What I did this summer

*Note: this post was mostly written at the start of September and I didn't publish at the time because, well, that's just another thing I didn't get to.

So blogging was not one of the things I did.  Another thing I did not do this summer was finish my three projects for the Summer of Basics MAL.  Going in, I had a sliver of doubt that I would make it to the finish line, but that was okay.  I just liked the idea of zeroing in on what I really wanted to add to my wardrobe and even more appealing to me was the permission I would give myself to work on these projects instead of endlessly berating myself for "wasting" time on a mere hobby when life's priorities are constantly in need of seeing to.  I thought I'd give deliberate "me-time" a spin instead of just snatching at it when I was at my rope's end.  I guess I need more practice because I ended up telling myself that I'd work on my SoB projects when I finished up my other work and now it's September and pretty much nothing is done.

*Note: actually, it's now mid-November

However, I'm not prepared to call my Summer of Basics completely unsuccessful.  I completed two of three items (albeit, after August 31st), both of which presented a challenge to my pattern writing skills, and it was a nice little confidence booster to plan and execute designs that had been bouncing around in my head for a while.  (I sometimes think I put off starting a project not for lack of time, but for lack of confidence.  I can't fail if I don't try, right?)  The other thing I did, to my surprise, was shed the extra pounds I had packed on since 2015.  So while I didn't totally succeed with the making aspect of the Summer of Basics challenge, I did have some success with the weight-loss challenge I decided to include in my version of SoB.  I managed to gain back some of my favourite wardrobe pieces, something I'm going to consider a win for my slow fashion efforts.

I'm not saying I ballooned numerous sizes in the course of the last few years, but I had put on enough weight by last April that I couldn't comfortably wear most of my clothing, including unmentionables.  I spent a few months only wearing those items in my closet with enough positive ease or spandex to accommodate my new size, most of which were still pinching and pulling in the most uncomfortable ways.  Don't worry, I'm not trying to spin this as a tale of woe, I'm just trying to explain why I was faced with making a decision to either replace nearly my entire wardrobe or go on an official diet.  I'm not really keen on the concept of dieting, I can't help viewing it as an entirely unpleasant way to go about living.  Counting calories, exercising so you can eat, and obsessively stepping on a scale sound like a fast-track to misery, if you ask me.

But then, there are many upsides to staying in shape.  The usual reasons that healthy-living types proclaim, like increased energy, improved mood, a more positive body-image, and the like are definitely all good reasons to exercise and eat a healthy diet, but in the context of slow fashion, there are a few other upsides that I hadn't considered until my weight-gain created a wardrobe crisis.  The main one is that if I can find a good lifestyle balance and maintain my weight, I'm not really forced to buy new clothes to replace clothes that haven't lived out a full and useful existence.

*Note: my idea of excess weight is based on my normal.  My "normal" has changed as I've gotten older.  (Also, my normal is not your normal which is not the next person's normal either.  Please redirect any outrage you may feel stirring in your soul, perhaps towards fructose, the real enemy.)

A healthy diet is something that I've had to radically rethink in the past few months.  After reading this book earlier this year, I was convinced I needed to try a version of the IF/LCHF diet, partly because I wanted to shed a few pounds quickly, partly because I had been recently advised of my increased risk for type II diabetes, and partly because I knew that my eating habits were probably the cause of my sudden weight gain. Also, I really liked the idea of learning to control my hunger and my dependence on sugar highs.  I was basically grazing on small amounts of sugary goods from waking to bedtime to keep my blood sugar elevated because I felt like it was the only way to maintain my energy and mental clarity.  I would feel pretty lifeless without sugar, not to mention a bit grumpy.  I was close to ordering this t-shirt but the possibility that I might be able kick the carb dependence and control my weight at the same time was too tantalizing to ignore.

Before you start to think that I'm bragging about the weight loss, let me stop you.  I lost just enough to get  closer to my normal and I'm happy about it, but what I'm actually proud of is having overhauled my eating habits.

