Monthly Archives: April 2013

Holiday Yarn Shopping

We went to Toronto for the weekend in the middle of April. It was just before the weather turned Springy in Montreal, and Toronto for that matter. It rained most of the time, but really, that just makes for good shopping weather, and I love shopping on Queen Street.

Two of the shops I visited were yarn stores and I bought something in both. The Knit Cafe was a repeat visit. I stopped in last time I was in Toronto. I bought some yarn for my next project; the back-to-school vest for Eli. I also picked up some Noro for a shawl project. I wish there was a Knit Cafe where I lived. Their classes look like so much fun! I could finally learn to crochet. It also made me wish I had knitting friends. I do know people who knit, but not in my city. While in Toronto my friend Joanne showed me the wool socks she has been making, and it struck me that looking over your friend’s knitting work is almost as satisfying as admiring your own. (Mrs. Brown, thank you for sharing your pictures!)

The second shop I kind of stumbled upon. Americo is a beautiful store, with gorgeous yarn. I was a bit transfixed. I bought something even though I didn’t have a project in mind when I went in, but I wanted to leave with a piece of the dream, so to speak. I bought a hank of the Abrazos, a lace weight blend of Pima Cotton and Bamboo that I will be making a fine gauged shawl with for my friend Becky’s birthday present. I think it will be perfect summer knitting. I already feel the gratification. I imagine myself going back to Americo’s when I have a really special project in mind. If you click the link to their website you can imagine how luxurious the yarn felt, and also see the patterns they offer in store. All very chic. The photos below were from a phone because I did what I do on every holiday – forget the camera at home.

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Oh Toronto, you had me within 2 blocks really.

Since I have been home I have finished the small details on the rest of my projects. I completed the labels for the Mad Men themed gift, and I really liked how they turned out. I think I’ll do this theme and coordinating label thing again. I took the picture with the last of the evening light in my kitchen, so I apologize for the weird lighting:

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I also whipped up a baby bear hat for Mrs. S. It’s placed over a vase so it stands up.

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I then boxed up 5 packages and took them to the post office where the woman at the counter told me I should really get a postal service card that saves you money on shipping. I think she is right, as I have 2 more packages ready to go at my door, and more are surely to follow.

The crib is assembled, the quilt is quilted, and the stuffed owls are hung up, so I’m also ready for my visitors too.

I hope everyone likes what they get in the mail. I am of to cast-on for Master Eli’s vest, who seems to grow a full size every time I announce I will be making him something.

Enjoy the sunshine my friends.

Projects A Go Go

I’ve just finished Mrs. S’s baby jacket. In fact, I took the pictures before I tied in all the ends.This jacket is knit for a size 3-6 months, and made of a silk/wool tweed blend. The baby bear hat to accompany it is still on the needles.

I still consider myself a beginner knitter, and this project’s seaming was a first for me. I have mostly knit top-down raglan sweaters for babies, so knitting the fabric and constructing the garment was new to me. The pattern was great, and despite the learning curve it came together really well.

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I’m happy I chose this pattern and yarn. The blend of wool and silk make it really practical. It’s soft without any itchiness, and will keep the baby warm in Fall. Plus, I don’t know why, but I really love tweed. The one draw back to natural fibers is their care. Unfortunately, this is a hand-wash, lay flat to dry garment. I hate doing that to moms, but as a jacket for a baby I’m hoping that it won’t require so much laundering. The double breasted brushed silver buttons are possibly my favorite part of the jacket. They look a bit dressy. I think the jacket is suitable for baby boys and baby girls, although the buttons are on the right side, which I believe technically designates this to boy’s wear. I couldn’t resist dressing it up a little for the pictures, so here it is below, girl-style.

