Why I’m Making a Blanket in the Summer

I suppose the statement “my cat is crazy” will elicit eye rolls the world over. Whose cat isn’t crazy, after all? And who among us hasn’t known at least one crazy cat in their lifetime? One time, years ago, my cat was making me particularly crazy, so I wrote as much on my Facebook wall. A beloved former professor wrote back, “You could just as easily have said ‘I have a cat,'” which is pretty hard to argue with.

But I’m here to talk about a blanket, which, I promise you, is related to my cat’s crazy behaviour. My cat, Manolo, is a peculiar mix of affection and antisocial behaviour. On the one hand, she loves to be touched. Loves it! This has been especially obvious since I started working outside the home. Now that I’m not around all the time to give her loving throughout the day, she’s very persistent when I get home. She even follows me to the bathroom, often pushing the door open if I haven’t closed it all the way and pacing in fast, short circles before eventually flopping on the ground and showing her belly expectantly. This is how she invites me to touch her. But the moment I’ve decided that I want a cuddle with her without her making the first move, she’s gone. She’s sussed out the best hiding spots in the apartment, away from prying eyes and the reach of unwanted handsy people like me, and she’ll run fast and hide deeply when she decides that cuddles are not her idea and, therefore, I can’t have any.

In addition to hiding places, Manolo, I’ve observed, has designated certain spots in the apartment as single use spaces. My favorite of these is how she uses the living room windowsill. The righthand side of the sill, where the window opens, is a favorite lounge spot, and I can see why: the breeze that sometimes comes through must feel great on her skin, and it’s the place that gets the most sunlight in the whole apartment. If I were a cat, I’d probably spend most of my time there, too. The lefthand side of the windowsill, though, is clearly her toilette. It’s now the only place in the apartment where I ever see her clean herself in the weird, flexible way that cats do, and when she wanders over to that side of the sill, I know it’s bath time.

My least favorite of her cat behaviours is the way she has claimed the couch blanket has her own territory. I know that lots of cats are immediately interested in whatever their people are interested in, and Manolo is no stranger to plopping down on books, papers, computers and knitting the moment I leave them out for even a second. But the blanket is by far the worst of it. Because, unlike papers or metal computer casings or even knitting, which I usually snatch away as soon as I see her near the yarn, that brown polar fleece blanket seems to retain smells like a box of baking soda in the fridge. And, based on the smell, it appears that Manolo has decided her favorite use for the blanket is as a dampener for her farts. So, because there are few things more unpleasant than draping oneself in cat farts, I have decided to make us a blanket this summer.

The pattern is Martine Ellis’ Knitted Patchwork Recipe, a foolproof project that makes for perfect summer knitting. Each 2-by-2 inch square requires around 2-3 grams of sock yarn (less than the size of a walnut) and takes about 20 or so minutes to knit, which makes it ideal knitting for the commute to and from work or on days when I’m dead tired but still need to do something with my hands. It’s also a great way to use up odds and ends left over from sock knitting, which I seem to have in abundance. I haven’t made many decisions regarding how big I want this blanket to be, but I think it’s a good idea to aim for at least 2 squares a day, which will give me somewhere in the neighborhood of 150 squares by the end of August. I’ve also decided to sew the squares together at the end rather than knitting them together now. I realize that I may come to regret this decision later, but I just don’t know how I want to arrange the colours yet.

As for preventing cat farts on the new blanket, I’m going to have to get creative. But I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it. Thankfully, the sock yarn is machine washable.

Lil’ Sprout

It’s hard to believe that my niece, Khloe, will soon be a year old. It doesn’t seem that long ago when her moms were anxiously awaiting her arrival, though it did seem like the pregnancy took forever to get though (speaking as someone who’s never been pregnant, natch). However long the pregnancy was in actuality, when Khloe arrived, time seemed to speed up. Every day she changed in one way or another. I remember seeing lots of pictures of a bewildered and unsmiling little thing in the early weeks. She was only able to wear the little socks I made for a few short days, and then, suddenly, they were too small. As she got bigger, she became more alert, and soon she started to smile. When my sister figured out best ways to coax a smile out of her daughter, she inundated us with videos of the process. I used this intel to my own advantage when I met her for the first time this past Christmas, when she was about 5 months old and beginning to show her personality a bit more. Soon, she was laughing, dancing to music, crawling so fast and, now, standing up with the assistance of people and furniture. It won’t be long before she’s walking, and then, look out!

