Tag Archives: scarf

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.

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Stripes on stripes: Colour Affection is finished

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I was going to wait, and blog about Baku before anything else (it was the last stop on my trip and I swear I’ll get something up about it in the next couple of days – it was gorgeous), but then I finished Colour Affection on the weekend and I’m just too pleased to wait.

Behold:

So summery. So soft. So stripy.

It really worked out so much better than I ever thought it would. As I mentioned, I started it just before I left because I hate casting on in public. I was only a few rows in, though, when I left for the airport. It was about 24 hours door-to-door on the way to Tbilisi, and although that included switching planes several times (and this lots of security lines), as well as, in theory, some sleeping, I still had lots of knitting time. By the time we got into Tbilisi, I was only a couple of rows shy of having the first two pattern sections finished.

I finished the two-stripe section in Tbilisi and began the three-stripe short-rows in the car to Yerevan, but then, I got sick and couldn’t do anything but sit with my eyes closed and try to sleep. I got through a couple of pattern repeats in the short-rows before I realized I’d made a mistake. Each repeat is six bands of colour (12 rows), and I had knit 24 rows before I decided my short rows were really looking too short and something must be up. I went back to the pattern and, sure enough, I was one stitch short. For the next 12 rows I knit the way Veera intended, and then I added another stitch to my short rows and carried on that way for the rest of the section, which I finished on the flight from London to Halifax. (From Halifax to Toronto, 24-hours into travelling, I couldn’t knit any more and instead just slept. It was glorious.) It then took me a week to finish the two-inch border, which I attribute to the fact that a) those border rows are stupidly long, and b) I was back in my real life, and had other things to do.

I bound off (using a 5 mm needle) on Saturday and then blocked it (I bought blocking wires for the occasion), and on Sunday, after going for a photo shoot/walk with L, I brought it to work, because my office is a fridge. I am quite pleased.

Inspection.

I have to say, though, that I am surprised by how much I like it. I was really worried there for a while. The thing is, when you start with dark colours, you get used to how that palette looks. I like the grey, I like the green, and together, they played of each other nicely. Then, when I got to the short rows and introduced the yellow, I felt like everything was suddenly off. Somehow, the nice greyish tones in the yellow disappeared, the subtly colour changes in the green were gone, and what I was left with was garish and, I thought, a little too tropical for my wardrobe. I was seriously afraid that after hours and hours and hours of knitting, I was never going to wear the thing. I couldn’t figure out how I’d gone so wrong – I mean, the colours had looked so nice all stacked up.

Thank goodness I persevered. That two-inch border at the bottom saved it for me. The trouble is, when you’re knitting top-down, it’s hard to see how it will all come together, and for most of the knitting, the dominant colour seems to be the one you started with (in my case, grey). In the end, though, the short-row stripes are stronger than the other sections, and the band of colour along the bottom balances everything out.

It was really hard to get the whole thing in, but here it is (can you imagine it with an extra 40-inches of length? It was be huge!).

Details
Pattern: Colour Affection by Veera Välimäki
Yarn: Tosh Sock in Charcoal and Candlewick, and Tanis Fiber Arts blue label fingering weight in Mallard (Aside: Tosh Sock is like butter, and I would knit with it forever is that was practical.)
Needles: 4mm addi turbos
Modifications: I listed them above, and it’s ravelled here (if you’re into that sort of thing). I’ll say also that I didn’t check my gauge because, well, how is a shawl not going to fit? Somehow, though, this means I’m about 40 inches shorter than I should be, according to the pattern (only 2 inches shallow, though). I have no idea how that’s possible, but there you go.

This was perfect, perfect travel knitting. The next time I have a big trip, I would absolutely consider knitting another one, or at least something similar. As a bonus, I have enough wool left over for a pair of multi-coloured socks, which might be fun to knit up in the winter, when I could use some bursts of bold colour. (Full disclosure: I never did start those Monkeys. I will soon, though.)

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.

A Cautionary Tale

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Yarn splurge

Last weekend I went into Lettuce Knit to exchange some wool (I had an extra, unwound skein of the wool I used for Almondine, so I thought I’d plan ahead and get something for the next pair of socks). I had just started the Happy-Go-Lucky socks, and thought I’d ask Natalie what she thought – I’m still new to colourwork and wanted to make sure I was doing things properly. For the record, this is how far along I was:

Happy-Go-Lucky

Just a bit of top.