Note: I wrote the previous sentence in September.  Full disclosure: I cheated a fair bit while I was travelling last month.  Amazingly, my trip was not as pastry-filled as it would normally have been but I ate like every meal was my last, and I still lost another two pounds, although possibly due to all the walking.  So much walking, all of it seemingly uphill.

But I'm totally digressing here. I could go on about my new diet if given half the chance, and no one wants that.  So I'll just abruptly switch back to the topic at hand: my two of three SoB FOs. The first is a linen tank top that I am calling the Ube Nut Tank in honour of the one ice cream cone I had over the summer.  If you were anywhere within a 3-block radius of iHalo Krunch this summer, you would likely have seen multiple people devouring black soft-serve ice cream in a jet-black waffle cone.  It was pretty eye catching, so I being merely human, got in line to find out what all the fuss was about.  I enjoyed the ice cream (coconut and ube flavour, hence, Ube Nut) but I had regrets about sporting black lips and tongue for the remainder of the day.  A few more details about the tank top are on my Ravelry project page and these are a few of the photos I attempted to take with only myself as both model and photographer (i.e., not an entirely successful endeavour):

My second project was not a summer item, but it was my on my list of possible SoB projects because it met the requirements and I wanted a backup knitting project to work on.  I call these my Mundy Gloves because they are not those $2 magic gloves you can buy everywhere.  (Yes, I am a fan of the Fables comic books.)  Magic gloves are small but stretch to fit any size and they can be worn under fingerless mitts/mittens/gloves for extra warmth.  The second-skin fit also means you retain some manual dexterity without being fully exposed to the cold air.  My gloves are the opposite of magic gloves in that they are not infinitely stretchy so you have to customize the fit, they are wool, not acrylic, and they were made to last.  I admit I love magic gloves but I hate that they are pretty much disposable because the fingers wear-through in one season and there is no way I'm going to mend magic gloves but I will mend handmade wool gloves.  Also, I get uncomfortable when things are ridiculously cheap.  The cost to the environment and humans tends to be high when retail prices are driven so low.  I had some multi-ply laceweight that wasn't getting used for anything so I knit myself a pair of totally mundane gloves that happen to fit pretty darn well (after much frogging and revision) and are pure wool to boot!

I wrote myself a pattern because there are surprisingly few patterns available for laceweight gloves.  Am I the only one who is surprised by this?  Maybe there aren't that many knitters with my predilection for magic gloves, or maybe there are but no pattern designers think there are?  Maybe I'll add this to my secret list of patterns I might publish in my super-secret dream of one day writing and publishing patterns?  Lucky no one reads this blog.

 

One last post about Christmas knitting

I issued myself a Christmas knitting report card last post and let's say, by the numbers, my 2016 performance was a little disappointing.  But, as with real report cards, the full picture is sometimes obscured in the details.  In actuality, I concluded that it was all worthwhile all because of one response to one of the gifts I had knit.*

I have a theory that a maker whose handmade gift is received with true happiness experiences tenfold happiness themselves.  Of course, there is the joy we derive from the making itself and the love we put into each minute of that process, but we can only hope and not expect or demand that the recipient will love that thing as much as we do.  And even if the recipient is a three-year old child who would likely have been delighted with just about any gift, sweet kid that she is, I feel just as much satisfaction as if I had been judged worthy by a panel of experienced knitters. Maybe more.

For a good friend's daughter, I decided to knit a polar bear girl from Julie Williams' (aka, Little Cotton Rabbits) Girl Bear pattern and some clothes from the various LCR animal clothes patterns.  I was really taken with the beautiful winter-themed animals Julie posted on her blog and I convinced myself that a little dressed polar bear was just the right thing for this particular little girl, whom I will refer to as "E".  So, I made Polly Behr:

Making Polly and her little travel set was almost as fun as seeing E open her present.  Polly is knit with an Ontario grown-and-spun alpaca yarn I purchased from the lovely Alpaca Avenue shop.  The clothes are knit with various yarns I had in my stash.  The nice thing about doll clothing is that you don't need much yarn so I could dip into my collection of partials and singles and make a wardrobe, although it did limit my colour palette.  I made a few attempts at knitting some of the Fair Isle dresses Julie published, but unfortunately, stranded knitting is not my forte, especially under time constraints, so I settled for simplified colourwork and accessorised instead.  It wasn't intentional but all the accessories are of Danish design (which I deeply love, so probably not really a coincidence).  The little suitcase is made by Maileg (purchased from Kolkid, here in Toronto but available online).  The gift box, a red tin mailbox, and the teddy passport (how could I resist?) are from a Flying Tiger store in NYC, (which is where I happened to be last month).

