Sunday, August 31, 2014

August 31 – Bottoms up!

Don't look now but I'm finally making some progress on those Christmas socks...
(Turtletoes self-striping sock yarn in "Nano.")

Friday, August 29, 2014

August 29 – Striped socks (at long last)

I spent some time in Nova Scotia last week, and for the first time in a long time, I didn't take a special vacation knitting project with me. Instead, I took along a few small projects—the last of the washcloths and two pairs of socks—that I've been longing to actually finish.

And, happily, I did end the trip with a few FOs under my belt. The washcloths were a foregone conclusion (and well received—in fact, I saw a previous washcloth gift in use at someone's house, which made pretty happy) and I finally finished these socks.


These socks are my first pair of designed-by-me socks, if you can call choosing a favourite toe and a new heel and joining them with miles of stockinette "designing." (Debatable, but I'm going to roll with it.) 

CO 24 sts with Judy's magic cast-on, using YOs for the increases (ktbl on the non-increase row) until I got to 64 sts. Knit the foot, then added a Fish Lips Kiss heel,* which doesn't look like much in two dimensions, but look at that, now:

Very tidy. Then I carried on with the rest of the sock. I flirted with the idea of making knee socks to use up ALL the yarn, but it gradually became apparent I'd be knitting these for the rest of my life if I didn't pop in an inch of ribbing and cast off. (Jeny's surprisingly stretchy bind-off works but I find it a bit messy looking—what's your favourite for toe-up socks?)

They took forever, as fingering-weight socks on 2.25 mm needles are wont to do. I cast on in January, in the shadow of my Christmas sock knitting,** and I have worked on them in the background of many many other projects for seven months now. I'm very happy to have them off the needles. How happy? This happy:

As for the other two pairs of socks I took with me? Let's talk again in April.

* I'm notoriously hard on the heels of my socks, so I'm interested to see how the FLK heel holds up. Something tells me I'll be revisiting these, and that an afterthought heel might have been the wiser choice. (Also, the FLK pattern does NOT need to be 16 pages long, just for the record.)
 ** I'm starting to think you should be playing some sort of does-she-mention-Christmas-sock-knitting drinking game, or it might be a loooooong autumn.

Monday, August 25, 2014

August 26 – Creative Blog Hop

My globe-trotting friend Alli over at Champagne and Qiviut wrote for The Creative Blog Hop and tagged me to participate next. If you've found your way here through her blog, or anyone else participating in The Creative Blog Hop, welcome!

This seemed like it might be an interesting exercise. The survey is short and sweet, so here goes!

1. What am I working on?
Sometimes I think it might be easier to list the things that I'm not working on, because my WIP list is long these days. In addition to the Christmas socks, the hostess-gift washcloths and the African flower hexagon afghan, I'm trying to finish up a couple of pairs of socks for myself, and I also recently started my Rhinebeck sweater. Oh, and then there's the embroidery project I've got going on in the background, the fibre I mean to finish spinning, and that project bag I was going to sew...

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

In my mind there are as many ways to create as there are people to do the creating, so I'd hope that we're all different in one way or another. However, as I've made the transition from magazine craft editor to freelance editor over the past 18 months, I've been happy to notice the joy come back into crafting for me. I no longer have to devote valuable creative energy to coming up with ideas of things to make with paper towel and white glue, or devising Halloween costumes (always my least favourite), or sourcing fun foam or googly eyes. The freedom to choose my own projects—and to pick them up or drop them at will—has made making things so much better.

3. Why do I create/write what I do?
I grew up in a household where someone was always making something, whether that meant dinner, a tiny model airplane, a dress or a fence; making things was passed down through both nature and nurture. I think that it's important to satisfy your creative urges, both for your mind and your body; in the modern era it's vital that we work to maintain important crafting traditions, that we continue to value our hands (the original digital technology!) and that we cultivate the state of flow—a bit of respite for our tired, worried minds.

I knit because I like it – I like everything about working with yarn. The colour, the texture, the craft; the seemingly infinite ways to combine and recombine two basic stitches. I also like it because it's portable—so much easier to take along on a commute than my sewing machine. Finally, I knit because it's one of the most tangible, durable ways I know to communicate my love and caring for someone. A handknit sock lasts a lot longer than a fancy birthday cake!

Because I work with words, so much of what I write is determined by other people and their needs. My favourite assignments when I'm working involve talking to people about their passions and translating those stories to the printed page. On the other hand, here, I like to capture the tiny moments in my days that I think are worth sharing.

4. How does my creating/writing process work? 
The creating part is the easy part—once I've chosen a pattern and a yarn to work with (and given the part-time yarn-store job, I'm certainly not short of inspiration!), I'm content to knit just about anywhere, although my favourite accompaniment is a good juicy British murder mystery on the computer. I try to squeeze a bit of knitting into everyday—I especially love taking half an hour in the morning to organize my current projects and fuss with my knitting notions kit. Getting everything in order seems to help me settle my mind before I sit down to start a writing or editing project.

As far as writing, there's a lot of stand-up, sit-down, walk-around involved in the process. Also making tea and looking out the window, and recreational dictionary reading. When I finally get started—after I've written and deleted half a dozen absolutely ridiculous first sentences and cranked out half a dozen puns on Twitter—hours can pass without my noticing. Then it's a matter of cutting, rewriting and refining (which involves much more tea, sometimes a phone call or three, and usually cookies). Going for a walk helps if I'm stuck, and so does baking; anything that lets me put the verbal part of my brain into neutral while I go through the motions of some sort of productive activity. I walk the same path through the graveyard or make the same cookies each time; it has to be almost automatic in order to let my brain sort the words out.


