Tuesday, October 31, 2006

I Do Love the Mail

The best part about ordering online is when your package finally arrives. This little beauty came yesterday, causing a definite frisson of excitement:

I had to hold my children back from the box until I got a picture of it, by the way - getting boxes in the mail is a huge highlight for them, even if it IS just yarn and needles.

Most of what's here is for a friend, but I did get two balls for swatching Eris: the Debbie Bliss Cotton Silk Aran, and the Peruvian Highland Wool. The CSA is a definite NO right out of the box: way too inelastic. The sample garment on Elann, and in other Debbie Bliss photos I've seen, is a heavily cabled cardigan, which encouraged me to give it a try despite the fiber content. But there's no way I can knit a cabled sweater with this yarn - my hands couldn't take it. It's like rope. But the yarn isn't a dead loss: I've got just enough for a little pair of wristers or something.

The Highland Wool is looking suspiciously familiar. In fact, it was separated at birth from Paton's Classic Merino, which regular readers will recognize as my True Medium. (I've said this often enough to warrant capitalizing it.) The Classic may actually be softer. I have yet to swatch the Highland Wool though, so differences may arise when I get it knitted up. It looks like it has a slightly looser spin, so probably a bit more pilling will occur. We'll see.

I also received my new Addi DPNs. Are you ready for this? 1.75mm. It makes my previously-tiny 2mms look like broomsticks.

And still, I feel I should have gone for the 1.5mm set. These needles are for something special, but something secret. After Christmas, all will be revealed.

Thank You.

...you know who you are: a Good Friend to me. I can't thank you enough.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Bloody Cheek

I am in the process of placing my first ever order with KnitPicks. It's an American company, so of course the first thing I did was checked the shipping charges, and found this little gem:

We are pleased to offer Canadian customers duty-free shopping from our Web site and our U.S. catalog. As a service to our Canadian customers, we collect from you only a GST & duty of 10% on the total value of items ordered, excluding any shipping charges. Please Note: You are responsible for any HST or PST over 10%, if applicable.

(First of all, what the hell does this mean: "We are pleased to offer our Canadian customers duty-free shopping...we collect from you only a GST & duty of 10%..."?)

Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but I think you have to have a GST number to collect GST. And wouldn't the Canadian government like to know that KnitPicks is helpfully collecting a 10% GST and duty for them? So I did some looking around the Canada Border Services Agency website (www.cbsa-asfc.gc.ca) and found this:

1. With certain exceptions as set out in paragraphs 2 and 3 [these exceptions include alcohol, tobacco, books and magazines], this Order applies to both non-commercial and commercial importations of goods through the mail.

2. When it has been determined that the value for duty of goods being imported by mail does not exceed CAN$20 per mail item, and the goods are not subject to the exceptions listed below, these goods are exempt from the goods and services tax (GST) and the harmonized sales tax (HST) under section 7 of Schedule VII of the Excise Tax Act and are granted remission of all customs duties, excise taxes, and provincial sales tax (PST).


I'm no taxation lawyer, but what that seems to say is, if the duty value of the package is assessed at less than $20 Canadian (and you can get a lot of yarn for a duty value of $20), you don't have to pay squat to bring it into the country by mail. So what is this little 10% scam they've got going, just a way to screw the Canadian customer? Lovely. How about they just be honest and say, "We here at KnitPicks never liked the NAFTA, so we add an extra 10% to all Canadian orders, just for living in the wrong damn country." But don't pretend you stick that 10% into an envelope marked "Canada Revenue Agency", attach a $1.10 stamp and pop it into the mail, just as a little service to your northern neighbours.

Friday, October 27, 2006

I can dream, can't I?

I am thinking about setting up a donation button so I can buy this:

Oh Yeah Baby

Now my dark secret is out. I'm a die hard Slayer Scooby.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Lacy Scallops

I thought it was time I posted on the Sock du Jour. Sockbug's Lacy Scallops pattern, in Fleece Artist 100% merino, 9 sts/inch on 2.25 mm Susan Bates circulars.

