Thursday, December 28, 2006

A cardigan for Merry

***Thanks for all your feedback on this pattern and a special thank you for those who knit it and submitted errata (that's you Lauren!). You guys rock! This pattern was last edited on July 1, 2007 and changes appear in bold green text***

As some of you clever readers noticed in Julian's half-birthday photos, I did finish Julian's Christmas cardi in time! And I did not run out of fact, I had 2 and a half yards left! No kidding. That's how close it came ;0)

You may notice that it looks very similar to Kate Gilbert's A cardigan for Arwen from the Winter 2006 issue of Interweave Knits magazine . That's because it was heavily inspired by it and sports Kate's cable along both sides and the hood. This one though is sized for a tiny tot, has a basic raglan and hood construction which is different from Kate's version, has simple hemmed sleeve cuffs and has toggle button closures.

I call this version A cardigan for Merry because in this smaller size and happy green colour I thought it more hobbit-y than elfish. I would have named it after Frodo, but thought Merry was more festive considering I knit it as a Christmas sweater ;0)

Here's my adaptation for anyone interested. You will need to refer to the magazine for Kate's cable charts though as these are original to Kate's design and rightfully copyrighted (I hope). (Note: Kate's original pattern complete with the cable charts is now available as an instant download from her site here).

Here goes...

12-18 months, 24 inch chest, 11 inch length

3 mm needles, a cable needle, small double pointed needles for I-cord button loops (I used size 0 sock needles), and 6 balls (if you are lucky and really good at yarn economy) or 7 to be safe of Knit Picks Andean Treasure or any other yarn that gives you the proper gauge.

26 stitches to 10 cm (4") in stocking stitch using 3mm needles

Pattern notes

It will be easier to sew the shoulder seams if you remember to knit all raglan decreases on the sleeves, back and fronts 3 stitches in from the edge rather than on the first stitch ;0)


  1. Cast-on 79 stitches and work 4 rows in stocking stitch (knit on right side rows, purl on wrong side rows).
  2. Work a breaking row by knitting one row on the wrong side and continue in stocking stitch for 4 more rows. On the next row (which should be a right side row) fold the hem by knitting together the first stitch on your left hand needle together with the first stitch of your cast on row. Continue like this to the end of the row. Of course, if you prefer, you can always just sew the hem closed when you are done.
  3. Continue in stocking stitch until the back measures 8 inches from the breaking row.
  4. Armhole shaping: cast-off 4 stitches at beginning of next 2 rows (71 stitches).
  5. Raglan shaping: decrease 1 stitch at beginning and end of every 3rd row 12 times, then dec 1 st at armhole end(s) of every 2nd row 3 times. (41 stitches).
  6. Place remaining 41 stitches on a holder or piece of yarn to be worked later for the hood.


  1. Beginning with cardigan right side first, cast on 33 stitches and work 4 rows in stocking stitch.
  2. Work a breaking row by knitting one row on the wrong side.
  3. At the beginning of next row (right side), cast on 24 stitches for the right cable and knit across these 24 stitches, place a marker, and knit across the remaining 33 stitches. These 33 stitches will continue to be worked in stocking stitch while the 24 edge stitches should be worked using the right cable chart from Kate Gilbert's original pattern, A Cardigan for Arwen, published in the Winter 2006 issue of Interweave Knits magazine. Note that you can substitute another cable if you prefer -- it will need to measure 2 inches in width though to work with the rest of the pattern.
  4. Remember to fold and knit the hem on the 33 original stitches once you have worked 4 rows (unless you decide to sew the hem closed later in which case just carry on ;0).
  5. Continue in pattern until piece measures 8 inches from the breaking row.
  6. Armhole shaping: Cast-off 4 stitches at beginning of next wrong side row (29 stocking stitch stitches + 24 cable stitches).
  7. Raglan shaping: decrease one stitch at armhole side at every 3rd row 12 times (17 stocking stitches + 24 cable stitches remaining). Then decrease 1 stitch at armhole every second row three times (14 sts + 24 cable sts remaining).
  8. Place remaining stitches on a holder or piece of yarn to be worked later for the hood.
  9. Left cardigan front: work as for right side, using the left cable chart and reversing armhole and raglan shapings.


  1. Cast on 45 stitches and work hem as for back.
  2. Continue in stocking stitch increasing 1 stitch at beginning and end of every 5th row, 5 times (55 stitches)
  3. Work even until sleeve measures 8 inches from breaking row.
  4. Shape cap: Cast off 4 stitches at beginning of next 2 rows (47 stitches remain).
  5. Raglan shaping: Decrease 1 stitch at beginning and end of every 2nd row, 20 times, then decrease 1 stitch at each end of every row twice.
  6. Cast-off remaining 3 stitches.
  7. Knit the 2nd sleeve.

