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Yarn accident

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Since I started knitting a little over a year and a half ago (oh sure, I learned when I was 8, but I’m not counting that) I have been accumulating a stash. This has absolutely not been by design. When I was first learning and heard/read stories about knitters with entire closets or even rooms dedicated to yarn, I was astounded. Not because I think it’s a waste of space (no one with as many books as I have could cast aspersions on anyone else’s use of space), but simply because I couldn’t imagine buying that much yarn without having a plan to use it.

Fleece Artist Merino 2/6 in Blackberry

That, of course, was where I was wrong. At least in my case, I almost always have some sort of plan in the back of my head when I buy yarn. Sometimes it’s something really specific, sometimes it’s a little looser, but usually I have an idea in there lurking and then I see the yarn and the two come together and, bam, purchase. Sometimes, I’ll admit, I’m just enchanted by the colour, but so far, that’s more the exception than the rule.

Fleece Artist Merino 2/6 in Nova Scotia

Still, I’ve managed to accumulate a little stash. It isn’t huge, but it’s there, and I could happily knit from it for months (I am a slowish knitter, which helps). It was all going well too, until a couple of weeks ago when I had what might be called a yarn accident. I was at work, just browsing the Internet during some downtime, when I stumbled across Colorsong Yarn (warning: very tempting site), purveyors of Fleece Artist and Hand Maiden yarns. I should have known I was sunk. I am a sucker for both gorgeous colours and things tied to Nova Scotia (my home province), and these dyers are a double whammy.

Fleece Artist BFL socks in Blomidon

I thought, at first, that I was just going to look. And I did. I looked and looked and looked. But I didn’t buy anything. Instead, I tucked a few colourways into my memory and left the site before anything dangerous happened. When I was still thinking about it the next day, I knew I was in trouble. I thought that, maybe like a food craving, just having another look would satisfy me, but no. Instead, that little look resulted in me buying five skeins of Fleece Artist sock yarn (three BFL sock, two Merino fingering) – after all, with shipping costs, you have to make it worth it, right?

Fleece Artist BFL sock in Spruce

I almost never shop online. Sometimes I buy books online that I can’t find in my local independent bookshop, but generally, I avoid Internet shopping for two big reasons: 1) I like to support local businesses, and 2) I can’t really tell how much I’m getting. I know that sounds silly, but I’m serious. Five skeins of sock yarn on the Internet? Nothing. Five skeins of sock yarn when I’m in my LYS and all I have to put my purchase in is my purse because I’m on my bike and a bag won’t do? Too much – I’ll hem and haw and then whittle my choice down to one (or, maybe, two).

Fleece Artist BFL sock in Seafoam

The package arrived on Friday, and even though I’ve been feeling a little guilty about the purchase, the excitement I felt when I saw it made me feel like I’d done the right thing. I cannot wait to knit these into things (probably socks, who are we kidding) that will show off their gorgeous colours (but not until the sweater is done; I’m standing firm). Yarn accident, yes, but no regrets (yet).

The whole haul. Sigh.

Adventures in tea-drinking and shopping in Baku

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I’ve been back in Toronto for just over a week and I still haven’t managed to write about the last stop on my trip, Baku, capitol city of Azerbaijan. It also occurred to me that the Caucuses are not really an area ever covered in geography class, so if you’re curious about where I was, here’s a map:

We were in the trio of little countries to the left. (Source: University of Texas Library)

Anyway, Azerbaijan was really the only country we visited in which we didn’t leave the main city. We did spend an evening in my dad’s colleague Rafig’s dacha, on the north coast of the Apsheron Peninsula, but we were driven to and from, and although it was a wonderful evening of traditional food and traditional dancing (!), it wasn’t really sightseeing. So, Baku, then. What an incredibly beautiful city. It is right on the edge of the Caspian Sea and has been laid out to take advantage of its seaside local. There is a gorgeous wide pedestrian boulevard along the water that runs for kilometres uninterrupted and is always full of families, young couples, and school kids strolling around, eating in the many cafés or simply enjoying the view from one of the many benches. It’s all landscaped and filled with beautiful gardens and fountains and really, you could believe yourself on the Riviera.

