30 November 2007

OMG did she just swatch?

Yes I did. And I even washed & blocked it too. I'm like a grown up knitter. Or something.

Pattern: Sweater no. 4 from Lopi no. 20
Modifications: Lots of adaptations for gauge (Létt Lopi instead of double stranding Alfoss Lopi)
Materials: Istex Létt-Lopi
Start Date: November 30, 2007

I usually don't swatch. It's like a crime against knitting to use yarn for something that isn't going to become something. For me, swatching is like condemning yarn to purgatory, a nebulous limbo that isn't the trash and isn't really going to be used. Ever.

Instead, I usually grab the yarn and my needles, cast on the necessary number of stitches and after a while (a few inches or so) determine my gauge/see if the thing is turning out the right size. If not, figure out my gauge & adapt the pattern/start over again (and again and again).

For most of my knitting career this has been quite sufficient. Mittens that are too big allow for more fabric to scrunch around and keep hands warm. Scarves really don't care if they're slightly wider or longer. And I mostly make those up as I go along. Cast on until I'm bored of it and away I knit with the chosen stitch pattern. Socks? Well, they're socks. So like, um, if they're too big, then they're house socks. Really I make socks for other people so they tend not to complain if they don't fit. Plus socks will relax as you wear them. It's true! All the pairs I've made for myself have become kind of loosey goosey (ie. house socks).

But now I'm into sweater land. And gauge? It's like a thing now. Especially crazy me who likes to take a pattern and yarn and make them fit together (that whole square peg, round hole idea). So knowing gauge is like a big deal. Or something. And with this sweater I already tried my psuedo half hearted math-to-be-able-to-cast-on, made the whole thing and found it was like a little cropped sweater with 3/4 sleeves (I'm not about showing the midriff).

So now I'm going to do things properly. I started with 5.0 mm, and when down by 0.5 mm until I got to my dream fabric on 3.5 mm needles. The swatch was washed and then blocked overnight with pins just to straighten things out a bit. And I've got POUNDS of bright pink Létt-Lopi around the place so damning some to yarn purgatory doesn't seem so harsh.

I know. I keep starting things these days. Things that aren't even on the list (Ravelry or the sidebar). What gives? Well, sometimes things pop into my head and I just keep keep keep thinking about them until I have to do something about it. Hence the beginnings of the Ginormo Granny Square Blanket and now a Pink Lopi Raglan.

But coming up is a week of Knit Nites™ and I need something portable and suitably mindless to bring along. Other projects are still in the works and possibly running low on the yarns. And somethings are done and some are in a time out.

Ooooo! And completely unrelated but also exciting! I have a Charlie Brown Christmas ringtone on my cell phone. How festive am I?

Speaking of festive, Sharon made me burst out laughing by bringing in scraps of suitably Christmas-y yarns so I can make another pair of festive Teeny Tiny Sock Earrings. I just have to figure out where to get some of those earring things.

29 November 2007

Look who can count.

I managed to make the granny square square. It was touch and go there for a while. I managed to save the unsquare square but the gauge was too floppy for a blanket. So I started with a smaller, less rude looking hook. Better gauge but it wanted to be a hexagon before becoming another square.

I know, why is it such a big deal for me to make a square? I have a general dislike of counting, math, figuring things out before hand, but this is me blindly following a pattern so what's the deal? Well because of the Ginormo nature of the yarn and therefore exaggerated proportions of the resulting square make it more difficult to keep track of all those double crochets. Uh. Well that's my story and I'm sticking to it!

I am totally in love with this project but the price of the Magnum is giving me an eye twitch. $20 a skein!?!???! Yikes. Considering that each square eats almost a full skein I think it's going to be a while before this project goes any further. I could pick another super ginormo bulky chunky something-or-other, but I like the resulting texture of the un-plied Cascade. I'd be open to any recommendations for a similar yarn that won't end up costing the same as my duvet. Yikes.

