it's august. fuck.

Today is the first day of the second half of summer for people in the Northern Hemisphere. It's all shorter days and end of the growing season from here, folks.

[ducks as rotten fruit and verbal abuse get thrown]

Still here? Don't blame me — get angry at the Earth's orbit or move to New Zealand or something. I'm just pointing out the obvious.

The obvious, if you're a knitter, is that all those lovely sweater-weather sweaters you want to wear this fall aren't going to make themselves. So if you want at least one new jacket to wear this fall, you're going to have to find some air conditioning and get started on it now.

That's precisely what I did this morning. I agonised a little (and still am, a little) over finishing some stuff that's been on the needles for an embarrassing amount of time, but in the end I decided to grab some stash and start Sway by Fiona Ellis (it's in her Inspired Fair Isle Knits book). The original is in a lilac grey with pink trim; me being me, I'm making mine in brick red with black trim, and have decided to make some modifications. If I ever get the thing done, I'll be posting photos here. Wish me luck.

The other "September is less than five weeks away" crisis I'm going through is that I started cleaning out my bedroom closet this weekend, and I discovered that moths had eaten five pairs of my hand-knit socks, plus three skeins of sock yarn that I was keeping in the same closet. That explains why, as of Friday night, I had three new pairs of socks on the go and plans for several more. I'm all for tossing stuff I don't want anymore, but I'd like it to be me that decides what goes, not a bunch of stupid fibre-eating insects.

(By the bye, in case you are smugly patting yourself on the back because you only buy cotton and synthetics, I have some bad news for you: I have had moths eat 100% acrylic gloves with plastic palm grips. They are evil vermin right up there with raccoons.)

Two of the socks on the needles are from Cookie A.'s Sock Innovation book. The last one is a free download from Knitty, but by the same designer. I like how this woman thinks. Her suggestions for resizing the patterns are reasonable and treat the reader like a grown-up.

I find my knitting goes through phases. I don't just mean in terms of colour, technique, and output, although that happens too. Right now I'm in high production gear because I need the clothes. I like to wear jacket-y cardigans to work because actual jackets are too uncomfortable when I'm going to be sitting in a cubicle all day. Last winter, though, I wore the left elbow out on no fewer than three cardigans, leaving me with just one that I could wear (I have a bad habit of propping my head up on my left hand when I'm reading, in case you're wondering how I managed that). So it's time for more jackets, even though I also need to get the first draft of my novel done. I have enough stash for [glances around the living room] three more plain coloured ones, plus one or two that are already on the needles. There is one that I bought the pattern for and would like to make in a colour I don't have in stash. Maybe that can be this fall's yarn purchase. Yeah, I know. But hey, it's mostly stash-busting!

And, thanks to the moths, it's also time for more socks, and that can definitely be 100% stash-busting. To be honest, a lot of those socks were near to worn-out anyhow, so the critters just sped up the process a little. Not that I'll be forgiving them any time soon.

finally

Sometimes you tell the yarn what to be, and sometimes the yarn tells you what it wants to be.

Once upon a time, the ever-cool Gina came to visit TO from Alberta. Being the ever-cool person that she is, she brought hostess gifts with her, and I put a picture of mine on this blog, like so:


Check out that gorgeous blue-green yarn. That colour combo has since become the main colour scheme for the entire on-line part of The Eyrea. I don't know if it came directly from the yarn — more likely, it came from something Gina said that I can never quite remember — but this is definitely the first instance of it showing up in tangible form.

The reason why the yarn came in one big skein of green-blue with two smaller skeins of blue-green is because you're supposed to make socks from it. It's a fine worsted weight, though, and I'm not big on thick socks for all the usual reasons — they don't fit in boots, they look chunky, blah blah blah. At first, I thought I'd make mittens with contrast cuffs or in a colour pattern. The yarn is mercerised wool (very strong stuff, but still soft to touch), so it would make a nice pair of hard-wearing mittens. I even started a cuff, but somehow they never got done.

Then, over the summer, moths ate the first pair of handmade slippers I'd knitted for myself in years. This time, I decided to try the slipper pattern in the most recent Interweave Holiday issue, since it still had that ballerina slipper shape I like and, most importantly, had instructions for my size.

They were a quick and easy knit, but I found the top edge was a little too big to get them to stay on my feet (this may be a quirk of my feet, my knitting, or the pattern — not sure). So I headed over to Mokuba, picked up some grosgrain ribbon that happened to come in the exact same colours as are in the yarn, and threaded it around the edge so I could adjust the opening:
With the addition of the ribbon, the slippers are dead comfy. I've worn them enough that there should be some "fuzzing" on the soles, but the mercerised wool is holding up very well and shows no signs of wear. It went flat on the sole, but doesn't look like it's fuzzing or pilling anywhere.

Of course, since the original amount of yarn was intended for socks, I have a lot left over. The next time I feel like knitting up some of these slippers, I'm thinking of making one with green-blue yarn and blue-green trim, and the other in the reverse colour scheme — sort of a medieval thing. It'll look fun, and they only get worn at home or in the homes of friends and family, after all.

Naked Sheep 2.0 Rocks!!!


(I feel like everyone who reads that title needs to do so out loud, preferably using one of those microphones that imitates a large stadium echo.)

