“Merry Christmas, Knitter Girl”

Turns out I’m on the nice list… Santa left me a notions box, proper tapestry needles, stitch markers (no more fraying slip knots marking my work!) and a beautiful Socks that Rock skein, in “Supercolourfragilistic” as well as a bonus pattern from Lettuce Knit.

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Happy Christmas, everyone!

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You can take the knitting away from the knitter…

…but you can’t take the knitter away from her obsession.

So, several weeks ago, I hit (what my Reverend so graciously referred to as) “a bit of a set-back” with my mental health that required me to be, well, hospitalized. A fact I’ve been very open about with my friends and family, and something I don’t feel the need to keep hidden from anyone who is taking the time to read my blog. (Including potential future employers. Are you out there? I sincerely hope so. I do not plan on being sick for the rest of my life.)

It’s no secret that I’ve been suffering from depression for a little while, and when it became rather severe at the end of November I decided to seek help. The staff at the hospital were wonderful, and I was able to be in a safe place while they sorted out my medications (vastly improved) and learn better coping strategies, (all the rhetoric my mother has been spewing for years about the benefits of mindfulness and meditation? Turns out it is shockingly helpful. She has kindly kept her “I told you so’s” to a minimum…) But one very big draw back to living in a psychiatric hospital is …. no knitting. No yarn, no needles, for obvious safety reasons.

What’s a knitter to do?

I did have a notebook full of graph paper at my disposal, and a vast variety of very dull pencil crayons. So, instead of knitting I wrote patterns instead. Let me tell you this – trying to design patterns without the use of anything to measure gauge is a real shot in the dark. I have pages of designs – some complete and some just little doodles of an idea – and all of them might be rubbish.

It started in a fairly straight forward fashion – I wanted a hat to match my previously published pattern Snowfall Mittens.

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Following that, I had a picture of a pair of mittens on my Ravelry page that I had made over five years ago for a friend.

3180662484_992aa681af_zThe design was my own improvisation, but the pattern notes are long gone, so from the picture I recreated the charts:

IMG_20141219_161511With any luck – and a little test knitting – perhaps I’ll be able to publish this pattern, too.

From there I started improvising with flowers and roses…

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Some days it was too difficult to draw anything. On those days all I could do was lie in bed, cry, and attempt some semblance of prayer that God would help me. Eventually that idea channeled itself into a mitten design of an angel praying, based on a crochet pattern I’d found via Pintrest. Copying out the praying angel was almost like the act of praying itself, and it refocused my mind onto something other than how miserable I was.

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When I was feeling a little bit more hopeful I started looking forward in my life, which in an of itself was a big milestone and indication of improvement. I thought about New Years, about Valentines Day and began messing with ideas for Valentines Day themed mittens.

V-Day collage 2The best pattern however was based on a request from Cassie. Peter Pan-themed mittens were not something I’d ever heard of, and they proved to be by far the most challenging thing I tried to design during my stay. There are countless iterations of children flying, and Peter Pan’s profile that were absolute rubbish…and after many hours of “wasted” time, I finally come up with these:

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Do you recognize Peter and Wendy? The decreases along the top feature an acorn (for Peter) and a thimble (for Wendy)

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And of course for the palm design I wanted the second star to the right…

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This pattern is actually almost entirely written, and Cassie was delighted with the design so (unlike a lot of things I doodled) these might actually get made.

I’m at home now, feeling much better, and finally back in possession of my yarn and my needles. It doesn’t seem possible that there are so few days left until Christmas…fortunately for me, my Christmas knitting was mostly finished before life went to hell in a hand basket. I just have two baby sweaters to work on, so they are currently what’s occupying my needles. It seems I’ve under-estimated the size of a two year old, so my hands are happily (and rather quickly) working away at a Christmas sweater for him…

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FO: Kilbourne Hat

My first Ravelry Gift-A-Long project is complete! One Kilbourne Hat:

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Modeled here, begrudgingly, by Colin in its unblocked form. I really loved the pattern – it was intuitive and interesting, and not the least bit fiddly. The project was certainly one I was a little sorry to see off my needles. But look at those charmingly clever decreased along the top:

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I do love a clever pattern. Full credit to the designer Cassie Castillo. I’ll have to check out her other designs, because this one was great. Hopefully the hat’s recipient will enjoy wearing it as much as I enjoyed making it!

