Saturday, 2 August 2014

Creative Process Blog Hop

I was recently tagged in a blog hop by Butterfly Sparkle Designs.  Actually, if we're being honest here, I stuck my hand up in the air and said "Pick Me" but the thing is, this particular blog hop was about the creative process.  I'm not sure what I was thinking because I'm not really a creator or designer.

But it's funny how things play out.  Before I explain that, let me answer the questions.

1. What are you working on right now?
Right now, I have three sweaters on the go. One is going to be a rather fitted pullover style with long sleeves in a wool/silk blend.

The second is a sleeveless top with a not-quite cable pattern growing out of the hem decoration in cotton

and the third is a heavy cardigan in a yarn of unknown fibre content that I bought in Asia.

Of these three, one actually has a pattern (that I'm sorta following). The others are out of my head.

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?
Well, I've never published anything or even written out a pattern properly so I'm not entirely sure if I'm being totally unique or completely plagiarizing something I saw and liked. Sure I have my own notes on what I did but I'm not sure anyone would be able to make something out of those. For the patterns I'm developing now, they are more about texture and pattern rather than colour and colour blends. I have absolutely no eye for colour, colour matching or colour blending. Consequently I tend to stick to solids or tonal variations on colours.

3. Why do I write/create what I do?
I deviate from and edit the patterns I make because I have a vision in my head of what I want to wear, of how I want to present myself to the world, and how I want the world to perceive me. Most commercial patterns are written to fit a "Ms. Average" who is between 5'6" and 5'8" with a B cup bust.  I'm shorter than that with a larger chest so my body shape isn't being reflected in conventional fashion design. A straight 'adjustment' of many patterns to make them shorter and wider often end up looking very obviously like they've been changed for a short, kinda fat woman and I don't like that. I especially don't like when designers just add more stitches on the side and in doing so break an established pattern to make what I think of as "the fat girl expansion panel".  It's the same issue if you're very slender and fabric is just 'cut out' without any thought given to pattern matching. If I design it from the ground up to fit me and flatter me, it works better.

4. How does my writing/creative process work?
This is another question that I find difficult to answer. I will usually fiddle around with yarn while watching TV and play with a pattern and see how it will work in the yarn I have. Does it cause the fabric to bunch up and become too stiff or is it so loose that the finished item will have no shape to it. I've usually got a pattern in mind while I'm doing this but not always.  This is my 'fiddle piece' for the purple tank.

The point was to see how the pattern would look by itself as it grows from the hem and then to see if I could use the pattern to lead into the neck shaping.  It's gonna work just fine.

As for the patterns themselves, I look around at what other people are wearing, and what's in the shop windows.  The lady ahead of me at Tim Horton's the other day had a fabulous cardigan that was all eyelet and ladders in what I think was cotton.  It was amazing - and very easy to reproduce.

One last way the creative process works is when I'm looking for a design, I'll draw.  I never draw for anything else and curiously, not all that I draw is for knitting.

Now if only I could sew well enough to make what I can think of.

Do you design?  Wanna participate?  Send me your name and I'll put in a link to your site.

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Sea Glass and Fuschia

I wanted to write a quick post even though not a great deal has been happening. As I write this, my husband and son are downstairs watching the World Cup final game. I don't know about the rest of you, but I for one will be happy when it's all over and all my social media feeds return to normal.

I've got a bit of new spinning to show you. This is merino, dyed in a local shop. They called it 'Envy' but I think it's more a sea-glass turquoise than a real green.

I love the colour, but I'm not crazy about this batt. 

I had a lot of trouble with 'folded' fibres in the batt and I'm not convinced it was blended as well as it could have been. The top side has all the colour and the bottom, the part that is folded in was still very white. That said, the end result is a fantastic colour though I think it is actually a little underspun (that part is totally me and has nothing to do with the preparation). I haven't quite decided how I'm going to finish it; I'll need to run it through the wheel again to add more twist but I don't know whether I'm going to then wind half of it off onto another bobbin for a two ply finish, or Navajo ply for a three ply finish.  

