Monday, July 19, 2010

Matrimonial Daisies

As you may or may not know, I'm getting married quite soon. August 14th, in fact.

When I asked my "best friend since I was five" Mel to be my maid of honour, I thought a lot about what type of person she is and what she means to me. She is a strong, intelligent, compassionate woman who loves the outdoors. No matter how much time passes between us, it takes all of ten seconds to reconnect.

I've been designing my own shrug for the big event (post coming soon, if I finish it in time) and this of course involved scouring the web for stitch patterns. In true yarn addict style, I found and bought yarn long before I had a pattern. In this case, I had snatched up some discontinued Debbie Bliss 100% silk from the sale bin at Loop.

But that, my friends, is a whole other kettle of knit.

I wanted to knit something lovely for Melissa, but at the same time I wanted the gift to be practical.  She isn't the delicate lace shawl type. In my pattern searching, I found the Daisy Stitch Hand Warmers pattern by Whitney van Nes. I hadn't come across this pattern before, though it's been around quite some time. I fell in love with it.

It seems like a funny knit for summertime, but hey! I’m odd like that. I knew that my truck driving, outdoor loving, black dog owning friend would make much use of them.

For once I had a pattern before I had the yarn. Off I traipsed to Loop, at their new Camden Passage location. There I became enamored with Rowan Lima.

Rowan Lima is amazing to knit with. It’s so soft. The stitch doesn’t have as much definition as it would in a crisper wool, but I liked the effect. With black dog hair friendly colours in hand, I set about knitting.

I have to say that this is the second of Whit's knits I've done, and both patterns have been absolutely wonderful. Easy to follow, great accompanying photos for help, and a fabulous finished product. Most of all, it was fun.

Now I have my present in hand, and enough yarn for another pair. I have the sneaking suspicion the next pair will end up in my own collection.

Now to finish my shrug!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Myself in Stitches

One morning, in the course of my Groundhog Day-like routine of feeding, changing, and entertaining the Droplet, I received a Stitch London newsletter. That bastion of devious yarny goodness always manages to lift my spirits, even though I've not been able to attend many events since the offspring's arrival.

Apart from Gertrude's snarky advice and the meeting announcements was a call for participation. A challenge, an opportunity, particularly for geeky narcissists such as me.

Stitch a small version of myself? Send it to Stitch London? Have my mini doppelganger displayed in the Science Museum in London? I am all over that.

So all over that I was that, after my reading was interrupted by baby demands, I promptly forgot all about it.

Thank goodness for Twitter. Without the constant prodding of certain tweeples, the stitched ponddrop would never have seen the light of day, let alone the inside of the Science Museum.

After several disastrous attempts at magic loop, I switched to dpns and managed to knit myself a body. After that, the project took on a life of its own...

...and this blog.

Hi, I'm Mini-Ponddrop. Please excuse my naked state above. I clearly and slowly (using small words) explained to my larger self that this was completely unacceptable. Whilst she is a competent knitter of large garments and articles, she had no idea how to go about clothing such a minute and fine figure.

Luckily she consulted me. In my infinite wisdom, I suggested a simple silk evening frock. After all, I wanted to look my best for an evening at the Science Museum. There might be some handsome mini people about. My giantess agreed, and set about fashioning a frock using thread, needle, and somewhat questionable sewing skills.

The finished product was almost acceptable. However, given the unpredictability of London weather, I argued that a coat would be necessary for the journey. She agreed, but her coat knowledge was limited to the creation of Sylvi, her pride and joy. Why could she not make a small one for me?

Still, I felt something was missing. What could it be? Why, a mini version of the droplet, of course. How could we forget the force of nature that turned our lives upside down?

The droplet agreed, and picked a bright red shade for her knitted blanket. No pink, thank you very much.

Makeup in place, it was time to make my way to meet some like-minded mini others.
Emerging from the piles of envelopes, we decided that a pre-party was in order.
(photo courtesy of Deadly Knitshade)

We've sufficiently recovered from absorbing all that alcohol (being made of wool is handy) and are on our way to the Science Museum for one night of glory. Join me tomorrow night!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Backlog of FOs

It's been awhile, yes yes. I'm still using the excuse of having a baby as an explanation for my lack of posts.

I have, however, managed to sneak in the time to finish a few WIPs lying despondently around the house.