Alright. I've done some fancy calculations and the size of said blanket will be 30 squares. With each square using just about one ball each, this give me a grand total of $600 for the blanket. Let me be the first to say AY CARUMBA! Even if I factor in the leftovers and bring the total number of skeins down to let's say, 20, that's still $400 and absolute madness. It's just crazy talk. Does anyone know of cheap substitute lopi-like wool yarn?

24 November 2007

This isn't your Grandmother's Granny Square

Heck, it's not even square. Let's back track a bit.

So I got this skein of Cascade Magnum from Robyn in a Secret Pal package and I've been trying to figure out what to do with it. It was briefly an Urchin but I don't think it was meant to be. I have been thinking of making a granny square blanket for a while now and with the arrival of the ginormo almost rude crochet hook I got the idea of making giant granny squares with chunky yarn. So last night I grabbed my hook and a favourite granny square pattern and got to hooking.

I was, uh, mostly paying attention, but somewhere during Slapsgiving I the square got away from me. Suddenly in the last round I was at then end before I should have been. I should pay more attention.

Now my little rant about the whole 'This isn't your grandmother's [insert craft/product here].' I know I just used the phrase myself, but my usage was to be a. ironical and b. a jumping off point for this discussion.

As previously mentioned, I don't like the 'trendy' side of knitting. I think such phrases that try to sell knitting/craftyness as something 'new,' 'improved' and 'better than the old days' don't serve the public identity of the past time. It gives the impression that unless you knit/crochet with irony, you're old, moldy, out-of-date and just plain un-feminist. In my books, that's just not cool.

I don't knit because I feel the need to 'reclaim' this dying, unappreciated craft of my female heritage for a new generation. I knit to maintain a connection with my past. To honour my grandmother who taught me to knit, my great-grandmother who continued to make things for my brother and I as children despite having lost her sight. Sure, I knit different things than they did. And I don't dip into my mom's huge acrylic stash these days (partly cause I'm all about the wool and partly cause it's on the other side of the country). But each time I pick up my needles or start something new, I can't help but feel connected to the long line of ladies who made things out of necessity and out of enjoyment.

It's silly to throw away all their tricks, tips, designs just because it's not hip anymore. Sure I'm not going to make myself a granny square vest, but I there's still something compelling about building blocks of crochet to efficiently and portably construct a blanket.

Now if I could just keep my mind focused enough to actually make a square, I'd be set.

23 November 2007

My suspicions were right on

So here's the contents of my final package from my Secret Pal. And I got the big reveal at Wednesday's Knit Nite™. My Pal is Robyn of Robyn's Nest and I have to admit that I knew it all along. She asked me right away when I began to suspect and I have to say that I was suspicious right away. She contacted me through Ravelry just after I had signed up for Secret Pal 11 and is really the only person to have contacted me through the internets before. I put it into the coincidence category and didn't really think about it.

I started going to the Montreal Knits meetups and at the first on got my first parcel. But I didn't become really suspicious until I got my first ginormo package. It wasn't the fact that Robyn delivered this one too. It was the fact that both my Secret Pal AND Robyn had a big complicated and overly detailed account as to why she was delivering this parcel to me for my Pal. Too much detail = made up story. And again a big complicated answer when I mentioned the Montreal postmark on a package I got through the mail. Final confirmation would have to be the French only on the front of the 2 for 1 coupons for Blockbuster from a Bébé Néstle product (Only in Québec and who do I know with a baby?).

But the surprise of who is doing the spoiling is really a minor part of the whole swap. The more important part is the spoiling. And Robyn is tops in that department. I now have a complete six mug set of sheep mugs (each one different). TONS of great sheepy things like notecards, notebooks, pencil cases, etc. A whole slew of awesome books including The Happy Hooker, some amazing handpainted, farm raised yarn from snooty French Sheep (it will not be mixed with the New Brunswick wool I don't need an anglo/franco conflict on my hands). Some fabulously smelling cranberry shower gel. And of course there's chocolate too. A bunch of great chocolate poker chips and a big chocolate S in a fantastic cigarettesque package. (The S is already gone and almost half the poker chips).