My little friend has a great imagination and I decided to give Polly a little back story about having travelled from Greenland to attend nursery school in Toronto and needing a nice place to live.  E, who is many wonderful things, also happens to be none too fond of nursery school.  I think (I hope!) it helped her relate to Polly because she seems to have taken Polly's "care" to heart.  E's parents tell me she puts Polly to bed in her house (the red mailbox) at night and tries to keep her warm when they go outside to play.  I already thought it was a great triumph that E was so excited about Polly's removable "shacket" (aka, jacket, aka, cardigan) when she opened her gift but the update from her parents really made my day. :D

Needless to say, E has earned herself a lifetime appointment to my knit-worthy list for this alone!


Footnotes

*This post may have the slight stench of the humblebrag.  Try to forgive me this weakness, but E was so happy.  I'm just going to bask in this for a day or two.

Christmas knitting report card

So Christmas 2016 has come and gone.  From the perspective of a knitter, the success of Christmas might be measured by how much knitting was or was not done.  For the organised and rational knitter, a good Christmas holiday would have included some stress-free knitting in a comfortable, warm nook.  For the rest, there would be varying amounts of (probably frantic) knitting taking place during any free moment available, sometimes in unlikely places in order to meet a deadline.  Since I decided to embark on Christmas gift knitting sometime in early December, I should have fallen squarely among the latter group, but I did rein in my ambitions to three, relatively small projects, which had to be done or abandoned before I left for the holidays.

But that said, how did I do, really?  I decided to assess it by the numbers and I issued myself a Christmas knitting report card based on the three projects I had decided to make.

In truth, I don't really deserve that A+ for attendance because the majority of the Christmas gatherings I was invited to were all scheduled for days I wasn't even in town.  Which is to say, my performance for a mere three small projects was pretty disappointing even if I thought it didn't go as poorly as some previous years.  I think the conclusion is obvious; I should really just knit for myself and I can do it guilt-free because this report card confirms everything I knew to be true about (my attempts at) gift knitting.   Which is, it rarely ends well.

(If you would also like to issue yourself a Christmas knitting report card, feel free to print one for yourself.

If this were a fancy-like blog, I would have it generate your grades for you, but that is not where my skills lie.  You'll have to do it the old-fashioned way.)

Luckily, internet shopping has reached a level of efficiency that allows me to get to inside a week of Christmas Day to decide (objectively)* if the project in hand can be completed in time or if I need to order something right now.  Incidentally, I used to think I would rather be kept awake for three days straight by the barking of dogs and the clashing of garbage bins being knocked over by raccoons rather than brave a mall even once in the weeks before Christmas.  This year, having been forced to make a few trips to various malls, I found that it was surprisingly not utter pandemonium.  I'm going to attribute this to the rise of internet shopping.  Some people think the internet is destroying meaningful human interaction but I'm now rather inclined to think that it might be saving us all.

But back to the subject at hand.  Clearly, deciding to knit gifts a mere handful of weeks before Christmas is never a sound plan, yet somehow I convinced myself to give it a try anyway.  It would probably be smarter to set the publish date for this post for sometime in November of 2017 as a sort of wake-up call, a reminder to my future self of the inevitable outcome of last-minute gift knitting which you know I will be contemplating again in eleven month's time, but that would be planning ahead.