So while I'm thinking about how I'm going to finish this, I'm still working on my sweater.

This is a sleeve. It's actually the second sleeve but the first piece that I think is actually going to be the right size. I had some sort of mental collapse when I started knitting this. The pattern provides both measurements as well as row counts. I fixated on the row counts without bothering to actually measure. So while the front, back and first sleeve are all wide enough, none of them are actually long enough. As I said, I'm not sure what I was thinking - I guess not thinking is closer to the truth. The front and back aren't obviously too short, but that one sleeve that I did is perhaps 3/4 length - fine if that is what you're going for but not my goal.

In other news, totally unrelated to this I've been tagged in a blog hop and I'm looking for a few people who would be interested in participating.  The questions (4) are about design and the creative process - not knitting specific.  I'll be posting that entry next week.  If you want to participate, leave me a note and I'll have a link to your blog next time.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

A Gift of Alpaca - Phase 1

Some of you have heard the story of how I came to have 10 oz (approx 300g) of Alpaca fibre in my stash. For the rest of you, this is what happened.

Several years ago, I took a half day spinning class at a local shop. At that time, I bought a new-to-me wheel and seriously thought I was the king of the hill. Look at me everyone - I can spin. I actually kept what I spun that day that I was so proud of.

It's a good reminder, both in humility but also to see just how far I've come.

I went to work the following Monday and told my then-boss about what I had done, and how pleased I was with what I had learned. She was thoughtful for a moment then said, "There is an Alpaca farm near my timeshare in Vermont. If I bought fibre, would you spin it for me?" Being so pleased with myself (and not having a clue what I was committing myself to), I said "Sure!"

So, true to her word, the next time she went to Vermont, she picked up three large bags of alpaca fibre and gave it to me at work. Two bags were for her, one for me as a thank you for doing the spinning.

That is about when the enormity of what I had committed myself to really sank in. I was looking at (what appeared to be) pounds and pounds of alpaca fibre and I knew that I didn't really have the skill to spin it. Not properly.

Thus started the my spinning education. I have the good fortune of living very close to the Wool Grower's Co-op Warehouse in Eastern Canada and was able to pick up small bags of roving for very little money.

I spun, and spun and spun some more. I learned to ply - no small feat when you only have one bobbin!

I ordered fibre online and spun that. This is where I learned that you have to be really careful with dyed fibre. Some is great, some, well - not so much.

I bought a new spinning wheel and kept trying.

I kept spinning and every once in a while, I would take a small amount of the alpaca out of the bag and test spin it - just to see if I could. Most of these experiments were abject failures and just when I thought I was going to have to admit that I really couldn't do it, I did it.  It wasn't great, but I did it.  I bought a bag of Alpaca fibre, and spun that. And it was lovely - if you ignore the catastrophic error I made while doing it.

So a few weeks ago, I took one of those lovely bags of fibre out from the bottom of the bin and started spinning. And spun, and spun and spun some more.  And then spent a day plying.

And this is the result.

That my friends, is 600 yards of 2-ply laceweight Alpaca.  And it's divine. But mostly, I'm so happy to be able to make good on my promise.

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

An Honourary Liebster Award

Kaiya of Winterlime Knits has very graciously nominated me for a Liebster Award!  Thank you so much!

  1. Post 11 random facts about myself
  2. Answer 11 questions the awarding blogger has asked
  3. [Nominate 11 blogs with less than 200 followers, add their links to this post, and let them know that they have been nominated]
  4. [Create 11 questions the nominated blogs have to answer]
These are the rules, but I'm going to change them somewhat.  The thing is, while I'm deeply pleased and gratified that I was nominated for such an award, the current structure feels a little too much like a chain letter.  So, in keeping with the spirit of the award - of introducing you to blogs which I like and which may be new to you - I am going to suggest a few that you might want to look at, but I'm not going to come up with questions for the owners to answer.  As such, this is an honourary Liebster Award, and not the full blown thing.