I love my niece, and I especially love making things for her. But here’s a little detail that I’m ashamed to share: I have a terrible track record of making things for Khloe that are way, way too small for her. This happens for two reasons: 1) We live half a country apart, so I don’t actually get to observe her physical growth on a regular basis; and 2) I have basically zero experience with babies and no idea of their dimensions. For Christmas, for example, I made her an Abate pullover with a neck hole that was too small (why are babies heads so huge? WHY?) and sleeves that were too long. As with the socks, she was really only able to wear her sweater for that one day, but not without making her cry as I attempted to stretch that too-small neck over her large baby head.

So, for her first birthday, I resolved to do it right and make her something she would be able to wear for longer than a day or two.

 

 

This here is my Sproutlette Dress, and I believe it to be an excellent choice for the gun shy baby knitter I’ve become of late. The pattern comes in 3 sizes and can be easily customized using simple math to make modifications to the pattern or by switching to a heavier yarn and larger needles. In this case, I opted to make the largest size, 12-24 months, and to use the suggested fingering weight yarn so that she can wear it on or around her July birthday without it being too hot for her. The short sleeves of the dress mean that I don’t need to worry that they’ll be too long for her little arms, either.

 

 

My favorite fit detail is the large keyhole and button closure in the back, which effectively solves the problem of accommodating her large baby head. With any luck, this closure (and, by the way, isn’t that button cute?) will mean that she can continue to wear the dress well beyond her first birthday. The keyhole will, I hope, keep her comfortable in the warm weather.

 

 

I’m also extremely pleased with how the leaf pattern and scalloped edging turned out. Many other versions of the dress have blocked the edging aggressively to better show off the lacy scalloping, but I actually prefer the ruffled look, so I left it alone.

Now, I don’t want to get too cocky, but I fee pretty confident that I’ve done good here. Not only does this dress fix a lot of the fit issues I’ve had with Khloe’s knits in the past, it seems possible that she might be able to wear this right up to her second birthday. Most of all, I hope she loves it, and one day, when she’s older still, I hope that she’ll look back at this dress and know just how much I love her.

Specs:

Pattern: Sproutlette Dress by Tanis Lavallee

Yarn: Knit Picks Stroll Sock Yarn in Peapod

Modifications: Wet blocked flat without pinning the edging

Something Green

 

I’m going through what you might call a Green Phase right now, where every single project I’m working on (well, the ones I’m interested in working on) are some shade of green. I don’t know why, but I seem to gravitate towards colours in blocks like that… a few months ago, I was all over blue projects, and prior to that I was obsessed with reds. At some point, I notice that everything is all the same colour, so I switch to the next colour obsession until I get sick of it, and repeat.

In the last week, I’ve completed two green projects and I have two more on the go. My Xanti, if all goes to plan, will be finished today, which is exciting even despite the fact that the days of bundling up are over until the fall (not that I’m complaining!). The most exciting news, though, is that I’ve actually finished a sewing project! I’m going to try to snap some good pictures this weekend, because, though there are a ton of mistakes, I’m feeling pretty good about having finished something that is actually wearable. And, boy, is it wearable. I’m going to wear the hell out if it, I tell you!

So, that’s my brief update for now. More finished project posts soon!

Long Overdue

Readers, I owe you an apology. In my last few posts I’ve complained about being in a creative slump, but I suppose I should finally admit that I wasn’t being entirely truthful. I can think of a few reasons I felt that I was in a slump: winter was particularly long and hard this year; I feel like I’m making the best creative progress when I’m working on large projects, like sweaters; I need new clothes and I’m too cheap to buy them, so I’m feeling panicky about having failed so spectacularly at sweater making recently. But it hasn’t been nearly as dire as I made it seem. I realized yesterday that I’ve knit seven pairs of socks since the beginning of the year (Wanna see? Check out my ravelry page. Also, it’s perhaps a good sign that I feel comfortable enough sharing my ravelry page?). I also started and finished the adorable cardigan pictured above, which was no small feat.

