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:


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.

More things I am excited about

Well, to be honest, I’m still excited about my purchases from the Frolic. So is Desmond, it would seem. I managed to get this photo but couldn’t get one of the best part, when he was actually full on burying his head in the bags of yarn. Man I love this cat.

Nevertheless, on to this week’s even larger levels of excitement!

1) Appropriately called Bigger on the inside, I cannot wait to start Kate Atherley’s TARDIS shawl from the latest issue of Knitty. Anyone who knows me knows of my love affair with Dr Who.

So excited I went right out and got yarn for it.

2) I’m on the planning committee for WWKIP Toronto Edition, and am happy to report that things are really getting going. Look at the shiny new blog masthead!

We also have a Ravelry group, a  Facebook event page, and I’m even attempting to get the Twitter hashtag #WWKIPTO going. Wish me luck.

3) I have just discovered the West End Scarf. Drooool. Yet another one to add to my ridiculously long queue.

4) Look who’s coming to the Downtown Knit Collective next week!

5) My fiancé has recently said things to me like “come sit in the TV room with me. I miss it when you aren’t sitting in your chair knitting” and “you see that sweater that guy is wearing? Do you think you could knit me something like that?” I am beyond estatic. This from the guy who cringed when I offered to make him a hat two winters ago. Nevermind that the sweater he pointed out was machine knit in what had to be fingering weight…

Awesomeness that was March

It’s April now, and this was my April Fool’s ravatar:

As anyone on Ravelry knows, often the site developers will have fun on the holidays. Often it’s with little icons on the homepage, but for April Fool’s everyone’s avator got headgear. The placement of mine could not have been more perfect.

March was an interesting month, full of ups and downs. I spent St. Patty’s Day weekend at the hospital after taking my fiancé in for a marathon ER wait, followed by an ultrasound confirming that it was indeed his appendix, and then ultimately surgery and recovery. That same Sunday I found out that I was on strike. I spent almost two weeks bored-to-tears and foot-weary on the picket line while having to take over all chores at home with my partner in crime out of commission. Still doing most of the heavier-duty housework, but infinitely glad the strike is over.

That being said, it was also a great month in many ways. The strike was taxing, but I got to see some colleagues I had not seen in months because they work at other branches, and there was something invigorating in coming together with other passionate colleagues and members of the public to defend what we value. This was of course intensified at the Knit-In, which was a highlight and a wonderful time that could not have happened otherwise. Knitting really builds communities and connections!

And then the cherry on top for yours truly – meeting Wise Hilda and the Yarn Harlot 🙂 Additionally, the week before the appendix and the strike I got to meet another one of my favourite authors, George R.R. Martin (or GRRM, or his royal GRRMness, as a friend and fellow fan refers to him) at the Bay/Bloor Indigo store. I waited in line for 3 or 4 hours with a couple of other die-hard fan friends, which was fun on its own, and then we were each permitted to approach the dias (seriously, the stage combined with desk did have a dias-like quality, I’m not just being a fantasy nerd here).

I got my book signed, and he even talked to me! Swoon! Not that I was the only one, but it was nice, considering the size of the line and how fast staff were ushering us through, not to mention the size of the hand cramp he’d have later (I maintain that only those of us who have been reading his books since before the Game of Thrones HBO series count as fans, but I suppose they can’t turn people away based on this). Essentially our conversation went like this:

Me: Hi (I worry that this may have been more of squeak-like noise and not fully discernible)
GRRM: Hi, how are you?
Me: (completely flummoxed) Good, you? (then stupidly realizing he is spending his day signing a thousand-odd books) Erm, well, I guess you’re day is like this (I gesture towards my book as he signs it)
GRMM: He smiled at that, and said something like “well, yeah y’know.”

To conclude this foray into my nerd quirks outside of knitting, I leave you with this quote from and interview I found on Tumblr, because it is great and sums up part of the reason why I enjoy his books so much:

George Stroumboulopoulos: There’s one thing that’s interesting about your books. I noticed that you write women really well and really different. Where does that come from?
GRRM: You know, I’ve always considered women to be people.

March was also the month of awesome finds and purchases. I finally found a reasonably priced used copy of both Elizabeth Zimmerman’s The Opinionated Knitter and Barbara G. Walker’s Knitting From the Top. So stoked.

Don’t judge these books by their covers (especially the horrible duds on the 80’s edition of Walker’s book). This, my friends, is the good stuff. Basic garment construction in detail – no frills or fooling around here. Not that I dislike frills, but they come after mastering the basics, I think. And since I want to get into designing my own patterns, these two classic tomes are going to be invaluable.

Knitting From the Top comes from the genius of the same woman behind the classic and ever-so-popular Pattern Treasury books, à la:

What KFTP lacks in glossy photos it makes up for in sheer information value. You can essentially design and knit any type of garment using the tips and directions in this book, from every type of sweater imaginable to even a wide array of pants and skirts. (Though skirts I will definitely do, and have done, I think knitted pants is a dated concept. Granted, fashion always cycles back).

