Thursday, January 12, 2017

Throw back... is it Thursday?

In the spirit of "Throw Back Thursday" (or is it Tuesday? I can't keep up with the kids these days) I'm putting up a baby sweater that I knit probably close to 10 years ago.

When I was in grad school, there was a woman whose job it was to deal with the administrative side of grad students.  Along with reviewing our grant applications she also made sure that we were following the rules when it came to what was technically needed to complete our degrees.

That and she was genuinely a nice person.  So when she decided that she was starting a family of her own, I couldn't resist.  Gender unknown, and doing this all on her own, this woman set out to be a Mom.

There are things I vaguely remember from grad school (sleepless nights, committee meetings, and other things), but what I remember most are the people who made a difference.

Marija - Graduate Student Administrator - and way back with her unborn child, were two people that were important to me.  She was a kind, unbelievably intelligent, and caring person with a baby on the way.  I was a disillusioned grad student with few prospects on the horizon.

But this person that I held in high regard was having a baby.  And she was going to be a great Mom.  And therefore I needed to knit.

When I originally knit this baby sweater, said little one was still in untero.  When I left grad school Mom was just coming back to work (having also gone back to school in the middle for a few years).  And even if it was 5 years ago, I still every so often think about her and the now child whom she is caring for.

Dearest little one, you will probably never meet me, but know that your Mom is a really good person.  I know that your Mom was and probably still is a hardworking, caring, loving person.  If you look back through you baby pictures and come across this sweater, know that it was knit by someone who really believes that you are in the best of hands and that your Mom is pretty cool.  If you are a teenager when you find this, please bookmark it and come back in your twenties.  It might not seem important now, but it sure was at the time.

I made this sweater for you, just because you were the child of someone that I cared for.

Knitters, I can't find the pattern, but I'm pretty sure it was out of a page-a-day calendar.  Originally it was knit all in one colour, but with baby expected in the fall, there was no way that I couldn't change up the leaves.  The yarn was Cascade 220 (I only know because I found the left overs very recently).  Don't ask me what colours, I'm not good with tags!

Dear child (for infant and toddler you are no longer) I really do wish you the best.  And if you find this picture, remind me to your mother.  She is awesome.

Friday, December 30, 2016

The Most Interesting Gift

The middle sister in our family, Alison, is a lot of interesting things.  I could (and frequently do) boast about all of the fascinating things that she's done in her life, but today I would like to focus on just one.

My sister, along with becoming a slightly-crazy cat lady (current count 3), is also well on her way to becoming a crazy chicken lady.  At current count she has over a dozen birds of all number of types.  Not just chickens either.  There were pheasants and quail for a while.  Now, keeping the chickens company are 2 peahens and a peacock. 

When am I going to get to the bit about the Most Interesting Gift?  Wait for it...

A friend (and country neighbour) of Alison's has 3 charming children.  They all love the chickens too.  In fact they adopted one.  The kids named her Smokey Cheeky Fluffy-Pants. 

For Christmas last year Alison gave this friend a pair of fuzzy pajama pants - navy blue with pink spots. 

And then asked me to knit my Most Interesting Gift to date. 

A sweater.

For the chicken.

Navy blue.

With pink spots.


See what I mean?  I think I managed to pull it off ok in the end:

Yup, that is Smokey Cheeky Fluffy-Pants in her new sweater getting comfortable on the new PJ pants.  Not a bad match on the colours either (to my relief, as I actually had never seen the pajamas).

Where's the pattern you may ask?  Right here

As it turns out, battery hens (as commercial laying hens are called over the pond) often lose their feathers.  There are organizations that both adopt out these chickens AND others that provide hand knitted sweaters to keep them warm in the mean time, providing a pattern to any who wish to use it.

Sizing a chicken for a sweater is no easy task.  For future reference, Cheeky is "a large-ish teapot".

And no, there would be NO WAY to get that on over a chicken's head.  You can't see it here, but there are side buttons. 

