Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Catching Up - Part 2 Socks and a Scarf

Yesterday morning I wrapped up warm and braved the after Christmas chaos that is Oxford Street. I went early so it wasn't too bad, but certainly busier than the average Monday morning. John Lewis and Liberty both have lots of Rowan yarn on sale (50% off) but I avoided going crazy and came away with 3 balls of KidSilk Spray in gorgeous red shades (darker than in this photo). Feeling like this frugality deserved a little reward I took a break in the Liberty cafe.....where I spent £11 on a bacon roll, cup of tea and some orange juice. That, combined with my rail fare for the day sort of wiped out the 50% saving on the yarn.

Hmmm. Perhaps I need to study up a bit more on this financial responsibility thing.

Back to the Canada trip......

One of the things I discovered when I was home was that quite a few of my relatives read the blog. So - hello to all of you!!

I also discovered that I never need to worry about finding a home for a pair of socks again. I now have a VERY long sock list and I'm looking forward to working my way through it next year. In the interests of full disclosure I should let my aunts Sheila and Simonne that they have been pushed down the list a bit since our last conversation as my Dad expressed an interest in having some socks. He obviously catapults right to the top of the list, and gets a few pair.

When it came time to exchange gifts at our mini-Christmas the mittens were complete (and very well received) but some socks and a scarf were - well - not.

The first pair of socks just needed the toes grafted and some ends woven in, so they were completed pretty quickly. They were for my younger sister, made with a superwash merino from MiddleEarthYarns and a 5 x 2 rib, with slipped stitches on the 5 rib. (Modified HelloYarns pattern for fingering weight yarn.)

The socks are pictured here with a matching Pez dispenser.

My niece Dyl has been waiting for a pair of socks for a very long time. In fact I can't really remember when she was put on the list -- but I think it might have been February or March. In appreciation for her patience I completed this pair of socks in colourful Socks that Rock yarn. She put them on immediately when they were completed and was still wearing them when she left. (Which to be fair was the next day.)

These are modelled on Dyl's feet.

The last pair of socks were for Dyl's mom and I'm afraid these weren't finished until after they had gone back home. The socks are Opal 6 ply so went quite quickly (but obviously not quickly enough). She likes them for curling and I'm sure if she ever actually gets these ones (they are still waiting to be posted by my mom) they will keep her toes toasty on the ice.

Finally, I had decided to make my Mom a scarf for Christmas - but during the mini-Christmas exchange it was just a ball of yarn (I think it was Smooshy Dream in Colour) and a pattern.

What pattern? Well the Swallowtail of course! Yep I still love this pattern (Interweave Knits Fall 2006).

I knew that I wouldn't have enough yarn to knit the pattern as written so I reduced the number of repeats of the first chart, and then had to fudge the next two charts as the stitch counts no longer worked. Too lazy to rework the charts properly I just eliminated the decreases at the beginning and end of each row until I had the right number of stitches.

When it was finished it was teeny tiny. I was a little worried but as always blocking was magic and the finished scarf is a nice size. Not a shawl - but perfect for wrapping around your neck. Ma has reported that she's been wearing it (hurrah!) and has received a few compliments (hurrah again!).

Of course the trip wasn't only knitting. I got to see lots of family (and I've got lots of family to see!) and catch up on the latest happenings. A highlight was definitely an invitation to the annual pre-Christmas dinner that my father's brothers and sisters hold in early December. There is lots of food and drink and singing and laughing and silly games and .... well everything Christmas should be. They are a lovely, loud, loving group of people, all of whom are a wonderful testament to the gorgeousness that was my grandmother.

That's most of my trip covered knitting-wise. There is one more project which I started at home but have just finished today. More on that later!

NOTE TO LESLIE THE KNITTING THERAPIST: Hi Leslie -- my parents are near Nash Creek. Email me at thingssoolikes at googlemail dot com and let me know where you are now - I'm sure we'll find a common acquaintance somewhere! Also I'm intrigued by the Knitting Therapist tag. Are you a therapist who knits? Or is knitting the latest in therapy?

