the cottage to work undisturbed. I think that decision alone makes her pretty heroic in a Canadian Wilderness sort of way.

But a knitting hero? She's a knitting hero to me because she faces the challenge with yarn and needles at the ready! Okay there is also wine but this is about knitting and I'm calling her a hero not superhuman! The trek, the darkness, the isolation and the work will be helped by having the knitting at the ready! Otherwise why not leave it with the rest of the stuff until the next day?

Because with the knitting on board, the total load is actually lighter! (I don't suggest knitting materials can defy physics - I'm saying mentally lighter - the whole "perception is 9/10ths of reality" thing.) With knitting to do at the end of the trail the trek should seem shorter. Once the destination has been reached knitting can sooth, ground and calm.

So the picture from that post which made her one of my knitting heroes shows her walking away from the camera, with only the essentials in tow - a little woman in the big woods, who, with the help of her knitting is heading off to get the job done.

Do you have knitting heroes? Who are they?



I am totally in love with visiting this little teaser site! Maybe this is something that isn't new or original as a device to get people anticipating the launch of something but its new to me and I think its just brilliant! I can't wait to see the site when its up!

I visit every day at the end of my rounds of the blogs. (I don't subscribe to anything - only visit places when I feel like it)

If you haven't already - give it a try!



Bonbon didn't cross the finish line over the weekend. A few stupid errors slowed things down but I tried to correct them in a more creative way than by simply tinking back...
  • I made yarn overs when missing a stitch (or three - 2 times!)
I checked the numbers in the clean copy of the pattern in the magazine to discover the markings on my working copy had me reading numbers wrong.

I slipped the work around the circs and changed slipped stitches to knits and knit stitches to ones that were supposed to be slipped.

I see all of these attempts as little triumphs. I'm trying to grow up a bit with my knitting - challenge myself to move beyond the basic techniques I've already mastered years ago. As the subtitle of this blog indicates - I'm trying to catch up to the incredible knitters that I've discovered through blogland. (A good example of this would be young knitters who list "Venezia" in their completed lists - Glenna and Erin both spring to mind, both of whom have been knitting for less than 5 years?!!)

To get to that level I will have to work beyond my usual area of comfort.

I once thought holding the needles, throwing the yarn and consistent tension was all I really needed and for years I did a lot of enjoyable knitting with nothing more than that but I'm now seeing those skills as but the tip of my very own knitting iceberg.

Approaching problems from different angles jars me out of old habits. Errors help me learn, especially if I remember proven new solutions as I move forward.

I also need to anticipate and react more efficiently to problems. I shouldn't just knit blindly along with my mind wandering around while my hands work independently of any real supervision.

Pattern and chart reading are both areas of extreme danger for me as well because I read things too quickly and often miss critical directions as a result.

That's probably why the lure of spinning and weaving are relatively* easy for me to ignore - although they certainly strike a major chord with the fibre lover and craft nut in me - I want to get deeper into knitting and really be able to feel I could nail any project that might tempt me.

And speaking of sticking with one thing - this project has taken me back to something I used to be very good at - project monogamy. There were a couple of times yesterday when I would have jumped to another less irritating set of needles and yarn had I not promised myself to stick only to Bonbon until its completion.

Knitting time looks good tonight and the decreases are going to take me into the collar so each round will soon be getting much shorter and hopefully quicker.

*spinning with a drop spindle, however, admittedly seems like something that will ultimately HAVE to be tried sooner rather than later and my recent realization that looms come in table top sizes might open up another massive can of worms!


Friday Fun

Check out comments to Ysolda's post today. What a bunch of fabulous things to explore and check out!

Hopefully my knitting on Bonbon will be donedone by Monday!

Have a great weekend!


Being of Two Minds

While grocery shopping last Friday afternoon for the weekend I picked up this.

So while I was working away on this, I was mostly thinking about this. (As in which colours would I pick to do it in from all of these?) And then there's when can I squeeze in a trip here? (Where I believe they carry all the colours so I can play around with combinations up close and personal.)

Maybe all this distraction (combined with house guests and a home improvement project that is pending with my Beloved (Much of my productive knitting time over the weekend was standing in lumber stores, knitting out of the bag over my shoulder) is why I made a ridiculously stupid error in reading the pattern and had to knit the plain stockinette section of the first sleeve twice!

The second sleeve will get its start tonight at this evening's sports activity for Number One Son. I'm eager to put all the pieces on the single needle and start on the yoke.

At the outset of planning for this project I considered making the sweater without the yoke detail and just knitting in in plain grey. Now that I see the fabric of the stockinette sections I understand it must be critical to the structure of the piece to include the stranded section just as with the side seams. The stranded section will no doubt give important strength across the shoulders to prevent stretching under the weight of the the lower two thirds of the sweater.
(Besides all of those practical reasons though, I'm loving the colours!)