Back from the netherworld…

…of becoming an adult.

I’ve been silent for a bit, I know. You see, we bought a house, moved into said house, are still planning a wedding that is now only a little over two months away, and in the meantime I’ve been working 6 day weeks. Yay!

At least we got this out of it:

house

No FOs at the moment, since I’ve had precious few minutes to knit (must get on the flowers and shawl…)

However, I did want to share a few quick knitty things before I dive into a post I’m planning on my day job (libraries, specifially children’s services).

1) Stitch Maps! Lots of chatter on the interwebs about this new knitting pattern format and, while I do think it is very cool, I must support the crocheters who are quick to point out that they have been using a format akin to Stitch Maps for forever.

stitchmap      crochetdiagram

                             Stitch Map                                     Crochet Diagram

I rest my case.

2) WWKiP in Toronto happened! Lots of events at High Park and at local stores.

My Instagram pictures from High Park:

More pictures here, here, here, and here. This one’s my personal favourite:

Sistering

3) Other things I’ve been up to. Baking very nerdy things.

beef&baconpie

My previous Game of Thrones baking adventure using the A Feast of Ice and Fire cookbook can be found here.

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.

Hi-yah!

Besides the fact that the fiancé and I were sick for a bit, it’s been a good couple weeks. First off, I must take a moment to point out an initiative very close to my heart that I found out about through a post on the wonderful Simply Notable blog:

The idea behind the Purple Stitch Project is to knit, crochet, or sew purple (the epilepsy awareness color) gifts for kids with seizure disorders. These gifts will serve as a reminder that they are not alone — that they have community support. The 2nd goal of PSP is to raise awareness about epilepsy, the 3rd most prevalent neurological disorder (next to stroke and Alzheimer’s). With every purple stitch made and every handmade item worn or carried, perhaps a collective conversation will begin about a disorder that surprisingly little is known about.

As some of you know, my fiancé has epilepsy, hence I am super excited to hear about such an awesome initiative. The fact that it involves the hobby I love helps too.

There are all kinds of patterns listed on Craftsy and Pinterest. Including awesomeness like this:

Everyone should make one!

j

In other news, my shrug is coming along well. If I like it, I might also make it in white for the wedding 😀

Isn’t the drawstring square-bottom project bag you see in the photo awesome? I got it, along with another one in a funky pink, gold, and white fabric, from one of my fellow World Wide Knit in Public Day organizers, who made them for all of us who helped plan WWKIP Toronto Edition. It was such a nice surprise!

g

On Friday I went to the latest

If you’ve never been and you’re ever in the area, you should go. Click on the Knitty logo/banner for the link to more info, but essentially it’s a great time in one of Toronto’s greatest (and probably coziest) yarn stores, The Purple Purl. You and twenty-nine other knitters get to test and review five new yarns ranging from super luxury skeins to bargain ones. The reviews are used by Knitty for their magazine.

Voilà, the swatch I had at the end of the night. There be alpaca, merino, and even cashmere in them there hills of inadvertent garter stitch.
And their are door prizes! I went home with this:

And the entire store was on sale, so this had to follow me home:

Did you spot my invasive cat in, not one, but both of the pics above? Because, you know, I don’t give him any attention, not at all.

More free things! :

This is chunky/bulky weight wool yarn from Briggs & Little that I got from a destashing friend.

Last weekend I visited family out in the country, and came back from antique shopping with some pieces of handicraft history.

These are two antique yarn bobbins/spools. Well used from the looks of them. See how they would have been used here.

This handkerchief is hand embroidered and edged with crochet. I love the little pieces of detail. And I couldn’t very well resist a four leafed (leaved?) clover.

Beyond that I’ve found myself cooking and baking a lot. It’s the fall weather – it is finally not too hot to have the oven on, and nothing is better than long-simmering soup, à la this recipe for Tomato Basil Parmesan Soup I made on the weekend. Pinterest is likely also partially to blame. I’ve been pinning way too much.

Speaking of baking…

We had a potluck at work. One of my colleagues and I are a) very nerdy and b) share a love of Game of Thrones (we’re librarians, so it’s not a surprise). Plus there is my love of all things medieval. This led to us using this:

To make things like this (complete with explanatory notes) :

Whole story here.

TTC Knit-a-long and other antics

Nigh on a month since my last post, oh my. Work gets crazy when school gets out, that’s really my only excuse. That and the beau and I had a vacation. Niagara!

Vineyard inspecting.

On to more on-topic things… July 14 was the annual TTC Knitalong, and my first year attending. It was ridiculously hot for Toronto (42 degrees!) and the Queen streetcar was under construction, which meant more walking, but it was lots of fun regardless.

There are some great photos here. Plus the event made the news!

Behold, my purchases:

The yarns are Berroco Linsey (I have plans for a lace t-shirt) and Jo Sharp DK Wool. Yes, I splurged on a Namaste bag (there was a sale!). The Bette Hochberg books are fantastic and hard to get your hands on, being from the 70s as they are. They can go for a lot online, but I got them for $12 each. I was a very happy girl.

The free swag we got made me even happier. Behold, the final haul:

SCORE!

And that photo doesn’t include the patterns we got in our loot bags as well. Mine included:

Hansel Mittens by Stephannie Roy, the Aberdeen Ave. Hat by Glenna C. and the Signal Hill Scarf by Laura Chau. I believe I will make all of them 😀

I also recently acquired a lot of roving (Craigslist I love you… most of the time).

