A Winter Wonderland

sheep_shearing_1_mdContinuing on the topic of using real wool from another recent post, I wanted to point out an exciting trend of going “back to wool” that I’ve noticed in my web travels. And I don’t mean just knitting with it, I mean interest in the whole process, from farm to shearer to spindle to needle.

1) Clara Parkes of Knitter’s Review recently accounced her Great White Bale project.

2) Juniper Moon’s The Shepherd and The Shearer

3) Kate Davies‘ love of Jamieson & Smith Real Shetland Wool.

If I had more disposable income, I’d be all over all of these.

Instead, I’ve made a slightly smaller splurge and bought Parkes’ book The Knitter’s Book of Yarn

It’s a delightful doorstop of a book, with lots of info on fibre types and sources, how it’s made, plying, and what each yarn is best used for. To illustrate the latter over 38 patterns are featured, which includes gorgeousness such as this:

I was also coveting her The Knitter’s Book of Wool:

It is equally as gorgeous, and perhaps even more detailed since it goes into great depth on sheep breeds and their wools. But since I don’t use wool exclusively (and since my budget and bookshelf can only take so many new acquisitions), the more general overview in The Knitter’s Book of Yarn won out.

Speaking of great depths, Penny Walsh’s The Yarn Book, a part of the University of Pennsylvania Press’ Textile Arts series, is brimming with all of the technical information you’ll ever need.

Baaaa

baa

I’m also excited about…

I’m on the organizing committee for Pucks n’ Purls this year. This is our second year and we’re continuing to grow. Over 200 seats sold so far! Hockey (a Canadian tradition), ice skating (likewise), and so many prizes to win, donated by some awesome companies, designers, and local yarn stores. Just look at all of the names on this list:

Knit-O-Matic, Lettuce Knit, Old Mill Knitting, Estelle, Michelle Porter, Creative Yarns, Denise Powell, Indigodragonfly, Tanis Fiber Arts, Wool & Wicker, Linda’s Craftique, Soak, Westminster Fibers, and Fiona Ellis.

One of the prizes is temporarily living in my house until game day. So much temptation…

And now I’m finally going to share what I made for the holidays.

Hat for Dad

TravelWees (such a cute idea) for my neices.

This was the first time I’ve sewn in a while. Luckily, it doesn’t look like I forgot how. I also made my nieces each a necklace, as well as another type of necklace for my stepmom and a brooch for my Grandma.

And a holiday recap isn’t complete without mention of my awesome present:

Voilà my Pandora braclet. I’ve slowly started collecting charms, and was dismayed to find there is no knitting related one. I found this delightful yarn basket charm on eBay. It’s not official Pandora, but it fits, it’s .925 silver and it’s knitting!

I leave you with some snow-filled photos of my New Years spent up north.

For the love of yarn

It’s been officially over a month since my last post. It was the holiday season and I was furiously knitting, crocheting, and sewing, so I make no apologies. More to come on those adventures soon. For now I’ll continue on the topic of my being a process knitter, or “knitting for knitting’s sake,” lest things get disjointed.

More proof of my process bent can be found in the fact that I recently got a copy of this in the mail:

One of EZ‘s best, but perhaps most esoteric works. Lots of great patterns and knitting advice next to divergent stories about her life. Because of this, some find it tedious and lacking in enough patterns to be “worth it.” Yet I find her life supremely interesting: her stories of first learning to knit as a child, how this creative spark later translated into going to school for fine art and into starting her own knitting related business, how she loved to create clothes for her family and ended up passing her passion on to her daughter Meg. To me it’s inspiring.

Let’s be frank, my love for “Knitting Around” isn’t just proof of my being a process knitter, it also exemplifies the extend of my nerdiness. Take, for example, this other tome I bought (I use tome judiciously – it is rather large):

As this review states, the book is a sort of social history told through mittens. It is a collection of traditional knitting patterns and the stories behind them. Robin Hansen “gathered them from authoritative sources in New England, the Canadian Maritimes and Scandinavia—from knitters who are grandmothers, fishermen, lumberjacks and farmers, men and women, and who learned them from parents, aunts and neighbors.”

