Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Felted Mittens!

I finally got Skip's mittens felted. It only took two runs through my front-loading washer with a dark load. Skip wants them for shovelling snow. I'll put them away 'til next winter I guess.

This is what they looked like before felting. The paper is 8.5" x 11".
And after felting... (the paper is the same size as above). I added a nice manly stitch around the cuff. Initially I had knit a row of yarn that wouldn't felt and was going to add a ribbed cuff after felting but the cuffs were long enough without the ribbing so I embroidered in the stitch holes (after the waste yarn was removed). The only other modification was adding 5 extra rows to the thumb for a total of 15 before the decreases.
This Patons Classic wool yarn is great for felting. It didn't fuzz up at all. I have a couple of other project in mind for felting now.

Dianna Shawl Update

I have finished the 6th tier of the Dianna Shawl.
I'm now wondering in my enthusiasm to make it really lacy that I have used too big of a needle. I'm considering frogging it to use a smaller needle.

Here you can really see how the orientation of the leaves change at each tier.

I did the math and I should easily be able to get 10 tiers out of this ball of yarn.

I just added a counter that tracks the countries the readers of this blog come from. I didn't realize I had so many readers in the US and overseas. Cool!

Monday, 29 March 2010

20 Questions

1. Explain what ended your last relationship?
Incompatibility followed by infidelity (on his part).

2. When was the last time you shaved?
This morning.

3. What were you doing this morning at 8 a.m.

4. What were you doing 15 minutes ago?
Reading blogs.

5. Some things you are excited about?
Going for dim sum tomorrow with David and Susan, finding a gold earring today I thought I'd lost last Thursday, looking forward to my KnitPicks order arriving at my door, seeing Alexa and Paul on Saturday.  Life is good!

6. What is your favorite flavor of JELL-O?

7. Your prom night, what do you remember about it?
How fun it was after all the planning. It was Pan-Hellenic Formal March 1976 at the University of Western Ontario. The catered dinner was at our Gamma Phi Beta sorority house followed by the dance at some ballroom in London. Sue and I still reminisce about it. Tee hee. We were such babes.  We had SUCH letdown after it was over AND our dates never asked us out again. :-(

8. Do you have any famous ancestors?
Famous? Not that I know of. INfamous? Maybe. ;-)

9. Last thing received in the mail?
Statement from my financial planner.

10. How many different beverages have you had today?
3 - tea a breakfast, diet Coke at lunch and water at dinner.

11. Do you ever leave messages on people’s answering machine?
Yes, but I prefer sending e-mails or Facebook messages. I don't Twitter or use text messages because I don't have a fancy schmancy phone. I long to have a fancy schmancy phone but currently cannot justify the expense.

12. Do you draw your name in the sand when you go to the beach?

13. Any plans for Friday night?
Not as of yet. 

14. Do you like what the ocean does to your hair?
The ocean air makes it go wild and curly. I don't generally put my hair IN the ocean. My husband says I go 'all feral' when I'm near the ocean or any other large-ish body of water, for that matter.

15. Have you ever received one of those big tins of 3 different popcorns?
No, but I could sure use one to block a purse I want to felt.

16. Do you re-use towels after you shower?
Yes, and will do so until I have servants or laundry service. I especially like drying them on the clothesline after I've used them. It makes them smell wonderful and go all scratchy.

17. Describe your keychain(s)?
It's a 5" x 1.5" clear lucite tag with 'GERI' engraved on it. I bought it at the Key Man kiosk somewhere in Toronto in the late 70s and have used it every day since. My friends, Rifka and Lorna, also had theirs made there -- we don't generally see our names on items that can be readily purchased.

18. Where do you keep your change?
In my wallet.

19. When was the last time you spoke in front of a large group of people?
Three weeks ago at my knitting guild when I was recommending a few knitting podcasts that I subscribe to.

20. What kind of winter coat do you own?
A black Columbia ski jacket with zip-out fleece lining. I only wore it once this winter as it was so mild. The rest of the time I wore my lighter black waterproof jacket with a zip-out 'wool-like' plaid lining.

