My Five Deserted-Island Knitting Tools, Part One

Over the years, I've bought so many knitting tools, and these are the ones I reach for over and over and over again.

There are some really obvious ones I won't include in this list -- anything that's so essential to the craft it couldn't be done without it, like knitting needles and some kind of string.  Beyond that, I'd say well-designed and dependable knitting tools are maybe not essential, but so nice to have. I do get really rapturous when I talk about good tools; do you?

1. Stitch markers

There are so many kinds of stitch markers, and everyone has their favourites.  I've tried all different ones: dangly, metal, plastic, homemade, you name it. Lately the ones I love best are plastic rings, because they're smooth, don't snag, are cheap, and come in a million colours, and dangly snag-free ones made from beading supplies.

Tools3.jpg

I usually use one dangly one to denote the beginning of a round, if I'm knitting circularly, and use smooth plastic or metal rings to mark places where shaping will occur.

I also occasionally use locking stitch markers too, and the single way I use them most is to mark off divisions along an edge where I need to pick up stitches.  Say, for example, I need to pick up and knit 80 stitches for a collar. I'll use the locking stitch markers to divide the neck opening into eight sections, and then I know I only have to pick up and knit 10 stitches in each section.  I usually end up with a really nice pick-up edge, with the stitches evenly divided, and the correct ratio of pickup stitches. As well, I never have to redo the pick-up, because I can correct any spacing mistakes as I go and not have them all pile up at the end.

2. Clover bent tapestry needles

 I have all kinds of tapestry needles, but the gold bent-tip ones are my favourite

I have all kinds of tapestry needles, but the gold bent-tip ones are my favourite

I've got so many tapestry needles, but this is the one I always reach for.  It's not sharp, so it's perfect for hiding ends without piercing the work (if that's what you want to do), duplicate stitching, and grafting. Not only it is blunt, but it's somehow exactly the right bluntness so that you can get it wherever you need it, and it doesn't go where you don't want it to.  The eyes are huge and easy to thread; the shaft is smooth and never catches your work; the bent tip is excellent for lifting and poking exactly where you want. They come in a set of two (though I hope you never lose one) in their own perfect carrying case. Best ever!

 

3. Clover locking row counter

Tools1.jpg

Again, I've got tons of row counters, because I always have so many projects going at once and use a counter with nearly every project.  However, this is my all-time favourite ones: they lock so you don't get any accidental clicks when you carry the project around (or when your three-year-old decides to get click-happy with your counter), they're durable, and they click very satisfyingly.  I don't use this, but they do also have a place to attach a string, should you want to keep yours around your neck.

That's my first three; I'll tell you all about the last two on my list on Wednesday.  See you then :)

Free Pattern Friday: Kindness Shawl

Jaala Spiro’s Kindness Shawl is just lovely.  The lace, the mesh, the soothing oceanic tones:

  Image by Knitcircus

Image by Knitcircus

Look Pumpkin Sunrise’s version!  I can’t stop looking at that colourway.  She’s right; it’s perfect for that one skein of indie dyer yarn that you just couldn’t leave behind at the last fibre fair you went to.  I’ll be the first to admit I have a drawer full of those! Or you could put together a few ball ends for an ombre look like in the original.   

 

 

Book Nook: Making Winter: A Creative Guide for Surviving the Winter Months

What motivates you to knit (or sew, crochet, bake, etc.)?  I’ve usually heard crafters divided into two broad categories:  process crafters, for whom the crafting itself is the goal, and product crafters, for whom the finished object is the goal.  And of course, many makers are probably some combination of the two; people who value both the act of creating and the creation itself.  So overall, some of us like having handmade things, but as Emma Mitchell points out in her Guardian article, some of us feel a need to use our hands to make things, because that's how we begin to feel calm and feel whole.   She says that when she went through a difficult period in her life, and also when she was likely suffering from seasonal affective disorder (SAD):

[m]aking was conferring a sense of achievement on dark, difficult days – but more than that, there is evidence that it confers a mental state similar to that induced by yoga or meditation, and can lift mood.

She cites a couple of studies that show that the act of making can actually change the levels of hormones that mediate mood, and I would agree with those results, based on anecdotal experience.

