Nothing to See Here

Well, there’s nothing to see here except for me, still moping around the house with a nasty cold.  I’m spending a lot of my energy being bitter and resentful about it.  I went to bed last night at a staggering 10pm, and didn’t get up until 8am – and if you know me, you know that I hate sleep. I regard it as a horrid waste of time and engage in it as little as humanly possible. To willingly sleep for ten hours this close to Christmas?  Maybe there is something to see here after all.  Knitting wise, yesterday was unproductive, at best.  One sock finished, the next well started but since the goal was to finish the second sock yesterday?

Sad.  Sad attempt. Crappy iphone picture too.  Perhaps today will be better.  I’m falling behind on the spreadsheet.

Gifts for Knitters 9

You wanted books, you got ’em. Here’s a short list of books on my shelves that I use over and over and over again.  Love all of them. Your mileage may vary. Think of your knitter before you buy… and check their shelves.
Harmony Guides: Knit & Purl (The Harmony Guides) Not just this one, but all the books in this series.
Vogue Knitting Stitchionary (Again, anything in this series is great.)
The Knitter’s Book of Yarn (Or anything else by Clara Parkes)
Knitting Around (Or anything else by Elizabeth Zimmermann)
Knitting on the Edge
50 Baby Bootees to Knit (I love this book. I can’t explain why.)
and finally, because somewhere my publisher is smashing their head off a desk screaming "You’re an author. Please mention your books. Please mention them. I swear if you recommend another book again and leave yours off like they’re no good I’m going to have your next book edited until you cry like a baby. Do it." 
Knitting Rules It’s the only useful book I’ve every written, and I know it’s useful because I use it all the time.

Gifts for Knitters 10

To be honest, knitting themed tee shirts make up about 80% of my wardrobe.  (Your knitter’s needs may be more modest, especially if they have one of those "real jobs" that I hear so much about.)  Here’s some I really like.  I’m loath to give you this link, because I love that almost nobody has this shirt, Splityarn’s "That Sh*t will block right out" is my current favourite. There’s this one, reminding you that we’ll be more valuable after the end times. Knitspot’s fabulous "I’m only at knit night for the beer" (I can’t believe I don’t have that one.) Décor Noir has the  Knit your heart out shirts. For the slightly scary knitter, Crafy Gear has a Knitter scull and crossbones, for the manly knitter Knitty has your backHow to knit, for the missionary knitter… and finally, for the knitter who’s so crafty she’s making a person, the Ravelry Work in Progress shirt.

From the Fog

I’ve got a terrible cold which is probably the punishment I get for how completely smug I was about saying that the knitting and Christmas prep were all moving along at a good clip.  I couldn’t possibly be more stuffed up if I tried and this morning I was so desperate to feel better that I took an expired Benylin. (Joe’s going to run out and try and get me something a little better- like maybe a huge bottle of whiskey.) Despite the punishing cold, and at the risk of turning it into pneumonia with further smugness, this weekend I really got a lot done. The spreadsheet marches along, a few things were wrapped, a few more things were sorted out, and despite a party (I knit while I attended. I know they think I’m odd, but I think I’m just normalizing knitting within our culture) my knitting goals turned out to be actual goals.  This time of year I have a hard time telling the difference between goals and plans I make that have all the sense of a reindeer on skates.  These, because they were achievable, turned out to be actual goals.   I finished a cashmere watchcap,

Yarn: Groove Cashmere, pattern: Lorne’s Hat. 

and I knit a whole Pretty Thing in just a few hours. 

I don’t want to toot my own horn on this one (since it is my pattern) but I consider this a really good last minute emergency gift.  It’s only 61 rounds and goes pretty quickly, assuming you’re reasonably comfortable with charts, and this time, the yarn was my favourite part.  

I knit this one out of a slightly dear cashmere silk – Superior, from Filatura Di Crossa.  I got it at the Little Red Mitten while I was there – absolutely inspired by one that Joan was wearing.  The yarn was $26, and I took a deep breath, remembered it was cashmere and silk and bought it.

