Sunday, December 23, 2007

Almost Christmas

This will be my last blog entry for the holidays. Work has been so crazy, I’m amazed I had any time to knit. I’m proud to say that the balaclava is done with the exception of the fins on top, which my son reminded me about a few times today. I haven’t worked out the logistics of that yet. It’s been quite the experience, designing as I go, putting it on his head each step of the way and altering my original conceived pattern as required. When I got to the crown, I felt I wanted it to come down further on his forehead so I picked up stitches along the front sides of the face as I worked back and forth instead of in the round. I’m very happy with the results so far and what I have accomplished. Modelling this fine garment today is ninja racoon.
Happy holidays everyone!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Snowed In

Friday night was the first chance I had to knit all week!!! How I survived and kept my sanity, I don’t know; must be the underlying work pressure weighing on my mind. We have a pretty heavy project going on at work that we’re trying to get done by Christmas, but due to equipment problems, that won’t be happening. Nothing we can do about that but try and get our stuff cleared so we can take some time off around New Year. So, here I am with not much knitting to show. This is the beginnings of the balaclava.
I finally got Christmas the cards out. Now there are presents to wrap. It seems my husband does the bulk of the shopping while I take care of the kids and I do the wrapping. Thank goodness for on-line shopping. That’s the only way we could have done it this year. He got the rest of the in-store shopping done yesterday before the snow started in.

We’re getting a big storm this week-end. The hubby’s out with the snow blower and the kids are out having fun, too. At last, I can blog. This is the perfect type of week-end for baking comforting Christmassy treats! We bought a pre-baked gingerbread that has to be pieced together; we’re doing that just before Christmas. But that doesn’t prevent us from baking gingerbread cookies now. I didn’t bother making my icing this year so things went quicker. With the pre-made icing in tubes, I can attach all these wonderful decorator tips. My son requested that his gingerbread man have a guitar. I must say, I’m really impressed with what I pulled off this time.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

The Dragon Returneth

I caved and went yarn shopping for my son’s dragon hat and scarf. The yarn in my stash was either not the right colour or texture. At least I convinced him that his hat scarf should match his hat. My initial thought was to go for a lovely merino. I started phoning around to see what stores were carrying. On store was very helpful and suggested that maybe I would like to use an acrylic or acrylic blend because it was for a child and acrylic wouldn’t shrink in the wash. I knew then this was the store I had to go to; Main St. Yarns. I lucked out in that Friday night, they were participating in a special event with some other downtown Milton stores. They were open from 7-11 pm with specials on. I didn’t know how special till I got there; everything was 50% off. I was going to stick to my budget as I always do but my lovely husband convinced me that at 50%, I had to take advantage of the sale. Okay, so I exceeded my budget but under the sale circumstances, can I be blamed? I picked up some lovely yarn to do a stole from Louisa Harding’s Hummingbirds called Kohl Mexicana.

During the week, I was developing a balaclava pattern to use for my son’s dragon hat. I figured, it’s really not that much different from a sock. I did a small scale version with some yarn I had at home and was quite pleased with what I had come up with. The decreases I ended up working are different from what I would use for a sock but effective.

I then had to find a small doll to try this on. And thus it was that my daughter’s Princess Dora became Ninja Dora.

Here’s a bit of swatching I was doing as practice for the scarf. The yarn I’m using is from S.R. Kertzer and is called Northern. The mitred square is for dragon scales adn the in the round is for the balaclava.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Procrastination continueth…

The second glove done in a week. Got the fingers done during the week and got the whole thing knitted and finished on Saturday! Unbelievable since my husband was gone all day to TABSCon (his quarterly outing to play board games and socialize all day in Toronto). I was home with the kids all day, so it is rather miraculous that I got this thing knit so fast. To their credit, my children were very good that day. We had a lovely afternoon with my daughter serving me tea in her little tea set while I was knitting and my son was playing quietly with his toys while we watched TV. After that, I threw in a movie, gave them some popcorn and some chocolate milk while I kept sipping away at my real tea. That bought me some more uninterrupted knitting time; again, a very pleasant way to spend time with the kids. And here is the finished product.

Then it hit me. Oh oh, what do I do next? Go back to the 5 year old dragon sweater I designed? Go to the multicoloured but generally pink and purple shawl I’m designing as I go? My son’s anxious to cover himself with it since it’s so nice and soft – he thinks it’s a blanket. Then I see my kids playing in the snow and realize their hats and mitts are getting too small for them. Guess we’ll have to put off that dragon sweater for a while; again.

My poor daughter will get her older brother’s hat, mitts and scarf. I feel bad about that. I wanted to make her something pink and/or purple and furry. My hubby and the practical side of me think otherwise; no she can use her brother’s stuff when it’s still in good condition. I don’t carry this policy with their cardigans or sweaters. Those I make just for them and it goes to no one else; so she gets to wear girly sweaters not her brother’s. I didn’t want to have all hand-me-downs; she deserves to have things that were made just for her.

