Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Bamboo-zled

In the words I stole from Cathy, who claims she stole them from somebody else; "Oh, for Geez!"

I'm working so much overtime these days I don't know up from down. Somehow, I still know knit from purl, part due to my realization that all-work-and-no-knit-makes-Julia-an -intolerable-bitch. When I start to feel selfish about spending some time each day knitting, I remind myself a little knitting is better than showing up at the office with a blow-torch. Long story short: this scarf saved an innocent office building from reckless arson by an over-worked animator.


PATTERN: Lace Ribbon Scarf by Veronik Avery from Knitty Spring 2008
YARN: La Droguerie soie vegetale - bambou (bamboo yarn I bought in Lyon, France)
NEEDLES: 3.75mm addi turbo lace needles


I really loved knitting this scarf. Scarves usually get monotonous and boring, but somehow, this kept my interest all the way through. It didn't hurt that I had a deadline. I meant to have the scarf knit in time to wear to the Knitters Frolic and I just managed to do it - by the skin of my teeth! The morning of the Frolic I had this much to go:


I knit, I read the paper, I knit, I ate granola, I knit, I drank coffee, and miraculously:


I finished. (Note level of coffee in before and after shots)


Fully caffeinated, I got to wear a brand new knit to the Frolic. The whole ordeal was a self-imposed deadline, but let me tell you, I was certainly not alone. "Finish-for-Frolic" knits were rampant at the event. Fibre-fests are as much show-and-tell as they are fondle-and-purchase, no?

Oh yeah, and while I'm moaning about work stress, allow me to make an announcement. Drumroll please...

I QUIT MY JOB!!!

I'll be working until the end of May and then school's out for summer, baby! It's a little crazy as I don't have another job lined up but for the sake of my sanity I need a change. Here's hoping I'll land on my feet!

Sunday, April 27, 2008

The Frolic, part 1: Fellowship of the Yarn

I'm here, I'm here! If you're wondering why I haven't blogged in so long, well, refer to my last post. Unfortunately, not having the time to blog does not necessarily coincide with having nothing to blog about. This results in a back-up, back-log, back-blog(?) of blog fodder. Blog, blog, blog. Could I use the word blog, more? I sound like Diablo Cody!

So let's dole this out in manageable portions, mmm-kay? To start; THE FROLIC!!!


The Downtown Knit Collective's annual Knitter's Frolic is the closest thing to a fibre festival Toronto has to offer. Judging by my reaction to this much yarn in a single location, it's probably for the best we don't host something larger. I liken it to my life before cable. When I had just four channels to choose from, it was simple to find something to watch on tv. (Soap opera beats French channel, cooking show beats soap opera, Oprah beats everybody.) Cable? Digital cable? On demand cable? Too many choices for my little brain to handle. Such was the situation at the frolic.

(These sorry-looking pictures don't really do justice to the scope of the Frolic, but keep in mind my focus was much more intent on the yarn than the photography)

This year I had a time restriction, which both helped and hindered. You see, I signed up for a class that was to take place between 2 and 5 pm (more on that next time) and given the frolicking was scheduled to end at 4, I had to decide exactly how much time I would need to shop before my class. I decided two hours was reasonable.

The first hour was spent wandering around overloading my senses with colour and texture. The next half hour or so was spent recognizing faces amongst the yarn and chit-chatting with ma' knittahs. I wasn't until the last fifteen minutes were finally spent making purchases.

My first purchase was a direct result of standing in one place for too long. You see, when you're not on the move, yarn purveyors might talk to you. Those yarn purveyors are sneaky. They can smell weakness on you like patchouli on hippie. They smile and make small talk and before you know it they have you fondling some fabulous fibre and it's all over. I stood a little too close to this:


And before I knew what I was doing, I had purchased this:


Damn you, Needles and Pins! Two skeins of eggplant coloured, lace-weight bamboo. I don't know what those Habu people do, but this stuff feels like freakin' cashmere. I'm also not sure exactly what I'm going to do with this yarn, but I'm thinking it might fit somewhere into Amy's liberate-your-laceweight initiative.