Copy and paste it to your blog.

Saturday, 27 March 2010


Last night I baked a bunch of Easter egg-shaped sugar cookies. This evening I decorated them - making royal icing and even colouring it a bit. I used a ZipLoc bag as a piping bag and it worked pretty well. It was fun at Bulk Barn today picking out the sprinkles I used on the cookies. Of course, I had the decorated cookies all put away before I got a chance to take a photo. But here they all are stacked up.

I am not terribly creative but I think they do look quite festive.

Skip and Scooter have informed me that they are in the acceptable range taste-wise.

The Dianna shawl is coming along. I've almost completed tier #5. I did the math earlier and figure I can get 10 tiers out of this one ball of yarn. I do have a second ball, though, and would certainly use part of it if I felt it needed to be bigger.

Friday, 26 March 2010

What a Difference a Day Makes! (lots o' links)

Today, Skip and I had our income tax prepared by a professional. I have been doing it at home with a trusty CD but we decided to have an expert do it this year and see if she could find us more deductions or refunds. With a bit of prestidigitation on the computer (and income splitting) she found us a net refund of $300 instead of us having to pay $500. YAY!

After that good news we visited Skip's nonegenarian mother in the nursing home (I showed her photos from my blog on the computer there). Following that, we felt peckish so headed over to Uxbridge to Scrambles, the restaurant at the Foxbridge Golf Course, for lunch. Then we went to the LYS,  On the Lamb,  to see what was new. Ellen, the amiable proprietor, when she learned I had been knitting mittens, showed me this brand new book, "60 Quick Knits: 20 Hats, 20 Scarves, 20 Mittens in Cascade 220". I had just been reading a glowing review of this book on Grumperina's blog so was pleased to get to see the book 'in the flesh'. So I bought it.

I did some work on the Dianna shawl and now I really think I have the hang of it. So much so that I just started tier #4 (the black square). It is a very interesting design with the leaves pointing a different way in each tier as well as the odd numbered tiers having a stocking stitch leaf on a reverse stocking stitch background and the even numbered tiers having a reverse stocking stitch leaf on a stocking stitch background. It is completely reversible and there will be only two ends to sew in when it is finished - at the beginning and at the end.

Here's a closeup.
I'm using large needles (4mm) as I like very open lacework. It will also make a bigger scarf/shawl. This Zauberball yarn is perfect for this project. The colours are varied, strong and change very gradually. It can be seen better here.
It's so fun to knit and see what colour comes up next. I'm so glad I persevered. Lesson learned? Don't try a new lace pattern unless I'm alone and can give it my 100% concentration.

Frustration, Determination, and Finally, Success!

I've been doing a LOT of knitting lately. I can't help it - I'm obsessed. I finished a couple of projects recently and started a new one and everything came screeching to a halt when I realized I didn't have the right yarn. But the right yarn has been ordered and is on the way.

Last night, Skip and I attended our monthly Mac User's group meeting. Skip is the Mac User, I just tag along for the general computer information and to spend some time outside of the house with my husband. I took the pattern, needles and yarn for a new project, the Dianna shawl,  that, although it was lace, didn't look like it would be too hard. I have some very cool Zauberball sock yarn that I thought would be perfect for it. I got to row 10 and couldn't figure out why I didn't have the number of stitches the chart said I should have. RIP! I did it again and had the same problem. Did I forget a yarnover? RIP! I tried it again and dropped a stitch somewhere. RIP! The cable on my circular was driving me nuts 'cause it was so stiff and the correct needle tip for my lovely KnitPicks Harmony wood interchangeable needles that Santa brought me last Christmas was in use on another project. After about the 5th time trying to get beyond row 10 I finally realized I was p2tog when I should have been p3tog. Aha! And on I went. At this point I was having a hell of a time reading the graph because it was missing some important stuff like any symbols on the even numbered rows and didn't have the slip wyif symbol at the beginning of each row. So I thought I'd have another look at the notes and behold, it said to knit the knits and purl the purls as they appear and purl the yarnovers outlining the leaf on the next row. Argh! I put it down.

