Hedgehog Knits

Adventures in knitting from the eastern edge of Canada.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

lessons learned

Thank you all for your positive comments about the bear. I've grown quite attatched to the little guy!

Today I bring you the saga of one of my long-negelcted projects, which sadly, will be seeing some ripping.

This is the "Go with the Flow" shell/tank top from Inspired Cable Knits. The yarn for this top has some history. Last summer I was living with friends in a rather remote suburb of Calgary, away from home and my yarn stash. Within a couple of weeks, I grew tired of the sock yarn I had brought with me, and was itching for a new project. With limited public transit options and very few places to buy yarn I decided to finally try out mail-order with Elann.com.

I found a free pattern on the Elann site that I liked; a short-sleeve cotton t-shirt with a textured diamond pattern. The pattern was created by Schachenmayr, for it's cotton-blend yarn Piazza. I downloaded the pattern and ordered the required number of skeins for my size. I was delighted with the fast service, but when I started knitting, it became evident pretty quickly that 6 skeins was not going to be nearly enough. And the yarn was no longer available. I used up three and didn't quite have the back done. Lesson 1: always order one or two extra skeins. You never know.

Then when I was in California in August, I picked up a copy of Inspired Cable Knits, and fell in love with several of the patterns. I thought this little shell would work with the amount of Piazza yarn I had on hand, because, hey, there aren't even any sleeves to knit. The yardage seemed about right. I knit away on it for a while, and began to get a sinking feeling when I realized once again how quickly the yarn was disappearing. I decided to put it away and ignore it for a while.

I took it out yesterday while re-evaluating the pile of UFO's in my basket, and knit a little further on it. And now it's time to face the fact that it's just not going to make it. This is where the front is at after three skeins:

I haven't even made it to the shoulder shaping on the first side yet. It appears from my exhaustive search over several months of local shops and on-line retailers that there is no more of this yarn on the face of the earth. (except a few brown and fuschia skeins on eBay). Lesson 2: know when to cut your losses.

When I actually stopped to really look at this, I wondered why I was making the large size, when the medium would probably have been more than big enough to fit me. Oh, right. I started this before I learned that pesky little lesson about measuring yourself and actually believing the measurements and not choosing the larger size "just to be safe"! So, I think this is bound to be ripped out. It's going to be hard though. I really liked those little cables.

Eventually, I may try this pattern again. With an overly-cautious yarn supply. And in the right size. And maybe I'll even add a little waist-shaping to it. I can't believe how much I've learned just since last September!

Oh, and the yarn? I'm going to tuck it away for a future baby project. If I can't get a baby sweater out of it, then I'll know that it's completely cursed!


Sunday, February 25, 2007

Tying up loose ends

So if you've been reading for a while, you'll know that like many people, I have developed a tendency to have a lot of projects going at one time. I'm trying to cut back and actually finish up some of those long-neglected projects, but somehow the pull of new projects is always pretty strong. I've been letting myself get away with a few detours as long as they're using up stash.

Several of these little side-trips are wrapping up - I've been finishing up a few little things over the past couple of days. First I'd like to introduce you to Mr. (or Ms.) Bear:

Best Friend Bear from Interweave Knits special holiday issue 2006. Yarn is mostly vintage wool, and raglan sweater is vintage tapestry wool.

This was a really fun knit, and it worked up pretty quickly. I would definitely knit it again. I think it would be a really cute baby shower gift, maybe with a matching baby-sized sweater. The one thing I wasn't sure about was which way the arms are supposed to be attached. They're basically L-shaped tubes with
elbows, but it's not particularly clear whether the short or the long "limb" of the L gets attached to the shoulder when assembling. An accompanying photo of the finished bear without a sweater on would have been helpful. I went with the short limb on top, which seemed to look the most normal. I know the eyes and nose look a little wonky, but I always seem to have trouble with finishing on toys. I just can never get it to look very professional. I decided to leave it with just one sweater, as much as I loved knitting the tiny raglan, because I was afraid that constant changing of clothing would be too stressful on the little guy's head and arm joints. It's really quite a sqeeze to get it over his big head! Anyway, as a stash buster and a learning experience, this was a great little project.

The next little FO has been on my WIP list for a while, but I don't think I've showed it before now. These little socks are for my nephew.
Basic Ribbed Socks, child's size, from Vogue Knitting Socks Two, in Super Socks Dazzle, on size 2.25 dpns.

