Sunday, December 21, 2008

Last Post Before Christmas

The snow is still falling. Baking's been done. Packing's been started. Tomorrow morning, John and I will be taking the bus out to the coast to visit family for Christmas. Before we leave, though, I wanted to show you what I've been working on this past week.

Now that my mom's shawl is finished, I decided that I still had time to make a little something for each of the grandkids. There are five of them out at the coast, and I found two little hats in a bag of things I'd knit before. No pics of those as I've posted them before, but those two will be for the two little guys (2 and 1 y.o.). For the two little girls (4 and 3 y.o.), I made these...

Ear Cozies, a FiberTrends pattern by Bev Galeskas. They knit up quickly and turned out really well. I just hope they fit right. The yarn is one I've not heard of before. It's Rozetti Two Fold, worsted weight, 75% acrylic, 25% wool. That means it's machine washable and dryable. It certainly steam blocked nicely. The yarn has a nice softness to it, not like sock yarns which can be a little scratchy.

While I was trying to decide what kind of hat to make for my 8 year old grandson, I asked John for some input. When I asked him what colour to make Adrian's hat, he immediately said "black!". Then, I asked if it should be just a basic toque or something different, he thought for a moment and said, "Well, if you can put a skull on it, it would be perfect".

So, that's what I did.

I'm calling this one "Adrian's Skull Cap". It's a very basic toque with decreases a la Jared Flood's "Turn A Square" cap. That is to say, the decreases are like raglan shaping, giving the top a squared shape. The skull design was taken from, from Adrian Bizilia's "We Call Them Pirates" hat.

If you want it, you can grab the pattern (in pdf format) here:

Finally, because we won't be around for the next week, I'd like to wish you all a wonderful Christmas, no matter how you celebrate it (or not). Stay warm. Stay safe.
Best wishes from John and myself (yes, that's us).

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


The Faroese shawl, from "A Gathering of Lace", came off the needles last night. As in, finished. As in, Yay, now I get to use my new blocking wires!

I know it's a little difficult to see detail in the first picture. The flannel sheet is my blocking sheet and cream on off-white doesn't really show well.

The shawl was considered done at about 10:00 last night and I was going to wait to tonight to block it, but there wasn't much to watch on tv, so I went ahead with blocking. All in all, from washing to considering it blocked took almost an hour. The wires made the job of blocking this shawl, in particular, a breeze! Because there are no points to block out, it would have meant a ton of pins just to make sure that both sides were even. I think I used about a dozen pins. Threading the wires through the edges took the longest and because I'd ground the ends of about eight rods to rounded points, it went very easily and quickly. I used all eight of the rounded wires, plus a half rod, cut for small bits (which I knew I'd need).

I'm very happy with how this shawl turned out and I'm sure my mother will enjoy it. This morning is the perfect morning for a shawl (or two or three... it's really cold here!)

The details again? The Faroese shawl by Marilyn Van Keppel from "A Gathering of Lace", Louet Gems Pearl, undyed, approximately 4 hanks (I think.. it was all in one large skein) on 3.75 mm needles.

This last picture, though not a pretty picture was taken just to show the detail. Cream against the ugly brown carpet that came with the apartment is a much better contrast. All in all, a very satisfactory FO.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Faroese Update

It is a winter wonderland here today. It's cold, about -11 C (about 12 F) and supposed to get even colder. In other words, the perfect kind of day to stay inside and knit, which is exactly what I intend to do.

Yesterday was spent working on the Faroese shawl, at least, until Brent arrived with beer, wine and subs. After one glass of wine, the knitting was put away. I've already had to repair too many little oopses (that's a word, isn't it?).

Here's how it's looking as of this morning...

I put it on blocking wires to take the pic; that really works well! At this point, I'm more than halfway through the charts, so I should be able to finish it in time for Christmas with no problem.

Ok, now, back to being sociable. Brent spent the night (didn't want him driving!) and now there's a football game on the tv and the remaining pizza's being served.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

I'm awake... enough already!

It's Saturday. It's 7:00 a.m. It snowed. We live on a bus route. I'm up.

Why am I up? Because we live on a bus route, the city makes sure that this street is plowed. That means snow plows. They're loud. As well, we live across the street from a mall. By 6:00 a.m., they have their parking lot cleared. They use snow plows, too. Did I mention that they're noisy? And then there are the sirens. First snowfall = accidents.

I'm up, so I may as well be productive and blog (and then get back to my knitting).