 Enough snow for you?

Enough snow for you?

Making and crafting can definitely be stressful, when you are under a deadline (self-imposed or not), but overall I find it soothing and necessary for my day.  I just don't feel right at the end of the day when I haven't made the time to use my hands for creative ends.

Reading Emma Mitchell’s thoughts (and those of knitters like Clara Parkes and Rachel Herron, who have written extensively about what motivates them to knit), I’ve come to recognize that I use crafting as a way to alleviate sadness and maybe even depression, and I use crafting or making as a way to keep myself busy during a long, cold winter.  It’s partly a social activity for me too, in that I like knitting groups and I like knitting and chatting with my sister over Skype, but knitting (and making in general) is who I am when I’m at my most relaxed.   

MakingWinter4.jpg

If you’re interested in Emma Mitchell’s ideas, she has written a book expanding on what she talks about in that article.  Making Winter started as a blog project and grew to become a book that was published last October.  It has a variety of crafting/making projects, and while I didn't see any knitting ones, there are a few nice crocheted projects. The book doesn't include any basic crochet instructions, but she does have some available on her website.  She's also got some cozy-looking recipes (plum, orange, and ginger blondies, anyone?) and projects that involve collecting natural paraphernalia (leaves and twigs and so on) for use in projects. It's such a nice cross-section of different creative endeavours, combined with a naturalist bent, and all illustrated with clear, inspiring photography.  It really makes me want to stay inside and start creating!

Top image mine; middle and two bottom images by Michael O'Mara Books

Interweave Knits, Spring 2018

This is the first spring issue that's made an impression on me, guys!  I know that doesn't sound like much, but I usually don't pay much attention to spring and summer issues of knitting magazines because they just include a lot of projects that aren't that useful to me (cotton knits, sleeveless shell, openwork tops, knitted skirts).   This one, though -- so many beautiful, wearable knits in both collections (Moto Knits and Evergreen Retreat).  There's some recognition that spring can be on the cool side, and that you may be wearing a sweater as your outer layer. 

Above (left to right):  Saddleback Mountain Cardigan, Elk Meadow Pullover, Bergen Peak Pullover, Clear Creek Cardigan

Above (left to right):  Throttle Moto Jacket, Dual Sport Pullover, Straightaway Cardigan, Evergreen Mountain Pullover

There are also a couple of hat patterns, also very cute, and an article about the difference in gauge when stranded colourwork and plain stockinette are combined.  It's pretty useful stuff to know, actually, because I have experienced that same problem and I now know to go up a needle size for the colourwork part, to avoid it.

Check out the whole issue here.

All images by Interweave Knits

Free Pattern Friday: Meabh's Cardigan

I am sure that isn't actually spelled correctly, in that I can't really figure out how to put accents on letters in Squarespace, but if you can forgive that then you'll find a beautiful cardigan for infants and toddlers (it's sized from 0-4 years).  The yarn choice is perfect, and I love the cabling detail on the back, with the cables emerging from a ribbed fabric.

There's a matching hat too, if you're into that sort of thing.

All images by Ciara Ni Reachtnin

Taking Stock, February 2018

Reading:  Elizabeth George's Inspector Lynley series -- I don't know how I managed to go so long without discovering these amazing books!  A friend recommended them last summer, and I only just got around to starting the series.  I blasted through the first 3 in as many weeks.  And I'm also enjoying Kerry Greenwood's Phryne Fisher novels --  a lot lighter, and enjoyable in a different way.
Drinking: milky Earl Grey tea
Wanting: it to warm up so I can get into my skirts and dresses!

Looking: forward to visiting the new yarn store on the South side here in Edmonton, The Fibre Nook https://www.thefibrenook.com/  I haven't had time to visit yet, but I'm hoping to go to their drop-in time next Thursday
Playing: memory!  We have a Toy Story set with about a million pairs, and I just take out 10-12 pairs for Hazel, which is about perfect for her right now.  As she gets better I'll add more pairs to our game.  It's probably good for my mental development too, haha.
Deciding: on trips for this year.  We've got a month-long overseas trip booked for July, and we're thinking about a camping trip in Yoho National Park in early September.
Wishing: I could meet Trevor Noah in real life.   I know people are probably pretty different from their real selves on TV, but he just seems so smart and fun.  Also, cute as a dimple!

