I Was Smiling the Whole Time

There’s no doubt we could use more reasons to smile lately. It’s been a while since I’ve knitted something that made me excited to plan, happy to knit, and gleeful to wear. But this neck warmer was just the ticket!

Happy sheep cowl neck warmer

This is the I’ll Pack a Cowl for Rhinebeck by Deb Jacullo. Pssst — it’s FREE! Another reason to smile.

Sheep neckwarmer cowl

I made a couple of modifications to the pattern. I made the cowl smaller in circumference by leaving off one of the sheep from the chart, and since the chart is repeated twice, that means the width of two sheep were left off the circumference. This resulted in a closer-fitting neck warmer which I much prefer — I’ve never understood the use of scarf or cowl that gapes open around your neck…but then again, I do have a serious hate-on for any kind of cool breeze getting anywhere near my neck. It was a 7-stitch wide sheep, so I just cast on 14 fewer stitches to start and went from there.

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Umm, those are snowflakes in my hair, not dandruff. Just sayin’.

I also made the neck warmer less tall by leaving off a few extra rows of ribbing at the top and bottom. If I did it again I would probably leave out some rounds below the sheep, as it’s still a bit too tall for me. Regardless, I feel happy whenever I’m sporting this cozy-cute thing! I highly recommend it as a pattern. And if you’re new to colour knitting, this is a great first project to give it a try. There are 4 colours in total but you only ever have to deal with two colours at a time in any given row, so it’s not terribly complex. It’s a great yarn stash busting project as well.

Here are a couple more things that make me happy: handmade knit socks. Watching the stripes and patterns develop makes them fun to knit, and wearing hand knit socks in winter is one of life’s great pleasures. Wool is naturally breathable like no other sock material I’ve ever tried, so it keeps you warm but if you do start to sweat you don’t get that horrible clammy feeling.

Basic Ribbed Socks pattern by Kate Atherley, knit with Regia sock yarn

turtlepurlstripeysocks

Basic Ribbed Socks pattern by Kate Atherley, knit with Turtlepurl Perfect Pair sock yarn

I must’ve knit myself about 8 pairs of socks in the last few years, and I’ve used this same Basic Ribbed Socks pattern by Kate Atherley every time. (More free pattern happiness!) Occasionally I think I should try another type of sock design but I’m so happy with the fit of these that I figure why mess with a good thing? But I must admit that a few patterns have  made me consider cheating on poor Ms Atherley, like these Dotty Knots Socks — because colour! Or these Watermelon Slice Socks — because, well, watermelon! Or these Nightingale socks — because, holy shit, drop-dead gorgeous show-stopping outrageousness! So many happy-making sock pattern choices.

Here’s another thing that’s making me happy: next week I am leaving for a trip to Kenya. I’m taking a group of my university students who will be producing a short documentary as well as content for a social media campaign for AMREF — the African Medical Research and Education Foundation. We’ll be visiting AMREF’s drop-in centre for kids from the Dagoretti slum of Nairobi, where at-risk kids can make art, learn media production, learn cooking, and learn SEWING! We’ll also be spending a week in a Maasai village learning about AMREF’s Alternative Rites of Passage project, which aims to phase out the dangerous (and illegal) tradition of female genital mutilation by helping girls, village elders, and the young men the girls might marry to understand the risks involved with FGM, and to implement new traditions for this rite of passage from girlhood to womanhood. Last week we were lucky enough to have a young woman from Kenya named Nice visit our class to tell her story. As an 8-year-old, she was scheduled to do her rite of passage, which involves having the clitoris and parts of or all of the labia removed without anaesthetic. She and her older sister ran away the morning of the ceremony, and were beaten when they were caught. Nice ran away again when the ceremony was rescheduled, and has been working with AMREF ever since to help spread the concept of an alternative rite of passage. Happily she has become a leader in her community and travels around the world to help raise awareness.

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Nice, third from left, and part of my team traveling to Kenya next week. Photo by Jennifer Foulds.

AMREF is doing amazing work and I’m so happy that my young students have an opportunity to learn about a completely different culture and have their perspectives and minds expanded. Open minds are another thing we could use more of these days, don’t you think?

I’m looking forward to telling you about my travels when I return. But beware, I’ll also be asking you to help support AMREF! I figure an organization that is providing sewing lessons to kids in need would be A-OK in your books, and worthy of support. Here’s a link to donate if you’re interested. AMREF is a registered charity and can provide tax receipts for your donation. http://www.amrefcanada.org/ryerson

What are the things that are making you happy these days?

Thanks so much for stopping by for a read!

Huzzah! Me and my Sweetheart are back together!