These are supposed to fit child's shoe size 6-7.5. I guess my two-year-old nephew has pretty huge feet! For such a simle project, I was working on these for a while. I got one of them to the toe decreases when I realized that I had the wrong number of stitches, and I had to rip back to the heel. I guess I had gotten a little over confident (or I'd forgotten how to count - one or the other!) and wasn't paying much attention. I had hoped to have these done while I was home, but instead I finished them on the plane ride back to Ottawa. I'll have to pop them in the mail as soon as they're dry.

I finally found some buttons for that little baby cardigan that I made last month. They're little pewter buttons, and I thought that they looked cute. So cross one more almost-finished object off the list.

I think I've just about got the WIP list under control again now. Three FO's, and only one new project started (socks for my MIL - socks don't really count, right?!). I've been dong a little planning and dreaming lately, adjusting the "upcoming knits" list to reflect what I realistically might get to this year. I'm going to get back to DH's overdue birthday sweater now and put in a real effort to get it finished - just 1.5 sleeves to go. And then maybe I'll try to finish up the tank top and the red cardigan and the mittens that I've had on the go for, well, way too long. Once the pile of unfinished knitting that sits in (and around) the basket beside the couch gets reduced to a reasonable size, I have plans for a couple of vests for myself. I've come to like the looks of a vest over a blouse, and the Leftovers vest recently caught my eye. And then there's this cone of Derby Tweed that followed me home from Newfoundland...

It's 500 g of very fine wool, somewhere between laceweight and fingering. I followed up on a tip from the Yarn Harlot that Woof Designs in downtown St. John's sells off their ends and discontinued yarns - this was only $23. I'm actually proud of myself for not buying more. Oh, here were some beautiful purples, and lots of mohair. This yarn is actually more greeen than it looks in the photo. I'm thinking of knitting two strands together and making another little pullover vest of some sort. Or maybe a short-sleeve sweater. But that's way off in the future. I can still swatch though, can't I.... ?

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Saturday, February 24, 2007

Gone home.

I had a really great week back home in Newfoundland. I played at a benefit concert for the little girl I mentioned last week. I attended a great local geology conference, gave what I think was a pretty good presentation, and spent some time with family. The biggest and most memorable event might have been the enormous snowstorm last Tuesday, which shut down the city and caused half of the conference to be re-scheduled - St. John's is still shovelling out from under five-foot high snow drifts. But this all was overshadowed by some sad news that arrived last Saturday. Dermot O'Reilly had died very suddenly of a massive heart attack.

It's no secret to those who know me that I am a big fan of folk music, and Irish/Newfoundland folk music in particular. My whole family is involved in the local music scene in St. John's, and I grew up listening to recordings of Ryan's Fancy (of which Dermot was a member), a band that my father idolized. In more recent years, my family has gotten to know the O'Reilly's, and my younger brother has worked on several recording projects and preformances with Dermot and counted him as a friend. DH and I considered ourselves incredibly lucky and honoured to have had Dermot and Fergus O'Byrne play at our wedding just a year and a half ago. Dermot was a real gentleman, and I've never heard anyone say a bad thing about him. He was a true legend of folk music in Newfoundland, a place where we take our love of music pretty seriously.

It was kind of surreal to have been at home when this happened, and to watch all of the local media coverage, to attend the wake, and share grief with so many friends, fellow musicians and fans. It was certainly a shock to everyone. He will be sorely missed.


Friday, February 16, 2007

Taking Flight

I'm heading off to Newfoundland tonight for a conference and to visit my family. I still have to do a week's worth of marking, pack my suitcase, pick up drycleaning, put some finishing touches on my presentation, and be at the airport by 4:00! Wish me luck.

I will try to post while I'm gone, but the reliability of internet access at my parents' place leaves something to be desired. I should have some fun knitting progress to show by the time I get back though!

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Toys make me feel like a big kid!

There's a snowstorm on the way, which I understand my friends in Toronto have already been enjoying for some time now. I think I'm going to work from home today, and hope that I can still get out of the house to go to dance class tonight.

So here's the distraction I mentioned in my last post. I noticed the Best Friend Bear pattern in the Holiday Gift special edition of Interweave Knits a while back. And I just happened to have some brown wool in the vintage stash. What made me want to knit it NOW was that I recently found out that some close family friends back home in Newfoundland will be coming to Ottawa next month because their 6-year-old daughter needs heart surgery. Scarey stuff. It's made a little worse by the fact that they know hardly anyone in town (there's just us and one relative), they have hardly ever travelled, and don't like big cities much. I'll of course be there, trying to help them find their way around town, and visiting the hospital when I can. And I thought, who could be more deserving of a hand-knit teddy bear than that little girl?

