Ticking all the boxes

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Last week, I finished my Dala Mitts (photos coming soon), which meant it was time to dive into some baby knitting. One of my best friends from high school is due this month, and Amber‘s first birthday is in a couple of weeks (I can’t believe she’s a year old) and that means lots of little knitting. When I started knitting again six years ago, I couldn’t understand the appeal of baby things. Tiny patterns seemed to proliferate, and during my brief time working and teaching in a knitting shop, patterns and yarns for babies seemed to be half the business. Maybe it just takes having some babies in your life to get it, but I am increasingly enchanted by tiny garments — both how adorable they are and how much fun they can be to knit.

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Anyway, when it came to choosing a pattern to knit for the new baby (a girl), I knew what yarn I wanted to use (Malabrigo Sock in Dewberry, from deep in my stash) but I couldnt’ quite settle on a pattern. My go-to baby cardigan is Tanis Lavallee’s Sunnyside, which I’ve knit three times and unabashedly adore. I even though I’d knit the lace version this time, which was kind of exciting. This was the plan, so when it came time to actually cast on I was surprised that I felt kind of restless about my pattern choice. Maybe it was the prospect of all that stockinette, I’m not sure, but something sent me searching through Ravelry for an alternative.

And then, I found it: the February Baby Sweater. I’ve owned The Knitter’s Almanac for years, and though I read it cover to cover, I’ve never actually knit any of the patterns in it. Crazy, right? Clearly, though, this was too perfect to pass up: Baby girl, due in February, plus the fact that I would be knitting it in February — clearly meant to be.

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Just about to separate for the sleeves.

I cast on last weekend and, after figuring out some modifications for my smaller gauge (EZ’s version uses worsted- or DK-weight, but I’m using fingering-weight — I’ve outlined my mods here), I’ve just been happily knitting away. After the total pleasure of knitting my Dala Mitts, this little sweater is a worthy successor, and it really does tick all my boxes: I’m using yarn and pattern from my stash, the knitting is interesting but doesn’t require full attention, and in not too long I’ll have an adorable gift for a good friend. Hard to beat that combination, really.

In for a penny

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In a for a pound, or so the saying goes, and which is really just my way of saying that the dala set I started with Karusellen is really and truly happening. And, look! I even have half a pair of mittens to prove it.

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The colours are not an exact match for the hat, but the scheme is the same, and they both feature dala horses, so I don’t think it’s a stretch to consider them a set. The first mitten flew off my needles (sans thumb) over the weekend, and the second one (despite appearances here) is well into the thumb increases. If I’m very lucky, I’ll have a finished pair by this time next week, which would be very good. I had to mend my old mittens again the other day, and they are in no shape to see me through the cold days to come.

Fashionably late

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Karusellen, off the needles and destined for blocking and then finishing (I can’t wait to sew on that pompom!)

The time has come! I know it’s late for the traditional intentions/goals/resolutions setting, but there are still 50 weeks left in 2016, so I think I’m safe. Anyway, without any further ado, here is where I see this year going, and what I want to prioritize as it unfolds, when I look out over the (mostly) empty pages of my calendar.

  1. More winter accessories: At the moment, I have one hat, one pair of mittens, and one cowl. I live in a place that gets approximately six months of cold weather a year, and probably half that time is really cold (-10C/14F or colder), so what the heck!? If I am going to spend half the year wearing mittens and hats and scarves and cowls, I feel that my hand-knit wardrobe should reflect that a little more. I’m just finishing my new hat (Karusellen, above), and have plans for at least one more. I’d also like to knit a couple pairs of mittens, another pair of fingerless mitts, and maybe a couple of cowls. These projects will also be excellent ways to use up the odd bits in my stash, which brings me to…
  2. Knitting up my stash: I actually think I did pretty well with this last year (11 of the the garments/items I knit were knit from stash), but I also think I added more to my stash than I knit, which is a problem. I don’t want to get rid of my stash by any stretch, but I think keeping the yardage at neutral is a reasonable goal for the year, and using up yarn I have rather than buying more of the same is just sensible.
    2b. Use what’s in my stash as a basis for choosing projects. In the past, I’ve tried to shoehorn my stash into projects I want to make, and that has not been a recipe for success (as a recipe for buying new yarn, though, it has excelled). This year, I’m going to try harder to think about what yarn I want to knit with, and then look for a suitable project.
    2c. NO MORE SOCK YARN. That’s in all-caps, because I’m yelling it at myself. I have a ton of sock yarn, and the rate at which I knit socks has decreased by quite a lot as I’ve started prioritizing larger garments. I have more than enough to see me through several years, so I can certainly go one year without buying more. This is my one hard-and-fast resolution, and I am going to be militant about it (aside from gifts, of course).