I made this for my pal LeeAnne…. well, more accurately, for LeeAnne’s new baby boy. LeeAnne and I work together and, despite never having met in person (we work in different offices), she’s definitely one of my favorite people in the company. When I learned that she was pregnant, I saw the perfect opportunity to make the Pomander Baby Cardigan, a pattern I’d been hoarding for months.

Let me just get one thing out there: I am extremely pleased with how this turned out. The cable and seed stitch yoke is beautiful and interesting, and I learned a number of new techniques in the making of this: how to read a flat chart with a pattern on the wrong side, how to make a round yoke cardigan, how to do an icord cast off. These are all useful skills and I am a better knitter for knowing them. But readers, make no mistake, this little cardigan took me ages to finish, and the process wasn’t always very fun. This sweater is knit from the bottom up, which isn’t so unusual, but instead of knitting the sleeves separately and attaching them at the yoke, the pattern has you provisionally casting on sleeve stitches that are later picked up and knitted like you might do with a basic top-down raglan sweater. If you happen to be asking yourself right now, “if it’s like a top-down raglan, then what the hell is she complaining about?”, I humbly submit that unpicking a provisional cast on is a special kind of knitting hell for me. By the time I finished unpicking the provisional cast on and making the sleeves, I definitely wasn’t in a hurry to attach the buttons. And so it languished on my dining room table far longer than it should have.

In any case, that’s all in the past. As you can see, the buttons have been secured and the result is a mighty fine looking baby sweater. I’ve even managed to get it in the mail and off to its intended recipient, which Canada Post tells me has been delivered, so I no longer risk spoiling the surprise with my blog post.

Specs:

Pattern: Pomander Baby Cardigan by Sarah Pope

Yarn: Knit Picks Stroll Tonal in Pearlescent (yes, I’ve been using an awful lot of Knit Picks lately… I’m being a good girl and knitting my way through stashed yarn)

Modifications: none

Fellow knitters: what knitting experiences have both helped you grow and tried your patience at the same time?

On Socks and Slumps

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When I first started knitting, I was very skeptical about socks. More specifically, I was confused by their popularity in the knitting community.  Socks are just about the least exciting garment a person could make, I thought at the time. They’re also among the most expensive compared to other garments: 1 skein of good sock yarn runs about $25 and only makes one pair, but you can make a whole sweater with two skeins of sock yarn and slightly larger needles, and a $50 sweater seems like a way better investment than $25 socks. Money considerations aside, I’ve also been a person who has hated wearing socks for the majority of my life. My socks were always replete with holes after just a few wears, and they’ve always felt rather suffocating next to my skin. 

While nothing can really change the price of hand knit socks, I’ve come to the conclusion that wool socks are different than those other crappy socks that have caused so much discomfort in the past. Wool socks are luxurious. They are uncannily warm or cool whenever you need them to be, and I find them so comfortable now that I’m able to wear them through the night and wake up to find them still on my feet the next morning. I have come to love socks for these reasons, and because of the way they boost my ego. Few things have made me feel more clever than learning how to turn a heel to make perfect fitting socks, and knitting two socks to be as close to exactly alike as possible is something that I get better and better at doing with each pair that I make. So, I hope you’ll forgive me my lack of modesty when I brag about the socks pictured above. These are Light Rye, modified from a pattern by Tin Can Knits and made with Knit Picks Stroll Handpainted in the Constellation colourway. Because the original pattern is written for worsted weight yarn and I wanted to used fingering weight, I cast on more stitches (72, to be exact) to fit a large man’s foot. I think my garter stitch pannel in the front is wider than what the original pattern calls for, but I don’t really mind. In total, these socks took 5 days to make. If I didn’t have a job to go to, they might have been done in 3.

