Hedgehog Knits

Adventures in knitting from the eastern edge of Canada.

Monday, December 31, 2007

Year-end FOs (in Knitting and Life)

2007 has been rather a monumental year for me - finally moving home after so many years away, buying our first house and car, starting a career. I feel incredibly blessed by the good fortune that has come my way. It has been very exciting, yet stressful at times. Mostly, I have felt very disorganized and scatter-brained, no doubt resulting from moving twice and living out of boxes for the better part of the fall.

Things are finally starting to come together. The unpacking is mostly done, and the first floor is exactly as we want it. With the recent addition of furniture, if I may borrow from the knitting jargon, I'm now happy to declare the living room an FO:

We now look forward to painting some of the upstairs rooms and feeling a little more settled in the new year.

A few other recent FOs to report on. The interminable Brigit socks have finally been completed, and were gifted at a family gathering yesterday.

Brigit socks (link to pdf), in Meilenweit wool, 2.25 mm bamboo dpns. Altered the heel to an "eye of partridge" heel flap.

Also known as the "Smurfy Cables", these socks were the cause of much blue dye staining my hands over the last few months. I started them on a train trip from Toronto to Ottawa, and the first sock came very easily. However, I tried taking the second sock out to knit night, and it proved to be wholly incompatible with anything that distracted my attention even remotely. The repeating cable pattern is the same every time, and really shouldn't be that difficult, but every time I started feeling comfortable with it, I would cross a cable the wrong way, or turn the heel and then realize that I had mistakenly added an extra pattern repeat before the heel. Soon the Smurfy cables became the cursed cables.... Nancy and Leanne can attest that even a couple of weeks ago, as I was attempting to turn the heel for the third time, these were still giving me grief. I'm happy to see them finished, and I really like the way they turned out. Surprisingly, I think I would even knit these again for myself, but would make them a little longer. The yarn? The Meilenweit is a perfectly serviceable wool sock yarn, but not destined to become a favourite of mine. It just didn't do it for me, you know?

I've been off work over the holidays, and decided to finally organize my stash closet. I rediscovered all kinds of treasures that I had forgotten about. Among them was the end of a cone of very furry mohair blend that I bought on a whim at Woof Designs last summer (mostly a machine-knitting sweater business, they sell off their cone ends and discontinued yarns by weight. I always love to pop in and see what new on the yarn shelf at the back). Inspired by the cold snowy weather we've been having, I decided that I needed some very warm mitten for the daily trek through the snow to work.

These were knit holding together a strand of the mohair (burgandy) with Elann.com Peruvian Pure Alpaca (sherwood forest). Together, it gave a bulky weight, and and incredibly dense, warm, fuzzy fabric. These may well be the warmest knitted mittens ever - and much less bulky than my thrummed mitts.

The biggest FO of the year though, is my Ph.D. thesis. I was in Ottawa for my defense on December 13, and my presentation and oral exam went very well. The corrections were minimal, so I managed to get them all finished and submit the final copies before the week was out. It was all a bit anticlimactic really, as I had worked myself up into a nervous frenzy over it, and since we were heading into the holidays and many of my friends had already graduated and left, there weren't really many people around to celebrate with. More than anything, it brings me an enormous sense of relief to be finished. No more guilt over procrastinating, no more self-doubt about whether my work is good enough. It was wonderful, for the first time in 11 years, to be able to sit back this Christmas with my family and know that there would be no more term papers or exams, no more frantic late nights at the library, no more frustrating encounters with university administration (perhaps that last one is a little premature - I haven't got my diploma yet!). But I have regained a lot of peace and sanity these past couple of weeks, and hopefully I'm a nicer person to be around than I have been recently!

This year, the new year brings a lot of opportunity, as I have re-gained a lot of energy and free time to devote to non-academic pursuits. I plan to get myself off the couch a little more (off to research gym memberships this afternoon), and I will finally get around to checking out the class offerings at the Anna Templeton Centre, a fantastic textile arts centre just around the corner. My sister-in-law is even interested in taking a pottery class with me. I may do a little more volunteering, and I also have a little freelance writing project that I'm anxious to get working on.

I would like to wish everyone a very happy new year, and may your knitting continue to bring you joy in 2008.