The Springtime Bandit shawl/scarf was an epic project for me. For some reason, I just couldn't get into the pattern. I don't like charts that only show half the rows, for one thing. I also didn't like the roaming stitch markers.

The yarn almost made up for it, though. The Berroco Ultra Light Alpaca in fingering weight is what I chose, anticipating a lighter and lacier finished product. Alpaca is so warm, a thin layer would do.

Well, enough chitter chatter, on to the yarn porn!
The colour of the yarn is brilliant, and it was wonderful to work with.  A bit splitty if I wasn't paying attention, but that's my own inability to concentrate and no fault of the yarn. I am very pleased with the final result, but it's not a knit I enjoyed. I can't explain exactly why; perhaps because it wasn't relaxing.

I also finished the Squash hat pattern from 101 Designer One Skein Wonders for my baby. There is a surplus of Rowan DK Cashsoft in my stash so I decided to make something quick and easy whilst on the train.

That's her, modelling it when she's several days old. Unfortunately there isn't much call for a warm woolly hat at this time of year. She's worn it several times, but it may be passed on to a winter baby. The pattern was easy to follow and it was a quick knit. There is a definite squee factor when you see it on a tiny head!

Currently I'm working on a Tomten jacket for the droplet in cotton. She needs a light summer jacket. No pink, though. We've been inundated with pink. It's a nice, in your face red. I've also been knitting her a pair of legwarmers, since trousers are almost impossible to wrestle on and off.

I've also been working away at a Stitched Self for the Stitch London Science Museum shenanigans. I will post about that in the very near future. I'm very please with how the little me is turning out!

My big project of the moment is a design for my wedding shrug. I'm currently swatching lace and stitch patterns, and hope to cast on soon!

Monday, May 10, 2010

I love Dalston

This poster made my day.

It's on Kingsland Road, visible southbound, after several large Tory campaign posters.  I know, I know, I need to update this blog with my recent knitting, but I had a baby, so cut me some slack! More posts this week.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Use the force!

Baby Yoda sweater is complete.

The rabbit stole the matching booties.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Lazy blogger

I haven't posted here since my birthday, I know.  I think I'm still suffering from a Ravelympics finished objects to report.

In terms of projects, I cast on the baby Yoda sweater by Cari Luna, which I have completed but for the seaming. I seamed the body pieces together, but the sleeves are proving a bit tricky to line up. Once I've succeeded at that, I'll have something to post. 

The mini-me is due to arrive in three weeks, so it's been baby cast on time. My current commute knit project is the baby squash hat by Tamara Del Sonno, which will hopefully be completed in my last four days of work next week!

You might think that I've been neglecting all my blogging duties, but I actually donned my other OTHER blogging identity of late to rant about non knitting related items.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Screw you, soothsayer.

It is the Ides of March.  It is my birthday. I am 30.

Eat cake.

That is all.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Harder than it looks

I ventured into the land of hand spinning yarn on Sunday.  I have long admired spinners from afar, but haven't been able to jump into it myself.

I threw my fears into the River Lea and made my way to Finsbury Park for a "learn to spin" class at the Handweavers Studio.

During the course of the day, I tackled the tasks of carding fleece, preparing fiber, spinning by hand, spinning on a wheel, and plying my creations together.  The result?

Yarn Frankenstein.

Yes, that's one hank. I call it two ply, five colour, multiple gauge novelty merino.

Will I venture into spinning again? I'm not certain.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Ravelympics gold medal finish

I am exhausted. A combination of the flu, two gold medal curling matches, and a nail biting ice hockey goal medal match are to blame. In honour of the Canadian medal haul, I started and finished a last minute baby bootie project in Team Canada colours. My bundle to be will wear them with pride...or baby like indifference.  Better photos after I recover.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Ravelympics, Part Deux

As my second Ravelympics project, I tackled the lovely Owls pattern by Kate Davies. I've been admiring the pattern for quite some time, and purchased it finally this month, particularly because it was one of the Help for Haiti patterns.

Enough babbling, time for yarn porn!
I extended the bottom ribbing and added several rows of colour to the bottom, yoke, and sleeves.  I also added length in the torso to make it a bit longer for my slightly odd shaped body.  As the yarn was quite chunky and warm, I decided to make short sleeves instead of long ones, figuring I'd get more wear out of it that way. 

I also eliminated the short row shaping at the neck and did only 1.5 inches of ribbing to finish, because I liked the wider neckline. 

