Knit Yourself a Vacation

Everyone looks forward to vacation. Whatever their occupation, people, myself included, measure time by the breaks and days off. “Only (insert length of time) until (insert chosen holiday/long weekend)!” is something I hear a lot. I also say it a lot. Probably too much, if I’m honest, but I know I am not alone in experiencing the pre-holiday “squirrelly-ness”, where in the days leading up to a vacation, all remaining days between where you are and where your upcoming break begins feel unbearably long. It is, in essence, a pre-vacation form of purgatory.

At this point a woman with short curly brown hair stands up and glares at me through her glasses. She looks suspiciously like my mother. “I love vacation as much as the next person, but you said this was a blog about knitting! How do your rather questionable sounding work habits relate to knitting?”

I sigh, seeing the validity of her interjection, although questioning her statement about vacations. (My mother is retired). “Okay,” I respond, “I’ll quit expounding on my love and longing for vacation, and enable your knitting addicted soul.” Don’t worry; little else consumes my own soul, it must be genetic.

The reason I am sharing this with you, is indeed knitting related. It was recently the March Break here, which meant that I didn’t have to drag my derrière across public transit to work in the morning. March Break is special for me for knitting related reasons. Through the rest of the year, I am predominantly trying to put a dent in what I like to call “need to knit” projects, those projects that have deadlines associated with them, like weddings, birthdays, births, etc., but I make the March Break “all about me” knitting. I usually try to pick a pattern at the beginning of the week, and aim to have most of it done, if not completely finished, by the time I return to work.

I started doing this when I first became seriously immersed in knitting. I knit my first sweater, Kate Davies “Owls” jumper, on a road trip to Deerborn, Michigan, when I was still in university. That particular project met an unfortunate end in my washing machine a few months later, but the trend of breaking from all other knitting projects to make something especially for me was born.

This year it was even more important for me to knit something for myself, as I have so many other “need to knit” projects going on, that I have got myself into the habit of starting things for myself, and feeling guilty about making them, so either stopping work on them, or I end up gifting them to other people.

This year’s pattern was Gudrun Johnson’s “Halligarth” from Brooklyn Tweed’s Wool People Vol. 7.

At this point the audience snickers, and there are a few women with pointy sticks in the back row that exchange knowing glances and roll their eyes at one another. They look exactly like the women from my knitting group. A few anonymous voices can be heard saying “Brooklyn Tweed, again? Does she knit anything else?”

I do, in fact, knit other things. But a predominant amount of my Ravelry queue and favorites are occupied by BT patterns, and I claim that it is a matter of aesthetics. Anyway, “Halligarth” is a Shetland style hap shawl, with a lovely tree motif done in lace work. I had attempted to start this pattern back in the summer, but couldn’t quite keep my attention on the lace chart long enough to stop messing up. But this past week, while helping my parents re-tile their kitchen, and traveling to Montreal to visit “S”, I managed to cast it on, and while not quite finishing within the confines of the March Break, I did bind-off on Tuesday this week.

On this attempt I made my life a little easier, by using a piece of washi tape to block off the lines on the chart, and I moved it up the rows every time I knit a wrong side row. They are pretty similar lace rows, so I think my main issue in the summer was that I kept losing track of which row I was on. I also used stitch markers – like the pattern suggests – keeping track of all the repeats. You actually have to reset them every time you start a new repeat of the pattern as it shifts half the motif, but other than that it is a total lifesaver.

I did have a problem with gauge. Here the women in the back row roll their eyes again. I know I have looser gauge than any of the BT patterns, but I had assumed that for a shawl, it wouldn’t matter. I had elected to make the smaller version, and decided to use the recommended 4.00mm needles, but chose to use my own hand-dyed yarn, which is a single spun fingering weight superwash merino. I had approximately 650 yards of it, so I had assumed that even if my gauge was a little off, I would have enough yardage given that the original pattern called for 590 yards. I was wrong, so I stash dove and decided on the leftover grey I had used for my housemate’s Christmas “Fiddlehead Mitts”.

