Five things about me and knitting

I’ve reached a point in my knitting life where several things have become abundantly clear to me. These are the fundamental facts as I see them:

  • I cannot knit and drink wine at the same time. It’s just not good for me, the yarn, or anyone who happens to be nearby when I discover that I’ve made a mistake and must rip out three hours’ worth of work.
  • I love knitting more than any other occupation. I would even give up TV if I had to choose between the two pursuits. People who know me will agree that that says a lot. As a life-long irretrievably addicted TV devotee, I have arguably wasted a huge chunk of my life watching either inane, mediocre or brilliant programming, yet not a single stitch I’ve made is a waste: it all adds up to knitting with a capital K. Watching TV results in nothing, except for having something to talk about at the water cooler or on chat forums the next day.
  • People joke about outliving their stash. Me, I am deadly serious when I say that I have more yarn, patterns, magazines and books than I could ever use. Even if I live to be 200. The upside is that when I finally keel over, my children can buy a vacation home in the south of France with the proceeds of the sale of any unused yarn.
  • I have a serious problem with purple. Don’t ask me to explain, but about 80% of my stash is a shade of either purple or pink. The rest is made up mostly of greys or greens.
  • Wool and alpaca are my favourite fibres but cashmere is Queen. George Costanza once said that if it were socially acceptable, he would drape himself in velvet. For me, my dream is to be swathed in nothing but squishy, soft cashmere sweaters, cowls, scarves, socks and shawls, preferably in shades of lilac or heathery grey. (Please refer to purple and grey addictions above.) That’s what I call heaven on earth.


Test-knitting, an FO and the Yarn Harlot in Vancouver

Okay, enough pet-peeving. Let’s get back to what really matters: knitting and stuff I’ve been working on!

Now and Zen (Cardigan, that is)

When I first clapped eyes on al-abrigo‘s Zen Cardigan a few weeks ago, I knew I must make it. The pattern wasn’t available yet so I just added it to the favourites pile for future reference. Of course, I have no particular babies to knit for but if a certain someone’s next grandchild is a girl, this is for her. Otherwise, I’ll tuck it away in the gift stash.  Anyhoo, I’m minding my own business trolling Ravelry as I’m wont to do when suddenly I see an opportunity to test knit Zen. Hmmm. Let me think it over. Not!  No thinking required! Of course I volunteered immediately and, as soon as humanly possible, cast on for the 12-18 months size.

It calls for a sport weight yarn so straight away I think of Baby Cashmerino by Debbie Bliss in a deliciously delicate pale, pale lilac that I found at Urban Yarns in Edgemont Village. Here it is in progress. Ain’t it purdy?

Zen Cardigan in progress

Some people like to dis Debbie Bliss yarns but Baby Cashmerino really is lovely. Yes, it’s pricey but dammit, don’t all little babies need at least one expensive handknit woolie made with love? Besides, DB’s colours are scrumptious. And this yarn is good for gifting – no need for the harried new mom to worry too much about hand washing. I’ve got four skeins which is enough for the cardi and a wee matching Parisian beret, non?

Baby Cashmerino – pale lilac

FO Update – Willow Tweed Aranami Shawl

As a human magpie, if something isn’t shiny and right in front of my face, I forget about it and it falls off my radar. Anyway, I’m crawling on the floor of my knitting room the other day arranging the layout of the jolly squares for POP Blanket, and I see folded ever so neatly on the daybed my luscious Willow Tweed Aranami Shawl and it occurred to me that I have failed to share an FO photo of it with the world.  Here it is, resplendent in my back garden:

Willow Tweed Aranami in my backyard

This is one of my very most favourite projects. It’s soooooo nice to touch, it’s soft and squishy and just warm enough to keep the chill off your neck when walking the dog late on a summer’s night. (Okay, if you live anywhere else but Vancouver, you’re thinking: what? Chilly on a summer night? WTF? But in Vancouver, nine times out of ten, it can get dang cold on July evenings.)

Yarn Harlot – Knitting for Speed and Efficiency

Thanks to Knit Social for a fun evening on July 12. Stephanie Pearl-McPhee was in town to teach the rabble how to knit faster in her class Knitting for Speed and Efficiency at the downtown branch of the Vancouver Public Library.