I loved these dandelion-esque fountains.

The other restored area we wandered through in Baku’s downtown was the vast network of pedestrian shopping streets. Really, Baku feels strangely Parisian (although much cleaner), and its old buildings have been brilliantly restored in this area. The crime rate there is almost zero (the benefit of a totalitarian government, I guess) and I think a lot of the happy and carefree attitudes exhibited in the streets is because of this. Families are out at all hours with young kids playing happily and running around, and there isn’t a threat to be seen. It’s kind of incredible.

These grape vines are planted at street level and then trained up the wall to shade the upper balconies. You see this everywhere and I think it’s genius!

Baku also has a beautiful and immaculate old city. Unlike in Yerevan, where that just doesn’t exist, or even in Tbilisi, where they are working very hard to restore the Old City, in Baku, the buildings there have been wonderfully preserved. Many of the cellars and main-floors are now used to shops where you can buy all manner of Azeri-made textiles, pottery, and antiques. And I’ll be honest, I shopped. I didn’t buy much in either Georgia or Armenia, but since Baku was the last stop, and has some truly beautiful work, I treated myself a bit.

The Maiden Tower, which was built in the 12th century. From the top you get an amazing view of the city and sea, and the breeze is very much appreciated after climbing up the many, many airless steps.

This a tablecloth I bought, all beautifully woven out of camel wool and silk. The motif is called the flame, and it’s the national symbol of Azerbaijan – it’s on everything.

My parents bought this carpet. It’s 50 years old or so (meaning it was dyed with vegetable dyes, not acid-based ones) and made entirely of wool. We spent a whole morning carpet shopping, and it is quite the art.

Of course, we also ate and stuff. For the most part, Azeri cuisine is very similar to that of its neighbours. It was the hardest place for me to eat out in restaurants – for whatever reason, most of their dishes have meat in them and, since English is more limited here than elsewhere, it’s difficult to have any modifications made to the dishes. That being said, I did alright. Their bread is delicious and comes with every meal, and once I learned a few particular dishes (thanks largely to the meal we enjoyed with Rafig and his family), I was fine. The real treat, though, was the tea.

Azer Chay with strawberry jam. Delicious.

In Azerbaijan, they drink Azer Chay (literally Azeri Tea, but pronounced Azer Chai), and instead of serving it with milk and/or sugar, it comes with slices of lemon and a bowl of jam. Thus, when your tea has been poured, you had a slice of lemon and a spoonful or two of jam, which sweetens the tea. Their jam, though, isn’t like Smuckers or some other North American brand; it’s really more like a preserve, and the fruit is generally whole or in quarters, suspended in a thick, syrupy, liquid. It is delicious and very indulgent and I loved it.

I loved it so much I bought a box of tea and two jars of homemade jam to bring back with me. The jam that I bought came from the market, which is an entirely local affair situated in the opposite direction of anything that you could consider remotely touristy. My mum and I went up there to buy some food for dinner (my dad’s work is based out of Baku, so he has an apartment there). You can buy everything there. Just everything. Besides the jam, we also bought fruit leather (hugely popular in the region), fruit and veg, and two kinds of cheese. We could have kept right on shopping, but our bags were quite heavy.

There is a whole section of the market dedicated to dried fruits and spices.

Jars and jars and jars of preserves. These are much, much larger than the jars of homemade jam I bought.

In all, we had three and a half days in Baku before getting on the plane and heading home (for me, that was 26 hours door-to-door). It was an amazing way to end a two-week holiday, and you can bet I’ll go back if I have the chance.

Touring Armenia

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Really, I could keep right on writing about Georgia, but I’ve been in Yerevan for three days and if I go back to Tbilisi now, I’ll never catch up because we’re leaving for Baku tomorrow. So, Armenia. We’re staying in Yerevan, the capital, where there isn’t really an “old city,” although there are many areas that are clearly Soviet in provenance. It’s a beautiful city, though, and downtown the streets are wide, with wide sidewalks lined with flowers boxes and shaded by large mature trees.