Obviously, I am not a large man, and these socks are not for me. My sock knitting appetite has been whetted, though, so I definitely am making some socks for myself.

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Allow me to introduce my first pair of Cookie A‘s wildly popular Monkey socks, knit in self-striping Drops Fabel. These are my first patterned socks since I made that fancy pair for Margaret, and I completely understand why knitters love this pattern so much (there are 17919 pairs and counting on Ravelry!). The repeats are short and very easy to memorize, making these the perfect travel knitting project: easy, but not too brainless. It’s my first time using Drops Fabel and, so far, I really like this yarn. I can see that marled self-striping yarn might not have been the best choice for a moderately busy pattern, but I love the colours, and the yarn seems sturdy enough that it would survive the washing machine (P.S. any knitters out there able to comment on this yarn’s machine washability?).

My absolute favorite thing about socks right now is that they’re giving me the confidence to try another sweater soon. I mean, if I can do a fancy pattern and turn a heel like a boss, surely I can find my way back to making lovely sweaters that fit the way I want them to, right? So, I’m thinking that Xanti looks like a challenge I’m nearly ready to undertake. There’s plenty of stockinette to balance out the cable and lace details, and I already have some great yarn in a hard-to-photograph bottle green colour that I’ve been saving for the right pattern. It feels great to be getting excited about sweaters again!

Though this might be the end of my sweater slump, I’m still not done with socks! I’ve picked out the next yarn I’ll be trying out, but I haven’t settled on a pattern yet. Any of you seasoned sock knitters have any pattern recommendations that will make the best use of my beautiful yarn?

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Best Laid Plans

Lila

Readers, I am in the middle of a frustrating creative slump. It seems that, lately, I can’t do anything right despite my best intentions. That sweater you see, for example. Isn’t it gorgeous? The pattern, Lila, by Carrie Bostick Hoge, is exactly the sort of simple modernity I’ve been craving in my wardrobe for a long time. The yarn, Malabrigo Rios in the Pearlten colourway, was a dream to work with. I’d heard that it can grow a lot when you get it wet, so I diligently swatched with a few different needle sizes to make sure that I got a perfect fit. Looking at this picture makes me feel both proud and deeply saddened. Why? Because the sweater is too small!!!!

I know exactly where I went wrong with this one: I did the wrong kind of swatch. You see, when you knit a flat swatch for a garment  that is made in the round, you’re bound to run into trouble. In this case, my flat swatch told me that the smaller needles were the ones to use, which turned out to be the wrong decision. The worst of it is that I pressed on with the work even as I worried that it would be too small, ignoring my better instincts. Now, I’m the unhappy owner of a beautifully made sweater that just doesn’t fit. The one smart thing I managed to do was not sew up the arm pits and weave in the ends, so at least the unravelling will go smoothly.

Unfortunately, readers, that’s not the end of it. Assuming that the best way to shake off my failure was to jump back in the saddle again, I decided to cast on a lightweight cardigan. After all, it won’t be winter forever, and it would be great if I could turn some of the raw materials I already have in my possession into a new spring/summer wardrobe rather than buying things that don’t quite fit. After hemming and hawing for a few days, I settled on Jane Richmond’s Grace, a simple top down cardigan with some easy looking lace at the yoke. What could be more foolproof?

Grace Fail

 

Well, as it happens, lots of other top down sweaters. Because, unfortunately for me, the simple lace in this cute little number actually requires some attention to detail rather than the autopilot I set myself on. I’ll concede that maybe I’m just too picky, but those mistakes in my lace, starting about a quarter into the yoke, are too much for me to ignore. So, I’ll have to start over. I really would like to finish this cardigan eventually, but we need a bit of a break from each other until I can get some of my confidence back.

In the meantime, I’ve decided to focus on socks:

These are what I’m calling my Antidepressant Socks. I bought the yarn, Phildar Folk 100, at the height of winter when I was feeling as though a burst of colour would be just the thing to break me out of the winter sads. The colourway (Perroquet), however striking in the skein, turned out to knit up into some pretty ugly fabric, so I let these languish for longer than I should have. They’re done now, though, and they actually photograph much better than they look in person. And, like all hand knit socks , they’re pretty darn cozy, so I suppose I don’t have much to complain about.

