Stasis

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A month ago, I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to participate in this year’s Summer Sweater KAL (sskal), but then Cassy signed on, and Shannon made a point of saying WIPs would count, and Stasis was sitting there sort of half-begun, and I caved. All my other August knitting plans got shoved aside modified and I picked Stasis back up.

I knit the sleeves two at a time, so they're a perfect match. They're also finished, which is a pretty nice feeling.

I knit the sleeves two at a time, so they’re a perfect match. They’re also finished, which is a pretty nice feeling.

There were a few other factors behind my decision, of course. A big one (the biggest one?) was the weather. This has not been a very warm summer, and after the horrible cold of last winter, and the promise of another very cold winter this year, adding another sweater to my wardrobe is just smart. I also remember very keenly how much I wanted to cast on this yarn when it arrived last fall, and the thought of being able to wear it this fall is very appealing. Also, frankly, this KAL forces me to get my act together and focus. By the end of the summer, as life starts to fall back into routine, I find myself wanting to cast on all the things (despite having a pile of WIPs that ought to get some attention). Last year, despite a bunch of distraction, the KAL kept me from getting too side-tracked, and meant Burrard got finished before the cold weather moved in (and before my holiday knitting started).

I'm just a few rows into the waist decreases, but so far so good on the body portion.

I’m just a few rows into the waist decreases, but so far so good on the body portion.

I’m still working on a few other things in the background (a monogamous knitter I may never be), but Stasis is growing, and I am really excited to wear it. I guess that’s the other sskal bonus: not only will I end up with a finished sweater, but now there’s a reason to look forward to the cooler weather (I love fall as much as the next knitter, but the winter that follows? Definitely not as exciting).

California stash expansion

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I always seem to buy yarn while on holiday. In much the same way as what I knit on vacation will forever remind me of that holiday when I wear/use it later, so too does yarn bought while away stay tied to that place. For that reason, I decided that on this trip I wasn’t going to buy anything I could get on the ground in Toronto. I also wanted to try and buy with projects in mind (even if they’re as general as this would be good for a shawl), which forced me to pay as much attention to yardage as to colour, and (hopefully) means I’ve come out of this trip with yarn I can make good use of.

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Our first stop was A Verb for Keeping Warm in Oakland. I don’t remember when I first heard about Verb, but it has popped up on blogs with enough frequency over the last several years to make it the one shop I wanted to make sure we went to. L, always happy to explore off-the-beaten-track placed, was happy to make a detour to Oakland, a city people actively tried to dissuade us from visiting. We visited Berkley in the morning and then walked to Verb.

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One of the things I knew I wanted to get was yarn to knit L a new pair of gloves. His old ones have had a good life, but there’s no way they can handle another winter, and after knitting Grace I thought Quince & Co. would be a good choice for new ones (though in the slightly heavier Chickadee). Verb had a great selection of colours, and after L chose what he wanted he left (there was a great café next to the shop) and I stayed to poke around some more.

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I could have spend quite a long time in Verb, but I was overwhelmed by the choices and conscious that L was waiting (he actually came in after reading for a while because he thought he might have to do some damage control! Haha).

I really liked the way the shop was laid out, with yarn in the front third and fabric in the back. There were a ton of samples, and I really liked the display rack, which both helped to divide up the shop and let you get a sense of how the various yarns knit up. There were also lots of Judys around, dressed in a combination of knit and sewn garments, which definitely inspired me to think more about the shop’s Seam Allowance ideal of making 25% of your wardrobe.

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Quince & Co. Chickadee in Winesap and Slate, and some lovely fabric! (I sewed my dress before I took these photos, so that double gauze is just the leftovers.)

In addition to the wool for L’s gloves, I picked up the Endless Summer Tunic pattern and some fabric: the double-gauze I used to make my Endless Summer Dress, a grey-blue cotton and hemp, and some 6.5 oz denim (destined to become this skirt, I think).

The other LYS we visited was ImagiKnit. I don’t like to push too much yarn shopping on L since it’s his vacation too, but ImagiKnit was pretty close to where we were staying, so on our last morning in San Francisco we decided to walk over after breakfast (this involved climbing/descending several huge hills, but it was totally worth it).

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What a great shop! ImagiKnit is huge — its two big rooms are filled, floor to ceiling, with yarn. The first room is all animal fibres and the second is all plant and man-made fibres, and both rooms are organized like a clock, with the thickest yarn at 12 o’clock (the front windows) and then getting thinner as you walk clockwise. Genius! I walked around and around, trying to take in everything, but it was a little shelf at the back that really caught my eye, since it housed all the locally dyed yarns.