Look at this swagger! Why? Cause I opened a can of serger whoop-ass on this sweater. I feel like a certified DOMIKNITRIX.

Sweetheart sweater with pink intarsia bow

When I finished knitting this sweater (Sweetheart from Domiknitrix by Jennifer Stafford),  it was way too big. More details and sucky pics here.

Sweetheart sweater before and after

But now my Sweetheart fits much better. And this is how I feel about it:

Sweetheart sweater jumping for joy

I used my serger to trim away the extra room from the sleeve hem all the way along to the waist on each side. Then I pinned up the extra bulk around the sleeve heads and serged around the armholes. Lastly, I wove black elastic thread around the neckline and cinched it in. So many thanks to readers who offered suggestions and encouragement! It worked, y’all!

Sweetheart sweater

And I love it!

Sweetheart sweater

 

YOU WILL SUBMIT, SWEETHEART

[Warning: this post is full of frowny, sucky pictures!]

There are a lot of things I love about knitting. It’s portable and can be done almost anywhere. Wool yarn is lovely to smoosh and fondle. Handmade wool socks are the best. And so on. But if there’s one thing that I absolutely hate about knitting, it’s spending three months knitting a sweater that doesn’t fit.

Exhibit A: The Sweetheart Sweater from DomiKNITrix (aka Jennifer Stafford). This was going to be a masterpiece. The cleverly constructed pattern with waist darts, short row bust shaping, an intarsia bow, and a sweetheart neckline was going to produce a cute-but-sexy fitted sweater. I carefully checked my gauge. Commenters on Ravelry warned that the sleeves were very tight, so I erred on the side of knitting small sleeves instead of extra small. But what I seem to have finished up with overall is a size Large.

Sweetheartsweater_before3

It fits well from the hips to the waist but gets inexplicably much larger after that, moving up towards the shoulders that could accommodate a set of football pads. This is a disaster on par with my I Thought I Was Sewing a Dress But It Turned Out to Be a Bathrobe with Storage Compartments for Groceries dress.

Sweetheart sweater before

And this was no easy knit! This is the first time I’ve tried the intarsia technique, which is a way of knitting more than one colour by using small bobbins of yarn for each area of different colour in any given row. I found this quite tricky and very slow going. And weaving in all those ends! The horror, the horror.

I have no idea what's going on here, either.

Knitting intarsia: I have no idea what’s going on here, either.

So I’ve decided to take the advice of Jennifer Stafford, author of the book from which this pattern came, and Whip My Knits Into Shape. I will not be dominated by this “sweetheart”. SHE WILL SUBMIT TO ME!

I plan to give her a close-up tour of my serger where she’ll get a close shave along the sides, around the armholes, and down the sleeves. That’s right; I’m going to CUT my knitting. It’s my only hope. Pray for me, and for Sweetheart. We both hope there will be no reason for Sewzilla to come visiting.

Sweetheartsweater_before1

Have you ever altered a hand knit with a sewing machine or serger before? Any advice is welcome!

And in the meantime, I think I’ll knit a few more of these to cheer me up because they’re just so damn cute.

Baby Socks! From the free pattern by Kate Atherly. Click to go to the pattern.

Baby Socks for my neighbours’ new baby! From the free pattern by Kate Atherly. Click to go to the pattern.

Neon Stripe Blanket and Erniebertzel PuddinPie

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This cat! I can’t even.

He models my work-in-progress neon stripe blanket well, doesn’t he? He must be tuckered out after tearing holes in the sewing pattern sheets I left out on the table. This is Ernie-of-a-thousand-names, one of which is featured in the title. He’d be embarrassed if he weren’t a cat and therefore expert at not giving a shit what he’s called. Other names — much to my own surprise at choosing to admit this in public — include: Toop Toop, Tiny Chicken, T-Chook, Bagel Bum, Chicken Pot Pie, Banana Bear, Belly Goat, Smeagol Beagle, BertieBert, Stink Bug, Potato Bun, and Snoopy Loop.

Oh, and Asshat. Just because I love the word Asshat.

The blanket! I’m afraid I blatantly and shamelessly ripped the design off after seeing Julie Harrison’s post on her blog Little Woollie. My eyes DOINGGGG-ed out of my head and I channeled a desperate Captain Kirk as I whispered to myself, “Must…have….this…….blanket!”

neonstripeblanket3

Julie’s version is crocheted; I’m making up a knit version. I’m knitting 12 rows with Nashua Isabella yarn in Labradorite, a tweedy grey worsted weight, then doing 2 rows with one of 4 neon Madelinetosh Vintage yarns (Blue Nile, Neon Peach, Edison Bulb, and Fluoro Rose). When I’m finished I will do an i-cord edge using one of the neons. I am LOVING the mindless garter stitch knitting.

neonyarn

Not to be outdone by her arch-nemesis Ernie, Miss Pie photobombs the neon yarn shoot.