Footnotes

*I'm not sure if I'm alone in this, but in the past, when the clock was running down and I still hadn't completed a project, I would then, through some strange logic, convince myself the answer was to forego some hours of sleep per day for the remaining days before Christmas instead of just going out and buying a gift to replace the one I wasn't going to be able to finish.  Like I said in my last post: madness.  Internet shopping allows me to get that close to a deadline and not lose my grip on reality.

Christmas Madness

I'm not referring to the parking lots at the mall or the back-to-back Christmas gatherings or the number of lightbulbs per square foot in my neighbourhood.  I'm referring to the affliction that annually strikes many knitters (and probably crocheters and sewers too) as early as the first week of December but usually in the second and third weeks of this otherwise run-of-the-mill-crazy month.  Certainly, I use words like madness and insanity in a rather loose manner (and entirely too often) but sometimes I can't help but wonder.

What I'm talking about is gift knitting and the belief that December is a perfectly rational time to start it.  A hat, you tell yourself will take no time at all.  And a little baby sweater for your cousin's newest baby?  So easy!  And yes, knitted toys are a little finicky to work up, but so small and relatively quick compared to the hours I could spend shopping for something half as adorable.  Then I should probably finish that sweater I started for my significant other which only has the rest of the front, back, sleeves, collar, and button-bands left.  And while it's blocking, I do have all these colourful partials that would make the cutest colourwork miniature stockings that I can adorn all these presents with.  Wouldn't that be a great stash buster and ridonculously cute?  And so the list grows into something gargantuan that couldn't have been conquered had you started in June like you should have.

A knitter's ability to reckon time is already suspect, but the nearer Christmas looms, the less a knitter can grasp that time is immutable (for all practical purposes) or accept the limits of their human biology.  But reality does set in, and we sleep, and we eat, and we don't completely shun our families and friends (we just take our knitting with us to their parties and hope no one notices).

The scary thing about it all though?  I've done this countless Christmases and I've long ago banned myself from gift knitting, because frankly, the majority of those gifts were never completed* and some, I'm not too proud to admit, are to this day still in the skein stage, yet I start toying with the possibility of just knitting a few small things for the people I think will actually appreciate it--every single year--around this time.  I'm not sure I can be convinced that this isn't a form of madness.

I thought I might be recovering from this condition after years (perhaps even decades) of denial.  Last year, I made exactly zero attempts to knit something for anyone other than my own self, even if I did give it some consideration.  However, this year I foresee a set-back.  You see, that hypothetical gift list a few paragraphs ago isn't.  I actually made that list yesterday, right before I pinched myself hard and looked for a bucket of ice water to dunk my head in.

Maybe just the hat then?

And the doll.

Knitting with The Gaynor Homestead's divine Rambouillet 3-ply worsted, "Home".  My only hope is that I decide no one deserves a hat this nice except me.

Knitting with The Gaynor Homestead's divine Rambouillet 3-ply worsted, "Home".  My only hope is that I decide no one deserves a hat this nice except me.


Footnotes:

*Once I abandoned all hope of finishing the gift in time, I would end up spending hours, last-minute, scouring the internet to find that person something just right and in time.  As in, I spent double the money (and time) I would have otherwise--buying yarn that didn't get used plus a gift that I probably could have bought a month earlier during Black Friday sales.

Who edits the editors?


Gotland sheep giving me stink-eye at the 2016 Woodstock Fleece Festival

Gotland sheep giving me stink-eye at the 2016 Woodstock Fleece Festival

I am fully aware that errors in patterns will occur despite the best intentions of the publisher.  Usually when I do come across errors, they aren't too difficult to correct and my degree of annoyance isn't much more than if I had made a mistake myself.  I can find forgiveness in my heart for the occasional error that makes it to print and I just assume errors do slip past even good tech editors, but my world view has had an alarming shake up this week because I have discovered that one of my core knitting tenets (i.e., one should never start a pattern without checking for errata first) is entirely useless.  In retrospect, it flies in the face of another fundamental belief of mine, which is: don't believe anything you read, especially if it's on the internet.  Yet I just blithely assumed that errata could not, by definition, contain errors--an obviously flawed notion that I have now been disabused of.