This picture was taken about half an hour ago. Apparently, there's more of this stuff on the way and the temperatures are supposed to drop. According to one forecaster, we may see temperatures lower than we've seen in the last 20 years this winter. I guess we can say that winter has finally arrived. At least, the skiers will be happy. For those, like me, who have never and will never be skiers (what? and break my bones?? no thanks!), this is knitting weather. Now, if only there was a fire place to go along with the knitting.

And speaking of knitting, this week, a ball of Drops Alpaca shouted at me that it wanted to be a Zetor shawl. Who am I to ignore a ball of yarn? I did start the Zetor once before in some lovely yarn that Robbyn sent me, but it just didn't feel right. (When that little skein of lovliness lets me know what it wants to be, I'll listen!)

So far, I've done three repeats of the second chart (the main body of the shawl) and am very happy with how it's looking.

To take this picture, I slid all the stitches on to blocking wires and pinned out the top edge. So much easier than trying to pin it out so you can see the pattern.

Blocking wires.... now, there's a purchase I won't regret! Already I can tell that blocking, from here on in, will be a dream. A wire down each side, one down the centre to keep it straight, perhaps two along the top edge (the wires are 36"; the shawl will be wider than that), a few pins to keep everything in place..... oh yeah! Blocking will be a breeze.

I've also been spending time with the Faroese shawl for my mom, but it hasn't had it's picture taken this week. I'd say that, stitch-wise, I'm about half way. Row-wise, I'm about a third of the way, but the rows are getting shorter and shorter. There were a couple of hiccups in the process, but they've been sorted out and it's knitting up nicely now.

At one point (the day I started Zetor), I'd worked on the shawl during my lunch break and noticed a dropped stitch... three rows down. I anchored the stitches (a k2tog) and put it away until I could concentrate enough to repair it. The following afternoon, I pinned it out, re-knit those stitches and continued on. Sounds easy, but it does take some concentration and the ability to read your stitches. Apart from that, it isn't difficult, just fiddly.

Ok, I'm rambling now. Time for another cup of tea.... and more knitting.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

That reminds me

A long time ago, when my kids were toddlers and I used to sew, I made myself a dress. It was a combination of two patterns, in a pretty, summery poly cotton. I also made a pair of overalls for my daughter. You know the kind with the buttons at the bib and the straps that come up over the shoulder, with a clip/buckle?

Well, one day, these two articles of clothing found themselves together in the laundry hamper, one on top of the other. The fabric of the dress and the buckle/clip of the pants were in direct contact, near the shoulder of the dress. When laundry day came around, there was a perfect imprint of the buckle on the dress....... in rust.

I was devastated. This was a great summer dress and it was comfortable and it looked good on me. I certainly couldn't wear it anywhere but around the house with this glaring rust stain on it. So I consulted a couple of books of household hints I'd received from my mother-in-law. In one, I found a way of removing rust from clothing. What did I have to lose? The dress would have ended up in the garbage if the rust didn't come out, so if it was ruined in the process, it really didn't matter, did it?

I did what the book suggested and it worked! I wore that dress for the next couple of summers and, unless they were told the story, no one knew that the dress had come close to being nothing but trash.

So, why am I telling you this? Tina left a comment on my last post, telling me about her disaster with blocking wires and rust. Maybe this will help rescue someone else's pride and joy.

Pour some salt into a small bowl; squeeze some lemon juice (fresh is best, but the fake stuff does work) onto the salt, enough to make a paste. Now take that paste and put it onto the rust stain. Allow it to soak in for a few minutes. Add more if you wish. Then, get a kettle of water and bring it to a boil, a good strong boil. Keep it boiling; you need the steam. Now comes the magical part. Hold the rust stained fabric over the steaming kettle.... perhaps you should be wearing some hand protection; you don't want to burn yourself. I held the dress almost directly on the spout of the kettle. You should, within a short time, begin to see the rust stain disappear before your very eyes!

Once you're happy, turn off the kettle and launder your whatever it is. From what the booklet said, you can use this method on most fabrics, but if you're concerned, try it out on a swatch or an inside seam first.

As an aside, I'm not sure what kind of blocking wires Tina used. The ones I bought were stainless steel tig rods, as recommended by numerous knitters in the Laceknitters Yahoo group. They were very specific.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

This, That and Another Thing

Today, I'll just ramble on about a few things, if you don't mind.