Eleven Random Facts about Me
  1. I'm a military child so as a result of moving every four to six years I have no "childhood home".
  2. I'm a military spouse which means I also did a lot of moving as an adult.  In six months, I will have lived in this house for four years and two months, longer than I've lived anywhere else in my life. To put that in perspective, I'm almost 44.
  3. In real life, I'm a software localization engineer for a company that makes auditing and financial analysis software.
  4. My mother taught me to knit when I was about seven years old.  One of my aunts was pregnant with her first child so mom had me make a baby bonnet in garter stitch.  It was yellow with a ribbon tie that she sewed on when I was finished.
  5. I met my husband when I was learning to scuba dive.  He was the instructor.
  6. I first learned to spin on a drop spindle when I took a class with a friend.
  7. I have a scattered educational background.  I have a degree in Historical Musicology with a minor in history, a post-graduate diploma in Applied Information Technology, two years of formal language training from the Canadian Military Foreign Language Institute (Mandarin Chinese), and a college diploma in Drinking Water and Waste Water Treatment (my provincial certification has expired as I didn't get a job in this field fast enough)
  8. I spent three years living in Beijing, China as a diplomat.  At the time, I could speak quite good Mandarin and read enough that I could get the gist of a story in a newspaper.
  9. The artistic / crafting gene runs very strongly in my family on my mother's side.  There are musicians, artists, quilters, authors and actors.
  10. My favourite flower is the cabbage rose (followed closely by peonies). They will be incorporated when the south side of the house is landscaped.
  11. I have a kayak, for those rare daylight moments when I'm not knitting, spinning or dealing with the vegetable garden.

Kaiya's Questions
  1. When did you really start getting hooked on crafting? Was there a particular project or technique that sparked the hunger?
    I got hooked in 2000 when I was pregnant.  I was home alone with nothing to do and had this idea in my head that pregnant ladies knit.  But I hadn't done much knitting since I was a kid.  So I went to Zeller's and bought a ball of dishcloth cotton, some needles and a booklet called How To Knit.  I cast on a handful of stitches, and knit a square, then ripped it out again and did that over and over until I had some confidence in my stitches. The first thing I made was a little hat for my son to wear.  Incidentally, I still have the booklet.
  2. What's the most challenging project you've faced down so far? Did you conquer it or did it vanquish you?
    There are two things that come to mind here.  One is a sweater I made for my SIL for Christmas several years ago.  This was pre-ravelry so I don't have pictures.  It was a hooded cabled pullover with two separate cable patterns worked at the same time.  That was tough, but I learned how to manage multiple patterns at once. The second was a stole designed by Anne Hansen (Autumn Arbor Stole).  This was challenging simply because of it's size and the fact that the yarn was like thread, it was so fine.
  3. Do you like to have something going on in the background while you craft, or do you need stillness and concentration?
    Depends what I'm making.  If its a complicated pattern, or I'm trying to do something new or involves counting to more than four I prefer quiet.  For something like plain vanilla socks, I'm happy to have noise.
  4. What is(/are) the dream tool(s) you would get if you had the money and opportunity?
    Hmm.  This is a changeable list; depending on what I'm doing.  For the most part, I'm happy with the tools I've got and fall into the camp of "the skill of the craftsman trumps good tools".  That being said, I like having quality tools.  Viking wool combs are certainly on my "I want it" list
  5. What's one skill or hobby you've always wanted to pick up?
    Sewing.  I learned the basics of pattern reading and how to sew a simple item when I was in elementary school (when all girls did Home Economics) but I didn't continue with it and rather regret it now.  I have a machine, it's now a case of getting on with it.
  6. What are your favorite colors? Least favorite?
    I don't really have favourite colours, per se.  I do have preferred palettes for different projects.  I know that if I'm making something for me, then darker jewel tones work well.  But that isn't so good for baby clothes where I prefer lighter colours.  For socks, I tend to make them in fairly neutral colours so I can pair them with anything.
  7. What are your favorite foods?
    Hmm.  Another tough question.  This changes with the season I think.  Right now, it's high summer and stinking hot outside so cold meats, hard cooked eggs, pasta salad, fresh tomatoes with a sprinkle of chopped basil - that sort of thing sounds divine.  In the winter, nothing beats a good stew that's been in the slow cooker all day.
  8. How has technology impacted your crafting?
    This is a great question.  Technology has had a huge impact on my crafting in that it has made the global community smaller.  I find myself talking to people from all over the world about knitting, and spinning.  I also use video tutorials to learn new techniques - something that wasn't really available when I was learning. Curiously though, it has really solidified my desire to purchase locally.
  9. Is there anyone for whom you will Never Make Anything Again?
    Umm.  Yes, yes there is.
  10. What literary character would you most want to be like?
    I'm going to sidestep this question.  I think we spend so much time trying to imitate other people that we lose sight of who we are.  I'm in the process of trying to re-define and rel-learn who I am so honestly, I'd rather be me.
  11. Finally, do you have any exciting plans for the future of your blog?
    This is another great question and I honestly hadn't given the future of my blog much thought until I was asked.  I think the next phase is going to be about getting my blog out there and increasing the number of people who are actually reading it.  I also want to improve my photography skills to make it that much nicer to look at.
The Blogs I'd like to Introduce You To
Here, in no particular order, are the blogs I'd like to share with you.  There are lots of really well known blogs, many of which I follow but since the whole point of this is to find new things to read, these are some of the smaller blogs, or blogs outside the sphere of knitting/spinning which I follow.