When I was done, I weighed the cowl, then the ball.  The finished thing was 9g, and what was left in the ball was 16g, so I’ll have enough for a whole other one, and that makes this yarn way, way less expensive than I thought.  It was like suddenly getting it for half price. (I admit, you have to think the way I do to make that work.)

Just to round the weekend out, the better part of a sock…

I feel like today’s probably going to be less productive – knitting wise, but I figure that fighting this cold is likely better for all of Christmas in the long run. (By long run I mean tomorrow. I’ll kick Christmas arse tomorrow.)

I hope you forgive me for making the gifts section short and sweet today.

Gifts for Knitters 7

Where there is knitting, there are charts, and where there are charts there is a knitter always seeking a good way to keep track of where he is in a chart.  Here’s a bunch of solutions.  There’s the magnetic boards that stand up like an easel, a magnet strip holds the chart against the board and keeps track of where you are on the chart.  There’s a basic one from Knit Picks, and  Knitters Pride has two different sizes, and theirs includes pockets to keep pens and patterns in.  Slipped Stitch Studios (I know I keep mentioning them, but their stuff just looks so neat) has an assortment of pattern wallets – all of which are pretty clever,  and for the guy knitters who said that all the stuff is girly? Are you sure? How about this one. Or this one. Or how about mustaches?   If you’re looking for something smaller, how about these super neat ribbon/magnet chart keepers? You just sandwich your chart between the two magnets, and there you go. (By the way, these work great for knitters who like to work from books or magazines – those mediums are hard to attach to boards.)
Stocking stuffer in the chart department?  Removable Highlighter Tape. I LOVE THIS STUFF.  It would be brilliant in your knitter’s stocking. You’ll look so clever.
Finally, because so many of you said to keep the books coming, for any knitter who struggles with charts?  Charts Made Simple: understanding knitting charts visually by JC Briar.  Hard to beat.

Gifts for Knitters 8

Paper goods for knitters, because your knitter likes knitting related EVERYTHING.  I like these ones from Buffalogirls Design (especially the "I was knitting before knitting was cool" one.)  If you’re American, there’s still time to get fabulous Knitterella stuff before Christmas (If you’re not American order anyway. Just put it away for next year.) There’s note cardsgift tags all fabulous.  These look charming. So do these… in fact, you could just get on Etsy and see what you find.  (I want it all. Look at these mice. Stop me.)

I walk the line

Last night a whole bunch of things happened all in a rush – for an entire evening things flew off the needles and into the finished pile and I was ecstatic.  Out of my mind with glee.  I was walking around the house so chuffed with myself that it was a good long time before I managed to get a grip on my smug self and look at things holistically. 

One pair of men’s socks done!

Tanis Fiber Arts Blue Label Fingering in Midnight.

Pardon the slightly less than revealing pictures this time of year.  There’s a fine line to be walked between blogging enough to show you guys what I’m doing and spoiling everyone’s Christmas surprises because I’ve taken great pictures. Expect a full parade in about 19 days, but until then this little workshop is playing it close to the vest. (&^$#$!!!!!! I forgot about the vest.)

Then a hat!

Mano Del Uruguay Maxima in Currant.

Then a beautiful skein of handspun!

Oh – I sort of snuck that in.  I know that it’s not technically knitting, but it is a present for a knitter.  It’s about 200m of the most delicious heavy fingering, from fiber I got from Fiber Curio and Sundries. (There’s yarn there too.)  It’s a pretty amazing mix of things that I wasn’t sure I would like:  CVM, bamboo, mohair and angora… but the resulting skein is drop dead gorgeous, soft and bouncy.  I am going to be a good spinner and wrap it up as a present though, just like I planned.  (I may even wrap it today, just so that I stop holding it and thinking about giving the knitter a skein of something store bought.)

I finished all those,  and went to the spreadsheet so that I could check them off, and while I was there I saw the two other pairs of men’s socks I’m planning on finishing (well, and starting too, but finishing sounds more inspiring) and the two sweaters and a vest and two hats and a cowl or two and I’m sort of starting to not feel well.  I know there’s a plan. I know there is. I know that the plan is good. It’s solid, and that if I just work the plan the plan will work, but mostly I’m starting to panic. 

