A Week (Or Two) In Review

So this week I’ve been doing quite a few things – it’s been a busy week (and a half) or so, but a good busy week, although I feel like I’ve only gotten a fraction of the things done that I’ve wanted to.

A view from the Saddledome & Expo grounds from our hotel.

The week started out with Calgary Expo – this is my annual venture into the craziness of one of the biggest cons in the country. While I wish there was more focus on comic artists, I always have a good time regardless. I’m not a big crowd person, but for four days of the year I give myself over to the mob and move with it. Highlights this year were seeing John Cusack, Garrett Wang, and Bob Morley panels. I also got myself a new Netrunner expansion that is also a campaign mystery (we played one game already and it’s going to prove to be a long campaign, which is awesome).

I really like Netrunner – if you haven’t heard of it but are into really intricate card games, definitely check it out. It’s like Neuromancer but in card game form.

But cons and crowds aren’t the only things I’ve been doing.

First up, was on our way back from Calgary, I was super excited to visit Custom Woolen Mills!

Custom Woolen Mills gift shop.

I wanted to visit for a while, but at two-plus hours from me, I knew the drive would have to be done on a trip back from Calgary. I got a peek inside where the working machinery is, and poked around at all their breed samples. I came away with six to spin (one pound each) and I’m really excited to get to work on these.

I ended up getting Clun Forest, Columbia, Ile de France, Tunis, Texel, and Shetland (brown). I guess 6 lbs is enough, right?

After getting home (and taking a day to relax – an absolute must after a crazy 5 days!), I made the appointment I’ve been dreading – my tetanus immunization. It’s been about 20 years, and while I think immunizations are important, I’m also really scared of needles. Like, really scared. But, washing my new fleece has been a powerful motivator, so I booked the appointment and went in.

Then when I got there they sprung the MMR vaccine on me to (there’s a mumps outbreak in my area because people aren’t getting their kids immunized – don’t get me started). Knowing there was no way I’d come back, I got them both done at once. While I was laying down with my husband holding my hand because I’m a big baby.

But, the good news is, the very nice nurse who was a real sport, gave me the go ahead to start processing my fleece (she said I probably still had antibodies anyway from the last booster) – so that’s going to begin in earnest now that I know I won’t be getting tetanus. Yay!

I also finally got around to finishing a bunch of yarns that I’ve been hankering to do, but needed some warm days and a bit of time to accomplish. It really just started warming up here, and trying to dry hanks of yarn outside when the high is 2C wasn’t going to work out too well. We may have had a late start, but with summer upon us now I’m gearing up for a lot of outside time.


(click the images above to see the full size)

From left to right:

    1. Alpaca/silk blend, 2 ply, 15 WPI, 259 yds. This is by far the happiest I’ve been with any yarn yet and I absolutely adore it.
    2. Alpaca, 2 ply, 11 WPI, 217 yds. A little thicker than I wanted, but I spun it several weeks ago while still getting into the swing of spinning again. Even still, I’m happy with its consistency, and I’m looking forward to making a comfy small shawl with it.
    3. Merino, 2 ply, 17 WPI, 139 yds. I got good yardage and it’s really consistent, so I’m quite happy with this skein.
    4. Corriedale, 2 ply, 12 WPI, 214 yds. This was my first attempt at chain plying, and it’s not totally consistent all the way through. I fulled it like the dickens and I’m relatively happy with what I got, despite them being my first skeins plied this way.

With warm temperatures here, I’m itching to get outside. I have the garden to spruce up for planting, fleece to wash and dry, and more skeins of yarn to spin and thwack. Winter always makes me feel like I’m in stasis, so when the warm weather comes I get a wee bit nutty for going outside. I’m prepped for a pretty awesome and busy summer, with lots of projects on the go, and I cannot wait to dive in feet first.

On Breaks & Fresh Perspectives

What a crazy past few weeks!