I've already added all the books into my Delicious Library and am trying to resist immediately casting on for Véronik's Béret Gaufré and waiting until I finish at least one other project.

Other Knit Nite™ related news: Mona reads my blog which totally caught me by surprise. She didn't know it was me until she made the mitten connection (seeing me work on them and then their appearance on the blog). I'm still kind of knocked back by it. A professional knitter with published patterns reads my blog (!!!). I'm sorry. I'll get over it. Just give me a second or two. I'm going to have to find some nice sock yarn so I can cast on for her November Mystery Socks. I've been collecting all the clues, but haven't been in a sock mood.

Um. What else? I'm somewhat officially done the Adult Surprise Jacket and the Mitten Swap Mittens. Ends have been worked. I'm considering/intending to block. Work's just been keeping me quite busy. I even missed the Plateau Knit Nite™ yesterday, staying at work until 9:30 PM. Don't worry, I get paid by the hour (with overtime when applicable) and they bought me dinner. But I fully intend to at least steam block to tidy things up a bit.

I'm going to get back to the knitting and bad Friday night TV. Thanks again to Robyn for all the great goodies! I totally lucked out to get a SP Hostess as my Pal. I had a great time!

18 November 2007

Almost at the finish line

The extra Noro found it's way to my mailbox so I am almost done with my Adult Surprise Jacket (again). This time the sleeves are too narrow rather than too loose. But rather than start over (again) I decided that a little modification could save the sweater. A few short rows later and I have what I like to call speed stripes. But now the neckline is a little more bodice like so I'm leaving it to marinate for a bit while I figure out how I feel about it.

The second mitten is finished and I'm about half way through working in the ends. I'm semi considering blocking them before mailing off the package. Maybe just a steam job.

And of course I can't be almost done a few projects without at least considering my next project. Well 'considering' turned into casting on for a Sideways Pullover from the Winter '04 Interweave Knits. I'm adapting for smaller gauge and a closer fit than shown in the picture. I forgot how fabulously fun and mindless brioche stitch was.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to get back to procrastinating the laundry a little longer.

14 November 2007

Japanese Craftbooks & Continued Conversations

Knit nites (and afternoons) have become a big part of my social life here in Montreal lately and the word is out, I have a blog. Sunday afternoon, my blog became a topic of conversation (it began with the general topic of blogs) and I was surprised at who reads my blog. I mean, I do have the whole Sitemeter thing now which I LURV to check obsessively to see if anyone's been on, where in the world they're checking from (Germany! England! Japan! California! Missouri!) and how they're getting here (lots of Fair Isle searches, sometimes for stockings, some image searches and some lovely links from other blog peoples blogs), but I don't get names or anything, so it's pretty much a mystery to me.

Why do I blog? Um. I dunno. Mostly cause I want to keep track of my knitting and I'm more likely to keep up with the updating & keeping track of knitting related decisions if it's not just for me. I always have the internal monologue for pretty much everything anyways so why not get it out of the brain? I try to keep up with the updating fairly frequently mostly cause someone complained that I didn't post enough but it's also a good way to keep it part of the regular daily/weekly routine. Oh, and I ALWAYS have an opinion on everything, from toe-up vs. cuff-down, cast-ons to Continental vs. English so me writing it here means I don't have to drive people crazy with the rantie on such topics.

K. Now the Japanese Craftbooks. Janet, a very lovely knit nite participant who is on a personal quest to make the most crocheted eco-bags in the world, brought in her ever-growing collection last week for us to oooo and aaaaaaa over. I love the crazy amazing things that are done in these books with traditional techniques. There's one that features Fair Isle projects and it's so interesting to see how traditional Scandinavian motifs and colours are tweaked/changed/adapted to make something new and modern. There's no fear of breaking with the 'tradition' of such motifs or techniques in the creation some truly unique projects.

