Sunday, July 28, 2013

A whirlwind adventure (and socks, and a kitten)

July was originally scheduled to be, basically, the best month ever – a trip out east followed by a week at a cottage – but my plans were then rescheduled for work, then re-rescheduled for a more compact work schedule, which was interrupted after the eighth of ten consecutive workdays by a vicious round of the stomach flu.

So, not exactly the month I'd had planned. The fourteen days of vacation I'd had on the calendar were distilled into a single day. But it was a day with a ferry ride and glorious blue skies; beach play, barbecued burgers, potato chips and chocolate chip cookies; and a pretty nice sunset... a campfire, a card game and toddler cuddles, and a stop at the bakery on the way home again. It might only have been 24 hours, but it was pretty great.

In other news, I finished my Jaywalkers. I'm really pleased with how they turned out – I'll be making this pattern again. I totally lost the plot on the toe shaping on sock #2 (I'm putting it down to fever knitting while I was sick), but I reckon that there aren't too many people who'll be double-checking the stitch count on the bottoms of my socks, so I just went with it. I'm not always that laissez-faire about my knitting, but sometimes you just need to roll with it.

I also whipped up a kitten. After surviving the world's most frustrating (and, let's face it, most disgusting) week, I was seized with the desire to Just Finish Something Fun, and tiny stuffed toys always fill the bill.  

Blue is a tiny, very roly-poly cat who will be going to live with a young friend of mine. The pattern couldn't have been easier and it worked up in less than half an hour, with the barest minimum of yarn. (Also, he's part cashmere, so obviously the softest cat in the universe.) Very, very satisfying.

Have a great week, friends.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Spinning (fibre, not bicycles)

In an effort to improve my spinning, the past two Thursday nights I've taken my beginner's mind and my beginner's spindle down to the Purple Purl for a beginner's spinning class with Denny McMillan.

In the first class, we learned about the history of spinning, different kinds of fibre and spindles, and different spinning techniques. Fascinating stuff, and so important to the development of human civilization...but there's no time to get philosophical, because spinning is actually a lot of work.

I came home from the first class with two big batts of fibre – one light, one dark – and the instructions to spin as much as possible over the following week. (The fleece in that photo represents about 1/30th of what I brought home.) By yesterday afternoon, I'd spun about 100 grams of single ply yarn, my desk was covered in a fine layer of sheep wool and vegetable matter, and I'd watched a LOT of Netflix. I wound the yarn into balls and headed off to learn to ply.

One of the things I liked about this class was Denny's insistence that we don't really need any special (read: expensive) equipment. Instead of faffing about with bobbins and so on, we simply wound our two balls of yarn into one, pairing a strand of dark with a strand of light. Then we tied the ends in a knot and used the drip spindles to ply, twisting in the opposite direction than we used to spin. 

Boom: yarn!

It's chunky, sheepy, ragg yarn – this skein is about 60 g worth, and I imagine I could probably work up another 40 g or so. I imagine I'd need to use at least 6 mm needles to knit it up...

...though I'm still not sure what it would make. A very homespun tuque, perhaps?

I'm still not sure I'll ever feel about spinning the way I feel about knitting. However, I think it's a worthwhile pursuit just because knowing first-hand the effort that goes into preparing the fleece and spinning, plying and blocking the yarn helps me better appreciate the yarn I use every day. It's similar to the way that the act of making my own bread helps me appreciate the bread I buy from my local bakery. Besides, whether you're talking yarn or bread, knowing how to make it yourself is still a pretty cool party* trick.

*It's possible I have different ideas than most people about what constitutes a cool party and/or cool party trick. I am OK with that.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Summer skies

Casting off a sweater in July – even a short-sleeved one – doesn't have the same instant gratification of casting off in October. Within hours of finishing my Audrey in Unst, the skies opened up, and when the rain was over, we were in the thick of another stretch of the hot, humid weather that is so typical of a southern Ontario summer. I folded up my new sweater and put it away without wearing it. 

For a week now, it's been hot and humid. The air is thick, and if anything is happening, it's not happening very fast. I took a break from knitting to stitch up this quick Zodiac Embroidery Kit from Miniature Rhino, another souvenir from this year's Squam Art Fair. It took less than an hour – a great idea for a birthday gift. 

In keeping with the celestial theme, today I brought home the yarn and beads for Celestarium, a circular shawl that represents the Northern night sky, with beads for stars. I decided way back in November that this would be my summer vacation knitting project, and although the vacation keeps getting shorter, I'm really looking forward to casting on. It seems I need my knitting projects to be a bit more engaging  than socks, and this shawl – which is based entirely on charts, so requires a certain amount of attention – should fill the bill.

(And what better excuse to re-watch Battlestar Galactica, right? Right!)

Monday, July 1, 2013

Finished: Audrey in Unst cardigan

Happy Canada Day! Hope you had a great long weekend. I put in a fair bit of knitting time this weekend, working hard to finish my Audrey in Unst sweater before the deadline for the Purple Purl knit-along. And I did! 

The pattern was written by Gudrun Johnston for Twist Collective back in 2009, and there are 1100+ project pages for it on Ravelry for good reason. The sweater itself is a classic shape, flattering for pretty well every body, and highly versatile; the pattern is extremely well written, full of the careful attention to detail and little bits of knitterly finesse that I've come to expect from Shetland Trader patterns. I especially enjoyed the set-in, short-row sleeve and the I-cord finish for the collar: slick.

The lace bib was a nice touch, too – one of those things that looks harder than it was. I've seen lots of interesting variations on this on Ravelry, too. 

I made a couple of modifications: namely, lengthening the body and shortening the sleeves. Based on what I've read in Knit to Flatter, I probably didn't need quite as much length in the body, but I think the short sleeves were a good choice. 

There was lots of colour variation in the yarn (Rosebud, from SweetGeorgia), which is most noticeable on the back and on one of the sleeves. The KAL started with the option to special order your yarn, so you'd get all the same dye lot. I didn't sign up until two weeks later, which meant buying my yarn off the shelf, and I regret it a bit. But not too much. This IS handmade, after all. You pay your money and you take your chances. And then you rip out one sleeve and re-knit it. Ahem.

I am in love with the buttons I used – handmade ceramic buttons from Melissa Jean, a souvenir from the Squam Art Fair. They're lovely, like little candies, and the colour is perfect. 

I should have bought two more (such is the problem with fevered art-fair shopping, I never think to count), but she's got an online shop, so I'm all set. Soon. Have a peek – aren't they lovely? Melissa was in both of my classes at Squam – she was absolutely lovely, not to mention a talented artist and a great knitter – and I think those qualities shine through in her work.

I'm fighting the urge to cast on 14 new projects now that this one is finished (start-itis is my most common reaction to finishing something, every time). I think I'll spend some time on my Pi Shawl and my second Jaywalker sock before I start something new...maybe. But then again, maybe not!