My second purchase was a little more premeditated. Good Buy Yarn sells discontinued and end-of-line yarns. Their booth totally appeals to my bargain hunter/thrift shopping instincts. Big bins of pre-bagged goodies? Don't mind if I do! If it was stacked neatly in baskets I wouldn't have had nearly as much fun. I rummaged through the booth for ages, then after seeking the advice of other knitters and "visiting" the yarn three times over... I finally took the plunge:



Seven skeins of Rowan felted tweed in "herb". (This time, I know exactly what I'm going to make with it, but yeah, more on that another time.) Tweed in tow, I made my way to class, where I thought I was safe. I didn't realize there'd be recess. Oops.


This lovely yarn is Miski baby llama. Mmmm... it's like buttah! (I hope to turn this into a simple, striped pullover) In the fifteen minute break I managed to purchase a sweater's worth of yarn. It was on the route to the washroom! It was on sale! How could I resist? I was feeling a little guilty about it until I returned to my class to discover half group had made "recess" purchases. Hey, we're only human!

After all the frolicking, I was lucky enough to catch a ride back downtown with Megan and the gang from Lettuce Knit (just another one of the myriad reasons it's lovely to live around the corner from a yarn shop.) Did I forget to mention the TTC decided to go on strike without warning? No public transit for the one day I need to go somewhere outside of reasonable cycling distance? Didn't they know about the Frolic? Didn't they know I don't have a car? Of course today they're back to work. The day I don't need to leave my house. Way to raise commuter sympathy, you jerks!

Despite transportation issues, the knitters were still out in full force. Post-Frolic, Lettuce Knit hosted the More Big Girl Knits launch party. I may not be a "big girl", but it's a great book and I like to support my peeps. Besides, all the cool kids were there! Sweaters, and cupcakes and yarn - oh my! (The event was well documented so check other T.O. knit blogs if you're itchin' for pics) And, hello? Prizes!



I scored a delicious cucumber and lavender "Knit-a-row-matherapy" soy candle from Namaste.
It smells fantastic and it was promptly put to use as soon as I made it home.

So like, best day ever! Stay tuned for my finish-for-Frolic project and tales of Intarsia class!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Curing stress with two needles

I have been under a lot of stress lately. I know we've all been there. Stretched too thin, no free time, all work no play. I'm exhausted. I wake up exhausted and fumble around the house like the undead, and much like the undead (ie: zombies), I am a danger to both myself, and others.

Case in point: Monday I put the kettle on, then shuffled off to the bathroom to make myself presentable. I do this every morning. By the time I have smeared enough concealer under my eyes to disguise looking like the undead, the kettle is usually whistling and I'm ready to pour some hot water over coffee grinds (I use a french press to make coffee, if that sounds confusing). This particular morning, after my usual struggle with the hairbrush and mascara wand, the air was silent. There was no whistling or rumbling or any kind of noise to indicate the kettle was doing it's duty.

My first thought was that I had filled the kettle, then forgot to turn the element up on the stove. This is an unfortunate, yet not infrequent occurrence. This morning, the element was up. All the way up . All the way up on the wrong burner. All the way up on the wrong burner, under an empty pot. I entered the kitchen, adequately presentable, to find the pot smoking and filling the morning air with that oh-so-pleasant eau de plastic char. The empty pot had grown so hot that the plastic handle on the lid had begun to melt. Son of a *^#&%:! I could have burned my house down!

Another case in point: Midway through Tuesday morning I started feeling queasy. I have a relatively strong stomach, and nausea is something I only experience when ill or terrifically hungover. Knowing no alcohol had passed my lips the night before and without further signs of illness, I began to panic. Quietly and inwardly loosing my cool, alone in my cubicle, I feared the only other option: there's a bun in the oven! (This conclusion was highly unlikely, yet I understand, despite my best efforts, I'm not immune to pregnancy.)

Upon returning home, having eaten next to nothing for lunch, I was finally starting to regain my appetite. I was rummaging in the fridge for something relatively benign to eat when the answer to my tummy troubles smacked me right in the face; orange juice! I picked up the carton and looked at the expiry date. Son of a *^#&%:!

Why am I telling you all this about burning pots and iffy o.j.? These are symptoms, my friends. Symptoms of an over-worked and under-knit woman. I came to realize that the two life-threatening mornings I'd had this week directly followed knit-less evenings.

Interesting.

I have tried to recall the last time I have not knit for forty-eight hours. I can't. In the past year or two, not a day goes by where I don't knit. Even if it's for five minutes, I pick up those sticks and throw some yarn around.