The Opinionated Knitter is essentially a collection of EZ’s Newsletters. She began to produce these after she starting her own yarn business from home, disillusioned with the world of mainstream pattern publishing and their insistence on altering, slicing, and dicing the patterns she submitted for publication. Each newsletter is reproduced in the book along with commentary and further expansion from EZ’s daughter Meg Swanson, as well as some from EZ herself. Topics vary – sometimes the focus will be on a specific technique, other times there will be directions (not patterns, an important distinction) for a specific type of garment. Below is an example of one of the newsletters and an accompanying diagram: this one outlines EZ’s key number percentage system for determining the number of stitches, increases, and decreases you will need for a sweater based on the wearer’s measurements. Amazing!


The back cover shows some of the photos from inside of garments made using EZ’s newsletters.

Part of what makes the book extra special for me is its coffee-table quality. In addition to the newsletters there are lots of anecdotes about Elizabeth’s life, including this amazing photo featuring both Elizabeth AND Barbara G. Walker (plus another lady I admittedly don’t know of) at a 1980 knitting summit! I know, I know, I’m a dork.




Speaking of Walker, did you know that she also wrote quite a lot of books on women’s spirituality and the Goddess movement? I didn’t.






Lastly, March saw a fair bit of progress on the Lanesplitter, though not as much as I’d like.

Since this is the largest project I’ve tackled yet, my sock-size project bags were starting to just not cut it anymore. Being on a (partially strike induced, partially cause I should be buying less yarn) budget I figured I must have something around the house I can use. Enter this thin cotton grocery tote bag! Now that it’s altered, it is working perfectly. And as a bonus I’m feeling pretty pleased with my resourceful craftiness, thank you very much.

I wish I’d taken a before picture, but essentially I used a seam ripper to detach the handles (you can see where I did this to the left if you look carefully; it resembles an X), made a small cut in the hem around the bag opening and then hemmed around the cut so it wouldn’t fray. Threading the string through was probably the hardest part. Overall, an easy half hour job 🙂

 Happy Easter!

Knit-In Recap

The Knit-In at Nathan Phillips Square in support of Toronto Public Library workers was a HUGE success. Thank you so much to everyone who came out. Some estimates pegged the number of participants as high as 200! That’s a pretty sizable group for a weekday event held on only 2 days notice.

A special thanks to Wise Hilda, Kate Atherley, and the Yarn Harlot, Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, both of whom not only retweeted about the event but even came out to lend their support!

I knew Kate was coming, and it was still awesome meeting her, but Stephanie was a surprise. I read her blog and have read all her books. I was star struck and ridiculously excited. I snapped this picture while I was still working up the nerve to talk to her. Then I moseyed on over to say hi and thank her for coming. Turns out she is really approachable and easy to talk to, which resulted in me running my mouth off and mentioning that I wish I’d brought a book for her to sign. Immediately after I left, the media descended on her. I’m hoping it’s not my fault because they overheard me indicate she’s famous… Sorry Stephanie!

Margaret Atwood gave us a shout out on her Twitter as well. Matter of fact, it was the same day this article came out.

Speaking of articles, we had a lot of media interest. Here is what’s been published:

First there was the Sun’s article featuring an image of yours truly. Glad they published that one and left this one to Twitter. It as windy out! I have a lot of hair!

Then came the National Post’s coverage. And the Globe and Mail including this great pic in their Day in Photos section. We’re photo #7.

And of course I count Kate’s including a mention of the event on the Knitty blog to be media too 😉

Some highlights:

“… participants laid out blankets on the asphalt and brought tupperware containers filled with apples and other snacks as they knit together skirts and scarves” – this National Post statement, combined with The Sun‘s Twitter photo caption makes me think I should have chosen another knitting project, one less easily associated with librarian stereotypes perhaps. It’s not your Grandma’s skirt, I promise! And what’s with the focus on blankets and snacks? Another reporter also said on Twitter that “striking library workers are being adorable again.” Thanks for the sentiment, but I counteract with this quote by yours truly in the plug the Bissell Bombers did for us: knitting is “…part and parcel of the stereotype of librarians as dowdy, grandmotherly figures. A Knit-In in support of a library both pokes light, tongue-in-cheek fun at this stereotype while simultaneously challenging it. Today’s knitters are full of passion and vitality. They choose to craft for the enjoyment of it and bring immense creativity to what they do. Such energy is a perfect fit for activist persuits, hence the rise of knit-ins and yarnbombings.” So there.

“Author and blogger Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, known on the web as the Yarn Harlot, was at the protest, knitting what she hoped would be a scarf” – The Sun. That’s knitting for ya, you just have to close your eyes, knit, and will your desired object into existence. You can never know for sure what you’ll get.

And then, that very night it was annouced that a tentative agreement had been reached. I like to think that the knitters helped turn the tide, thank you very much.

And now, for your viewing pleasure, a photo gallery.

In case you’re wondering, the partially obscured one says “Don’t pull the wool over your eyes.”

Childrens’ Librarians can’t help but bring their puppets to the picket line. This one got his own scarf out of the day!

Katie with some of her gorgeous cable knitting and lino-cut cards she makes and sells around town as well as on her website. These ones are yarn themed! The woman just oozes creativity.

This wedding party asked if they could have their picture taken with us! I can’t believe this happened in the 15 minutes I took for a coffee break.

The woman in pink is a new knitter and one of my coworkers. She was introduced to the knitter habit of ‘yarn groping’ after I impulsively squeezed her skein. The colour! It’s just so beautiful! (Turns out it’s Malabrigo worsted in 228 Snow Bird, by the way. You’re welcome)