The colour isn't really accurate in this photo, but it's the same yarn that you can see here, and I actually like the way it's knitting up in the lace pattern. I know the pattern is obscured by the variegation, but the colours are so pretty that it really doesn't matter. At least they are not striping (the horror). I am actually quite a bit further on than this photo shows - I have turned the heel and picked up the gusset stitches - but the light isn't great for photos right now. I might wait til I have the whole first sock done, then post.

I know I kept saying that Bayerische and Chuck's Cabled Socks were next on my list, but I just haven't had the courage to start them. They both involve cabling, and Eunny Says that they should be done without a cable needle for speed. This terrifies me because I just can't get cabling without the cable needle. Every single time I try it, the temporarily-dropped stitches ladder down immediately, and I am left cursing and madly picking up with my spare 2 mm, trying to reconstruct the cables I've dropped off. I can do okay when the stitches are held (or, in this case, NOT held) in the front, but the back seems to be particularly troublesome. I don't know if I'm too tight a knitter to do this, or what.

But look how pretty the Mac Socker's Bayerische sock is:

It's tempting. Should I just do it with a cable needle, and commit to spending the next two years of my knitting life staring at the chart, painstakingly crossing stitch after stitch? I dunno.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

It's OKAY to Revere the Monarchy

Despite what I tell my daughter daily, secretly I, too, have a fascination with princesses. I spent about an hour here and I could spend another hour easily. Is it sick that I want to download Prince William's public appearance schedule, then merge it with my Outlook Calendar?

Monday, October 23, 2006

On the other hand, that's how I got into this mess in the first place.

You know how, sometimes, you've just had it? I've been looking at this for weeks:

and this morning I made myself back away from the yarn, and told myself sternly that I couldn't do anything....ANYTHING...until I could look at this:

That was a relief. But now I feel a bit depressed, because I walked into the kitchen and saw this:

Somebody hand me some yarn and pointy sticks: I need a little mental health break.

Friday, October 20, 2006

All About SWS

Now, some knitting. I have found a new yarn. It's GORGEOUS. I bought a swatch ball and am completely in love. The yarn is new from Patons: "SWS", which stands for "Soy Wool Stripe". It is 70% Wool, 30% Soy, in an aran weight (100m for 80g). Recommended tension is 17X21 over 10cm on 5.5mm.

This yarn is appealing on so many levels. It has the cuddle factor, nice and soft in the ball. It's not tightly spun, so I don't know how it will wear in the long term, but the relaxed spin makes a nice fuzzy yarn. There are occasional chunks of vegetable fiber in the strand, which are easily removed but, if left in, don't detract from the appearance anyway. Occasionally I snag a strand when knitting, even though I am using blunt-ish bamboo needles.

I like the long colour repeats in this yarn. The effect when knitted is definitely striped, but in a very laid-back way. It's not aggressive and clean-cut, but nice and muted. A different colourway would probably knit to a more noticeably striped fabric, since this colourway does not contain widely varying colours. I very much like the look of the "Natural Geranium", and I think that would come out beautifully pink-and-white-candy-cane. The "Geranium" is definitely on the short-list for a zero-ease version of Knitty's Sonnet, with nice pewter buttons.

The sheen is remarkable. I really must explore soy more fully as a fiber - I didn't know it would lend such a patina to the final product, but look at the moss stitch in this picture...

The yarn cables nicely, but whether you would want to use it for cables I don't know - you'd have to watch how many stitches you had on your needles, depending on the stripe you were going for, or there would be too much going on.

It could be really nice in a sweater knit in the round, if the stripes didn't knit up too thickly. For me, if I cast on enough to fit around me, I'd end up with about 175 stitches, and this would eliminate the thick stripe altogether. It might knit up into a spiral effect, actually...could be quite nice. Then, of course, if I divided at the armholes and knit front and back flat, the top stripes would be awfully thick compared to the lower ones. I'll have to beat up my swatch a bit and see whether it felts. If it does, a steek might be in order.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

And of course I'd like to thank the Academy.

