One Extreme to the Other (And Happy Halloween Too!)

About 12 hours after landing back in T.O. from San Juan late last Thursday night we were unpacked, repacked, I'd created and shipped off a Pumpkin Stalk hat complete with leaf and tendrils to Number One Son for his Halloween Festivities at University over the weekend and we were en route to the cottage.
I'm obviously modeling here.but Number One Son affixed the stalk to a dark green toque and I understand wore the leaf hanging down the back so as to step away from the "Fascinator" look the forward position conveys! He paired this with a bright Orange Sweatshirt adorned with Jack-O-Lantern duct tape face and green track pants.

Brrrrrr! Only a couple of degrees above freezing inside the cottage in the morning from just the day before being in tropical heat and humidity!

My last minute dash to the car that morning, yielded a woolly wool rather than Tropical Fiesta "just in case" project that ended up dominating my weekend knitting as I worked my second pair of Twined Knitting Mittens.

This pair are for Number One Son (another request!) so I've changed up the details a bit to yield a more masculine design. I added stripe and texture to the bottom of the cuff...
 Then aside from the thumb gusset its all stripes all the time up the finger tips.

With the technique now clear in my mind worsted yarn made quick work of these. Quite satisfying!
Also satisfying...the muted tones of our late autumn woodlands after the riot of fall colour a few weeks ago. So too the tropical scene we enjoyed last week was lovely but my internal calendar just needs to chill and frankly, eventually feel the freezing part of our spectacular four Ontario seasons. (Maybe the knitter in me needs the cold a bit too eh?)

But what a good outlook for a Canadian "girl"! I mean even the trees seem to be wearing woolly socks around here!

I hope wherever you're reading this from you're enjoying and appreciating where you are as much as I am. So many of our neighbours south of the border are suffering this week my heart goes out to them as they begin to undertake the huge recovery process ahead!

Thanks for dropping by!


Puerto Rico?

Yup. Despite My Beloved's globe trotting business these decades I've never gone along...until last week!

I knew the trip held many solitary hours for me as business would draw My Beloved's attention most of the days. Hence as we worked our way out the door to the airport in the very, very wee hours of the morning we left I was seized by that oft-reported knitter's fear...
"What if the knit project I packed gets finished and I'm left without knitting?!? I'd better take another project along just in case!"
Feigning a need to visit the washroom one last time  (My Beloved's blood pressure couldn't take the true reason for my delay ;) )I instead dashed to the sock yarn basket, grabbed a ball, wheeled around to snatch a pack of sock needles and I was off.

After my whining post the week before about yearning to work with natural, woolly yarn it made me smile a while later that same morning as we taxied to the runway and I was, instead of working on my planned and prepped easy-travel-woolly-wool knitting project, casting on with this...

 for this lurid pair of socks...

...I was no doubt seized by tropical fever before even leaving the chilly north!

Whatever my motivation I was smitten with knitting on that thing until, poolside, I put the first toe on holders to await grafting once its mate is complete. Back home, I recognize it may be the next southerly trip, before I'm drawn to that yarn and project again but it was a great little foreign fling while it lasted!

Its fitting really because the whole trip was a bit of a "fling". No prep or research ahead of time, just decisions made on the fly once I was there as to what I would do with my time in this (for me) most unlikely of destinations.

San Juan is working toward becoming a UNESCO World Heritage Site and from what I saw, most deservedly so. By North American standards it is an ancient city evidenced by its lovely blue cobbles. They are about 12" long down into the ground! (Once ballast from European ships)

To its battlements...

Its Spanish Colonial architecture
A onetime Charmelite Convent this building was rescued by the heir to the Woolworth  fortune and now functions as a luxury hotel.

And omnipresent references to "The Church"

There are modern day issues with the rats, iguana and feral cats that were introduced by the Europeans
These trees can hold huge colonies of Rats. Hence most have been taken down within Old San Juan.

'Don't know what I like more about this photo, the iguana or the half suspended tourist!

See the kitty's right ear tip is missing? The feral cats are cared for (spayed/neutered, innoculated and left loose to control the rats) The ears are then clipped to indicate a cat who is actively in the program.
While the island is a Commonwealth Territory of the U.S. it doesn't feel like being in the states at all. Rather its very Spanish with a little bit of Caribbean flavour. Surprisingly to me, the food is hearty rather than typically tropical light and, well,  brown. Yup. Brown. No vibrant salads or starfruit or even an emphasis on seafood. Rather chicken and pork with long, slow cooked plantain and pumpkin. And baked desserts! Lots of them. Traditional Puerto Rican - also largely brown - bread pudding, custards, cakes, tarts. Yum!