Lord knows I could stand to pick up the pace. If I want to use up even half of the yarn stored under the beds, in the closets and under the floorboards before my 100th birthday, I’m going to have to go into overdrive.

Of course, the number one way to knit faster is this: Stop knitting so bloody slow. Thankfully, Stephanie didn’t actually say that to us. Instead, she gave us a very entertaining talk about the history of knitting, why the modern knitter is so slow and gave us tips to increase our speed. We learned how the craft evolved from being a way for the great unwashed to earn a living while tromping across the moors (they enjoyed eating at least once a day and were therefore serious speed knitters) to a pleasant way for the great washed to while away empty afternoons in the drawing-room while Bates and Mrs. Hughes scurried about understairs decanting wine and admonishing scullery maids.

I often walk while knitting but usually look slightly less grim than our little Shetland friend here











With the advent of machine knitting, the uppercrusters took up the needles and “civilized” needlework by making it an idle pastime rather than a way to feed one’s family. In it’s newly respectable incarnation, knitting was no longer a race against time, but a way to squander your afternoons. Much like Pinterest and Ravelry are nowadays.

Our grandmothers learned the “slow” Victorian way to knit which they in turn taught us, rather than the super-speedy “lever” method of the peasantry that Stephanie then showed us. Check this video of Stephanie demonstrating the lever method using long straight needles, with the right one stuck under her arm. Very interesting, no?

It was definitely fun and eye-opening to learn a new method. I’ll likely not be switching to lever knitting any time soon, but I have refined my technique to make my “throwing” hand move more lever-like and have therefore definitely increased my speed. Also, by “spring-loading” the stitches on your left needle and consciously eliminating extraneous hand and finger movements (including stopping every row to admire one’s work), you experience less fatigue and can go faster than before. Plus, Stephanie is a very engaging speaker and we all had loads of fun learning from her.  It was a great group of knitters.

Thanks again to Knit Social – by the way, can’t wait for Knit City this October!

Summertime, and the knittin’ is easy

POP Blanket – Loving it!

I sat in the shade under the blossoming weigela tree, the birds were sing-songing and the sun shone relentlessly.  A cool glass of lemonade within arm’s reach at all times, I knit away the hours.  This is an accurate description of how I spent my entire weekend.  No joke.  It was heaven on earth.  I prepared no meals, did no housework (except for unloading the dishwasher once and running a load of laundry on Sunday afternoon) and the only exertion my brain suffered was calculating how much more yarn I was going to need to finish my POP Blanket and wondering what DH was going to make me for dinner.  (Don’t worry, I know exactly how lucky I am.)

POP is gorgeous and one of my very most favourite projects ever.  I had never knit with Noro before so Kureyon was my baptism.  I had always thought it just too scratchy for a delicate flower such as myself.  But in fact, Kureyon is really quite lovely, especially after blocking.  And the colours are  Urban Yarns in Edgemont has a good selection of colours, by the way, along with lots of Cascade Ecological Wool in cream for the background colour.  Even though it’s lovely and summery right now, part of me is looking forward to fall and my Sunday afternoon naps, snuggled under POP.

So far, I’ve completed almost 30 squares and they’re blocking out to be about 5¾” square.  I’ll probably make at least 35 (5 squares x 7 squares).  We’ll see how big it turns out.

Pop in progress – FYI blocking these squares uses a LOT of T-pins!


Yarn Harlot tonight

Knit Social is presenting Stephanie Pearl-McPhee (aka the Yarn Harlot) at the Vancouver Public Library downtown today – she’s given two classes (afternoon and evening) called Knitting for Speed and Efficiency.  She also gave a talk last night called “This is Your Brain on Knitting” which, by all accounts was hugely entertaining. I’m not the slowest knitter in the world but will surely benefit from kicking it up a notch.

My queue and stash are expanding exponentially every year and unless I can speed up a little, I’ll never manage to finish everything on my list before I go to the big LYS in the sky.  (Which is far from imminent, but still.  Oh, can you imagine what the yarn store in heaven is like?  My guess is there is a great deal of cashmere.  Sigh.  Assuming that’s where I’m going, of course.)  I did a little calculating and even if I’m reincarnated three or four times, I’ll likely never live long enough to use up all my yarn or knit everything in my queue.