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

A Place To Call My Own

I stumbled upon the most interesting thing on Pinterest the other day. I was scrolling through the "Popular" feed and saw something that was captioned "Woman Cave".

I think the axis of my universe just shifted.

A woman cave. I've never given it much thought, but yes, come to think of it, I would like a place I can retreat to. Chuck has the now requisite "Man Cave" in the basement full of his military paraphernalia. He's even got a sign on the lintel going down the stairs.

My son has the entire top floor of the stone part of the house. It's just a fluke of past renovations that all the separators were taken out so he's got a large airy space for a bedroom which is also quite separate from the rest of the living space and he's happy there.

And me? Well, um, I have a sacrosanct spot on the couch. My spot and only I sit there. Or at least I did until the dog decided he liked it too.  Chuck's first comment when I suggested I'd like a space of my own was that I had the rest of the house and how much more did I really need?

Joking aside, typically women retreat to the bedroom, bathroom or kitchen. My bedroom is for sleeping - end of story. I'm not one to lounge in the tub so while the bathroom is very nice, I don't consider it a retreat. The kitchen is out because it's a work space and more to the point, it's a public part of the house. I want a place where I can leave my knitting out, a book open to a page and decorate without consultation with the others who live here. If we lived in a more forgiving climate, I would have tried to take over the shed (a freestanding building with power) but since it is neither insulated nor heated it isn't really usable as living space from October to May. I don't have a perfect space, but we do have an unused area on the main floor of the house. The living room/lounge is an odd C shape. The only entrance to the room is from the top of the C and that area at the top is what we use. The bottom of the C is unused.

So for now, this will be my space. It's a work in progress but there is a closet to store books, lots of light, the stereo and space for the spinning wheels (you can only see one).

The only thing I'd really like to add is a divider - something like a Chinese screen that I can easily remove to really separate my space from the living room.

Friday, 20 June 2014

Time Flies

I'm not sure what happened here - seems it's been six weeks (give or take) since I've written anything (and honestly, I haven't read much either so I'll be going back and reading blogs that you've written too) but in my mind I've had piles of things to share with you. I know I think of posting something a few times a week and for one reason or another it just never gets done. A big part of that is because the battery in my camera always seems to be dead.