And speaking of "Yum" the Pina Colada was invented in San Juan! We dutifully visited its birthplace one evening to try one from the source.  I probably haven't had one in 25 years or so. Wow! That first whiff of coconut rum took me right back to the 80's!

So all in all it was a great little break from reality.

Reluctant traveller that I am, possibly the best part of the trip though, is, in retrospect, knowing we first dodged "Sandy" as it moved north over Jamaica while we prepared to leave San Juan then, that we passed through New York before she could catch up and close all the airports on that portion of the eastern seaboard!

Phew! I had a nice little break but it felt great to get back home! Thanks for dropping by!


University Socks FO

Pattern: (63 stitch) Socks 101 by Kate Atherly
Source: Knitty.com
Yarn: Sheldridge Farm Soft Touch Fingering
Colour: Cornflower
Needles: 3mm dpns
Start: October 13 Finish October 17, 2012
As requested by Number One Son himself (modeled by yours truly)- wool socks! I couldn't believe it when he called just to say "Mom if you want to, you can make me some wool socks". 'Seems the heating systems at University aren't quite up to what he's used to! Whatever, I'm just happy to have a chance to convert him from wearing those hateful gym socks day in and day out!

I try to roast a Pie Pumpkin at the start of each week in October - keeping the mashed pulp in the fridge to cook with throughout the month. I made a double batch of Pumpkin Date muffins today. I'l take a dozen down to him with the socks.

His residence is close to the location of the Downtown Knit Collective meetings at Innes College, University of Toronto. I'll be down there tonight for the October meeting so I may as well dash over to his room after the meeting and drop off the goodies.

BTW the meeting tonight is supposed to be kind of a mass workshop. We're encouraged to bring along shawls (who doesn't have a stack of those these days?) and scarves so we can learn how to put the beautiful things we create to best advantage on our bodies and with our clothes.

Hey I'd better go pack some shawls into my bag too - look at the bottom of the program description!

Spectacle of Shawls – Farooq Ikram (Textile Museum, Toronto)

Farooq Ikram is a textile artist who holds degrees in Textile Design from the National College of Arts in Lahore, Pakistan and Fashion Design Pattern Making from the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, NY. He creates one-of-a kind fashion accessories and scarves using non representational forms with varied and vivid colour palettes. His designs are hand rolled and executed on high quality silk, giving a beautiful finish to his line. The accessories are not just functional pieces of fabric, but wearable art. He has worked as an Associate Professor at the National College of Arts and is now employed at the Textile Museum in Toronto. He continues to create and sell his line of one-of-a-kind, hand-painted fashion accessories throughout Canada and the United States.
Audience members are encouraged to bring knitted shawls with them to the meeting, and let Farooq help you display the beauty of the work of your hands. Farooq also encourages everyone to bring fabric shawls and scarves as well– he likes combining colours and textures in his demonstrations.
Maybe I'll see you there! Thanks for dropping by!



'In my current wool-centric state of mind here's where I'm "hanging out" these days...

Blacker Designs (among other tempting goodies, traditional English wool yarns from English bred sheep)

St. Denis Yarns (Briggs and Little on this site too!)

Needled (Kate Davie's Blog)

Calling one of these sites up on my tablet and furiously knitting on my simple stockinette sock project and suddenly I'm almost at the second toe with about a million ideas for future projects bubbling around in my brain!


Weekend Knitting

Fed my yearning for plain ol' knitting over the weekend at the cottage.

64 stitch men's socks with Sheldridge Farm Soft Touch Superwash Merino Sock Yarn in "Cornflower".

Knit on needles from my grandmother's collection.

Very. Satisfying.

Its been over a year since I made socks and I've had this yarn for ages waiting for just the right lacy, interesting something-or-other. Now suddenly its become something to keep Number One Son's feet warm at University.

Compared to the intricate, lovely version in my mind's eye it seems less of a feminine blue knit up into simple socks. Perhaps all the way to "servicable"?

 "Satisfying" and "serviceable"! Just what the doctor ordered!

'Hope you enjoyed your weekend knitting as much as I enjoyed mine! Thanks for dropping by!


