detective work

Today, I have a lesson for you, my friends. It’s very simple: enter your yarn data into Ravelry. Your full yarn data. Including the colourway (and yes, even dye lot, as useless as it often feels). Why, you may ask? Well, because you may find yourself in the following situation:

It’s been a year since you purchased the yarn. You’ve made a few projects with it but they were mostly improvised so you didn’t bother noting the colourways down. Who cared anyway? You had so much of this stuff that you didn’t know what to do with it. And then, because you had so much of it, you might decide to start a blanket with it. And then (do you see it yet?), you will most certainly (and completely unexpectedly), run out of it. The shop where you had bought it originally will not carry the same colour anymore (because it’s a small shop and they order things haphazardly, and even if you asked them they probably wouldn’t know what those two shades of gray were that they happened to have last winter). The yarn company in question will offer 9 (nine!) different shades of gray all of which will be very similar to the one you (don’t) have (anymore). This will make it impossible to tell from the photos alone which one you need. Especially when you take into account the fact that the same yarn looks different in different photos (see for example the colour 8400 here and here). And displayed on different computer screens. And then all you will be left with will be detective work and guessing.

After a while, you will place your order, from two different yarn shops in two different European countries (both different from the one you currently live in), cross your fingers, and hope for the best.

So there you go, my friends. Enter your yarn data into Ravelry.

p.s. Special thanks go to Cascade’s website for their great overview of yarns and colourways, and Laine et Tricot for their useful note on the shades of Cascade grays (also, they sell the yarn much cheaper than any of the other European shops I found, too bad they did not have the colours I needed!).

p.p.s. I’ll keep you posted when they arrive…

my Zauberball disappointment

aka: “It’s not my job to spend half my knitting time untangling yarn which I paid for”
aka: “If a company cannot wind their balls properly, they should just sell yarn in skeins”

Etc. I have many other raging and steaming titles that I came up with during my hour-long fight with a Zauberball last night.

I was sitting on my couch peacefully, knitting along on my vanilla sock. And all of a sudden I found my yarn in a horrible tangle. I untangled (which took a while) and continued. Only to come upon the same situation a few moments later. The way the yarn was wound into the ball meant that as I progressed, every now and then a section of about 20 loops around the ball would simply come off the ball, and then promptly proceed to tangle itself up into a mess that even the most zealously playful kitten couldn’t create. Again. And again. And again. Trying to take matters into my own hands, I decided to rewind the ball using my ball winder. Well, there my troubles only began. The same thing kept happening, and the yarn would get into such a mess that I had no choice  but to cut off the knot and start over with the next section. The biggest surprise came when I reached the centre of the ball. Well, I don’t think that thing really deserves to be called “centre of the ball”. It was just a bunch of yarn (5 grams at least), just kind of shoved in there, following no order or method. You can see it in the lower right corner of the photo above, pretty much as it was when I discovered it. At the end of this nightmare, this is what I ended up with, from what was supposed to be a single 100 gram ball of yarn.

For all their beautiful colours and cool combinations, I have no respect for a yarn company that sells yarn like this. For a yarn that I had been looking forward to trying for years, I am bitterly disappointed. They will certainly not be receiving any of my business anymore.

the little deeds that make people awesome

The guys who work in the men’s clothing shop next door to my house deciding (completely spontaneously) to sign for my packages when I’m not at home, so that I don’t have to go to the post office to pick them up. (Which meant that when I got home in the evening, I could immediately play with the yarn I had been expecting impatiently!)

:)

The colleagues at work buying me some cooking equipment as a gift and then spending several minutes explaining that they didn’t want to buy yarn because they don’t know much about it and they wanted to spare me from receiving something crappy that I wouldn’t be able to use.

:)

The stitch-n-bitch friend understanding that, when I wrote Can I please borrow your yarn swift some time next week? I really meant I really really really want to wind yarn right now. and arranging that her boyfriend hands it over within several hours even though she is halfway across Europe at the time.

:)

http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8199/8244144048_6b62001ebe_z.jpg

You are all simply AWESOME. I hope you know it.