In case you read my earlier post about almost losing my knitting mojo before being saved by the prospect of knitting a Winter Wheat cardigan, that project is indeed in progress but on temporary hold while I get my neon stripe fix.

Oh, hai, sweater that I’m going to knit the shit out of

I thought it had finally happened: losing my knitting mojo. Knitterly mojo-lessness. I couldn’t get excited about starting a new knitting project. Which has been UNHEARD OF since I started knitting in 2009 — I don’t believe I have ever not had a project on the go. Is it possible I was suffering from worsted world-weariness? DPN disgruntlement? Entrelac ennui? Fair-isle Fuggettaboutit?

I even bought new yarn just before my vacation in order to make this cool Anna Sui dress (my version was going to be a sweater).

I knit most of the back piece before saying to myself, “Meh,” and putting it away. I wasn’t even tempted to work on it during the 13 hours I spent on various trains, buses, and a 9-hour flight home. Something was seriously wrong.

Truth be told, I was a little panicky. Had my knitting craze finally come to an end? Had I knit everything I was going to ever want to knit? (Lawd knows I have too. damn. many. sweaters. Even for a Canadian.) Had my knitting universe collapsed in on itself? And, most importantly, HOW ON EARTH WOULD I MAKE IT THROUGH FACULTY MEETINGS? I’m pretty sure my colleagues would put their foot down at me setting up my serger in the meeting room.

But then I saw an ad on Ravelry for the Winter Wheat pattern by Anne of Atelier Al-fa:

Stripes? Check. Asymmetry? Check. Interesting stitch patterns? Check. Even contrast piping — check. And, sock-weight yarn for a lighter, finer garment — check.

And then I saw this perfectly executed Winter Wheat project by Charlotte (Lolotte1409 on Ravelry):

And then I remembered that my amazing LYS — Romni Wools — has 20% off all yarns this month!

And then I thought, HELLS YEAH! I’m gonna knit me some Winter Wheat! (Cue finger snapping and hip gyrating)

And girlfriends, I picked up these to-die-for Madelinetosh sock yarns…

madelinetosh_winterwheat

Madeline Tosh Sock yarn (left to right): Victorian Gothic, Dirty Panther, Smokestack, Composition Book Grey, and Fog.

…and BAM!!!! Knitting Mojo Restored! No more stockinette same-same! Vanished is the yarn-over yawning! I have conquered cabling commonplaceness! Is that even a word? Who cares?? Garter stitch gloom is gone!!!

elainebenesdancing

Oh, and if you don’t see a finished Winter Wheat on this blog within the next 6 months, you’ll know this was just Starting A New Project Enthusiasm talking. Time will tell; so far I am half way through row 2. Wish me luck. 😉

 

Vanessa Cable Cardi

I completed this sweater in December using the Vanessa Cable Cardigan pattern from MillaMia Sweden.

vanessacablecardi5

I’m a tad disappointed because I had dreams I would look like this woman…

Milla Mia Vanessa Cable Cardi

…complete with cool neon yellow trim. But I would’ve had to buy neon yellow yarn and knit with it, as opposed to choosing burgundy yarn. I guess I didn’t really think that part of it through. 😉

It was a pretty long project as the front panels were comprised of endless amounts of cabling. On one of the panels are a few rows of tight, kinda messed up knitting, which will be my everlasting reminder of that time I was knitting while watching the Season 5 premiere of the Walking Dead.

vanessacablecardi6

I’m also a bit bummed because I thought the neck might be more like a funnel neck, but the collar just lies flat. Note to self! — don’t be fooled by models holding up collars in the pattern photo! I have been fooled by this more than once (see my asymmetrical moto jacket).

vanessacablecardi1

It’s a lovely warm sweater, and the cabled fronts are extra warm as the texture makes the fabric thicker and seems to trap body heat.  I used one of my favourite yarns: Sandnes Garn Mini Alpakka for the taupe sections (colour #2650). It is soft and a bit fuzzy and lightweight yet warm. I love it. The burgundy contrast is Garnstudio Drops Alpaca in colour #3969. This is a very similar yarn but not nearly as soft and fuzzy.

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This is the third pattern by MillaMia Sweden I have knit (see my Annika cardigan and Erika cardigan), probably because I can’t seem to get enough of their use of colourblocking and contrast trim on their designs.