If I can get a few things off that list this weekend I feel like it might be okay.  A few things. Like maybe a sweater or a pair of socks or a sweater and a pair of socks and a hat.  And mittens. 

No problem.

Gifts for Knitters 5  

Books. I know, I know – your knitter probably has a lot of books, but scan this list and compare it to your knitters bookshelf, because a really great knitting reference volume is a gift that keeps on giving.  

The Principles of Knitting
Folk Socks: The History & Techniques of Handknitted Footwear, Updated Edition
Elizabeth Zimmermann’s Knitter’s Almanac: The Commemorative Edition
Cast On, Bind Off: 54 Step-by-Step Methods
Finishing School: A Master Class for Knitters

(Do you guys want more book suggestions? I’ve always got a list, but wonder if you want them?)

Gifts for Knitters day 6

Assuming your knitter wears jewelry (and remember, knitters are people first… if your knitter is like me and wears only a family ring, a wedding ring and the occasional necklace on fancy days, a great big honking pair of dangly earrings is still not going to be her bag) I love absolutely everything from Sassafras Creations.  She takes second hand knitting needles and makes fabulous jewelry from them.  It’s ridiculously charming.  I’ve been wanting a necklace like this for ever, and I’m sort of giggly over the pens

Absolutely Making Progress

Some Random Things About Our Christmas Tree

1. I like that because we live in the city, Joe and I just walk over and buy a tree from the same kid from Georgian Bay every year, and then carry the tree home though the street.  I’m sure cutting one down in the forest has a certain feel to it too, but this is how we rock it urban style.

2. It snowed a little while we were doing it. Very festive.

3. I decided that Sam was old enough to take charge of the Christmas lights.

4. I am very particular about putting up the lights. I have certain lights that go up on the inside branches, and others that go on the outside branches and I have strong feelings about the distribution of same.  I know that this seems overly serious, but the Christmas tree is important to me, and there are only going to be probably fifty trees that I put up in my lifetime and I don’t see why any of them shouldn’t be really all that they can be.

5. I know that’s intense.

6. That’s why I make Sam wear the light up antlers that play "Oh Little Town of Bethlehem."  Keeps it light.

7. The antlers may not be Sam’s favourite part, but I just keep telling the kids we’re building memories. 

8. The tree is up and it is perfect. Sam did a great job. Now I feel like Christmas is really coming along. 

9. It’s really hard not to feel that way with a ten foot tree in your living room.

10. I love it. It makes me want get the whole Christmas done, and I think it is speeding up the knitting.  I should have three things finished tomorrow. The tree is magic.

Gifts for Knitters 3:

I know it’s confusing, buying things for knitters, because not all knitter stuff works like regular stuff. With regular stuff once you have a thing you probably don’t need another one of it, and it in knitting there’s some stuff like that, but this isn’t one of them.  With this gift, it doesn’t matter if your knitter already has one or two (or three or four) they could probably use another one.  It’s project bags. I’m not talking about the big knitting bag/purse/backpack that your knitter carries around, I’m talking about what your knitter puts the project that’s in his backpack in to keep it from getting a pen tangled in it, or getting it muddled with the other projects that are in the bag. (Project bags are also great if your knitter has pets. Keeps the layer of dog or cat stuck to the wool at a minimum. ) These are pretty easy to buy, because there are so many kinds and types and because most knitters have a lot of kinds of projects, you’ve got a good chance at getting a match.   I like these ones from Stitchy McYarnpants – they’re mostly vintage and vintage-look.  The Dancing Sheep has ones with holiday prints (and socks. I like the socks one) Slipped Stitch Studio has  about five awesome options – size wise, and it’s hard to beat the utility of the Tom Bihn ones (I find mine pretty water-resistant, if that’s the sort of thing that matters to your outdoorsy knitter. Looking for a stocking stuffer?  WEBS has these inexpensive cotton ones.  Go nuts, and – since knitters love it when you make them stuff, if you’re any good at the sewing machine, you can get creative yourself.
Just about any sort of bag is going to be handy to a knitter. Just remember NO velcro.  It’s one of yarn’s few natural enemies. 