Shoulder seams

  1. Sew sleeves to fronts and back.


  1. Knit 24 right cable stitches + 14 stitches from right side, pick-up and knit as many stitches from the sleeve cap as you need to to make sure there are no holes (remember how many stitches you added, these will be decreased in the next few rows), knit 41 stitches from back, pick-up and knit stitches from the other sleeve, and knit 14 stitches + 24 cable stitches from left side.
  2. Work a few rows continuing the cable patterns on each side and decreasing stitches over the sleeves by knitting 2 together for every stitch you picked up and knit in the previous step. You should have 117 stitches remaining including the cable stitches.
  3. On next row, work 2 centre stitches together so that you have an even number of stitches on your needle.
  4. Place marker between two centre stitches.
  5. Increase 1 stitch on either side of your central marker on every right side row, 10 times (136 stitches).
  6. Continue even until hood measures 8 inches, ending at centre market.
  7. Fold in half and graft top of hood closed following instructions in magazine to graft cable in pattern.

Button loops

  1. Using the smallest double point needles you own (I used size 0) knit a 3 stitch I-cord for 26 rows and cast-off for each button loop. I made 3.
  2. Fold I-cord loops and sew to sweater.
  3. Add buttons on other side.
  4. Ta-da! A Cardigan for Merry!

Let me know if you make one...and if any of the instructions were unclear so I can make chagnes as necessary ;0)


Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Our merry little Christmas

I think we got it right this year: no deadline gift knitting, no hustling and bustling in busy shops, and no slaving over a hot stove to feed a crowd. Instead, I only committed to knit a Christmas sweater for Julian (oh, and some ornaments), did all my shopping online and invited my family to each bring a course for our easy peasy comfort food feast - lasagna with all the trimmings!
And it was marvelous ;0)

We went to grandma and grandpa's house for Christmas eve and went to the 7 o'clock mass together. The mass was beautiful and moving as usual. It follows pretty much the same format every year. The same readings. The same songs. The same people. And it is wonderful! I really do look forward to it all year. It is the highlight of the season for me and it never disappoints.

My favourite moment is the very beginning when the lights are dimmed and the youth choir process carrying candles and singing O come all ye faithful. That's where the little hairs on the back of my neck stand up because of how amazing it is that after more than two thousand years, that is exactly what we are doing by going to Church on Christmas eve to hear the good news and to celebrate receiving the promise. It gets to me every time.

Later, the choir sings Silent Night and then continue to hum it while our priest reads the nativity story. When the reading is over, the choir keeps humming the tune (though louder now) while signing the lyrics instead of singing them. It is so beautiful, and fitting.

After church, it was back to Grandma and Grandpa's house to revel in sweets and hot cocoa and exchange gifts. Our Jubilee Bubille was so well behaved despite the late hour and all the excitement. He didn't know what he was in for and his innocence was just so sweet - for instance, we've had the gifts wrapped under our tree at home for weeks, and he never tried to tear the wrapping. He would be content to look at them and point out the Santa and Snowmen gift cards. I think it's because he didn't realise that there was something inside them!

So when we presented him with his first present to open, he didn't quite know what to do with it. Naturally, we helped him get it started by tearing off a piece of paper... Then, in a moment of true hilarity (which ensued throughout the evening) he took the little piece of paper, exclaimed "garba" and off to the kitchen he went to throw it out before coming back to the living room to tear off another tiny piece. It was too funny! And he did go back and forth to the kitchen to throw out pieces of paper as he tore them off. It was really cute. Though it's no wonder we didn't get back home until well past 1am ;0)

Then yesterday morning, dada, Julian and I headed downstairs for cinnamon buns and white hot chocolate and to open the presents we got each other. And of course Julian! We got him a Tickle Me Elmo. He recognised the Elmo on the box and was pretty stoked about it. He even hugged it when we first pulled it out of the box, but as soon as it got started, he got really scared and ran to dada's arms for protection. Though in the interest of full disclosure, I should say that it freaked me out a bit too. I think the batteries it came with might have been a little drained and he had a really low voice and moved really jerkily about the floor...I kept getting visions of Chucky...

It was soooo not a hit. We turned it off and put in under the tree while we turned his attention to some of the other toys he got the night before and he was okay, but everytime he sees it, he remembers how scary it is and steers away. Today while Stephen was changing his diaper, Julian put his hands over his ears and said "loud". We couldn't figure out what was loud, nothing was on and it was quiet all around. He repeated "Elmo, loud" and we were stunned. I think the poor thing was traumatised! Elmo wasn't even on or around when he said that. I guess he was just remembering it. Poor Jujube!