And, what am I working on now? Well, this amazing shawl for one. I’m nearly at the end, about a quarter of the way through the cabled border, but I’m taking my time with it in an effort to not screw it up. I’m also making a pair of fingering weight Rye socks for Keith’s Dad, just because. The yarn is Knit Picks Stroll Tonal Sock in Constellation:

Rye

Sometimes it’s nice to make things for others for no particular reason. And, who knows, maybe the good karma will break me out of my sweater slump!

Fellow knitters: how do you deal with your knitting when it seems like you just can’t do anything right?

Making Time

I think it would be something of an understatement for me to say that I’ve found regular blogging to be a challenge since before the new year. The truth is, this is all my own fault. I really, genuinely don’t enjoy being a “busy” person but, despite my better instincts, I have a habit of signing myself up for things I think I “should” be doing instead of doing the things I want to do.

Part of this is very much the old baggage of grad school. I haven’t yet given up on the possibility of finding a job in academia even though I know that it’s becoming nothing more than a pipe dream. This isn’t me being hard on myself–I know I’m a clever and capable academic who has done some compelling and orignal research, and I know that there is some genuine interest in seeing my work be published. In fact, if all goes to plan, I will have two articles published by the end this year, and one of these is an invited publication, a real boost to the ego. But, can I be frank? The more time I spend outside of academia, the less I feel I want to be there. The job I thought I might get after I finished my PhD no longer exists, if the Chronicle of Higher Education and others are to be believed. I have no interest in doing contingent work. My student debt will not allow me to work a low wage job with no benefits and protections, and it certainly wouldn’t be fair for me to expect my partner, lovely and understanding as he is, to shoulder the financial burden of supporting me while I jump from short term contract to short term contract in the increasingly vain hope of securing a tenure track position in any university. This is an approach to the academic world that will work for some, but I know it won’t work for me.

So, what does this mean, my small cabal of readers? Well, it means that I’m starting to cut back on the “shoulds” and beginning to focus more on the “wants,” which, increasingly, are starting to feel more like needs. Last week, I quit my job at the spin studio. I truly enjoyed working there for as long as I did, but I had begun to feel a mounting resentment towards the place related to how much of my time this job demanded of me for the small financial return it offered. Because the class was on Sunday mornings, I was never able to plan an evening out on Saturdays. At about 3 PM the day before, like clockwork, I would begin fretting about what kind of class I was going to teach, constantly mindful of the fact that the class needed to be challenging and different from the week before. Then, I would wake up early on Sunday to make sure my playlist was in order and that the technology was working (ipod failures became a regular occurrence, always keeping me on my toes). Then, there was travel to and from the gym, which would eat up another two hours of my day on top of the time it took to get set up and teach the class. By the time I got home, half my Sunday was gone, and it wasn’t long before I felt like my heart just wasn’t in it anymore. When Keith asked me last week if I would return the $35 I was paid to teach the class in exchange for all of those hours, I knew that it was time to leave. I don’t need the money anymore, but I do feel more and more like free time is something I need.

This is just the beginning. After I finish my other voluntary academic obligations this year, I have decided that I will start saying no. I will only do what I want to do with my free time from now on. I hope this will leave me with more time for my friends and for my hobbies. I want to knit more, bake more and, now, sew more. Yes, I’ve done a small amount of sewing recently. Toiles only until I figure out how to properly adjust a garment, and the only way I’m going to figure out how to do it is by making time for it. I also hope that, by freeing up more space in my brain for myself, I can start blogging more regularly. Because, despite it all, I continue to love writing. Without making any promises or putting too much pressure on myself, I hope to be in this space more frequently in the future.

And, because this is a blog about making stuff, I’ll leave you with a poorly lit picture (maybe I will spend some time developing some photography skills this year) of gift I finished yesterday for my friends Chris and Amy. The sweater is N E O N by Lili Comme Tout, and the hat is Purl Soho’s Garter Ear Flap Hat, both knit with the last of some Knit Picks Swish DK that has been taking up space in my stash for over a year now. I think they make a fetching set, and I hope they keep C+A’s little guy warm.