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    L will get at least two more pairs of striped socks this year. The top yarn is one he chose, Zitron Unisono #1210, and the bottom two are Knit Picks Felici in Baker Street.

  3. Knit more socks for L: This is a pretty easy one even with the above injunction. I have lots of man-specific sock yarn in my stash (purchased with L in mind) and this winter he has really embraced hand-knit socks. He was always appreciative in the past, but maybe moving to a slightly colder city has had an affect — he wore the pair I gave him for Christmas for four days straight. And then picked out yarn for a new pair the next time we were in an LYS. So, yes, I would say he’s onboard, and there’s nothing like an appreciative recipient to encourage output.
  4. Spread my holiday knitting throughout the year: I desperately need to stop the routine I’m in of not starting anything until mid-October. It’s crazy, and stresses me out way too much. This year, I’m starting in the spring and want to be half done by September. Totally doable.
  5. Sweaters! I have yarn for four, and if I finish two I will be very, very happy. I’d like to knit at least one cardigan and one pullover this year (maybe two pullovers, if I get my act together early). The next week or two are for swatching, and then the fun begins.
  6. Actually sew: I get so in my head about how time-consuming and labour-intensive sewing is, and as a result I spend more time thinking about how much work it will be than actually just doing the work. It’s ridiculous, and the only way to stop that spiral is to just do it already. I was given the pattern for the Gallery Tunic & Dress and I have the fabric for it, so that’s where I’m starting. Today I plan to trace the pattern and cut the fabric. If I don’t get farther than that, fine, maybe the secret to sewing is not trying to cram everything into one long exhausting session. I really do want to sew, but I’m so intimidated!
  7. Stop worrying about productivity: It can be hard to read blogs or check Ravelry and see people who are able to churn out one or two finished garments a week (or, more astoundingly, seven or eight sweaters a year). The why can’t I do that? question sometimes rings in the back of my mind, and I just need to get over it. My life has changed, this year is going to be nuts, and I need to adjust my expectations accordingly. Even if it takes me a month to knit a pair of socks now, I need to remember that I am still knitting and am still producing, and when your time is limited things take longer. I’m sure I’ll still struggle with it, but I hope I can get better at practicing patience with myself.
  8. Be a better blogger! This is something else that stressed me out last year, for absolutely no good reason. Last year I worried too much about having the time to write a long post, or getting up-to-date photos, and lots of other (in retrospect) silly little things that kept me from actually sitting down and writing. This year, I’m not going to let those things get in the way. Blog posts not happening in the order I had arbitrarily planned? Who cares (hence this post coming so late). Photo not a 100% accurate representation of where I am in a project? Oh well! I have come to realize that, in order to blog during the week, I need to take the photos one day, write one day, and proofread/post on another day. That obviously means things won’t line up exactly, but that’s okay. I’m aiming to post at least once a week this year, so prepare yourselves for lots of in-progress knitting. When blogging was a habit, it was easy, and I just need to get it back into my routine.

So, there you have it! Ten things for 2016, and some of them already in practice. Not so bad, late start notwithstanding. I’m sure you’ve all already written about your own goals/intentions for the year, so please feel free to share them in the comments — either your top picks, or a link, or whatever. Sometimes letting others in on your plans makes them feel more concrete and attainable (at least that’s what I’m banking on).

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Up next for me: The white yarn on the left is a gorgeous skein of 100% alpaca that my almost-sister-in-law (and her husband) gave me for Christmas. It’s from a local farm and the name of the Alpaca the wool is from is on the label! It is incredibly soft, and I can’t wait to turn it into a cozy cowl. The two right-hand skeins are Classic Elite Fresco (in Greystone and Superman Yellow) and they will be my Dala mittens.