Finally, we hosted Christmas dinner at our house but this year all I did was assemble an anti-pasti platter and bake desert (a cheese cake pear almond torte and a one and a half birthday cake for Julian who turned 18 months on Christmas day. Everyone else brought the rest of the meal: lasagna, salad, garlic bread... It was great! We're soooo doing that again next year.

Julian's half birthday cake was a towering success again this year. Since it's his half birthday, I made half a cake. Actually, I made a two-layer cake, cut it in half and made a slightly leaning 4-layer half cake and bejewelled it with Jujubes. Then we all sang Happy [blank]. It was crazy fun and Julian loved it. He hadn't had cake since his actual birthday and he made up for it big time! We had to hose him off again ;0)

And now it's time to play with all our new toys and enjoy having everyone home for the next few weeks. Plus, did I mention we got to keep all the leftovers? Yup, we had a really wonderful Christmas ;0)

I'll have to tell you about Julian's Christmas sweater and my super cool knitting gifts next time...

Monday, December 25, 2006

Friday, December 22, 2006

Yarn economy ... or knitting the yarn from both ends!

When I started planning Julian's Christmas sweater, the defining design factor was a lesson in yarn economy! You see, I only had 6 balls of the Knit Picks Andean Treasure I wanted to use. So I went to great lengths to try to anticipate yardage on this project: I knit a big swatch (a really big one) totally ripped it out, measured the yardage used to knit it, and plugged the info into my Knitware software* to see if I would have enough to knit a hoodie for Julian. It estimated that it would be close, but possible. And it was both!

I did everything I could to ecconomise yarn on this project, from knitting hems closed rather than sewing them in later, to keeping the pattern as simple as possible with a single cable, and changing balls mid-row as required (oh, my!) rather than doing so at the beginning or end of a row... you know, like you are supposed to *wink, *wink ;0)

Every inch counts, you know! In fact, it got too close for comfort and I started knitting the icord button loops from the other end of the sixth and final ball to make sure I would have enough yarn to knit the 4 required loops before grafting the hood shut (just in case it became necessary to unravel a few rows of the hood...) And it looks like I'm going to make it. Yay! Plus, no leftovers! The no leftover thing is actually kinda disappointing though because as I was knitting the hood I started getting my hopes up about making a matching Korknisse ornament as a prezzie for Jujube. Seriously, checkout the ones Elliphantom knit. I'll wait. Go, on...

How freakin' cute are those?! I'm so collecting bottle corks this holiday season and since I can't enjoy any libations of my own, I'll have to make sure everyone else (who's not driving of course) has a merry 'ole time! Top up anyone? Anyone ;0)

Okay, back to knitting business, here's my sad progress on my advent calendar this week. It's ornament number 5! Out of 24 people!!! Shameful, I know. Well there's alway's next year, right? Here's my poor lonely tangerine! Sigh.

Good-luck to all of you who will be burning the midnight oil these next few nights in hopes of finishing all those gifted knits. I'll be making little wishes for all of you to finish with every eyeleash I blow in the wind, curly chip I crunch, wishbone I crack, train tracks I lift my feet up for as we drive past, or candles that I extinguish. Yup, I'll be thinking of you ;0)

Happy knitting ;0)

*I tried to find a link for you but it seems their site no longer exists...hmmm?

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Yarn monster

I've been working away at Julian's Christmas sweater. I decided to go ahead and use the cables from A cardigan for Arwen from the latest Interweave Knits mag because I couldn't find another reversible cable anywhere else and I quite like the effect of the reversible cable on the hood which I have yet to knit...just as soon as I figure out how ;0)

I had a brilliant idea this morning! Since the body's done and seamed up, I thought I'd try to put it on my little elf to see if the fit was right. Though as you'll remember, my toddler is blurry so it was quite the photo shoot. It was early morning and in my own groggy state I thought it was completely reasonable to let him hold the ball of yarn still attached to the hood to get him distracted enough that he would sit "still" for a photo. It kinda worked. Though not quite as planned. All I could do was to watch in terror as he discovered the pleasure of totally spaghettifying the ball of yarn still attached to the hood-to-be...

Horrors! Well at least now I know the cardi fits! As for the ball of yarn, well, that'll be a fun activity for me to do this morning. A nice break from the knitting I reckon. Though hopefully I'll be back to knitting the hood full force this afternoon. I really want to finish up the hood tonight so that I can take it shopping for buttons tomorrow.

