Monday, January 30, 2012

Whatever the Mood Monday: Plodding Along

Happy Monday everyone!

Since finishing last week's knitting marathon, I have enjoyed taking things at a more leisurely pace. To that end, I have started reading the Yarn Harlot's blog from it's inception in January 2004. Besides giving me reason to laugh like crazy and also causing hours of time to mysteriously disappear, the Harlot's blog has also had me thinking about deep knitting related questions.

First, 2004 was BR (Before Ravelry). What a different place the world of knitting was then. There was no single online source for patterns, or yarn, or to compare patterns and yarn or even any way to lurk around at what everyone else has knit. Crazy! There also seemed to me a whole lot of novelty yarn going on in 2004. Can't say I'm sorry to have missed that.

Mostly though, I have been left thinking about the way I knit. The Harlot is pretty hard core about knitting with straights. She avoids circulars whenever possible. She says that she uses a method where she hold the right needle static under her arm and uses her hand to only pivot the yarn. Check out here photo here. She also says it is very fast.

Personally, I almost exclusively use circular needles, even it I'm not knitting in the round. In fact, I think I only own three sets of straights. I like having the bulk of my knitting in my lap instead of holding it up with my wrists.

I am a determined knitter. But, truly, I am not very fast. I would actually go as far as to say I plod along. I imagine I look like a very focused Eeyore when I knit.

Of course, then there's knitting continental... a whole other barrel of worms!

Will I get faster in time? Would an attempt to change technique be an exercise in folly? Every time my dad has ever tried to change anything about his golf swing his entire game has gone to hell. I wouldn't want to risk that. I think that my knitting is nice. My stitches are pretty and even. I get the job done... eventually.

But wouldn't it be amazing to be able to knit like this?

I would love to know what you think. What do you prefer: straights or circs?

Friday, January 27, 2012

FO Friday # 36 - Twilight Treasure

Happy Friday everyone!

I am very excited about this week's FO. To be honest, I am more than a little amazed that I got it done.

Twilight Treasure

Pattern: Imogen Cowl by Carrie Bostick Hoge

This pattern is very well written. The lace is both charted and written although I used only the chart. The lace is worked on both sides but the pattern has certain points that always line up with the previous row. This means, that as long as you are paying attention, you really can't go wrong for more than 10 or so stitches before realizing that something is askew. I never had to frog back because of an error during this entire project. Honestly, if you knew me and my knitting, you would know this pattern must be something special, because that is amazing.

The only oddity I have to comment on is that there is one unusual stitch used, marked as p2tog-b which I took to mean "purl 2 together through the back loops" which is a bit of a twisty feat. The odd part is that despite having a list of abbreviations (such as k stands for knit), this stitch is not identified. I had to hit google to figure out how to do it, but maybe that's just me.

I made two minor modifications. The first was that I used a provisional cast-on that uses the cable of a circular needle. It means I didn't have to ever pick up the live stitches of my cast on. I know I will use this cast on over and over again.  I also joined the cowl using kitchener stitch instead of the 3-needle bind off that the pattern suggests. I knit 15 repeats for finished length just over 51 inches.

by Tanis Fiber Arts
75% merino/15% cashmere/10% silk
Colourway: Sunset
I used 1.07 skeins to knit 15 lace pattern repeats

I wanted to use something very special to make this cowl as it is a 60th birthday gift for my mum. This yarn absolutely fit the bill. The colours are gorgeous and the yarn is as soft and light as a rainbow. The yarn comes in generous 115g skeins. It was lovely to knit with. I know I probably shouldn't have used a multicoloured yarn with such a complex lace pattern but I am thrilled with the result.

Tools & Finishing
Needles: 3.75mm Knit Picks Nickel interchangeable circ
Lace blocking wires
pins pins pins

I wish I had taken a shot before I blocked it. As with most lace, the transformation was awesome. I blocked the cowl flat, still on the needles before I joined it in the middle.

In all, it took 10 days to knit this gift from start to finish. I knit 16 repeats of the lace (before deciding it was too big and ripping back to 15). At 74 stitches per row and 24 rows per repeat, I knit 28,416 stitches. In 10 days!

I really wanted to make my mum something special for her birthday. I couriered it off to my dad on Wednesday before my parents left on a birthday trip to Palm Springs. My mum will get it on Monday. My mum means so much to me and I know how lucky I am to have her. I hope she can feel the love in every stitch.