Today, Skip and I went into The Big City to attend the noon hour recital of one of my former students, Alexa Wing (soprano). It was a lovely Baroque music recital featuring some works of Maurice Greene and Georg Frederic Handel. Being an 'oboiste' I am very partial to Baroque music and having it performed by someone I know made the experience even more enjoyable. On the GO Train, I hauled out the Dianna project again and attempted to make more progress with not too much success. Again, at the recital, I tried to make sense of it thinking I'd somehow get some inspiration from Alexa's lovely performance. Wrong!

After the recital, Skip and I went down to the St. Lawrence Market and poked around for a while. It was so nice being there on a weekday - no crowds! We wandered up and down every aisle. I bought three cookie cutters and we bought some of our favourite Lappi cheese.We stopped for lattes and some sugarless licorice. On the way home on the train, I managed to complete two repeats of the pattern. But realized I wasn't doing the entrelac properly. RIP!

Once home, I rewrote the chart so that it could be followed accurately but I left the project at home when I went to my knitting group because I realized it is a project that requires my 100% concentration.  I took other stuff to Knit Night and started in again when I got home. Once home, I commenced again and finally was successful completing one pattern and am half done a repeat. YAY!

I damned if I was going to be defeated by a 2"x2" square of lace kitting - sheesh!

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Just When I Thought I Had It All Ready To Go or So Much for Good Planning

I decided to add the St. Moritz pullover to my projects on Ravelry. When I looked at the right margin where the yarns are displayed and their attributes, much to my horror, I noted that the Peer Gynt yarn is 8ply (22 sts = 4") and the Heilo is 5ply Sport yarn (24 sts = 4"). What???? I had been lead to believe that they were the same weight. It's my own damned fault, though. I should have read the ball band more closely. That explains why I was having trouble getting gauge as I usually have to go up at least one needle size due to my tight knitting.

So my choices were to continue knitting with the Peer Gynt yarn and purchase the black and white that I'd need to finish the sweater or find Heilo yarn to use with the black and white Heilo that I already have. I decided to get Heilo yarn for the grey and accent colours of red and gold. I tootled over to Kniterary to see if Martina had it in stock or could order it for me and the minimum order was 20 balls. I would have taken 10 but really didn't need 20. I checked eBay and there was a nice lot of 20 balls of Heilo yarn with enough grey for my project. The current bid was pretty good - about $18US but they were going to charge $19US for shipping!

Then I thought, I bet KnitPicks has a 5ply sport weight yarn that would work so I checked their website and not only is their Telemark yarn the right weight, it's only $2.19US per ball! Wheee! So quick like a bunny, I put in my order - my third KnitPicks order this week. So much for good planning. It should go well with the Heilo and will make a less dense fabric on the St. Moritz sweater than the Peer Gynt. I'll knit some other sweater with the Peer Gynt or a bunch of mittens or something. It's lovely scratchy wool.

In the meantime, while I wait for the Telemark yarn to arrive, I'm going to tackle a couple of WIPs and get them out of the way.

Monday, 22 March 2010

Swatching and Frogging

I finished the Harvey Kimono last night. It was a fairly quick and easy knit except for some reason I put the buttonhole on the garter stitch band on the wrong side and didn't figure it out until I had sewn the shoulder seams together (duh!). So I removed the garter stitch border and just knit down, inserting the buttonhole in the right place. I still need to get a couple of buttons and will do a little i-cord tie for the inside.

It's from Louisa Harding's "Natural Knits for Babies and Moms". The baby boy isn't due until July so I'm hoping to whip up a couple of other baby items, such as a baby blanket and a hat.