We arrived on Thursday, after driving six hours from Tbilisi, and unfortunately that drive coincided with me getting very sick, which made the entire day a wash (I did nothing by lie on the couch and sleep; it was very unpleasant). The following day my mum wasn’t feeling too well, so we took it pretty easy. We did walk down to Republic Square though, as well as buy a couple of little souvenirs from a local artist’s shop.

All the big important government buildings in Armenia seem to be made of this multi-coloured pink stone. (This one is on Republic Square.)

All of this is to say that yesterday was our first proper day, and we certainly made the most of it. In the morning we went to the vernissage, which is a huge market in the downtown where you can buy anything from antique dishes to jewelry to inlaid wood boxes to carpets to military memorabilia, among many, many other things. I bought a pair of handknit socks, but I’ll write about those later. My parents looked at many carpets, but because we’re going to Azerbaijan next, and Azerbaijan does not get on with Armenia, it would be impossible to buy something that large here and then take it with us to Baku. It’s a shame, because they’re lovely and really reasonably priced, but oh well.

Carpets were everywhere.

Also cameras…

… and military memorabilia such as uniforms and medals.

After that, we met with my dad’s colleague Artem and left Yerevan and headed south, toward Mount Ararat. Our first stop was Khor Virap, a monastery just on the Armenian side of the border with Turkey, at the bottom of Mount Ararat (the place where Noah’s Arc is supposed to have ended up).

If Mount Ararat hadn’t insisted on hiding behind storm clouds all afternoon, this picture would be much more spectacular.

The monastery is beautiful and, beyond its stunning setting, it’s also the place where Grigor Lusarovitch, the man who first introduced Christianity to Armenia in the 3rd century, was imprisoned in a well for 13 years by a king who did not want to be Christian. Like all stories, it’s really more complicated than that, but that’s what it boils down to. My dad and I actually climbed down into the well and although it isn’t deep, there are no windows and not much space – certainly not somewhere you’d want to spend years and years of your life.

Instead of a picture of my dad’s bum as he climbed out of the well, here’s a shot of the monastery from the rise on the right in the previous photo.

After Khor Virap Artem took us farther into the mountains (the Lesser Caucuses) to visit the Noravank monastery. Monks certainly knew how to pick breathtaking locations, but they were clearly not the practical type. Noravank is deep in the mountains and to get there you have to drive through a long and winding gorge with high rocky walls. It was kind of jaw dropping, to be honest.

The rocks really were this colour. The strata is also mostly vertical (instead of horizontal, which is what we’re used to seeing), so caves open up between the layers, creating large pockets in the cliff faces.

Outside the primary monastery building…

…and inside.

A second church (or chapel?) they managed to fit on the edge of the cliff.

(And, this is as far as I got before we went out for dinner. And then I packed. And then I went to bed because I had to get up at 3:30 a.m. to take a taxi back to Tbilisi so we could catch out plane to Baku. And then there was no wifi in our apartment, so this post has languished. I’ll finish it now, a whole week and two countries later.)

Our last day in Armenia was a kind of taking it easy day. Yerevan is the International City of the Book for 2012, so we visited the museum exhibit about Armenia’s history of printing (celebrating its 500th anniversary, which is pretty amazing) and wandered around a bit, picking up souvenirs and whatnot. The real highlight of the day, though, came before breakfast, when we climbed the Cascade.

700+ steps before breakfast? Heck yes!

If you think that looks like a lot of stairs to climb before breakfast, well, it was. But that’s fine, because it was totally worth it. The Cascade is preceded by a sculpture garden and is being privately funded as an arts and culture centre in Yerevan. Each of those central landings (with the rounded windows) has a gallery or concert hall or other artistic venue inside (there are escalators inside for those who prefer not to climb in their finery) and fountains or sculptures or both on the outside landing part. There are also boxwood-trimmed gardens lining the outsides of the steps, which, as far as I can tell, are made of limestone.