So here I am, forcing myself to sit down and show you what's going on.

There's been some travel - I went to Chicago on very short notice (like 24 hours notice) at the beginning of the month.  I really liked the city and would quite happily go back.

I stayed down on the river and was able to find time for the architectural river tour.  If you ever find yourself in Chicago with a few hours to spare, this is something worth doing.

I have part of the vegetable garden planted. Most things are growing well including the weeds. Curiously, squash isn't growing well at all. I made a decision earlier in the spring that I wasn't going to plant the entire space that I have available. It's too much and I can't keep it weeded and I end up losing produce and patience.  Last year, when I was dealing with depression I tried to get it all done and more than once I was in tears while planting something because I was just so frustrated with the space and how quickly the grass and weeds would take over if I so much as turned my back.  Couple that with the grasshoppers who moved in with the grass and I was ready to just plow the entire thing under. This year, I decided to be a little kinder to myself and reduced the size of the planting space. I have less, but the space is easier for me to maintain. So far, I'm enjoying it a lot more as well. The other thing I learned is that if you're going to plant purple fingerling potatoes, that you need to take them ALL out of the ground in the fall - even the little tiny blips of tubers the size of your finger tip, the half eaten ones the mice dined on and the ones you cut in half with the shovel while digging up the others. You know why?  Because these damn things can survive a winter - even a really hard, cold one like what we just had (remember this is a Canadian saying it was a long, cold winter) and they'll grow the next year. Currently I have "wild" potatoes growing among the onions and the lettuces....

I also spent some time working on the ornamental bed at the front of the house.  It's not all done, but I've gone from this:

to this.  It still needs some work and the edging needs to be cleaned up, but at least I can see what I'm working with now.

I've been knitting as well, although at a much slower pace due to the gardens.  I've finished a(nother) pair of socks.  These were knit using Lorna's Laces yarn.  The colour is Lucky Stripe.  I think I'm in love.

I've also started a new sweater.  I've decided I really like working sweaters in a rather fine gauge so I've cast on another one.  The sweater will have a folded hem and be very plain but is a shocking fuchsia - a colour I can wear quite well.

There are a few other things that have been happening too, but I need to save something for next time!

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

No focus

It's one of those days.

I'm working from home today - which is a little off my normal schedule but I've shifted WFH days to accommodate some meetings happening on Thursday and Friday. Sadly, I can't focus. This is really unusual, normally I can make myself get the work done regardless of the distractions but I've been struggling for six hours now and I'm not getting anywhere. In the time I've spent writing this much I've stopped twice to look at Facebook and my mail (just to see if anything new had arrived). There was nothing new. I even checked my work email. Nothing new there either.

My husband calls it a bad case of Wrong-Side-Of-Window. He made this observation after hearing that a meeting today was cancelled so he decided to blow off the rest of his afternoon and go hunting (the perks of being self-employed eh?!). Lanark county is currently being overrun by wild turkeys; hunting is a public service really. And in case you're wondering, his bunking off for the rest of the day didn't do anything to help me focus. He might be right though, it's a beautiful day outside and would be good to spend some time in the garden, or even just sitting on the deck in the sun.

Honestly, I don't know if I should try and push through it (1h 20min to go), or give in and go outside and plant onions, go downstairs and spin, sit on the deck and knit or go have a nap because I have a sore throat starting and don't have time to be sick. I've been hearing lots lately about taking time for self-care but how do you balance that against work expectations? Especially on days when the body is clearly demanding something, because how else can I interpret behaviour so far from what is my 'normal'. I can always log back in later and will probably get more done if I did that, but I also know that on days like this it's too easy to just not log in again.

Would it be the end of the world if I slipped away?  No, nobody will die and the economy won't collapse if I quietly leave an hour early but there is a trust which is extended to me by my employer that I can work without supervision and I don't want to break that trust.

Do you work from home?  How do you deal with days like this?