The conversation begun by these books brought me to mention these amazing herringbone gloves I had come across on the internets. (Here you go Janet). The finished gloves totally look like haute couture/Saks Fifth Avenue store bought gloves and are definitely next on the list. I do also need something in between the Endpaper Mitts and the Squirrely Swedish Mitts. I think the chance colour combo from the previous post (mustard plus heathery brown/eggplant) will be absolute perfection.

Another knit nite conversation was the change in photography style of the latest Interweave Knits. I'm still waiting for mine to come in the mail and getting kind of cranky about it's late arrival, I usually get it before it hits the news stands man! Back to the conversation. Someone brought up the change in photography and how poorly they were matched to models and how the shots were styled. Having not received the latest issue yet, I couldn't contribute to the rant.

But as I have opinions on everything, especially things related to my professional life as a Graphic Designer, I got into a rant about the general change in design and layout of the magazine in the past year or so. I really prefer the old design. The 'redesign' to me is a step back rather than forwards. The bleed edge top graphics combined with the title treatments on the article and pattern pages especially bother me by how they clutter the white space. But I do enjoy the pattern pages and photo montage layouts. They showcase the knit projects using the usually strongest part of Knits, the photography.

Now usually the photography has this awesome 'knitwear in its natural habitat' feel to it. Candid feeling photographs of people wearing sweaters, scarves, socks etc. while doing every day things. Only sometimes the photos are sometimes a little blurry. Not the best thing when trying to showcase projects. Showing detail is kind of a big deal. While I appreciate that they tried to fix this blurriness in photographing the latest issue, based on the internet preview pics, I think in trying to fix the blurriness, the overall appeal of Knits photography was lost.

Instead of lovely candid photos of real looking people in great sweaters we now have an almost Sears catalog of possible projects harshly lit in overly styled and very artificial feeling locations. Overall not an improvement. Oh and I really dislike the photo chosen for the cover. There's just not enough colour punch and interesting composition to keep my attention. I think the Alicia Tabard on the beach would be a way more compelling cover, even if it's not Christmas-y, the icy blue still indicates a general 'Winter Wonderland' time of year.

But I like lots of the projects inside. Really that's what its about. Good articles and good projects. It's still a shame when something gets changed but not improved.

And I finished the second Mitten Swap mitten despite my inability to concentrate at the last couple of knitting meetups. Oy. I need to start drinking coffee again or something. Still have to weave all those pesky ends and staring at a monitor all day is not good preparation for studying the yarns to work things in with the whole gentle shifts of colour thing. I figure they'll be ready to ship out by the weekend.

10 November 2007

Saturday with Auntie

I had to go to work today. I know working on a Saturday ranks low in the working world, but for those of us who suffer from 'sporadic employment' with hourly pay don't tend to mind the extra hours, even if it cuts into the knitting time. At the moment I'm temping at an ad agency in downtown Montreal and was asked to come in to help prepare a pitch for a national campaign. Sounds all glamourous right? Really I was expecting to be working my exacto magic with some mad foamcore mounting skillz. Turns out I didn't do much at all. Look for some stock photos (loving the new Getty Images btw), some light Photoshop and Quark wrangling. But my willingness to come in and help out made me the hero of the hour in the Studio. Adds to the superhero status which never hurts for my rep with my placement agency.

Oh and I want to mention how amazingly better working on a Saturday was with this company than with the other job that had me come in. First, people were all relaxed, friendly, came by and said hi. Next the studio guys left me a jelly filled doughnut from the previous day (plus the fact that the project manager bought us doughnuts in the first place). Finally someone came in especially to tell me that they had bought a bunch of amazing French pastries for everyone. This especially blew my mind as I am not only a temp, but working in the studio at the bottom of the food chain and all these Art Directors, Creative Directors, Client Service Managers, and VPs were being so considerate. Definitely not something I would expect from previous experience with similar high ranking types.