Gifts for Knitters 4

Obviously, this is going to be for a specific sort of knitter who is not me at all, but I keep thinking that my friend Beth would be pretty wild for it. They’re knitting related nail decals. These ones have green and blue stockinette on them… and these ones? Balls of yarn.  Ridiculously entertaining – for someone else, you understand. Looking for something like that for a knitter with less "joie de vivre" in the fingernail department?
How about the super funky Soakboxes –  Yarn, wool wash, hand creme, a pattern and a nail polish that matches.  Bam. For the co-ordinating knitter?  Should do the trick.

No But Yes

Yesterday I had a little of that Christmas anxiety that I’ve been seeking to avoid.  The little voice of Christmas panic tried to give me a hard time.  It reminded me that the baking isn’t done. I reminded it that the Christmas spreadsheet has not yet indicated that it is time to bake.  It tried to make me anxious about not having a tree.  I reminded it that we have a tree plan for today, and everything is fine.  It started in about a largish pair of socks that I haven’t started, I reminded it that I am almost done a hat.  It tried to freak out because some yarn I ordered hasn’t arrived yet, and I told it that everything is fine. It’s all good. There’s a schedule, and I’m on it, and why doesn’t it just chill its bad self out.   Then it said that the sweater I’m making is coming out the wrong size, and I told it to screw off – just reflexively – you know?

The truth is that it’s right about the sweater. It’s been right for days and I know it and I have no idea why I keep knitting on things like they are going to change.  The sweater is too big.   I’ve been telling myself that it’s not true and that the kid will grow and that it’s totally fine,  but it’s not. It’s like the opposite of the "It gets better" message.  Knitting does not get better. If something is too big, knitting for longer will not make it smaller. This is not how knitting works, and I can’t even believe that I tried to convince myself otherwise.  

It’s beautiful. It’s Madelinetosh DK Twist in Betty Draper’s Blues, and it’s going to be a great sweater for a little guy(I’m not showing you the whole pattern yet, it’s a little stealth) and I like it so much that I even thought about leaving this (the kid will grow into it eventually) and buying more yarn and starting again, but I do have a little thing I like to call a "budget" and besides, there’s totally not enough of this yarn to make the size that it’s obviously going to be. 

With that last realization, the voice of Christmas anxiety got a toehold.  I’m going to have to rip this out and start again, and that? That might be a problem.  I’ve decided to get a tree and then worry about it. A tree will solve everything. A tree will cast a magic glow that makes all things possible. I got this. It’s going to be fine. Totally fine.

Gifts for Knitters 2012

A few times over the years I’ve done a Gifts for Knitters thing – where I’ve listed some presents that I think that knitters would like to get. I do this because I think that non-knitters worry about buying knitting related gifts,  the same way that I worry about getting Joe engineering gifts.  I know he likes that stuff, because the house is as littered with circuit boards and resisters and vacuum tubes as it is merino,  but standing in the store that has all the thingies he likes? I don’t know what thingies might be good.  Are there some thingies he uses up all the time? Thingies that get lost? Is there a measuring tape equivalent of a transistor that I could put in his stocking?  Can you buy some of these thingies online? Is there a book about these thingies that most people think is pretty good, or am I about to buy him the book about thingies that they all laugh about because it’s dead wrong throughout. I’ve longed for someone who could stand in the store with me and give me some idea of how to navigate this stuff, and I always think that maybe something like this could help a non-knitter figure out our thingies too. 

I’ve been a knitter a long time, and I think I mostly know what they like, but darling non-knitters… take your knitter’s personality into account.  Follow your gut. You know more about your knitter than you think, and you’ll know which of these is a good idea for them.  Some of these are new ideas, some are good ideas from previous years, and as we go down this path together, know that I don’t get paid to promote stuff, this isn’t advertising, it’s just stuff I saw around and thought a knitter would like.

I know I’m starting a few day’s late, but I’ll catch up, and I’m trying to order them in a way that reflects that some of them might have delivery time.  Suggestions in the comments are more than welcome, and non-knitters? Don’t panic. It’s going to be fine.  You’re going to be amazing. (PS to knitters? Wouldn’t kill you to strategically print out a few things… you know what I’m saying?)