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There were also a few baskets of yarn on the counter that drew me in. The owner said she had recently been to the Malabrigo warehouse/factory in Uruguay and picked up some experimental yarn. It looked just like barber-pole handspun, and was so gorgeous (and so unavailable anywhere else) that I couldn’t resist.

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Top: Aurora Yarns Acquerello Middle: Quince & Co. Chickadee in Slate and Winesap Bottom: Malabrigo Dos OOAK, and Tactile Fiber Arts Bolinas Sock in Spruce.

My total haul wasn’t too bad, really: three skeins of Quince & Co. Chickadee (for L’s gloves); two skeins of Tactile Fiber Arts Bolinas Sock, a fingering-weight BFL dyed in the Bay Area, in Spruce (for a shawl); a skein of Aurora Yarns Aquerello, hand-painted in Moss Beach (definitely for socks); and two skeins of one-of-a-kind Malabrigo Dos (who knows what this for — I’ll figure something out). All in all, some pretty excellent souvenirs I think!

Endless Summer

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I know I should write the post about the California LYSs I visited (this is sort of like a prelude), but I feel like it has been ages since I posted anything finished (or, it had been before my Summer Skyps), so this dress is jumping the queue.

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I have done a lot of sewing this summer and, as can be the way when you’re learning something new, I haven’t been very successful. I have sewed a half-dozen tops that are just blah, and it has been discouraging. (I should note that is probably as much due to my poor choice of patterns as it is to my skills. My last few tops have been pretty well made, but are unflattering, so can be donated rather than tossed out.) But, I believe in perseverance, and I know better than to be hard on myself about being a beginner. Even though I would consider most of my July projects failures, they all gave me the opportunity to practice new skills and get more comfortable at my machine, and that isn’t wasted time.

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Which leads me to this dress. It’s the Endless Summer Tunic from A Verb for Keeping Warm, and I picked up both the pattern and the fabric while I was there (yes, I copied their example exactly. I wasn’t going to, but then I couldn’t resist). I had already been thinking about trying the pattern out, but what sealed the deal for me was that Verb had it made up in every size, so I could actually try them on to determine both whether it was as flattering style and what size to make. The pattern itself is relatively simple, so I wasn’t too worried about the execution.

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I am really happy with this dress. It’s all wrinkled in these photos because we took these in the afternoon and I wore it all morning, but I just don’t care. The style is easy to wear, and I will certainly be able to wear it work, since my office is pretty casual.

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To make it a dress, I added three inches to the length (below the pocket marks). Wearing it with a belt definitely shortens it a bit, so I might add another inch (above the pocket mark, I think, so they end up in the right place) next time. I actually left the pockets out of this version, since the double-gauze I used just didn’t seem robust enough to make pockets I’d actually be able to use, but I’m dreaming about another version in Liberty (this leafy one, I think) and it will definitely feature pockets. I like the idea of having a more fall version of this, and a darker fabric will look better with tights I think.

So, what do you think? Is it worth making another one? How to you handle disappointing FOs?

Summer Skyps!

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One of my favourite things about vacation knitting is that whatever project(s) I take along will forever remind me of the trip and when and where I worked on them. Even if these socks weren’t the exact colours of Big Sur, they will always remind me of beach knitting and the drive down the California coast.

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I bought this yarn last spring with no real plan, and it’s one of the skeins I singled out at the beginning of the year as destined to become all the time, not-too-fancy socks. This is my fifth pair of whenever socks this year (though only the second to come from that original pile of yarn) and I’m quite pleased with them. Pulling them on in the middle of winter will be a nice reminder that the cold doesn’t last forever.

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I’ve knit this pattern before, so I don’t have much (new) to say about it. It’s a nice, simple pattern — a little more interesting than basic ribbing, but plain enough to pick up and put down, or knit without looking. Looking back at my last pair, I realized that I knit them almost exactly a year ago, on our trip to Boston, so they are a tried-and-true one-the-road pattern.

