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?

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In Sync

ImageSince I’ve started knitting, I’ve been more or less out of sync with the seasons. In the winter, I should have been knitting lightweight sweaters and shawls for the cool mornings and warming afternoons of springtime. In the spring, I should have switched to cottons and linens in preparation for the summer heat. Of course, I didn’t do any of that. Instead, I started with wooly scarfs, mittens and hats. Then I moved on to knitting bulky sweaters. Before too long, the weather warmed and those garments became redundant, and I harumphed about the fact that I didn’t get to use anything I’d made for very long at all. And, because I failed to plan ahead, I had nothing hand knit ready to wear in the summer.

Now, in my defense, it’s not as though I knew that I should plan ahead in this way when I first started knitting. I haven’t even been knitting for a year yet so it’s not like I could have known how to divide my time most efficiently. I tend to learn from my mistakes pretty quickly, though, so I’ve already begun my fall knitting despite the heat and almost unbearable humidity.

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This hot little number is my newly finished Milanese Loop, knit with SweetGeorgia’s Superwash Worsted yarn (new favorite!) in the Rosebud colourway. It’s a very impressive-looking knit despite being an easy pattern to follow. I made one small modification to the border, which I decided to knit in seed stitch instead of garter stitch. And even though I would  never describe myself as a pink person, I am totally and completely in love with this colourway! It’s so vibrant and saturated and beautiful that sometimes I can’t stop looking at it.

As for Lara’s sweater, we’re having a fight right now. I joined the sleeves to the body without too much strain, but, of course, I made big mistakes while knitting the raglan decreases. I’d like to say that it was the sweater’s fault, but we (that is, the sweater and I) both know that’s not the truth. I probably should have taken a picture to show you just how badly I messed up this part of the sweater, but I was  way too angry (and embarrassed) to even think about sharing my shame with the internet when I discovered the full extent of my mistake. So, I ripped it back. The sleeves are still joined, which is good, but I think I’ve decided that we need some time apart. Sorry, sweater. It’s not you, it’s me.

So, uh, I guess that’s it for now. Have a great week!

Irrational Fear

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I’ve been working on a sweater for my sister (incidentally, the worst kept secret on the Internet) for, oh, let’s just say a long time. The pattern is really wonderful to work with, as is the yarn. The lace detail in the front is interesting and not too frilly (not frilly at all, really), and there’s just enough of it to keep me on my toes while also being a primarily relaxing and mindless thing to knit. When I first cast on for this sweater, I raced through the three inches of broken ribbing, excited to move on to the main feature. When I got to the lace-and-stockinette body portion, I dutifully worked on it every night, giving it my full attention at the expense of dinner preparation, socializing, reading, attending to whatever I was supposed to be watching on TV. I learned quickly that continually asking “what did I miss?” when I was absorbed in my knitting and not paying attention to the plot of the TV show I was watching with Keith would only lead to exasperated sighs and the occasional frustrated glare in my direction (deservedly so, I will admit), but I pressed on nonetheless, motivated by my own intense interest and the joy I pictured on my sister’s face when she opened a box containing a beautiful hand knit sweater made just for her.

I finished the body of the sweater–all 16 and one-quarter inches of it– very quickly, and then it was time to move on to the sleeves. I thought I’d be smart about it and knit both sleeves on the same needles.

Humboldt sleeves

Knitting two sleeves at once is touted as a big time saver and is supposed to ensure that they’re uniform, so it seemed like a great idea.This sweater is going to be a gift, after all, and I want everything to be perfect. What proponents of the two-for-one fail to tell unassuming knitters like myself, though, is that it makes the process of sleeve knitting, easily the most boring part of making a sweater, even more boring. Not only do you have to contend with extra needles getting in the way, you’re also working with two balls of yarn that get tangled up. All the stopping-and-starting necessary to knit two sleeves at once–stopping to untangle yarn, stopping to flip the sleeves over to start the next side, etc–really killed my mojo for this sweater. I made a point of working on the sleeves at least once a week, but, beyond that, it wasn’t totally apparent that I would be able to finish this sweater by the time our birthday rolls around in August.

Of course, this hasn’t stopped me from knitting other things. In fact, one might describe what I’ve been working on instead of my sister’s sweater as procrasti-knitting (haha, I just came up with that!). Since I’ve stalled out on the sweater, I’ve done the following:

– Started and nearly finished a baby sweater for my new niece or nephew (only collar detailing remains).

– Started 5, and completed 3, pairs of socks.

– Cast on for a new, bulky sweater that will be great for the fall (but also kind of an insane thing to knit as the weather gets warmer).

– Swatched with some linen yarn for a lightweight summer cardigan.

So, I’ve been keeping busy and trying not to feel too guilty about neglecting the mental albatross that my sister’s sweater has become.

Fortunately for me and my sister’s sweater, though, the neglect hasn’t been too bad. At some point last week, I took myself by surprise and managed to get the sleeves to the right length. Time to join the sleeves to the body and finish the yoke!, I thought to myself for about a second. Then, I realized that I’ve never actually done this part before. All of the sweaters I’ve made up to now have been knit from the top down, where the sleeves are picked up from the shoulders and knit after the yoke and body have been finished. In other words, easy to do. This bottom-up sweater business, on the other hand, is entirely new to me. And even though the new challenge of bottom-up sweater construction is one of the reasons I chose this pattern, I’ve found myself feeling completely terrified of continuing. What if I mess this up in a really irreversible way? If I make a mistake, will I be able to fix it, or will there be no going back?

I suppose this is all preamble to the main point, which is: I’m going in. Today’s the day that I figure out how to join the sleeves to the body of this goddamn sweater, once and for all. If anyone has any advice they’d like to share about how to do this well (or, at least, how not to ruin what I’ve already done), I’m all ears. Wish me luck! I’ll happily accept any positive vibes, good karma, well wishes, etc., that anyone has to spare.