Above, some pictures from our trip to Jasper last week

Listening: the Ed Sheeran/Beyonce duet version of "Perfect" -- so beautiful!
Enjoying: a show by Vinok Worldance...the show itself was very good, folk dancing with live musicians backing, but the best part by far is seeing how excited H gets about dancing!  She even talked to the dancers by herself after the show, and they were so nice to her.
Waiting: Liking: brioche stitch -- I'm working on my first project in brioche stitch, and though it took me a couple of tries to figure it out, I'm really enjoying it now
Wondering: if I have time to fit a Carbeth Cardigan in my knitting queue...if I have to ask, the answer is probably no

Snacking: on Lindt chocolate bars!  Sesame dark chocolate is toasty perfection
Feeling: more comfortable teaching dance fitness, which I started in January, though I'm not totally feeling like an expert yet
Loving: British comedians -- we don't get any British comedy shows here, but it's easy to catch up with QI, The Mash Report, and Big Fat Quizzes on Youtube.
Pondering: how people ever managed to get anything done when they had to heat their houses with wood stoves!  Fires take a lot of love and care, people

Making: a gathered skirt, based on Gertie's tutorial
Cooking: pies! I've been in such a pie mood lately.  Trying to use up frozen berries and fresh apples, and trying to perfect my crust recipe
Considering: whether this is a good time to be purchasing a velvet skirt.  Spring is coming, and I don't think I'll get a lot of wear out of it when the weather is warmer.
Buying: not much, lately, which is a pretty good start to the year. 

Watching: the Olympics, of course!  And knitting at the same time, though I don't usually manage to get my act together in time to participate in Ravelympics
Marvelling: at how fast three-year-olds grow up
Needing: new jeans, but I can never find ones that fit me properly.  Am I the only one with this problem?  Anything that fits in the butt and legs is too small in the waist.
Questioning: whether it's time to put the winter clothes away.  Too early?

Smelling: nail polish...I've been making time to do my nails lately, which really brightens my day
Thinking: about how to set up my garden.  I have a new greenhouse this spring, so I am hoping to start plants in early April and thereby extend the growing season.  Homegrown eggplants, here I come!
Sorting: through toys and baby stuff, for a sale in April
Bookmarking: The Dead South's video for In Hell I'll Be In Good Company

Coveting: Office Tabs, because I tried the free version and it was so useful.  Like browser tabs, just in Office programs.  But I just can't bring myself to pull the trigger on the full version.
Disliking: how my shoulder pain from knitting is coming back, which is putting limits on my knitting time

Opening: coffee from The Roasters Pack, a monthly subscription service that I got as a Christmas gift.  I get three new coffees every month, with coffee descriptions in hipsterish detail.  I can't say I get all the flavours (my palate just isn't that finely tuned) but it's still really nice to try all sorts of different coffees.  So far I've tried Colombia Las Galeras and Ethiopia Sasaba

What I've Been Up To Lately: Not Knitting, That's For Certain

I don't know if I'm a bit burned out on knitting (impossible, right?) but I really felt the urge to sew this last week.  Inspired by Rachel Khoo's beautiful high-waisted full skirts in the show Zumbo's Just Desserts, I poked around and found this tutorial from Gertie's Blog for Better Sewing (it's in two parts, though the first is just instructions for making the pattern).  It's not a new pattern, but then again, the kind of skirt I want isn't a very new style.  I rummaged through my fabric stash, found a nice cotton that I bought in Japan a few years ago and, miraculously, a coordinating zipper, and off I went!

It's still surprises me how much free content and help is available online.  I figured out how to gather the fabric for the top of the skirt using this tutorial, how to install the zipper with this tutorial, and how to finish the hem with this one, though I did end up hand-sewing the hem (tutorial here) because I was too impatient to figure out how the blind hem foot on my machine works.  Plus, I added side seam pockets with the help of this tutorial and this template.  All those free resources!  The crafting community online really is incredible.