Check out more well loved FO's through Tami's Amis.
Happy Fiber Arts Friday!

Cheers, Nikki

As usual, special thanks to Lisa - my photographer extraordinaire!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

WIP Wednesday # 49 - Being Cryptic

Happy Wednesday everyone!

I don't have much to show you today...

Because, there will be a big reveal on Friday!

Since I don't have many knitting shots to show - you get kiddie shots instead!

It's finally warm enough to get outside and actual enjoy winter!
I'm sure there is plenty more pics of actual fibre in progress waiting for you through Tami's Amis.

See you Friday!

Cheers, Nikki
I couldn't resist adding this one from yesterday - her hair is hopeless!!

Friday, January 20, 2012

FO Friday #35 - My Husband's Henley

Happy Friday everyone!!

We are warming up here. The high today is -15 C! Seriously, I might not even bother with a coat {read big time sarcasm here}. It is actually supposed to get up to + 9 C by next Wednesday, so at least this crazy cold won't last too long.

I'm super, over-the-moon excited about today's FO. And not only because it is finally done ; ) I started this sweater almost 6 months ago. It kept getting bumped for projects on more of a timeline. It got left behind when we went a away for month. Then, I started to seriously stress that it was going to be too big - so of course my response was to put it in time-out. When I picked it up again, I got seriously intimidated by the idea of hemming the bottom, neckline and cuffs - into time-out again. But I finally got there in the end. And you know what? The damn thing actually fits (I know, I was shocked too!).

Pattern: Raglan-Sleeved Henley by Bruce Weinstein
Size 48
This sweater has quite simple construction but the pattern was really not that easy to read. It gives the option for multiple sizes over multiple gauges so you have to be quite careful that you actually knit an entire sweater that is all the same size (I suggest marking with a highlighter). The designer also assumes that you understand a fair bit about sweater construction (like what a placket is, for instance). The sweater is worked flat through that very placket  and then done in the round. There are MILES and MILES of stockinette. This sweater makes very good TV knitting. I liked the shaping of the sleeves and the lack of seams. My only modifications were to make the sleeves and body about 2 inches shorter than indicated in the pattern (I matched the measurements on an existing sweater G has). I was very anxious about the hemming but I'm so happy with the final look.

60% llama 40% silk in aran weight
used 16.1 skeins
I had a serious love-hate relationship with this yarn. It feels incredible and looks amazing knit up. At first, I found it very splitty but I must have gotten used it it because by the end that didn't seem to be much of a problem anymore. The 50g skeins were annoying for such a big project. I also had several skeins that had a knot within the first 5 meters. I refused to waste any of this yarn so I had a lot of ends to weave. I have almost 3 skeins left. They might be destined to be a hat? I haven't decided yet.

This is the truest picture I have of what the knitted fabric really looks like.

Needles: 4.5mm Knit Picks nickel interchangeables

The 6 metallic buttons were bought at Pudding Yarn. I think these were the perfect choice.

I tried steam blocking for the first time with this project. Before blocking, the hems flared a bit at the bottom and you could see where I had joined the yarn for the sleeve (also oddly one sleeve seemed to be about 2 cm shorter than the other??) Thank goodness for blocking. The steam did the trick. The hems look great and I didn't have to wait days for it to dry. I pinned it in sections to my ironing board, covered each part with a wrung-out-but-still-wet pillow case and pressed with the iron until the pillow case was dry. Fantastic!

So there you have it. This is easily the biggest project I have ever taken on. I'm glad I did it. I'm glad it's done. G wore his sweater all day Sunday and almost every night after work this week. I think he likes it : ) And that's good... because it is going to be a long while before he gets another one.

Cheers, Nikki

PS: As always on Friday, the results of many hours with needles and hooks can be found though Tami's Amis  and Fiber Arts Friday.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

WIP Wednesday # 48 - Pressure

Happy Wednesday everyone!

We are in the middle of a Serious Deep Freeze here. As I write, it is -40 C outside with the windchill!

I took this through the window.
There was no way I was opening the door for a pic!
This means lots of fires in the fireplace, warm comfort food and many many many hours indoors. This indoor enforcement has been good for my knitting but not so good for my parenting nerves after days of having two little ones inside!