Everyone knows that I love having my birthday. I always look forward to it, and make sure that everyone knows it's coming up, so they can wish me a Happy Birthday (I know - it seems childish now that I've said it out loud). All my friends are so wonderful, they phone me on my birthday, send me cards, bring me cake. Yes, even sometimes presents! Look at the beautiful thoughtful things my fabulous friends gave me.

These are handknit dishcloths. Observe the Log Cabin pattern... Log Cabin, people. Thank you Kate! (There was also chocolate, but no picture is available, unless I go get an X-ray.)

Christmas ornaments. You may laugh, but this girl gets me, you know? Thank you Sandy!

Some pretty, pendulous cuttings from what must be a beautiful plant, in a to-die-for vintage-style pot-bellied vase. Thank you Kendra!

There was also a voluptuous siren of a cheesecake...also gone. Thank you Karen.

-- Sigh of Contentment --

Monday, October 16, 2006

This Mortal Coil

Remember me when I am gone away,
Gone far away into the silent land;
When you can no more hold me by the hand,
Nor I half turn to go, yet turning stay.

Remember me when no more day by day
You tell me of our future that you plann'd:
Only remember me; you understand
It will be late to counsel then or pray.

Yet if you should forget me for a while
And afterwards remember, do not grieve:
For if the darkness and corruption leave
A vestige of the thoughts that once I had,
Better by far you should forget and smile
Than that you should remember and be sad.

-Christina Rossetti

My weekend was okay - punctuated unfortunately by a heart-rending memorial for the father of a friend. I never knew the man himself, but the memorial made me wish I had. I haven't been to many funerals in my life: this was only my third. It has been ten years since my grandmother's funeral so I had forgotten how the feeling stays with me...it's not a matter of simple sadness, or a sense of loss, but actual depression - sunken misery - and it hangs on for days. I remember a couple of posts by another blogger around the time a family member of hers passed away. When reading these posts, I was moved both to tears of sympathy, and to a profound despair at the seeming futility of our brief earthly experience.

But it's my birthday today
and Collette has made a paper cake
so I will put my pointy hat on my brain tumour
and dance.

Here's what I knit over the weekend. I found out (too late, as it turned out) about the Afghans for Afghans 900 sweater/vest drive, and was galvanized into action. I dug out my last two pucks of White Buffalo and my 6.5mm circular, did up a schematic, and cast on for a pretty sturdy little vest.

A note here about thick needles, thick yarn, and "fast" knitting: it doesn't work. There is a lot of chat about how fast it is to knit large yarn on large needles. "One-evening scarf!" or "Cast on this sweater on Wednesday, wear it to the party Friday night!"

It's all lies.

Knitting enormous six-strand unspun White Buffalo yarn, and Briggs & Little roving on 6.5mm needles takes FOREVER. Yes, even if the tension is 9 sts over 4 inches (there are only 61 sts per round in this sucker). My other current project is a pair of lace socks at 9.5 sts to the inch on size 2.25mm needles, and it flies compared to this vest. Part of the problem is that I can't knit continental (yarn carried in my left hand, tensioned over my ring finger) when using huge yarn. I have to knit English (or American, whichever you may call it) with the yarn carried in my right hand. I'm out of practice doing this, and it involves a lot of extra motion, so the knitting is slower. You also have to be careful not to pull too hard on the roving, or it will just come apart. Once the strands are knitted they are very strong; but as they come off the "puck", they pull apart like cotton candy. So, not too much speed. Additionally, after a couple of hours the exaggerated motions and the heavy yarn made my hands ache like the devil.

BUT, I got the vest done.

I still have to add a single-crochet edge in the contrast colour to the neck and armholes, to deal with the curling. I don't think it'll solve it entirely, but it'll still warm up the little body it's put on. Unfortunately I didn't find out about the drive early enough to have it done on time, so I think it'll go into the box for Dulaan 2007, along with two hats in the same yarn, and whatever the Stitch and Bitch produces in the coming six months or so. I don't do a lot of charity knitting but I thought the kids over in Afghanistan, or Mongolia, would appreciate the White Buffalo more than I would...I certainly can't handle knitting a me-sized garment with that yarn and those needles.