Then it's on to knit up Joseph and the 19 other ornaments I had planned to knit up before Christmas. Yup. I'm seriously deluded...again ;0)

Friday, December 15, 2006

Mon beau sapin

'Twas the afternoon nap on Saturday past, when all through the house, mama and dada were trimming the tree. Julian was snoring, bundled up snuggly on the sofa while we hurriedly put together and trimmed our giant tree. Just as we were about finished, he woke up from his slumber, all cozy and warm, sat up on the sofa and did a groggy little double take as he noticed the tree. We don't have a picture but the image is permanently etched in our minds. What a magical moment. He rubbed his eyes and looked again. "Wooowwww," he exclaimed! Wow, indeed ;0)

He crawled backwards off the sofa, just like we taught him, and came to get a closer look. He stopped in front of each ornament to take it all in and enjoy. He couldn't resist and reached for a ball which he dropped on the floor and which bounced as balls do. We quickly picked it up and explained that these were special balls that were not for playing, but just for looking. He was agreeable and kept looking around with his hands by his side though you could tell it took all the self-discipline he could muster to not reach out for more. We thought everything would work out fine, but then after dinner, he went for another and threw it on the floor with all his might expecting a bounce...but instead it shattered into very fine glass dust. He got scared and so did we. We thought all those balls were plastic!

So we untrimmed the tree, went to Canadian Tire and bought all new ornaments made of "durable shatter proof plastic" came back home and retrimmed the tree. It was a lot of work, but I love our new decorations. Of course we kept our important lifestage ornaments though we made sure to place them higher in the tree. Here's a peak at our story in ornaments:

Ornament story

Clockwise from top-left: Our snowflake wedding ornament. Our new house ornament (my favourite) lights up and has a built in music box which plays 'I'll be home for Christmas' as you turn the little brass crank. The next two circle ornaments are my best idea yet: Martha Stewart gift tags from Sears! They are paper and ribbon but are shiny and pretty and completely Julian proof not to mention $2 for a pack of 10! Then comes our 2006 parents to be ornament which is freakily accurate: daddy wears glasses and reads books while mommy knits away plus they are birds like Stephen and I (our last names are both birds!). Julian's one year Christmas ornament is a bear in a Jolly Jumper which you'll remember was his pride and Joy throughout a big part of the year. And finally a couple more Julian-proof but still pretty and elegant (not to mention cheap, cheap, cheap) ornaments from Canadian Tire -- a very pretty gold leaf and Julian's favourite ornamnents by far, the appum (aka apples).

Happy holidays!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

A merry cardi in the making

I started musing about knitting a Christmas sweater for Julian on the weekend. I had 6 balls of Knit Picks Andean Treasure in Lagoon in the stash and tried to find a pattern that called for exactly that amount (or less). Since I didn't find it, I decided to try my hand at designing his Christmas sweater myself. Here's what I have so far...

It's a back and two sleeves knit with just under 3 balls. I had two ideas for this sweater: either a simple raglan sweater with a moss stitch placket and collar or {0r} a raglan cardigan hoodie with a cable going up one side, around the hood and down the other side a la IK Cardigan for Arwen with a toggle button closure a la Elizabeth Zimmerman's Aran Coat from the classic Knitting Around.

I prefer the second option but am really nervous about having enough yarn to knit a hood and a yarn-eating cable so the first option is a kind of a security blanket. I started knitting the back and sleeves since these are identical for both options and am giddy as punch that I have only used up half my I think I can safely forge ahead with my cable band toggle button closure cardi.

I had planned on using the super cool reversable cable from the Cardigan for Arwen pattern but since it is worked on 24 stitches, I'm worried that it will be too wide for a kiddie sized cardi. So I'm going to hit Barbara Walker's Treasury of Knitting Patterns (I love, love, love these books and strongly recommend them for they would make a terrific Christmas present for yourself or any knitter on your list....check out my review of them here) to see if I can find a more suitable cable to use.

Wish me luck (and stay tuned). this'll either be really cool or really disastrous and either way it's good blogging fodder ;0)


Friday, December 08, 2006

Ho, ho, ho and a menorah pillow too!

You know, I'm glad Santa decided to finally get some help. He must be gettin' old...after all, he was old when I was a kid! And it's just too much pressure to deliver all those gifts in one night. It just doesn't seem right to make one jolly old man bear the grunt of all the yuletide work. I mean sure, the elves help. But come, on! So I'm really happy that this year, he sent all of our presents in advance through Canada Post ;0) And really, now that I'm at home, I don't mind helping him out with all the wrapping too. It's the least I could do.

I did most of my holiday shopping online this year and yesterday, a Canada Post mini-van stopped by to drop off the loot. My mailmain had to make trips back to get it all in the house! We got packages from Indigo, LeeValley Tools, and Future Shop and the amazing thing is that I received these at 10 am yesterday despite having just ordered them on Monday! Did I mention I did not expedite any shipping and used the "free shipping" options for both Indigo and Future Shop? That's amazing! Seriously, I may never go back to stores for my Christmas shopping again ;0) Oh, and the flowers crowning the tower of of boxes? Just a little "thinking of you" flower basket from my colleagues. Sweet, eh?