The living room with the kids in their "fort"
(which bought me almost 40 minutes of peace : )

I tried a new recipe for Chicken Pot Pie last night. yum!
I have dropped all my current WIP's in order to work on my mum's 60th birthday gift (which is on January 30th - yikes!).
As I mentioned in my last post, I ordered some luscious yarn from Tanis Fiber Arts the day before my self-imposed yarn diet. It arrived last week and I immediately cast on for an Imogen Cowl.

I'm thrilled with how it looks so far.

I've used my new favourite provisional cast on that I learned through the blog Stitched Together
Thanks Chrissy for the tip!

I have to do at least 36 rows a day to get it done in time.  For me, this is serious lace knitting that requires strict concentration. It is definitely not "TV knitting."  It's taking more than an hour of focussed knitting a day, but I am determined!

If you are looking for something interesting to listen to while knitting, may I suggest the free podcast for CBC's The Vinyl Cafe? Stuart McLean is a wonderful storyteller. I know it may have never occurred to you that Canadians can be hilarious... or maybe it has if you have ever read anything by the Yarn Harlot : )

Only 62 day until we go to Hawaii! Although, right now, I would definitely settle for being in Tami's neck-of-the-woods. I will have to live vicariously through WIP Wednesday on Tami's Amis.

Cheers, Nikki

PS: Don't forget to check back on Friday to FINALLY see the finished and completed My Husband's Henley!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Whatever the Mood Monday: Checking in

Now that we are more than two weeks into the new year, I though it would be a good idea to check in with my New Year resolutions and see how it's all going.

I admit the last few days especially have been a struggle. My Monkey started vomiting at school on Friday just before I picked him up and pretty much continued throughout the drive home and all evening. My husband has been working extra long hours for the past two weeks and this weekend was supposed to be a fun break together and it was pretty much a bust. Now it is Monday and the temperature has dropped to -27 C. Seriously.

I'm feeling a wonderful combination of tired and cranky and anyone in my house with any sense is giving me a wide berth. (I wish someone would inform the clingy teething 16 month old of the wisdom of this idea!)


I have been keeping a daily resolution checklist for motivation and it appears so far:

I have gone to bed by 10:30 on weeknights  40% of the time. I've realized that because Craft Night is on a weekday, the best I can hope for on this one is 80%. For the record, Craft Night most definitely comes before New Year's Resolutions.

I have exercised 3 times in 2 weeks. My goal is a minimum of 3 times every week so I am struggling on this one. The -30 temps outside aren't going to help either. However, I did go for a run twice and surprisingly, enjoyed it. I have signed up for the Rocky Mountain Soap 12K walk/run in Canmore on May 12th. I would like to finish it in less than 1 hour and 15 minutes. So now I have a concrete goal to work towards.
Canmore. A stunningly gorgeous, often over-looked, mountain town.
Not counting this post I have blogged 6 times in two weeks so I am squeaking by on my goal of 3 times a week.

I also made a new resolution to floss everyday (something I am embarrassed to say I have historically been very slack at). So far I have a 80% success rate on this one!

I'm at 100% on the no french fries resolution. And although I have been sorely tempted twice, I have held steady.

I have done a much better job planning my family's meals. I have a plan in the works to get even more organized on this one (I'll share it if it works!)

As for my knitting goals:

I have not made a yarn purchase in 16 days!!!
I did receive some gorgeous yarn last week that I (conveniently) ordered on December 31st to make my mum's 60th birthday present (more on this on Wednesday).

Red Label Cashmere/Silk Single Yarn from Tanis Fiber Arts
Colourway: Sunset
It feels incredible!

I spent hours last week updating my stash on Rav so I can keep track of what I really have and hopefully spend the next few weeks (oops that was freudian) months seriously "shopping the stash."

As an aside, yesterday, we took a hours road trip to the mountain town of Canmore for lunch just to get out of the plague house. There is a lovely yarn shop there. My husband sweetly offered to watch the kids so I could go in. Jerk. To be fair, he had forgotten about the yarn diet. But still. Jerk.

I haven't started any fair isle projects yet (and suspect it's going to be a long while before I do -  again see Wednesday).

So there you have it. Kind of a mixed bag but overall I'm feeling pretty good about it (except maybe the exercise thing - I really need to try harder on that one).

I hope your Monday has started out a little warmer than mine. I've now had a cup of tea, sent Monkey to school and put the cranky baby down for a nap. I feel almost ready to face the week and maybe even with a slightly better attitude than when I woke up (which, to be fair, was at 3am).