My FirstTwined Knitting Mittens FO

Pattern: Tvaandsstickning Mittens
Source: Mairi McKissock
Yarn: Ella Rae Classic Solids (Navy #30), Sheppard Classic (Cream) Worsted
Needles: 3 mm dpns
Start: May 3, 2011 Finish September 30 2012

I'm not surprised to be very pleased with the outcome of this effort. After taking a class at the DKC Frolic where we learned the technique on a small sample mitt a couple of years ago I waited a whole year before casting on for a full sized pair. Then after tackling the first mitt I left them aside for months so needless to say it feels great to finally have them done.

I am surprised at the reaction to them in my house. Non-knitting, "itchy"wool wary, "mom why do you knit such weird stuff" offspring - male and female and even My Beloved have asked about them, unsolicited tried them on and remarked how warm they will likely be, how they will stop the wind even how in February these mitts are sure to keep out the chill.

They actually like the way they look! The graphic navy and white of these stripy mittens wouldn't be everyone's cup of tea - I thought but I've recently been told by those same offspring these mitts have a "vintage, hand crafted "look" that is popular right now! Knock me over with a feather!
Why is it so exciting to me when I make something a family member likes/wants/appreciates? It feels thrilling and pathetic all at the same time. The mitts themselves though are just plain thrilling I think!
On the surface, physically twining the yarns around each other seemed daunting as does the prospect of releasing the accumulated twist of one ball around the other but its really very easy.

I admit sorting out "Z" vs. "S" plied yarns is beyond my interest so who knows if I used the right yarn to maximize the benefits of twisting but they seem to have worked out quite well even if all they are is simply stranded.
The instructions for making these mitts are several pages which at first is a bit daunting but outlined in perfect and easy to follow detail are specific patterning directions for cast on edge, little twisty hangy thing and cuff embellishments...
thumb gusset for areas both above and below the thumb...
Textured detail (charted) for the mitten backs...
and striped shaping on thumbs and mitten tops...
You can follow these same instructions using two balls of the same colour to yield a textured rather than striped and patterned effect but as a first try with this technique its nice to have the contrasting colours - they highlight errors beautifully to allow for corrections without ever having to rip back.
Being worked up in worsted yarn they go very quickly if you stay at them...which is what I plan to do for my next pair - after all the first ones are so popular around here!

The new yarn, a  heathered oatmeal and heathered navy will produce a softer look than the more contrasting cream and dark navy I used first time around.  
How fun when one project begets another! How fun when you drop by! Thanks!


"Simple" Summer Square III

The idea behind knitting squares over the summer was in part to keep things simple.

Some simple things also naturally lend themselves to being made more complicated for the entertainment purposes of the knitter. As EZ puts it with regards to this otherwise "...very plain, beautiful, simple shawl..."
"Now you are only human, and early in the shawl those areas of plain knitting between the increases will begin to appear somewhat bland and you will start thinking of embellishments." 
"Being only human", I have considered and tried embellishments; repeatedly casting on, knitting and then ripping back until I found and planned a lovely linear one that nicely suits the squareness of the shawl  but still I'm torn between "embellished" and "very plain, beautiful, simple".

Much of the fuss of wanting to get this just right is the fact this project is using the yarn that Lyn kindly sent me all the way from Australia a couple of summers ago. (Her winters, my summers!)

I have consulted very experienced knitters about how best to use this yarn and the universal opinion is a shawl both because of the yarn itself and the fact a shawl will let me knit until the lovely cake is all used up.

What to do? What to do? I am at the moment of truth? Lyn! If you're reading this, what do you think?


Summer Square #2

'Found 12 hand wound balls without labels among my mom's stuff. A burn test indicated a blend with some wool content so I thought I'd at least give it a try.

I  played around with EZ's Square Baby Shawl Pattern from Knitter's Almanac but the yarn wasn't nice enough to make the piece work. So I ripped it out and started cruising around for a baby pattern that would suit.

Debbie Bliss, my go-to gal for baby knits had a good concept in one of her magazines.

The pattern suggests two contrasting blankets whip stitched right sides together to yield a two-sided, heavy weight piece of bedding.

I decided to start with one side, see how far the yarn takes me and if I get to a good size within the first half of the yarn I may work the second design.  I may or may not then attach it to the first.

Meanwhile the whole thing (swatching, starting the EZ version, ripping, trying and sticking with the DB pattern) all happened during the intense heat wave we had in July. I was putting sunscreen on almost before I got out of bed in the morning and reapplying often through the day. I never touched this white yarn without sun screen residue on my hands. Never. So the bottom section has a distinctly grimy tinge I'm hopeful will wash out.