Tonight the ever-amazing Lisa hosted the first knitting night at the newly rebooted Naked Sheep, and an excellent time was had by all. If you live anywhere near Toronto, you simply must go and see. Yes, even if you don't knit or crochet.

Lisa and I met at the original opening of the Naked Sheep four years ago, and the first thing she told me after announcing she had bought the shop was that she was going to rearrange the shelves so that there was room to sit and knit in the centre of the shop, and so that things were more spacious.

"Makes sense," I said, but wondered about the narrow shape of the shop and whether it could be made "spacious" and still have a decent stock of yarn and pattern books.

Well, I got to see with my own two eyes tonight, and after I picked up my jaw from off the floor, I couldn't stop saying how much of a difference the new layout makes. Not only is there room to sit and knit, there is room to dance. I know, because we did some dancing towards the end of the night when everyone was packing up their knitting.

"Wow, I can't believe how open it all is," I said to Lisa. "How many shelves did you get rid of?"

"Actually, I bought a new one," she said, and pointed to a six-by-six foot cubbyhole rack on the wall behind her.

I am amazed. More space to move around and knit, and yet more space for yarn.

The energy tonight at the knitting drop-in was incredible. I don't want to moan about all the details, but I had a very busy day at work followed by a stressful drive to Mississauga to return a rental car. I wasn't even sure I was going to make it, but I wanted to see the new shop and check things out, so I went. It's almost 11:00pm as I write this blog, and I still feel buzzed.

Some people who dropped by tonight, like Brenda and Sandra, were people I met at the Sheep during the opening of the original version of the shop. Other people were new to me, and some were even new to the shop, but everyone got welcomed in and invited to pull up a chair. (And I would give them shout-outs too, but I can't remember everyone's name! If you were there, please e-mail me so I can say hi to everyone!) Knitters of all sorts of different skill levels were there, which to me just makes things more fun — some projects even got worked by several sets of hands. Variety is very cool when it comes to DIY.

On the way over, it occurred to me that I should at least give Lisa a card — I mean, that is one of the things you're supposed to do when someone you know takes over a business — so I made a quick dash into my favourite card shop. They had all sorts of cool blank cards, and a couple of "congratulations" cards, but in the end I picked one that had a neat collage on the front: a pen-and-ink drawing of a woman's head from the 1950s, a diagram of an atom picked out in sparkly ink, bright happy shapes. On the inside it was blank; on the outside it said "Inspired".

In a single word, it describes Naked Sheep 2.0 perfectly.

Go see.

Sock Off

I say this every year, but this year I mean it: this is the Summer of Socks for me. A lot of my existing socks have been around for five or more years now (hand-made socks lasting longer and all), and some of them are worn down to the nylon at the toes. I never seem to wear out hand-knit heels, just the toes. I know I could darn them, but that wouldn't reduce my yarn stash as quickly and the truth is I'm not very good at darning toe points. Under the ball of the foot or elsewhere on the sole, yes, but not right at the end where all the decreases are.

New socks it is, then — about the only wool knitting that's bearable in the summer.

Noro sock yarn:

I'm glad I bought my yarn at The Purple Purl, because the ever-cool-and-helpful Jennifer advised that I should go down a few needle sizes to get the yarn to work — 2.25mm instead of my usual 2.75mm. (Note to those who don't knit fine yarn: at this weight, half a millimetre makes a big difference). Jennifer said she had cast on the same number of stitches as usual, though, so I tried that for mine, and encountered one of those "weird gauge things" that show up from time to time. Apparently the smaller needle size only affected the row gauge, not the stitch gauge — the socks are the same width as the Lana Grossa socks I was making at the same time, but the cuffs and heel are shorter. Just one of those things, I guess.

Anyways, Jennifer's advice was excellent as usual, because the smaller needles make a smooth, firm fabric. The Noro is a loosely-spun single-ply, just like their their thicker wool yarns, so it needs to be shown who's boss. Just like the other yarn, too, the sock yarn can be a bit "breaky" in places, but it also spit-splices well, so it's only a minor annoyance instead of a major setback (so long as you're not squeamish about spit, anyhow). I'm glad they put some nylon in it to make it proper sock yarn, as opposed to "artisan" stuff that is beautiful to knit with but wears out in about a week.



Lana Grossa sock yarn:

This is the finished version of the sock I started during the storytelling festival I blogged about a few posts back. It's just nice, well-behaved, proper sock yarn with good striping and great texture. See how the colours matched up again after I finished the heel shaping? I love it when that happens. I find the European brands that offer self-striping all tend to do that — they must plan out their stripe lengths so that they will work with an average-size adult sock. As a bonus, my stripes ended in the colourway about where they began (100g skein, so two socks per ball), so my second sock will approximately match the first one and I didn't even have to trim away any yarn!



The Noro sock yarn is also a 100g ball, and those socks won't match — the colours will be shifted about one stripe. Since the Noro has long repeats and has that lovely gradual transition between colours, I think that will be a benefit, not a drawback.

I'm looking forward to wearing both these pairs next winter. More immediately, I'm looking forward to getting the mates to each of these done so I can finish the cotton/wool socks I started two summers ago (oops) and try out the ball of Tofutsi I got when Gina was here. The other Lana Grossa and the Austermann moisturised wool yarn should come first, though, to take advantage of this cooler spring weather we're having.