I haven't put eyes on my owls, as the buttons I had selected looked rather alarming.  I'm going a-button hunting tomorrow, but if none appear I'm quite satisfied with the no-button look.  It is rather odd to sport blind owls though, I must admit.

The yarn, Sirdar Click Chunky, was quite easy to knit with and is fairly soft for an acrylic blend. I am looking forward to having such an easy care handknit sweater, to be honest.  It isn't a Cadillac of yarn, that's for certain, but it knit up quite well and on gauge for me.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Just a hometown girl at heart

Though I may look like a stylish London woman (in the dark, if you squint, and don't look directly at me) I grew up in rural Canada.  More specifically, the eastern province of New Brunswick, which borders the Atlantic Ocean and the much more famous provinces of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island.

I'm not surprised if you haven't heard of New Brunswick.  The entire province has a population of less than a million people.  You might be missing something very special, though, so I thought I'd let you in on a few NB knitting secrets in my next few posts.

This past Christmas I was grasping at last minute knitting present straws, casting about looking for something to knit for my brother in law.  As a last resort, I decided to try my hand at knitting socks.

Having avoided socks like the plague in the past, I decided I needed some expert advice. I scurried through the cold to Yarns on York in Fredericton, a lovely knitty haven in the historic downtown.

The very helpful Trish led me to some sufficiently manly self striping yarn, then asked about my needle preference. I confessed to the sin of not owning any dpns at all. Not a problem, it seems.

On the back wall I found a selection of needles, but my eye was immediately caught by the words, "Rocky Brook Needles." I know that brook, I thought. 

Upon closer examination, I discovered the needles were handcrafted in New Brunswick, using NB wood products and recycled packaging.  Sold!

I won't comment on the socks, as they are still unfinished and never made it into anyone's Christmas parcel. I tried to take a photo, but my camera rebelled.  Needless to say good equipment is not enough to make a finished product.  The needles, however, are fantastic. 

I enjoy wooden needles because of their warmth in the hand.  These particular ones are birch, though they are also available in walnut and cherry.  The finish is almost perfect, smooth with just that right amount of friction to keep the stitches flowing smoothly. 

Don't let the website fool you–these are high quality knitting tools, produced in a sustainable way, in a tiny corner of a large country where unemployment is rife and the young have migrated to make a living.  The heritage shawl pins are stunning.

It makes my heart sing to see such innovation and quality coming from home.  If you are in the market for a special knitting treat, you can't go wrong with Rocky Brook needles.

Stay tuned for more next post on a wooley New Brunswick institution!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Trendy knitting? Middle class? Women only?

Whaaat? Women are KNITTING? IN PUBS?

'Cause the all caps really helps. 

When this Daily Mail article popped up on the Twitterverse, I was immediately suspicious.  After all, it is the Daily Mail. 

One sentence in and I almost stopped.  A Sex and the City reference? Someone definitely didn't do their research on this one.

By paragraph three, I was ready to throw something. That was before the horrid picture even came into view.

Though I'm not a representative of the Stitch and Bitch group mentioned in the article, I am a member.  So I thought I'd point out:

1. We don't just knit in pubs. We knit everywhere. Tube, park, museum, bus, cafe, bakery...
2. We aren't just women.  Men knit too, peeps. 
3. We don't just knit.  We crochet and spin, dye and yarnstorm.
4.  The word sisterhood makes us gag.
5. Middle class? Here I thought we didn't have any class.
6.  There is no mention of cake in this article. We don't want knitting with cocktails. We want knitting with cocktails, tea, cake, and chattiness.

You would think that a reporter writing about a group (which charges no membership or attendance fees) might show up to a meeting before writing such an article. Or perhaps contact several knitters or the organisers for a lovely quote.  Alas, no.  Research is not the forte of modern journalists, it would seem.  But that's a whole other story.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Service Denied

The local coffee shop in Shoreditch has not once but twice managed to get on my nerves this week. Beware the wrath of the blogger.

I'm 31 weeks pregnant. I have, throughout my pregnancy, been drinking a maximum of two cups of coffee a day, which is the recommended limit from the medical community.  For the last several weeks, I've switched to decaf at home. There is no scientific evidence to support that light caffeine consumption has any effect on the baby's development.

Many people feel that they have the right to offer you unsolicited advice or judgment as soon as they discover your pregnant.  Apparently the barista at The Bean is one such person.