And that's my skirt!  There's a little bit of hand-sewing involved (scratch that, there's a hell of a lot of hand-sewing involved, especially if you decided to hand-sew the hem like I did), but other than that, it's a quick project and you end up with a lovely voluminous specimen.  I think I might try it again with a little bit less volume (just a couple of inches off the front and back) next time, but also I'd like to wait and see how much this fabric softens when it's washed.  I'm all ready for spring, guys!  Too bad spring's not ready for me...

Free Pattern Friday: Tea Cozies

I spotted this beauty and was seized by a strange desire to knit a tea cozy.  Even though I basically never use a tea pot (I make a single cup at a time).  Chalk it up to the cuteness of what is essentially a sweater for something that doesn't normally wear a sweater, and the impeccable colourwork on that particular tea cozy, I guess.  Or maybe it's the hunkering-down-in-February mood?

 Image by Slate Falls Press

Image by Slate Falls Press

Lucky for me, there are a loooooot of options for free tea cozy patterns on Ravelry:

Top row, left to right:  Pink (image by Knit Shear Bliss), Smocked (Patons), Beehive (Patons), Ice Cream (Handy Little Me)

Bottom row, left to right:  Candy (DaftThoughts), Basket Weave (Tea For Ewe), Stripes and Dots (Allison Griffith), Pineapple (Tanya Today)

That retro pineapple one is AMAZING, guys!  And it comes in a knit or a crocheted version, so anyone can do it.  And I like the way the Stripes and Dots one includes shaping for the spout -- not entirely necessary, but it sure makes your teapot look even comfier.  The thing that I think would be the biggest headache is if you have an oddly-sized teapot and have to adjust the pattern to fit. 

And if you're more into coffee, how about a French press cozy, or one for your takeout coffee cup?

Left image by Knit Culture Studio, right image by Sabrina Thompson

Book Nook: Slow Knitting: A Journey From Sheep to Skein to Stitch, by Hannah Thiessen

I picked up this book at the library because I couldn't find much about it online, and I was very intrigued by the idea of slow knitting.  What could Hannah Thiessen possibly mean by "slow knitting"?  Isn't knitting, and making your own clothes, already a pretty slow process? 

SlowKnitting1.jpg

It seems, upon perusing the book, that her use of the term falls into the broader slow movement.  It's all about consuming less, consuming more thoughtfully, and being more focused and mindful.  By following these principles, one should a greater and deeper understanding of the craft of knitting and of the process by which yarn arises.

Well, that's really a lot of what I've been trying to follow in my daily life in the last year or so.  I can't say I'm 100% successful in slowing down, but I feel like I've managed to introduce slow-movement-like practices in many areas.  We've been gardening more so that we can better appreciate the food that we eat.  We've been shopping with more of an environmental consciousness, for clothes and food and more.  We try to reuse, make, and mend as much as I can, and we try to buy good quality so that things will last and not need to be thrown out so often.  So, a book about slow knitting fits perfectly into what I've been doing lately. 

Hannah Thiessen's books is split into five sections:  Source Carefully, Produce Thoughtfully, Think Environmentally, Experiment Fearlessly, and Explore Openly.  In each section, she ruminates on what the section title means to her, and she also give some practical tips to follow so that you can follow her practices as well.  She talks about specific yarns and yarn companies in each section, and there are two patterns per section, each by a different designer, showcasing one of the yarns she's profiled.    I really like the practical tips, which are set in sidebars and positioned as concrete steps you can actually take, and she writes very compellingly about why each part of her slow knitting philosophy is meaningful.  I understand featuring particular yarns and particular designers, but the book really starts to feel like an advertisement for yarn companies and dyers.  Even though she's writing about small or indie businesses, it starts to feel like you're reading a catalogue .

This isn't a book of knitting basics, though there's some discussion of less common techniques where they occur in patterns.  The patterns themselves aren't really the reason to buy the book, to me; they're decent patterns, and include a fair amount of detail, but there are only ten in the whole book, mostly sweaters.   It is really nice that each pattern is designed around the yarn, but they all call for yarns that might not be that easy to obtain, especially if you don't live in the USA, and because the design process is so specific for the yarn, substitution seems to miss the point.  No, you should get this book if you're interested in the ideas about slow knitting, about treasuring the whole process of choosing a yarn (and a yarn producer), choosing a pattern, and knitting and finishing a garment.  The photography is gorgeous and really reflects the idea of respecting and appreciating yarn and handmade objects. 

