Saturday, June 30, 2007

Laurie's Most Excellent Adventure

Yesterday I took the day off work and decided to take a road trip up to Philosopher's Wool. It is something I've wanted to do for a couple of years now, but the opportunity has never come up. Well, yesterday I made my opportunity!

Would you believe, I've never driven outside the city of London by myself? Oh, I've taken the kids to the beach, which is about an hour's drive from home, but I've never gone all by myself. I think this was a healthy part of why I wanted to make this trip. I wanted to spend some extended time with myself someplace far from home. And Philosopher's Wool is quite far from home.

I started out at 9:30 in the morning with a full tank of gas and a strong coffee. I'd used Google maps for directions, and in an effort to shorten the journey, I was sent down the back country roads in a zig-zag pattern that had me turning left and then right every 1o minutes or so. But it was fun! The weather was sunny yet cool, the countryside was beautiful and the company was delightful. I was free!!!

And then I got stuck about halfway there. I was on Esther Line and it just stopped in the hamlet of Ester. But I have a genetic advantage to finding my way around. I am female and I can ask for directions. I stopped in at what appeared to be a Mennonite restaurant to use the washroom and get directions. The whole place was rather odd, but I can't describe the weird feeling it gave me. Maybe it was the prayer books on the counter next to the gum, or the tiny little paneled washroom, but in any case, the people were kind and helpful. The gentleman behind the counter took a look at my print out for a few moments and whipped out his pen. He proceeded to draw me a map complete with highway numbers and town names.

I'll tell you honestly friends, I was skeptical. I politely nodded and smiled all the while thinking that I'd just go back to my Google map. Once out of the store, I drove a little while down the road, parked under a tree and did a assessment of my choices. I had my Ontario map, the Google map and my Mennonite gentleman's map. Ultimately, I chose the gentleman's map and he steered me right. I don't know who I was prouder of, the gentleman for his map making abilities, or me for trusting in him and then being so well rewarded.

The thing is, I was still halfway away and I'd already been driving for about an hour and half. Google's zig-zags hand slowed me down considerably since I was constantly slowing down to read the tiny road signs they use on the back roads. Let me tell you, if you don't live in Canada you might not realize how big Ontario is. On the back roads things are widely spaced out and I was really glad for my full tank of gas and bottled water.

By the time I reached Kincardine it was just before lunch. I stopped in at the local Sobey's for a quick bite. As I was sitting in the car, munching on my sandwich, I realized that I felt totally at home. This land, these people, they are my roots. My father passed on his love for the country and the people who live in rural areas to me, his daughter.

Soon I was back on the road, anxious to reach my destination. It was only another 15 minutes away.

Tucked into the Ontario wilds I found this place to be a little oasis of wool and art. Eugene and Ann were in the midst of a business meeting so I was given free range of the shop unsupervised. I asked, and was given permission to take pictures. So here's my photo journal.

Philosopher's wool is excellent for outer garments being thick and not prone to pill. I also like it for boot socks. The colors are quite pretty, with lots of depth in the shades. The patterns are playful, but the style is very boxy, again well suited for outerwear. I don't know if you could make a color patterned sweater from this yarn that was also fitted. It's just too heavy. I wish it came in fingering weight. Ann and I discussed this, and apparently the mills won't spin it fine. I wonder if this has to do with the type of fleece or the capability of the mill.

After her meeting, Ann and I had a lovely talk about yarn and patterns and knitters. I tried on some of the many sample sweaters to decide if I wanted a kit. I do, just not right now. I figure I'll hook up with them at the Kitchener Waterloo Knitter's Fair. But I didn't go all that way to come home with nothing. Here's my loot.

A tiny flock of glow in the dark sheep.

Enough wool for a pair of socks, including some extra tough wool for the heels and toes (I forget the breed name!) There is also a button from Moving Mud. The hand-carved wooden pin I picked up in Exeter on my way home. I love it. I think it will look beautiful on my Frost Flowers and Leaves shawl.