So with all the time I saved since I didn't have to drive around, find parking and wait in long lines at the till, I finished this:

Menorah Pillow

The clever pattern is from Handknit Holidays (it's the menorah pillow) and was really well written. The only problem I encountered was when knitting up the i-cord bind-off (which is such a cool technique - you should totally go google it or look it up in you knitting reference manuals!). The problem is that the pattern calls for picking up one stitch for every row (112) on either side of the cushion but doing so will totally mess up your pillow so if you're knitting this, don't waste 4 hours of your time following these instructions to the letter and hoping blocking will fix that weird pulling and rippling action that me, it won't!

Been there, done that, didn't get the t-shirt cause that's an afternoon I'd like to repress thank you very much!

If you want a square pillow, pick up 76 sitiches evenly on both sides so that you end up working the i-cord on the same number of stitches on all sides which results in ... a square. Ta-da! Ah, the magic of geometry ;0) I even knit up some i-cords for chinese button knot closures on the back.

Menorah pillow back

I am really stoked with how this pillow turned out and hope it will warm the heart (and holidays) of it's intended recipient.

Now I really need to catch up on all those ornaments. If I don't knit 4 of them before midnight, I'm going to have to knit 5 of them tomorrow...

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

My blurry toddler

Julian is almost a year and a half and he is decidedly not a baby anymore. Not even dressed in baby blue footsie pyjamas and asleep in my arms! He's all toddler now. And he's always blurry! Seriously. We have no non-blurry photos of him since he learned to walk a few months ago. Case in point:

I'm constantly amazed at how fast he is learning things and making connections now. But what impresses me even more is the personality he is developing. He is an interesting mix of both Stephen and I. Fun and silly like his daddy. Shy and cautious like his mommy. And already, he seems older than his age.

We were at a birthday party on Saturday and there must have been about a half dozen kids there ranging in age from 1 to 4 and it took Julian a long time to warm up. We led him to his buddy's room where all the kids were playing and generally wreaking havoc ;0) He just stood there. Silent. In a corner of the room and was content to just watch all the other kids have fun.

I recognised myself immediately in him at that very moment. It was like watching myself at every age. I am a really weird combination of shy and out-going at the same time and it manifests itself as such: I go to parties or get-togethers (even though at the last minute I always dread going and try to think of excuses to get out of it but I usually can't think of any valid reasons and end up going anyway) and just don't know how to socialise. I'll stick to the 2 or 3 people I know all night and mostly listen until there is an uncomfortable lull in the conversation at which point I ask stupid questions about weather and the like to get the ball rolling. I don't really actively participate in any conversations. I am usually too busy hoping no one noticed that I haven't been mingling or talking much or generally that I am a total social idiot and hoping against all hope that no one "calls" on me.

(Now all of this is totally internal because everytime I mention that I am shy or that I feel awkward in social situations, no one beleives me. Apparently I am so good at faking it that people generally think I'm okay to be around.)

But watching Julian stand there not feeling like he could jump in and play with the others broke my heart. He's only 1 and a half! I don't want him to be like me. I want him to feel confident and entitled to play and have fun and participate. I just don't know how to do that. Eventually, all the kids left the room to get pizza and cake and it was only then that Julian started to explore all the cool toys in the room now that he was by himself. He was really quiet and just carefully looked at each toy. The whole time we were there, he didn't even say a single word...which is astounding really because he is usually a real chatterbox.

Luckily, he inherited some of his dad's ability to have fun and laugh and be silly. Otherwise I'd be totally heart-broken. I know how hard it is to grow up shy. And to try to hide it as an adult by way over compensating. It can be so demanding and stressful. I just don't want that for him.

Another example of his maturity: On Monday, he was playing alone in the living room at Grandma's and I guess he went to pet the cat and she freaked and swatted him. At least that's what we think happened because no one saw. He walked into the kitchen later and grandma noticed that his eyes were a little red. She asked him if he was okay and if he got hurt and that's when he started to whimper. The cat had scratched his hand and broken the skin. I don't know why, but it really gets to me that he didn't cry or scream or hit the cat back in the heat of the moment. It gets to me that he tried to console himself and not make it a big deal. It just makes me want to scoop him up, hold him tight, kiss him all over, remind him how wonderful and special he is and never letting him go.