Also, the work load was light. I had an extended lunch break with only a couple of light things in the afternoon. I found myself with a large block of free time so I decided to meet someone introduced to me by my Secret Pal, Crazy Aunt Purl. No, I hadn't been formally introduced to this lovely blogger before and instantly wondered where'd she been all my life! Or at least since I started reading knitting blogs.

I begun where I usually begin with a new blog, from the beginning! Well occasionally I do. Really I poke around some of the blogger's projects, recent entries for the funnie, original designs, etc. But because of the recommendation from my Pal (and my feeling stupid for not knowing Crazy Aunt Purl alreadies, I decided to dig deeper. And a treasure I did find.

SO MUCH with the funnie! I laughed, I almost cried, I laughed until I cried, and I only made it to April 2005. My favourite bit is when she yelled at the Crazy Bus people for making the Bus Driver cry on her first day of work. As one who relies on public transportation and internally bemoans the complainers, I am so happy to see that she wouldn't let that crap fly. Plus who doesn't secretly wish they could pull off saying y'all?

9 November 2007

Invasion of the yarn cakes

They have escaped from their natural habitat of Rubbermaid and have been out exploring. They have been establishing base camps in various locations in my apartment after the scouts returned to the mother ship with their findings. It's official, the yarn is taking over!

After an initial test base on the desk with expeditions into the printers, the yarn chose to use the coffee table for it's base of operations. This facilitated the production of fully knitted garments through the power of suggestion.

While the yarn continues to explore new environs such as the couch, it has encountered other foreign beings that feed on full grown yarn cakes. These horrifying half beings have long been established in this land. The scouts are sure to report back that security needs to be tightened back at the camp.

One of the early and well most successful established camps is the bookcase. This real estate is most coveted by the yarn out of sheer proximity to family and friends still in the comforts of the bin.

Born from fortuitous juxtaposition in the new world, these three yarn cakes have formed an unlikely friendship. They are in talks with some very eager charts to create a lovely knitted brocade of sorts.

While work has keep me from having the energy to knit most evenings (or even stay awake), knitting is still on the brain.

Have a good weekend all.

5 November 2007

Lovely Little Goodies

I came home from work to find a lovely little parcel full of lovely little surprises from my Secret Pal. Some more very lovely stitch markers, an adorable (and appropriately French) notebook, some super fabulous Soak wool wash in flora, which I look forward to using, and even an itty bitty hand made card in it's own itty bitty envelope.

Thanks Pal!

2 November 2007

The 'Other' side of Fair Isle

They're not done yet. I haven't even quite finished one (thumb still to be done) but I just couldn't wait to show off how great these mitts are turning out. Way amazinger than I thought possible. It blows my mind enough to make up words. Unfortunately the colour palette is tricky to capture, but you get the idea.

Here you can see the proper colour transitions. I reknit the body of the mittens several times to figure out the right combination of colours and the right order. I'm really happy with the final sequence.

I love Love LOVE the final effect of the mitten/cuff combo. I originally was going to use brown instead of the grey, but it just looked sucked the life out of the colours compared to the brightness of the cuff.

Here you can see the 'other' side of Fair Isle and crazy Latvian Mittens. TONS of ends to work in. I'm going to do it before working the thumb so that it doesn't seem like such a chore. Yes I did carry yarns up the side when it made sense, but never more than one extra at a time. It's just too many balls of yarn to wrangle for me.

I will most definitely be showing these off more when they're finally done. I'm just so proud of them!

Oh and an update on the Adult Surprise Jacket, I guess I don't have any extra balls kicking around, so I had planned to pick up another one when I was next at Effiloché only to find it was the one colour they didn't have. Some Yarndex research indicates that it's an extinct colour. Oy. But don't fear, I found some on eBay.