I ran out of the main brown colour. I guess I overestimated the partial skein I was using. But I think it will still work as a raggedy kind of bear. The ears are lighter, the arms (knit since this photo was taken) are slightly darker brown. My favourite part is the little top-down raglan sweater, which is out of a few vintage skeins of tapestry wool! This pattern was great for practicing a bunch of my little-used knitting skills. It starts with a provisional crochet cast-on, and then is knit from the neck down with lots of short-row shaping, and then the neck stitches are released and picked up to knit the head. And then you do a top-down raglan in miniature on dpns. It's like a whole technique class in one little project, and I'll never have to wear to show off my mistakes!

The project is halted right now because I ran out of stuffing. I need to make a trip to WalMart or Michael's, both of which are located out in the boonies, and usually require a major bus/train expedition.

Once I see how the sweater fits the fully stuffed bear, I might make a second sweater. The pattern gives two sweater options, and I think both are adorable. And every bear needs a wardrobe, right? I'm just a little concerned that if it's a tight fit, then changing sweaters frequently (as a 6-year-old is likely to do), might cause undue stress and wear on the little guy's arm joints and head. So I'll wait and see.

I'm making good progress on hubby's sweater. The front is just a couple of rows away from the shoulder bind off. I need to recalculate the sleeve size a little bit before I start them - I've been fiddling a bit with the pattern dimensions. But the end is in sight. There's no sunlight to speak of today, so the progress photo will have to wait.

And now, off to make a pot of tea and settle down to work for the day.


Saturday, February 10, 2007


I've made some good progress on DH's sweater, but unfortunately not enough to have it finished for his birthday, which was Thursday. I'm up to the armhole decreases on the front now, but still have the sleeves to go. I worked from home on Thursday so that I could make dinner and bake a birthday cake, and we had a little low-key celebration when he got home from work at 10:00 PM. Working a 12-hour shift on your birthday is just no fun!

In a bit of a break from the miles of cables, I showed you the Argosy that I started (and finished) last weekend. Here it is after a good blocking.

Argosy, size 4.5 mm bamboo needles, in handspun BFL from Fleece Artist. 5-square central pattern has 16 repeats.

I decided to knit until I ran out of yarn and leave it short. It will probably get a lot of wear with my leather jacket when the weather warms up in the spring. I like the way the colour striping turned out in the handspun , and it is very soft, even if it smells a little sheepy.

I can't seem to keep from starting new projects lately. I've been trying to use up my stash, and it seems that everytime I think up a new idea for something to make out of stash, I have to jump right in and start it. Can you tell from my sidebar what the latest distraction is? I'll show you some pictures tomorrow.

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Friday, February 09, 2007

Coming up for air

I seem to be having trouble getting aroud to posting during the week lately. I make a point of using the home computer for blogging. If I were to let myself update my blog from my office at school, I would never get any work done! By the time I get home most evenings, I am interested only in supper, a little knitting in front of the tv, and falling into bed. Something about winter darkness makes me want to sleep a lot. Hubby often doesn't get home from work until 10:30, so whole days go by when we hardly see each other awake.

I'm in the final stretch of grad school, hoping to defend this spring. So if my posts are a little thin on the ground these next couple of months, it's not that I'm not knitting (knitting is my greatest stress relief after all!), it's just that I'm spending a lot of time in front of my "other" computer, writing about boring stuff - like limestone.

And now tonight, I'm actually taking a break from it all and he
ading out to a pub with a few of the girls. I leave you with a photo from Romni Wools in Toronto, in the wonderful room full of fiber. That's a happy grin!

(Photo by Ms. M.)


Saturday, February 03, 2007

Now where did this come from?!

Perhaps the brown sweater was starting to get to me a little, perhaps it was because I left it out in a visible spot and passed by it many times a day, but I couldn't resist the colours of the handspun any longer. Fleece artist really knows what they're doing with dyes! Anyway, last night I ignored the cries of my many long-abandoned WIPs, balled up the skeins, and cast on yet another project.

Meet Argosy. I cast on last night during the news, and after a couple of hours this morning, suddenly I have a scarf. I had no idea this would be so quick.

The colours are a little more subdued than they look in the photo, but they blend really nicely. These are my favourite colours. I kind of ignored gauge altogether - hey, it's a scarf!. I swatched a little bit and decided to use 4.5 mm needles. (The pattern uses two different yarns and gauges, but the larger option is only knit on 4 mm.) It's a fun pattern to work up, and I think it will really improve with blocking. It's a little narrow, but this is supposed to be a warmer-weather, decorative scarf. I think I might like to adapt it to a wider version sometime, maybe in finer gauge silk. My dilemma right now is that I've almost run out of yarn. I'm trying to decide whether to finish it off as a perfectly respectable little tuck-in scarf, or to go looking for a third sliver of the fibre to spin more and make it longer. I think I like the idea of knitting it longer, but I'm probably more likely to wear it more as a short scarf with my spring jacket. Decisions, decisions.