Did you see the "for now" above?  Another friend has just asked me to design and knit a sweaters for his greyhounds....

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Second Verse...

Right.  Another year, another decent amount of knitting, another ton of work, and another whole lot of not enough time.

I can't believe that it was a year ago that I put up the last baby sweater project.  Seems like I might as well continue the tradition of repeating myself.

Another one of the service desk girls at work is expecting.  A wee little man will be joining the family in March.  Just like last year, this lovely lady is part of the store family.  She's warm, friendly, and cares very much for her co-workers and our customers.  She's bright, always smiling, and manages to tolerate André when he arrives with buckets of returns and of course no receipts.  AND NOW SHE'S LEAVING FOR A YEAR!!

That's is about where the similarities end between the two ladies though.  Unlike last year (petite, bouncy brunette with a really cute smile), this year's mom-to-be is taller, more reserved, and has the most gorgeous mane of curly red hair.

Just like last year, I knew that I needed to knit something.  This baby is being born to a family that has seen some hard times over the past year.  The last few months at the store have also seen some dramatic and unexpected changes.  It's been hard to look too far forward, there's too much in the way in the right here and now.

So, a magical Saturday morning (not scheduled at the store for an entire weekend, and without asking for it!) I followed André to his Saturday morning curling game.  And as much as I love watching him curl, at 9.50am I promptly bailed on my spectator/cheering section duties and booked it a few blocks south to Yarn Forward.

I had formulated a plan the night before, and it went something like this:

1) Need baby pattern.  Probably sweater, since no time for blanket, but still want something to hug baby with.

2) Mom is mature and a bit on the traditional side.  Even Coffee Beans like last time is too cute.  Perhaps a cardigan...

3) Scott/Nordic heritage in Mom just BEGS for something with cables.  But modern rather than traditional.  Perhaps in a more structural type pattern.

3) Spend hours on Ravelry.


Cute, but almost too traditional


Really adorable, but not a fan of lace for this little man.  However, forest green with red hair...


Ooooo cute! But cotton... not quite what I want.  And the pattern is in French.  This isn't really a problem thanks to my Ontario schooling (and the wonderfulness that is Google Translate).


 PERFECT!!!!!! Cables, but interesting not quite traditional.  Available in 1 year size (I always aim for 1 year, small babies take longer to get there, big babies haven't out grown it yet).  In fingering yarn.  Bonus free pattern.

4) Note the yardage requirements on phone (likely 2 sock skiens, but not use near all of them.  Pick colour I like, may get bonus socks from second skien). 

5) Get really smart and toss needles in my bag so that I can cast on while watching curling.  Hit genius level of organized, include tablet AND charger so I can look up the pattern on something larger than my phone. 

Shopping was a huge success - and in short order 2 skiens of Cascade Heritage Sock in a vine green (creatively named #5612) were in my hands.  I even remembered to ask to have one wound before I left!  I was feeling mighty proud of myself as I hiked back to the curling club.  Perfect pattern, perfect yarn, I couldn't wait to get started.

Back at the club I passed the as yet not open bar (really, 11 am?  Who comes up with these laws?) and settle back in to my seat at the end of André's sheet.  Gather yarn, needles, open tablet to ravelry, select "get pattern here"...

Remember how I said I was feeling mighty proud of myself?  Thinking my self clever for remembering tablet AND needles?  Getting the perfect FREE pattern?  And fantastic yarn?

About that pattern.  The link in Ravelry opens to what looks like an online knitting magazine archive pattern page.  Pattern is all there along with links for downloadable charts.

And every last word of it is in DANISH. 

Once the dark spots had cleared from my vision and my breathing and heart rate returned to something resembling normal, the little creature in the back of my brain blew a giant raspberry and wandered away muttering something about the karmic future of "clever" people. 

Thankfully, there are amazing websites in the world that will take not only individual words, but whole collections of text and translate them for you!  I might still be saved!