This is either the third or fourth landing, but I honestly cannot remember.

The white steps rise and rise and rise until all of a sudden they end in a chain-link fence at the top, beyond which is a construction site that has languished since 2009 or so. To continue up to the black platform (the base of the memorial to the Armenian genocide), you have to walk around and then climb more stairs. The plan is to connect the two, and I really hope it happens, because it is a spectacular monument. Also, there’s this view (watch that tallish building in the front):

From the second landing.

From the third landing.

From the top of the white steps.

From the very top, on the black platform.

This is the real reason we climbed it so early. Mount Ararat and Little Ararat get covered in clouds and obscured by haze quite quickly, and although evening is really the best time to go, morning is also good for clear views. We just managed to beat the clouds, but we climbed quickly when we saw them rolling in.

Afterwards we treated ourselves to breakfast on one of the many patio-in-a-park restaurants. Not too shabby.

Armenian “pancake” stuffed with cheese and mushrooms.

A very Georgian wedding

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It still seems amazing to me that this happened at all, but this is one of the best things about travelling – you just never know what’s going to happen. I suppose I should say that we knew about the wedding two days before leaving, so I did have a suitable dress with me, but somehow my dad didn’t remember to bring either a tie or a jacket, so my mum and I spent that morning looking all over Tbilisi for a tie – apparently they aren’t big in Georgia. Anyway, when we arrived at the reception, not a single man there was wearing a tie (almost none of them even bothered to tuck in their shirts), so we were feeling reassured that it was a casual affair. Then we walked into the reception hall and saw this.

Every table was decked out like this. It was amazing.

The place was set for 250+ people, and the tables were already covered with food. And I do mean covered. There was salad, fish, bread, cheese, vegetable appetizers, jugs of amber wine (there are four colours of wine in Georgia: white, amber, red, and black), bottles of juice and water, and probably a bunch of other things besides. It was a feast. And then Irakli told us that this was just the cold dishes. Sure enough, we’d barely even started eating when more dishes were added to the table.

This was my favourite. It’s red pepper and seared eggplant stuffed with this walnut paste and pomegranate seeds. Oh my goodness it was delicious.

The funny thing, though, is that nothing is ever taken away. Instead, they just pile dishes on top of other dishes, and if you want what’s underneath, you just lift up the plate on top and get it. Basically, every table becomes its own buffet, which is amazing. It may have been the copious amount of wine I drank (you have to drink for every toast, and people just continuously fill your glass back up), but I found this very amusing.

Plates on plates.

Cake on top of chicken.

A disheveled table.

Anyway, the reception itself is really interesting. There is a toast master in charge of delivering long formal toasts throughout the evening (he had a microphone, and it took us a while to figure out where in the hall he was), and in between his toasts, these four divos would come out on stage and sing (very loudly). Mostly I think they sang traditional songs, but every once in a while it would be something more lively and people would get up to dance. The bride and groom also danced a traditional Georgian wedding dance, which was quite something, and by the end of the night my mum and I were being pulled onto the dance floor and being shown the traditional moves. I’m not sure we were very good at it, but it was fun.

By the end of the night we had eaten, drunk, and danced just about to our limit, and the next day started very slowly, to say the least. We’re in Yerevan, Armenia, now, but more about that later.

Georgia is amazing

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Maybe I should start with a clarification, since for most people the first Georgia they think of is the state, and actually I’m in Georgia the country, which is in the Caucuses. You may be most familiar with Georgia from its 2008 conflict with Russia, but that’s long over and it’s really entirely safe and also entirely lovely. I’m actually here with my parents, which is an added bonus since I don’t get to see them all that often. My dad was here already for work and my mum and I arrived Sunday night (local time, which is 8 hours ahead of Toronto), after 24 hours of travelling.