You can also visit Hannah Thiessen's website.

All images from amazon.com

Free Pattern Friday: Olympic Knits!

Some people are obviously much, much better planners than I.  I found no fewer than three (free!) hat (top row and bottom row) and one cowl pattern featuring some colourwork reverse-engineered from pictures of the hats Team USA wore at the opening ceremonies of the Olympics. 

Pictures by (clockwise from top left) Aimee Pelletier and Carly Stipe, The Wool & Cotton Co., Tanis Gray, Susan Rainey   

I didn't find any patterns replicating the hats for Team Canada, but they don't look very difficult to reverse-engineer:

 Image byfrom Metro News

Image byfrom Metro News

I bet if you zoomed in you could even count the rows and the stitches!

If you need a bit more of a challenge, there's this curling-inspired beauty:

 Image by STASH Lounge

Image by STASH Lounge

I did just watch mixed-doubles curling (waaay more entertaining than regular curling, for my money) for the first time, so I know am all ready for a rock-festooned hat.

And you could always knit your family this matching set! Hee!

 Image by Patons

Image by Patons

Flammegarn Dye Technique

Check out the flammegarn dye method.  What an interesting effect; a shibori-like method that yields something like a reverse speckle.  Instead of adding more dye to get a spot of saturated colour, flammegarn blocks the dye from a small portion.

 Image by Kate Larson

Image by Kate Larson

I'm not really into dyeing, but I am into cool-looking yarn.  Plus:  could that teal colour BE any more perfect?  This could be the next trendy thing in hand-dyed skeins!

The Heart of a Stasher

Nearly everyone stashes yarn -- it certainly takes a lot of self-control to only buy when you're ready to start a project, to finish that project before you buy any more yarn, and to pass up a deal.  More self-control than I've ever had, anyway, and more than most, if the stories in A Stash of One's Own (edited by Clara Parkes) are anything to go by. 

 Could this actually be the world's biggest yarn stash?    Image by Mochimochi Land

Could this actually be the world's biggest yarn stash? 

Image by Mochimochi Land

But we can stash other things, like knitting patterns, which Shannon Reed writes about at Slate.  I don't stash patterns exactly the way she does, but I can definitely relate to the feeling of collecting way, way more patterns than I will ever be able to knit.  I buy knitting magazines because I am worried they'll go out of print before I can get to the patterns in them.  Never mind that the garments are more likely to go out of style before I'll have the time and/or inclination to knit them!  And digital patterns -- forget about it!  I've got a hard drive full.  Even though they don't take up much physical space, there is a lot of digital clutter there, as they're not organized and not easy to search. 

Reed has a pretty forgiving view of her pattern-stashing habit:

Looking through knitting patterns asks the least of all: to daydream of a world in which I have time to knot string enough to cover everyone I know and love.

I think I need to take a harder line with mine.  At heart, I'm just a big stasher -- a hoarder, really.  I'm always saving stuff just in case.  But lately, I'm just not ok with storing a whole bunch of stuff "just in case" I might have time to knit it one day -- it really just comes down to prioritizing what I make space for, whether that space is physical or digital (or mental, for that matter).  I think I need to cut down on the pattern-collecting, and I also need to better organize what I have. 

Maybe a Dropbox or Google account would help with the digital side of things, and Jen over at Grainline Studio has a post of how she does that with her sewing patterns.  Evernote is another good option (read how one knitter does it).  And for the physical patterns, I have hanging files and binders for the loose patterns, magazine files for the magazines, and most everything is documented in my Ravelry library so I have a crude way of identifying which patterns I own in a printed format.  Ideally, I'd have everything in one place, like everything digital (which seems more logical), but that might mean more work in either scanning the printed patterns I have or buying digital versions.

How big is your pattern stash, and how do you organize it?

Free Pattern Friday: Valentine's Knitting

It's almost Valentine's Day!  Does anyone celebrate this holiday?  As the parent of a preschooler, I find myself celebrating every little holiday, largely with themed crafts and candy.  Always candy. 