Saturday, 27 December 2008

Catching Up - Part 1 The Mittens

I love these limbo days between Christmas and New Year. Days when you aren't really sure what day of the week it is but it doesn't much matter because the days are for eating up the Christmas leftovers (to make way for the New Year's feast!) and just mooching around the house reading, knitting or watching DVDs. Folks with more ooomph than me are out battling for a bargain on Oxford St but I think I'll wait until Monday or Tuesday before venturing out that far.

In the meantime I'll use this little lull in activity to get the blog up to date. If you cast your mind back you'll remember that in November I gave up working for a living (temporarily) and was heading home to Canada for a pre-Christmas visit.

I hadn't been home in far too long so I was very excited about going. My niece Kali who is in her second year at university decided to take the train to New Brunswick (a 15 hour trip each way!) for a weekend while I was there which spurred my older sister and her daughter Dyl to do the same. My younger sister and her husband drove up for the weekend (they don't live quite so far away) and suddenly a little mini-pre-Christmas celebration was brewing.

Of course this meant that the Christmas knitting deadline had sort of moved up by a few weeks. Oh well, a small price to pay I thought and the turbo needles came out for some serious action.

Before I left for Canada I finished these Let It Snow mittens from Vogue Fall 2008 for Dyl. I loved making these mittens - I'm easily amused as the pictures emerge with each row whenever I do this sort of pattern. I used Cherry Tree Hill sock yarn and the only modification I made was to put '2009' on one palm and 'SMHS' (St Mary High School) on the other. (I forgot to take a picture of the palms - so you'll just have to take my word on that.)

If I were to make another pair I'd replace the corrugated rib in the cuff with a conventional rib as I can never make corrugated rib properly stretchy.

I hoped that she would like them as much as she liked the mittens I made her last year.

I decided that mittens were the best bet for Kali as well and started a pair of red aran mittens (Aran Island Mittens from Folk Mittens ) on the flight to Halifax. (You can't fly direct to New Brunswick from London in the winter.)(In the summer you can - once a week on Wednesdays.) I made pretty good progress (and had a lovely chat with the steward who was also a knitter!) and had all but finished the first mitten when I realised that there was no way I was going to have enough yarn for a second mitten. Kali does have two hands and although she's an easy going sort of girl I felt she would probably prefer a PAIR of mittens.


I made a dash to a yarn shop in Halifax before boarding the train to New Brunswick and got some Cascade 220 Superwash (what a lot of lovely colours it comes in) and began again. The train trip from Halifax to my home on the north shore of New Brunswick is about 7 hours. I love trains. 7 uninterrupted mitten knitting hours. WooHoo! I finished the first mitten (except the thumb) about 30 minutes before arriving at my destination. By then I was too excited to knit any more and so instead spent it happily babbling away with the train conductor (who was coincidentally from the same part of New Brunswick) and the lady sat across from me (another knitter!).

One of the things I love about Canada - and in particular Atlantic Canada - is how friendly people can be. I'm always struck by it when I go home and this trip was no exception. I had to laugh when the train pulled into the very (very very) small train station (it only stops there on request) where my parents were waiting to meet me and the conductor yelled out to the platform as the train slowed to a halt "Special delivery from England. Anyone here for a special delivery from England?" When my parents claimed me he reassured them, "It's ok, she hasn't lost the Doyleville twang."

Lots of hugs and a short drive later I was at home and settled into what would largely be the pattern for the next 2 weeks:- me in the rocking chair knitting; Mom and Dad looking after me. I'm not ashamed (although perhaps I should be) to say I absolutely love it. I feel like a kid and it is heaven.

Anyway I knit along and finished up the second mitten.

I do like these mittens and knitting them (all 3 of them) reminded me how much I like doing texture and cables in knitting. I haven't really done any in ages and I think I had somehow convinced myself that cables were fiddly and annoying. But they aren't. And they look fab.

Two days later my parents and I head to the meet the morning train and as it is pulling into the station I recognise the same conductor from my trip! We greet each other like old friends and he delivers Kim (my sister) and Dyl (my niece) to us.

Kim has another daughter Sarah,who unfortunately couldn't take time out from her college course to come along but I had decided to make her some mittens as well. Following a bit of consultation with Dyl the Target Wave Mittens from the Interweave Knits Fall 2006 were cast on. The pattern as published is for child size mittens, so I used the Cascade Supewash doubled and bigger needles to make an adult sized pair.