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I have quite a few projects started right now. Some knitters seem happiest with several things started at once, but I like to complete one before I go on to the next. However, knitting is just one of my hobbies that is fighting for my focus. I’m still working on some drawings I have done on my iPad, and I’m learning how to manipulate the images in a new program. I have a blank canvas that is calling to me constantly. It’s looking at me now, from the kitchen. Right now would be the perfect time to paint, but painting is one of those things I have to be in an obsessive mood about, and that mood hasn’t hit. I’m also reading with a purpose lately. I usually read fiction, and those pages seem to turn themselves. It’s effortless, and I find my book in my hands without even consciously thinking of it. Right now I am reading non-fiction, and although I’m really enjoying the learning part, these are not books that find my hands on their own. They seem to require more of my attention, and contemplation, but as a result I find myself thinking of the words and concepts while I am doing other things. I’m always especially intrigued by the plasticity of the human mind. Everything from altered realities, to actual physical transformation. Two of the books in my stack by the bed are The Brain That Changes Itself by Norman Doidge, M.D., and The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources to Love, Character, and Achievement by David Brooks. If you have a recommendation in this vein I would be interested in checking it out. Currently, I am reading Women, Food and God by Geneen Roth. Although I find the narrative to be a circular path, I really appreciate the focus on the “why” rather than on the end result of the problem, which in this case is extra weight. This simple book has changed my thinking, already, and I am only two-thirds through. If you are interested and the reference to God is off-putting, I can assure you that thus far God has yet to make an entrance. In addition to my obsessive love of creative projects, I am about to commit to a few out-of- the-house exploits. The weather is warm enough. It’s now time to end the hibernation.

I’ll still be knitting of course. I have 2 projects to complete for July, but that is oodles of time. First in line will be Master Eli’s back-to-school vest. I picked up some of the yarn in Toronto over the weekend, so I’m ready to go. I bought a few other hanks I am excited about too, but I’ll save those plans for a new post.

Happy Friday! xoxo

Many Happy Returns

It never occurred to me that quilting wasn’t an activity to familiarize yourself with a sewing machine, but an actual art, until I was sewing squares together. Chris donated some old shirts for my project, and I cut them up, and decided they coordinated, and that was all that was needed. Oh, not so. I started to suspect that I was in well over my head at some point, but half way through it was apparent I had drowned at step one.

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The fabric patterns I was working with were a bit adventurous. Stripes (bold stripes!), checkers, plaid, and smaller stripes, are not a beginner quilter’s best friend, nor are they a beginner sewer’s best friend. When I laid out my squares the pattern actually hurt my eyes. I had to squint at it to see what I had done so wrong, and even then I wanted to back away in horror. All those stripes were pointing in different directions, I had no idea how to arrange the triangles to make it look good, and I had thought of none of this before I had joined them all. What came about was all that I could salvage. Hoping that I would at least have a functioning blanket, if not something that was pleasant to look at, I carried on.

It turned out less ugly than I had comes to terms with (although when previewing this post, my eyes again began to search for a place to rest and came up short), but more of a hack job than I wanted too. It’s actually not a rectangle, but a trapezoid. Chris likened it to having a friend install your new bathroom, rather than paying for a plumber. It’s definitely one of those, and I wondered if people who learn by hacking ever learn how to do things correctly. Or if they do, how long does that take?

At the same time I was sewing this together I was reading the Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. It’s a good book that got me thinking about how I cultivate my own happiness, and what I could do better. I do believe that happiness is a conscious choice, and I really liked the science she brought to her daily resolutions. I was at the part in the book that mentioned “True Rules”, which are the rules we come to live by through our own experience. They may not be really true, but they are true to ourselves. I had been reflecting on some of the things I tell myself, and others, and I started to notice how much I approach these kind of tasks like my Grandmother would. She would say things something like this: “Everything is learnable. Just find someone who can help you, but if they’re unavailable you’ll probably be able to figure it out on your own.” “It’s easy, just nail it together.” “We don’t need to wait around for someone else to tell us what to do.” I half applaud myself for diving in, and also realize that patience really is a virtue, and one that would save me some time in the long run. I think a simple striped, or colour blocked blanket might be a better jumping off point. I’ll be watching many more YouTube videos about how to sew before I try this again, but thank you Gramma, I still like doing it your way most of the time.

I am a little less afraid of the sewing machine, and next time I’ll work with a pattern too. I still have the quilting part to do, which I’ll keep simple and use some purple embroidery thread to pin the flannel down with.