I’m working on it

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karusellen2

And by “it,” I mean both my selection of winter accessories (which is very thin) and this hat, which is Karusellen by Erica Knits, from the fall issue of PomPom Quarterly (I just renewed by subscription, actually — I can’t believe it’s already been a year!).

Anyway, about this hat. I opted for a deeper doubled brim, because it is friggin’ cold here (currently -14C, feels like -23C, which converts to about 7F and -9F) and I wanted a hat I could pull right down to my eyebrows when necessary. I’m knitting this is quite a sheepy, farmy, rustic yarn, which I got a couple of years ago. It’s from a farm called Lamb’s Run, near where I grew up, and the gold/brown was dyed the woman who lives there. It’s a wool/mohair blend, though I couldn’t tell you the proportions, and I suspect (hope) it will soften up with a wash. Either way, it will be very warm, and since I managed to knit the heads on these dala horses last night and start the decreases, I think I will be wearing it very soon!

I wrote ages ago about my plan for a Dala set, so once this is off the needles, these are going on. And not a moment too soon, since my mittens are just about to wear through again (I’ve already patched them once…)

My future self will thank me

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(Note: This is a little out of order, because I’d really planned to follow up my last post with one about my goals for 2016. But, since one of those goals is not to waste momentum, I’m going to get this up now, and then circle back around.)

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When I was growing up, the vast majority of the Christmas gifts under the tree weren’t “wrapped” in the traditional sense. Yes, when all was said and done, we had plenty of wrapping paper to put in the recycling bin at the end of Christmas day, but for the most part, the gifts from my parents were wrapped in fabric bags my mum had made and reused every year. I don’t know when she first started using them, but I can’t remember a Christmas without them, so I must have been very young.

The concept is pretty simple, really. They’re just basic drawstring bags — unlined, no fancy seam finishing — in a variety of sizes and Christmasy prints. Every once in a while new ones would appear, but mostly it was the same ones, year after year, and they say Christmas to me as much as any ornament on the tree or special meal. Every year, after everything is unwrapped, my mum collects all the bags, folds them up, and puts them away for the next year. No one gets to keep them, and there’s no counting at the end of the day. A few years ago, though, my mum made new ones for my middle sister and I, and they were part of our Christmas gift that year: the beginning of our very own set, for the families were starting.

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Every year, I use those bags she made me to wrap my gifts for my family — L and I use them for each other, and I use them for my sisters and parents — and there is perhaps nothing more fitting than placing a hand-knit item or specially-chosen present into a handmade bag. Even people who have never had a gift wrapped that way before love it. L’s dad came to spend the holidays with us this year and loved his Christmas bag so much I felt a little bad asking for it back.

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All of which brings me to the point of this post: Back in October, when L and I were in Toronto for a wedding, I went to the shop to buy some fabric for my own set of gift bags. In the summer, Cotton + Steel released a Christmas-themed fabric collection (Tinsel, it’s awesome) and I took that as my cue. I bought fabric in three prints so I could start building a collection of bags of my own — ones that could maybe be part of the gift in some special cases.

I then waited for a free weekend afternoon to materialize so I could set about bag making.

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But, of course, free afternoons don’t really offer themselves up. Especially when you’re in the thick of Christmas knitting and exploring a new city and seem to be working all the time. Christmas arrived and my fabric was still sitting in the closet (not a disaster, since I had lots of other bags to use) and it wasn’t until Boxing Day that I finally had a day with nothing planned that had to be done. I cut all the bags and sewed up half of them, and you know, I felt pretty good about it.

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Today, we’re going to undecorated the tree and put all our Christmas things away for another year. I was thinking that I could just put away the cut-out bags as they are (I finished the bulk of them, after all), but then I thought about how busy the holidays were this year, and I realized that it’s not going to be any different next year. If anything, it’s going to be busier. So I decided to just take an hour (that’s all it’s going to take, if I’m honest with myself) and sew them all up. My future self will be so happy they’re done and ready to go next Christmas. Thirteen bags, ready to be filled — it’s practically an early gift for myself!