Neon:Garter ear flap hat

Making Do

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The last two weeks have been filled with challenges. An already busy time at work has been made more complicated by falling sick with whatever illness has been going around the office. Then, as I was starting to feel like I was on the mend, Keith came home with his own office flu, which, because of our living arrangement, he had no choice but to share with me. It’s been a short (thanks to ColdFX) but intense bout of flu: it began on Friday afternoon with that scratchy throat sensation, mild enough that you can almost convince yourself that you’re really just thirsty and not actually getting sick again, and hit its peak with an intense fever all throughout Saturday that finally broke in the early morning hours of Sunday. Sleeplessness has peppered the last five days. Though I’m more or less over the worst of the flu, my cough still lingers, loud, hacking and wet, and the primary cause of my sleeplessness for the last 48 hours.

Worse than the first flu and the other flu, though, is the fact that my oven had been out of commission throughout this period. This probably doesn’t seem like a big deal on balance, but without an oven, my favorite meal of the day–breakfast–is nigh on impossible. No toast! No bread of any kind! Well, that’s not entirely true, and yes, I know I’m being dramatic. Because I can already hear some of you shaking your heads and saying, “why didn’t you just go buy some bread?”, well, I confess that I did. A reputedly good loaf of bread from a popular artisan chain (the incongruence of those two words together…). And, without naming names, let me just state for the record that the bread was not good. It was a perfectly serviceable loaf and I’m sure many would consider it tasty, but I’ve been spoiled by my own delicious sourdough. This disappointing purchased loaf made terrible toast. It was dry and brittle, like sawdust. No flavour to speak of. I’ll get over it, of course. My oven was fixed just yesterday and it seems to be working much better than it every has before. But it’ll be a few days more before I’ll be able to make myself any toast-worthy bread, and so I’ll need to keep on with my contingency breakfast for a few days longer. Thankfully, this contingency plan isn’t really such bad thing.

You see, before I loved toast, I loved oatmeal. I grew up eating it most winter days and, even though I didn’t really appreciate it much as a youngster, oatmeal became a place for me to get creative with food before I really cared about food as much as I do now. My early experiments with oatmeal were mostly limited to toppings and flavourings: strawberries and walnuts. Bananas and pecans. Raisins, peanut butter and grated orange peel. The goal, of course, was a tasty and satisfying breakfast, and these combinations certainly fit the bill. What I neglected to focus on with these frills, however, was the oatmeal itself. As I’ve discovered more recently, oatmeal, when treated right, can be a thing of beauty.

The oatmeal I’m talking about is April Bloomfield‘s recipe, which I came to discover via Luisa Weiss‘s blog, and it is, in a word, delicious. This recipe stands apart from other primarily because of three key components: first, the recipe uses a ratio of three parts liquid to one part oatmeal. As a lifelong two-parts-liquid-one-part-oatmeal maker, this new ratio was nothing short of a revelation. Second, this recipe calls for a combination of rolled and steel cut oats, and the result of this mix of oats and a higher ratio of liquid is nothing short of spectacular: the rolled oats soften and melt, seeming to disappear in the milky cooking liquidly, while the steel cut oats retain their texture and lend a satisfying toothsome quality to the dish. Finally, the salt. Salt in oatmeal! Salted oatmeal? Anyway, whatever. The point is: don’t skip the salt.

I love this oatmeal, and I love it plain. That’s not to say that I’m above dressing it up–it’s really tasty with a drizzle of maple syrup or topped with a spoonful of good jam or apple butter. But with a small pat of butter and a few minutes to really savour it, let’s just say that I don’t think I’ll have much of a problem going without toast for a few days more.

