Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Second guessing

I worked on the planned holiday gifts I blogged about before all last week and made a decent amount of progress. But as I kept knitting away on one project, I had this growing seed of insecurity in the back of my mind. Although I was loving knitting the project (might as well admit to it being a shawl) and it was turning out splendidly, as it continued to grow, so did the thought, "Would this item actually be used?" Although I'm the receiver of the shawl would admire it and appreciate the work I had put into it, I just knew it wouldn't get a lot (or probably even a little bit) of use. The longer I thought about it, the more I just couldn't see my intended receiver wearing the finished item. It just wasn't the right gift for the right person. So I set it aside for now. I will go back to it after the gift knitting fever has passed and will probably finish it up for myself (I swear, this was not my plan this whole time).

So in the mean time, I had to start over again, with a week less to work. So I grabbed some yarn in a lovely coopery yarn with a hint of shimmer, choose a pattern I knew would get good use (one many of you probably can recognize, but shh! it's still a secret for now), and started knitting like a mad women. It's been a fun knit and it's turning out beautifully, so I know I made the right decision.

And when I'm tired of lace, I pick up a nice squishy garter stitch project which is also a gift. Look at that yarn - it's like an amazing graffiti of yarn and color. I had this yarn first and had to go on the search for a project that would do it justice. It's turning out so fun and playful - just what I was going for.

This week...

Knitting: Christmas gift fever continues, renewed. And I've managed to stay monogamous to these projects... for now.

Reading: I'm back to finishing A Dream of God and Monsters by Laini Taylor. I've stated how much I love this series (Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy) so much that I don't want it to end. But I can't wait to see what happens. It's one of those conundrums we all face with a good book.

Linking up with KCCO and yarn along.

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Monday, 20 October 2014

Knitting Confessions #8

Like most things in the world, knitting has a set of rules and conventions. Sometimes, we knitters break them. This is my knitting confession.

On Mondays, I'll fess up to some of my own, personal knitting "no-no's". Feel free to join me by blogging some of your own weekly confessions or stories of breaking knitting conventions and join the linkup below.  

Confession #8: I am a weakling for beautiful yarn.

This past weekend I had to go buy a single skein of yarn for one of my planned Christmas gifts. Something nice, but simple and relatively inexpensive. Because it's part of a gift, I had convinced myself it wouldn't be breaking my self-imposed yarn diet. And I had a plan: get in, get a single skein of yarn, don't look around, don't browse, keep your head down, and get out. 

But I was bad. I couldn't help myself from looking just a little bit. My naughty eyes spied a beauty, my traitorous heart immediately fell in love, and my fickle brain immediately began rationalize buying it.

It'll be my birthday soon, so I could say this is just an early gift to myself. Or a nice present from Andy, who loves me and would want me to have beautiful yarn. Everyone knows gifts don't count toward yarn diets. It was just so pretty. I couldn't help it. Sometimes you just deserve a lovely skein of yarn.

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Knitting Confessions

Friday, 17 October 2014

October socks

Monthly sock challenge: 1 out of 12

This month I decided to join Liesl at Buckaloo View in a monthly sock challenge - 12 socks in 12 months. Making socks was one of the main drivers in pushing me to learn how to knit in the first place, so I thought a nice way to mark my first full year of knitting would be to challenge myself to make one pair of socks for every month for the next year. (Secret second agenda disclosed, I can using it as an excuse, citing that I'm doing this to better myself and push myself as a knitter, so I must go buy some more sock yarn, right?)

My October entry to the sock challenge aren't too very exciting, but I'm really feeling the vibe of selfstriping, plain, vanilla socks right now. It's always nice to keep things easy on one project when you have other, more complicated, time constrained projects going on at the same time. The yarn is some Loops and Thread sock yarn I got on sale at Michael's awhile ago. While digging through my sock yarn stash (which will shrink more than grow, I promise), the nice fall colors caught my eye. I'm not a giant fan of selfstriping socks that try to look like fair isle patterns, though, and this yarn isn't really changing my stance on that right now, but it is a nice soft yarn with some cashmere in it which I got for a bargain, so I'll try not to complain.