I started in on Skip's Dale of Norway St. Moritz sweater last night. I'm using some lovely black and off white Dale of Norway Heilo yarn that was in my husband's 'dowry' (his previous wife left it behind when she left the marital home). And am using grey, red and gold Peer Gynt for the rest.
I do strongly advocate checking gauge on sized items like sweaters but really don't like doing swatches. Instead, I usually jump right in and start knitting a sleeve (less to rip out than the body of the sweater) and knit until I could get a pretty good idea of the gauge. I needed 6 sts per inch and was getting 7 with the recommended needles so I started knitting a flat swatch using needles one size larger. I got gauge so cast on another sleeve and commenced knitting. I redid the cuff and got into the stocking stitch with the increased needle size and darned if I was now getting 5 stitches per inch. Crap! So I frogged back to just beyond the ribbed cuff and continued with the 3mm needle on the stocking stitch instead of going up a size. I'll get to go up a needle size once I hit the two-colour work at the top of the sleeve.
I'm rapidly getting bored with the sleeve and was toying with the idea of starting the body of the sweater instead - not that it will be any less boring. But I now realize I don't have a 3mm needle long enough for the 278 stitches of the body. I guess I'll be putting in a KnitPicks order for myself after all. Until then, I'll keep working on the sleeves.

This sweater isn't going to knit up quite as fast as the Icelandic Star sweater, but I'm sure the final result is going to be awesome. I'd knit one for myself except drop sleeves are not the most figure-flattering for me.

There are some lovely hats and mitten patterns, though. And even though the yarn is too scratchy for my delicate forehead, I'd probably line the hat with fleece.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Estonian Mittens

I got these mittens finished and blocked yesterday. I'm showing them off today at my knitting groups and then hope to mail them off to my friend tomorrow.
Karen's winter coat is cherry pink with brown embellishments. I think these will be a perfect match.

I did two main modifications. Instead of doing the cross pattern on the outside of the thumb, I decided to continue the palm pattern and did the cross pattern on the palm side of the thumb.
I did not like the look of the half-wick decreases on the top of the mitten so instead substituted a centre double decrease (sl2tog as if to knit, k1, pass both slipped stitches over) instead.

I learned three new techniques whilst knitting these mittens. First, was the yarnover braid. It is thinner than the Latvian braid I had been doing and it was VERY fiddly. A real pain in the a**. Each braid (and there were 5 on each mitten!) took half an hour. That's 5 hours on the braids alone. Harumph!

The second new technique was the double-start cast-on. It was very easy and decorative and not as fiddly as the two-colour long-tail cast-on that I used a lot on the Selbu mittens. Here's a video demonstrating the technique by the folk knitting queen herself, Nancy Bush. It is nice and stretchy and quite decorative. I would definitely use it again for mitten or sock cuffs.

The third new technique was the nupp (rhymes with 'hoop'). A nupp is a little bobble knit into the fabric. In flat knitting, several stitches are knit into one and on the return row (usually the 'resting' or purl row) they are all purled together. Here's another video of Nancy Bush demonstrating the technique. However, the mittens were knit in the round so a very different technique was used. Once I did a couple of them, the instructions were very easy to remember (a bonus at my age - LOL) and execute.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010


On the weekend, Marion, Elaine and I 'drew' Pysanky (Ukrainian Easter eggs). I spent a few minutes deciding what design I would use. I have lots of photos of eggs from books I have collected and from the Internet.
Marion and Elaine were a lot more creative than I was and pretty much designed their own patterns. The white egg is first washed with a vinegar and water solution and dried. Only those with intact and smooth shells will be used as even the smallest shell imperfections will result in a broken egg and a really bad smell. The eggs are not blown out so when they're put in the jar of dye they will sink to the bottom. After a few years the inside will dry up and the yolk will be like a little ball inside. Some people do blow the eggs out after dyeing them but they must be sealed first so the dye doesn't run. The little holes are then sealed with beeswax. I prefer to just leave the egg intact.

