sausage

How does that old American proverb go… “There are two things you don’t want to see being made – sausages and laws.”

Well, I’m starting to think knitted toys (or at least this one) are actually sausages! They may look all shiny and polished (and yummy) from  outside…

But if you take a look behind the scenes, you’ll regret it.

And possibly have nightmares about The Attack of Mutant Knitted Toys!

Sweet dreams and a very wonderful week to you all!

on knitting, business, and being a woman

I’ve heard of her name many times. I’ve followed links to her blog posts, read them and agreed wholeheartedly (or was thoroughly amused) with many of them. I don’t know why it has taken me so long to subscribe to her blog in my Reader, but I finally did. And then, just a few days later, I discovered on it a post that is just so damn bang on.

Now I can say it, by Yarn Harlot

Most of us here are hobby-knitters. Myself fully included. And I love it for what it is to me. But my hobby also depends on the people for whom it is a business. Yes, it’s a business for the people who breed the sheep and create the yarn I knit with. Yes, it’s a business for the people who write the patterns I buy online. Yes, it’s a business for the people who write the books I learn my skills from. And there’s nothing dirty or un-nice about that. Just because it’s a business doesn’t mean it can’t be done with passion and love for the craft and the community.

I can’t help disliking the word “business” any more than the next person, I guess it’s just intrinsic in the society we live in today. But I dislike the stereotypes Yarn Harlot writes about much much more. Read the post. I promise it’ll give you some good food for thought during your hobby-knitting weekend.

knitty animals in the Belgian countryside

A few weeks before the holidays, my friends and I put into action a longstanding plan: we rented a cottage in the Belgian countryside for the weekend and left the chaos of Brussels behind us for a few days. It was only a weekend, but the amount of relaxation and calm we got out of it made it feel as if we had been there for much longer. It was just what we all needed. We spent most of our time sleeping, cooking together and eating great food (some of it bought directly from friendly local farmers).

After all the rest and food, we’d go off and explore our surroundings. Though it was chilly we took a few very long walks, and were rewarded with some wonderful sights.

But one thing that made me even happier was the fact that we ran into many sweet animals. I grew up in the countryside, but I have to say that animals seem to have taken on a completely new shape in my thinking since I’ve become a knitter. When I see a sheep, I no longer see just a farm animal, but associate with it all the joys that I derive from my knitterly pursuits.

Sheep wool is after all my topmost preferred material. And when I see this many sheep, well, I can’t help but think: stash! :)

And imagine my surprise and exhilaration when we came across these!

I’m not sure if they’re lamas or alpacas (the former seems more likely), but they were adorable and I just wanted to run up to them and hug them (though the electric fence was pretty efficient in preventing me from doing that). Especially this little black feller. Just look at him, all you can see is black. :D Cutesy pie.

In the end we ran into some chickens too. Not that I’ve heard of chicken yarn before, but you never know what they’ll come up with next… ;)

I’m curious, has the way you think about animals changed as a result of your knitting?

toyz

One of my intentions (see how I cleverly avoided the R word there? ;) this year is to start knitting toyz. I bought my first pack of stuffing about a year ago, with the same intention, but nothing came of it for a long time. Well things are about to change! One of the impeti (impetuses?) was the realisation that there are going to be many babies popping up around me quite soon. Another was this adorable little feller published in Ysolda’s new installment of the Whimsical Little Knits publications. And guess what – he’s already under way!

He may not look like much yet, but he’s already capable of making a big mess!

Yes, this project involves a tiny little bit of intarsia, which is a completely new thing for me, so things have been getting a little tangled. But nothing too bad! I’m certainly emboldened by the pace at which this little one is growing and there will most definitely be many more to follow him. When you think about it, knitted toys are really just like very very small garments – the outer shell itself is really rather small, it’s the stuffing that gives them the image of being large projects.

If you are interested in what other toy patterns I plan on making, you can take a look at my toy queue on Ravelry. And if you have favourite knitted toy patterns that I have missed, please do let me know about them!

garmentless buttons

It was 8 September when I told you the story of my adventures at the Braderie de Lille, which ended with a box full of some lovely buttons. It’s sad, my friends, that I’ve only managed to photograph the buttons four and a half months later, but better late than never, eh? So, without any further ado, here are the lovelies I snatched up from that box and bought for some ridiculously small amount of money (if I remember correctly, the vendor had even given me a further discount simply because I hadn’t had the exact change to pay him in coins…).

Mismatched, yet matching.

Art Deco…

Star Trek :D

Large red tones…

Three of a kind

And my favourite colour combination lately – green and blue!

Pulling them out again and setting them in front of my camera reminded me how much I had loved these in the first place. I really must knit some garments to go with them!

second mitten syndrome

Tonight at knit group, one of the ladies who hadn’t attended in a while glanced at my knitting and went: “You’re still knitting those mittens?!” And she was right, though only partially. Yes, the last time she had been there, about two months ago, I was working on my Fiddleheads. But where she was wrong was that I’m not working on them still – I am working on them again. Oh yeah, after I finished the first one, I got me some of that good ol’ second mitten syndrome! Funny how I don’t get that with socks… Well, I better not say that twice! ;)

Anyway, yes, I am working on the second Fiddlehead. And as I navigate the troubled waters of colourwork again, I’d like to say two heartfelt thankyous.

