30 July 2009

thrift-store finds

Yesterday, on a trip to the thrift store to find a pair of shorts that would be decent enough to wear in public (my only pair is baggy, olive green, and a bit frumpy-looking), I checked to see what they had in their crafts section. I always check. Usually it's not-so-great acrylic that someone got rid of for a reason. Sometimes I get lucky. I bought crochet thread one time, with the idea of knitting lace with it. I just need to find some dye that'll work on it first because it's all white and beige and I like colour. There was the wool-acrylic novelty yarn I picked up when I first started knitting, when I didn't know that I wouldn't like novelty yarn. I knit a scarf for someone with it, gritting my teeth the whole time. I still have 2 skeins and a bit. Either they'll become scarves for other people, or I'll find someone else who wants the yarn.

But yesterday, ah, yesterday, I found something exciting. Sock yarn. Not acrylic sock yarn. Mostly wool, with a bit of nylon. And they're solid colour skeins, which is exciting for me, since all the sock yarns I seem to like so far are striped and I want to do some socks with texture. Just two skeins. Enough for a couple pairs of socks, but at a dollar each, that's pretty cool (and people say handknit socks are expensive!). One is green, and the other is yellow. I could do two pairs of socks with colourwork or two pairs plain. I haven't decided yet. Stripes are fun. Mosaic patterns are cool. But solid colours with cables or lace are neat, too. Well, it's too hot to knit with this yarn right now, anyway, so maybe in a couple months, I'll know what I want to do with them.

I found some shorts, too. They cost more than the yarn, unfortunately. But I am cooler now. Slightly. Also, I am exhausted. It's really hard to sleep in this heat. I went to bed at two and got up at seven-thirty with a few scattered hours of sleep in-between. Not good. Well, time for more iced tea, I guess. Helps with the heat and with trying to stay awake.

it's so hot that...

The temperature here has been in the 30s for the last few days. It's been hot and humid enough that the heat seems worse than it actually is. My building doesn't have air-conditioning, so the library's been a favourite place, as has the shower with the water turned on cold.

It is so hot that...

...I got sunburned walking a total of four blocks to the library and back the other day, even though it was two blocks there, stay at the library for two hours, and two blocks back.

...I get hot and sweaty walking across the room, sitting in a chair, or washing dishes.

...dousing myself with water helps only a little bit because it evaporates so fast.

...I can only knit on the socks I started recently if I'm in an air-conditioned place like the library or a coffeeshop. Thank heavens their recipient isn't getting them until December.

...I haven't been drinking much tea because ice water's been taking its place.

...I don't know if I could fry an egg on the sidewalk but the heat did melt the coughdrops in my purse.

...the thunderstorm last Saturday night did nothing to relieve the heat and humidity.

...I put on sunscreen to go to the grocery store.

...I actually started a project that uses cotton just because it's not as warm as wool.

...when I did laundry today, I washed a quilt, hung it on the clothes-horse, and about two hours later, it was dry.

It'll be nice when the weather cools down. We need rain. Desperately. Lots of it. For days. I miss winter. I miss long sleeves and scarves and mittens. I like going barefoot or wearing sandals everywhere, but I'm becoming more scantily clad as the heat continues (which is unusual for me--let's hope it doesn't go on like this or I'll turn into one of those girls who wears short-shorts and poorly fitting spaghetti strap tank tops that show off the stomach), although I'm trying to remain tasteful and cool. It's so hot I can't even wear the knitted tank top I made because it's 50% wool.

Sigh. Autumn will come eventually. It has to.

20 July 2009

The Misti Alpaca Sock Yarn Saga

It started with a shawl, back in the spring. I was looking at the newest issue of Knitty and was instantly captivated by the Shipwreck Shawl on the cover. It was beautiful. And I had to make it. I kept returning to the pattern, looking at it, coveting it, reading it through to determine that yes, I knew how to do everything it said. And the yarn recommended for the pattern, well, ordering it online wasn't really an option for me at the moment (that the shipping'd probably cost more than the yarn was one factor). So I decided to find a reasonable substitute. I've yet to use the recommended yarn for a project, and aside from a few disasters (before I learned about things like yarn weight and paying attention to the fiber type), it hasn't been a problem.