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Sunday, December 30, 2007

Gift Knitting

I have discovered yet another reason that I love our house: we're on the up-wind side of the street. I have spent a good deal of time these last few days digging out from successive dumpings of snow, but the folks across the street definitely have it worse. The wet snow has made for heavy shoveling, but it does make the neighbourhood look pretty.

The view across the street.

I have a number of FO shots to share with you, so I thought that today I would give you a round-up of the Christmas gifts. I tried to keep it under control this year, inspired by memories of casting off a scarf last year at 2AM on Christmas morning! The red sweater that I designed and knit last spring was a gift for my aunt, an accomplished knitter herself, and she was delighted with it. And my mom really likes her Swallowtail shawl.

This touque, in Smart Superwash, was a requested replacement for a similar gift last year which, sadly, was lost. I knit a different pattern this year. making it up as I went along, out of the same yarn to match the scarf given last year.

Gift toque, in Smart Superwash, 90 st with cabled ribbing, modeled by yours truly.

Then there was the rescue knitting for another aunt. She had knit this lace sweater up to the armhole decreases, but given the challenges of decreasing in pattern, combined with a really poorly written pattern, she passed it off to me to finish. The yarn, Mandarin Petit, is a fingering weight multi-ply cotton. It's quite nice and soft, and I would definitely use it again. The pattern though, I hope to never see again.

The rescue knitting sweater, pre-blocking.

And then, there were the jackets for the wee ones of the family. I chose to try out the Accordion pattern from Knitty.com in Knit Picks Swish Superwash.

Accordion jacket, size 2 Toddler, in Knit Pick Swish Superwash.

Gauge was interesting with this project. I thought that the recommended yarns were worsted weight, but I had to go up several needle sizes to get gauge with the Swish. I think my jackets have a lot more drape than the pattern version as a result, but they are cute and warm nonetheless. I added an inch of two to the measurements to account for the notorious vertical shrinkage with this yarn, and washed the pieces before seaming. The only problem this caused was difficulty finding zippers in odd lengths, since it was difficult to predict the finished length of the garment until after it was washed.

It was on this last jacket that I fell down in the gift knitting department. I didn't finish it in time, and I still haven't gone shopping for a zipper - maybe later today. It will hopefully be finished in time to be a New Year's gift. The recipient won't know the difference - he's three!

Accordion Jacket, Size 4 Toddler, in Knit Picks Swish Superwash.

Must go finish off the shovelling. Happy New Year to all!

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Monday, December 03, 2007

FOs and the start of the tour

Ah, it feels good to finish something. Especially when it feels as though the unpacking and organizing of the new house will never end. A couple of little FO's to show today.

Here's the Swallowtail shawl, finally blocked and dried, and looking lovely if I do say so myself. I'm very happy with how this turned out.

And, at long last, I have finished the Tofutsies socks.

Ribby cable socks (my own design) in Tofutsies. 72 st on 2 mm needles.

I have been dragging these around with me since the summer, mostly as commuting knitting. Squeezed in between other projects, they seemed to drag on forever. The ribbing is K4 P2 cable2 P2, although the detail of it is rather obscured by the striping.

I can't say I'm particularly fond of this yarn. I heard good things about it, so I tried it when it became available at my LYS. To me, it's not much different from cotton, and I am not a fan of cotton socks. It's also fairly dense, and not very stretchy, so I think the socks would pool around my ankles after a couple of hours. These are going to be a Christmas gift for someone with slightly skinnier calves who I think will get a kick out of the colours.

In other business, I promised you a tour of the house. There still aren't many parts of it that are fit to be photographed. We have open and emptied most of the cardboard boxes at this point, but there is still a lot of clutter sitting around, each item waiting to be given its designated place. And we certainly haven't gotten around to details like hanging up the artwork. So, if you'll excuse the clutter, I'll show you my office:

Here's the part I know you'll love.... built-in yarn storage!

Have I mentioned that I love this place?

Now, I hope you'll bear with me for another couple of weeks of scarce postings. I'm off to Ottawa next week for my Ph.D. defense, and that means I have a presentation to prepare, studying to do, and general nervousness and self doubt to get over. Moreso than wanting to do well, I just want to get this over with and never have to think about it ever again. Wish me luck!

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