Although much late, I do wish to say I hope everybody had a lovely holiday season. Mine was busy (but good), and the past few weeks I’ve been down for the count with various minor ailments that have been taking up far too much of my time an energy – capped off by a wicked head cold that completely thwarted all my attempts to knit (damnit).

I am very happy, however, that in December (and a bit into January) I decided to take a few weeks off from designing and instead, focused on knitting some other designer’s patterns.

The first, and my official entry into the 2016 Indie Designer Gift-A-Long was the Stranger Things Cowl by Mary Annarella. I love this thing! It’s so lovely and warm, and the design is incredibly fun. I knit it with Drops Alpaca, which is a little fuzzy for a stranded pattern, but the feel of it is heavenly. It’s so much fun to wear, and fans of the show immediately get it.

I ended up using 225 yds of the light grey and 206 yds of the dark grey. Why 20 yards less when both sides are exactly the same? Who knows, it’s one of those mysteries.

The second project I made up was Ella Austin’s Leighton House Handwarmers. Again, I used a slightly fuzzier alpaca – I really have to stop doing that for extremely fine stranded patterns. But the siren call of soft warm alpaca is something I can’t beat. However, when I knit this pattern again (which I will), I will go with a yarn that affords a bit more stitch definition, so I can really do this design its justice.

What I loved most about this pattern (besides just how plain beautiful it is), is although it’s extremely finely detailed, the repeats are very easy to remember. For the yarn I used Scheepjes Alpaca Rhythm in three colours: the light blue (cuff and Latvian braids) I used approximately 26 yards, for the dark blue on the hand I used about 61 yards, and for the whitish main colour I used 96 yards – leaving more than half the balls. I could easily knit up another pair without purchasing any more yarn!

So as you can see, I’ve been on a bit of a stranded kick lately.

But that doesn’t mean I haven’t been working on my own patterns. After a few weeks break I came back looking at a few projects fresh, which is exactly what they needed, and jotted down ideas for a few more. I even came up with a long-form multi-release project, which is something I’ve been wanting to do for a while but couldn’t quite nail down exactly what I wanted to do.

Sometimes mini-breaks are all you need to clear the cobwebs out. Gives you a fresh perspective on something that otherwise you’re starting to run circles around.

Knitted Holiday Ornaments – Low-Stress Holiday Knitting

minisweatersSome people go absolutely crazy with the knitting for holidays thing. I do not. I find it stresses me out, and I was constantly working feverishly on Christmas eve (sometimes later, ahem) to finish up a gift for somebody.

My family does a draw of names – we each get one other family member to shop for, we set a limit (which I may go over, ahem again), and in theory that’s the only person we’re supposed to shop for. Always not one to follow the rules, I started knitting up little tiny ornaments for everybody in my family. I could argue that I wasn’t really buying anything – I mostly use left over yarn from projects I make throughout the year. Besides maybe buying a pattern, which technically was buying something for myself, I’m not really purchasing anything for anybody.

Plus, I just like giving people things.

Doing a quick search for holiday knitted ornaments is a bit of a crapshoot I’ve found – there are really beautiful things out there that you can knit for everybody’s trees. And there are some that are… well, let’s say not to my taste.

So I wanted to create a mini-compendium of lovely little knitted ornaments that you can peruse through. These make great little stocking stuffers for family, or a neat addition to your own tree, and they have the added bonus of extremely low-stress holiday knitting. They can be done with those ends of skeins you have sitting around, and it’s amazing how many you can turn out in a day if you put your mind to it.

The ones I’ve made…

Mini Sweater Ornaments
Tiny Sock Ornaments
Icy Seas (really beautiful tiny knitted toques)

Other Patterns

These are the ones I’ve come across while searching, and haven’t made yet, but are on the to-do list for future years

Christmas Trees
Mini Mitt Ornaments
Candy Cane Christmas Ornament
Sanquhar Christmas Ornaments
Christmas Lights
Christmas Robin

Non-Traditional Ornaments

Because sometimes balls and candy canes can get a little monotonous – how about sprucing them up with something a little less traditional?

