knitting


It’s a long time now since we came back from Newfoundland. Writing all those long-winded descriptions of our trip and uploading all of the photos wore me out. Tonight, two months or so later, I could barely remember how to log into my blog.

This fall I’m not expecting to write frequent updates. It’s a very busy time at The Loop, as the last of the cruise ship passengers filter through Halifax. (Cruise ship visits to our fair city are highest in September and October.) Everyone else seems to be starting to think about holiday knitting, so that, along with a full schedule of knitting classes, is keeping us hopping.

In the evenings, or some afternoons when I don’t have to be at The Loop, I’m spending a lot of time working on my glass business. My Etsy site is going well and I’m doing my best to update it (while trying not to make too many purchases from other Etsy sellers!). For those of you in the Halifax area, my pendants will soon be available at a very cool new shop on Birmingham Street called “Love, me”. Love, me Boutique sells a lovely range of hand-crafted clothing, jewelry and household items, all Canadian-made. I expect to have my pendants in there by the end of October. Swing by and check it out – it’s only a couple of doors over from Woozles.

It’s also a busy fall for my (decidedly non-crafty) consulting work. I’m helping to develop a collaborative planning process to develop and implement an integrated management framework for activities taking place in waters off the south coast of Nova Scotia – ESSIM, for the acronym fans among you. It’s a fascinating process that I’ve been involved in for years, in my former incarnation as a person with a real job, so I’m glad to be able to continue helping it move forward.

Let’s see, what else … I’m on a couple of boards, one for my condo and I’m also a new member of the Downtown Halifax Business Commission’s Board of Management. The DHBC work is fascinating, and it’s increasing my knowledge and curiosity about the city and the things that happen here. Tomorrow night I’m even going to sit in on a city council meeting to hear the presentation the DHBC will be making to council. (You can bet I’ll bring my knitting!)

So these are my excuses for neglecting this blog lately. But I still might be reading yours now and then ;o)

I can’t even find any photos to go with what I wrote above, it’s just not visual enough. Once a long long time ago I threatened to write posts about a box of my old correspondence I found. So here are a couple of scans of a postcard I received when I was much much younger and my life was even less settled and more unpredictable.

I love how what’s written on the postcard seems very cryptic or esoteric or something, like a secret language.

As you can see from the front of the card, it is the language of skydivers. I was a young skydiver way back when. I had forgotten this postcard and when I found it, I was pleased to recall that I used to know someone who would mail me to tell me about where he had left his Cessna aircraft engine and how he was getting a new one. This was the guy who first taught me to freefall. Ah, those were the days, when there was nothing better than getting to abandon yourself to the utter freedom and thrill of gravity, for 30 seconds or more at a time. Once you get to know what you are doing, 30 or 40 seconds can be enough time to get a lot done. In particular I was into three-ways … that is, jumping with my two buddies and we would practice our relative work (RW) manoeuvres, seeing how many positions or “points” we could complete before it was time to open our chutes.

Good times. I wonder if I’ll ever get to jump from an airplane again.

So much for reminiscences, I should be working (or sleeping) shouldn’t I.

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Sometime last fall, my charming and brilliant eight-year-old niece Claire asked me if I would make her a sweater. I live in Halifax and she lives in Vancouver, so we could hardly live much further apart and still both be in Canada. I don’t get to visit her as often as I like. Last time I was there she was six and she was interested in learning to knit, but her little hands and her attention span weren’t quite ready for it.

Since that last visit, Claire has learned to knit, coached by her grandmother who lives in Vancouver. Since that time, I have opened a knitting store. So now Claire is more interested in knitting, and I was flattered and pleased that she asked me to make her a sweater. That meant she was sure to like it – especially since the request was accompanied by a detailed, annotated design sketch and a series of measurements. A long cardigan in orange and hot pink, with a hood and pockets. She asked for it in the fall, politely implying that it would be nice for a birthday or Christmas gift but it would be okay if it took longer. I let her know that that wouldn’t be possible but I would get right at it.

The one thing Claire didn’t realize was that I have never made a cardigan. In fact I had only completed two sweaters. Technically I have knit a couple more, but they are still in pieces not sewn together and I have recently accepted the fact that they will never be sewn up. They predate my enlightenment regarding natural fibres.

Of course, there is the Earth Sweater. I’ve made this twice. This is not a photo from a 1986 Sears catalogue … this is my former co-worker and favourite surfer dude Marty, right here in Halifax a few years ago.