So, we’re at the end of our third day now and I swear we’ve only stopped walking long enough to eat since we got here, and we’re exhausted. Tomorrow, we have to get a 5 a.m. taxi to Yerevan, where we’ll spend another three days. The Internet is good, there, though, so even though I’m about to fall asleep, here’s a point-form tour of Tbilisi (with pictures).

1. They love statues here. Seriously, they are everywhere. Little, big, copper, gold, stone, whatever, they’ve got it all. My favourites, though, are the little ones that run along Rustavelli (one of the big main streets). These statues stand/sit every ten metres or so along both sides of the lovely wide sidewalks. They’re all different, but here are a couple of my favourites.

This statue has a little bottle of something. Beer or juice, you decide.

This little statue went hunting (his gun is just peaking out over his shoulder) and he got himself a duck.

2. Khachapuri is everywhere. Remember when I made it? Well, it turns out there are a ton of different ways to make it, and they have entire restaurants that serve it, and it’s considered a regular course in a traditional meal. Seriously, Georgians know how to do bread and cheese.

We watched them make it through the window.

Khachapuri with egg.

Khachapuri with cheese on top.

Khachapuri with cheese inside.

3. They also love walnuts here – I even had walnut ice cream the other day – and dried fruit. As a vegetarian, I was a little worried about what I might end up eating, but at least in Georgia, I have been eating as well as anyone (which is to say, very well indeed).

So that’s regular fruit in the middle, fruit leather on the shelves, and the things that look like dried sausages are actually a kind of fruit juice candy.

4. They’re also big on wool, and although I haven’t seen any knitting/crocheting or related shops, gauzy felted wool scarves and thick felted wool hats are everywhere, as are wool carpets.

Carpets for sale on a wall next to a (very narrow) street in the old city.

Repairing an old carpet.

Hats and scarves for sale.

5. Georgians are very religious (Georgian Orthodox, primarily) and churches are everywhere. Today was went to Mtskheta (pronounced Moo-stek-ah, more or less), which was the original capital of Georgia. The cathedral there was built in the 11th century and remains in use. Besides that, there are churches all over the place (you turn a corner and run into a church) and they are all built in more or less the same style. They’re quite beautiful, really.

Cathedral in Mtskheta.

6. They do weddings on a huge scale. We got to go to a Georgian wedding and we’re all still recovering. We were invited by my dad’s colleague Irakli (one of the nicest men ever) and it was a once in a lifetime experience. Needless to say, it was amazing, and merits its own post, as do many, many other things about Georgia, but maybe you should come visit to see for yourself? (I really will try to post on the wedding, though, it was amazing.)

7. Not about Georgia, really, but oh well. Colour Affection is zipping right along thanks to all of this travelling. I got a ton done on the plane and I’m one row shy of completing the two-colour striped section, which means I’ll be into the short rows during the drive tomorrow and I can’t wait. Here’s how it’s looking so far.

Stripes are so satisfying.

The yarn wants what it wants

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About a week and a half ago I went into Lettuce Knit and picked up a ball of Tanis Fiber Arts Blue Label Fingering Weight in the colourway Mallard. I had just finished my mirror-cabled socks and, even though I knew I had my mum’s scarf to start, I just wanted to have a little something in the stash to look forward to. Every once in a while I click over to Tanis’ website and just drool over the colourways, so it seemed like a good choice. I didn’t really have a pattern in mind, but that wasn’t the point. So I bought it, brought it home, and ever since then I’ve been thinking about it.

Tanis Fiber Arts Blue Label fingering weight 80% superwash merino, 20% nylon in Mallard. (Yes, that’s Ganymede in the background. She refused to give up her window seat just because I wanted to do a photo shoot. Cheeky cat.)

The thing is, even though I was thinking socks when I bought it, this yarn just doesn’t want to be socks. Now, in the past I have sort of rolled my eyes when I heard a knitter say that about wool. I mean, come on, right? You’re the knitter, it’s the wool, it’ll be whatever you want it to be. But no. I have come to see the error in my ways. I love this wool. I love this colourway. I love knitting socks. But somehow these three parts weren’t adding up to a whole.