Which reminds me:  Knit Social will be opening up class registration for this October’s Knit City at 8:00 a.m. on August 1.  I’m thinking of registering for the Two Socks in One class.  The idea of making two socks at the same time, one inside the other, is intriguing.  And providing one doesn’t screw it up too much, could be faster than doing them one at a time.  Click the poster below from the Knit Social website for info.

Hetty’s Sunday Cuffs – Thank you to Lady Alice

Another finished object for the pile:  Hetty’s Sunday Cuffs, the cover project from the splendiferous Summer 2012 issue of Jane Austen Knits.  The very thoughtful and fellow Queen-adoring Lady Alice brought me a tin of Fortnum & Mason’s special Jubilee tea from her recent trip to Ye Olde Londontown.  She would brook no recompense so I was forced to knit her something in appreciation.  Thus, Hetty’s Sunday Cuffs.  In Spud & Chloë’s beautiful Fine yarn, they are just the thing for a card-carrying Jane Austen Society member to be worn when reading in bed on a winter’s eve.  Nothing worse than having damned chilly wrists when one is trying to enjoy a little Sense and Sensibility.

Hetty’s Sunday Cuffs in Spud & Chloe Fine

Fortnum & Mason’s Jubilee Tea





Update. Or, how I’m single-handedly keeping the economy afloat by buying more yarn and magazines.

OMG, I have been so delinquent in posting.  Of course I always think of something clever to say while I’m lying in bed trying to fall asleep at night but when I’m awake and within arm’s reach of the computer, I’m either too wrapped up in other stuff or can’t think of a damn thing to say that anyone would be remotely interested in reading.

New Yarn!

Anyone, while I’m here, I may as well tell you about my awesome purchases made today at the Circle Craft Christmas Market down at the new and rather cavernous convention centre.  I looked at a bunch of exhibitors but my main purpose for going was to see Trish Moon at Indigo Moon Yarns to show her the Terpander Socks I made from her Goldfinch yarn and snap up some more of her delicious sock yarn.  Here’s today’s booty – n.b. they’re all 100% merino superwash fingering weight and all at discount prices.  Thanks again Trish!

Gabriola Green (at least I think that’s the shade)
Milk Chocolate
Logwood Purple

New magazines – Jane Austen Knits and Knit.Wear

Also, after stocking Urban Yarns, I finally got my hands on a copy of Jane Austen Knits.  I have two words:  absolutely glorious!  I love practically everything in it.  Two more words:  love it!

I also found a copy, also at Urban Barns, of the much-coveted Knit.Wear.  For this one, I have four words:  Spec-tac-u-lar!!  I adore the cover wrap and virtually all the other patterns.  Everything is so classic, yet chic and wonderful.

That is all for now.  Get back to your knitting!!

Mad about Mad Men and Cardigan Love

I won’t even pretend that I’m sticking to my queue. I initially wanted to cast on Acorns or Alexandria but realized I don’t have anything suitable for either in my stash. I did however have a great whack of Rowan Felted Tweed in delicious Clover so I scoured the Interweb and found Marilyn’s Not-So-Shrunken Cardigan and immediately cast on. Ain’t she purdy?

I’ve made awesome progress this weekend (it’s truly amazing how much one can accomplish when one’s husband goes on a three-day fishing trip) and soon will be putting the sleeves on hold and barging forth on the body. But she’s a little too ungainly to schlep to and fro on the autobus, so I’ve cast on what I’m calling Don Draper Wants Me Socks for my dear Seabass. I’m loving how these colours are unfolding so far. The yarn is beautiful, no? It’s very smooshy and soft and the colour is called “Don Falls Out the Window”.

If you haven’t already discovered the wonders of SeeJayneKnit Yarns, you simply must check out her Etsy shop and order up some.

P.S. This week’s episode of Mad Men was absolutely the best one yet. As my sister likes to say, I laughed, I cried, it became a part of me. Oh, Don! Oh, Peggy!