Sock yarn. That's what the pattern said. I went to an LYS that was a little out of my way, but I figured it'd be a good opportunity to see what they carried. And if I didn't find what I was looking for, I didn't find it, and I'd check at the closer LYS. After a long walk from the bus stop, I walked into the shop and started browsing. I'd written down the specs on the recommended yarn and after a while, found what I was looking for. I had a picture in my head of the colours I wanted and suddenly, I spotted them. I picked up the skein of yarn, touched it, marvelled at the colours, read the details on the label, and knew that this was my yarn.

Misti Alpaca Handpaint Sock Yarn. It's beautiful stuff, but it is expensive. This was my biggest yarn purchase to date. I used some of the money my grandparents gave me as a graduation gift so I didn't feel guilty about buying three skeins of it.

Let's just say I got a lot of bang for my bucks.

I took it home on the bus, drooled over it a little, and then started winding it into balls. I don't have a ball winder yet, so this took a while. My husband helped. We wound two of the skeins up and then I decided it was time to cast on. A hour and many curses later, there were a few stitches cast on to my DPNs in a ring (simple ring cast-on, hah! yeah, right!). I loved the yarn. It was so beautiful, so soft and warm, the colours were so inspiring. I knit and knit and knit with this stuff. It was easy to work with, not too hard to tink back if it was necessary, and the colours reminded me of the ocean.

As the weather grew warmer, my shawl grew bigger. When I finally wound up the third ball and used some of it for binding off the shawl, I wasn't even tired of the yarn. I was exhausted by the time it took to bind off, but I still loved that yarn. I blocked the lace and admired how the dark purple pooled together in little smudges on the grey, lavender and bits of blue of the rest of the shawl. I'd found out that the colourway's name was 'Luz de Luna.' Light of the Moon. That sounded so poetic.

I had most of a ball left. I figured I'd knit a pair of socks. It was sock yarn, after all. And I wanted to learn to knit socks. So I knit a pair of very plain, top-down, ribbed socks. The ribbing got pretty boring by the end, but I finished them. That used less than half of what was left. They're great socks. I love them. They are warm, but breathe well, and very soft. Almost too soft, as the sole is already beginning to felt.

There was still half a ball of yarn left. Half a ball. One pair of socks didn't use nearly as much as I'd expected because my feet are so small.

So, thinking how great it was that I wasn't tired of this yarn yet, I started another pair of socks, anklets this time. With lace and cables and a fun textured heel flap with seed stitch and more cables. Half-way through the first sock, I finally started to get tired of the yarn. It is undeniably beautiful yarn. But three skeins of about 400 metres each--well, that's a lot of yarn to work through. I had to set the sock down for a few days and knit with drastically different colours before I was able to pick up the sock and finish it.

Tonight I finished the second sock. I grafted the toe, wove in the ends, and weighed the ball of yarn that was left. Now, remember, this was originally a 100 g ball. I started this pair of socks with 50 g. My scale isn't the greatest, but it's accurate enough. 25 g.

I don't care that there's a good 100 metres or so left of this yarn. I don't. Not right now. I'll use it eventually. Next pair of socks are gifts for a relative, and the next pairs after that will be for me. In different yarns. The gift socks are brown. Then I have this self-striping blue yarn (Invicta Coloris--how could I resist a yarn with a Latin name?), and some green-brown-beige striped yarn. There's a couple balls of DK yarn in purple and green (2 purple balls, 1 green) that don't seem to want to be anything that I try to knit them into. It's recently occurred to me that maybe I should give them another chance. They might make decent socks. Lots of colours. It'll be great.

