Thursday, 27 October 2011

One of those weeks

It's been one of those weeks.  You know the feeling.  When everything seems to take just a little extra effort... and doesn't seem worth the extra effort.  When you hit "snooze" on your alarm... more than once.  When you lie in bed wondering whether it would really be such a horrible thing if you just went back to sleep and skipped everything that day.  When you seriously consider cutting class (and it's not even because you haven't done the homework.)

For me, this feeling usually only lasts a day.  But this whole week has been like this for me.  I'm blaming part of it on the weather - it had been cool, crisp, and autumnal, but suddenly on Monday it was 80 and sticky again.  Now it's cool and raining and I feel less mentally foggy -- although physically I'm not so great.  I actually did skip school and sleep all morning, since when I woke up at 6 this morning my head felt like someone had been thumping it with a small hammer all night long, and an attempt to speak produced a sound only a consumptive frog would have been proud of.

I sound less like a chain-smoking amphibian now and the headache has subsided to a mere distant throb. It's probably time to get dressed, have a strong cup of tea, and tackle the massive project of cleaning my room.  (Including a puddle of cat sick.  Not my cat's.  The host family's cats come upstairs, eat Conrad's food, and puke it up again, always in my room.  Kind of them.  Did I mention it's been one of those weeks?)

In a more cheerful vein, I've been working on a Halloween costume, which I'm looking forward to showing you!  It involves over 50 hand-stitched eyelets, faux leather, and quantities of silver fabric paint, and I can't wait to wear it :-)

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Pink Mitts and Dramatic Lighting

I finished another pair of mitts from Becky's Time on My Hands, this time the "Sun Dial" pattern.  These were so quick and easy to knit!  The heavier yarn and simple rib (with an easy cable on the thumb) meant these were a good bus project as I didn't have to constantly look at a pattern.

I did make a few changes.  The thumbs as knitted were way too long for my hands (which is really odd, because I have long hands!  Maybe my thumbs are just short?) so I ended up taking out the last element of the cable pattern (the last 5 rounds, I think).  I also decreased two stitches from the thumb as they were rather loose as well.  Possibly my gauge was off - I didn't check, but I don't want to say it's the pattern's fault!

They're really comfortable and the yarn I used - a Debbie Bliss merino DK weight - is incredibly soft.  I had a guy at school ask me if I could make him a pair - "Only not pink of course!" - so I think the design appeals to guys as well!

I think I said this when I posted about the Morningtide mitts but it's incredibly difficult to take decent pictures of something on your own hands.  I need to either find a new photographer or enlist someone as a hand model!  But I had fun with this "shoot" anyway.  I didn't have a sun dial but I did have copious amounts of dramatic late-afternoon sunlight :-)  Also, a Verdi opera score and a turntable with a pink swirl on it.

Also: I promise I knit two of these!  I realized as I was posting that for some reason nearly all the photos that turned out well are of the left hand/mitt.

Not really a good picture of the mitts but I like it anyway :)

Saturday, 22 October 2011

A Hasty Hat

I made this hat last week in about three days.  I wanted something to wear to David's graduation that had "gold" in it since his platoon's colour was gold.  But I don't really wear yellow so I had to get creative.

This used two shades of KnitPicks "Palette" yarn.  I don't know exactly which shades anymore since they were from my stash and the ball bands have gone awol.  The blue is left over from some socks I knitted back in the summer (which I need to post about, and put up on etsy, but I haven't photographed them yet!)

I did a turned hem at the bottom.  The inside of the band is a soft tencel-blend yarn, also from the stash.  I knew I didn't have enough of the blue sock yarn to line the ear band and the yellow wasn't soft enough, so I improvised.  I made up the stripes and colour work as I went along (I did mention this was a very hasty project, right?)

The whole hat would have benefited from a little more time and thought, especially in the increase/decrease rate, and if I'd had more of the blue yarn I would have made it slightly bigger and drapier.  But for the time I put into it I'm fairly pleased with it!  (Please excuse the pictures and the state of my hair.  I took them myself at a rest stop in North Carolina after I'd been awake for about 13 hours and driving for 4 hours!)

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Music for a Rainy Day

I'm a little bit obsessed with this song right now.  It's lovely and soothing.

(If you like this, you can download the album this comes from here:  ("Forever After Love" is my favourite on the album though.)

Monday, 10 October 2011

Socks in the Shop

I finished another bus project:  a pair of cotton-blend hand-knit socks.  

A delightful wavy pattern, in cool ocean colours suitable for men or women.

They're listed in my etsy shop.  Go check them out!

Saturday, 8 October 2011

An Auction, and Robin McKinley

I don't know if it has ever come up on this blog, but I really enjoy reading.  Mostly fiction, and especially fantasy.  And, for the last many years, especially the books of Robin McKinley.  She's been publishing since before my parents were married, but I first discovered her books in eighth grade when I pulled "Beauty" off the shelf.

I was immediately hooked.  I discovered that my mum had a copy of "Rose Daughter" also, and I thought it was fascinating the way the same author could take the same fairy tale and turn it into two completely different books.  (Beauty and the Beast has always been one of my favourite fairy tales, which probably contributed to my love of McKinley.)