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Thursday, 16 October 2014

A year of knitting

This week marks the end of my first year of knitting. Last October, I walked into a corner store, found the biggest knitting needles I could find for $1, went home, looked up some Youtube videos, and started knitting. And a crazy love affair was born.

I had been crocheting for ages before then. If you spend any amount of time around strict crocheters, you begin to discover a seedy underside of crochet. One that seems to hold a strange grudge against knitters because it can be perceived by crocheters that knitters think the craft of knitting is better than crochet. I have to say, I experienced it a bit myself at a LYS. I asked for some help deciding on a crochet needle size to try making socks and I got an uninformed shrug off that sent a "why would you bother crocheting when you could knit" vibe. So I stubbornly had decided I would not knit and give into the snootiness. Crochet for life. 

But I was also reaching a place in my crochet where I wanted to make sweaters and socks. Crochet has its benefits - fast, easily formed into different shapes - but it is not always great for creating comfortable, well fitting garments because it is bulky, sometimes holy, and uses a lot of yarn. If I wanted to achieve these goals and reach a new level in my craft, I resigned myself that I would need to learn how to knit. So I did. So I gave up my grudge and started knitting my very first swatch (after a lot of fiddling about and discovering continental style knitting, which suits my crochet-habits much more than English style. I had a bit of a fight with English style knitting that may have ended my whole knitting career right then and there.)

But, man, do I love it! I have become so swept up and inspired by knitting. This year has been a little frustrating and stressful at work, so I have really thrown myself into my newfound passion. Here's a look back at this crazy, knitting-filled year.

First knitting project: My very first project was a simple hat, knit flat and then sewn into a circle. Definitely nothing special, but it taught me ribbing, how to join in new colors, how to decrease, and how to count rows (which I apparently didn't do a good job of because one of the stripes is the wrong thickness, whoops!).

Last completed project: The last full project I've completed is my Peabody sweater (which hasn't been nicely photographed yet, so forgive me). I think this is an excellent project to end my first year on because it highlights just how far I've come in this year as it includes lace (lace knitting was a big, hair-pull-inducing hurdle for me to jump over at the beginning and I have the discarded lace projects lying around to prove it), seaming, shaping, ribbing, knitting in the round - lots of techniques I've had to learn and master to make polished, finished garments.

Favorite  project: Tie between my Totoro sweater and my Pluie cardigan. These are two pieces of color work that I'm really proud of. My Totoro sweater makes the list because this is basically the third project I ever knit and it involved stranded knitting and modifying a pattern. It was a bit ambitious, but I was just super motivated to complete the project. And it is still one of my favorite garments even if I catch myself noticing mistakes and wishing I'd attempted this with a bit more experience under my belt. Pluie makes the list because I just really am so proud of it. Intarsia is hard! Getting it to work so that it looks smooth and polished is hard! And Pluie represents me tackling this technique, along with seaming, for the very first time and succeeding. Plus, it just puts a smile on people's faces.

This next year of knitting I am looking forward to continue expanding my experiences - learning new techniques and expanding on those I have picked up already. I want to get more lace knitting under my belt because I find knitted lace just spectacular, but my early experience may have scarred me so I have mostly stayed away for heavily lace projects. I also want to transform my sock drawer to one full of hand knit socks through the monthly sock challenge. There's no end to my knitting inspiration for this upcoming year!

What are you inspired by in your knitting right now? Do you have any knitting goals you want to accomplish?

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Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Start the countdown to panic

Smart people started making Christmas gifts in January. Sane people started this summer. I finally decided to start this past weekend. I don't always (or even usually) make gifts for holidays, but I love giving gifts and have been known to go a little crazy and spend a wee bit too much money. Because we are trying to be more money smart and stick to a stricter budget this year, Andy gave me an ultimatum challenge for this year's Christmas: try to make the majority of gifts this year. And as if that isn't enough, I need to do my best to only use yarn I already have in my stash. All of this is very easy for Andy to say, since I'll be the one in charge of making the gifts while he watches the bank account. If I were one of the aforementioned smart people, I would have started to tackle all of this much sooner because I need to get it done by mid-December if it's going to make it to the States in time for Christmas day.