Turns out that knitting patterns in Danish are remarkably similar to knitting patterns in just about every other language.  That is, they are written in a language completely their own, which consists almost entirely of acronyms.  But still, between an approximate translation, a really nice chart, and some basic common sense (Front + Back M (140) 160 (184) is probably CO that many for each size...) I muddled my way through.

There was a brief moment of panic as I split for the armholes and completely lost my ability to count, but it turned out in the end.  I'm not quite convinced that it's actually a size 1 year (maybe closer to 9 months) but that might be more due to my complete lack of regard for guage swatches in this instance. 

Behold!  A wee Danish now English old man sweater!

Just like for the rest of the project, I wanted buttons that were traditional-ish but still interestingly almost modern.  A quick trip down to Wool-Thyme (they are celebrating 30 years!!!) and I left with these little abstract wooden toggles.  More perfect to finish off the darling little bit of cuteness! And I will have you know that not even one ball of discount sock yarn followed me home.  This time. 

The shower for the little one was a few weeks back.  Mom's last day of work was at the end of January, although she's been in a few times to say hi.  We'll all just waiting for the day to hear about the new little man in this world, and I can't wait to meet him! 

I really hope he gets his Mom's hair.  Redheaded men are just the most handsome.  Right André?

Monday, February 2, 2015

Ground Hog Day

Tradition would have us believe that today is the day that a medium sized rodent will (with some prodding) emerge from his cozy abode and enlighten us on our imminent climate future... aka the poor creature will see his shaddow or not, but this is Canada, and realistically, there are weeks and weeks of winter left to go.

Now if Hollywood is to believed (and why would they lie to us?) it is also a day where life may repeat itself over and over until you get it right.  While this wouldn't be too bad if you didn't know it was occurring,  Bill Murray would probably have some things to say about knowing it was going over and over again. 

It's not really surprising that in the depths of this Canadian winter, we would have all gone a wee bit crazy and be willing to bet the remaining shards of our sanity on a happy prediction from our furry friend, it is still Canada, and if spring is only 6 weeks away, that's still a pretty good deal.

But on the life repeating itself theme, we've got you covered.  Remember a few years ago when we tore apart our master bedroom?  Well it's (mostly) done, and beautiful, and now completely packed with all of our worldly goods from the back two bedrooms of our lovely townhouse.  We've done it again, and since business is slow for Andre and hours are scarce for me, why wouldn't we deplete what few financial reserves we have left and make ourselves feel better by tearing out the back bedrooms for new flooring, paint, baseboards, and most importantly a redistribution of space.

Until this week we had: 1 spare bedroom, with little heat (baseboard only and since it's just the two of us, we close the door and bet it won't get too much below 9C in there), and 1 office/yarn room/junk storage space, with heat, but so poorly organized, its a wonder I got anything done in there. 

Add to the mix a condo "improvement" project in which while the condo replaces the siding in the project, they are also upgrading the wall insulation from non-existent code-compliant at the time, to more efficient spray foam.  And we are scheduled for this coming spring.

So, new plan.  Move everything out of those rooms.  Tear out the cheep laminate floor we installed like 8 years ago.  Replace with nicer, thicker, better laminate.  Take out all baseboards and upgrade, along with new paint and blinds/curtains.  The former spare room will become a dedicated office - all business things will be in there and NO WHERE else. 

The larger back bedroom will become the spare room, AND ALSO A space for just me YARN ROOM. 

Andre has had one half of the basement to call his own since we moved in, but it occurred to us a while ago, that I've never had a place to call mine and only mine.  And while I might have to occasionally share with space with visiting friends and loved ones, it's a small price to pay for a room where I can store all the yarn that will fit and close the door so no-one else will see. 

I was going to take before pictures, but the rooms were such a mess that it hardly seemed worth it.  And so at some point I will post some pictures of my new yarn room, but in the mean time, there are a million little nail holes that want filling, and I'm back to work tomorrow. 

And Andre has a cold. This isn't getting done in the next few weeks is it...