In the meantime its an easy, self evident pattern that's great for knitting on the road/subway/waiting room etc. No rush, no hurry just nice mindless knitting in nice, looooooong rows. Ahhhhhhh!


Summer Squared

This summer was to be a relaxing time (versus the unrelaxing first half of 2012) But Summer 2012 had its own ideas for me/us and so, with a brain too busy/exhausted/distracted to work on challenging knits I started knitting rectangles.

First rectangle to hit the needles was this baby blanket...

Starting with a garter edge of fuzzy, felt-ready, deeply golden Sheppard Classic Worsted I switched for the body of the blanket to remnants of Moda Dea superwash with clean braided form, modern,  fuzz-less texture and a cool yellow hue.

My plan was to knit the Moda Dea to depletion and then insert a stripe of some other worsted, finishing with  golden Sheppard Classic edge for a kind of graphic effect. So off I went just knitting away on autopilot...


When my 3 remnant balls of yarn were consumed a few days later I took a long look at the thing for the first time and was shocked to see it was super wavy - my tension, as my father used to say, was "up and down like a toilet seat".

Steaming killed the waves but the wonky stockinette stitches sprinkled here and there stubbornly remain.

Too bad. I'll insert the new colour that's yet to be determined, finish off the second edge and see whether its giftable or too wonky for anything other than the "For Family" box.

Sometimes its okay to just get a grip and say "good enough...'could be better, but doesn't need to be this time".

I do so love the colour though...now what to put with it? Hmmmmmm...


Beatnik by Nora Gaughan FO

Yarn: 7 Balls Berroco Remix
Source: WEBS
Colour: Clementine #3924
Needles: 4.5mm and 5mm straights, 4.5mm circular
Start: November, 2011 Finish: September 2012
Modifications: None - even needle size, recommended yarn and colour - worked the whole thing exactly as written! (2" positive ease)

This pattern/yarn combination took me over its lap and spanked me silly for being so smug as to think I could  whip it up on auto pilot. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Slap. Slap. Slap.

As in any all-over cabled knit there are numerous charts and a lengthy stitch key and it took me a bit of time to internalize the pattern and be relaxed working it.

On a couple of occasions I mis-crossed the odd cable. I ripped back to fix one instance, picked down without ripping to fix another. I expected that. But I happily and mindlessly worked 10 inches of the back before I realized my tension (or lack thereof) was yielding a sloppy, wonky mess.

This yarn doesn't stretch. At. All. The throw needs to put it exactly where and how it needs to be. NOT in a place where pulling the work to stretch things into place will have it end up. It was like working with those little commercial tubes of coloured icing. Move too fast or without care and you've got a mess instead of a pretty design.

That 10 inch penalty snapped me to attention and attention is what I then closely paid for the entire 4 plus feet of cabled goodness!

Now I'm wearing it, and its thrilling! I am Over the Moon! 'Love it, love it love it!!

Part of the reason for my joy about this FO is how a knitter today has to insulate the knitting ego from the non-knitting mentality that says...

 "couldn't you just buy that and save yourself a lot of time?" 

Ignoring ignoring such sentiments is the easiest thing to do but its nice to occasionally illicit positive attention from non knitters (not only the sweet men in the subway who comment their mothers used to make their socks too!)

Non knitters seem to have a collective expectation that if you do a wacky thing and knit then shouldn't you be wearing sweaters with cables or stranded colour work? Its like expecting Bikers to have tatoos or hippies, long hair. I've got the colourwork piece that lets non knitters say "Did you knit that" to which I can reply "yes!". They love having that critical eye for the hand knits! Now they can readily spy a cabled one on me too.

This all being a bonus over and above the fact the thing fits! Perfectly!

Nice narrow sleeves with a high, clean 7 1/2" arm scythe.

Shaping that keeps the look from being too boxy and overwhelming the wearer and for comfort, 2" of positive ease. It feels like I'm wearing the sweater, not the other way around which can happen on me with these kinds of knits.

The fact I knit the thing exactly as written - right down to the colour! - and I'm so happy, means I nailed the pattern selection as well. Rudimentary but I still find it tricky.

Finally it is even right for the current season (2 seasons after the pattern was released and a season after I started it , still it is burnt orange and it is autumn. All good!

Also good...and even a bit ahead of the coming season I finished the Twined Knitting Mittens I started back in May 2011. They were my last long lingering WIP. I'll block them today!

Thanks so much for dropping by!