But I must be insane, because I agreed to this idea. I actually put down all my selfish projects, matched patterns to yarn, and cast on a couple of gifts this weekend. (Okay, so it wasn't an entirely selfless ordeal because most, if not all, of the patterns I choose for gifts were ones I've been wanting to make for awhile. I have good taste, though, so I'm sure my family will love them, too. And if not, they can give back all the presents so I can enjoy them.)

This week...

Knitting: Christmas knitting has officially begun. Two gifts out of five are on the needles. Because prying eyes view this blog, these projects have to remain very mysterious until after the holidays. It's more exciting for everyone that way!

Reading: I'm also on a crunch to finish The Magician's Land before it automatically gets sucked back into the interwebs and gets returned to the library - half way through with only 5 days left. I'm being realistic... it likely won't get finished in time. But just maybe...

Linking up with KCCO and yarn along.

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Monday, 13 October 2014

Happy (Canadian) Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving to all my Canadian loves and to all of us foreigners who call Canada home (at least for now). 

Because it's just the two of us crazy November-celebrating Americans this Thanksgiving, Andy and I are going to be having Thanksgiving dinner at the pub after a day full of knitting. It sounds like a great way to celebrate to me. I hope everyone else is having a lovely long, cool, knitting-full fall weekend. 

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P.S. Knitting confessions will be back next week! 

Friday, 10 October 2014

FO: Feathernest raglan

Project: Feathernest raglan 
I actually finished this sweater weeks ago, but have been very lazy about photographing it and getting things ready to blog. Since then, I have worn this sweater numerous times. This was a really fun knit for me. I've already talked a bit about how I was unsure about it at first - would the patterned stitches be too bulky? Is the color right for this pattern? Well, when all is said and done, I think it's perfect and I love the finished project. I wear it all the time now that the weather has turned cooler here in Toronto. One of my favorite things about this sweater is the fit. I usually have issues with topdown raglans being a bit baggy in the underarm because of the number of increases I need to do to fit my bust. I guess I'm just not regularly proportioned in that aspect - small shoulders for my boob size. But this sweater fits great in every aspect and when you have something that is snuggly and fits great, you never want to take it off. My other favorite thing about this sweater is that it is interesting to look at - the texture is splendid and eye catching while not being overwhelming. Have I mentioned that I love this sweater?

I thought this was a great design and a great pattern. I really like that the design took a traditional knitting technique, guernsey, and used it to make a very modern jumper. Many people in the their project pages had complained that this was a bit of a tricky pattern, and I suppose it can be, but I had no trouble with it at all. The hardest thing to figure out is the increases along the raglan - the increases are meant to be done in the chevron stitch pattern, so you have to keep track of where you are on the chart so you make your increase stitch in the proper knit or purl. I simply used a pencil to mark an arrow where my pattern was starting in each round, then I knew to move one stitch further to make my increase properly. I did the same for the waist shaping and sleeve decreases, and I had no issues at all making sure I stayed in the pattern. I will say that it requires you to pay attention while knitting, but that's good for the brain cells. 

Yarn: Cascade 220 in colorway 8906
I bought this yarn only because it was on sale. It wasn't really a color I am generally drawn to for larger projects, but I went ahead and bought enough to make a sweater. Just in case. Well, it's a great color. For winter, it's a nice bright blue to cheer up any gray days, but it also will work well for cool spring mornings. This is my first time using Cascade 220 for a sweater and I love it. It is soft, warm, not scratchy, and is a pleasure to knit with. Now I can see why it's been a staple in the knitting community for so long. I will gladly use it again (and I plan to very soon!).

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