It amazes me how having children totally points out all your flaws to yourself and makes you want to immediately fix them so you could become a better role model for your child. It's little things like that that make me at once sad and optimistic about our future. I think he's going to teach me a lot about myself as he grows and be the motivation I need to be the change I want to see. Who needs Dr. Phil or self help books! I say get a kid if you're interested in self-improvement ;0)

In knitting news, I'm already two days behind on ornament making! And I was doing so well too... My excuse though is that I've been furiously knitting this:

It's the Menorah pillow from Handknit Holidays. I am knitting it for a friend of the family. It is up on Julian's bed blocking away. I'll have to figure out the i-cord edging tomorrow and then find a pillow form for it. I'll tell you more about it next time.


Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Source for Advent Calendar patterns

Thank-you for all your well wishes and kind words on my advent ornaments. For those who are interested, I purchased the pattern booklet last year from Country Yarns. The cost is $15 Canadian and the shop ships to Canada and the US (Country Yarns is based out of Ontario). Shipping was expensive (but worth it because the patterns are so cool and I couldn't find them anywhere else ;0) and the service was quick.

Good luck!

Monday, December 04, 2006

Counting down...

I am 25 weeks pregnant today and this morning my Doctor decided it was time for me to call it quits at work. I've been having more and more contractions these past few weeks and since the little guy needs to stay in there for another three and a half months, my Doctor is hoping that resting at home will help and that it will convince the little little guy to stay in there for a while. Me too ;0)

So I started knitting an advent calendar. Actually I started it on Saturday but caught up today! Now that I'll be spending a lot of time at home, I think I can totally knit all 24 ornaments by Christmas. It'll help me pass (and mark) the time in December. Then I'll only have another 2 and a half months to go ;0)

The patterns for these teeny ornaments (they are about and inch and a half long) are from another Sirdar booklet designed by Alan Dart. This one is number 298 and simply called "Advent Calendar."

I'm knitting them up from Knit Picks Palette wool with US 0 needles and they are actually knitting up pretty quickly. It's the sewing together of the tiny bits and pieces that is fiddly and time consuming. But they are just so cute that I can't stop knitting them ;0)

Four down, twenty one to go...

Happy knitting!

Friday, December 01, 2006

Hand warming!

Imagine you are knitting socks. Socks from the most delicious sock yarn . Using a simple but complex-looking pattern that just perfectly highlights the deliciousness of the yarn.

Now imagine you are knitting these while listening to the Harlot speak at an engagement with one of your knitting buddies who looks at your socks and wonders aloud whether those socks will fit a grown-up. Naturally, the first stage of sock-too-small-itis is denial: "No, these will fit...I swatched." You keep knitting away until you get home and try to get them over your heel in vain -- you can't get them passed your toes and you can't isolate the muscles to suck your foot gut in.

Step two, bargaining: "wool is very forgiving and blocking will stretch them just enough - and I promise to swatch in the future if this only works." Ya-da, ya-da, ya-da. Skip to step seven - make handwarmers!

Nice, eh? Now these were a total accident but actually turned out marvellous. So just in case you skip the swatching bit in the Christmas kniting rush and encounter a similar problem...relax, everyone loves hand-warmers. Here's what I did:

  1. Cast-on 64 stitches and worked pattern for Hello Yarn's cable-twist socks but modifying the pattern as per Grumperina to work the twist over 6 stitches instead of 5.
  2. Work six pattern repeats and start making a gusset by increasing one stitch at the beginning and end of a set of 6 stitches (continue to work the twist pattern on the rest of the ribs but from now one this particular rib is just worked in straight stocking stitch to form a comfy thumb gusset).
  3. Continue to increase one stitch at the beginning and end of the gusset every third row until you have 22 gusset stitches.

  4. Put gusset stitches on a thread or stitch holder and continue knitting to the end of the round.
  5. On the next round, cast-on 6 stitches where the gusset is and continue to work in pattern until you have 11 pattern repeats or until you like the length and cast-off.
  6. Return gusset stitches to the needles and join yarn. Start working thumb in stocking stitch picking up 6 stitches (remember the ones you cast on in step 5?) on the inside of the thumb. You should have 28 thumb stitches on your needle.
  7. Knit 2 stitches together 4 times in the next row. It's best to do this on the inside of the thumb so they don't show, but really you can decrease these anywhere. 24 stitches.
  8. Knit 2 rounds and knit 2 stitches together 4 more times. 20 stitches.
  9. Keep going until you like the length of the thumb and cast off.
  10. Weave in ends.
  11. Admire.
  12. Start the other one ;0)

Happy knitting!

Friday, November 24, 2006

My pinwheel!