Well, I got home at six o'clock, all tuckered out and very happy to be back. The trip was a great learning experience for me and a fun adventure.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Mail Call!

It's the last day of school and my children are running around the garden like maniacs, hyped up on sugar, thanks to Frea! Frea is my swap pal for the Knitter's Tea Swap 3. She sent me a lovely box of goodies all the way from the Netherlands, and being a nice mother, I'm sharing (but not the chocolate).

Many thanks Frea!

Also in the mail was a postcard from Mary Jane for all the "Monday Night Irregulars". A post card is a lovely, old fashioned piece of mail. I've scanned it in so you can enjoy it too.

Click to make it bigger, so you can read it!

Monday, June 25, 2007

Yarn, Socks, and a Festival

I had fun with that hat!! Man, oh, man. It was all I could do not to cast on another one. I've got plans to make myself a winter set based on a pink theme to match my handspun scarf. Here's the yarns I've put together for it:

There's Mission Falls for the hat, and Apple Laine and Koigu for the mittens. I'm thinking I'll pick a Selbuvotter pattern for the mittens and carry the design up to the hat. I'm aiming for something that co-ordinates.

But I was good and I finished a project instead.

I'm pretty pleased with these socks actually. There are many little tricks in them to make them fit and look nice. I put little gussets around the heels to make the short row heel fit better. I knit the cuffs to be the same length as the foot (kudos to Mary Jane, Monday night knit buddy and travel journalist for Scotland). Then I knit one row in white before starting the ribbing at the top so that the contrasting color isn't obvious in the purls. Finally, I used double knitting in the last two rows to make my sewn tubular bind off more even (thanks Claudia). The only difficulty was that I ran out of the white and had to skimp on one cuff.

I just received a message from Ted who now has a blog up for FiberFest North. I'm anticipating that it should be a really good shindig and I have every intention of being there. Anyone else thinking of it?

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Moving On

Well, now I feel a bit silly. I'm glad that's over with. Onward to the knitting!

I guess the hat frustrated me pretty good because I just had to fix the situation. It was nothing that a trip to my LYS couldn't cure.

Pattern: Triple Patterned Watch Cap, from Hats On! by Charlene Schurch, size medium
Yarn: Mission Falls 1824 Wool
Needles: 4.5mm

I took Jim to London Yarns and Machines, walked him over the Mission Falls wall o' yarn, and told him he could pick any thing he wanted for his hat. He chose these colors and even specified which was to be the main color and which was to be the contrasting color. I don't think I would have come up with this combo, but he really likes it. It does remind me of green and blue plaid, and of the green trees and blue skies that I sat under as I knit it. I hope the warmth of these June days will warm his ears during February's frost.

This was my first time using Mission Falls and I have mixed feelings about it. I like that it is four-ply, superwash, and reasonably soft, but one of the green balls had a half dozen knots in it. That is really unacceptable, except I was driven and so I accepted it. I'd like to see how it wears and I'd also like to see it knit into cables. I'm thinking that because it's four-ply, cables would really pop. The hat took almost all of the two balls of green and just a little bit more than one ball of the blue. I also bought some for a hat for myself. If there are leftovers from my hat as well, I might put them all together for a third hat. I think it's wise to be thrifty about it since it cost me $55 for 8 skeins of yarn.

Also this weekend, I shrank Jim's sweater. He was pretty philosophical about it. He figures I owed him one because he shrank my sweater. But he did say he was disappointed because he really likes his Spiral Yoke sweater. Fortunately we had someone else it could fit.

Luke loved the cuddliness of this sweater. It's only slightly fulled, but it's really soft. There are great bison-sized pills on the hem. I don't think I'd make another sweater from this yarn, I don't care how much Jim likes it.

One last picture to share. This one warms the cockles of me heart.

The boy is catching up to his Dad fast. We're going to hug him and bug him while we can.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Warning: Overthinking is Dangerous to your Happiness

Happy Friday everyone! Jim and I had a lovely anniversary and we thank you for all your well wishes.