Still haven't found my Destiny Yarn for Eris...I am thinking of going in a different direction for a while. What does everyone think of this? No fitting, no pressure. Just something really warm and woolly that I can throw on at home. I am thinking about either Paton's Classic Merino (my true medium) or possibly, if I can swing it, Noro. I haven't decided whether Kureyon or Silk Garden. I did get some birthday money, after all...

Okay, time to hit the duvet: it's Day Two of my campaign against insomnia. The light is going out and by God I am going to lie here until I fall asleep or go mad. Note the nice early time of this post - begun at 9:00 PM and completed at 11:41, after many interruptions. I'm actually going to bed at night, instead of early in the morning! Great improvement!

In Which the Blogger Turns 33

Happy Birthday to me!
Happy Birthday to me!
Happy Birthday to me-e-e-e-e...

Happy Birthday to me!

I just turned 33 five minutes ago. So far things seem basically the same.

I have made a birthday resolution to try to go to bed early, so I'll be off now. This is definitely the year I beat insomnia...I can feel it. More later today on my newest FO, and maybe a bit of whatever else I can rustle up. (I'm thinking of a movie review...we'll see how it goes.)

G'night, dolls - next time you see me, a little cake wouldn't go unappreciated.

(Speaking of cake, Kate, should I host Stitch and Bitch this week? Or is it The Other K's turn?)

Friday, October 13, 2006

New project!

I have begun swatching for Eris, a sweater I've had in mind for a while. I love the pattern, but this is one of those situations where climate has stopped me from casting on. The mean winter temperature in this area is 3 degrees celsius, meaning an all-wool sweater is going to be unreasonably hot.

Because of this climate, I've had a devil of a time choosing a workable yarn. I wanted a wool/cotton blend, or maybe wool/silk, but there are few choices in the right weight. I have to be able to get 5 stitches and 7 rows (also 8 rows, for the collar) per inch. Yarn stores are not thick on the ground here, so it's hard to collect skeins for swatching without ordering, sight unseen, from an online store.

(Here is where you comment with your recommendations.)

Anyway, I found this blend in my LYS last weekend - it's SandnesGarn "Scala": 26% wool, 64% cotton, and 10% linen. I had reservations about it when the saleslady showed it to me, but I bought a ball to swatch with anyway. Here is what the stockinette looks like:

and here is how it looks cabled.

The jury is definitely out on this one. What do you all think? Can I make it work? My personal opinion is that the thick-and-thin yarn detracts from the cabley goodness, and of course there's the tactile drawback: all the vegetable fiber is fairly unrefined, which makes it quite rough on the fingers. The finished fabric is not scratchy, though. As an added imperfection, the variable thickness makes it impossible for me to knit it without looking. In a sweater that's 90% stockinette, this is a problem.

But do we like how it looks?

Must run. Here's what's keeping me busy today:

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Mundo Brevis

On my nightstand

On my iPod

On the menu

On the needles

On my mind.

Wish you were here.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

I'm in Acquisitions.

All right girls, seriously: how much do we love these?

They are a size 10: the only pair left when I found these beauties. Too big? Yes. But that's what insoles are for, my dears.

Note the sassy up-curve on the toe:

Happy feet.

And, in an unrelated story, here is what judicious summer deadheading gets you in October:

Monday, October 09, 2006

Emily's Finished Cardigan

Ahh... sweet success. I have finished the second Sirdar Snuggly cardigan, for Daughter #2 this time. I LOVE this sweater.