Because I'm finally tired of this yarn, no matter how amazing it is.

19 July 2009

bits and pieces

Today is a good day because...

...it is cooler than it was yesterday. I am sitting here wearing alpaca socks.

...I finally updated my computer after ignoring the "you have a new update" notice in the corner of the screen. It runs faster now. I should probably finish de-fragging my hard drive, too.

...I read one of the Fitzwilliam Darcy books yesterday and absolutely loved it. I re-read a couple chapters over breakfast this morning and still loved it.

...this week, I used up some dishcloth yarn making an entrelac dishcloth. It was fun. Easier than I expected. Then I used some hemp yarn for a washcloth, also in entrelac, and managed to leave out an entire corner of the square. Not sure how that happened. But entrelac is fun. I'll have to try more projects with it. This is the one that looks like it's supposed to. I don't have a photo yet of the wonky one.

...my to-do list isn't too intimidating (as it mostly consists of cleaning the oven, dusting, and putting away laundry, and catching up on some editing).

...I made pie yesterday with the last of the blueberries I canned last year. Granted, the pie is not the best one I've ever made, but it is edible. And when some friends came over late last night to play Settlers, they didn't want any!

Little frustrations...

...in addition to goofing up the entrelac square, I managed to goof up when I went to a used bookstore yesterday. I found a couple Beverly Cleary books that I was sure I didn't have. When I got home, I looked at the bookshelf to find that one of the books I'd bought was already sitting on the shelf. So now I have two copies of Ribsy. I have two copies of Henry and Ribsy, too. That was also an accident. I can remember that I have all the Ramona books, but I can't seem to recall which Henry Huggins books I have. I do have two copies of Beezus and Ramona, but that's because one copy was a gift and had the new illustrations which just aren't as good as the old ones. (Additionally, why can I find multiple copies of each Ramona book at the bookstore, but only a couple of the Henry books?)

...knitters don't seem to get rid of the books I want at the local used bookstores. One place had maybe 3 knitting books. There were loads of books on embroidery and needlepoint, and a few manuals with the basics of several crafts, including knitting, but I couldn't find so much as a stitch dictionary. And of course, the books I want cost $30-$40 brand-new. I'm so glad the library has a fairly decent selection of knitting books.

...why is there so much dust in my apartment?

...and what is burnt onto the bottom of the oven, making my pie taste slightly barbecued from the smoke? (I didn't realize the oven was smoking until the damage had been done).

...I can't get up the motivation to finish a fair-isle hat for my husband. I can manage a row or two at a time, and then I set it down with frustration and pick up something else. Fair-isle looks so pretty, and yet...I really don't enjoy it. Entrelac's awesome. Cables are interesting. A little fiddly, but interesting. Lace is a delight. Why is fair-isle so annoying?

And...that's all for now.

14 July 2009

frogging--I mean, slogging--away

I finished a pair of hemp mitts yesterday. Now that they have been washed and dried, they're a little big, but they are comfortable. And they seem to be exactly what I'd hoped for: mitts that are not so warm that I can't wear them in the summer. They're loose enough that I can wear my watch at the same time, which I can't do with my other mitts. The hemp's a little rough yet, but I like the texture.

Yesterday I gave in to my impulses and frogged that cabled cowl. The yarn just wasn't working for it; I was dragging my heels on knitting it so much that it was ridiculous. I started it and then finished one project (or was it two?) and started and completed two more, and worked out some kinks in a pattern I'm writing, before getting more than a few rows into this one. I've shelved that cowl for now. I like the pattern but it needs a different yarn. The yarn's been moved over to a different cowl, one that uses a slipped stitch herringbone pattern. I like it much better. I'm halfway through the sixteen row repeat already. I didn't manage to make it through a single repeat of that cable pattern. The herringbone pattern gives it an almost woven texture and it suits the yarn so much better than the other pattern did. When I have more than 2 centimetres, I'll post a picture.