New Job, FOs and On-Line Shopping

I’ve been rather distracted lately and haven’t been able to focus much of anything other than knitting these Casadh socks for Erik. They’re loads of fun to make with all the magical cables and rich colour. And since my spazz-out level has been off the charts, and knitting is my therapy, I’ve been making excellent headway.

The cause of the distraction is that I’d been waiting for what seemed a torturously endless time to find out about a job I applied for at work. I don’t like waiting for elevators – forget about enduring three weeks of radio silence while I go berserk imaging every conceivable outcome. Scenarios ranging from “Sorry, you’re not a good fit” to “Of course you’ve got the job!” went through my mind a thousand times a day. In my head I could see myself sitting in my new office (I’ve never had my own office before!!) and at the same time, I could see myself having no choice but to quit if they didn’t give me the job. Arghhh! I could barely sleep from my overactive imagination. Besides, I have never been good at waiting for anything. For instance, as a child at Christmastime, it was standard practice for me to very thoroughly search my mother’s closet to find out exactly what I was getting from Santa. It was almost as though, on some molecular level, it was genetically impossible for me to wait until Christmas morning to find out what I was getting. For years I spoiled the surprise for myself and it was only as an adult that I pretty much cured myself of Chronic Persistent Peeking (or CPP as it’s referred to in the medical literature). I remain plagued however with extreme and incurable impatience.
As for the job, back in April, I applied for a new position that was posted internally at work, where I’ve been an assistant (or secretary as old-schoolers would say) for almost two dozen years. A few days later, I had an interview via video conference with people from our Toronto and Calgary offices. Until then, I hadn’t had a job interview in 23 years and was marginally terrified of completely blowing it. Especially since I desperately needed a haircut but at least I got my roots done in advance (I know from experience that roots show up something awful on video feed!) But the funny thing was that I felt really calm and confident throughout the interview (of course I had prepared fiendishly for days and days beforehand) and wasn’t nearly as nervous as I thought I would be. Anyhow, after weeks of anxious anticipation, I found out on Friday that I got the job!! Yay for me! Throughout the application process and the interminable waiting, I didn’t want to jinx anything by telling anyone but DH and The Boy. It felt weird not telling my friends or siblings, but I was worried about what I would say if I didn’t get it. It would just be too embarrassing to admit failure. But now I don’t need to worry about that. I feel so liberated at the prospect of no longer being a secretary and starting this new adventure. In a funny (and really very wonderful) way, I think I finally feel grown up!In the FO department, the Netherfield socks are done and off the blockers. She’s already had her birthday and I can’t wait til Christmas to give these to Lori (see above reference to impatience) so I’ll wrap them up and present them to her this week.

I took delivery on 10 balls of splendid Rowan Felted Tweed in Clover that I found on Ram Wools. I’ve never bought this yarn before because at $10 a ball, a sweater has always been beyond the budget. But when I saw that they were unloading discontinued colours for only $4.95/ball, I sprang into action. I’m now meditating on what to make with it. Definitely it has to be something that makes the most of the tweedy squishiness of this yarn. Currently, I’m thinking either a Peasy cardigan or Connie Chang Chinchio’s Austin Hoodie.  

Anyone who knows me knows that on-line shopping is one of my most favourite things (I love the kick of getting stuff, especially knitty stuff, in the mail) and another little something I bought on the internets recently was eyeshadow. A while ago, I was coveting some eyeshadow that Lori had. The brand, Stephane Marais, was one I’d never heard of. A thorough Googling revealed that it’s not available anymore so I immediately bee-lined it for eBay. It’s made in Japan by the same company that makes Shiseido products. Stephane Marais is a fashion photographer and artist who branched out into makeup in the 90’s or 00’s. Eventually, he wanted to get back to his art and got out of the makeup biz so now you can only find his wares on-line. As you can see, the packaging is pretty and, more importantly, the shadow is gorgeous and stays on all day. It’s hard to find the right shades of mauve and purple and these are fabulous. Plus, they were only US$8 each (as opposed to the original retail price of $24 each).  

There is no better shopping outcome: a perfect combination of gorgeous gorgeous product for super cheap. God, I love a beautiful bargain!
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I think I need to go watch Annie Hall, drink some tea and work on my socks. Happy knitting everyone.