 

Details
Pattern: Simple Skyp Socks
Yarn: Manos del Uruguay Alegria in #A9537
Needles: 2.5mm
Notes: Not much to report, really. Like last time, I split for the heel so that I maintained a purl stitch on either side of the instep, which keeps the pattern centred down the foot. I knit the heels a little deeper this time (34 rows) and stopped the pattern 1/4 of an inch earlier, to make the toe a little longer. I was also really surprised/pleased with how the yarn striped up, so to maintain that I used the other end of the skein for the heel flap. I also purposefully tried to mirror the pooling around the ankles (caused by the gussets) and think it worked out pretty well. Ravelled here.

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California, part 2

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Holy moly, the Pacific Coast Highway is not fooling around. Every time you turn a corner (and there are a lot of corners) you’re greeted with a new and stunning view. Honestly, it was all I could do not to pull over at every little off-road pocket. Stunning, stunning, stunning.

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Can you tell how happy I am to be on the road? This is the second big coastal drive L and I have done together (the other was on our Cape Breton trip) and it really doesn’t get old. We shared the driving, with whoever was in the passenger seat responsible for deciding where to pull over for great views. We left San Francisco in the early afternoon and drove as far as Carmel Valley, where we stayed for two nights. Having an extra night gave us more time to explore the area, and also to go for a hike. Our Airbnb was really close to a trailhead, so on the second day on the road we set off on foot. I would be lying if I said I enjoyed the first half of the hike (basically a continuous, and relatively steep, climb for two miles, in the heat), but as usual it was totally worth it, and once we were up, the hike along the ridge and then the descent were very pleasant.

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While I’m not sure Carmel Valley is every exactly lush, the drought was very evident there. The lower part of the trail had some interpretive signs, one of which talked about spawning fish in the river, but there was no river. The trail was sandy and very dry, and near the top there was a little plastic container with a sign asking hikers to donate some of their water to help the local wildlife, which we happily did.

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After the hike we were all geared up to swim, so we went back to where we were staying, took very quick showers, and set off for Carmel-by-the-Sea. Never was California’s micro-climate so stark: where the valley had bee hot and sunny, Carmel was cool and overcast, and too chilly for me to swim. L was debating whether he was going to swim and then we saw dolphins (!) so that settled that and in he went. Swimming with dolphins. It just about made up for our late arrival in Monterey — in what is becoming an unfortunate holiday tradition for us, we got there just a half-hour before the aquarium closed, which made the admission fee just a little too steep. Next time for sure, though (Audry recently went to the aquarium, so if you’re wondering what we missed out on, she has all the details.)

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Day three was another big driving day — Carmel to Santa Barbara, through Big Sur. We didn’t have the best weather when we started out (that’s the bridge right before Bixby Bridge, but of similar design), but once we got over a few hills we found the sun.

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We stopped at two beaches in Big Sur. We stopped at Pfeiffer Beach, which was bright and sunny, but also windy, for lunch. We had a little picnic, and I was napping in the sun when L came running over to tell me there were whales just offshore! All our photos are of the puffs from their blowholes, splashes from their jumps, and the rise of their tail flukes, but we think there were at least three, and our best guess is that they were Gray Whales, which migrate along the coast of California. We were too busy watching them frolic to take very good pictures, but they were amazing to see so close up. After Pfeiffer Beach we drove along to Sand Dollar Beach, which was overcast with no wind (or whales). The lack of wind was really nice though, so I finally went swimming (the water was really cold, but definitely worth it). Naturally, L swam at both beaches.

After our beach stops we really had a bust a move to get to Santa Barbara before it got too late. We were driving along and doing pretty well at not stopping for every view when L said, “You need to pull over.” I thought maybe he didn’t feel well, but when I pulled off the road he looked at me and said “Whales.” That man has eagle eyes. We were up quite high, but over the cliff and out in the ocean he’d seen them: four or five more whales, just playing. There were some German tourists stopped and watching them as well, and one of them said he thought they were Orcas, but I’m pretty sure they were more Gray Whales. L did quite a good job to get one in mid jump, I thought.

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After that we really had to get going. We stopped at Taco Temple in Morro Bay for dinner (Audry, thank you so, so much for the recommendation, it was amazing!) and drove abandoned the coast for a speedier highway to Santa Barbara where we spent the night. We wandered through a city a little in the morning and then got back on the road to drive the last leg to San Diego. Let me just tell you now that driving from Santa Barbara to San Diego (218 miles/350 kilometres) takes longer than flying from Toronto to San Francisco (approximately 2,500 miles/4,000 kilometres) and leave it at that. L drove, I knit, peace remained. San Diego was a bit of a whirlwind for me, and it was the only day of bad weather we had — not that we could complain about a rainy day in a state that so badly needed it. It seemed like a fun city, though, and I would definitely go back. There were a lot of restaurants I would have liked to try.