And then it hit me – just the way it’s probably hit thousands of other knitters – this yarn wanted to be worn somewhere visible, set off by two other contrasting by complimentary colours. Yes, this yarn wanted to be the Colour Affection by Veera Välimäki. I have been pretty in love with this shawl since I first saw it, but I just don’t think of myself as a shawl person, so I didn’t buy the pattern or obsess over colours. But lately, as the weather has been getting nicer, I’ve been thinking about it more and more. It’s not a triangular shawl, I told myself, so I can wear it as a scarf if I want to, with the option of draping it pashmina-like around my shoulders when the sun goes down. I am picturing this as a patio shawl (Patio Affection?), and the more I imagine myself wearing it, the more I want it.

So, this morning I called Lettuce Knit. I had been browsing Tanis’ colourways and picked my ideal three and I wanted to know if Lettuce Knit had them. They didn’t, but then Megan said they had Madeline Tosh sock in too, and some other sock yarns, and I figured what they heck, I’ll just go check it out. It’s a gorgeous, gorgeous day today, and I don’t have to work, so I hopped on my bike and rode down. After much deliberation (and there was a lot – another woman who was in the store had never heard of Colour Affection, but after helping me pick my colours and then looking at the pattern, she too decided she must knit it and then we picked her colours; this is why I love Lettuce Knit so, so much, but I digress), this is what I picked to go with Mallard:

Madeline Tosh Sock, 100% superwash merino, in Charcoal.

Madeline Tosh Sock, 100% superwash merino, in Candlewick.

Now, of course, comes the tricky part: what order do I want them in. Basically, I have three options (not counting the flipped versions of these, just picture them in the other order (They’re stacked with mc at the top, then cc1, then cc2).

Option A

Option B

Option C

Personally, I am leaning toward Option A, because I like the idea of the neutral as the anchor and then having a bright band of that yellow at the bottom. I haven’t cast on yet (it’s sweater day, remember? Torture!) so you still have time to change my mind or bolster my decision – foolishly I thought buying the yarn was going to be the hard part!

A Proper Mother’s Day

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I don’t have kids, but it was my birthday yesterday, and since I’m the oldest that means Mother’s Day this year fell on the actual anniversary of my mum becoming a mother. In the year I was born my birthday was actually a couple of days after Mother’s Day, so my poor mum had to wait a whole year for it. Now though, I like to think that the waiting has paid off.  Unfortunately, what with my parents living in Nova Scotia and me living in Toronto, I didn’t get to see my mum over the weekend – instead, L and I did birthday stuff.

I had to work yesterday (I’m a copy editor at the National Post, and since there’s a Monday paper, I have to go in on Sundays to work on it), so we did birthday stuff on Saturday. As t turned out, the weather was so lovely all weekend that either day was basically the dream of a Spring-born. Obviously we had to take advantage of the 20C weather, so we bicycled to Kensington market, bought picnic supplies and then bicycled down to Toronto Island (well, we took the ferry, but you know what I mean).

One of my favourite things about the ferry is its life jacket ceiling. So reassuring.

We spent the afternoon on the Island, eating a lot of delicious bread and cheese, bicycling around, tossing a Frisbee, and admiring the lovely houses. Then we bicycled home (it’s just about 8 km each way to the ferry, entirely downhill there and thus, entirely uphill back, so it wasn’t as lazy a day as it felt). After a nap, we went out to meet some friends for drinks and dinner and, I have to say, it was just the kind of low-key fun day that I always hope my birthday is going to be.

Our bicycles resting under a Norwegian maple (according to the sign) while we ate our picnic.

I didn’t get any knitting time on Saturday, though, so on Sunday I went with L to a Frisbee practice before work and while he ran drills I sat in the sunshine and knit. Remember those 67 stitches I cast on last week? Well, they are (hopefully) going to turn into the Autumn Leaves Stole by Jared Flood (rav link). I’m really enjoying the knitting and it has been flying along (I’ve had about two hours total to work on it and I’m halfway through the first chart) and then yesterday, while I was knitting in the sun, I realized something was wrong.