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This might be next on my MillaMia hit list (but how many cabled cardigans does one compulsive knitter need?). It’s a free download…click the image to get it.

MillaMia Livia Adult Cardigan

MillaMia Livia Adult Cardigan – free download

Or perhaps this:

MillaMia Bella Jacket

MillaMia Bella Jacket

2014: A Year of Living Creatively

Was 2014 a creative year for you? A handful of years ago I remember making a list of what I thought were the primary areas in life that were important for happiness & well being. Something like this:

Relationship/Marriage
Family
Friends/Social Life
Health
Career
Creativity
Learning
Spirituality (although I’m not a religious person, I still consider spirituality to be an important factor)

There were probably a few other things on the list that I can’t remember right now. Anyway, I rated each area out of 10. At that time, I rated Creativity as one of the lowest of all — probably 2 or 3 out of 10. I’m happy to report that’s not the case anymore; my Creativity Index has shot through the roof over the last few years, and it’s made quite a difference to my overall happiness & well-being! (In many ways, it’s made quite a dent in my wallet, too, but that’s another story.) It’s amazing what can happen when you take stock of who you are and where you’re at, and think about what you’d like to do or change to make a positive difference.

In any case, 2014 continued to be a big year for both Creativity and Learning for me. Here are some of the highlights.

  • took Intermediate Fabrication from Jewel Envy where I made a silver necklace and this ring

Silver Curlicue Ring with Amethyst CZ

  • I took a course on enameling from Jewel Envy (click the link to see what I made)
  • I took a 4-week course on making rings with metal clay with Jenn Jevons of Metal Clay Atelier (post about these rings coming soon!)

silver metal clay rings

  • I set myself up with a small jewelry workshop at home (cripes, tools are expensive!)
  • Following on from 2013, I took a second course on Wearable Electronics and built a motion-activated, light-up skirt!
  • I took another course on casting from Jewel Envy, where I made the silver & pearl ring pictured in my favourite makes of 2014, below

I didn’t have a bad year in knitting, either, considering I get a good chunk of my knitting done during meetings at work. (This says more about how many damn meetings I have to go to than about the speed of my knitting.) I knit:

  • 3 cardigans
  • 2 hats
  • 5 scarves
  • 3 cowls/neckwarmers
  • 2 pairs of socks

knitting projects Screen Shot 2014-12-31 at 8.04.51 AM

Biggest fails of 2014

Vogue 8825 dress

The Grocery Cart Dress

zipperneckdress3

The This-Fucking-Fabric-Is-A-Fucking-Nightmare Dress

My favourite makes of 2014

diagonallinesdress sparkleskirt

silver&pearlsring neonhat

Creative Goals for 2015:

  • 3D printed jewelry is in my immediate future. I can feel it.
  • I hope to learn how to take better pictures, especially of jewelry.

Thanks for supporting me in my creative endeavours and sharing yours with me through this blog! May your 2015 be very creatively fulfilling. Make it happen! Cheers!

Yarncore!

Yesssss! I’m a nerdy badass. Or a badass nerd. (Or, ok…I’m prepared to accept I am just a nerd.)

Yarncore screenprint

Screenprint by Kat Gomboc

I purchased this lovely 11 x 14″ screenprint by Kat Gomboc at the Trinity Bellwoods Park Outdoor Art Show & Sale (part of the Queen West Art Crawl) in Toronto. I love the contrast of the skull motif and the French country toile fabric.

Now all I need is a jean jacket to sew this to the back of. And maybe accessorize with a little something nerdy yet badass like this:

Problem is, I’d find a way to work some yarn onto those needles and then people would *really* look at me funny on the subway.

Stashbusting Knitting Project: Snippet Scarf

Until I find a knitting pattern that specifically calls for a bunch of those 30-percents-of-a-skein of Malabrigo or Madelinetosh that are always leftover from knitting hats, this free scarf pattern will remain my go-to pattern for trying to keep a lid on my ever-expanding giant bag of leftover yarn. The Snippet Scarf by Becky Herrick is not only available for free, it’s also a pretty much fool-proof way of combining all the varied weights and colours of your leftover yarn. And you only need about 6 yards for each row, so you can use up even the tiniest bits of leftovers.

Snippet Scarf

An example of how you just can’t go wrong mixing in whatever colours you’ve got on hand.

For all these versions, I used 6mm/US size 10 needles. Gauge isn’t really an issue. I REPEAT: GAUGE ISN’T AN ISSUE. Knitter peeps who hate gauge swatching know what I’m talkin’bout.

Snippet scarf in greens & blues

Snippet Scarf in shades of greens & blues. I cast on 175 stitches for this one.