Such a fun trip. It’s almost hard to believe that I was there just last week.

California, part 1

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I got home Sunday night and have been debating ever since how best to write about our trip. It was so, so great: the perfect mix of busy and relaxed, with great weather and great company. We honestly saw and did so much in eight days that as soon as I started going through my photos (899, to be precise) I realized one post would be crazy. Instead, I think I can do it in three — San Francisco, driving Highway 1, and LYS visiting — and I’ll warn you now, they’re going to be pretty photo heavy. Ready? Let’s do this thing.

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We stayed in the Noe Valley neighbourhood, which was a great area but definitely not downtown. Although we started taking more public transportation later on, we did a lot of walking up and down – and then up and then down again – San Francisco’s hilly streets (my hips decided to pretty much fall apart while we were there, which has never happened before and was really inconvenient). The steepness is pretty much impossible to capture, but suffice to say that the street in the photo with the long view was at about a 45 degree angle (L is an engineer, so I trust his judgment on such matters) — we walked up it (on tip-toe) as part of the climb to the top of Twin Peaks, which we reached just in time for the fog/clouds to start spilling over the top.

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Our impromptu visit to the Botanical Gardens in Golden Gate Park was on of my favourite things we in San Francisco. We packed a little picnic and wandered through the park to the gardens, which were really lovely. It was the closest we came to seeing big redwoods, and the California Natives garden meant we got to see a lot of the plants and flowers that weren’t flourishing because of the drought. Besides the dozens of succulents that seem to thrive in California, the other plant we saw a ton of on our trip was nasturtiums (the first, very orange, flower). It’s one of my favourite flowers, and to see it growing wild all over the place was such a treat, and added shocking blasts of colour to an otherwise fairly pale landscape.

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Of course, we did the touristy stuff too. Neither of us grew up watching Full House, but a trip to see the Painted Ladies just seemed right. And then, of course, the Golden Gate Bridge herself (himself? itself? what gender do we assign to bridges?) The bridge was covered with a tube of cloud for our first two days in the city (as in: the sky everywhere else was clear and lovely, but the there was a line of cloud low and over the bridge anyway), but on our last day somehow everything worked out and we had a clear view. We walked across it, and then back across it, and it really does live up to the hype. It’s a pretty fantastic piece of infrastructure, and the little interpretive centre on the city side of the bridge definitely added to my appreciation of its design and art deco details.

San Francisco was a great introduction to California and I could definitely have spent more time there. We even made it over to Berkley and Oakland — more on that in the LYS post. Next up: driving down the coast!

I slipped

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I had full, full, intentions to just truck right along with my latest Skyp socks, but after grafting the toe of the first one I got that funny urge to dig around in my stash to see what was in there, and before I knew it I’d pulled out a skein of Tosh Sock in Espadrilles, wound it up, and cast on. Honestly, I don’t really know how it happened, but here we are, a full chart repeat into new socks and I’m not sorry.

This is a very bright, very fun pink, and is also very hard to photograph.

This is a very bright, very fun pink, that is also very hard to photograph.

These are Betula by Rachel Coopey (who is such a reliably excellent designer) and I love them. They’re fun to knit and, since the 15-row repeat is really just a five-row repeat that shifts, the pattern is very quickly memorized and doesn’t require much special attention (I’m using a stitch marker to mark where I am within each repeat, which helps). They are, in fact, the perfect travel knitting, which is just as well since tomorrow L and I are flying to California!

We have a whole week to spend on the coast, and I seriously cannot wait. We’ve more or less planned out our stops (we’re driving Highway 1 from San Francisco to San Diego), but if you have must-see suggestions, please let me know! I will definitely be going to A Verb for Keeping Warm while we’re in San Francisco, so I’ll have a full report of that and the rest of the trip when I get back. (I’ll probably do a little Instagramming, if you want to keep up with me over there.)

Such a summery colourway.

Such a summery colourway.

And, who knows, maybe I’ll have some finished socks too. I’m bringing the Skyp socks along, because as great as Betula is, when it’s my turn in the passenger seat I’m going to want a knit that doesn’t require me to look at my hands, and the Skyps are it! I hope you all have a wonderful week — I’ll tell you all about mine once I’m home again.

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