I think that taught me that it's okay to frog something even after you've spent a while on it. If you can't stand the project, it's probably better this way. I had more fun making a pom pom than working on that thing (and while pom poms may be rather enjoyable to make, I don't really like the way they look). It's happier frogged and reknit into something that better suits its nature.

There's a new pair of socks on the needles now, too. (I know! I should be starting some Christmas socks, but I won't have the person's shoe size until I can talk to their spouse next week so I could only knit to the gusset anyway and then my best sock needles would be all tied up and I'd either have to buy more sock needles or put the socks on stitch holders and all this is just an excuse for me to knit more interesting socks with the last of my Misti Alpaca yarn).

13 July 2009

time for tea

Assam is my comfort tea. I brew a pot and add milk to my mug, and when I drink it, I am transported back in time, to the days when I worked in a British import store and tea room. When business was slow, we'd make a cuppa in the kitchen and stand around in passageway between the kitchen and the storeroom, drinking tea and chatting. We usually drank PG Tips or Yorkshire Gold, but Assam tastes very similar. I liked tea before I worked there, but after that, I loved tea. I spent most of my tips from the tea room on British tea and chocolate bars.

When I moved to Canada, I was delighted to discover that I could buy Aero bars from the grocery store or vending machines here. Canadians stare at me in astonishment when I say that you can't get Aero bars in the States unless you go to a specialty store. Oh, and the tea, too. I could find most of the British teas I'd come to love.

My taste in tea developed and changed. I now drink a wider variety of teas. Oolong is a carefully rationed out favourite (good oolong is more expensive than good black or green tea), and pu'er is the one that I drink the most of during the winter. It keeps me awake on the nights I need to stay up late to finish a paper, and is savoured in the early mornings when I need to wake up. The smoky, smooth, slightly sweet flavour pairs nicely with milk or cream. Green tea is what I drink when I want to sip slowly and contemplate life. Green tea and poetry go well together. I often drink herbal tea to avoid taking medicine. Ginger tea settles an upset stomach; red clover is a blood-cleanser (I really should have some of that at least once a week, but I forget; it's great when I've had a little too much to drink, too); rose hips help headaches and colds (all that vitamin C). When I want to read fanciful fairy tales, I turn to a blend called 'Amelie' from a tea shop down in Bellingham. It's an Earl Grey with rose petals and lavender.

Still, when I want to feel reassured, strengthened, by the tea I drink, I usually find myself drinking Assam, with milk. Sometimes sugar. Today, for instance. I don't know what it is. I just feel a little...off. I've been mulling over a few things in my mind, which are turning into a short story that will hopefully deal with them. "Write it out and get rid of it" is what I'm aiming for. Not a story for anyone else to read. Just one for me, in lieu of journaling about it. So, to that end, I'm drinking Assam. And also thinking about a cardigan with owls. I have some ribbon with owls on it that would look nice on a brown cardigan. Perhaps that sweater I frogged should be an owl cardigan instead of the vest I was thinking of. Anway. Maybe I should get back to work on the story.

I need another cup of tea.

10 July 2009

finished socks and new projects

I have finished my socks, and they are lovely. The yarn is so soft that I don't want to take them off. I only used half a skein because my feet are short and I made the cuffs about 4 inches instead of 6, so I have enough left for a pair of anklets. I found a pattern that should work, but since I started another pair of fingerless gloves tonight and I have to finish that cowl, I won't be starting those socks for a couple of weeks. They are lacy and cable-y and should be fun to knit.

On Wednesday and Thursday, I knit a Jayne hat. One of my friends who loves Firefly asked me to make it for him, so I said I'd do it if he paid for the yarn. We bought the yarn Wednesday and I gave him the hat Thursday evening. It knit up really fast. Simple pattern and worsted-weight yarn. It was instant-gratification knitting. Hat, earflaps, and pom pom. It was my first pom pom. A part of me almost feels like I committed a crime in a making a pom pom. I realize that this hat, if you are a true browncoat, absolutely must have a pom pom, but without the embellishment, it's a pretty decent hat, and with it, well, it's not as decent. I don't like pom poms, but this one was fun to make.

