Knitting in Transit

If you live in or have ever visited Toronto, you may be familiar with our venerable public transit system, the TTC. Having grown up in car culture Edmonton, where public transit is relatively poorly funded and, thus, requires its users to maintain an intimate geographic familiarity with the city in order to understand that the circuitous bus route will eventually get you to wherever you’re going, I was instantly smitten with the TTC the first time I used it. The TTC seemed impossibly fast compared to ETS, with its frequent bus, subway and streetcar service. When native Torontonians would complain to me about the TTC,  I would scoff and tell them to move to Edmonton, and then we’d talk about poor public transit.

Lately, my benevolent feelings towards the TTC have begun to wane. In fact, I hate the TTC now. Under Toronto’s infamous crack smoking mayor, service has been cut while fares have increased, and no matter the method of conveyance–bus, subway, streetcar–the experience of traveling on the TTC has become a miserable one. Delays are ubiquitous, overcrowding is rampant, and everyone is unhappy.

And yet, I do manage to find glimpses of goodness on the TTC. More recently, I’ve been reading novels like crazy, and if you’re going to be stuck standing up in a fast moving tin can for 30 odd minutes, you might as well be lost in a good book at the same time. When I manage to get a seat, I like to knit.

Knitting on the subway turns me into an instant object of fascination. Most people just stare for a few minutes and then return to their cell phones (those candies won’t crush themselves, after all…). Occasionally, people will talk to me about what I’m doing. I remember once, on a particularly hot and crowded day last summer, a man watched over my shoulder for about 15 minutes as I shaped the toe of a sock before going out of his way (and I mean really out of his way… the streetcar was packed and he had been forced to shuffle to the back of the car with the surge of rush hour commuters) to tell me that he really admired what I was doing. Another time, a woman saw that I was knitting and proceeded to touch my head to see what the hat I was wearing–she assumed, correctly, that I had made it–felt like, not believing that it was made from wool. Yet another time, a woman loudly talked about me and my knitting like I wasn’t there while seated right next to me: “That’s really cool, what she’s doing. I really like her pink scarf. I also really like her blue hat. I bet she made those, too.” On the rare occasion that I see another knitter on the subway, I do a silent internal cheer. Though there are lots of knitters in Toronto, seeing one in the wild is a bit like finding a unicorn, and there’s nothing more satisfying than having proof that there are others in the world like me, who rely on knitting to get them through the awfulness of crowded transit.

So, in aggregate, most people are nice, some people are perhaps a bit too enthusiastic with the whole touching-without-an-invitation thing, and still others are passive aggressive in their support. And, until recently, I thought that was all there was to it. Then, blogTO ran an article identifying the ten worst people on the TTC, and this was the very first comment:

Screen shot 2014-09-13 at 9.42.11 AM

That’s right, everyone: Knitters, according to “Al”, are right up there with the seat hoggers, the doorway blockers and the fragrant hot food eaters! We are among the worst on the TTC, and I, apparently, am one of the worst offenders.

Unfortunately for Al and other destroyers of fun, I don’t think I’ll be giving up my transit knitting any time soon. As long as I have two hands and somewhere to go, the knitting will happen. Besides, it’s definitively autumn now and the air is crisp and chilly. A girl’s gotta keep warm somehow, and I choose wool. I just hope that Al’s grumpy judgement is enough to keep him warm…

My Summer Sweater

Sargeant WIP2

A few weeks ago, I excitedly mentioned my participation in Shannon’s Summer Sweater Knit Along and immediately followed this announcement with radio silence. I know, it’s cruel of me to hold out on you like this, but you should know that I only did so for entirely selfish reasons. I’ve noticed a tendency towards failure when I make big promises on this blog. Remember my NaKniSweMo sweater? I probably should have known that Burrard was too challenging to complete within a month, especially the month before Christmas, when I had committed to a mountain of gift knitting. Even so, I loudly announced my participation and then promptly failed to meet the challenge in the prescribed time period. And even when the challenge isn’t so great but I make a promise to write about something I’m excited to show you, I often struggle to come up with the words, or sometimes the thing turns out to be just impossible to photograph without professional equipment and perfect conditions. Other times, I just plain fail at knitting. So I guess what I’m saying is that it sometimes feels like I’ve jinxed myself by getting publicly excited about big things on this blog. To quote Michael Scott, I’m not superstitious, maybe just a little stitious. 

Despite my silence about the sskal, I have been working diligently on my project since July 31. Seeing as I’ve passed the point of no return, I now feel confident my showing you what I’ve been up to isn’t likely to ruin my sweater now. This year I decided to really challenge myself with some full-on Fair Isle knitting. The pattern is Amy Christophers’ Sargeant Pullover from the recently published New American Knits, and it’s the second sweater I’ve knit from her book (I know, I know I’m behind. My kingdom for some cooler days!)

Sargeant WIP closeup2

 Aside from wanting to step up my skills a notch, I chose this pattern because it’s just plain lovely. What I’ve begun to appreciate about stranded colourwork is that the possibilites for customization are endless, and this pattern is a clean and simple foil for experimenting with beautiful colours. That said, I thought it safest to stick with contrasting colours on a neutral background, and my choices are somewhat similar to those chosen by the designer. One day I will experiment with complimentary colours and really figure out how to make the most of hue and value, as per Jared Flood’s recent colour theory blog posts.

The biggest challenge of all with this sweater has been ensuring the fit. I knit the sleeves first and used them as my gauge, finding that I was pretty close to what the designer calls for. The body of the sweater looks a little small to me, but I’m confident it will block to the right size…. okay, maybe not confident. But I am definitely on the verge of confident. I’ve been keeping my floats nice and loose (but not too loose) and the sweater has some nice stretchiness when I feel the need to tug at it and reassure myself that it will fit me.

Sargeant WIP floats2

 How are your SSKAL projects coming along? Are you going to make the deadline?

Death By Cute

Last week, while I was at work, I got a text message from my Mom. “At the hospital with Lara. Might be labour. Hope not.” I panicked briefly when I read this, for two good reasons. My sister Lara, as you may have guessed, is indeed pregnant, and her due date isn’t until November. My initial panic, therefore, was out of concern for her health and the health of her baby. But when I called and spoke to my Mom, who by then had heard from the doctor that things were going to be okay and that Lara was not in labour, I had another reason to freak out. This baby, I realized, could come at any time now, and I hadn’t yet done any knitting for him. 

Fortunately, and especially because I’m on vacation this week, it has taken me almost no time to remedy this. I knit this cute set in about 3 hours, starting last night. The mittens were finished first, started at about 11:30 PM and completed sometime after midnight. When I woke up this morning, I immediately cast on the hat and knit quietly by myself while Keith slept. The hat is one I’ve knit before, but instead of using my preferred magic loop, I knit this hat entirely with double pointed needles. As a result, I’ve avoided creating an unwanted seam down the middle front of the hat. I’m really, really pleased with how these have turned out in such a short span of time. Now all that’s left for me to do for this baby boy is to whip up an adorable little sweater…

Specs:

Pattern: Baby Mitts by Susan B. Anderson and Garter Ear Flap Hat by Purl Soho

Yarn: Knit Picks Capra in Wine

Modifications – Mitts: Used smaller needles, cast on 24 stitches and adjusted gauge accordingly, knit k1p1 ribbing for the cuffs

Modifications – hat: None