(s)cowl

Cowls and I, we just don’t get along. I know they’re fashionable and cool. Heavens know they’re in all the shops. And I have tried to get on the bandwagon. I have tried on countless ones in shops, and I have knitted a few. But I still don’t get it. As far as I’m concerned, they mess up your hair when you’re putting them on, they never fit close enough to the neck to prevent the cold wind from creeping in there (naturally, as otherwise you couldn’t get them over your head), and if you double them over they create a big weird lump in the back, making you look like the Hunchback of Notre Dame.

Case in point: look at the big gap between Maja’s neck and the cowl. And now imagine an icy cold wind resting on her exposed neck instead of the sunshine.

But anyway, I keep trying. And sometimes the patterns just look too damn cool to miss out on. And I always think: this might just be the one to finally reveal to me what all the fuss is about…

My latest attempt was the Serafina Cowl, from the well-established team of Carrie Bostick Hoge and Quince & Co. The pattern attracted me immediately with its interesting and original combination of garter stitch and cables. Nobody can deny that it looks lovely!

The pattern as written seems to be too big for most knitters, though, so following their advice I took out one pattern repeat (CO 140 st instead of 168) and went down a needle size. In retrospect I could have cast on even much less and still would have had plenty of width.

The execution itself was not particularly enjoyable. For some reason knitting this caused me physical discomfort. It wasn’t pain, but it wasn’t happy relaxed knitting either. It was probably the combination of endless rounds of knits/purls and a not-so-elastic yarn (Spud & Chloë Sweater, 55% Wool, 45% Cotton) that caused it.

In conclusion, the final result is beautiful and lush, but in my view still not very practical. So for now, my reaction to cowls still remains – a scowl.

space robot

Space Robot is my first knitted toy! It took about three weeks to knit up, stuff and seam. But the moment it was done, Space Robot started having a life of his own.

First he went for a swim. I came home from work one day and immediately noticed the smell of wet wool. I had no idea where it was coming from, until I wandered over to the kitchen and saw that Space Robot had dived from the counter into the sink and was taking a dip in the leftovers of my morning cereals… He got a proper talking-to, and it seemed to have worked – he avoided swimming afterwards (at least when he could get caught!). This is his guilty face below.

Then he started experimenting with music. And like adults often do, I regretted my actions and started wishing he would go back to swimming. Do you know what space drums sound like when played by a rebellious young toy? If you don’t, trust me on this one – you’re better off for it.

Finally, he tried his hand at modelling. The girls that came with it were nice, but he found them a bit too empty-headed. In the end, he decided it wasn’t quite for him.

And then he announced that he would be packing his suitcases and flying off to Croatia within two days’ notice. I was devastated! Ok, we had had our differences, but he was still my favourite little chubby Space Robot! I would miss him so much. And worry about him too. He told me not to fret and gave me a biiiiiiiiig space hug.

And then he was off. Just like that. I was sad, but also proud. He was going off to make his own place in the world.

He writes to me regularly. He says he’s very happy. He’s taken up house with my nephew and they are working together at a Lego construction site. In their time off they do math homework. And he’s even learning to play football… (I say he’d make a great goalie!)

Space Robot was knitted without any modifications as per Ysolda Teague’s Trinket pattern. I found the knitting to be quite a bit fiddly, but absolutely worth it. The construction is very inventive and it will take you through a large number of different skills on a fairly small project. I had never done intarsia before, for example, and here I had a chance to try it out small scale. I recommend the pattern without hesitation. Some additional technical notes and links to tutorials I used can be found on my project page.

I used Cascade 220 Heathers because I had some lying around in nice colours. I am really a fan of this yarn and think it may be perfect for knitted toys. Before stuffing the toy I wet-blocked it, a process which works wonders for this 100% wool yarn. It helps the stitches blend together, thus making the toy surface smoother (and softer for children’s hands and cheeks) and closing up any holes where the stuffing may leak through.

The photos were taken by a wonderful friend of mine.

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?