Cheers, Nikki

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

WIP Wednesday #47 - What's Next?

Happy Wednesday everyone!

I want to start by thanking everyone for their lovely comments on yesterday's post. The start of the year seems to have gotten me feeling a little fragile and sentimental. It's great to have knitting to keep things grounded. I really want 2012 to be a fun, positive and memorable year. It feels soooo good to finally be moving on with some new knitting!

You may notice that I am not showing you My Husband's Henley today. That's because all I have left is to hem the bottom and the neck and attach the buttons!!! I had hoped to knit the hem a la Paula @ KnitandSeek's tutorial but because the sweater was knit top down I couldn't figure out a way to do a hemmed bind off. So, my only alternative has been the sewing approach. It's slow going but I love the way it is looking : ) I won't have ready for this Friday but watch for the big reveal next week!

As hemming requires good light and focused attention, I have needed to move on with some new projects for my TV and day-to-day knitting. Yippeeeeeee!

First up is a new hat for me. I knit a lovely hat for myself in August. It took until November to finally get cold enough to wear it (not that I'm complaining!). But, after less than a month of wearing it, I somehow lost it! Oh the trauma. The hat has been rechristened "Sad Hat" in my circle of friends. Fortunately, my mum gave me some lovely dark teal yarn for Christmas. I knew instantly I had found the replacement fibre for "Sad Hat". The yarn is Zealana Kauri and it's 30% possum! It is lovely and soft and I have started knitting a North Wind hat with it.

Next up is a project I mentioned when I got back from Australia in November. My friend and I wanted to knit the same project at the same time after our visit to Bendigo Woolen Mills. We loved the look of this shawl but had no access to the pattern... so we've kind of made it up.  I have one more row before I get to change colours. I can't wait!
Meet "The Fibres of Friendship"
as my clever friend has recently called it
Finally, I grabbed some yarn for car knitting while I was home for the holidays and couldn't help but start another Noro Striped Scarf. I swear these things are addictive. My next one is going to be out of Knit Picks Chroma.

How are everyone else's first projects of the New Year working out? Click on over to Tami's blog to find out!

Cheers, Nikki

Monday, January 9, 2012

Why Knitting is Good for You

I seem to have spent the first days of 2012 taking stock of my life and asking some of the really big questions. Should we have a third baby? Should I go back to work?  What are the most important values I want my kids to learn? Am I being the best mum to my kids I can be? Do I have some unrealized potential I should be pursuing? Can I be doing more for the environment? Do I "give back" enough to our community? Is it really so wrong to eat chocolate for breakfast???

I feel inundated with ideas and thoughts from all directions. I've been watching Oprah's Lifeclass. I've been reading (and enjoying) The Happiness Project. Yesterday, I watched the very thought provoking documentary I Am  by Tom Shadyac.

This past weekend, I clinked on a link to a blog about motherhood that a friend had posted on Facebook. I found I connected to the sentiment of the post and thought it was both insightful and frankly quite funny. Unfortunately, then I read some of the comments people had written, criticizing this mother (and me, I felt by proxy) and I was left feeling pretty crappy.

I've been asking some really big questions... but I still don't know any answers.

Today, I was talking to my friend in Australia. We were both trying to talk about really important things that are going on in our lives. Both of us were speaking while our children yelled in the background. We tried to listen and be supportive of each other but unfortunately neither of us had any miraculous solutions.

Then, just before the end of my call, my friend remembered she was having an issue with part of the pattern for the shawl she is working on. Within a couple minutes, we had figured out where she had gone wrong and it was fixed. I could tell we both felt better and lighter somehow. We ended our conversation on a high note.

This phone call reminded me that there are so many reasons I love knitting. I love making something useful with my hands. I love the challenge of learning new skills and the thrill of trying new patterns. I love shopping for yarn : ) I love that there is one part of my life that can be as simple as black and white. Right or wrong.

But, my favourite part about knitting is the community it has connected me to. That means you!  My local knitting friends and my virtual community both play such positive roles in my knitting and my life. Ravelry even means that I can stay connected through knitting with friends who are far away.

One of my friends mentioned how nice the comments on my blog are. They really are. And I really appreciate each and every one. I'm so glad that I can post about a subject that makes me both happy and proud and I never fear the response I'm going to get.

I am so grateful that I have found something that can bring me so much joy, pride, levity, peace and, well, happiness. (Please feel free to remind me of this the next time I am ripping something back for the third time and throwing my needles at the wall.)