Does this kind of talk get the interests of you guys piqued, or is it just me?

As a side note, Hansen also wrote Sunny’s Mittens (which I’ve written about previously) and this other kid’s book I just stumbled across:

As a knitter, history lover, and children’s librarian, I heart you Ms. Hansen.

The same author appeared mentioned in another book I’ve read lately:

The author, Gwen Steege has put together a great compilation of things you need to know to be a knitter who can truly say she knows her craft. In it she mentions Hansen’s “Favourite Mittens” and talks at length about her work on twined knitting:

“Twined knitting was used throughout northern Europe and the Middle East whenever a firm, flat edging was needed, such as on scooped necklines or stocking caps. Today it turns up in eastern European and Middle Eastern knitting as a decorative edging, often called ‘braided edging’, although the effect of the two-color twined purl is more like a series of sideways chevrons than braid. The apparent reason for twined knitting’s demise in many regions has to do with the spread of the German or continental method of knitting in much of Europe… In twined knitting two strands are worked alternately, usually two ends of the same (quite small) ball. The strand for the present stitch is brought consistently either under or over the strand just used, creating a half-twist between stitches… The knit side is typically quite flat and firm, and the fabric has only slight elasticity… Although working twined knitting initially seems slow, the resulting fabric is firm, warm, and durable and, depending on the yarn and ornamentation, can also be quite elegant.”

A great tutorial on twined knitting by Knitty can be found here.

Since books seems to be the theme (yet again) I have to share this other recent acquirement (sales! all sales! I swear!) :

By the great Margaret Radcliffe, this is hands-down the best book on colour knitting I’ve seen.

Lastly, I need to share this:

“From the neo-feudalistic slubs, the corn-filled world of Tane’s youth, to his apprenticeship among the deadly saleswarriors of Seattlehama–the sex-and-shopping capital of the world–to the horrors of a polluted Antarctica, Yarn tells a stylish tale of love, deceit, and memory. Tane Cedar is the master tailor, the supreme outfitter of the wealthy, the beautiful, and the powerful. When an ex-lover, on the run from the authorities, asks him to create a garment from the dangerous and illegal Xi yarn–a psychedelic opiate–to ease her final hours, Tane’s world is torn apart. Armed with just his yarn pulls, scissors, Mini-Air-Juki handheld sewing machine, and his wits, Tane journeys through the shadowy underworld where he must untangle the deadly mysteries and machinations of decades of deceit.”

Um, awesome? It’s on my to-read list.

ADDENDUM: while on the topic of nerdy knitting things, I just found this post on knitting in Shakespeare by fellow blogger Katknit. “I mean, that my heart unto yours is knit” – I might have to use that in my wedding vows…

I am not a crocheter

As you may remember from my last (real) post that I recently finished my fingerless mittens, using Julia V’s pattern:

While I am enjoying them (aran weight merino is lovely warm and soft, though sadly the brand I used no longer exists) I recently had the revelation that I don’t think I entirely enjoyed making them.

How can this be?!

The problem, I believe, lies in the fact that a) they were crocheted, and b) my answer to the age old “are you a process or a product knitter?” question is that I am a process knitter. How are these two things related? And how did I come to these conclusions? Let me explain:

These fingerless mittens took much less time to whip up than the last pair I made, which seemed to prove the oft-heard adage that crocheting is faster than knitting. So, when my brother asked for a pair of convertible gloves, I immediately searched for crochet versions on Ravelry.