Sunday, 4 May 2014

Half and Half

It's finished; maybe.  This is the shell I've been working on for a few weeks.  The design is called Fifty Fifty by Laura Cunitz and you can find it on  I'm calling mine Half and Half.

If you've been following this, you'll know that I've made a few adjustments to the number of stitches to eliminate a four stitch gap in the pattern which appears where the round joins on one side.  I'm happy to report that the finished item does indeed fit, with no awkward gaps around the arms - something that is always a risk with a tank top - and that the pattern now lines up and repeats as it should.

There are some details on this that I really like, such as a really interesting stitch pattern along the arms and the neck

as well as a pretty panel at the back of the neck

I had hoped to photograph this while wearing it, but everyone else is out for the day, and I'm not good at taking self portraits.

As for the maybe at the beginning, I'm undecided if I'm going to leave this white, or if I should dye it.  I don't often wear white because I usually manage to stain it but I still have my two original swatches so I can play with colours.

So what do you think?  Dye it or leave it as it?

Friday, 25 April 2014

Signs of Spring

It's been a long winter here in Eastern Ontario - indeed most of Canada and the northern United States are well and truly sick of it. But Spring is finally here and I've been seeing a lot of posts recently about the arrival of Spring and what that means to different people. As for me, I've been waiting for one thing which truly is the sign of spring at my house. And it came today.

It wasn't the fat buds on the trees and shrubs

It wasn't the miniature daffodils on the south wall of the house

Nor was it the rhubarb or green onions

No, it was none of these things.  What I've been waiting for is that damn bird, aka the Northern Flicker, back from it's annual migration, banging holes in the side of my house.

Happy Spring.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Modifying a Sweater, Part II - Fiddling with Ease

Back to my adjustments on the Fifty Fifty tank. We left off with a discussion of swatches. Here are the two that I did. They were machine washed and laid flat to dry. 

At that time, I liked the second one more, the one worked on 3.75 mm needles but after drying I like the look, drape and feel of the 4 mm swatch more. So that is what I'm going to use.

Now for the math. I do this using Microsoft Excel but any spreadsheet will work. So will a basic calculator. I start by seeing what my gauge is on the swatch I chose. Measure a section that is 4" wide and count the number of stitches. Then divide that number by four to get the stitches / inch. In my case, I measured 21 stitches over 4 inches so my stitches per inch count is 5.25.

Next step is to figure out a few numbers. This is where I fiddle with the ease. What is ease? It's the difference between your body measurement and the garment measurement. Zero ease means they are the same, positive ease means the garment is larger than you, while negative ease means the garment is smaller than you. I don't particularly like negative ease - I find it to be too snug for my taste and comfort but I don't want this to be a big, loose top either. So I'd ideally like something with between .25 and 1" of positive ease. I create a small grid in Excel and calculate the numbers I would need to cast on for a variety of eases from zero to one inch positive ease. This is very simply the measurement times the stitches per inch so 41 inches times 5.25 = 215.25.  

Measurement 0.25" ease 0.5" ease 0.75" ease 1" ease
Sample size 41 41.25 41.5 41.75 42
Stitches 4mm 215.25 216.5625 217.875 219.1875 220.5

Next look at the pattern. There is actually a chart which shows me that there is a 12 stitch repeat, plus 14 stitches at the end to make up a round. Some more math gave me 12 stitches x 17 repeats + 14 stitches at the end = 218. This is right in the middle of my target numbers so I'm going to work with this. Normally, I wouldn't like an odd number of pattern repeats but remember that in this case, those 14 stitches at the end make up the 18th repeat so I'll be able to divide this evenly for front and back. So I've learned that I'll need to cast on 218 stitches which will give me about half an inch of positive ease as I am not putting any waist shaping in this top.

Now back to the pattern again. There is an unusual cast on method provided which I decided to try which required half again as many stitches as my actual stitch count. So 218/2=109.  218+109 = 327. This is workable, but I don't like uneven numbers. If I bump up the numbers to 220/2 =110. 220+110=330. It's no problem to add stitches for something like this, but you need to do something about them when you start working the pattern. After all, extra stitches in the fabric is why I'm doing this recalculation.