Then I went looking for more.  I found and devoured The Blue Sword.  (This is still the one I go back to again and again.)  I read The Hero and the Crown.  I read Spindle's End and wasn't sure if I liked the ending.  I got The Outlaws of Sherwood from the library and converted my older brother to (at least some) McKinley novels.  I checked out Deerskin and had it vetoed by my mother.  (I was still only 15, and while I was resentful at the time I understand now.)  I read the short story collections.  A few years later, I read Sunshine.  I'm glad I waited, because I don't think it's suitable for a young teenager, but it was a fascinating read (and a refreshing look at vampires after the travesty that is the "Twilight" series, which I'd just suffered through.)  I loved this one almost more for the tantalizing references to baked goods than for the vampires...

I read Chalice shortly after it was published and fell in love.  It's a quieter book than some of the others, more introspective; less of the action which drew me to The Blue Sword, but there is something about the book which draws me in and makes me sorry to be finished reading.  If I had to choose a favourite, it might be this one.  Or Pegasus, which was dreamy and slow-moving at first, building up subtly to a moment of crisis - and a cliffhanger.  I pre-ordered this one and thought I would tear through it, but the writing is such that I read it much more slowly than I usually do, savouring the language and the world-building.  I read it again in Italy in the spring, finding it the perfect travelling companion.

And who wouldn't love that gorgeous cover art?

Last summer, I finally read Deerskin.  I took it with me for a two-day house-sitting job and couldn't put it down.  I didn't enjoy it.  At times, I wanted to close the book and forget everything I'd read.  It was horrifying, draining.  It devastated me.  And yet, I am glad I read it.  I may never re-read it.  But it needed to be read once.


All this is by way of leading up to the main point, which is, I've loved Robin McKinley for about a decade now, and I think I've bought more of her books than I have of any other single novelist.  I've been following her blog for several years also and now, there is a chance to do something for her.

Anyone who reads her blog knows that she is a woman of many interests: not only writing, but gardening, animals (especially her own hellhounds), and music.  And not just singing and piano playing, but bell-ringing.  I don't pretend to know anything much about change-ringing (though I know more now than I did three years ago), but I do know that the bells and towers need upkeep just like any other instrument -- only it's more expensive.  Robin's local bells are in need of expensive repairs, and as part of the fund-raising for this, she's holding a sale and auction.

I've left my blog post rather late: I think the sale ends tomorrow.  But if you have any interest in fine fantasy writing, change-ringing bell towers, or humorous sketches signed by a famous author, hop on over to the auction page.  If, like me, your funds are limited and you can't manage to bid on one of the out-of-print copies, Robin has options for signed and "doodles" copies of her in-print books for a reasonable price, or you can just purchase a signed "doodle" for a flat rate (these are $10 or $15, and a special "bats in the belfry" one for $20.)  You can request a subject for the doodle, so they're totally personalized.  And it's all for a good cause!

Bats in the belfry.  Teehee!

Doodle examples.  Entirely Robin McKinley's work, not mine!
The link is here:  I'm sure Robin and the bells would appreciate even the purchase of a $10 doodle!  Or, if you're not familiar with her books, perhaps a signed copy would be a good way to introduce yourself :-)

Monday, 3 October 2011

Morningtide Mitts

Back in December I had the pleasure of test-knitting a sweater pattern for Becky Herrick (my version here - and my goodness, I hadn't realized how much my hair has grown since then!)  Now, Becky has a new e-book out called Time on My Hands, full of patterns for mittens, gloves, and lots of fingerless mitts.  I think they're all lovely designs and I couldn't make up my mind which to start with, so eventually I decided I'd just begin at the beginning. 

So these are the "Morningtide" fingerless mitts.  Becky arranged the book by hour, associating each pattern with a time of day.  These are the ones for 6 AM, although I did not either wear or photograph them quite that early!

The colourwork is quite simple and fairly easy to memorize.  I loved how the striped thumb grows out of the main pattern and gives that little bit of contrast.  I'm attempting to work through my massive stash, and I'd like to see if I can knit all 9 of these patterns from stash yarn!  These mitts used a wool/alpaca/acrylic blend which I bought at Jo-Ann Fabrics at least 6 years ago (the camel-coloured MC), and an unlabeled Shetland wool (green).  Both were approximately DK or sportweight, and I used US #2 needles.  I made the size small, which is a little bit snug, but I expected that.  However I knew the large would be too large, and anyway I didn't think I'd have enough yarn.  The smalls fit me well enough, though I may eventually find someone with more slender hands to pass them on to and make myself another pair!

These were one of my traveling projects.  I don't knit these projects at home at all - in fact I don't even take them out of the bag.  This ensures that I always have something in my bag to work on; there's less likelihood of the knitting being forgotten at home!  So these mitts were made on the bus traveling to and from school, and a little bit in class and at work.  (I have one professor who doesn't mind my knitting -- in fact she asked me if I could teach her, and joked that I should make mitts for the entire class!  This is not as daunting as it seems; there are only three students including me -- and my "work" consists of sitting at a desk in the listening library, making sure no one walks off with equipment and trying to keep myself amused.)

P.S.  It's incredibly difficult to photograph your own hands.  Thank goodness for the self-timer on my camera!

Edit:  Jenny asked about the colourwork and whether the carries on the back caught my fingers.  Here's an inside-out photo:

If you look at the diamond motif in the bottom left corner, you can see that I left that longest "float" or carry to its own devices.  I think that one is 6 stitches, and I probably should have caught it up.  If you look at the diamond up and to the right, you can see that the green yarn is looped around the carry, holding it to the fabric.  I tried to find something online demonstrating the catching method I use, but nothing's showing up on a quick look.  If anyone is interested, I could attempt a brief photo demonstration, but it's really not difficult to do -- just difficult to explain!