 

The pattern for this sweater was my original inspiration to knit. When I was in grad school and was truly honing my procrastination skills, circa 1991, I decided to learn to knit. Perusing the giant knitting store which was then the only one in downtown Toronto, I saw a pattern pamphlet with two super-stylin’ folks wearing sweaters with earth maps on them. I found the map really intriguing, although these wimps had done it in only one colour – BO-ring! My vision for this project was that it had to look like an outer-space photo of the earth. (Or is it inner space when the photographer is still orbiting the earth?) I also recognized that many design elements would have to be changed to bring this pattern into a more modern era: No shoulder pads! No tighty waist & cuff ribbing! (Though you can see that I still managed to make the sleeves pretty goofy-looking.)

I didn’t try knitting it until many years later. I found satellite photos of the earth online, which I used as a guide to colour onto the chart for the pattern. Then I dove in and learned to do intarsia by trial and error, having no idea it was called intarsia.

Hey! There’s Nova Scotia!

 

 

 

I didn’t know how to sew it together properly but finally I finished this. And even though I had made the smallest size in the pattern, it was huge. This was probably for two reasons: the pattern was designed in the 1980s, and I had no idea what a gauge swatch was. So I gave the sweater away and made another one for me, but smaller.

 

The thing is I don’t like wearing sweaters much. They make me too warm. Especially wool/acrylic blend sweaters. So I have all the pieces of this sweater that I completed years ago. But I am going to try to turn it into a pillow instead of a sweater. Someday.

So back to Claire … she thinks I am some kind of genius knitting expert, based on her experience as a six-year old student and based on the fact that I am co-owner of a knitting store. She had no idea that in my recent knitting life, post-Earth sweaters, I have made only one top-down raglan sweater. A pullover. But you can’t say no to an 8-year-old’s hot pink and orange cardigan request.

Top-down raglan to the rescue! Cascade 220 Superwash provided just the right colours.

 

It took me about seven months to complete. It was a busy few months for me and really the sweater took less time than I expected. I did things I have never done before like make a button band (a long one) and a hood.

It’s a little nerve-wracking making something for someone who is thousands of kilometres away and who is possibly growing an inch taller every week I’m knitting. I think I made the body of the sweater and the sleeves nice and long, so she can keep growing into it for a while.

Naturally I had to make special buttons just for Claire’s sweater, since I dabble in such things. Here is a blurry photo of them. Okay it’s a terrible photo. They are orange with little red hearts inside.

 

To personalize it I embroidered a ‘C’ on the yoke, à la Laverne and Shirley.

I washed it and put it in the dryer for a while. The glass buttons made a horrific noise in the dryer so that didn’t last long. I knew the Cascade 220 Superwash is nice wool, but I couldn’t believe how soft it was after washing. People like my non-knitting sister, Claire’s mother, probably won’t believe it’s 100% wool, because it is so soft.

According to Canada Post’s tracking website, the sweater has made it to North Vancouver and will be delivered any day. I can’t wait to see photos of Claire wearing it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I already posted about the lovely parcel I received from Emily in England, a perfect stranger who was assigned to me through the Knitters Treat Exchange. The first parcel had been thoughtfully wedged into my mailbox by the letter carrier, saving me a trip to the post office. A few days later, I received an unexpected notice of a parcel. Off I went to the post office and to my delight, there was another box from England. Inside were several little packages carefully wrapped, with little notes on them. (In the parcel I sent my treatee, it never occurred to me to do something that nice.)

Inside was a cornucopia of goodies. Chocolate from the U.K., shortbread cookies made in Newcastle which is where Emily lives, and a package of espresso from her own stash, brought back from travels in Italy.

The shortbread was the first casualty, and I did share with Bill. We’ve worked our way through most of the rest. The coffee is so good, very rich and almost … chocolatey?

I feel very spoiled by all the treats. Thanks Emily! It’s a funny concept, getting gifts from a total stranger who is far away. It’s one of the wonderful things the internet can facilitate. The great thing is, this swap involved dozens of people from all over the world, so you can imagine these parcels full of goodies flying all around the globe. It allows people to experience exotic treats – of the sweet or the yarn variety – that they might not otherwise know about. My treatee is still waiting to receive her parcel… I hope she gets it soon!