After working this cast-on, I did the join and worked the ribbing. Then there were two rows of stockinette stitch. This is where I took care of those two additional stitches we added to make up the numbers for the cast on. One last look at the chart shows that there are two "extra" stitches that don't really contribute to the pattern but would be necessary if you were working this pattern flat. I'm knitting this in the round so I removed those two stitches as well. This means that I have to decrease four stitches on my first round of stockinette stitch. I did this at the side seams, two at each side. So now I'm down to 216 stitches, which gives about a quarter inch of positive ease and is still within my target zone.

So all this because I didn't like how the pattern didn't meet up on the sides for my size. This was the original photo.

But you know what? I made it work. Here is the work in progress - at both sides just in case someone thinks I'm cheating. 

This isn't heavy pattern modification and I'll (maybe) complete the arms eye shaping by following the pattern as written.  Then again, maybe not.  I'll decide when I get there.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

An Unexpected Delay

So after starting to tell you how I modify sweater patterns, or patterns in general, I packed up my laptop and left Perth for a few days in New Jersey. I figured I'd post the next steps from the hotel in Parsippany but got there and realized that my camera was at home. As it turns out, I barely had time to sleep, let alone write the next steps before I was back on the airplane to fly home. I was home for about 40 hours which was just long enough for me to empty the suitcase, wash everything, pat the dogs and repack before driving to Toronto which is where I am right now.

This is the view out my hotel window. However my camera, with the photos is still at home. Rats. My apologies for the delay in posting the next steps for what I do to adjust sweater patterns to my liking. So here is what I can tell you:

  • The flight to New Jersey was uneventful and my time there was productive. 
  • Coming back via Pearson Airport in Toronto, there is a dedicated lane at customs for people like me who have connecting flights. 
  • Even with this fast-tracking lane, I still had to hustle; Pearson is a big airport
  • The customs agent was surprised that I was a software engineer. Not sure why.
  • My dogs really don't like it when I come home only long enough to repack my bags and then leave again.
  • I love satellite radio on long drives.
  • I have always loved Toronto, and I still do.
  • I don't like going to a restaurant by myself and I'm getting tired of eating out; I want to make my own dinner - and eat with my family.
So anyway, it's now Tuesday night and I'll be here in Toronto until Saturday morning when I'll pack everything up and make the trek back to Perth. I think there might be some yarn shopping on the way (I just realized that I'm within walking distance of Lettuce Knit....)

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Modifying a Sweater, Part I

In my last post, I said I was going to rip out the sweater I had started because I didn't like how the pattern wasn't lining up at the sides and that I was going to play with the gauge and ease to see if I could come up with some numbers that would make this pattern work for my size. I was talking about this yesterday at a knitting group and someone expressed some surprise that you could do such a thing. With that in mind, I decided to tell you how I modify a sweater pattern.

The first thing I do once I have a pattern I like is select my yarn. I try to stick to the same weight (fingering, DK, etc) as the original but I certainly don't go out of my way to find the exact yarn that was used in the model. I prefer to "shop" from my stash and frankly, there is no shortage, but I digress.

Once I have yarn, I knit at least one gauge swatch. Yes, probably more than one. No, you can't skip this part. Really, it only takes 45 minutes for me to make one - do it while watching TV. I start with knitting a 4 inch square in plain stockinette (or whatever pattern I'm trying to measure against) in the manufacture's recommended needle size for that yarn. Then sit back and look at the swatch you just made. Do you like the density of the fabric? The drape or hand of it? If you have even a whiff of "maybe this should be lighter/denser/something other than it is" then make another swatch to correct for what you don't like. Keep doing this until you are happy with the swatch 'cause I can guarantee that if something bugs you in the swatch, it will definitely bug you in the finished item.