Can you spot the errors?

Can you see it? There on the right – the garter stitch border is not, shall we say, consistent. I do this when I swatch sometimes (you know, forget to knit the last X number of stitches on a purl row) and I thought I was catching myself as I went along, but apparently not. I’m planning to give this to my mum for Christmas (I am starting early this year!), so while I might have decided I didn’t care that much if it was for me, I decided that I should rip it back and do it properly for my mum. Have you ever ripped back lace knitting? It’s terrifying, what with all those yarn-overs and k2togs and whatnot.

So many live stitches – thank goodness Ganymede was otherwise occupied.

I ripped back 10 rows (there’s no picture, because I was too tense) and then, when I picked up the stitches, I only had 61. I counted again. Still 6 short. I checked, and there were no obvious dropped stitches, all my yarn-overs had survived, but there were definitely only 61 stitches where there should have been 67. I decided to start working the chart, since I assumed it would become clear where the missing stitches at least should have been, and yes, when I hit the middle of the first leaf (where it’s slip1, k2tog, psso), there was no stitch to slip. I found the dropped stitch (which had basically melted away), picked it up and kept going. Sure enough, this was the case for every leaf but one. I’ve now reknit those ten rows, plus two, and I’m pleased I decided to rip back when I did, rather than waffling as I continued to knit, which is what usually happens.

Totally worth it, right?

An hour’s work just to end up back at the beginning. Oh well. By the time I get to the end I’ll be glad I did it.

Turning a corner, so to speak

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A little while ago I started thinking about a pair of socks I wanted to knit. This isn’t that unusual, except that it wasn’t a pair I’d seen out there before. I poked around on Ravelry and didn’t see the socks I wanted, so I decided to hunker down and do the math and figure them out myself. Admittedly, they weren’t too tricky or fancy, and that was kind of the appeal. After colourwork and lacework, what I really wanted was a sock that was easy to knit, but not boring. I knew exactly what yarn I wanted to use (I’d spotted it on my shopping spree), so when I saw it again I snapped it up and set about charting.

Malabrigo sock in colourway Boticelli Red – it's an incredibly deep and decadent colour.

I cast on last week, and I’m pretty pleased with how things are progressing.

This is actually my first cable project (so it still qualifies as a socks-as-learning-tool project), which added a little bit more daring to the design. I’m also knitting at a really tight gauge (about 11 stitches to an inch), which I’m hoping will make for a long-wearing sock.

What really pleases me about this project, though, is that for the first time, my ssks look just like my k2togs. Seriously. Maybe you don’t have this problem, but for me, my decreases rarely match. They’re close, absolutely, but they just aren’t quite equal. It always seemed that no matter what I did, my ssk had a floppy arm. There, I said it. It was imperfectly formed, and although I’m sure no one else noticed, I noticed, and I bugged me.  It turns out, though, that there’s a solution: Cat Bordhi devised a way to make “slim and trim ssks” (YouTube link) and you know what? It totally works. I will never ssk without a “hungry stitch” again if I can help it. Just look at this:

ssk

k2tog

I thought the cables would be my favourite part of the socks, but you know, I think the ssks are jockeying their way forward. They’re so tidy. They’re so trim. They’re so indistinguishable from their k2tog brethren. I’m excited to get to the toes where their matchy-ness will really be on display. This is an incredibly nerdy thing to be excited about, but I just found out that, after months of thinking ‘there has to be a better way,’ it turns out there is. I am thrilled!

Weekend socks

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As I mentioned, I finished the Happy-Go-Lucky boot socks on the weekend and I am mostly pleased with them. I was a little worried I wouldn’t have enough wool to get them done, though, because halfway through the second foot, I was looking at this weeny little balls and wishing very much that I had a scale at home. I managed to squeak them out, though, and have barely enough of either of the stripy colours to fill a thimble.