Yesterday, I mentioned the Faroese shawl I started for my mom. I've just about finished the first section, the zigzags along the bottom edge, so I decided it was a suitable time for a picture. The yarn is Louet Gems Pearl, undyed. I bought this yarn a while back (while I was still working at the yarn store) for another project, a Myrna Stahmann shawl. I wasn't very happy how it was knitting up, so it was frogged in favour of this pattern.

The fabric is, as I said yesterday, nice and cushy and I think it will make a lovely, cozy shawl that will be just right for cuddling up in front of the tv.

So, Christmas is just around the corner. Around here, because it's just the two of us, we really don't do a lot. We don't set up a tree (the apartment's just way too small for that); we don't do much decorating and we don't do the whole gift thing. We decided that we just don't need or want that extra pressure and expense. I do, however, like to do some special baking. There are a few recipes in our family that are reserved for this time of year.

Gevulde Speculaas (Filled Speculaas) is one of those recipes. I had never baked it before, but my mother-in-law did. For any of you not familiar with speculaas, it is a dutch spiced cookie. In this case, it's made into squares and has an almond paste filling. I've come to associate this recipe with the Christmas season and decided to bake it, finally.

Not only will I tease you with pictures, but I'll also provide the recipe. It takes a bit of time to make, but certainly isn't difficult. The almond filling can be made up to a week ahead, and should be. The standing time allows the flavours to develop. The dough for the top and bottom layer, as well, can be made ahead of time.

Lining the baking pan allows the speculaas to be easily removed from the pan.

The recipe is in pdf form in the sidebar and yes, they taste as good as they look! If you do try the recipe, let me know how it turns out.
And finally, I mentioned to John a while back that with part of the "dress money", I really wanted to get a set of blocking wires. I do knit a fair bit of lace and, from everything I've read, I knew it would make blocking a lot easier and more uniform. Checking online, though, I found that the sets available were quite expensive. I saw one online place that was selling them for $35 cdn, with $14 postage added. Add the taxes and one set of blocking wires would be over $50.
In one of the Yahoo groups I'm a member of, there was a discussion about blocking wires and quite a few of the knitters suggested welding rods. More specifically, they recommended stainless steel tig rods. Well, yesterday, I went online to find local welding supply stores and found one quite close to where we live. However, when we found the location, we discovered that they had merged with another welding supply company and were doing business at the other end of town.
One of the Canadians in the laceknitting group had mentioned that Princess Auto also carried said welding rods, so we went there and, after some hunting discovered these...

This is one pound of welding rods, 31 of them, 1/16" in diameter. That should block a lot of shawls! And the best part? The price for this tube, including the taxes, came in at just under $17.

I'm happy! Now, I just have to finish a shawl so I can try them out....... bye! :)

Saturday, December 06, 2008

The wait is over

You've all been so patiently waiting for pictures of THE dress on a live body. I won't make you wait any longer. Stacey came to pick up the dress on Thursday evening and tried it on for the two ladies she was with. Naturally, it was a great photo op.

It was also a big hit. The dress looks fantastic on her, if I do say so myself. Actual wedding pictures have been promised and will be posted when I get them.

In other things, I've cast on a shawl that will be a gift for my mother. (Are you surprised?) It's the Faroese shawl from "A Gathering of Lace". I haven't taken any pictures of it yet because, at the moment, it's a 2-3" wide strip. The shawl is worked from the outside edge to the center top. It's a garter stitch shawl, which is making it very "cushy". I promised my mother a shawl last time I was there, with the proviso that she wear it and not tuck it away in a drawer. Shawls should be used, even if it's only to wrap yourself in while watching tv.

Pictures will follow in time.

One more note... I've added a couple more patterns to my free pattern site. New this moring are the Top Down Slip Stitch hat, the Men's Toque a la Strellson, and the Bubblehead hat patterns.
Let me see if I can find pics for these patterns...


Top Down Slip Stitch hat, worked from the top down in worsted weight wool. I did this particular one in Paton's Classic Wool.


Men's Toque a la Strellson. The inspiration for this hat came from a magazine ad for Strellson, a men's wear designer. John liked the look of the hat and asked if I could copy it. I did and it is one of his favourite hats.


The Bubblehead hat. This particular one is made with a Fleece Artist variegated yarn and a solid contrasting colour. The original yarn was classified as a dk weight, but I found it to be more of a worsted weight. It's a fun hat and has been a fairly popular pattern.

These patterns and more can be found at Strings 'n Things Designs, the free pattern page. Enjoy!