I haven't given you a knitting update in quite some time, but I've been thinking of you all. I've been thinking you guys are going to think I'm off my rocker because I've not been knitting what you might think I've been knitting. I know, like you care! Like it should matter to me!

Actually, it does matter to me. The frustrating part is that I feel like you will judge me, but I know that's not true. I know in my head that you won't judge me, but my heart is still expecting judgment. I'm working hard to overcome my habitual reactions, so here goes.

I started a hat, I can't even remember when. This is from Charlene Schurch's Hats On, knit in Dale Falk. The yarn and needles are too fine though, and now I'm not sure it will fit even Jim's small head. (The pattern calls for worsted weight and Falk is listed as DK.) I'm going do some measurements before I rip though, because I really like this. The yarn is soft, the pattern is lovely, and my knitting is awesome!

I surprised myself with how even this turned out. Or maybe it's the yarn that deserves the credit. Either way, it's wonderful even without the blocking. I even love the back.

However, I'm disappointed with the size, so I put it aside but nothing already on the needles was calling me. I needed a sock. When cleaning up my knitting room I found an abandoned sock cuff from way back in February. I'd screwed up the pattern twice and set it aside in frustration. Well, in about five minutes I'd figured out where I went wrong and now I have this:

Once I got past my error, I just had too much fun working on it! I couldn't think of any other knitting. Perhaps I also enjoyed it because there's no baggage attached to it.

The pattern is Austrian Diamonds, from Knitter's Fall 2006.

And in a complete change of topic, here's a funny story I told Jim when I got home from work:

It's Friday, and I grocery shop on the weekends so there's not much to eat in the house. Both of these excellent reasons led me to decide to buy my lunch today. But first, I needed cash. I had given the last of my cash-in-hand to my youngest son who was going on a class trip to East Park. I went to the market, and got in line to withdraw some money from the ATM. But when I opened my wallet, no bank card! I'd left it in my car when I bought gas last night (no worries, it's safe in my wallet now.)

I checked my change purse and I had a buck twenty. I also carry a device on my key ring that holds two quarters for grocery carts, so that brought my total to a dollar seventy. I could have walked back to my car to collect my bank card, but I wanted to knit in the sun. I decided to challenge myself to achieve lunch with what I had. And you know what? I managed a relatively nice lunch of a day old banana muffin and raisin scone along with an apple from my knitting bag. The priceless part was enjoying my knitting in the sun.

And that's where I plan to spend my weekend, in the sun, knitting, gardening and riding my bike. I wish the same for all my knit buddies, where ever you may be!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Time to Celebrate!

Jim and I celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary today. We celebrated on the weekend with our little day trip and tonight we drink wine!

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Day Tripping

Today has been a quiet Father's Day. The kids and I have cooked Jim's favourite things to eat. We've just finished a barbecue steak with Caeser salad (Luke fixed it) and bruschetta. The kids are clearing the table before we have a desert of homemade cheesecake (Alex fixed it).

But yesterday was extremely exciting as Jim and I took a little day trip. First we stopped to give my Dad his frog shirt. He really liked it. I think it tickled his funny bone. Next stop was in St. Thomas so I could check out Parkspin Inc.

It's a gold mine of acrylics and discounted yarn. I scored a 4mm 120cm long circular needle! I also picked up some Sugar 'n Cream cotton for dishrags since I've signed up to be on Team Canada for Dish Rag Tag. This is the first time I've ever seen this brand of cotton.

Next, we went to Winter Wheat just outside of Sparta.

It is a place of whimsy and art.

Every corner had a new surprise and we brought home some lovely little souvenirs.

We then went to Anything Used in Sparta. I don't really get the name, unless it's to say that they will use anything in their art. The store was packed to the gills with stuff. It wasn't as high brow as Winter Wheat, but some of it was quite lovely. They are known for their candles in particular.