At that point, I could get my foot through without any trouble. Nonetheless, Natalie took one look at them and said “be careful.” Her warning: She has highly-arched feet and there are some socks she just can’t get her foot into. I thought about that for a minute and then decided to just got for it. I was knitting above gauge, I thought, surely that will save me. Still, her warning haunted me all week, and when I Friday rolled around and I was halfway through the foot I thought I should check. The heel did seem small to me, and I was (secretly) a little worried. I couldn’t get my foot through. It was because the socks were still on the needles I reasoned, and plowed on.

Still, I was worried. I went to work that night and then spent all my downtime on Ravelry looking at projects I could start on the weekend in case these socks decided not to fit. I need to do this. I need to plan for the worst so that if it doesn’t happen, I can rejoice, and if it does I have something else planned already so no worries. I picked two patterns (this one and this one) and decided that I’d finish the Happy-Go-Lucky toe on Saturday morning and then go buy the necessary wool for the other patterns. No big deal.

Of course, then the sock fit. Only barely, to be fair, but I got it on and it was comfortable and lovely. Perfect, right? Well, yes and no. You see, in all my planning for ways to not be horribly disappointed in case they didn’t fit, I got kind of excited about these other projects.

Happy-Go-Lucky

Half of a pair. Secretly, I'm pretty pleased about how this looks – especially the surprise stripes on the sole.

That meant I went to the yarn store anyway.

Yarn splurge

Three skeins each of Cascade 220 Heathers in colourway 4008 (for the scarf) and three of Malabrigo sock in colourway Ochre (for the sweater).

I have been swatching ever since. I will cast on the second sock this week, but I might also cast on a sweater. Maybe today. Maybe right now. You see what happens when you preplan for disaster?

Fake Spring Scarf

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Remember this scarf?

An outtake from our previous photo shoot.

An outtake from our previous photo shoot.

Well, it seems like the end of February is the perfect time to write it up. Technically, I suppose, I knit this up at the beginning of January, when I decided I needed a better wool scarf (the first two I knit – back when I was just learning to knit – were both cowls, the first way too long and the second too short to wrap twice but two long to just wrap once). Anyway, I decided I wanted to start the New Year by knitting something easy, but still pretty.

I have accumulated a lot of Cascade Eco+ (it is gorgeous to knit with) so I picked three colours and set to work thinking about how best to knit them up.

Main colour – in real life, it's much more green.

Main colour – in real life, it's much more green.

Contrasting colour 1

Contrasting colour 1.

Contrasting colour 2

Contrasting colour 2.

I wanted something quick, so colour work was out, but I also wanted the scarf to have a main colour (and some symmetry), so any stripes would need to be fairly far apart, but not so far that the scarf with hang out the bottom of my coat (I hate that). And thus, the Fake Spring Scarf was born.

Right side – showing off the reversed middle stripes.

Right side – showing off the reversed middle stripes.

Comparing the right side to the wrong side.

Comparing the right side to the wrong side.

I’m not always the biggest fan of straight-up garter stitch and  I worried a lot that the colours would be too garish to wear with my bright red winter coat. Luckily, I ignored my initial misgivings, because this scarf is both warm and soft, and has garnered me many a compliment. I actually quite like that this looks”homemade” because, of course, it is. There’s something a little rustic about it, and although the wool is both thick and a little hairy, it is surprisingly soft around your neck while still feeling sturdy.

I kind of like knitting that has a right and a wrong side (it looks cleaner somehow), so I made sure to start all my stripes on the same side. That also means all the weaving is in the same area, which makes things a little tidier.

So stripy.

So stripy.

Fake Spring Scarf – so named because a) It’s in bright, springtimey colours, and b) It’s a nice quick knit, so when you’re hit with March snow you’ll have time to knit it up before it all blows out for the season.
Pattern: by me!
Needles: 6 mm
Yarn: Cascade Eco+ in colourways 2452 (green), 9454 (purple), and 9451 (blue-green)
Finished length: 61 inches
Gauge: 14 sts/24 rows = 3 inches in garter stitch

Cast on 30 stitches in main colour and knit in garter stitch for 7 inches.
Switch to cc1 and knit four rows.
Knit 2 rows in mc.
Knit 4 rows in cc2.
Knit 2 rows in mc.
Knit 4 rows in cc1.
Repeat five times, but on third rep, switch the order of the contrasting colours. Finish with 7 inches in mc.
For the stripes, I cut the contrasting colours between stripes (leaving about a four-inch tail to weave in), but wove the main colour along the top. It’s a bit neater this way.
And voila! A lovely scarf that will keep you warm and is still fun and colourful enough to make the transition to lighter jackets when real spring rolls around.

Update: Now also on Ravelry