My package arrived! Back in March I signed up for the Knitters’ Treat Exchange. If you are reading this and aren’t a knitter, you may not know that one of the knitting trends spawned by the internet is the gift exchange / secret pal swap phenomenon. I don’t know exactly how to describe it because this was my first one. Two Irish knitters organized it. They matched up the dozens of people from around the globe who signed up, and sent each of us our assigned treatee. I think some of these swaps are just yarn; some of them seem to be finished object – e.g., knit a scarf and send it to a stranger, and another stranger sends you a scarf they made. I think in some cases, your pal remains secret, but in this case you would eventually find out who was sending you something. For the Knitters Treat Exchange, there was a list of suggested treats not just for knitting, but for pampering as well. Everyone who signed up filled out a questionnaire to guide their treater.

I sent a parcel very far away and it hasn’t arrived there yet, as far as I can tell from spying on my recipient’s blog. Mine didn’t make it there by the finishing date for the exchange because I didn’t want to spring for $44 airmail! The destination is surrounded by water, so it’s on a slow boat I guess … I hope she will get it soon.

Meanwhile, my KTE pal sent me a lovely package with nice treats for me and for my furry family. She also sent it from pretty far away … but between the Royal Mail and Canada Post, I had it in hand only six days after she mailed it from England. Specifically, my KTE Pal Emily sent my parcel from Wallsend which is just outside Newcastle. I thought that was cool because a musical hero of my youth is Eric Burdon and he is from Newcastle. (No I’m not that old … When I was in high school in the 80s, the 60s were what the 80’s are to the kids today. Except my friends and I were trendsetters I’m sure.)

But I digress. Look what I got:

Two skeins of exciting laceweight yarn. It’s handknit and hand-dyed wool that is not much thicker than thread. The two skeins total 1900 metres in length. And she also sent me a pattern for a beautiful stole to make with it. This is exactly the kind of project I want to work toward. Note that I say work toward … I think I’ll have to do a couple of intermediate lace patterns before I dare tackle this one. But I really like it!

And as a bonus there is a magazine for me to peruse (okay I already have done so), nice-smelling bath treats, a bookmark (I like bookmarks more than you probably realize) and even something for my kitties. Like most felines, my cats love catnip. These catnip drops are a convenient way to feed it to them, and they loved it. (I gave some to Molly the token dog, so she wouldn’t feel left out, but she seemed unaffected. I wonder why that is.) Clark is a belligerent drunk, he gets feisty on catnip, but Ruby is a happy stoner. She loved the drops so much that she tried to eat the wrapping paper that had been around the unopened package!

Back to the lace stole pattern. The pattern is a design by Eunny Jang, based on traditional Shetland lace patterns and elements. The motorcyclist in me can’t help but see something else …

It’s not just me – Bill saw it too when I quizzed him. Call me crazy but I like it all the more for this reason. This opens (to my mind) a whole fascinating possibility of lace patterns designs based on tire treads. I’m not the only knitting motorcyclist out there, but that is a challenge for a stronger mind than mine.

Thank you KTE pal, from all of us!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s five months into 2007, and I have been living up to something I vowed to do this year: knit more for myself. Last year it seemed that I made a lot of things for other people. I still will – I have a couple of things in mind at the moment – but I’m also planning a few nice things for myself. I also was determined to get back to making socks. Thus I’m pleased that I’m now nearly finished my first two pairs of socks for myself.

In the past I’ve made myself a couple of pairs of socks, and they were too loose. I tend to be a loose knitter so in retrospect I wished I had used smaller needles. Also they were 2×2 rib, which meant there was a high ratio of transitions between knit and purl stitches. I was a bit apprehensive about trying again, but I’m using smaller needles and a 3×1 rib, and they have worked out well. First I started with some Opal Seide, wool & silk … they feel so soft to the hand and on the foot. And I love the Lantern Moon ebony needles (2.25mm). They are so smooth. I do wish they were shorter; at 7 inches there is just a little too much of a good thing.

At the same time I’ve been working on a pair with just regular opal wool & nylon in this circus-y colour. I would be unlikely to buy a pair of socks in this pattern. The thing about spending a lot of your waking time in a yarn store is, you spend a lot of time thinking about a certain ball of yarn and then eventually you find yourself buying it. In this case, I was intrigued by an irregularity in the dye pattern – you can see it in the cuff of the finished sock. Turns out it is the only such anomaly. But I like these socks for that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I love the 5-inch Brittany needles too. They used to be my favourite, until I discovered the delicious smoothness of the ebony needles. Perfection would be a hybrid of the two: 5-inch ebony.