Pencil can first be used to draw guidelines or designs on the egg. Whatever will ultimately be white is then drawn on the egg with the kistka. The kistka is basically a small copper funnel attached to a stick with copper wire, in which the beeswax is melted over the flame of a candle - in our case we used tealights. The tip is then drawn along the egg and the melted beeswax adheres to the shell. The egg is then dyed the next lightest colour - in this case, yellow. I then drew on the egg what ultimately would be yellow lines. Then the egg was dyed red.

Here, I'm filling in all the areas that will ultimately be red.
After this, I dyed the egg black which was my final colour.

Now comes the fun part. We take the dried, waxy, black egg and hold it near a candle flame to soften and melt the wax, which is then wiped away with paper towel.
Once all the wax is all wiped off, the egg is sealed with varathane and dried for 24 hours.

And here they all are drying after being varathaned. Elaine's are ones with purple and turquiose, one above the other at the far left. Marion's are both on the bottom right and mine are on the top right.
 These two are mine.

This was Marion's first attempt. I think it turned out very well.

The basic supplies are:
  • prepared dyes stored in wide-mouthed jars (vinegar is the mordent)
  • kistkas of various sizes
  • beeswax (I used the sheets often used for rolled candle making and also have one of the wax 'pucks')
  • tea lights
  • candle
  • newspaper to cover work areas
  • lots of paper towels (to cushion egg at the work area, to dry the eggs off, to clean up any messes).
So each year, I just need to supply fresh, smooth, crack-free, white eggs.

I have also seen Pysanky drawn with Christmas and Hallowe'en patterns.

Saturday, 13 March 2010

March Break - meh

Back when I was working, I used to live for this day - the beginning of March Break. My colleagues were well trained to not ask, "Are you going anywhere for March Break" but to ask, "Where are you going for March Break", because for my entire teaching career (except for one year) I went on some type of trip. I went on 7 Caribbean cruises with my friend, Marsha Lampman (may she continue to rest in peace), trips to Acapulco, Costa Rica, Nassau, Boston, Houston, Georgia, New York, etc. with friends, Phoenix, Tampa, San Andres, 2 other cruises with Skip, etc., etc. I would be SO exhausted by the time I was getting on the plane and would just feel all the stress drain out of me as we'd taxi down the runway for take-off. Ahhhh.

Now this week is like any other week for me, except for increased traffic around my town during the day and all the damned kids walking around. I am glad, though, that my hard-working former colleagues are getting a week away from the inane administrative decisions, the pressing deadlines, the verbal abuse from teenagers, and the stress of planning the equivalent of 3 birthday parties a day for 20+ kids at a time, most of whom don't want to be there. I don't miss anything about my 'past life'.

Since returning home from TX last week, I've been really pooped and have done a lot of sleeping in and taking it pretty easy. I have, however, continued to knit frenetically and have completed one Estonian mitten for my dear friend, Karen, who recently discovered she is of Estonian heritage. It is the Maimu's Mitten Pattern from Nancy Bush's "Folk Knitting in Estonia" that my wonderful and talented niece gave me for Christmas.

Today I finished a child's vest as a store sample for Kniterary.  I don't particularly enjoy knitting with cotton but this stuff - Mirasol Samp'a was OK to work with. It's a Debbie Bliss Sublime pattern called "Yoke" and is the slipover (vest) version. There are also instructions for a long sleeved sweater. It was a very quick knit and as an experienced knitter, didn't have any trouble interpreting the pattern, however, there are a few things the pattern assumes the knitter will know to do that aren't specifically outlined, such as doing right leaning and left leaning decreases along the edges of the vest (which can be tricky purlwise), remembering to continue the 4-stitch stocking stitch on the neck on the purl rows, doing the decreases for the armholes one stitch in from the edge (using ssk or k2tog as required) for ease of picking up ribbing stitches, etc. I was fine incorporating these standard things into the vest but they weren't written into the pattern and a less experienced knitter might need prompting.
I'm now back to finishing the Estonian mittens for Karen and hope to get them finished this weekend and sent off to her soon.