Firstly, to Adrian Bizilia, the designer, for having the brilliance and the foresight to divide the chart into 5×5 squares. It is indescribable how much easier it is to read and follow a chart that is presented like that. So great that it should be made obligatory, by knitterly law, for all charts. Ever.

Secondly, to the several people (both here and in real life) who advised me to try turning my colourwork inside out while I knit. At first the idea baffled me, but since I’ve tried it I haven’t gone back. I am now best friends with my floats and my tension.

And I think there might just be a finished pair of mittens soon. Maybe even in time to wear this winter… :)

what happened

What happened was that…

– his father and grandfather took him to see a ski race

– they didn’t have any tissues, plastic bags or anything similar on them

– they had to take the bus up the windy mountain path

– he got nauseous

– there, on the mountain, in the bus, the only “receptacle” they had at hand was the hat

– he puked in the hat (it was that or all over the other passengers)

– the father rubbed out the hat in the snow to clean it a bit

– when they came back home, the father rinsed the hat under hot water to get it a bit cleaner

– when the mother came home, they gave her the hat to wash in the washing machine

– the mother put the hat on the “wool” cycle

– the hat came out of the machine in a size more suitable for a Barbie doll than for an 8-year-old boy

What he did then was that…

– he cried inconsolably

– he spoke to his grandmother, and told her that she must tell on his father to his auntie, and that she must please please somehow convince auntie to knit him another hat for his birthday (which is in a few weeks)

And what happened to auntie then was that…

– her heart filled with joy. A hat can easily be reknit, but to know that it was loved that much, well that is just something you don’t get every day.

handmade for the nest

I will be moving house soon. When I started looking for new places to live, the thought occurred to me that maybe I should move on from the shared house option to a single studio or small flat that would be just for myself. I am after all, no longer a student, I am working and earning money, and I am certainly of the age that merits living in my own flat. The idea, however, was (and still is a bit) scary. I’ve never rented something completely on my own! I’ve always had roommates, flatmates, housemates… and somehow that makes the responsibility and commitment less intense. But then I started thinking about it – not having to share the fridge, the cupboards, the bathroom, organising things by my own rules, decorating to my taste… My little nest. :)

I am still looking for the place. But the daydreaming about how to decorate it has already begun. :) Here are several items that will most definitely have very prominent places! They were gifts from my friends, handmade with me in mind, making me feel all special and warm and fuzzy. Just the kind of things a nest needs!

My friend Caroline made this for my birthday. Not only does it embody who I have been in recent years, but it also reflects Caroline so well (I would recognise her choice of second-hand vintage fabric anywhere!), as well as one of the many things that connects us – our mutual love of craft and handmade.

While Caroline is not only a friend but also a neighbour, this bird came from further away. She was handmade by the inspiring Francesca in Italy. Do not be fooled into thinking she is only beautiful. No, she is nesting among my yarn for another reason as well – her tummy is full of homegrown lavender, and she is making sure the yarn is safe from moths and smells nice as well!

And as for friends even further away, they also get a spot in my little nest – lately I’ve been nurturing the habit of always having some letters or postcards lying around, waiting to be sent off to dear people across the globe, just to remind them that someone is thinking of them… And to make sure they don’t get lost or scattered before they reach the mailman, this little brick pebble, decorated with crochet by Francesca, keeps them in place.

I am continuously grateful to these two wonderful girls for the little treasures they created for me.

And what kind of handmade lovelies play small but essential roles in your nests?

hat to the rescue!

In my last post I wrote about the trouble with finding the right xmas gifts for my friends and family. But even if I had to get three different presents for each and every one of my family members, it would still not be as difficult as finding something for my brother. And I’m not alone. Big Brother has probably received enough aftershave-showergel sets to last him several lifetimes. Simply no one knows what to get him. Ever. In one moment of desperation I even considered simply giving him some money and letting him pick out those elusive things he really wants on his own. But that remains too heartless an option for me (not to mention that I would feel more than a little silly giving a 35-year-old pocket money :D). This year, though, I remembered something that I hadn’t tried before – handmade. And so, after the successful completion of his son’s hat, I decided I had it in me to knit another one in 2 days for my bro.

Stash again came to the rescue (what a wonderful thing!), it turned out that I had two yarns that went great together so all I needed to do was go ahead. Taught by the previous experience, I wove in loose ends as I went and held yarn more loosely at colour changes. I started on December 23rd and thought this knitting would be a great companion to the family rituals of eating, talking and watching TV in the next two days. We usually get together with my brother’s family only in the evening of the 25th, so I had plenty of time to wrap this baby up! My wrist was starting to complain a bit after that much knitknitknitknitknitknitknitknit without any purls or yarn-overs or any sort of other movements (yes, there is such a thing as too much stockinette!), but I was dealing with it ok.