The scarf is worked sideways, knitting each row…each of your bits of leftover yarn create a horizontal stripe. Instead of turning around and going back with the same piece of yarn for the next row, you cut the yarn off at the end, leaving enough dangling for the fringe, and start the next row with another piece of yarn. Piece. O’. Cake. You just have to make sure you have needles long enough to hold all the stitches…a long circular needle is best.

Snippet Scarf in browns & yellows

My pal Christian looking rather Northern Hipster in his chunky sweater and snippet scarf in browns & yellows. I cast on 170 stitches for this one, but probably should’ve done more since Christian’s quite a tall guy.

Snippet Scarf in shades of pink. I made this one a little shorter than usual: 165 stitches cast on.

Snippet Scarf in shades of pink. I made this one a little shorter than usual (165 stitches cast on). I also booked myself a friggin’ haircut as soon as I saw this picture. Sheesh.

For the version below, I used some single skeins of yarn my parents-in-law had given me for my birthday a few years ago. They bought the yarn, made by Dyeguy, from an amazing little yarn shop called The Fibre Garden in the village of Jordan, Ontario, right in the middle of Niagara wine country.

Snippet scarf in yellow-multi

For my Father in Law, made with skeins of yarn he & my MIL gave me for my birthday.

The Dyeguy yarn is coloured with natural dyes. The skeins my parents-in-law gave me are dyed with black walnut and osage orange wood.

Dyeguy yarn from the Fibre Garden

Dyeguy yarn from the Fibre Garden

A visit to the Fibre Garden shop is not to be missed if you’re anywhere in the Niagara region. Best part: right across the street is another great yarn and quilting shop called Stitch. I couldn’t find out the official population count of Jordan village, but I’m pretty sure that makes about one yarn store for every 72.5 people there. 😉

A sock-themed road trip

This month I took a road-trip vacation with my best guy in our new(ish) car. We drove from Toronto to New York City to visit friends, then on to Cape Cod, Boston, and Vermont. Then it was home via Montreal (to shop at Simons, of course) and  a stop at my brother’s cottage north of Kingston, Ontario.

Being the first road trip we’d done in a long while, I was excited at the prospect of not having to worry about packing efficiently for a plane trip. While I did pack 7 pairs of shoes (!), which was ridiculous even for me, I did resist the momentary temptation to tote along my sewing machine. But sorry, sewing, you ain’t got nothing on knitting when it comes to traveling. So I packed up my trusty Wise Hilda’s Basic Ribbed Sock pattern, a couple of skeins of sock yarn, my metal double-pointed needles (with a weird worry as to whether they would let me cross the border with metal knitting needles, until I remembered I wasn’t going on a plane), and hit the road.

By the time we got to Vermont, I had a nifty new pair of wool socks. And I almost managed to make them exact copies of each other, stripes-wise — totally by fluke, of course; doing so on purpose would require far too much forethought and planning for measure-once-cut-twice me.

Ribbed socks

Sock Selfie

Fun fact: the state of Vermont has a law against any billboards along highways. (Not so fun fact: the state of New Hampshire kinda scares my Canadian sensibilities with their LIVE FREE OR DIE motto on their license plates. Surely there is some room for discussion if it came down to it, no?)

Fun Vermont fact #2: Vermont is the home of the Darn Tough socks company, which has a lifetime guarantee on their socks. How could I resist buying a pair, especially after just having heard a radio program all about companies who offer lifetime guarantees and the crazy returns they have to accept, including weird stories about Darn Tough Socks? They aren’t as nice feeling on the feet as my own hand-knits, but my hand-knit socks will last maybe 18 months before there’s a big hole in the heel. (I must learn how to darn socks and completely solidify my reputation as a prematurely elderly person.) A lifetime guarantee for socks is pretty freaking radical. Perhaps it would be more fitting if Darn Tough moved their operations to New Hampshire. “GIVE ME HOLE-FREE SOCKS OR GIVE ME DEATH” could be their motto.

Darn Tough socks

By the time we were on the road back to Toronto, I had begun work on another pair.

Basic Ribbed Socks in progress

Upon my arrival back in the T-Dot, I noticed a preponderance of extremely well groomed male tourists in my neighbourhood, and was puzzled momentarily until I remembered we are proudly hosting World Pride this week. There are tens (hundreds?) of thousands of visitors and locals all having a wonderful time celebrating love and diversity. I am so, SO happy to live in a city that practices not just tolerance, but real inclusiveness. There’s absolutely no place like home. Happy Pride! And come visit Toronto sometime — it’s an incredible city!

I <3 TorontoWorld Pride Toronto