Next was lunch at the Sparta House Tea room. Going with the tea theme, it was decorated with hundreds of tea pots in cupboards, on shelves and lining the fireplace. The lunch was very good and the desert, a chocolate brownie cake, was just decedent!

We stopped to browse through Sparta a bit more, looking into the art galleries and stopping at the volunteer-run museum because I saw this through the front door:

This wheel was taller than I am. It puts meaning to the term "great wheel". And do you notice the two wool winders? One is on the floor, but the other stands behind the wheel on four legs. I was also mesmerized by the needle work on the petticoats and dresses. It was so fine, it looked like modern machine work, but it had all been accomplished by hand.

It makes me think twice about the work I do. I've been told I work in fine gauge, but what I do is nothing to what people routinely did in the past.

Here's my fine, hand knit socks with one of our souvenirs. Finished for a Father's Day present for my dear husband Jim.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Right now, I Feel Like I'm Ten Years Old

Remember when you were a kid and you made your Dad a present for Father's day? Do you remember hoping that it would turn out okay, and that your Dad would like it? Remember the pains you took to do every step just right? And then, the exhilaration of success! That's how I feel tonight because I just made my Daddy a present.

As I was walking in the woods last week, I happened to have my camera with me just as I came across a frog. I was hoping to capture a shot of one in the the frog pond, so I could show Silvia, but this was even better! Look at the great shot I took:

I don't know where monsieur frog had been, but I'm certain he was heading back to his boggy home.

When I was a kid my Dad used to take us frog catching. It was a lot of fun for our whole family. So with Father's day coming up fast, I had a great idea for a gift. Using Photoshop, I made this image:

Which I then transfered onto a nice t-shirt to make this gift for my Frenchie dad:

I'm so excited! I hope he likes it.

BTW - I've identified this frog as an edible frog, which is exactly why we were catching them when I was a kid. They're very tasty, but I don't think I could eat one these days.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Foolin' Around

Okay, melodrama's over! Whew! I had some fun wallowing in my mood though. I read Jane Eyre online. Talk about your drama! It's being read over at LibriVox and I remember reading it when I was in highschool or university. If you ever want a chance to see how much you've grown, try re-reading a book you haven't touched in twenty years. The ghost of myself at 18 or 19 was right alongside me as I read. (Hmm... seems like there might be some melodrama left in the ole girl yet.)

I put a good chunk of knitting on the bookmark panel, and then abandoned it for some other experiments. Take a look. I could use an informed opinion.

First, there's the spiral shawl I started last summer. I had the idea to finish it by extending the spirals out individually and decreasing them off. I've done one.

It curls a lot, but hopefully it will block out. The thing is, does it look okay? Will a shawl entirely finished in this look okay? Or more importantly, is it worth pursuing to the bitter end, or do I cut my losses and go with a conventional finish?

Second, I was swatching for fun today. I've got twenty balls of Katrina that I picked up last summer at the tent sale and I was thinking of doing a twin set. So I swatched for last summer's Thorn and Thistle set. (Doesn't the model look like a linebacker in the picture?)

I liked it better on smaller needles, but then I wondered what it would look like in cables.

It seems to look better in cables than in lace. Now I'm thinking I might like to do a Lavold cardigan out of this. I'd look like a viking ice princess (in my dreams). There's some elastic in the yarn, which I think would make a form fitting cardigan really comfortable. But is it worth doing a complicated pattern in this cheap yarn? Hey Peg! How does your Not so Warm Jacket wear? Does the yarn wash well?

Oh! Look what I picked up at Michaels for a song! Opera cotton, regular $6.50, on for $1.50. I practically stole them!

I'd really like to knit a lace piece for my dining room table one day. This gorgeous cotton would be perfect.

Finally, Hi Mary Jane! MJ is on holidays in Scotland. She's using my blog's comments to let her friends and family know how she's doing, so Hi Mary Jane's people!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Flying by the Seat of my Pants

I wore Sweet Peas to work on Monday and told a co-worker that I had made it. "Wow" he said, "That's extreme knitting!" I laughed. He doesn't have a clue.