Porridge

From A Girl and Her Pig via The Wednesday Chef

Serves 1 (recipe is easily multiplied)

3/4 cup milk

3/4 cup water

1/4 cup rolled oats (not instant)

1/4 cup steel cut oats

1/2 – 3/4 tsp salt, to taste

Toppings, to taste

1. Heat the milk, water and salt over high heat to a simmer, making sure to keep an eye on the pot so that it doesn’t boil over (this can happen very quickly). When the liquid is simmering, add both types of oats and reduce the heat to medium, adjusting the heat as needed to maintain the simmer and stirring occasionally. Cooking time will be between 15 and 20 minutes, depending on your oatmeal and your cooktop.

2. When the steel cut oats have just cooked and the liquid has become thick from the melted rolled oats, remove from heat and taste for seasoning. Serve in a bowl and top it the way you like.

Peak Knitting Experience

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A little while back, Karen, of Fringe Association, wrote about her peak knitting experience. At the time, I didn’t really feel that I had reached any sort of peak with my own knitting. I’ve definitely had a prolific knitting year and I’ve learned how to do a lot of new things, but the honest truth is that very little of it felt like a peak to me. Now that I’ve finally finished my Burrard, though, I can safely say that I’ve achieved my own knitting apex, and just in time for the second coming of the polar vortex!

ImageNeedless to say, I am very, very pleased with how this turned out. Those cables are just gorgeous and the shaping is perfect. Part of the reason it fits so well is because I knit the back piece as a size 37.75 and the front pieces as size 40 to accommodate my large bust. Never have I owned a garment that fits my body as well as this cardigan does.

ImageI learned so much from the making of this sweater: how to read cable charts, how to make different kinds of buttonholes, how to shape a garment and how to construct a garment in pieces. In fact, the construction was one of my favorite parts. Lots of knitters complain about seaming, but I found the process very logical and really enjoyable. Yes, it’s more work than knitting in the round, but I liked learning how to put a garment together from its component parts. Call me crazy, but seaming was definitely not the chore I thought it would be.

ImageThough I’m really happy with how this turned out, it wasn’t all smooth sailing. I discovered too late that the yarn I used (Lion Brand Pure Wool) was probably one of the worst choices for a seamed sweater because of the way it shredded when I started the actual seaming. I had to make an emergency trip to the yarn store for some stronger plied yarn and ended up finishing the seams with some Cascade 220 Sport in a creamy off-white. It wasn’t a perfect colour match, but it certainly did the trick.

ImageNow, let’s talk buttons. I don’t know about you, but I think these buttons really make the sweater. Because I was going for the traditional grandpa style, I knew that I wanted some classic buttons to round out the look. At first I thought I would go with some brown leather buttons, but in the end I decided that a classic tortoiseshell was what I needed. I think I made the right choice. 

Overall, this sweater is a winner: stylish, comfortable and warm, my Burrard is definitely my peak knitting experience and I couldn’t be happier with how it turned out. 

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Past and Present

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Hello, and happy new year! I’ve been reading a lot of 2013 retrospective posts in the past week, which I had initially decided I wouldn’t participate in. I haven’t written that many blog posts, after all, and it’s been far too long since I last blogged. Surely, I thought, my readers deserve some content. A recipe, maybe, or an honest-to-goodness finished project. And then I realized that I have lots of finished projects to show you! You see, I knit a metric buttload of Christmas gifts this year (actual count: 17), and now that Christmas is over and most of the gifts have been delivered to their intended recipients, there’s no need for me to hide what I’ve been doing anymore. I also realized that I completed 56 projects in 2013. 56!!! Many of these were smaller projects, like hats and mittens, but I also managed to complete 9 adult sized sweaters with varying degrees of success. It’s been a productive first year as a knitter, to say the least, and I’m now of the opinion that this deserves some kind of second look. Not every project I worked on this year is worthy of note, but there are a few that I’m especially proud of. So, without further ado, here are some of the highlights of my year in knitting, 2013 edition.

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First up are the Cadence Socks I knit for my friend Margaret. I began these socks shortly after I started my job in July and I worked on them nearly every lunch hour until they were finished, about two months in total. I love the complex cable-like lace pattern, and the yarn (Sweet Georgia Tough Love Sock) was a pleasure to work with. I’m not sure I will make this pattern again–it’s maybe a bit too complex for a repeat–but if I did, I would probably use a solid coloured yarn instead of a variegated one. The pattern gets kind of swallowed up by the colours until you get really close to it.