I have, for various reasons, mostly stopped buying knitting patterns--but not because I fear the errors.   I just found over the years that I'm not very keen on following instructions and buying patterns didn't seem to make a lot of sense if I was just going to modify them beyond recognition.  I so rarely follow a pattern "verbatim" that it is practically an event when I want to knit someone else's pattern as written but isn't it nice to just let someone else do the thinking once in a while?

Recently, I happily embarked on a new project using a pattern that really caught my attention last year and I have been happily stealing moments out of the past five, very busy weeks to work on this project with a beautiful yarn that I have been obsessing over and which I purchased specifically for this pattern.  As I was nearing the end, it finally dawned on me that I had been knitting with blinders on and ignoring the misgivings I had about the charts. I knew that they didn't seem right, but it's a fairly complex pattern and I foolishly convinced myself that this particular publishing outfit would not have let such major errors slip past them, especially since I was working from the charts that were supposedly updated and corrected, and that it would all make sense in the end.  It did not make sense.

What makes the least sense is that I followed the charts even though I thought there were some discrepancies, so maybe I shouldn't blame the publisher or designer for my lost weeks of knitting time.  But then again, a publisher that proclaims the quality of their work and the fair compensation they offer to their contributors for that high quality of work, really has no excuse for what I'm looking at here (which is now a nearly completed but totally messed up project hiding under a jumbled pile of highly marked up charts and quaking in fear of its inevitable frogging later today, right after I down a shot or two).

(Rest assured, I did my public duty and emailed the publisher in hopes that they pull the pattern and correct it before another hapless knitter stumbles on this pattern and nearly bursts a blood vessel in her brain.)

This situation is entirely new to me.  In the past, when I found errors in a pattern, they were not of the magnitude that a simple refund or free pattern offer could not compensate for.  In this particular instance, a free pattern would, in my somewhat biased opinion, be a woefully insufficient recompense, which has got me thinking about what, in an ideal world, would be sufficient?  Five weeks of free housecleaning service? Several home-cooked dinners for the same duration?  Weekly I.T. support for my parents?  That knitting time had to be carved out of other time-consuming activities and I suspect that's how even the most efficient people find the time to knit.

I'm going to take my own advice though and just move on to other (possibly more relevant) tasks rather than sit here brooding and writing a blog post.  I could make that new flowchart I've been meaning to work on ("Should I frog this project?") or better still, I could take what might be the only opportunity I will get to finish up last year's gift knitting before Christmas 2017.

Firsts

 

It's taken a while, but after having been a knitter for 20 or so years, I finally worked up the nerve to attend a fiber festival.  (Naturally, you are asking yourself, if I never attended these yarn fests and I rarely set foot in a yarn store, how did my stash grow so large, and the answer is, of course, the internets.)  I have some theories about why I never could convince myself I needed to go to these things, but I won't bore you with them.  (They mostly boil down to one incident when a somewhat crazed knitter threw an elbow straight into my chest at The Textile Museum's More Than Just a Yardage Sale* so that she could get to a box of old Vogue Knitting magazines before I did.)  I did eventually convince myself that the few unpleasant knitters I had encountered in those early years by no means represented the whole of knitterdom and partly by chance, I started to meet knitters outside the context of bargain mania.  I discovered that knitters are so much more pleasant when they don't think you're trying to abscond with that bag of Rowan yarn that has a price tag of $10.  Anyhow, I eventually decided that I would in fact LOVE to attend a yarn festival but it happened to coincide with my deciding that I really should not be acquiring any more yarn until my stash was under control.  So this month, after several years of yarn dieting, I decided it was safe for me to go.  Please don't conclude that I have worked my stash down to something sensible.  I have not done so.  But I have learned to control my yarn acquisition problem.**

The fates have conspired to prevent me from attending the Knitter's Frolic here in Toronto for the last two years but I had heard about the Kitchener-Waterloo Knitters' Fair and decided this would be the fair that finally broke my moratorium on fiber festivals.  I was a little worried that I wasn't picking the right venue for my very first foray into the world of knitting fairs since it was being held in a hockey arena--not exactly a visual delight***-- but, the timing was right, and most importantly, I was interested in seeing the wares of a few particular vendors and this was going to be my best opportunity to do so in person.