Worried. So worried I took a photo.

I have some quibbles with the way the pattern is written, but first, pictures!

Count 'em: two finished socks!

L and I are both going to work on our sock photography/modeling for next time.

Okay, now that that’s out of the way, here are the details:
Pattern: Happy-Go-Lucky boot socks by Véronik Avery, from Sock Knitting Master Class
Yarn: Cascade 220 Superwash Sport in colourways 1910 (blue), 859 (teal), and 803 (purple)
Needles: 2.75 mm Clover bamboo dpns

Blocking really helped. You can see how smooth the blocked sock on the left is, compared to the unblocked and bumpy one on the right.

In terms of modifications, I did a few things this time and have others planned for next time around. First, though, let me explain something fundamental: This pattern is only written for an 8.5-inch foot. My foot is 9-inches around. I knit this anyway. I increased the gauge slightly, and, mathematically, that should have done it. However, these socks are quite, erm, fitted, and as I said previously, I was actually worried I wouldn’t be able to get my foot all the way in. Clearly, I can, but it’s a strain, and it pulls the stitches, and the colourwork doesn’t look as pretty as it ought to. So, that’s the background, here are the modifications:

Actual mods: Besides changing the gauge, I also added an extra pattern repeat to the leg because I wanted it to be a little higher, and when decreasing the gusset I only went down to 34 heel stitches (instead of 30) because I don’t think my foot width is really that much narrower than my ankle/leg width.

Future mods: This is a little tricky, because I’m just not sure what to do about the heel area. In theory, I want to add an extra six stitches (one diamond) to the pattern, which would give me a little more space. But, that either means creating a bottleneck in the ankle again, or having a foot that’s 72 stitches around, which is too many (baggy-footed socks are not appealing). I think, what would be best, is this: Rather than decreasing six stitches at the ankle, simply divide the stitches so there are 36 on the heel flap and 30 on the instep; work an extra repeat of the heel pattern (although I’d be tempted to just work a regular slip-stitch heel) and deal with the extra stitches in the gusset decreases (I would decrease to 34 again, I think, because the foot fit well). Most of my problems with the sizing came as a result of the ankle/heel, so that’s where I would centre my changes.

All of this being said, if you like the look of these socks/this pattern, don’t be scared off. It was a wonderful mix of easy and interesting, and if you’ve never tried slip-stitch colourwork, it’s a great primer. It’s actually a good lesson for stranded colourwork in general, because it allows you to get used to the idea of maintaining floats while only having to manage one colour per row. Here’s the wrong-side of the work, where you can see the floats that run behind the slipped stitches.

I think the pattern on the inside is kind of pretty, actually.

All in all, it’s a good pattern and I’m sure I’ll knit it again (truly, the colour combinations are endless!). I’ve ravelled it here, if you’re into that sort of thing.

Easter write-through

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My plans for Easter weekend ended up being all jumbled, and I wasn’t entirely sure it was going to work out at all. First, I was planning to go away with L to spend the weekend with his family. But, then I had to work on Friday and he had a meeting on Monday morning, so it didn’t seem worth it for me to drive all that way for a night. Then, my sister and her friend were going to come for the weekend, but due to her thesis work, Jenny decided to just come for Saturday. And just like that, my entire Sunday was wide open.

I haven’t had a whole day to just myself in a long time, and even though I didn’t think I wanted it, it turned out to be awesome. I baked. I knit (my Happy-Go-Lucky socks are done! More later). And, best of all, I went on a solo bike ride all around the fancy neighbourhoods north of our place (this was all the nicer after my mum called to tell me it snowed in Nova Scotia on Saturday night).

Man oh man, what a gorgeous day.

Trees are in blossom all over the place.

I love the way the brightness of new leaves pops. This may be my favourite colour.

See what I mean? Gorgeous.

Bicycle!

Yes yes. Sometimes you just need a day to yourself.