The birthday sweater has not been forgotten, although my chances of getting it finished for February 8 are not looking good! This is the completed back and the start of the front. After the short scarf break, I'll be getting right back to it.

Unfortunately my teaching responsibilities have been cutting into my weekend knitting lately, as I get dumped with a large pile of grading every Friday. But, you know, it still beats cleaning the apartment! I hope everyone is enjoying some knitty relaxation this weekend.

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Thursday, February 01, 2007

There will be no knitting in this post

Well, I've been back from Toronto for days now, but somehow taking a weekend off from schoolwork and TA duties has left me playing catch-up this week. Ah, but it was worth it. What a wonderful weekend of relaxing with friends and being a lazy bum. It was just what I needed. Glenna has posted some photos from our adventures. Silly me forgot my camera at home (WHAT was I thinking?!)

I have knitting to show, but I haven't managed to photograph it yet. I finished the back of hubby's cabled sweater on the train ride home, and have knit about three inches of the front. I need to do a little tweaking of the pattern to make the arms fit the armholes, but I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.

The highlights of the weekend for me were getting to know some new yarns, petting lots of fiber at Romni, and making some decisions about stash - spoken like a true knit geek! Actually, the highlight was probably bloating ourselves on dim sum in Chinatown, but who's keeping track?

So, I don't have too many fun photos of weekend frolicking, but I do have a little of the haul to show. Actually, this is the whole haul. I was a very good girl and actually stuck to my plan. And besides, I couldn't find Lantern Moon dpn's in the size I want!

My very first skeins of Lorna's Laces. The colourway is called "Bucks Bar". Lettuce Knit had a whole bunch of Lorna's, so it was so hard to just pick one! I may not get around to knitting this for a while, but in the meantime, I can take them out and pet them every now and again. This was my essential, can't-get-it-in-Ottawa purchase.

At Romni Wools, I discovered that they have a whole basement room full of fiber, so I got to poke and squeeze bags of wool, camel down, raw silk, and all kinds of other delights. A lot of it was way out of my price range, but I found it really great to be able to see what the different kinds of wool are like so that if I mail order in future, I'll have some idea of what I'm getting, and I'll know what to avoid. Who'd have known that Icelandic sheep have coats that feel like plastic easter grass? How do they not make themselves itch?! I bought myself a pound of roving. The brown on the left is fine Shetland, and the white is Corriedale. (I really wanted to try out Corriedale because it seems soft and really easy to fine on eBay. It I like knitting and spinning it, and it takes dye well, there may just be a lot more of it in my future.) Romni was great because they have absolutely everything. I got to see and feel all of those yarns that I read about, but have never met in person. Ah, the Rowan, the Debbie Bliss, the incredibly soft alpaca/silk blends. I felt like a kid in a candy shop. And I didn't buy a single skein - I bought unspun wool instead ;) But honestly, it was a bit overwhelming. I wouldn't be able to just go there and browse for a project. I'd have to have a very good idea of what I wanted going in, or you'd lose me for a week.

We made a return trip to Lettuce Knit where I picked up this little bundle of handpainted merino roving. I keep hearing that merino is the softest but hardest to spin, so I figured that a little 60 gram bundle should be enough to satisfy my curiosity for now. It's sort of something to aspire to.

In keeping with the spinning theme, this is what I've accomplished over the last couple of weeks in my spare minutes at home. Remember the blue faced leicester slivers I got for Christmas? The beautiful, handpainted ones from Fleece Artist? Here's one of them spun into singles...

... and here's the finished product. 100 grams (about 125 m) of 2-ply, approzimately DK weight. The colour is pretty true on the photo below. I'm so happy with how this turned out. I think I'm finally getting the hang of spinning a consistant thicknesss. And it's just so soft. I think this is destined to become a short little Argosy. I think the subtle colour changes will work well with that pattern.

And the big decisions of the weekend? My single skein of Misti Alpaca is going to become a Swallowtail shawl, and also, Glenna's recent scarf has inspired me to use up some more of my worsted wool stash in a stripey lengthways garter-stitch scarf. Simple but warm. And now my must-knit list is growing at a disturbing rate!

Back to knitting content next time, I promise!

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