This is the first swatch I made on a 4 mm needle, and my initial thought was that it's too loose so I made another using a 3.75 mm needle.  This one is visibly denser and I like it more for a summer top.

If you want something denser, go down one needle size. If you want to open up the fabric a bit, then go up. When you have a selection of swatches - remember two is the minimum for this - then go ahead and wash them the way you would the final garment according to the directions on the ball band or tag. For the swatches I'm doing, the ball band says to machine wash in cold water. So I dropped the swatches in the laundry. To tell them apart, I tied one knot on the tail of the first one (4 mm), and two knots in the tail of the second (3.75 mm). I won't make a final decision about needle size or gauge until they are washed and dry but right now, I'm leaning towards the second swatch.

While these are in the wash, consider how and where you are going to wear this and then measure yourself (or better yet, get someone to measure you) according to the schematic provided in the pattern. What I mean is, if the pattern only gives a bust measurement then measure yourself there. Don't worry about hip and waist measurements - the garment won't have any shaping. If you want to put that shaping in, that's another subject. While I'm on the subject of measuring your bust, make sure you're wearing the "right" bra. If this is something you're going to wear to work, don't take a measurement in your running bra which compresses everything, or your "slop around the house bra" which really doesn't to anything at all. You need a real number so measure while wearing your good, workday bra. Don't worry about what that number is and don't go off on a tangent about how you have to lose weight before you can make anything for yourself.  You're beautiful and deserve to have nice things.

Stay tuned - when the swatches are out of the wash, I'll continue with the next steps.

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Rent Socks

Some of you know that I have a very long commute to work - 84 km (~50 miles) each way. In addition to this, my role at work has been changing lately and now I'm doing training in a classroom setting. The result of this is that now I have a hard and fast start time in the mornings and when you have to cross a city of a million people to get to work, traffic is unpredictable at best. So on the days when I teach, I spend the night before at a friend's place much closer to work. We have experimented with how to compensate her for this. She's not really comfortable taking my money. I've brought a roast a few times, wine others but I think we've settled on something that will work: socks. She doesn't knit, but loves hand-knit socks.

So here is what is likely going to be the first of many:  Rent Socks.  The yarn is Trail Socks by Fleece Artist in "cedar" colourway. After she's tried it on and I know it's the right length, I'll graft the toe.

In other news, the calendar says it's spring now, but it seems mother nature didn't get the memo. It's still very cold outside (-10C) with lots of snow. But one of the oddities of Eastern Ontario is how fast the seasons change, especially from Winter to Spring.  When the change happens it will be very fast, a matter of days.  I've lived here long enough to know this so I've got some seeds started.

I know this is very early but I really only have a few things here.  I have some herbs (basil, cilantro, dill) which were decimated by some unknown critter last year, I have some pumpkins which I'll transplant when I can, some celery because home grown is really the only kind I like, and some tomatoes.  See, I've been looking at the tomato plants in May with the fruit already on them and think I'd really like to have one, but I won't pay the $20 the nursery is asking for them.  I figure I can grow it myself with a little bit of planning.

I'm also working on a new tank top for summer.  This is called Fifty-Fifty and you can find the pattern on Knitty.  I spent last night and a few hours this morning working on this and this is what I have so far.  As is normal for me, I'm not using the recommended yarn so I'm not getting the recommended gauge so I've had to recalculate all the numbers.  It turns out, that with my recalculated numbers I was 4 stitches off the numbers for a different size so I decided to try that. Here is the pattern. I think this will be really cute when it's all knit up.

I quite like the pattern, but one of my pet peeves with patterns like this is when the pattern doesn't quite fit around the number of stitches so you end up with a really awkward join on the sides.  In this case, there is a huge gap (ok, not so huge, only 4 stitches) on the sides where the pattern doesn't meet up.  Still, this makes me crazy.  

Not all the sizes have this problem, so I'm going to rip this all out and recalculate, maybe change the ease a little bit to see if I can use the numbers for a size that doesn't have this problem.