And naturally this meant I needed a spindle. I found a basic high-whorl for a decent price on eBay. I happened to come from a family in Wyoming who raises their own alpacas, hence I ended up with a kit with more oh-so-soft roving.

I immediately used my birthday gift of a Chapters gift card to order Abby Franquemont’s book Respect the Spindle. If I can’t go to Rhinebeck for her workshop this year (partially since I am now out of funds), it’s the next best thing. I had some credit left over, so I also got Gibson-Roberts’ Spinning in the Old Way 😀 Thanks to magpiecrafter for the great book advice (originally heard of Hochberg through her blog as well).

I somehow managed to find time to make another doll for Heart for Africa. They are now on their way to children affected by AIDS in Swaziland.

Also this past week, I stumbled across this ridiculously cute piece of whimsical online reading, featuring quite a lot of knitting!

And last, but not least, the Ravellenic games starts this week (along with something called the “Olympics,” whatever). Got my projects all picked out. I will be entering the Cable Steeplechase with Tanis Gray’s Cabled Belt from Vogue Knitting Winter 08/09 since I’ve been meaning to make it for a while. I’ll also (am I taking on too much?) be making a TARDIS amigurumi, using Ms. Parke’s lovely design. A) it’s super cute, B) I needed something to enter into the British Cricket event that I actually wanted to make. Team TARDIS will so be besting Team SHERlocked, hands down.

Why do we knit?

I often wonder why I am so drawn to this hobby. Especially as someone who tends to fret over how wisely I spend my time and how enriching my pastimes are. But I love to knit. I have URGES to knit – my hands will actually itch. I browse Ravelry and Knitty in my breaks at work.

What is it about using sticks to loop string around and around itself in repetitive motions until you have something functional, something that took 100+ hours of your life to produce when you could have bought it pre-made for $30 (and quite possibly less than the cost of your wool)?

To be entirely honest, I don’t quite get it. I’m nearly as obsessed as they come, and I can’t come up with a solid answer.

Is knitting the new yoga? I’ve heard this oft-quoted mantra many a time, but I’m not quite buying it. And this is coming from a girl who quit yoga after 3 sessions.

Though, there may be something to the calming aspect of it. It forces one to slow down and contemplate. It’s almost meditative in a way.

I think that is a big part of the attraction, however I think there is more to it than that for me. On a recent trip to the Art Gallery of Ontario, I was struck by their new photography exhibit. Featured were stunning turn-of-the-century prints taken in rural parts of France. Now, I don’t want to romanticize what I’m sure was a tough existence, but part of me felt a connection to the images, especially those featuring women going about their daily lives, namely spinning yarn, knitting, and washing and mending clothes by hand. (For more on my love of handicrafts in the days of yore, see here).

Suddenly, something clicked. I was reminded of an essay I had recently read in Ann Budd‘s book Knitting Green and immediately re-read it when I got back home.

In Touching the Sun Through Fiber Carmen S. Hall writes, “I can feel my dear grandmothers watching over me when I knit, and the presence of other ancestors I never knew… I touch the souls of others when I knit. I also learn to better touch my own soul… Zen poet Thich Nhat Hanh tells a beautiful story about looking deeply into a piece of paper. He says that if you are still enough and look deeply enough, it is possible to touch the tree from which the paper was made, to feel the soil beneath its roots, the wind that blew through its branches, the shade of the cloud that passed overhead, the gentle rain that fell… if you look deep enough, it is possible to touch the sun… As I knit, I hope to pave the path for others as they tap into the mystery of craft and creation. I hope my children will remember me knitting though joys and through sorrows… I hope they too will learn to touch the sun.”

I could not have said it better myself.

Elizabeth Zimmerman may be able to say it more succinctly, however:

“Knit on, with confidence & hope, through all crises.”

The Distaff Gospels

The Distaff Gospels (Les Évangiles des Quenouilles), is a 15th century French collection of more than 250 popular beliefs, forming a sort of gospel of late medieval women’s wisdom. A writer and tale-teller (trouvere) named Jean d’Arras attended the daily winter spinning sessions of a group of local neighbourhood women over a period of six days. His task was to record their discussions of beliefs, recipes, remedies, and advice so that they might be preserved for future generations. The result is a rich repository of folk wisdom and lore, often buried under a gloss of the pervasive Christianity of the time period.

Here are some yarn-related excerpts:

“If a woman leaves flax unspun on her distaff on Saturday, the thread that will be spun from it the following Monday will never be any good and the cloth made with it will never be really white.”

“To get rid of warts, you must take a thread that a woman has spun after her lying-in [recovery period after giving birth] and tie it around the warts: they will all fall off instantly without difficulty.”

“A young woman who wishes to know the name of her future husband should stretch out the first thread which she has spun that day at her door and then find out the name of the first man to pass by – she can be certain that this will be the name of her husband.”

Translation I used: The Distaff Gospels. Eds and Trans. Madeleine Jeay and Kathleen Garay. New York: Broadview Editions, 2006. Print.

The Witch of Forest Grove has a great article on the Distaff Gospels on her blog, with some more quotes and pictures, here.

The Wikipedia article on weaving and mythology also provides some facinating historical context.