That handful of vendors I was interested in were, not coincidentally, all local Ontario wool producers and indie-dyers.  I especially wanted to see some more**** of what my fellow Ontarians were creating because I am starting to feel pretty strongly about supporting the local economy and in particular, supporting new producers and craftspeople who are building their businesses on a model of sustainability and ethical practices.  I wanted to see in person if their products were as impressive as their enthusiasm for environmental and social issues.  To be perfectly honest, I was blown away by what I saw and by the vendors I spoke to.  Some I had heard of, a few I discovered for the first time. What really struck me about some of these particular vendors was that sustainability of production and sourceable chains of supply were not just catch-phrases to them and these were concerns they took to heart.  I.e., they weren't just talking the talk.

So let me tell you about the Fair vendors that really stood out for me.  First, how nifty is it to meet an actual shepherdess!  This was a lucky find, tucked away in the Fair's Micro Market.  Laura Sharpe of Twin Oaks Farms was super charming and young as she is, she is shepherdess to a small flock of Romney sheep on her farm near Guelph.  (I say "young", I just mean well younger than I am--not little Miss Muffet).  She sells fleece and yarn which she has processed by Wellington Fibers in Elora.  You can read more about Laura's fiber products on her website.  (In fact, I hope anyone reading this clicks through to the farmers and dyers I link in this post--I'm excited about every single one of them!)  She has chosen to sell her products undyed at this time but sometimes, those natural sheep shades are the best!  I hope to get my pre-order in on time for a few skeins of worsted from her black lambs who were born this year and won't be sheared until 2017.  (Pre-ordering yarn because it's still growing?  Kind of awesome!  I also find it so adorable that her yarns are named for the sheep who provided the fleece!)  I was a little shy of getting in anyone's way just to take some photos so all I came away with was a snap of her business card (which she had already run out of by noon!) and a quickie of the yarn I would have bought had it been a worsted weight (which will be available in 2017, hence the pre-order):

Wellington Fibres happened to be one of the booths at the Fair that I really enjoyed photographing (quickly, so as to get out of people's way, although I somehow still managed to always be in someone's way. Forgive me, Fair goers.)  The rows and rows of boxes of brightly dyed fibers were a fun touch.

Speaking of displays, Kylie of Agrestal Yarns (which I hadn't realised is based in Toronto) had a really wonderful booth.  Everything about her yarns, her colours, her displays, and the fact that Kylie herself was knitting so nimbly while standing and chatting with visitors apparently without needing to look at her work just created this magical aura!  I probably took the most pictures here because I just loved the thought and artistry she put into each area of her booth.

I can thank the KW Fair for introducing me to the colours of the Georgian Bay Fibre Co. which is operated by Carla Pletzer in Parry Sound.  Carla has an incredible range of beautiful kettle-dyed colours in bases ranging from fingering to aran which were all on glorious display in her lovely booth, minus those which had already sold out.  I only packed a 50mm lens with me and backing up far enough to capture the whole booth meant stopping traffic.  You do not want to be the obstacle between a knitter and yarn.  Believe me.  (You can check out Carla's Instagram for a better view and just because she takes nice photos).

Amusingyarns_GBFibreCo_KWFair_display.jpg

I very nearly made off with the only two remaining hanks of Bayfield Fingering BFL in the colour Windermere Hollyberry right ahead of the Fair's guest speaker, Anne Hanson, but I was pre-empted by the lady standing next to me by a matter of mere seconds. Anne, in my defence, no one knew they were reserved for you and you are welcome to blame that lady who was hightailing it out of the booth with her spoils.  I was the one left standing there, mouth agape, mourning my loss.  (I had temporarily forgotten about the internet and the existence of online shopping.)*****