I am sure the world would be a better place if everyone would learn to knit.

I still have a lot of questions, but for today, it enough to take out a ball of yarn, cast on something new and be a part of something beautiful.

Via nursenikkiknits on Pinterest 
Thanks for reading.

Cheers, Nikki

Friday, January 6, 2012

FO Friday #34 - Knitting for Nutrition

Happy Friday everyone!

My mum has a friend who has been collecting knit baby booties for the Peace Corps to send to Burkina Faso. Burkina Faso has significant issues relating to infant starvation and malnutrition. Frequently, it is actually the oldest child that suffers the worst. The babies do ok, for the most part, while they are breastfed but when a sibling comes the first baby is weaned and changed to a native diet that contains food that are very difficult to digest. The Peace Corps has been working to educate young mothers about nutrition for their toddlers. They have had some difficulty enticing these tired and busy moms to come to talks about food. Many families do not have shoes for their children, so knit booties are highly coveted. The Peace Corps are planning to give out booties in exchange for attending a lecture about nutrition.

They are no longer collecting any more booties for now, but if you are interested in reading more please go to

Anyways, to make a long story short, I whipped up a pair of booties while I was home for the holidays.

The pattern was quick and easy. I chose an acrylic yarn because the last thing I want anyone to worry about is how to wash and take care of them. I also couldn't resist the fun colours the yarn.

Knitting for Nutrition

photos are without and with flash - I couldn't decide which I liked best
but the colours are definitely truer in the second shot
Needles: 4.5mm
Modifications: I used a provisional cast on so I could graft the bottom.

It felt very fitting that my last FO of 2011, knit during a time a celebration and plenty, would go to help someone else.
I can't even imagine the struggles these families are go through in the course of their daily lives. One pair of booties does not seem like nearly enough.

Sometimes, I need a little reminder of just how lucky I am.
I'm looking forward to going over to Tami's Amis to see some of the first FO's of the year.

I hope that after the business of the holidays, you have some peaceful time this weekend - perhaps with a pair of needles or a hook : )

Cheers, Nikki

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

WIP Wednesday #46 - Progress

Happy Wednesday everyone!

I feel like I have hit the new year running. The weather has been wonderfully mild for this time of year and that alone would be enough to brighten my mood. I'm also feeling very motivated by the turn of the calendar. I have plans, big knitting plans for this year. I really want to get on with them.

But, before I can move along with knitting for 2012, I need to finish my last great project of 2011. Of course, I am talking about My Husband's Henley.

I feel like it's finally getting there. I have about 3cm left on the first sleeve, which has taken about 6 days to knit. And... after getting G to try it on this evening, I think it might kind of fit! In my head it was going to look life a potato sack, but actually its not half bad. Fingers crossed it doesn't grow too much!

G got a box set of the James Bond films  and I got the first season of The Good Wife for Christmas. So, between the two, there is some great TV knitting going on. Watch this space because I feel an FO is probably 2 weeks away (I hope!!!!).

I want to thank everyone who commented on my New Year's resolution post. It's day three and there are nary a yarn shop or a french fry in sight ; )

I'm excited to announce that Chrissy from Stitched Together is the winner of my giveaway of some lovely Mirasol Hacho. Yay!

Isn't it yummy?

I hope January is being gentle on you.

Cheers, Nikki

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Group Knitting

I'm very excited that my knitting group here in Calgary, along with two associated members in Australia, are going to launch our very own knit-along.

We have all purchased one skein each of gorgeous Madelinetosh Sock and are going to each knit the same shawl.

We have all bought different colourways, some more variegated than others. 
I got the gorgeous Earl Grey

The question is... which pattern should we knit?

We have agreed to all come to Craft Night on Wednesday with our top three pattern choices picked out. Then if there is no clear winner among us, we will devise some method of choosing.

There are so many great options, I'm having trouble picking just three!

For instance, I absolutely love the shape of Charlize. Not to mention And So Are You, although we would be super tight for yardage on it. Then there's Mizzle and Indian Paint Brush. And also Demiluna
 or Bakersfield. Ooh, what about Summer Flies? Semele is stunning but I think it would be a very challenging knit...

See! And that's just after a brief 15 minute search!

Please, help me out!

Madelinetosh sock is 395yds/361m of fingering weight merino.

What do you think we should knit?

Cheers, Nikki