Imagine trying to learn to walk a tightrope for the first time. It's scary because you're trying to do something you've never done before. Even though you understand the theory of the pole and where to place your feet, it's a whole other thing to put it into practice 20 feet above the ground. Now imagine making your first attempt in public. That's how I feel about these socks.

This feels like Fear Factor knitting, a stunt. I wonder if people will be watching and wondering "Can she do it? Will she fall? Will there be pieces to pick up afterwards?"

And yet, I take it a little at a time. When I'm well rested, and it's quiet, I put in a half hour or so and set it aside when I'm getting tired. At this pace, it will be a wonder if I finish before September, but somehow I don't care. I'm satisfied to have made the attempt.

I told Dave that I was going to embroider those complicated curlicues, but I changed my mind. Or not. I can always embellish them some afterwards. I won't know till I get there.

Yes Jo, I'm a masochist. Some how I'm happiest when I'm miserably challenged. At least I've learned to balance it with some simple pleasures.

This, my traveling sock, is my own true love that entertains me an soothes me. A walk in the park compared to the tightrope.

Um, I'm being a little melodramatic here. I wish I had a funny follow up, but I don't. Just be aware, I'm aware.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Facing my Fears

Working on the "Bookmark Socks" is an exercise in facing my fears. I'm scared to knit this project because I'm afraid that it won't come out looking like it did in my head. I'm certain it won't, but I'm also pretty sure that it will be something new in the world of knitting. I'm worried that it's a really dumb idea, even though I'm telling myself to trust the knitting. My past experience is that I end up doing what is right in the circumstances and it will be fine.

I'm telling you this because I know I'm silly. But that doesn't make my fears go away. Part of facing my fears is letting the world know I'm scared. That, and I appreciate the support I get from my readers. :-) I'll bet you want a picture though.

This represents about 1/4th of the whole chart. Intarisa is not fun people. It's fiddly, time consuming and taxing. Just look at this mess:

I can only do a bit of this at a time before I want to sink back into the soothing regularity of my Frost Flowers and Leaves. I've added a fifth cable needle so that the sections could each have a dedicated needle. It makes it a bit easier to knit.

In other news, I got my invite to Ravelry! I've been cutting into my weekend knitting time to enter my projects into the database. Ravelry is going to be an amazing community resource. The waiting list is now 5700 long, so I'm very grateful to get my invite.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Here Comes Trouble

It's hot again! While the weather was cool I got almost a whole other repeat of the Frost Flowers and Leaves Shawl done. Three more to go, plus the finish off repeat, plus the edging. Carrie kindly added me to a knit along that she's having, but don't hold your breath sweetie. I'm taking my dear sweet time with this one. I'm really enjoying the process of knitting this shawl.

So yes, the heat has me looking at socks again. I've got the second sock for my tutorial knit to the heel turn:
I'm calling them cow socks since the colours remind me of a Hereford cow:

But the big plan is a half-baked idea for a funky sock. Last year at the Western Fair I won second place for a beautiful, traditional, Latvian sock. This year, the categories are exactly the same, which is very stupid, but there's nothing I can do now. Anyway, I want to rock this category. I want to blow them out of the water! I want a first place ribbon, dang it!

You know this is going to either drive me crazy or get me into trouble. Looks like trouble so far:

The idea is to put the graphic, intended for a bookmark, onto a sock. I've devised a clever plan that will allow me to avoid swatching, while still obtaining a good fit. Size as you go baby! My plan is to knit the center bookmark flat with a provisional cast on and slipped edges. Then I can knit a ribbed cuff in the round, followed by the key pattern using fair isle techniques. Next, join the panel to the cuff and knit the back of the leg plain, back and forth, joining it to the center panel as I go. This way, I can adjust the length easily to account for positioning the heel for optimum effect.

Sounds complicated? At least I've got it written down now!