Pattern: Sirdar (Book unknown)
Yarn: Sirdar Snuggly DK 55% Nylon, 45% Acrylic, in Cerise Mix. From www.yarnforward.ca
Needles: Clover Takumi bamboo 3.75 mm circular
Tension: 22 sts over 10 cm in stockinette
Cast On: approx September 20, 2006
Cast Off: October 1, 2006
Sewn Up: October 7, 2006
Comments: I like this pattern a lot. I had trouble with one little stitch - the top of each heart is a k4tog, and I discovered two or three times, when casting off a piece, that I had dropped one of these four stitches as I was knitting them together. For some reason, the infamous Nylon Squeak wasn't as bad with this sweater. I liked the pattern better, too - much faster to knit and to finish. I would make this again, no problem, for another lucky little girl. Emily's will fit her for a couple of years, because I made the 3-4 size and, as I've noticed, Sirdar sizes are slightly generous.

Once again, may I draw your attention to the side seam?

And the side seam in moss:

A slightly-closer front view:

The front, and the back:

And how cute are these two together? (I mean the sweaters, obviously...)

Sunday, October 08, 2006


Just back from a spectacular, butter-glutted, wine-soaked Thanksgiving feast. Sadly, the effects of the alcohol are about to wear off, so I'd better post quick before I think better of it. My friend Sandy and I consumed two bottles of wine and a respectably-mixed Blueberry Tea during and after her admirably appointed dinner tonight, notwithstanding the fact that our children were present. Luckily the husbands were in attendance to see to all matters of infant hygiene, care and feeding.

Here is what I've noticed. Now that I have had children, my alcohol tolerance has gone the way of the full-night's-sleep and the long-soak-in-the-tub. Why is that? How did I become simultaneously:
- a nursing mother, cradling my young one at the breast, wiping away little bits of frothy milk from her cherubic lips;
- a daughter of Artemis (or would it be Hestia?) at once gentle, terrible, and fecund, nurturing the children scampering about my feet; and
- a totally cheap drunk?

Please don't examine too closely the punctuation of that last sentence. I finally had to settle on a bulleted list to make any sense of it.

Tomorrow, daughter #2's finished cardigan. If I'm not too hung over.

Worth Deciphering

This is nothing short of genius.

How anybody can compose a story by word of mouth face to face with a bored-looking secretary with a notebook is more than I can imagine. Yet many authors think nothing of saying, "Ready, Miss Spelvin? Take dictation. Quote No comma Sir Jasper Murgatroyd comma close quotes comma said no better make it hissed Evangeline comma quote I would not marry you if you were the last man on earth period close quotes Quote Well comma I'm not comma so the point does not arise comma close quotes replied Sir Jasper twirling his moustache cynically period And so the long day wore on period. End of chapter."

If I had to do that sort of thing I should be feeling all the time that the girl was saying to herself as she took it down, "Well comma this beats me period How comma with homes for the feebleminded touting for custom on every side comma has a man like this succeeded in remaining at large mark of interrogation."

P.G. Wodehouse, Over Seventy

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Correct me if I'm wrong, but...

I think the knitting gods just spat in my face.

"What, honey? Of COURSE it's a great idea to buy no-name bamboo needles, off eBay, from some guy in Hong Kong. Are you kidding me? I am getting four pairs for $1.14, how could it go wrong? This is SUCH a deal, there's totally no difference between these and, say, Clover Takumi. I love saving money."

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Show and Tell

Finished objects! It feels great to actually have wearable FOs. I have had quite a few things lately that are "finished except for buttons" or "just needs blocking" - it's annoying. But, I now have two Finished things to show you.

Number One, Pomatomus.

Pattern: Knitty's Pomatomus
Yarn: Socks that Rock 100% superwash merino in "Star Sapphire", from Marilyn's Yarn in Bellingham, WA, USA
Needles: Two circular and magic loop methods, Aero 2mm aluminum circulars
Tension: 9.5 sts per inch in stockinette
Cast on: (approx) August 5, 2006
Cast off: September 30, 2006
I am happy with the pattern, but I have to admit I like it better unstretched than stretched. If I were to make it again (if I develop a sudden overwhelming masochism, for instance) I would use a larger needle size and just live with a looser sock, so the pattern would not have to stretch so much laterally.