I even went so far as to narrow it down to Sue Norrad’s Crocheted Mittens / Fingerless Gloves

Yet when it came time to start the foundation chain (like casting on for you knitting-only folk) I felt something I had never felt before: reluctance. I did not want to start the bloody thing, regardless of how much I admired the pattern and liked the idea of getting the mittens made quickly. For a brief moment, this made me fear I was loosing interest in a hobby that has been such a focal point in my life, but as I thought about it some more, I realized my problem was that I did not want to start another crochet project so soon. My hands were missing their beloved needles. I think there is something in the process of knitting, in holding a needle in each hand and working with them in tandem that I crave. Indeed, as I performed the same Ravelry search for knitted convertible mittens, I felt noticeably happier.

So, I learned some things today:

1) though I thought I didn’t have a preference when it came to knit vs. crochet, it would seem I do, and 2) despite the fact that I had assumed I was a product knitter since I like the feeling of completing a project, it looks like it may actually be the process I am infatuated with (let’s be frank, at this point my love of yarn is an infatuation).

(However, I have to say that I am a little adverse to lumping people into two tight categories. I may enjoy the process, but I’ll be damned if I don’t also enjoy getting the product at the end of it.)

So, are you curious as to what pattern I ended up with?

At first I thought I had narrowed it down to Glenna C.‘s Podster Gloves pattern

but I thought “the maximum size given is a men’s small. My brother most definitely does not wear size small” and “I’m really not feeling the each-finger-has-a-hole thing. That took a lot of time last year, and I still have a lot of holiday knitting to do. Plus the last thing I need is another part of the mittens that might not fit my brother’s massive fingers.”

Finally I stumbled across Lauren Perruzza’s appropriately titled Manly-Man Man Mittens.

Perfect! Albeit, Lauren claims the pattern is a work-in-progress so some directions may be difficult to decipher. But she’s open to helping, the size is already set to ‘men’s large’ and there are no finicky finger holes outside of the thumbs. I can work with this.

The only thing missing is the awesomeness that is the ‘podster’ thumb from Glenna’s pattern. I’m thinking of trying to incorporate it. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Mine are coming along nicely, having just cast on:

I’ve been using the Lion Brand Fishermen’s Wool I got on sale last year. Relatively inexpensive real virgin wool with the lanolin still in. I forgot how much I love wool like this. Plus it’s perfect for my outdoors-loving brother who is known for being rather hard on clothing.

Needless to say, I’m back from my post crocheted fingerless mitten slump 🙂

The bad side to this new mitten project, however, is that my Hitckhiker shawl, which I was all excited about starting in my last post, is going to be stuck at the 25th row mark for a while..

What might cause it to languish even longer is the fact that The DROPS Advent Calendar has come out. Thanks to katknit for pointing this out. Free pattern every day, yes please.

Here’s the cute mini stockings for Dec 1:

http://www.garnstudio.com/lang/us/pattern.php?id=5903&lang=us

One last thing to share before I go:

Believe it or not, this isn’t just another picture of my cat (though I love any opportunity to post one, let’s be honest). The focus here is on the yarn and needles (or the end of one of them anyway)

The yarn isn’t super sexy, I know. And straight needles are kind of out-or-character for me. I’m using them to practice a new knitting technique! Lever knitting.

Last Saturday I took a class taught by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee (aka the Yarn Harlot) on Knitting for Speed and Efficiency at Unwind Yarn House, where she taught us this technique. We’re supposed to practice it for 30 days (a little per day, as much as we can stand it). Apparently that’s about how long it takes to master a new way of knitting. I can believe it, since my stitches are not at all uniform and are ridiculously tight, which has brought back buried childhood memories. Yet slowly, day by day, I’m getting there. Just like when I was nine 🙂

Felicia Lo of SweetGeorgia Yarns has a great summary of the Stephanie’s explanation of the differences between lever (aka Irish cottage), throwing (aka English), and picking (aka Continental, though Americans like to call it American) and how they came to be. She also has links to Youtube videos of Stephanie lever knitting, though FYI Stephanie herself advises to watch sans sound/commentary.

Last minute gifts to make

Here’s a copy of a blog post I did for work. Enjoy!

Link to the original: Last minute gifts to make.