Friday, January 30, 2015

Bouncy Boy

Back in the spring we took part in another Skanes Migration, this time to Manitoulin Island in memory of Nanny.  There was a gift exchange and much family love.  And what I didn't mention at the time was also much knitting.

One of the girls at work was expecting in the fall, and since she had previously expressed an interest fascination with hand-knits and wishing she had family members that knit, I couldn't not knit something!!  She's a very crafty person herself and was creating a nursery full of teals and turquoise and gray and silver for the arrival of the little bundle of baby boy.  She even had me mix the paint.  You better believe I pocketed the chips for future reference.

Off me and these paint chips toddle to Yarn Forward and Sew On on Bank St with my mother-in-law in tow (yes, baby pattern in hand, and yes, disappointing her thoroughly that I wasn't knitting a grand-baby for her). I'd been looking around online for ages trying to find just the right pattern.  Little one's mom and dad both were younger, but hard working, down to earth but creative types.  I wanted something traditional that could be made more hip with a twist.

And the little one himself was apparently a bit of a bouncer.  He wasn't too thrilled that Mom spent part of her days sitting at her desk and would bounce around until he hit something sensitive (bladder, kidney, rib cage...) it didn't matter what as long as it got Mom up and moving again.

Then I found  Coffee Bean by Elizabeth Smith.  Adorable stripped button up cardigan - classic.  Pair with charcoal and turquoise Cascade 220 - much trendier.

Add about 10 hours of driving time (to Manitoulin and part way back) and you get:

Now tuck in ends (thankfully short stripes meant that I could strand rather than have a million little ends to hide), add cute little black and silver buttons, and give it a good bath:

The baby shower was at the end of August, and months later Mom, Dad, and little baby boy are doing well.  She's very missed at the store, but she and he come by and just melt everybody's hearts.

And he's apparently just as bouncy now as he was in utero.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Standing Tall

This one's new enough to not quite count as a Throw Back contribution, but then again it is a project that has been started, finished, blocked, and transported halfway across the province to the intended recipient.  Thank you emails and care instructions have also been exchanged.

Last year was a rough one for us, and interestingly (or predictably) my knitting suffered.  By the summer I really wasn't knitting much of anything at all... A baby sweater and a couple of pairs of socks in the WIP/UFO basket.  The summer was insane and crazy and just seemed unending, but into the fall and I was knitting again (see previous about socks).

At one point over some wine in Manitoulin, André's Aunt Carol and I were talking about knitting and socks, and how her feet and hands are always cold and how she's really into crafty things, but knitting just wasn't something she ever did much of (although you should see the cross-stitch art in her place, unbelievable).

Well then, hint taken and once I was back on the knitting train, it was time to hunt up some patterns!

Aunt Carol is one of those rock-like people in our lives.  She and her husband Terry are level headed, down-home, smart, grounded, forces of nature.  They are such a great partnership, and André and I hope that once we've been together as long as they have, that we'll have a relationship something like theirs.  Oh, and now they have 2 little grandbabies too!

Cold feet want warm real wool love, and I wanted to give Aunt Carol something that reflected how we see her and her family.  I wanted to give her socks that would last forever, in a pattern that was subtle and interesting but solid (aka no lace) and preferably in local(ish) yarn.

Elm by Cookie A fit the bill perfectly.  Long traveling ribs have structural interest without being finicky and help keep the socks snug again the foot.  Now partner that pattern with Briggs & Little DuraSport in Oatmeal.   The result:

Beautiful warm, solid socks that will hopefully last a good long while.

Sorry the picture's not the best... some of the other Aunts were in town over the holidays and volunteered to be sock delivery facilitators, so it was a bit of a rush block/dry/pictures/package for sending.  They have requested their own socks as payment.  I'd best get on those.

Stand tall (with warmer toes) Aunt Carol and know that you are an inspiration to us.  Love, Jen

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Backup A Minute Here

So yet again I find myself writing another "I can't believe it's been so long since I posted anything" post.  And thinking that I don't really have that much to say.  But it isn't really true, it's getting to the point where I have so many projects in various stages (and a slightly staggering number actually finished, blocked, and already given away) that I'm hitting the point where I don't know where to really start.