So I ask my son what he wants his hat and scarf to look like (he has water resistant store bought mitts now). I thought he might be a little indifferent. Maybe want to mull it over a bit, but no. Without a second’s hesitation, he gave me an answer. I was astonished by his memory. He wants a red dragon scarf and a blue dragon hat (blue’s his favourite colour; I’m still trying to convince him to go green). Where did he come up with this? A while back, I showed him this awesome dragon scarf that Morehouse Merino came out with that I would love to have for myself even if people would laugh at me as I walk down the street with it. I wasn’t intending on doing mail order from the USA. I’m trying to avoid buying yarn and use up my stash so I was just going to do my own version of it. He’s all gung ho about me doing my version of this scarf for him. Needless to say, I will have to do some similar creative work for his hat. Their hats, scarves, and mitts should get them through this season. I’m doing this now so I can have them ready for next winter. With any luck, he can start wearing them this winter. Now if only I can convince him to let me use burgundy and green, that would really help use up my stash.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Half Way There

Finally, one glove done! I made another modification to the pattern. I did a regular cast off instead of the ones recommended in the pattern. I’m impatient and I want to get my gloves done. I’m quite happy with the results. It looks good and feels great. I've included a close-up of the knitted product.

That work thing kind of gets in the way of me knitting. This coming Thursday will be the last knitting class I teach for the term so that should free up some time. The week after will be my last yoga class and the last family swim class. I don’t know what I’ll do with all that free time – work, Christmas shop, work, knit a bit, work, try to get some sleep, work, try to keep my sanity with the approaching holiday season…hmm Bailey’s.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Queen of Procrastination

I guess it was inevitable. I said I was going to work on the dragon sweater, and for a whole week, I did. Then, as usually happens, something more important and/or critical comes up. So what’s the delay this time? Answer: my hands. As has so often happened in the past, my hands get really cold in my office when winter approaches and I’ve been meaning to make myself a pair of fingerless gloves for a while but I was trying to find the right pattern for me. There are so many beautiful ones out now. I finally picked one from a Knitty summer 2006 pattern. It’s hard to believe that in my yarn stash, I didn’t have enough of the right gauge yarn. I made a trip to the Wool Bin in Oakville and picked up a lovely yarn made in Peru, Mirasol Hacho. It’s hand dyed merino, colour 302, 50 g/125 m, and very reasonably priced. I like supporting a good cause, too. This supports their local Andean shepherds. It’s a particularly long story which I encourage you to read at the website. The yarn feels wonderful against the skin and knits up well.

The yarn has a slightly larger gauge than the pattern asks for but I thought it would work for me since I’m a tight knitter. Using the needles the pattern recommended, I did in fact achieve the gauge stipulated in the pattern. I intended to knit the pattern as is, but once again, I found something to change. When I did my stocking stitch gauge swatch in the round, I found the edge curled. I was concerned about the fingerless part of the mitten pattern because it made no mention of doing a different stitch after you cast on. Then it occurred to me, one of the fundamentals of knitting that had temporarily slipped my mind, ribbing along a border to prevent curling. So for the first three rows of the fingers, I did a 1x1 rib and problem solved. These gloves are knit from the top down in case you’re wondering why I’m worried about curling. The pattern was originally for embroidered gloves but since I ended up getting a variegated yarn, I think I’ll skip the embroidery. My son thinks I should still do the embroidery as shown in the gloves hanging from the tree in the Knitty pattern. We’ll see. I think you might drown the beauty of the variegated colour by embroidering.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Useless yarn?

I could not believe my husband would dare to utter these words in my presence. This from the man who is normally so supportive and understanding about yarn and knitting. Bite your tongue. There is no such thing. This is very different from my husband’s opinion. He’s even threatening to post about it. What spurred this debate – a yarn containing silver. The yarn is called Sterling and is produced by Kraemer Yarns. The yarn’s composition is 63% superwash Merino, 20% silk, 15% nylon, and 2% silver. A detailed review of this yarn can be found in the August 16, 2007 Knitter’s Review newsletter.

There are some truly novel yarns out there, bamboo, silk stainless steel (
Habu Textiles in New York). Funny, he never quipped about the stainless steel bit but he got his feathers all ruffled up about silver in yarn. Why? The first thing that came to both our minds was, “but won’t that tarnish?” I haven’t had experience with this yarn and I don’t know the grade of silver or manufacturing process that went into this that might prevent tarnish. Another reason is because some people believe the antimicrobial properties of silver will carry over into the yarn and might prevent some foot odor. I’m not convinced that will be the case; again, I have no evidence either way. Is there an environmental impact to doing this? I don’t know if anyone has evaluated that aspect. Aren’t there other better uses for silver? I would have to say yes, but that argument could be made about the use of silver for jewelry as well.

All that being said, I’m really not sure why they put silver in yarn. I am sure that to me, there is no such thing as useless yarn (yet; never say never).