WIP week: baby socks

I have a confession to make: I think I’ve become a sock addict. Ever since I finished up and sent off my Mom’s socks (which she adooores, by the way, yay!), I’ve been itching to start a new pair. I’ve been looking at patterns, scheming, dreaming… Unfortunately, those socks also convinced me that the only way to go is to knit socks with Proper Sock Yarn, preferably one of those wonderfully soft yet sturdy wool-nylon blends. Why unfortunately? Well, because I have no such yarn in my stash, nor easily available in my surroundings. At least to my knowledge.

So I am appealing to the European sock knitters out there: please tell me, which sock yarns do you use? When I think of sock yarn, most things that come to mind are US-based, and quite difficult to access from Belgium. Can you recommend some UK or European-based brands? And secondly, where do you get them? I am notoriously bad with online shopping (I confine it to Amazon and Etsy – yes I am still living in the dark ages), and I know absolutely nothing about buying yarn online. Please enlighten me with your links!

In the meantime, I’ll get whatever quantum of solace I can find. For example, these baby socks in the leftovers of Malabrigo Sock from my Whippoorwill. Just holding the 2mm needles in my hands again made me all giddy! The only problem with newborn socks is – they’ll be done in no time at all… So hurry up with your advice, please! :)

seasonal

Yarn shops here in Brussels seem to take a very seasonal approach to yarn. A few weeks ago, I found myself walking into one particular shop with the intention of getting a few more skeins of Malabrigo sock, which had been overflowing on its shelves the last time I had been there, in the summer. I was in for a surprise, though. All the shelves which had been full of Malabrigo in the summer were now tipping over with Cascade 220. The remainders of Malabrigo were huddling sadly in one little corner. I remembered then that back in the summer I had noticed out of the corner of my eye some Cascade, itself peeking out of the sales basket then.

Now I won’t get into the story about how summer here was freaking cold and how there is really no reason to be seasonal about yarn when seasons don’t really exist here anyway. Let’s leave that frustration about my adopted country for some other day… ;)

But I think it’s pretty obvious that I had no choice but to give Cascade 220 Heathers a try. And so I did (if you define “giving a try” as “buying tons of”, as you may have seen in my last post). This little sweetie (a true gem by Jared Flood) is the result, and I couldn’t be happier with it. I won’t waste too many words on the pattern, I think its loveliness is fairly self-evident.

As for the yarn, I was pretty happy. The price is reasonable. It is pleasant to knit with. It’s not necessarily the softest (my ears do itch a bit when I wear it), but it doesn’t bother me too much. The colours are nice. The only real objection I have is that I’d like the colours to be a bit more heathery, a bit more tweedy. As it is, this colour at least, looks pretty much like a sturdy solid, which is not what I want from a yarn called “Heathers”. But all in all, I like this yarn, and I’m more than happy to have tons of it at home waiting for more projects! :)

How about your countries? Do yarn shops exhibit seasonal behaviour there as well?

two episodes of Dr Who later…

Last night I found myself picking up two skeins of a yarn I’ve been trying out lately… the famous Cascade 220 (Heathers).

I had chosen these two skeins at the yarn shop with a particular pattern in mind, so there was really nothing preventing me from casting on during a calm autumn evening at home. Two old episodes of Dr Who later, quite effortlessly and without even noticing really, I had achieved this.

The brim and first colourwork pattern repeat completed! Whew! With all those socks lately, I had really forgotten how quickly things go in worsted weight! However, there is a but. The colours are not doing it for me.

You see, back in the yarnshop, I had first picked up this red to pair it up with a medium gray. Then, after a lot of debating with myself about the pros and cons of ‘a really beautiful colour combo’ vs. ‘while pretty, too classical and frequently used’, I decided to replace the grey with this beige/straw/yellow/howeveryouwanttodescribeit to produce a more daring combination. Something that would be pretty, but more unusual, something which people would look at and say “wow, I never would have thought of combining those two colours, but it looks great!” Alas, what I got does not make me think that at all.

Instead, it makes me think of Burberry patterns and of old ladies. Quite the opposite of non-classical and daring. So this is going to the frog pond. The colours are still great, and I am sure it won’t be a problem to put them to good use. Just not together. So if you have some pattern recommendations to use up about 100g of worsted weight yarn, please do not hesitate to throw them my way!