I love it, even with the grey trim. I actually think I like it better than I would have if it were all the same color, and it is mine, all mine. Paws off, Mom. (I’m a jerk of a daughter. It is her birthday today.) The audience scowls at me incredulously, and then breaks into a rather rancorous rendition of happy birthday for my mother, gesturing wildly with their knitting needles. A few balls of wool roll away from their owners and under their neighbors’ chairs.

           My “Halligarth” wasn’t the only thing I worked on over the break. I have also been working on an interesting textured colourwork cowl pattern that I am hoping to release on the blog sometime in the first few weeks of April. It’s in the test knitting stages at the moment, but it should be fit for public knitting consumption soon. The mothers in the audience see through my attempt to distract them from my earlier evil daughter comment by enticing them with a free knitting pattern, so I resort to this: an image of a mop-topped alpaca from the cabane au sucre we visited outside of Montreal last week.

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And here is an image of the “Birthday Girl” in an epic setting.

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Happy Birthday to the most wonderful of mothers, knitters, and friends.

 

Hibou

So a while ago I mentioned that I was designing one of the hats for Christmas Dinner myself. It was made for Kate, who loves owls, and also speaks French…hence the name “Hibou”. It was my first attempt at designing any kind of charting, but I think it turned out just fine. I think the owl is ADORABLE…but I might be biased… here is the pattern if you’re interested: HibouHat

This is the photo of it:

The Christmas Hat Collection

Sometime in the summer, my mother decided that she wanted to try her hand at knitting. We were in a yarn store in Bracebridge, and she found a Paton’s pattern book that had a multitude of silly hats. Using Paton’s Classic Wool, she started to make a hat. It was interesting, I’ve never seen my mother knit, she hasn’t picked up knitting needles since before I was born, the only proof that she did knit once upon a time was that ages ago, she started a white Aran sweater for my father, pieces of which are still in a bag somewhere in the back of a packed cupboard.  She successfully managed to make the hat (with a consistency to her stitches that I envy), and made a few more after it.

This was all well and good, I love to share my enthusiasm about knitting with pretty much anyone who has the misfortune to enquire about my “hobby” aka addiction, and am always willing to teach people. The only problem is…my mother likes to think big…what started out as a single hat, turned into a large scale Christmas Hat Collection. She came up with the idea that we (her and I, but mostly the I,) should make a hat for each guest at Christmas dinner, and use them in place of seat markers. I actually find this a really fun idea. Hats are pretty quick, generally made up of easy but interesting stitch patterns, and take about a day, maybe two.

But knitting a hat every day or two has become somewhat…well…boring. There is also a bigger problem here. I like knitting. I really enjoy it. But I generally indulge in a lot of selfish knitting projects, or projects that I just make because I like them and don’t really have anyone in mind for them. It has to do with enjoying the process and the finished project. This hat collection, chosen in tandem with my mother, has some patterns that are nice, but not my favorite, or some patterns that are nice, but don’t really strike me as something that the person they are meant for would like, and there is nothing worse that putting in all the effort when you know it is going to be unappreciated and never worn.

There is a saving grace to this. I finally got fed up with two of the hat patterns, for one, my yarn choice was wrong and it wasn’t turning out the way I thought it should, the other I couldn’t get the gauge to work out right, the earflaps just weren’t turning out the way they looked in the photo and I tried changing needles to get the right gauge which didn’t work, and because it was worked in two colors, I was afraid that if I added stitches it would ruin the pattern design. I know…this does not sound like a saving grace…but it is…because I gave up on the patterns, and instead decided to design my own.

I spent all of yesterday figuring out how to use the table feature and fill function of microsoft word to create a colorwork chart. I was quite proud of my design, and once I’ve worked up the hat I’ll be sure to post some photos and the pattern…but it may have to wait until after Christmas dinner…I would hate to ruin Christmas!