I have one more self-patterning yarn I couldn’t help but buy: one of Opal’s Hundertwasser collection. Then, the low-key speckly green. I am working toward some gorgeous hand-dyed solid yarns that will be well-suited to patterns more interesting than the knit 3 purl 1 rib I’ve done so far.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The wooden gadget there is a case made specially to hold little double-pointed needles. They are made by Wray Parsons on Vancouver Island. He makes beautiful wooden tools for sewers and knitters. He asked for ideas and I suggested this … he made a few and sent them with our order for the store. I had first pick, and bought the one I liked best! It’s one of those things that is just a thing … but it is truly beautiful and functional, and I love it.

 

I hope to keep socks on the go throughout the year – they are so portable, they’re handy when travelling or when I want something relatively mindless to work on. I’m almost finished the sweater for my niece (really) – then I will start something really exciting for me, a long-sleeved linen shirt in a zig-zaggy rib pattern. It’s called Felicia, by Louet, and I have the jungle green linen all ready to go. It will be more of a challenge for me but I can’t wait to wear this!

Do you know about Etsy? It is a wonderful website that is a sort of marketplace for people who like to buy and sell hand-made things. It’s easy to get mesmerized, browsing through all the beautiful things on the site. I’ve bought a few things lately because I wanted to support the people making things, and also simply because I saw nice things that I like. Here are my little treasures … unfortunately my photos don’t do them justice.

First, the cuffs: I’ve never owned a leather cuff and I got the idea in my head that I should. So I was browsing many of them on Etsy. I had a hard time deciding between a few, so I ended up buying two.

The one on the left is leather that’s been dyed green with a stamped tree pattern on it. The one on the right is soft leather with random coloured grommets. I like them both. They appeal to my inner tomboy I guess.

And of all things, I bought yarn on Etsy. There are about a million people selling hand-dyed yarns but some stand out more than others. The colours of Fearless Fibres caught my eye. Both Bill and I have gotten into making socks lately, and I bought some sock yarn for each of us:

The dark one, “Deepest Forest” is for Bill. It’s beautiful dark shades of green with a lot of black in it. The brighter one is for me … Kiwi Lime. It’s a little brighter than I thought, but I like it. The wool is 100% merino, superwash, something typically used for socks (for the non-knitters reading). This particular wool is really soft and cushiony, and I can’t wait to start knitting with it. That will happen after I complete the two pairs of socks I have on the go now, and the hoodie cardigan for my niece that is so close to being finished.

I also bought one more nice little item but I can’t show it. That’s because it’s a belated birthday gift for my sister and she might look here now and then. It just arrived today, so I’d better get it in the mail to her soon.

Once I get my life a little more organized, and once I’ve filled the orders for my glass (three stores waiting for shipments from me), I might like to try selling some of my jewelry on Etsy. If you even remotely like nifty hand-made things, head over there and have a browse.

For my birthday a couple of months ago, my handsome and handy boyfriend bought me a little MP3 player so I could listen to music while I run. Because I have been learning to run. Nothing so fancy as an iPod, and I would have resisted that anyway because it’s too trendy. But it was a nice little device for listening to music files and radio – Sansa something or other, 1 GB. But after a couple of months the thing crapped out, and online research showed us that this has been a common occurrence with the device. Some bug that has now been fixed.

We took it back to Future Shop and they were very accommodating about an exchange … in fact I upgraded somewhat to a Creative Zen V Plus. It’s 2GB. I am in love with it. I had a superficial reaction at first because it is so pretty … shiny black and green. But it also has the kind of features I wanted without being too expensive. And as a bonus, you can put your own background photos in it, and it looks sooo nice with a little photo of my glass buttons.

Zen V Plus

Well this photo doesn’t do it justice!

Tonight I ‘ran’ home from work, which means I ran and walked. Trying to run for 10 minutes at a time with 1 minute walk breaks in between, but I am still taking a few more walk breaks than that. But I did the 4km route and ran for more than half of it, probably a total of 23 minutes. For me that’s a lot! And the new little music machine made it so much more fun (the previous device wasn’t so reliable sometimes). I had created a special “RUN” playlist and the music that really motivated me to run was the hard stuff like Nomeansno, so I decided to add more. So I’ve just added some new songs from the following groups: more Nomeansno; The Leaving Trains; the Offspring; and the Partridge Family. A winning combination! (plus lots of other lively stuff on the ‘Run’ list.) And I am now looking forward to my next run in a couple of days.

All I need to do now is knit a nice little cosy for my new machine. After I finish the magnificent orange sweater I am making for my delightful 8-year-old niece, to her precise specifications. I’m making it from Cascade 220 Superwash; it’s a knee-length jacket-style cardigan. With custom glass buttons of course, from Vivero Glass!


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