There's been some more baby stuff (no, not for me, sorry mother-in-law), some interesting very different side projects, and a whole whack of socks.  Lots of socks.  If it wasn't for the baby stuff I'd start wondering if all I knew how to knit were socks.  Even most of the recent UFO sightings in the stash are socks!

Andre and I have talked, and while we don't normally do this, we've decided on a not-quite New Years resolution.  This year will be better.  It will be a fresh start.  We will get things done, we will move on, and we will do better than just survive.

So I've just dumped the yarn related contents of my phone camera, and our good camera into a huge folder. I'm going to start sorting through them and writing blog posts.  Some of this stuff is from a while (years!) ago, but I never got around to sharing.  Another surprising bunch is from the past fall when (sock) knitting reentered my life with a vengeance.  But mostly, I just want to get this stuff off the "I should do that" list.  I have a few hours before work, so here it goes.

For my birthday, as is becoming custom, I got a yarn store gift card.  And so off I trundled to Wool Thyme with the vague notion of wanting more self-striping sock yarn.  I'm often looking for a pocket project to take to family gatherings, the movies, etc, and socks are so super easy.  A couple of balls of Patons later (and probably some stuff out of the discount bin, but with the wool fumes, my memory is a bit hazy) I had my fix.

Fast forward to October and the Annual Carleton University Butterfly Show.  This show has been going on for as long as I can remember, and through my volunteering at the university, I became intimately involved in the coordinating of 1200 school kids and teachers for guided tours.  Three years in a row.

Even though I've long graduated, and there isn't really much pulling me back to the building for visits (just about everybody I knew then has graduated and is gone), this show is essential.  While I can't work the week days like I used to, I'm there open to close both weekends.  We have 12,000 visitors, and while Ed the Amazing does what he can, there are a number of volunteers (Jim & Catherine, Rick, Ed's family, and some core Let's Talk Science volunteers) that just appear every year to help out.

For many years I was a smoker, and so was more than willing to spend most of my volunteering time outside "working the lines".  Basically I am entertainment for the crowds as they wait upwards of 2 hours just to get in.  It means that I do a lot of talking and answering the same half dozen questions over and over and over again ("what happens when the show is over?" "how many species" "what's happening to the monarch butterflies" etc).

This year, without smoking to keep me entertained until the crowds get really going I brought my knitting.  I figured I would get a couple of rounds on one pair of socks, but low and behold over 2 weekends I had knit 3 whole socks!

Pair #1 in a lovely set of greens and purples had originally been intended to land in either a gift box or for me.  But Ed's wife mentioned how much she loves green, and so the "maybe for later" gift was carefully wrapped up and left in a little bag on Ed's doorknob with care instructions.  Plain, fraternal, self-striping warmness.  And their daughter wants me to teach her to knit next year!

Pair #2 which saw 1 sock knit and the second just started the second weekend of the show became a Christmas gift for my darling friend Christine (of Irate Avian fame).  We're curling again this season, and she's picked up a second night and may have hinted at a second pair to keep her warm.

You'll note that these are identical socks.  I don't normally knit identical socks from self-striping yarns, I normally can't be bothered since it needs to be perfect.  Christine is one of those friends that will not only appreciate the identical-ness, but that it's not normally something I do and will so treasure them a wee bit more.

Oh, and in case you missed it, I did use smoking in the past tense.  Today makes one whole year - 365 days - without a single cigarette.  It was rough for a while, and I didn't want to mention earlier in case we fell off the wagon, but if it's good enough for the insurance companies, it's good enough for us.

André and I are ONE YEAR SMOKE FREE.

I'm proud of us.

And little Hunter of Arr Baby fame and his first birthday party last weekend.  It was pirate themed! Apparently he loves the outfit, so much that his parents provided a coordinating hat.  Too much cuteness!