Mini Envelope Ornaments
Orbital Ornaments
SantaCob
Owl Ornaments
Batman, Wonderwoman, and Superman Balls
Nerd Holiday Ornaments
Grumpy, The Lump of Coal

Spooky Christmas…

We started doing this a few years ago, because I love Halloween (like, a lot). So these fall into the non-traditional category as well, and not all of them are tree ornaments, but put on a piece of ribbon or a string, and bam you have Spooky Christmas decorations.

Waldorf Halloween Witches
Gruesome Knitted Eyeballs
Creepy Halloween Candy – Zombie
Dracula and Ghosty
Halloween Stocking Ornaments

Making Me Happy #3

1. October
Yep, the whole month makes me happy. It’s the one time of year where everybody else is as into spooky stuff as I am. I love Halloween. I love it more than any other holiday (even Christmas where, you know, I get presents). I love Halloween so much, we even celebrate “Spooky Christmas” in my house (which involves all manner of Halloween decorations transplanted into Christmas). I love horror movies, and ghost stories, and spooky nights. And I love it when everybody else loves it as much as I do. While fall is never my go-to for favourite time of year (summer is over, damnit), I love everybody else getting into the spirit of things as much as I am the rest of the year.

Pauly2. Pauly
There is this weird shop in a little shopping district not far from where I live – while the district used to be full of punks and music stores, it’s now (to my great dismay) gentrified quite a bit over the past 15 years. And while it’s no longer the street I used to bum around in high school, it does still hold little vestiges of its past. One of these is a store, up above another with next to no signage. Up there is a jumble of games, second hand clothing, and (my favourite section) taxidermy and skeleton bits. On Friday I came across Pauly – a weasel skull that I had to add to my collection. He’s very small, and he now lives with my other collection of bones that I’ve known to pick up at odd places (all pre-cleaned, I don’t have the stomach to do that part myself).

But the second part to what makes me happy about this, is the fellow that owns it takes special care to make sure anything he buys or sells is ethically sourced, by either being part of an old collection, or the animal died due to old age or misadventure. Of great sadness to me is people buying taxidermy bats, not realizing they’re being killed en masse in Asia for that purpose, decimating the population (I really, really like bats). So, in addition to Pauly this week, it makes me happy to know there’s an ethical dealer that I can purchase items from close to my neighbourhood.

The Calm Before The Storm

swatches Going through a burst of ideas is walking the razor’s edge. On the one hand, you get a bunch of ideas and you’re super excited to try them all right now. On the other hand, for me at least, I can get frustrated because my fingers can’t work as fast as the ideas come. Especially when one of those ideas doesn’t go as easily as I hoped, I spend a lot of time on it, and still it doesn’t work the exact way I want.

I think part of the reason that I’ve had a flurry of ideas lately (which I’m all really excited about) is because I’m in a bit of a lull. I have four patterns in varying states – two currently in testing, and two just waiting for the yarn to arrive so I can cast on. I have another that I’m still stubbornly trying to figure out the math on, and two more that are in the drafting stages (one’s going better than the other). That’s a lot of things up in the air, and quite a few patterns (for me anyway) in the drafting stage at one time. I have nothing to actually knit and work on, so my mind is freed up a bit to think more about possibilities than hard concrete projects that are in process.

So, it’s a double edged sword – lots of ideas, but nothing that I’m actually knitting, which makes me feel slightly antsy. Which is why I’ve been a swatching machine lately.

I actually quite enjoy swatching. I get to see how a yarn will react with a particular pattern before I cast on, and I can work out ideas beforehand and see if they need adjusting so I don’t have to do it while I’m making the finished piece (I hate ripping things out, and will avoid it at all costs). It’s nice to finish a swatch too and have a tiny finished piece that didn’t take a lot of time, but still gives me the satisfaction of doing something.

Some day I’ll make the most epic (and possibly ugly) blanket out of all these swatches I have lying around.