Number Two, Charlotte's striped cardigan .

Pattern: Sirdar
Yarn: Sirdar Snuggly DK 55% Nylon, 45% Acrylic in Nursery Pink, Oatmeal, and Cerise Mix from www.yarnforward.ca and Mad About Ewe in Nanaimo, BC.
Needles: Clover Takumi Bamboo Circular sizes 3.75mm and 4.0mm
Tension: 22 sts over 10 cm in stockinette
Cast on: February 1, 2006
Cast off: July 1, 2006
Buttons sewn: October 2, 2006 (I've got problems, I know. Three months to do the finishing? But, in my defense, there were a million freaking yarn ends to weave in. Seriously.)
This is the third sweater I have knit from my Sirdar book, whose cover I have lost so I can't identify the publication number. I like the designs a lot, but I am not completely in love with Sirdar's directions and assembly decisions. It pays to read through the whole pattern and try to visualize what they want the end product to look like, and see whether there is a better/more efficient/easier/more practical way to get there yourself. As it happens, I only modified this pattern slightly, by knitting the sleeves from the top down in the round, rather than knitting flat from the cuff, and seaming. I wanted to be able to rip out and add more later if necessary, or repair the cuffs.

I do like the yarn, which is surprising. I am not often a fan of synthetics, but I have come to like this one. At $5.95 for a 50g ball it is on the pricey side for a synthetic, but on the other hand you are knitting children's garments with it, so the most you're going to use is about 6 or 7 balls. It cleans beautifully, and it really is soft enough to warrant its title. (How do I know it cleans beautifully? I ordered the box of yarn from an online store and, when it arrived, I opened it and placed it at the business end of my couch, for later attention. Not long after, there was a glass of merlot sitting on the end table and my daughter accidentally knocked it over... right into the box of yarn. A quick rinse under a cold tap and Voila! no trace whatsoever.) It remains to be seen how well it will wear, whether it will pill or anything. I have also knit (but not blocked or seamed) Emily a sweater in the same yarn, from the same book, so I do hope it turns out that the yarn wears well.

I do have one negative thing to say about the yarn. It's a nylon/acrylic blend, and it squeaks as I knit it on my bamboo needles. This is not a matter of tightness, but of the fiber itself. It absolutely sets my teeth on edge.

Here is Charlotte wearing her new sweater.

And here is the side seam. What? What side seam? Where? Where is the side seam?

That's right, baby - virtually undetectable.

It feels like I haven't been knitting much lately. My current level of productivity is suffering both by contrast to the year-to-date (a prolific year) and as a result of a lot of new time commitments. Right now, as hard as this is for me to believe, I have nothing on the needles. I feel a little uneasy about this, but am trying to resist the urge to simply cast on for the sake of knitting itself, having no direction for the finished product. Christmas approaches rapidly, so I know there are at least two pairs of socks in my near future, but I am just not sure about the patterns (Bayerische and Chuck's Cabled Socks). I thought I had it all figured out, but then I was attacked by second thoughts. I won't say more, since the intended recipients may, some time before Christmas, take a look at this blog.

Tomorrow night is Stitch 'n' Bitch again, only here at my place this time. I need to get something on the needles, pronto.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Fall Planting

Wow, great weekend. I luckily remembered just in time that it was the last day of the garden centre fall sale, so I dashed down there and grabbed some bargains. I got the apple tree of my dreams (Red Northern Spy), which I haven't brought home yet because I need to borrow a truck; I got some great ornamental grasses; and a euonymus "burning bush", long coveted.

I bought this little beauty, a dwarf sumac. Full grown height and spread is 8' by 7'.

I also picked up a little pot of mums, but unfortunately my children begged and roared for purple, so that's what I got. I'm a softie.

I much prefer these ones, which were already in our garden when we moved here. Don't they look great next to these whatever-they-are with the silvery leaves and rosy berries? Help me out here, Kate.

Tomorrow, some finished knitting.