Thank you to Alli for inviting me to join in—and thank you for reading along. I'd like to tag my friend Christina to participate next. She was my roommate at Squam last year, and she's an awesomely talented Jill-of-all-crafts, from knitting to sewing to quilting to weaving. She also experiments with dyeing and does amazing things with recycled and upcycled yarn and fabrics—every project she posts makes me look at my own craft in a different way. I hope you'll pay her a visit!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

August 19 – Late summer

I caught a glimpse of autumn this morning as this shaft of light pierced the canopy of leaves outside my window. The air is cool and there's a different tenor to the rustling of the leaves in the wind these days. The apples on the apple tree down the street are a little redder every day; the starlings come home to roost a littler earlier every night. Tonight I sat and ate dinner and listening to them chitter and chirp as they settled in for the evening, trading their tales of their days aloft.

Some people have been bemoaning the cool weather and the sight of the first scarlet leaves, but not me. I love this time of year and this time around I'm anticipating the coming season of change even more eagerly than usual. Bring on the cool nights and early evenings, the apple crisps and show-off maples. I'm ready.

Friday, August 15, 2014

August 15: Washcloths, or, the part where I try to transcend my inner Cordelia with quotidian household goods

Of all the ways I'd describe myself, "washcloth knitter" barely rates. And yet I'm churning them out at a rate of one every couple of days right now – a level of focused production I'm sure you'll note I have yet to turn to my Christmas socks.

The idea is to take the washcloths as hostess gifts on an upcoming trip. As much as I love knitting gifts, I think there's a limited market for "special occasion" hats and cowls and gloves – it's not unlikely that they'll end up kept for best, not worn day-in, day-out, the way I wear my handknits. 

So, much better to make something that will actually be used on a daily basis. Hence the washcloths: They might not be the most technically challenging, and they certainly aren't the most eloquent expression of my appreciation for the people who are having me to stay, but I know they will get used, and that in that use maybe my friends will think of me. That's what I'm hoping for, anyway.

This was brought home to me when one of my oldest friends asked me what I'm working on these days. She's not a needleworker and (based on the look on her face when she sees the mountain of yarn I've got lying around) I think she thinks I'm a bit nuts when it comes to knitting. But when I told her about the washcloths, her face softened. "I still have washcloths my grandmother knitted," she said. Her grandmother, long gone now but beloved, and still a daily presence in her life by dint of a handful of cotton, her care and her skill transmitted by stitches across the years. I can't think of a better legacy.

(The yarn is Blue Sky Alpacas Skinny Cotton in birch; the pattern is the Wedding Washcloth from Purl Bee: 45 sts//3.75 mm needles//8 rows to seed st to stop and start. I think I'll get 5 washcloths out of 2 skeins.)

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

August 12: Best laid plans

I finished my Pebble Beach shawlette just before midnight on Saturday. There's nothing like getting down on the floor to block a piece of wet lace in the middle of the night. So many pins! So much danger!

But it was worth the effort, and I was able to snap a few quick photos before I headed to work on Sunday. I love the way it looks with the light shining through, and the way that the ends curl around. I didn't end up having time to add extra repeats, but it blocked out so well that I don't miss them. I can't wait till it's cool enough outside to wear it.

Inspired by the percentage checklist style of this shawl, I took my favourite sock pattern and translated it into an Excel spreadsheet. I'm hoping that having the 5% milestones laid out on paper help me get motivated to make a move on those Christmas socks I keep talking about (but not knitting). I need to live down the infamy of last year's "everyone gets 1 sock and an IOU" experience. Ahem.

(According my math, each woman's size 9.5 fingering weight sock has just shy of 11,000 stitches in it – so probably about 14,000 stitches for a man's sock. That's a LOT of love, my friends. Phew!)

Thursday, August 7, 2014

August 7 – A very good mail day

Imagine how delighted I was to come home after work yesterday and find this little surprise in my mailbox. What a treat! A real, live letter, all the way from England, and tucked inside the envelope, a baggie of those stitch markers I was so excited about. Thank you, Sarah!

I think they're just delightful – thin, light, smooth (so they travel nicely along the needle) and the teardrop shape means they work well for small and large diameter needles. They're instant favourites.

Speaking of instant favourites, that's my Pebble Beach Shawlette up there – it's coming along nicely. I'm at 95% on the checklist, but with 33% of my yarn left (how?! it's almost as though I missed out on an entire page of the pattern but I've double-checked twice and know that I haven't), I've decided to take the plunge and add a repeat of the final border section. The final section is almost all knitting, so it goes fairly quickly; with luck I'll still be finished by Sunday.

There are many other things going on in the background, but now isn't the time for an apple-tree update or reflections on the books I'm reading. There are acres of stockinette calling my name. Have a lovely weekend!

Friday, August 1, 2014

August 1 – African flower hexagon update

I got a shout-out today in the Purple Purl newsletter, so I thought I'd pop in with a special hello for any Purlies who find their way here (hello!).

As you can see, hexagon production continues. I love the riot of colour that appears when I spread them out on the kitchen table.

I've got about 30 motifs finished now. I've slowed down a bit (distracted by my Pebble Beach shawlette, I'm afraid, but it's such an enjoyable knit!), but now that I've seen Miko's finished blanket, I think it's time to go full-speed ahead.

If you're interested in tracking the progress of this blanket so far, here's a round-up of my African blanket posts so far. 

June 4 – Getting a head start
July 4  – The CAL begins
July 12 – Contemplating all those yarn ends
July 20 – Sunday still life with crochet
July 25 – A milestone

Thanks for stopping by! Tell me – how's your CAL project coming along?