I was at the coffee shop where he works last night, so when I gave it to him, he put it on and wore it the rest of the evening. I have a sneaking suspicion that every time I go for coffee now, I will see him there with the hat. It makes me ridiculously happy to have knit something that makes someone so happy. I have enough yarn left to knit two, three, maybe even four more hats, so his girlfriend (she who owns Harvey the Squid) may be getting one too. I might just knit one (sans pom pom) for myself.

I also had the time to make rhubarb-ginger jam and sorrel tart, and work on my socks, and read a few books. That's how fast the hat knit up.

I have a couple more projects going now. The trouble with the cowl I'm working on is that I don't like the yarn and I'm still new to cabling. In view of this, I have started another, simpler project involving cables, to get more practice (the fingerless gloves mentioned above). And I just wanted to knit them. There's a pair of socks to make as a Christmas gift that I should start soon, and I'm itching to start a lace shawl, using this pattern. I've already started writing out the charts (which I can read, but I do better with text--this way I can use both).

I also have another hat project going, but it's slower because I'm learning to do fair isle properly at the same time. I keep tangling my yarns. I'm not fond of fair isle, and I don' t know if I'll ever be. There are patterns out there that I like which use the technique, so I'm learning it, but I don't love it like I love lace and cables.

Well, I have to work tomorrow morning, so I'd better stop typing. Blogging turns into a bad habit--I write about pointless things just because I like to write.

05 July 2009

return of the vampire squid

It looks like I'll be doing another squid. My friend who received Squid V1 loved it, and one of her friends wants one. He wants a more anatomically correct version which means I have to put spikes on the inside of the squid's tentacles, although this makes it harder for Harvey to be worn as a hat. I also want to work out a couple things in the pattern. Harvey the Vampire Squid V1.2 will be started soon. Maybe when I hit the heel on my second sock.

03 July 2009

thinking longingly of snow

I've just started the second sock, but I'm itching to start something new. Oh wait, I did. I started on a Christmas gift (hah, in July! how's that for getting started early?). But it's a more fiddly project and I'm not altogether sure I like the yarn. It's purple and a little fluffy. Since it isn't for me, it's sort of a moot point whether I like the yarn or not. I have 3 skeins of the same kind (one more in purple, one in green), and it's a discontinued yarn. I won't be buying more, and it's perfect for Christmas cowls. Yes. Christmas cowls. Now I have a picture in my head of monks marching through the snow singing carols.

Anyway, cowls seem like nice gifts. They're warm, they won't have that annoying tendency to unwind themselves like scarves do, and they're smaller than scarves, so I can do some cool cables or lace and not feel like throwing the project out the window because it's taking too long. I've got yarn for at least four different ones. There's also at least one pair of socks on the list for Christmas. If those knit up fast enough, more will follow.

I didn't feel much like knitting today because it was so warm. My choices were fluffy wool yarn or alpaca sock yarn. No wonder I went looking for a pattern to fit the skein of hemp yarn. No wonder I'm itching to cast it on. It's cooler to work with. I'm almost starting to miss winter, even though we had ice on the inside of our windows back in December and the non-working heater meant that my sweaters got a lot of use. The current temperatures make me wish I liked cotton more.

it fits! (insert manical laughter here)

I am sitting here wearing a single sock because I have finished my first sock. Tomorrow I will cast on and begin the second one, but I was so excited about the first one that I had to put it on. It fits. The toe is at the toe and the heel is actually at my heel and it doesn't sag at the ankle. I was blessed (or cursed) with small feet, so socks that are made for my size (5-7) don't usually fit well because they are meant for a range of sizes. It's nice to wear something that really fits. I think I like handknit socks a lot. I may have to knit more.