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Looking Back & Reassessing

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What a year it was! Personally, 2015 had a lot of big moments: L and I got engaged and moved cities, and I took on quite a lot more responsibility at work. All good things, certainly, but all things that kept me very busy.

Last year I knit 35 items (!!!) and I had similarly high hopes for this year. But, well, reality crept in. I had so much less time this year, for all kinds of reasons, and although I didn’t manage to knit as many things as I had hoped, I am really happy with what I did make. I spent a lot of the spring thinking seriously about my handmade wardrobe and how to build it out. Between that, and the growing realization that I was producing handmade items faster than I was wearing through them gave me pause.

So, anyway, this year I completed 19 knit items (and I’m pretty close on no. 20). Nearly half of those things were gifts, which is something I’m quite proud of, and several were sweaters, another positive! You can see all my knits here (most of my sewing wasn’t blogged) but here are my favourites from the year.

2015-favourites

Bedford and Lighthouse socks // Spring Fever Scout and Fika Socks // Chambray and Double Gauze Scouts and Balta // BFF socks and Epistrophy

Socks and sweaters and t-shirts. Haha. That’s definitely my uniform. These are all garments I wore a lot throughout the year (and will continue to wear in the year(s) to come) and they are a good template for me to follow this coming year, I think. I have yarn for two lightweight sweaters — one neutral cardigan, one brightly coloured pullover — and no shortage of sock yarn. I would like this to be the year I add a couple of shawls to my wardrobe as well, since I really do wear the ones I have quite regularly. Sewing wise, there are certainly more Scouts in my future, and I hope a dress or two as well.

And the gift knitting will continue as well. L has become a full hand-knit-sock convert (he wore the pair I have him for Christmas for four days straight) and I can hardly ignore that kind of enthusiasm. And there are lots of babies to knit for these days as well — including our soon-to-arrive nephew!

I do have some specific plans in mind for the New Year, but I’ll save those for another post.

How do you feel about your year, now that you can look back on it as a whole? Did you accomplish what you wanted to?

Handmade holiday

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Well, I really didn’t mean to disappear for so long! The holidays seemed busier this year, somehow, between the knitting and the hosting and travelling, and of course working right up until the afternoon of Christmas Eve. We put our tree up a few weeks ago, and I had intended to do a little follow-up on my ornament resolution then, but I just never managed to find a spare moment.

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Merry Christmas!

Last year, our tree was a little spare, so I made a nice public plan to make 12 ornaments for our tree this year. I didn’t quite make it — I ended up with just eight — but since I also spent the year picking up a nice selection of handmade ornaments at craft sales, and also picked up some nice vintage ones, our tree was much fuller and more colourful this year.

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Simple stars. I actually made four (red ands silver, in addition to these two), but since they all look the same I didn’t think it was necessary to photograph them all.

The ornaments I made fell into two categories: origami stars, which were quite quick, and knitting baubles. I had planned to make lots of different kinds of ornaments, but time got away from me (partly because they were so quick to make individually that I never really set aside time to focus on them) so I stuck with what I knew.

baubles

I’m pretty happy with the knitting baubles. They’re all the same size (a little smaller than a base ball, I’d say) and each one worked up very quickly. Each one uses the basic pattern from the Balls Up! pattern, and then for I used the colour work pattern from the Clayoquot sweater twice, as well as the lace pattern from Camomile and the Ben’s Balls pattern (included with the original). I definitely want to repeat the Camomile pattern with a different colour (the dark green blends in a little with the tree), and I’d like to do another one with this tree pattern, and how cute would it be to do one with little Santa Gnomes? So, I think there are definitely a couple more of these in my future. (Details on the four I did make are here.)

Of course, even though I didn’t actually manage to make more ornaments didn’t mean I wasn’t collecting patterns! Others I hope to make in the coming year (assuming I remember to actually do so) are: stars, tapered baubles, mini mittens, little stockings, lace stars, and, if I’m feeling really ambitions, a knit wreath (I really, really love this pattern, so I might buy the frame for it this year, if I can find one, so I have no excuse not to make one. I quite like the garland, as well, actually, and think it’s a good candidate for some beads if I can ever find ones that are big enough.)

So there you have it. Not as impressive as I’d hoped, but not too bad either. Did you make ornaments this year? What other patterns should I add to my list?

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