Day 1.

Stitch Markers.  I know, I know. Your house is littered with them and you aren’t really sure what they’re for, and one time you saw your knitter use a piece of yarn as a marker because they had no marker – and that’s sort of making you think that maybe markers aren’t important at all… but trust me. If you’ve ever even heard your knitter talk about markers (need one, have one, looking for one, lost one) then they’re probably going to be cool. There’s a bunch of kinds.  This ringlet kind is one of my favourites. They don’t get caught in your knitting, they don’t dangle around, they’re a good choice for the no-nonsense knitter who doesn’t own a lot of cute stuff.  If you have the other sort of knitter? One with a sense of whimsey? Look no further than this site. Tiny teapots! Little doughnuts!  Did your knitter go bananas for a mood ring back in the day? (Or last week.. I’m not judging) how about little chromastone stitch markers?  There’s (fake) coffee bean ones,  there’s skulls, this shop even probably has your knitters favourite kind of dog – if that’s the kind of knitter you have.  Stitch markers are a fun little thing for knitters. Super personal, and if you go to Etsy and type in "the thing my knitter cares about stitch markers" you’ll find something.
Best part? If you’re crafty, you could make your knitter some. Knitters are makers. They would love that.

Day 2 (See? I’m totally going to catch up.)

I’m trying to hit all sorts of different price points here, so if the last one was thrifty, this one is for the non-knitter who’s been saving up for something more special.  Every craftsperson loves beautiful tools, and if your knitter has been knitting for a while, and you can see they’re maybe serious enough about it to want some serious upgrades? How about hand made tools?  Knitters love things that are handmade- it’s what they do, and they respect it. Consider a beautiful Nostepinne (they help knitters wind yarn into balls, knitters who like doing things by hand love them.) A handmade swift?  A floor model? Does your knitter spin too? Maybe a niddy noddy?

Good luck, happy shopping, I’ll see you tomorrow.  I’m going to see a man about a tree and rip a sweater up.

And Onward

I’m exhausted, and frankly not at all worried about it.  It’s been a heck of a few weeks, and I just had a terrific but super busy weekend working and visiting in St. Thomas, that was the loveliest of all possible ways to finish off the years travelling.  If you’re ever near the city, don’t miss two things. The Little Red Mitten – my favourite kind of shop, sprawling, full, tidy and chock full of nice people – and the life size statue of  Jumbo. (He was really, really big.)

(You can read about why there’s an enormous elephant at the entrance to town here – but be warned, it’s a little sad.)
I visited old friends, I taught very nice knitters- I even made a knitter in my spare time.

See that? That’s my sister-in-law Robyn, who took to knitting like a duck takes to water, and she’s holding her very first knitted thing. I spent a single evening with her, and she can cast on, cast off, and both knit and purl with equal skill.  She made a very nice coaster. (It was almost a bookmark, but she stuck with it.)  She had almost another whole coaster by the time I left, and kept saying things like "THIS IS GREAT. I LOVE THIS."  I should have left her more wool than I did, because really, this is how thrilled she was.

(I feel like we all recognize that face. That exact expression arrives on the face of most new knitters when they realize they can MAKE THINGS. It’s the face of a woman who’s felt the ignition of a plan.  It’s the face of a woman who’s going to have to be talked out of knitting her husband a sweater before Christmas. I feel honoured to have been there to immortalize it. I’m sure Robyn will think it is the most flattering picture of her ever taken.)

I arrived home yesterday morning with all my bags in tow – dumped them all and promptly sat down to knit, and knit, and knit.  It felt like a million bucks.  I’m moving forward now into weeks and weeks at home, and nothing but holiday prep and putting up a tree and regular work here at home, and once I get through today? There’s nothing but blue skies ahead. 
I’ll dive into Gifts for Knitters and lots of wool and knitting tomorrow. Today I’ve got an appointment, then the second of a shocking number of Christmas Parties, and I’d rather not discuss the state of my preparedness for either of those things, but who cares? I’m home – and I’m staying here, and it feels great. Just kick the laundry out of your way and pass me my knitting.