Final Specs:
Yarn: Rowan Pure Wool Superwash Worsted in Umber. 200 yards.
Pattern: Kilbourne Hat by Cassie Castillo
Skills Required: working in the round, twisted stitches, ssk, k2tog.
Pattern Modifications: 22 rounds of ribbing instead of the specified 7 to ensure proper ear coverage. Done entirely on 4mm needles instead of using 3.5 mm needles for the brim (a mistake, but not a disastrous one.)

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It’s So Pretty…

Sometimes with yarn, it really is love at first sight…

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Photo credit to Sylvie here. I resisted last week at Stitch Night, but this week that beautiful yarn was still there, hanging on the wall looking at me pleading, so out came my wallet. It’s warm and squishy and gorgeous, and as of right now the wound skein on the right belongs to me.

I don’t know what it will be yet…for now I get to revel the wonderful land of possibilities. *happy sigh*

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FO: Gram’s Dawyck Purple Vest

I finally finished knitting up Gram’s vest, and let me tell you…this thing is HUGE.

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So huge, I could barely get it all in one shot. I’m a big fan of the shawl collar – the end product, not the knitting 30 rows of 4×4 rib with yarn that was giving me an allergy attack. This vest was truly a labour of love by the end, seeing as every time I picked it up it felt like it was trying to kill me. No more mohair, not even 10% ever again, let alone in gigantic vest form.

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I’m really impressed with how the yarn never pooled or striped awkwardly. I thought I might have to work from two balls to avoid too much dark or light in one area but it did really well. I don’t think I’d recommend the yarn to anyone for anything (speaking of which, would anyone like two left over skeins of Patons Misty in Purple Fog…?? Anyone?), but for this project it was pretty stellar.

The pictures make it seem more blue than it really is – there’s more purple to it, but we’ve had nothing except fog and cloud cover here for days, so this is all the light I really have to work with in my apartment. More pictures to come after Christmas when she receives it. In the mean-*achoo*-time, I’m going to go spend some time with some nice 100% merino wool.

Final Specs: 

Yarn: Patons North America Misty, in Purple Fog.  715 yards. 

Pattern: Sequoia by Alegria DaSilva

Needles: 6 mm circulars with 32″ and 60″ cable, worked flat.

Skills Required: 3 needle-bind-off, picking up stitches, cables. Low difficulty and a very well written pattern.

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All Twisted Up

I’ve never had reason to use twisted stitches before, but the Kilbourne Hat by Cassie Castillo caught my eye, and it’s seems like a great way to learn them. The only draw back was that the hat featured in the photograph didn’t completely cover the ears. I knew that the recipient (because like everything I’m knitting, this is yet another Christmas present) would absolutely need full ear coverage – maybe even double – because this is going to have to stand up in -30 C weather.

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When interrogated about hat preference, I was told that colour wasn’t a huge issue, and that the current very-worn toque was royal blue, with a pom-pom and the brim rolled up. This sounds like potential. I could get a little creative with this hat, and a twisted stitch, negative ease hat seemed like a great way to do it.

I selected a nice steely grey, thinking the neutral colour might make up for the extra “pattern” ness of the thing. Rowan Pure Wool Superwash seems like a good solid choice and I cast on the larger size, ignoring the instructions to check gauge and to use a smaller sized needle for the ribbing portion. 3.75 mm needle? I don’t have any on hand. I’ll just knit the twisted rib very tight. It will all be fine.

Uh, probably.

So I modified it to have 22 rows of the twisted ribbing instead of the prescribed 7. Guaranteed ear coverage. However… might be a liiiiitttttlle big.

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Pictured above: far too much ribbing. I may be knitting for a slightly larger head than my own, but this will definitely more than cover it. It’s not so big that it wouldn’t be fine with the brim folded over but I do fear running out of yarn…

Let’s just, um, ignore that for now…shall we? Though I did take careful note of the dye lot..