Sunday, November 4, 2007

A Suitable Accompaniment to Knitting

Today’s blog post is a little different. I was inspired by what Wannietta wrote today as well as something my hubby recently brought home. It’s called Bénédictine. It’s a sweet cognac-based liqueur flavored with various aromatics. It was first made to a recipe dating to 1510, originally to combat malaria, at Fécamp Abbey in France. It was supposedly rediscovered by one of the monastery's lawyers and went into commercial production. Ingredients in the secret recipe include juniper, myrrh, angelica, cloves, cardamom, cinnamon, vanilla, tea, fruit peels, herbs and honey. You can really taste the spices that went into it. It's so smooth and goes down so easy; that’s what makes it downright dangerous. The alcohol content is 40%. Definitely something you want to have as a once in a while treat and reserve for special occasions. Works well in coffee too when you just want to celebrate a little quiet time to yourself.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Enter the Dragon...(sweater that is)

Despite the fact that I do like Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, Jet Li, Chow Yun-Fat and well choreographed martial arts movies in general, that’s not what this entry is about. This entry is really knitting related.

I started knitting this dragon sweater of my own design just before my son was born; that was five and a half years ago. I kept leaving it for “higher priorities” I told myself. The truth, I guess I wasn’t happy with the way it was going. I hit a design mental block of how I wanted the final product to look and being the perfectionist that I am, I didn’t want to do a second rate job with it. I have yet to design the back of the sweater. My husband suffered in aggravation because he liked what I was designing, we spent a good amount of money on good yarn and he wanted to see me make good use of it. As he reads over my shoulder, he adds, “And I think it’s going to be amazing, too”. No pressure at all there. With such high expectations, I think one might understand my trepidation.

What was my reason for embarking on this venture? My mother-in-law gave me a lovely red purse once. I decided I had to make a red sweater to co-ordinate with it – any excuse to knit/buy yarn. The yarn I’m using looks like satin and it reminded me of the lovely sheen traditional Chinese jackets have. I used that style of jacket as my inspiration for this design. Below is the beginnings of a swatch I had done.

The red and green yarns are Lang Opal, the gold is Lang Opal-Maxi.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Halloween Sweater - Completed!

It's done! I finally finished the beading and the sewing. When I tried taking a picture with the flash, the flash reflected off the beads so much, they looked like neon lights. My wonderful OTT-LITE was not a good choice for light source in this case. The second attempt without the OTT-LITE still glowed quite a bit. The next attempt was without a flash, but the picture quality was so so. The final attempt was by my fabulous husband who used the macro setting on the camera to get good quality close-ups, so I actually have decent pictures to post.

This is the final sweater, unbeaded, unbuttoned:

Here is the final product with some close up details. Notice that in the picture above, the cuffs are not folded over. While sewing the beads onto the cuff, I had to turn the cuff over at one point and loved the way the beads appeared when the cuff was turned over so that's the way it's staying.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Halloween Sweater

What's on the needles? I’m attempting to finish a sweater for my daughter to wear for Halloween that will compliment her costume but that she could still use on a daily basis; she’s going to be a fairy princess. I’m starting off with an Elsebeth Lavold pattern, Herdis, but will embellish it a bit with beads. The yarn I’m using is very different from what’s called for in the pattern. I seldom follow a pattern exactly the way it’s written and will try to use yarn from my stash before I resort to shopping. The yarn called for is Elsebeth Lavold’s Silky Wool (65% wool, 35% silk, 100% gorgeous; ~22 sts/4” on 4mm needles) and I’m using Phildar Canelis (67% acrylic, 33% rayon, also gorgeous; ~26 sts/4” on 3mm needles); very different yarns. The Canelis is a discontinued yarn I bought on sale many years ago when they were trying to clear stock (I will buy yarn on sale and figure out what to do with it later). So how did I pull this pattern off?

I did my gauge swatch to determine what tension I was knitting to and then picked a size whose finished dimensions according to my gauge would fit my daughter (stretching it a bit during blocking didn’t hurt either). I’m pleased to say that it has blocked very well.

See the unblocked example below:

See the blocked examples below:

Welcome to my first blog post

So why did I start this blog? I may be a chemical engineer by profession but I'm passionate about knitting. I'm very artistic in general and love other crafts too, which I might feature from time to time on my blog.

The past two years have been full of monumental events/changes in my life both personally and professionally. I feel I'm at a critical turning point in my life and it's time to stop thinking about doing a blog and start doing a blog. Hence the title, "Finally! Fran Knitting!

I used to be part of the Mississauga Knitting Guild but the meeting times unfortunately don’t work with my schedule any more. I thought this blog might be a good way to keep in touch with current knitting buddies (I do miss them) and meet some new ones. I found the sharing of information enriching and support from the friends I’ve made invaluable.

Recent changes in my life, I’ve started teaching a beginners knitting class at night at the Living Arts Centre in Mississauga. I love it!

Much thanks and appreciation go out to friends and family members who have supported and encouraged me to follow my dreams.