The Hollyberry is third from the left.  This is where I blame the arena lighting because this photo does not capture the perfect orange-tinged redness of this yarn

The Hollyberry is third from the left.  This is where I blame the arena lighting because this photo does not capture the perfect orange-tinged redness of this yarn

I have forgiven myself for this yarn diet transgression.  I loved the colour even under those arena lights, and now that it has arrived via mail, I have zero regrets.  Though, if I don't get it knitted up in the next few months, I'm going to start feeling a bit silly about my eagerness to have this yarn right now.  Especially because in my grief, I stumbled over to The Gaynor Homestead's booth and bought two skeins of their absolutely perfect 3-ply Rambouillet, despite not having had that type of yarn on my list of allowed purchases.  (Having a list really works--if you stick to it.)  It's on my needles right now, which is a good sign, but I have done the thing I was never to do again which is buy more yarn than I can knit in the foreseeable future.  (I still have hopes though.  I just have to resign myself to purely selfish knitting from now until the new year.  Sometimes sacrifices have to be made.)

I admit this might have been a rebound purchase, but seriously, I get goosebumps when I squeeze the yarn, it's that nice. Bonus, the Gaynor's were a really lovely young couple and they raised the sheep themselves.  They chose to have the yarn milled in Michigan, I think to achieve the precise result they were aiming for.  I haven't decided if I'm going to dye this yarn or not because it is my idea of the perfect shade of cream and it is the natural colour of their sheep. I almost feel it would be a shame to obscure it.

There were of course many other vendors and I did snap a few pictures of other things that caught my eye, but it seemed to me that there was something there for just about everyone, even someone as particular as I am!  Now I'm really looking forward to the Woodstock Fleece Festival on October 15, 2016 and I might even accompany a group of knitters.  I feel like there has been some personal growth here, somewhere.

As an aside, my worries about the arena venue ruining the vibe were completely unfounded.  I don't think my eyes really ever strayed from all the beautiful yarns, fiber, and sample knits.  Plus, a hockey rink is about as Canadian a venue as one can get.


Footnotes:

*The Textile Museum receives so many donations from companies and private individuals that they are now running drop-in sales throughout the year.  They have a calendar of upcoming events if you like sifting through old stuff in search of treasures or just marvelling at what other crafters had in their stashes

**Mostly under control.  I'm not made of steel. But I have definitely made progress, mainly in identifying my shopping triggers

***I'm going to pretend the wholly unattractive quality of arena lighting is a valid excuse for the quality of my photos

****I only recently became aware that there were so many yarn producers in Ontario through my friend Kerstin of Alpaca Avenue.  I don't know if there is another yarn store in Toronto like Alpaca Avenue that carries products based on both the beauty of the product and the sustainability of its production and use, with an emphasis on Canadian and American origination. Worth checking out if those things are of interest to you!

*****I have been working so hard to retrain myself to not shop for yarn online, which I think explains this cerebral glitch

Tank

I'm perpetually late for everything and when it comes to knitting deadlines (among other things), I am usually the hare and not the tortoise.  I can spend the entire season casually thinking about what I want to make and then I try to squeeze those projects in at the very last moment and rarely get to use them before the seasons cycle again.*

However, I was pretty good this summer in completing a silk tank top.  Granted, it's the only garment I have finished (knit or otherwise) this year but I started it in June and finished in July.  That is practically record time for me, and with room to spare, but I was extra motivated to be timely because this was a test knit for the very talented Simone A. of Temple of Knit.*  She has a beautiful sense of shape and texture but more than that, she has an eye for the little details that I think elevate a knitted object from handmade to handcrafted, so it was a pleasure to knit this project!  Thanks for including me in this little adventure, Simone!

Autumn is just around the corner and it might seem like the opportunity to wear this top has passed for the calendar year (in the northern hemisphere), but I plan on wearing my tank with a blazer or jacket when the temperature starts to drop a little and I can see this pattern knit in a soft wool as well.  I don't think this top needs to be limited to the hottest summer months!