I finished it! I finished it! I pulled it out of its hiding place, found some needles, grafted, cursed, grafted again, knit some, grafted, cursed, searched the house for more yarn, unravelled part of the first sleeve to salvage enough yarn to finish the second one, soaked, blocked and admired my lovely pinwheel ;0)

Isn't she beautiful? I started her this summer and then put her aside during those dark days of early pregnancy when knitting made me nauseous. When I picked her up again, the sleeves tested my patience (I knit them upside down!) and I buried the whole thing in a grocery bag at the bottom of Julian's diaper bag. I dug it out this week in an effort to come clean about all the projects that were still unfinished and it was worth it! Here's a picture of the back...

Looking at it in all of it's blocked beauty I can't help but wonder why I almost gave up on it in the first place. Seriously, I had planned on loosing it forever! The only little itsy bitsy problem it still poses is that I knit it for my cute little neighbourette who just turned 3 (actually, that's not true...her birthday was in June!!! See what I mean about procrastinating?) and let's just say that while my Pinwheel is the same "size" as it was when I started it this spring, it's intended recipient just kept on growing and growing as little ones tend to and I'm not sure if it will fit. Of course the only way to find out for sure would be for her to try it one but I'm too afraid that it might not fit and don't want to break her precious little heart.

Anyone out there have an average sized 3-year old? Please help a procrastinating knitter out, won't you? Please? I need to know about sleeve width, sleeve length and waist measurements.

Do tell...

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

A first sweater for my little little guy

So my little little guy keeps growing and growing. I'm more than halfway through this pregnancy already (24 weeks...I think?) and I've just entered the phase where my belly is growing faster than I can adjust so I've been bumping into the kitchen island, the footboard on my way to the loo a zillion times per night and the other day I even closed the door on my belly ;0)

So it was about time I started working on the little guy's layette! He'll have plenty of hand me downs from his brother but they will be born in different seasons (Julian was a summer baby) which means that Julian's itty baby clothes (0-3 month) won't be warm enough for little little guy due in March. So I'm planning some knits. Some fancy, some practical and some both. I thought I'd start with a 'practical' project for anyday wear -- the classic sweater and footsie leggings from Erika Knight's "Simple Knits for Cherished Babies." I started the sweater last week and just finished it. Really, it couldn't be a simpler knit. It's all knit in one piece with a big 'ole hole in the middle for the head.

My only pattern modification was to graft the sleeve seams rather than sew them. Well it sounded like a good idea at the time, but in retrospect was probably more trouble than it was worth. I was almost done grafting the first sleeve when I noticed this. Huh?

Yeah, that's 3-ish stitches on the front needle, 6 on the back and one really weird messed up loop at the beginning of the front needle. I still don't know what happened there. I undid the whole thing a few times and was able to get the stitch number to match up again on both needles, but that loop? Well I just darned it in. Shhhhhhh ;0)

Oh, and a note about the yarn... The Jaeger Cashmere the pattern called for has been discontinued (plus, I wanted a 'practical' knit so cashmere would have been too high maintenance for this project) so I sought a good substitute. A quick web search revealed lots of great substitution ideas: Dale of Norway Baby Ull (100% merino, machine wash AND dry!), Baby Cashmerino, and Filatura Di Crosa 501. I settled on the Baby Ull because everyone seemed to be thrilled with this yarn but I must say that though it is so buttery soft that it is hard to beleive it is 100% wool, my stitches are really uneven with this yarn and it really bothers me. It improved somewhat after a Eucalan bath and a good blocking, but not enough to my liking.

And of course I have tons of it left over! The pattern called for 3 balls of the Jaeger and I expected to sub ball for ball so I bought 8 (I'm also planning on making matching leggings which call for 3 more balls and decided to get a couple more just in case -- don't look at me like that, I got a deal on ebay!). Thing is, this yarn has unbeleivable yardage...I ended up using only 1 ball and maybe 25 yards of the other to finish the sweater!!!

So now for the leggings...

Oh, and to answer Ellen's question from the comments a few days ago (Hi Ellen!), I bought my copy of the "Sirdar Nativity Collection 285" leaflet from Country Yarns. The good news is that it looks like they still carry the leaflet (scroll down) and they ship to Canada and the US. Hope that helps ;0)

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

That's me! That's me!

I’ve been looking for holiday issues of my favourite knitting mags for a few weeks now but couldn’t find them anywhere (granted only really special newsstands carry knitting magazines and there just aren’t many really special newsstands where I live). But today, I finally found one and bought a stack of holiday ‘zines including the Special Holiday Issue of IK(did you know there was a special issue? This one is not part of the subscription so you’ll need to go out and get one!) and Vogue Knitting’s Knit Simple. I picked up a club at the food court near my work and settled myself down to read. Imagine my excitement when I turned to page 20 of Knit Simple to find that my blog was profiled along with some other blogging idols like the Yarn Harlot, Mason Dixon Knitting and Whip Up!