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When I first decided to knit Christmas gifts for my family, I initially decided to make mittens. I quickly changed my mind, though, when I realized that I’d have to knit two for each person (17 gifts, people!) and, eventually, I settled on hats. Above is Stephen West’s Botanic Hat, made for my brother Clifford. I don’t know why, but I was so intimidated by this pattern until I actually sat down to make it, at which point I discovered how easy it is. Unfortunately, Clifford finds it a bit too itchy, but still! That’s one nice lookin’ hat, if I may say so.

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Photo Credit: Ewe Knit, Toronto, ON
The Meier Cardigan was definitely one of my proudest moments of 2013. I knit this as a sample for Ewe Knit, my favorite yarn shop in Toronto, and it was a project that really helped me to grow as a knitter. This cardigan is knit flat from the bottom up and features my very first set-in sleeves. I liked making this cardigan so much that I made one for myself in a charcoal grey colour, though I have yet to take any pictures of it to show you. I also pushed myself to knit my own in 7 days, which includes all the weaving and sewing on the buttons. I’m glad to have been able to push myself to complete a whole garment in 7 days, but I definitely won’t be doing that again if I can help it.

Image2013 saw the birth of my niece, Khloe, and my nephew, Peter, for whom I knit these ruffle rib baby socks. As if being painfully cute and fun to knit wasn’t enough, I also received complimentary feedback from the designer, the incomparable Ann Budd. Praise from Caesar!

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The Hallgrim Hat was yet another challenge that helped me grow as a knitter, mainly because I found the original pattern to be completely the wrong size. When I first cast on, the ribbing was so large that it fit around my waist and it was immediately apparent that this would never fit anyone’s head. Undaunted, I modified the shit out of this by knitting fewer pattern repeats, using smaller needles and a heavier yarn. The result: a bit snug initially, but an okay size with blocking. I just love the cabling in this hat… it feels so Scandinavian to me. More importantly, though, I learned how to be patient and to figure out knitting math to modify a pattern in such a way as to preserve the integrity of the original design. I also learned how to do a tubular cast on for this hat, which I am totally sold on despite the extra work it takes. It’s one of those small details you might not notice if you weren’t looking for it, but the edging is far cleaner and neater than it would have been with a long tail cast on. I gave this hat to my Mom for Christmas, and she loved it.

And, finally….

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I FINISHED THE HUMBOLDT RAGLAN!!!!

So, that’s my Best of 2013. As for 2014, the headline picture shows a bit of what I’ve got in store for myself. Basically, I’m in the middle of a selfish knitting bender and I don’t plan to stop until I start to feel *really* selfish (which might be never? haha!). I have yet to finish my Burrard Cardigan (set aside so that I could finish my gift knitting before Christmas day), though I will complete it before too long. I’ve also begun knitting the Seven Sisters pullover in a green yarn that can only be described as vibrant. I love how the yarn really highlights the asymmetry of the pattern. Unfortunately, I’ll be ripping back much of what I’ve completed because I’ve found some mistakes that I don’t think I can live with. This, to me, is another sure sign that I’ve grown as a knitter: the willingness to take time and undo mistakes rather than plowing ahead without regard for the final product. It’s the whole journey-and-destination thing. Yep, I’m a grown up or something. I’ve also been obsessing over socks lately and, thus, have started two new pairs for myself: the woodpile socks in a fiery red and some variegated jaywalkers for those nights when I’m exhausted but antsy and in need of something simple to knit. That Knitting Sarah is currently leading a Socks with Sarah Knit-a-Long that I’ve decided to participate in is a very happy coincidence indeed. Finally, I’m also in need of a new hat–my Milanese Lace Topper, though lovely, isn’t exactly warm enough for the cold snap we’re currently experiencing here in Toronto–and I think I’m going to make another Gentian with that beautiful deep blue Madeline Tosh DK in the picture.

So, happy new year and all that jazz! What new year projects will you be treating yourself to in 2014?