Several days ago, a colleague and I went in for an afternoon coffee. I ordered an Americano with milk.  The barista looked me up and down and said, "Decaf?" in a condescending tone. 

"No," I replied.

Off she huffed to make the coffee, which took longer than usual, because SHE MADE ME A DECAF ANYWAY.

Rather than make a scene, I just left.

This morning has been busy at work, so I decided to go for a coffee and a pastry as an escape.  Another barista served me, and happily started making my evilly caffeinated beverage. My blonde friend from several days ago retrieved the coffee, again looked me up and down, and huffed. Set the coffee in front of me without a word, gave me a dirty look, and went back to doing whatever self righteous baristas do when they aren't serving customers.

This is a good point to start ranting and raving, but you've all heard it before.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Olympic Victory!

Last night, I finished my Travelling Woman shawl, and I'm so pleased with the result.  I didn't get a chance to photograph it properly, but here is a shot from my phone to tide over until the weekend.


and a closeup of sorts:


The colours are off, and don't really do the yarn justice.  It was a treat to knit with, Manos del Uruguay Silk Blend. My only beef was finding five knots in one skein.  Sigh. 

Monday, February 15, 2010

Finished! Sylvi!

Okay, I bit the bullet and sewed it all up.  Presenting my version of Sylvi!

Friday, February 12, 2010


Tonight the Olympics begin.

I love the Olympics.  They even top the Stanley Cup final in the race for favourite sporting event to watch.

What is it about the Olympics that is so inspiring?  Watching these athletes give their all, I am inspired, energised. As a child, I remember setting cross country ski courses across our yard and drawing up swimming schedules for "training," briefly adhered to but created out of a determination to be part of the action someday.

In fact, I was a small part of the 1988 Calgary Olympic Games. Small part in that I was only 8 years old, and I carried the actual Olympic torch as the relay made its way through New Brunswick. My memory of the event is fuzzy, though I do recall the torch was extremely heavy and that it is hard to run on a snowy highway with snowboots whilst carrying something that is on fire.

However, this time around, I've chosen to participate in a different way. I'm an actual competitor this time in the Ravelympics. The Short Track Shawl event, to be precise, for Team Stitch and Bitch London.

Ravelympics, you ask? Why, you must not be a knitter.  The online knitting community Ravelry hosts their very own stitching Olympics concurrent to the sporting event.

What does this mean? Knitters, crocheters, and spinners choose a project, choose a wittily named event, and cast on during the opening ceremonies.  The goal is to complete the project by the close of the Olympics.

Not that I'll be staying up until 2 am to cast on my Travelling Woman shawl, mind you, but I'll be doing so first thing tomorrow morning.

So I'm doubly excited to begin my first shawl (which I hope to wear to my wedding next summer) and watch Canada go for gold. The cursing level may reach an all time high, particularly if I'm knitting during the hockey games.

Let the Games begin!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Listening to the little guy

It was approximately noon today I first received wind of the Paperchase plagarism allegations via Twitter.  It went something like this:

"Handmade heroes, get behind a good cause. Paperchase rips off @HiddenEloise design? Email them #paperchase"

Always one to trot after a distraction, I clicked through and read the artist's blog complaint. An interesting, yet unfortunately not unique tale of an independent artist alleging a version of his/her work was duplicated by a larger company for a mass market. In this case, the British giant Paperchase was the recipient of the criticism.

It's now close to 4pm, and a Twitterstorm has emerged. Outraged Tweeple have made #paperchase a global trending topic, and the story is hitting the blogs (ahem) as we speak.

This post isn't about the injustice done when an artist work is not compensated, though I would feel much sympathy as a musician, songwriter, and artist myself. Nor is it about the unscrupulous theft of design components amongst designers and companies.

It's about common sense and the serious way our society undervalues creative copyright.

I do not know @HiddenEloise. I do not know Paperchase.  I don't even know a tenth of this story. 

What I do know is this.  Paperchase was contacted by an independent artist claiming that their design was wrongfully being used on merchandise. Paperchase did not handle this complaint properly. Even if they did investigate, they did not communicate any results back to @HiddenEloise.

This is rude. This is the outrage.  Had it been a huge design firm making this claim, would Paperchase have taken notice? Perhaps looked into the matter further? Removed the merchandise in question until the situation was resolved?