Sometimes with knitting too, though!  I found some nice small projects that you could probably finish in time for Valentine's Day, if you start right away and give up sleeping for the next little while.  Ha!

Seriously, hats with hearts are so cute!  Clockwise from top left:  Heart Pops Hat, Hearts on Repeat Hat, Heart Emoji Beanie, Love the Winter Hat

Pictures by (clockwise from top left) Valley Yarns, Juliana Lustenader, Sheepy Shenanigans, Emily Dormier

And what about socks with hearts?  From left to right, Keep Me Searching For a Heart of Gold, Love Socks, Hearts Afire Socks 

Pictures by strickprinzessin, Devon Clement, Miss Babs

And you can't leave out mittens (Freja mitts) and cowls (Choose Love Cowl), can you?

Pictures by Fredrik Ulinder (left) and Kelsey Stephens (right)

And though I am mostly into wearable projects, this crochet-bedecked Reasons I Love You Jar is too adorable, and I love the crocheted interpretation of Danish hearts (which I've only seen done with paper before):

Pictures by Nicole Hedrick (left) and alipyper (right)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

See and Knit: Vogue Knitting Winter 2017/18

I apologize for a) the missing post last Friday (silly me, I set it to come out on March, not February, 2nd, by mistake; it will be coming out this Friday instead) and b) the lateness of this post.  I won't bore you with the details, but LIFE, you know.

I am not the biggest fan of Vogue Knitting magazine (just not my style, I guess) but I am loving the yoke patterns in the Winter 2017/2018 issue.  Maybe not that cold-shoulder one, but nearly all the rest of them.  Sweaters with colourwork yokes aren't new, of course, but I like what Vogue has done with the colours (bright colours in a knitting magazine, finally!) and the patterns are so eye-catching.  Plus there's a little bit of wrong-side-of colourwork pattern in the rightmost sweater in the top row.

All images by Vogue Knitting

Check out pictures of all the patterns in the issue here.

 

Camouflage Knitting

I cannot even think how much patience it takes to execute a project like this.  A collaboration between photographer Joseph Ford and knitter Nina Dodd, camouflage knitting features some gorgeous knitted garments that fit perfectly into their surroundings.  Kudos to anyone detail-oriented enough to do this!   Spending the time knitting (apparently Dodd says she could spend up to 40 hours on a single garment in this collection) is something I could do, but the painstaking arrangement for the photograph is another kettle of fish.

All photos by Joseph Ford

Taking Stock, January 2018

Making: sweaters and sweaters -- it's a race to the finish line!
Cooking: slow-cooker meals...any favourite recipes?  I made rice pudding today (not really a meal, but so good after skating!)
Drinking: coffee, always coffee
Wanting: new shoes for dancing; I've been looking at Ryka shoes, which are women- and dance-specific, but it's so hard to know about shoes just from looking online

Looking: at the beautiful snow falling...we've gotten about 80 cm since last Thursday. 
Playing: on my x-country skis in the snow!  The community league near us held a Skifest this last weekend, and they trackset the whole schoolyard.  We were able to pop out of the alley behind our house and get on a track right away, which is so amazing.  I wish we had more trackset trails here in the city on a regular basis.
Deciding: on trips for the next few months.  So far we've got one ski trip planned for February, and an overseas trip booked for July.
Wishing: it would warm up a bit so we could get out skating some more

Enjoying: the feeling of getting back into the routine after the holidays.  Vacation is good, but it's nice to stay busy!
Liking: my very old Bath and Body Works candle, in Dolce.  It's been a long time since I lit this, I'd forgotten how much I like the smell.
Wondering: how many books I can read this year...I've finished 7 so far, since January 1st
Loving: that my little daughter loves her first tap class so much!  She has an amazing teacher (she's like the Pied Piper with the kids) and has already learned to shuffle, after one class.

Pondering: why it took me so long to put a zipper into a knitted garment...it's really not so bad!
Considering: hibernating until springtime...remind me again why we go outside in January?
Buying: new winter boots!  I went for Sorels, which are big and clunky but very necessary for winter here.
Watching: Fargo...I blasted through the first two seasons (that's all Netflix has).  Gory, but amazing performances and fantastic writing.