Ok, so it’s not really last minute if you’re shopping, but if you plan on making gifts to give this holiday season, the time to start is now!

Here are some great books full of instructions and inspiration.

(click on a title for link to item)

For those who celebrate Christmas:

Index

Index4

Index2

Or any of these other titles.

Or perhaps you celebrate Hanukkah?

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See more here.

How about Kwanzaa?

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See more here.

And then there are resources everyone can use:

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more card making resources here.

Maybe you have a particular craft you’re drawn to?

If you’re a knitter like me you might want to try searching for books with patterns for knitted gifts, such as this one:

Index

Or, if you aren’t the fastest knitter (also like me) or are running out of time (me again), try some of the quick-n’-easy patterns in these books:

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Into paper crafts? Want to make someone their very own unique fabric-bound journal? Try a search like this, to get books like this:

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Beading? Try a search like this one to get books like this:

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Wood working? How about searching for books like this:

Index

The possibilities are endless.

And don’t forget to have a gander at our librarian Recommended Websites too.

Happy Holiday Handcrafting!

Pattern coveting

The walking mitts for mom are finally done!

Six yarn overs in a row is a LOT, let me tell you.  Also, if you are making very fitted mitts with ribbed cuffs I suggest this cast off. It saved my bacon after several ill-fated attempts at other methods.

I also managed to whip up another pair of fingerless gloves, this time for myself, using Julia Vaconsin’s pattern on Crochet Me.

Not as fancy, but it’s getting too cold to not have something on my hands. Crochet aran weight works up FAST, yo. I got a little tripped up by the foundation single crochet (fsc) row, but this tutorial was a great help.

My next project is Martina Behm‘s Hitchhiker Shawl.

Why is it called “Hitchhiker?” As the pattern says, it has 42 teeth/points. 42 is the answer to the question about the universe and everything, according to Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, which happens to be one of my favourite books!

And this is the yarn I’m gonna use for it:

It’s the Manos del Uruguay Serena I picked up at The Purple Purl at the September Knitty Yarn Roundtable. Photobomb courtesy of my cat, Desmond.

Speaking of cats. This is the stuff my nightmares are made of:

He even looks like Desmond.

Who has taken to burrowing in our bedclothes, by the way. Yarn isn’t a far cry.

Good thing I keep all of my stash in plastic bins…

Other things that are new:

Remember Canary Knits’ book “Ghosts” I talked about in my last post? I scored a free copy in Knit and Purl Mama‘s giveaway. So excited to get knitting! Especially Calavera Catrina

and Hitodama

I also stumbled upon this amazing free Christmas ornament pattern:

Definitely making one (or five…)

Can I also just point out that I miss Christmas lights that looked like that? Reminds me of my childhood.

Happy hump day, everyone!

All Hallows Eve

Happy Hallowe’en!

In honour of this most creepy of holidays, here are some spooky-type projects.

The lovely Teresa Gregorio has recently published an entire book of patterns inspired by ghosts. In addition to the patterns, there are essays exploring how different cultures view the “physical” apparition of a ghost.

This new free pattern from Red Heart is freaking amazing:

Definitely planning on this for next year.

I know, I know, it may be a little hard to get something knit and blocked by tonight, but you can always get a head start on next year. Or you’ll be all set to celebrate Christmas Tim Burton style.

Source: Shayne on Geekcrafts

Zero the Ghostly Dog by Meg-Ann Skilton

In the same vein, you could choose to start getting ready for the Mayan apocalypse on Dec 21:

Judith Shangold’s Mayan Scarf.

Quetzal Mayan Bird from Erssie Major’s Magickal Throw.

Speaking of Christmas, better get cracking on those gifts!

KatKnit over at Dances with Wool has a list of cute free patterns to get you started. I personally love the elf slippers:

And for those that celebrate other holidays at this time of year:

I saw this posted by Knitomatic in my Pinterest feed. Frigging adorable. Look at the wee little candles! For little toddler hands!