Independent designers, musicians, and artists have no real tools to fight the theft of their hard work other than through word of mouth and social media. Society demands art and entertainment, but is determined to pay less (or nothing) for it. Meanwhile, the cost of educating those artists, and the cost of the tools required to create their art, continues to rise. Most artists, faced with the theft of their work, can't afford lawsuits, even if the laws exist to support them.

Someone download your music illegally?  Lift one of your photographs off your website and print it on canvas to sell to the masses? Shrug.  Sucks to be you, not much you can do about it, most people would say.  Your own fault for posting your work where it could be stolen. (How else are could it be sold legally if it isn't visible to the public, I wonder?)

So if @HiddenEloise was left with no alternative but to vent her frustrations online, I completely understand.  However, I wouldn't haul Paperchase to the fire until the true story about the art is out in the open.  Feel free, though, to burn them because of their customer service. This is certainly something interesting to watch over the next few days.

What it amounts to is a serious public relations debacle for a company with little to no social networking presence. No matter who is at fault (if @HiddenEloise's designs were copied by an external design firm or not, then used by Paperchase) the real story is Paperchase's inability to handle the situation in a prompt and appropriate manner.

The moral of the story? It doesn't matter who you are, or how big you are. If you treat a person unfairly these days, you might just end up in a Twitter tornado, watching your reputation twist into pieces.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Fear of the FO

In knitting speak, the ultimate goal is a perfect FO, or "finished object."  It's an ideal day if one can knit up an article that is on gauge, neatly done, and is ready to wear or use.  Sometimes a project is finished straight off the needles; others require a bit of work.

As a fairly new knitter, I tend to pick projects that teach me a new skill.  When I look at a pattern, I don't think, "ooh, I don't know how to do that," I think, "ooh, I want that. I'll just figure it out as I go along." So far I've managed to muddle my way through several projects quite successfully, though I've learned that I have difficulty staying true to a pattern.

Are all knitters like this? Do they wander astray? Look, I started a post about finishing projects and ended up talking about wandering away from patterns.  The two subjects do come to a head in my current UFO (unfinished object) and are now driving me crazy.

Over the past few months, I've been knitting Sylvi by Mari Miunonen. If you haven't seen this pattern, it is an absolutely gorgeous cabled sweater jacket featured in Twist Collective. It's become one of the most popular patterns on Ravelry, and was nominated for Best Use of Texture in this year's Bobby Awards.

I started stalking the pattern.  I poured over other people's project posts, scoured forum threads for different colour and yarn ideas, and generally convinced myself that I could in fact knit it for myself. Being a rather unselfish knitter, I'd not yet completed a nice piece of knitting that was all my own.  About damn time, I thought.

So I jumped in.  I bought the pattern (ahem, along with several others, Twist is addictive) and started looking for yarn.  Before I began I decided to turn the sweater into a winter jacket of sorts. With the right wool and a lining, I reckoned, it would keep me cozy during the windy London winter (first pattern deviation.)

A little self conscious about the sheer volume of yarn I needed to buy, I decided to go the more economical route of doubling up Cascade Yarns Heathers 220 (second deviation from the pattern.) I got gauge and headed off into the unknown.

Now, four months later, I'm staring at the top of a massive yarn mountain, scared to scale those last few metres to the top. I've knit all the pieces and seamed them together. While the pieces aren't quite to size, the jacket is more than roomy enough and will block out easy enough.  I've knit all the petals for the flowers (in a contrasting colour, 500th deviation from the pattern) and sewn half of them on.

Really, all I need to do is sew on the two smaller flowers, the beautiful buttons I found at Loop, and block it.  Since I've been warned the pattern stretches, I wanted to wear it a few times before I line it, just to make sure I need to. The lining fabric is cut and pieced.

It's been sitting on the couch, staring me in the face, since Sunday.  I can't finish it.

Once I finish it, I will wear it.  Then my knitting skills will be on display for the entire world to see.  Will they see the multiple mistakes in the back seed stitch? Will they notice the large panel I had to add to get row gauge? My inability to pay attention across more than two rows of the pattern, which results in wonky leaves and questionable crossovers?

Probably not.  But I'm afraid to journey into the world of "real" knitters, in case I find I'm not worthy.  Knowing that knitters are a quirky and accepting bunch, this is a completely unfounded fear, but I have it all the same.

Tonight I will steel myself for the task. I will sew on those petals and buttons, and journey forth into the land of the FO.  What awaits me there, I do not know.  I'm hoping it's as satisfying as this chocolate cupcake I'm about to eat.