Marvelling: at my first zipper sewn into a knitted garment!
Cringing: over my first time teaching dance fitness...I am really enjoying it, mostly, but I am the kind of person who can't really get over every single tiny mistakes I make, even when everyone else has.
Needing: to stop buying stuff I don't need!  Should I get on one of those buy-nothing projects?  I find it very hard to be that restrictive with myself, but I do know I function better with some rules. I started 2017 with some spending rules, and though I didn't manage to completely stop spending on things I don't need, I did greatly reduce my spending on clothes and shoes, which is a victory.
Questioning: why I can't get my own sister, a veteran knitter, to gauge swatch!  She's knitting a sweater for our brother and just flying by the seat of her pants

Smelling: fresh snow and deep freezing cold...it's weird how winter has smells
Wearing: my big Patagonia down parka -- it's like a sleeping bag come to life
Noticing: how a sick child really throws off the whole household's routine
Thinking: about baking, after watching Zumbo's Just Desserts.  The show is pretty standard as reality cooking shows go, but the desserts are beautiful and inspiring. 

Admiring: Trevor Noah on The Daily Show -- he is so smart!  I had my doubts when he first took over the show, but he's really grown into it
Sorting: out my dance routines...I've started teaching dance fitness classes, and it's so much fun!  We do cover three full cardio routines in the first two classes, though, so it's a lot of teaching for me right at the beginning.
Getting: impatient to have a few more sweaters done
Coveting: again from Zumbo's Just Desserts, the co-host Rachel Khoo's wardrobe is candy perfection.  I now really want a brightly coloured high-waisted full skirt so I can look effortlessly glam too!

Disliking: how much it costs to become certified as a Specialty Exercise Leader in Alberta - not that I think there should be lower informational and educational barriers for education, but that you get charged for every single little thing along the way (courses, exams, observations, etc.)
Opening: new shoes that are better than runners (which is what I've been using up until now) for dancing (ahem, speaking of things I don't really need, by the way)
Feeling: so good about being closer to my goal of finishing twelve sweaters!
Snacking: on Christmas baking still!  I have lots in the freezer that didn't get given away, and it's sooooo good.
Listening: to lots of good songs in my dance class; No Roots is probably my favourite

Five Children's Books That Feature Knitting

So much do I love knitting that I take my ardour into other areas that aren't usually knitting-related, like children's books.  Whenever I'm at the library with my daughter and spot a book that features knitting, I take it home, and my daughter is kind enough to put up with my obsession. 

When I say books that feature knitting, I tend to really like ones where the act of knitting, or an explicitly hand-knitted item, is a central part of the story.  And I really, really like ones where I can tell whether the author is a knitter (or knows knitting well).   These are five of my favourite ones:

Freddie's Blanket by Joanna Johnson

I know she's written more books, but this is the one I've read the most.  Have you ever noticed how three-year-olds fall totally in love with certain books, and make you read them until you've memorized them?  Yeah, we've done that with Freddie's Blanket, most recently.  In addition to a charming story about a lovingly hand-knitted blanket, there are knitting patterns at the end, for the blanket and swaddle illustrated in the story, as well as a stuffie of Freddie and his sister.  Very appealing for knitty families like mine!  Johnson has also designed many other knits; you can check them out here.

Milo Armadillo by Jan Fearnley

Super cute story about a homely and lovable armadillo knitted from scraps, and as a bonus knitted and crocheted fabric makes up

Knit Together by Angela Dominguez

As a mother, I very much look forward to the day when my daughter will be ready to learn to knit.  She really wants to learn, but she doesn't quite have the attention span required.  She will soon, I think, and the fact that she keeps asking me to teach her, and grabs my yarn and pretends to knit, just warms my heart.  In this book, a mother and daughter collaborate on a knitting project because as much as the daughter wants to knit, she isn't finding success.  The daughter draws and the mother knits and together, they make something beautiful.  Not the most knitterly of books, but it has a special sentimental meaning for me.

Don't Slam The Door by Dori Chaconas

A knotty pair of socks is in the process of being knitted in this story, and Chaconas has a wonderfully poetic ear.  It usually takes me a few reads of her books before I feel I can really do justice to the rhythms in her stories -- they're that sophisticated.