Tomorrow night will be Pysanky night here as Marion and Elaine are coming over to draw their first Ukrainian Easter eggs. After giving blood this morning, I made an appointment today with the Ukrainian Easter egg lady, Mary Salmers, to go and pick up a couple of kistkas so the ladies would have their very own to keep. At $2.25 each, plus a package of yellow dye (I vaguely remember being low on it last year) I got out of there having spent only $6.45 including tax -- not a lot of money for what I'm sure will be a full evening of creativity and enjoyment. I'll try to remember to take lots of pictures of our goings-on. The dyes last indefinitely so I have them all in labeled Mason jars in the basement from previous years and I haul them out each year, round up some beeswax and am able to quickly get down to work with very little extra preparation.

One of the crafty blogs I read, RootsandWingsCo., recently had a post all about Easter egg drawing and I got even more ideas. I'm very much a technician so have a technical approach to my pysanky drawing but anyone with a more visually artistic flair would really like some of the RootsandWingsCo designs.

Saturday, 6 March 2010

Jiggety Jig

Skip and I drove back from Texas this week by way of our customary route. We had great weather and were able to drive 750km - 850km per day. We stopped in at my sister's on Wednesday night for a quick visit. This only left 4 more hours of driving to get home on Thursday - after stopping in at our favourite 'dim sum' place in Markham. Before crossing back into Canada, we stopped at the Barnes and Noble in Port Huron, MI so I could pick up a copy of Rachael Herron's first romance novel, "How to Knit a Love Song",  which had been released this week.
It took a while to find it but with help it was relocated from the 'Fiction' section to the 'Romance' section. 

I've been reading Rachael's blog, "Yarn-a-go-go", for a couple of years and have been following her writing and editing of the book and what process she has undertaken to get it published. She recently learned that it will be sold at Target starting in April. It's pretty exciting.

I hope I get to meet Rachael sometime so she can autograph my copy.

I since learned that my niece's book store in Sarnia, "The Book Keeper" had it in stock so I could have certainly purchased it there. Bad aunt. She'd love it if you would order it from her.
I've been pretty pooped since getting home so haven't done too much except some knitting. For the drive home, I cast on Annemor #17 and decided to make gloves that the pattern called for rather than doubling the pattern and making mittens.

I didn't like the chevron pattern on the fingers so I did diamonds instead. I don't really like having to do all the fingers but I do like how the gloves are looking. I have the first one done and am on the last 3 fingers of the 2nd one.

I've also started working on a completely new style of mitten knitting (say that 5 times fast) from Nancy Bush's "Folk Knitting in Estonia" that my niece gave me for Christmas.

The pattern is called "Maimu's Mittens" named after the author of the first Estonian knitting book Nancy Bush studied.

I'm making them for a very dear friend who just recently found out she is of Estonian extraction. The dark brown and pink will match her winter coat.

I have learned three different knitting techniques already. The first one is the double-start cast-on which is similar to a long-tail cast-on but more decorative. The second technique I learned was the yarnover braid. It is less bulky than the Latvian braid I've been using and often in pairs one atop the other. The third technique was the 'nupp' on the white part of the cuff. This nupp (rhymes with 'hoop') is different than the one I've been using on the Estonian scarves and shawls that I've knit. On that one, the nupp is created by knitting several stitches into one stitch and purling them all together in the next row. However, when knitting in the round, there is no purl row so it is done by a wrapping technique. I'm a visual learner and get easily frustrated following intricate step-by-step instructions but I was determined to learn these techniques and thus persevered. I only have one more new technique to master and that is the half-wick method of decreasing which I will use to form the top of the mitten.

I am interested in knitting the Dale of Norway Whistler pattern which the Yarn Harlot did for her 2010 Knitting Olympics project. Unfortunately the pattern is out of print and no longer available by regular means. I did see it for sale on eBay for $70 and have now decided to pick a different pattern. Skip has been asking for a Dale of Norway sweater for quite some time so I'd like to grant his wish.

I have several other projects on the go or waiting to get started - a couple of shawls and some sample knitting. Bit by bit they'll all get done.