We decided that not quite matching mittens would be more interesting and Dyl continued to provide valuable assistance through the process by operating the row counter for me.

Kali arrived the following morning, my sister and her husband a few hours later. A wee bit more knitting (squeezed in between card games and eating) and I was almost (but not quite) ready for the mini Christmas that evening.

But more about that another time. I've got leftovers to eat and a DVD to watch.

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Annual Non-Knitting Post

And another month flies by! My trip to Canada was fabulous and I expect I'll bore you with details over the next few posts as I catch up.

But in keeping with the festive spirit I've decided to blog a bit out of order and (for now) skip the holiday and fill you in the annual official kick off of Christmas for me -- the Gingerbread House!

It began a couple of Sundays ago, as all the best days do, with an overflowing sleigh o' sweets (and this was before Caroline, Pat and the 4 Mini's arrived with more sweets). As is custom I had already baked the house pieces so they were ready for construction. (The cookie pieces need to cool down entirely before you try to build with them. Attempting to build before then will lead to collapsed walls and tears.)
I present the baked pieces -- complete with the best windows ever! They were made with some fancy snowflake cookie cutters, and the spaces filled with crushed Fox's Glacier Mints. For an extra bit of winter wonderland sparkle I dusted on a bit of white disco edible glitter.

Pat proposed that in the interests of protecting the planet this year's house should be an eco-gingerbread house and we all readily agreed and got to work.

Luscious Louis - our youngest construction worker at 6 - was determined to make 2 carpets this year. One for the inside of the house and the other to take home and eat later. As you can see from this picture the carpet he made for the house is a lovely Smartie carpet. He also made a comfy sofa with a couple of cushions and a Gingerbread Man to enjoy it all. Scrumptous Susie made the indoor tree and Marvellous Mads made the flat screen LCD television in the corner.

Meanwhile the outside of the house was coming along nicely. Gorgeous Gen and Caroline made a pair of snow people. The snow lady is a bit confused about the season in her bikini - but such is the magic of gingerbread-land. (The snowballs for the snow people are made from granulated sugar and teeensy weensy bit of water combined to make a mixture that resembles wet sand. You make the snowball shapes and let them dry out on the counter for a few hours or in a very low heat oven for 10 minutes. You can also use the sugar sand in molds to make other sugar shapes.)

Mads made this water well from nougat and some pretzels. Mads is 8 and I think she's a pretty amazing gingerbread artist already. In fact all of the Mini's are and I hope I'm able to keep up with their sugar skills over the coming years.

Gen made a skating pond, and Susie made these cute little ice skates that some gingerbread person left on the bench in their rush to get home for supper.

This is all well and good I hear you saying - - but what about Pat's dream of an eco friendly gingerbread world??? Fear not.

This year's house had solar panels on the roof... (There was a fair bit of discussion amongst us about what colour solar panels were and what they looked like. In the end we went with what we had. Allsorts licorice and a bit of white disco glitter.)
...and an outdoor wind turbine to provide all of their energy needs.

And of course, the gingerbread people manage their waste carefully so you can also see the green (for organic waste) and blue (for recyclables) bins at the edge of gingerbread-land to prove it.

Although the children were impressed by Pat's eco-efforts it is fair to say that at this time of year their minds run a bit more to the Santa side of things and Mads and Susie created this sleigh full of presents, pulled by a red nosed reindeer. How clever are they???
(And just beside the reindeer you can see Pat's final piece of eco-ginger - the green barrell for collecting rain water.)As always the afternoon is punctuated with a bit of singing and lots of laughter. We take a break every year while the roof sets to eat pizza and watch the 1966 animated version of the Grinch Most of us now know it by heart but we still watch in blissful silence.

Then we finish decorating the roof and putting up the fence before calling it a day. Many rounds of sticky goodbye hugs and kisses later and I begin trying to clear away the construction debris. Despite my best efforts I find bits of icing and sticky sweets in strange places around the kitchen for days afterwards -- and I wouldn't have it any other way.

Hope you are all enjoying the holiday season! Knitting talk next time.