Annie Hoot and the Knitting Extravaganza by Holly Clifton-Brown

The bright, cheery illustrations really make this story about an owl that knits and knits and knits, including some very unorthodox things (hot-air balloon, sailboat, parachute...).  And I found myself trying to figure out whether I can turn some of Annie Hoot's many colourwork patterns into real stitches.

Free Pattern Friday: Stjernedrys

This super-cute pullover (Rav link) by Rachel Søgaard capitalizes on the pixelated pattern trend I've been seeing around, and also plays on the ombre/colour-dipped look. 

It's available in four languages (Dutch, German, English, and French) and is eminent customizable -- I love some of the colour combinations other Ravelers have come up with, and woolangel even incorporated the pixel pattern into a cowl.  It would look amazing in a semi-solid or hand-dyed yarn coupled with a solid yarn, and I wonder if the pixel pattern could be worked over the yoke as well, so it looks like the main colour is fading away toward the collar?  The decreases might make it difficult, but it would an interesting design challenge.

All photos from Filcolana

FO: Killybegs Sweater

1.  What did you learn from knitting this?

There were a couple of new techniques for me with this sweater, which is partly why it took so long.  First of all, I use a knitted-on I-cord edging on the fronts, collar, hem, and sleeves, and I would definitely do this again.  it looks so neat and somehow keeps the stockinette from rolling too much; the only thing that you have to be pretty careful about is the rate at which you pick up stitches along whatever edge you're I-cording to.  I did have to do a little trial and error to find the right ratio of pick-up stitches, but when I got to a ratio that made the edge lie flat, it was sublime.

I also did my very first sewn-in zipper, in twenty years of knitting -- can you believe it?  I went in to this with a bit of planning, because I've never sewn a zipper into knitting before, and because on Ravelry there are a few people saying they put zippers into their Killybegs sweaters and ended up with a lot of rippling (and so they ended up taking out the zippers and putting in buttons or hooks and eyes). 

I consulted Splityarn, Pickin' and Throwin', Purlbee, Deborah Newton's Finishing School, June Hemmons Hiatt's Principles of Knitting and, probably my favourite of all, Margaret Radcliffe's The Knowledgeable Knitter.  Never hurts to have a few opinions, and pick what you think will work the best for you!

I did end up handsewing the zipper, but considered knitting it in like Tangled Twine did for a little while.  I thought it would be great to get the zipper installed at the same time as I was finishing the edge with attached i-cord, and the sweater called for i-cord edging to begin with, so it wouldn't be much of a stretch.  However, I'm going to save this idea for another project, because there would be too much going on for me, what with knitting the attached i-cord, the picked-up stitches, and the zipper stitches all needing to come together at the same time.

After all this, I started off trying to pin the zipper in, before I sewed it, and it was just so bumpy and ripply I couldn't trust it.  So I pinned, then laid the sweater flat (to be sure the edge wouldn't ripple), and basted.  I tried on the sweater, zipping the up and down a couple of times to make sure nothing would catch.  After that, I went through and backstitched the zipper in, leaving the extra zipper tape at the top of the zipper loose.  Lastly, I folded back that extra flap of zipper tape at the top, and stitched it out of view.  After cutting out the basting thread, the sweater was ready to go!  It's beautiful and it's so exciting to have another technique under my belt.  My only regret with this zipper is that although I did have the presence of mind to buy a separating zipper, I didn't go to the trouble of buying one that zips up and down from both ends.  The sweater is a teeny bit tight through my midsection (especially after Christmas, oy) and if I could open it from the bottom end, I could give it a different shape.

2.  Would you knit this pattern again?

It was an easy knit, with just enough cabling to keep it interesting, and I love the way the honeycomb cable dissolves into the stockinette background.  I don't know if I need another identical sweater, but maybe I'd knit one for someone else.

3.  How will you wear your new sweater?

Mostly open, due to the aforementioned tightness, over a tunic top and leggings.  This is kind of my go-to outfit, now that I think of it.  I'll have to brainstorm some new outfits and incorporate more dresses.

Year of Sweaters Tally:  9 (getting so close!)