Moving on from the rather large brim… I am really enjoying the twisted cable pattern. It took me a few tries to get the hang of twisted stitches. Even though the pattern gives great instructions, I’m impatient (and wasn’t sure I was doing it correctly), so I turned to the videos by Knit Purl Hunter on Youtube which beautifully explain how to do a left and a right twist.

After one row, I was completely comfortable with the twisted stitches and they no longer slow my knitting down (much). They’re like playing a wonderful magic trick on myself…I know what’s happening, but it happens so fast I can’t see it. The pattern itself is very intuitive and interesting without being too difficult. My go to travel-knitting right now.

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Now, I just need to avoid running out of yarn…

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Petit Pois Pattern

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One of the best things about the Indie Designer GAL is falling in love with all kinds of new patterns from designers I hadn’t necessarily heard of before. The daily games on the forums lead to lots of fun guessing patterns and designers based on clues provided by the mods. You have to be quick to get your guess in first – but today I managed to log on at just the right time and nab one! My prize for guessing correctly was a free pattern from Katya Frankel Designs. She had so many great ones; it was difficult to choose! I finally settled on Petit Pois, because when all the winter/holiday knitting is finished this would make a great knit for spring:

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(c) Katya Frankel

She has many other great ones – my queue is growing by leaps and bounds!

(My knitting is also going full tilt – more details on my GAL progress to come later!)

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Ravelry Gift-A-Long 2014

Getting back into knitting meant getting back into Ravelry…I’d forgotten how addicting that site is. Literally hours spent browsing projects and patterns. (Their pattern browser has gotten much more sophisticated since 2010…I’m in awe.)

…and that was before I found the Ravelry 2014 Indie Design Gift-A-long. From November 13 through to November 21st, 293 designers offer their patterns at at 25% discount, followed by a great Knit/Crochet-a-long! There are still two more days to take advantage of the pattern sale and there are some wonderful patterns out there from all over the world. 80skeins created this awesome info-graphic summarizing the event:

infographGAL2014I had to join in the fun. From their list of designers/patterns I’m planning on making:

Not all the yarn for my projects has arrived yet, but I’m hoping it will soon so I can cast on!

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Shhh….Christmas Knitting

With Christmas knitting in the works, it’s becoming harder to post my knitting progress online for fear of accidentally spoiling presents. Gram’s vest was one thing because she doesn’t use the internet all that much, but others might get their present spoiled – especially because this year I’m knitting for everyone it seems. So, this is a post of all the knitting I cannot show you outright, but am dying to share bits and pieces of…

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Exponential Vest Growth

I had a couple of headache filled days this week. The kind when my head hurts so much that I don’t remember things and everything is a blurry mess. My family/boyfriend have been taking care of me on such days, and when asked about what I done the day before my Dad said this:

“Well, you sat on that couch and knit.”

Okay, anything else?

“I convinced you to eat a bagel at one point.”

Oh…

Which explains how in one hazy day-and-a-half my vest went from this:

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To this:

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Without my noticing.

Fun fact: I can do a three needle bind off in a state of semi-consciousness. I have (apparently) picked up all the stitches up the front, and have started on the ribbing for the shawl collar.

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I haven’t decided yet on how the vest should close, and if it’s going to be a button that button hole needs to be accounted for soon. I don’t think a button is the best idea with Gram’s arthritis. Some sort of toggle closure might be better. I think I’ll finish the ribbing, bind off, and then ask her before really deciding how to fasten it. Toggle closure(s) could easily be added after the fact, and once she’s tried it on, the best placement for them can be determined. Or it could simply be worn open, as I have a feeling she’s going to do most often anyways…

There is only one snag in my plan…it appears I am actually very allergic to this yarn. What started off as itchy hands, migrated to full blow itchy, sneezing, throat scratchy allergic. It must be the mohair, which is strange because I’ve used Gram’s mohair blankets for years without issue. But, as my mother pointed out, those blankets are about 70 years old plus, so maybe it’s not the same. I’m in too far to quit now, but I’m going to knit something ELSE for a little while…

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