And then the ball dropped. My mother announced that bro and his family had decided to stop over in the evening of the 24th for some joint Christmas cheer and exchanging presents. Whaaaaaaat! I was robbed of a good 24 hours of the race to the finish! Despairing and panicking, I decided that the only reasonable thing to do was wrap what I had – the yarn – along with a sweet note and hope that no offense would be taken for my gift-tardiness. I had read about this solution in so many knitters’ blogs and heard about it in so many knitters’ podcasts that it seemed perfectly normal and even kinda predictable to me.

Well, not to anyone else. That’s not to say Brother didn’t love the gift! He, and everyone else, thought it was an Absolutely Hilarious Best Ever Idea to wrap the yarn. Though we always make a big funny show of opening our gifts (even if they are something reaaaally small, it’s just our little tradition), this reaction will be entered into history books. The surprise, shock and hilarity on my brother’s face were such that my Mom later actually expressed regret that we did not own a video-camera, “precisely for great moments like that”!!! I did not have the heart to admit to everyone that this was not such a crazy original idea as they thought, that I had just nicked it from other knitters… But I guess that’s ok. And if it’s going to cause similar reactions in your loved ones, I definitely recommend that you nick the idea too… :)

This is the larger version of the hat, with an extra 8 stitches. As demonstrated by my niece, while also created to fit closely around the head, if you have a smaller head and are an uber-cool teenager, you can wear it as a hipster hat as well. ;)

Perhaps next year’s gifts should be the same hats for her and my sister in law? :)

last minute

A few months ago (potentially as early as September) someone asked on their blog what knitting plans we had for Christmas. I commented proudly and confidently that I did not plan to burden myself with any gift knitting, no, I was way above such pressure-inducing goal-setting myself. And I stuck to it. Until December 15th rolled around. On December 15th, I suddenly found that every single one of my lunch breaks was being spent running around shops frantically, trying to a) think up what the people on my list could possibly want and b) trying to find it. Time was running out. Work was crazy, Belgian shops’ opening hours even crazier (read: closed before I get off work), and my weekends taken up by travels in places where it was impossible to shop. Panic was rising. And then I remembered that there is one activity I can do even when the shops are closed, even when I’m on a train, and even when I’m in a countryside cottage chilling with friends – I can knit. And so Christmas knitting happened. Not in September, no. More like on December 20th. Daunting, but you know what – I pulled it off!

The first one was easy – the pattern I already owned for a while. The yarn was in my stash, left-over from other projects. There was a moment of panic when I thought I had run out of the gray, only to find a few more metres (just as much as I needed!) tucked away at the bottom of my knitting bag. The knitting was simple, mostly mindless and quick (it took three days total!). The result was a lovely reversible man hat, with just enough interest and just enough plainness (of the kind that the males prefer). Ok, so my nephew did look at it quite disappointedly and briefly when he opened the package, but then again he’s an 8-year-old boy. He looks at any non-Lego gift disappointedly. I spotted him wearing it a few days later – that’s what counts. (And there was a little something extra for him in the package, of course, more in the Lego direction…)

A few words on the pattern, if you’re interested in making it for your boy or man. The construction is very simple, you start knitting one hat from the top, doing regular increases, and when you reach the point where you would normally bind off, you change colours and continue as if knitting another hat from the brim, decreasing until you reach the top of the head.

The pattern is well written, and I like the fact that you first start off with the solid version, which lets you get used to the whole concept, while the fun striping comes later on, in the second half. Though of course you could switch that around. Or do it all in one colour. Or in some third combo. You can really do whatever you like. The result will always be a waaaaarm and wonderfully fitting reversible hat.

One piece of advice. Don’t forget you are making a reversible hat. Seems kinda obvious? Well, you’d think. But you might get into the situation of reaching the end, having left all the yarn ends loose, because you plan to weave them all in when you’re done with your knitting, as usual. And then you might have to weave them in through a small 8-stitch-wide hole, because you’ve done all your decreases and there’s no other way to do it. Just sayin. Weave your ends in as you go. There is no exposed wrong side on this one when you’re done.

Another thing I wished I had done was look up jogless stripes. If I had, my colour changes probably wouldn’t have looked like this.

I did consider embroidering the mysteriously missing red stitches in the same yarn, but it was Christmas Eve and things needed wrapping. And I didn’t feel like embroidering through an 8-stitch-wide opening (see above). In the end I decided it was ok, 8-year-old boys don’t care anyway. On my next attempt I simply made sure that I held the yarn more loosely when I switched colours and it came out a lot better. But more on that in the next post…

p.s. I’ve been meaning to write a NY resolutions post, but it doesn’t seem to be happening. So let’s just say, I hope 2012 will bring me more time to return to the blog and hang out with you guys! Cheers to that! :)