In my Ravelry notes, I provided some detail about swatching a somewhat impracticable yarn (Colourmart 4/120NM Cobweb Silk). The upshot is, no one need use this yarn but I knew I loved it for this project, it was in my stash,** and I'm sometimes more stubborn than is good for me.

Also unusual for me, photos from start to finish (although I can only dream of taking photographs as beautiful as Simone's. Did I mention she has talents?):

Simone's pattern is now available for purchase through her website and through Ravelry:


Footnotes

*Many knitters might be familiar with this problem in the form of Christmas knitting. Speaking of which, I start thinking about Christmas knitting right about this time of year and yet, almost certainly, you will find me the week of Christmas 2016 casting on and feverishly knitting in a quiet corner.

**Using stash yarn was not a minor consideration. There are many yarn types that would look amazing in this design (as one can see from the projects already knit up by the test knitters on IG, #templeofknitpractice) and I would have loved an excuse to buy some Shibui Linen for this project but I made it through the Valley of Temptation. The size of my stash is not something I'm proud of so part of my rehabilitation from shopaholic to a more conscientious consumer is using up the things I already have in my possession instead of endlessly acquiring. It isn't always easy but my guilty conscience is a pretty effective check--with the occasional exception, recently. More on that later this week.

Yarnography

I sometimes wonder if I don't knit my stash yarn because it looks so much nicer as skeins.

Malabrigo "Mecha", col.43 Plomo

Malabrigo "Mecha", col.43 Plomo

(More likely it's because the yarn in its unknit form holds infinite promise whereas the knitted item sometimes falls short of those wild hopes and dreams we had when we bought the stuff.  I'm sure I'm not alone in preferring a room full of infinite promise over a dresser full of disappointment and that's why the yarn stash is so out of control.  That, and unchecked shopping.*)

As beautiful as a skein of yarn is in its unsullied state, I find photographing an appealing image of my yarn to be pretty challenging.  Something tells me it ought to be a simple task, yet I find that most (as in, nearly all) of my yarn photos fail to capture that appeal that made me buy the yarn in the first place.  Kettle dyed yarns like the Malabrigo Mecha pictured above provide a certain amount of visual interest all on their own but try photographing ten balls of a solid colour mercerised cotton or superwash wool and then you find out how good a photographer you really are.

I had a look back at the evolution of my yarn photography and I can see a progression (mainly in camera quality) but maybe not as much progress in skill as one might hope for over the course of 8 years.  Somewhere in my mind I believe that if I can learn to consistently take an eye-catching photo of any yarn, be it a hank of beautiful hand-dyed or a drab ball of workaday cotton, I'll have actually reached the next stage in my photography endeavours so I continue photographing yarn despite the slow pace of improvement.

Besides, for me, photographing yarn is the next best thing to photographing actual finished objects so it remains one of my subjects of choice, especially since the FOs have been conspicuously not forthcoming in recent years.  Also, when you come home with your latest yarn acquisition or it arrives in the mail, your enthusiasm for that yarn is at its highest and therefore, photographing it doesn't seem like something only crazy people do.

As pointless an endeavour this might seem, there are a few upsides to all this yarn photography I do.  On a practical level, it helps me keep track of what I have in my stash.  Otherwise, after newly acquired yarn gets hermetically sealed into vacuum bags and then buried alive in a storage tote, I might easily forget I have it.  (Surely, if I had kept a visual record since I first began buying more yarn than I could knit, I wouldn't have 6 different balls of nearly the same shade of blue sport-weight cotton for the occasional knitted toy project that only required a few grams of the stuff.)  Photographing yarn has also taught me several things about using a camera and how light has more properties than "enough" and "not enough".

In an upcoming post, I think I'll explore some of the things I've learned from my own past yarnography mistakes and who knows, maybe I will apply those lessons to the yarn I still have in my stash (which is most of it) to see if I really have learned anything.


Footnotes

*The shopping is actually mostly in check now and has been for a couple of years.  The yarn stash though has not shrunk significantly due to low knitting mojo.  But I'm sure I'll have much more to say on yarn stashing another day.