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Pros: Knitting a baby blanket would take a few weeks working within my spare time, but sewing a blanket came together in a few hours of dedicated machine work. I can see how becoming a better sewer might allow for quicker crafting satisfaction.

Cons: A noisy machine with women-like qualities to appease, along with the entire entourage of sewing equipment seemed so high maintenance. I can knit with two sticks but this project occupied my whole desk, and a good part of our living room with it’s fabric, cutting, stashes of thread, and large work surface area. I was glad to put all that mess away.

My Mad Men labels are turning out to be a crazy amount of fun. I’ve been using Paper, an app for drawing on my iPad, and I just purchased Photoshop Touch for iPad yesterday. I really love drawing, so I’m also going to get myself a fancy stylus as well. If you have a recommendation I’d love to hear about it. I haven’t been doing much drawing since I stopped going to Life Drawing at Basic Inquiry in Vancouver. I pulled out some of my sketches and Chris and I ended up framing one for our bedroom. I’ll have to find a life drawing group here in Montreal.

I hope your eyes survived the pictures. Thank you for coming back to see what I am up to!

The peacoat is 50%, and I may be getting myself into some trouble.

Mrs. S’s baby gift is well on its way. I love the look of seed stitch, and tweed, and seed stitch mixed with tweed. The repetitive stitch pattern is also quite meditative. It’s like rosary beads, drums, and heart beats. I’m really enjoying the project. It’s perfect for watching movies, and hanging out on the couch.

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I would probably be further along but I was distracted by other projects I wanted to do. My friend is bringing her baby to stay with us for a visit. I’m very excited. Besides rectifying the danger zone our apartment becomes when someone brings a baby over, I also wanted to make them feel at home. I now have drawer locks, and outlet covers, and everything sharp is now located much higher. We’ll be setting up a crib so I decided to make a mobile, and (…I hesitate to announce my intentions here because sewing is involved, and I have a love-hate relationship with the sewing machine. Actually, it’s more like I just hate that machine but forget the intensity when I decide I have a project I want to do, then rediscover my loathing anew each time) a quilt. I’ll be attempting a basic triangle pattern quilt and lining it with doubled flannel. I’m nervous though. Very nervous.

A knitting pattern is like computer code: a recipe of letters, numbers, symbols, and abbreviations, with numbered rows that prompt action and give you a desired result. A sewing machine may look like a precision tool, but in my opinion the tension gauge dial makes it unreliable and mysterious. You have to set the buttons and weave thread in between machine parts, cranks and wheels, while using a gas pedal and simultaneously controlling the action with your hands. I sense it may be the closest thing to trying to make love to a woman. So many variables. I have respect for anyone who sews.

I am creating the mobile from stuffed owl puffs (another free pattern from ravelry.com). If you know me, you know that stuffed animals and I have clashed. More than clashed. I’ve been known to go on rants about how stuffed animals are a waste of space, and the earth’s resources. Not only are they huge clutter contributors that serve absolutely no purpose, but they are sprayed with chemicals like fire retardants, and made from synthetic fibers dyed with formaldehyde, and that is all I can think about when I see babies cuddling that stuff. I can admit that I have some toxin phobias that arbitrarily present themselves and stuffed animals happen to be at the top of the list. My mind equates stuffed animals to rolling in lead paint, or spending long periods of time in dollar stores breathing in the cheap plastic fumes. So, yeah, I’m a little crazy, like a “germaphobe”, but with chemicals. All this just to point out the irony that I made 6 stuffed owls, and once again proved myself a hypocrite – which I should be used to by now, as hypocrisy never seems to be through with me.

(as a side note about production and toxins, one of my favorite videos on the subject can be found here: the Story of Stuff).

Here are the little guys below. In their defense, most of the yarn was worsted organic cotton, and they won’t be doing much snuggling when I hang them from the ceiling. I need to decide what to do with the strings, and what the top of the mobile may need, but I wanted to show you what I was up to.

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*many thanks to the prop holder

Wish me luck with the Singer!