Wednesday night? I took the night "off". Sure I stayed late at the office. Sure I met with my accountant after that. But when I got home? I uncorked a nice cab/sauv., ordered some sushi, and sat down to knit.

This morning I woke up a new woman. No kidding. No groggy accidents. No questionable breakfast beverages. And you know what? I was happy today. Simple pleasures my friends. Simple pleasures.

Monday, April 14, 2008

It's a girl!

My first born pattern:
The Jenny Cloche is ready to take on the world! Want a copy? Email me, and/or send Paypal payment of $2 US to the address under "view my complete profile".

I am shocked and thrilled that this little pattern has generated so much interest already. I put the pattern in the Ravelry database yesterday, not realizing I would not be able to sell the pattern through Ravelry immediately. (We all know that Ravelry is a work in progress and I totally understand that not everything can be activated for everybody at every moment. God help us all if we overload the system an Ravelry blows up some day. The horror!).

Despite the absence of store or any sort of fanfare whatsoever, I have already sold THREE patterns! Sure, that might not sound like a lot to some, but I was worried no one would want to knit the pattern let alone pay for it. Which brings me to my next point.

If you're a regular over here at Knitteroo, you may recall I originally intended to offer this pattern for free. Well, after much deliberation and some great advice from even greater knitters, I have decided that would be selling myself short.

I had felt that it would be unethical to receive money for something that wasn't an idea completely original to me. This hat is a replica of a factory made hat. I work in the art/design world where copyright infringement is serious business. That said, it sure doesn't stop people from ripping each other off left right and centre. The onlu difference is they refer to it as "ripping off", they call it "inspired by". This is why we had to endure the torture of a slew of commercials using characters with Scottish accents after the success of Shrek. Can't you people come up with an original idea to sell gum? Cereal? Beer?!! But I digress.

I suppose things are a little different in the knitting world. I see patterns inspired by runway fashions all the time and I have no problem with that. So what's my issue? I suppose the question is where the line is drawn. It's a tough one.

In the end, after all the time I spent figuring out how to knit the hat, writing the pattern and designing the layout, I think maybe I do deserve a little something for the effort. But hey, to appease my humility; I'm sellin' cheap!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Swap till you drop

How much swapping can one girl handle in a week? The other night I came home to this:


Whee! Isn't mail awesome? Email might be fast and convenient, but nothing beats a cardboard box with your name on it sitting on your front step. It's a welcome change from the eXtreme Fitness flyers and overdue Hydro bills that usually fill my mailbox.


This bounty is from Kristina in Sweden. She found some yarn in my "trade" stash on Ravelry and asked what I would like in return. As I'm quite fond of all things Swedish (H&M! Ikea! Lingonberries!), I requested local, Swedish yarn. Oh, and chocolate. I'm not an idiot!

Kristina included a very detailed note about the yarn, so I'll leave the explaining to her. (My comments in italics)

The pale greeen and soft grey are Swedish Rya yarn. This is yarn from a special Swedish breed of sheep - although many breeds can have Rya wool, only the Swedish Rya Sheep has enough wool to make it worthwhile. I don't know if there are any foreign Rya yarn breeds out there though. Rya yarn is mainly used for rugs nowadays, but has been used for blankets in the old days. I find it perfectly suited for making socks! It wears extremely well, in fact it gets very shiny when used! It is very long lasting and since it's moth proof it is a gorgeous sock yarn! Especially if you don't want to wear nylon or other man made materials. This is 100% Swedish Rya wool. It is discontinued, so unfortunately, these are the only skeins I have to share in these colours.

This stuff is like no other yarn I've met before. It's very tightly spun and almost like rope, yet somehow not at all scratchy or rough. It's got great sheen to it too. Even though I'm not a big sock knitter, this yarn just screams socks. When yarn screams, I listen.

The Drops Alpaca is not a Swedish yarn; it is a Norwegian brand and Peruvian alpacas. I added this because it was in my stash and I thought you might like it!

You though right, lady. Mmm... alpaca...

The pink lace yarn is another Swedish wool yarn. This comes from the Swedish Finull (= fine wool) sheep. Actually, this sheep is a mixture of of a few breeds, but I think that could make it a a breed of it's own, right? Anyway, the yarn is made in Sweden from the sheep to skein. The producer, Ullcentrum, spins yarn of white, gray and black sheep to get colour variations, and then dyes the thing. This is why the pink is variegated!