And, as if that wasn’t enough…there is a screenshot of my blog on page 22 right next to Knitty for crying out loud!

Seriously! How cool is that? No really? Naturally I gathered my stuff and headed right back to the newsstand to buy another copy. I’ll have to frame one and keep the other under my pillow and flip to it every once and again ;0)

And all this time…I had no idea! Did you?

I think I need a little lie-down…

Sunday, November 19, 2006

'Tis the season!

I finished Mary! Though it took several tries (and an extra trip to Wal-Mart for just the right shade of embroidery floss for her eyes) I managed to give her a peaceful expression. And a good yarn hair day. And a 'the hills are alive' posture! That last one was unintended, it just kind of happened. I'm hoping it'll sort itself out when I give her a baby Jesus to hold ;0)

All that's left to do is colour on some cheeks with a red pencil crayon. (I kid you not, that is actually what it says in the pattern.) I figured I'd knit up a test swatch to practice colouring cheeks on. I've come too far to mess it up with improvised craft cosmetics! LOL!

Oh, and Julian loves her too. When I started to put her together, he would come over and ask to see her and then ever so gently pet her while exclaiming "nice nice" and since I finished her last night, he can't help but exclaim "wow" everytime he sees her. I feel that I've done right by Mary and also by my son. Somehow, I've managed to pass on my admiration for needlecraft to my toddler...and it makes me very proud ;0)

And then, in a prelude to Christmas, our dada woke up before dawn and drove to the nearest toy store to stand in line for the new Nintendo Wii which was launched today. (It's his Christmas present this year...actually it's a present for both of us because I enjoy playing wholesome Nintendo games too! I got hooked in elementary school when I received the original Nintendo for Christmas. I never got any extra games for it but I got really good at Super Mario Bros which is to this day my favourite game ever - though Tetris and Dr. Mario are very close behind). Well after standing in a very civilised line for 2 hours, he did manage to get his hand on the coveted console and was back at home ready to try it out just as Jujube and I finished breakfast.

And then of course we had to try it out. You know, to make sure it worked properly ;0)

Merry early Christmas!

* Specs for my Virgin Mary: the pattern is from a Sirdar booklet (number 285) called "The Nativity Collection" and designed by Alan Dart. I knit it using Knit Picks Palette on US1 needles (note to self...the blue ones). My gauge was different than the pattern called for because of my yarn substitution. I threw caution to the wind and made no adjustments to account for my different gauge and somehow she turned out perfect! Yes, I am counting my blessings ;0)

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Totally out of control!

So remember my rule about WIPs? No more than 3 projects on the needles at a time? I've managed to do good by this rule for most of my knitting life (with a few exceptions here and there). Nice. Neat. Organised. And in control.

But now that I am waking from my first trimester hibernation, I suddenly feel the need to knit EVERYTHING. I think I've developed knitting attention deficit disorder and hope I can somehow manage to turn it around. Oh, and if that wasn't bad enough, I can't stop buying yarn! Seriously, this knitter is out of control!

I had so much knitting bits all around the house that I needed to dust-off my "knitting bag" and organise all of my projects in ziplocs where they belonged. There were projects on the dining room table, in the tv cabinet, on the floor by my bed, in my purse, in the fruit bowl and one deep in the yarn closet (that one I left in hiding for now). So much knitting that it doesn't all fit in my ginormous knitting bag...and it is making me anxious.

You've seen my Anniversary Sweater before and frankly I haven't knit much on it since April! I still only have about 10 inches of the back piece done and my anniversary was April 17th. You saw my virgin Mary last week...and I still haven't worked up the courage to finish her. So instead I started the Menorah Pillow from Handknit Holidays in Elann's Uros Aran (sooo soft!).

Then I got my hands on some Dale of Norway Baby Ull which is so wonderfully soft but somehow my stitch definition is awful in it. It all looks so uneven...I hope blocking will take care of everything. I have high blocking hopes! The pattern is from Erika Knight's Simple Knits for Cherished Babies.

And then there are my too small Cable Twist socks that I managed to turn into really cool fingerless mitts (knit from my Froggie Meanie winnings...a delicious Fleece Artist merino).

I feel like Lucy in that classic I Love Lucy bit where she's working on the assembly line at the chocolate factory and can't keep up with the candy flying by her on the conveyer belt and starts to stuff them in her mouth (click here to reminise).

Oh, and in other super exciting knitting news, my knitting buddy Marie-Michele and I got to alienate our co-workers and hurry to the McGill Bookstore last Friday to meet the one and only Yarn Harlot!

And the Harlot didn't disappoint. She was funny and charming and though she wasn't quite like I had imagined her, she was even more endearing if you can beleive that that is even possible. If she's ever in your town, you should totally go see her! We had a blast!