I've decided to use Knit Picks Palette since the bright colors are exactly what's needed here.

Now I must screw my courage to the sticking point and begin.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007


I've got a hodgepodge of interesting stuff to share with you tonight.

First up, Ted the Knitterguy (knitterguy at yahoo dot ca) is organizing Fiberfest North (scroll down a bit to find it). The details are still being firmed up, but if you are interested in such an event send Ted your e-mail address so you can receive updates.

There are two new-to-me blogs that I'd like to recommend. TECHknitting contains beautifully clear illustration of common knitting techniques as well as handy little tips and tricks. If you don't already know how to read your knitting, this blog will have you examining the stitches on your needle with fresh eyes. The Happiness Project documents
Gretchen Rubin's quest to find out how to be happy. Her formula is: "To be happier, you need to think about FEELING GOOD, FEELING BAD, and FEELING RIGHT, in an atmosphere of growth. "

For your listening pleasure, I can recommend the Knit Picks podcast. I'm not a huge fan of their yarns, so I was wary of the podcast. It seemed an obvious vehicle for advertising. But I was happily wrong. Certainly Knit Picks comes up in conversation, but it is always in context and mostly worth hearing. Also worth a listen is LibriVox, an volunteer community that is trying to make audio recordings of all books in the public domain. I've subscribed via iTunes and I've been listening to whatever they send me. It's been lovely and lazy with occasional surprises. Last time I synced I got a couple of poems along with my regular installment. I wish I could remember where I got the referral to LibriVox from, but I can't.

Happy clicking!

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Knitting Update

It has been hot this past week! Not good weather for knitting a largish shawl. Next week should be cooler so perhaps I'll make some better progress. I know you'd like to see a picture, but honestly, it doesn't photograph well. See?

Not only is red hard to photograph, but I find it hard on my eyes. In the nice weather, I like to sit on my patio, listen to my i-pod (I highly recommend Cast On of course, and Sticks and String too) and knit. But even in the shade, the red hurts my eyes. It's not so bad indoors though.

So that's one strike against working on this project in the nice weather. Another one is that having the shawl on multiple circular needles means that it spreads out on my lap. Ordinarily, when a shawl is knit one one circular needle, it gathers up in a neat little bag. But this beast spreads out and warms me up! I'm going to get done what I can in the cool weather, but I may just have to put this project aside for the summer. It'll be in good company though. Remember my Lopi sweater? I think I'll be busy in the fall.

The other project I've been working on this week is a pair of toe up socks in Apple Laine yarn.

I'm giving another presentation at the Forest City Knit Club, this time on heels for toe-up socks. My first presentation was on the toes for toe up socks. I taught the group how to do a magic-8 cast-on, and I brought in a model of a half-finished short row toe. This time I'm going to teach them how to work a short row heel and bring in a model of a toe-up heel flap.

This is from Judy Gibson's original pattern You're Putting me On. I've been wanting to try this method of creating a toe up heel for a while and this class was the perfect opportunity. Essentially, you create the gusset with increases, then create a little heel pocket:

You pick up stitches around this pocket and knit your way up the heel flap, knitting it to the gusset stitches as you go. It's neat, and relatively easy, once you get the concept. I'm sure I'll be working more of these, refining it as I go. For example, I'd like to try it using heel stitch.

The other neat thing about these socks is the ribbing on the top of the foot.

I'm calling it random rib. Basically, I decided to put any combination of knits and purls together into a rib. The pattern I used on the first needle was: P2, K2, P1, K1tbl, P1, K3, P2, K1tbl, P1, K1. Then I've mirrored it on the other needle so it goes: K1, P1, K1tbl, P2, K3, P1, K1tbl, P1, K2, P2. Notice that the K1 come together at the top of the foot and also that the P2 occurs at the end of each needle so that there will be a nice gully on either side of the gusset.

I'm happy with it. Why should our ribbing always be something entirely predictable and regular? It's only knitting. Let's live a little!