How cool is that? Variegated before it's dyed. It's a very soft and squishy single ply yarn. The strands really stick to each other, so I'd like to exploit this in someway. It's going to need just the right pattern.

The dark red/wine red yarn is also Swedish. I don't know what kind of wool that is though, it was sold as "Swedish wool yarn". Actually, several Swedish wool yarn manufacturers don't use labels. I don't know why that is.

Is knitting so much more popular in Sweden that they just assume yarn-buyers will instinctively know what needles to use? The gauge? How much yardage is in a skein? Interesting. It's some nice yarn, though!

I hope you like the sweets!
Kristina (sticktantem)
The chocolate is, err, was, fantastic. Then this guy had me puzzled for bit:

Menacing bear... Salta? My guess was some kind of licorice thing, though I couldn't quite figure out the bear connection.


Aha! Wee licorice bears! This is serious licorice. Not like that Twizzlers nonsense that's just a vehicle for high fructose corn syrup. Serious. Swedish. licorice.

In the not-so-serious arena: Do you think this has ever been featured in Vice Magazine's tidbits section?:

Monday, April 07, 2008

Swapping: the new shopping

If you haven't participated in a clothing swap, I highly recommend it. I recently scored some barely used heels and an awesome pink vintage trench at a swap Cathy hosted. To ice the proverbial cake, I discovered another swap within the very same week. Last Sunday the Workroom and City of Craft hosted a craft swap! I unloaded a big 'ole bag of under-appreciated yarn and fabric and exchanged it for this meaty haul:

The goods, clockwise from bottom:

1 -A couple of peacock feathers soon to become earrings. A couple of months ago I bought myself a pair of peacock feather earrings and promptly left one somewhere between King and Church and Kensington market. Should you find a stray peacock feather in this vicinity, please return to P.O. box...
Serves me right, really. What am I doing buying things I can make myself?

2 - You know I can't resist a vintage knitting booklet when I see one, so I could hardly pass up Patons gloves and mitts. Nothing too wacky in there, just good, solid handwear. (Is handwear a word? It sounds wrong. And somehow...dirty)

3 - Two silky fabrics destined to become the infamous Simplicity 4077 :

I'm a big fan of view "D" (bottom modeled pic). I've never sewn buttonholes before. Pray for me!

4 - Last but not least; YARN! After ransacking the yarn table, I managed to narrow my choices down to just two skeins. I tried to take something I may actually use rather than going the omigod-it's-free-yarn-take-as-much-as-you-can-carry route. It's a nice single ply, bulky yarn I suspect is to be a wool/mohair blend. Judging by the shape of the skein I'm ruling out Lamb's Pride bulky, but it's definitely similar. Anyone have an idea what it might be?

Saturday, April 05, 2008

L'escharpe Printemps

I hope that title means "spring scarf" because that's exactly what I'm knitting:


Stuff on my cat!

The way I figure, Teddy spends so much time getting hair on my knitting I may as well beat him to the punch.


Unfortunately, he doesn't seem nearly as bothered by having knitting on his fur as I am by having his fur on my knitting. (And why is he not lying in that patch of sunlight? Isn't that what cats do? Hmm... Maybe as a red-head he knows it's safer to stay in the shade.)

Oh right, the knitting? It's the Lace Ribbons Scarf from the latest Knitty, knit with the bamboo yarn I got in France.


So far, I'm completely Loving this project. After knitting my Mum's swallowtail shawl, I didn't think I would be coming back to lace knitting so soon. That shawl and I had a lot of fights and like Great White says; "Once bitten; twice shy."

This lace on the other hand, is a lace of a different colour (har-har). It looks more complicated than it really is. Most of the time when I hear "the pattern is easy to memorize" I'm all; "Maybe for you, Einstein!". I have a great talent for messing up just about any piece of knitting regardless of complexity, and this pattern? Easy to memorize. Really. Not only that, with a little help from stitch markers I can even multi-task. Last night I knit while watching I am Legend and didn't drop a stitch. This pattern is zombie proof, people. Zombie proof!

Now that I've tempted fate enough to ensure my knitting will burst into flames, I'm going to sign off and enjoy the sunshine. Spring is sproingin' up all over the place in Toronto this weekend. No more snow - YAY!