Laura Dean Keeps Ripping Out My Socks

Time passes so strangely these days. It seems like taking all the commuting, socializing and gym trips out of life should leave so much free time, and yet every day it seems I turn off my work computer  and then …. ??? …. bedtime. Like life is somehow perpetually missing some frames.

Which is to say I haven’t made much progress on the pile of library books except the one with pictures. Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me is a graphic novel about Freddy and her on-again off-again girlfriend Laura Dean. I sort of expected it to be like tagging along on the romantic roller coaster with Freddy, but never got a good look at Laura Dean’s redeeming qualities. Like, I believe Freddy finds her sexy and charismatic but actually she’s a crappy flaky girlfriend. So I ended up more in sympathy with Freddy’s friends, exasperated with Laura Dean drama.

Mostly it reminded me of a friend of mine who hoped to get back with her ex and gushed constantly about how gorgeous and charming he was. Then when I finally met him it turned out he was extremely average and I was like “This is him? Are you sure? Um, did he used to be different?” Admittedly it’s hard to like people who jerk your friends around.

Meanwhile, I’ve been on-again off-again with my orange skein of Wollmeise. I cast on some socks and it wanted to pool stupidly, ripped out and cast on a pattern with slip stitches to break it up but that was too snug, eventually gave up and started Jeck, a classic pattern for difficult yarn that’s worked for me before:

Pretty, isn’t it? Here’s hoping it’s happily ever after from here.

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Sweater Weather

Y’all, this summer really got to me. It was too hot  to cook, too hot to sleep, too hot for my AC to keep up, and no excessively cooled office or movie theatres to escape to. And I swear for about 6 weeks every time I checked the forecast cooler temperatures were a few days away, but somehow we never got there – it really added to the pandemic feeling of time not progressing normally.

Which is to say, when temperatures finally dropped I was so excited I set aside the socks I was working on and cast on a sweater:

Ah, look at those autumnal woolen cables! (Redder in real life than my camera wants it to be.)

I was feeling pleased about all the old stash I’ve used up lately, so I decided to finally knit up some Briggs & Little Heritage I bought some years ago, just after I moved to Toronto. It’s one of my favourite rugged sturdy yarns and I always intended it to be a big cabled cardigan, but was a bit vague on the details of this plan. But now it’s on its way to becoming October Frost from A Fine Fleece by Lisa Lloyd, a book I’ve also had for ages.

Sometimes I guess it takes a while for destiny to be revealed.

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City Limits

When I made some fade socks last year and the volume of leftover sock yarn still seemed excessive, I started thinking about a faded sweater. Then I saw the City Limits sweater by Tanis Lavalee and the wheels started turning in my head. You hold two strands of fingering together (with optional mohair but I don’t have a problem with excess mohair) and doesn’t that sound like a good way to use up a bunch of fingering? So I gathered up some likely candidates from the drawer of scraps and oddments:

Lined them up in what seemed like right order from yellow to orange to pink to purple,  started knitting and hated how it turned out. There were spots where similar shades melted into each other next to jarring transitions and loud variegated yarns. So I ripped (very annoying with the two strands) and had a re-think.

Since the materials at hand were never going to give a subtle, elegant allover fade, I decided to embrace the chaos and messed up the order a bit. I made pretty good time even with the ripping since it’s so motivating to just get to the next yarn and see how it looks. There are still some spots I’d do differently if I was doing it again, but did I mention how annoying ripping is?

Blocking shot, knit side out. The pattern’s gimmick is that it’s reversible, which means you can’t leave a mess on the wrong side. I had approximately ten million ends, and dealt with them by knitting five or so stitches with the new yarn and old yarn together then trimming them. It works surprisingly well; you only switch one of the two yarns at a time so it’s only an extra 50% bulk instead of doubled like if you were using a single yarn.

I like it best purl-side out. The purl bumps soften the transitions a bit:

I always love these kind of scrap projects – like making something from nothing.

Now I just need some sweater weather.


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Tenements, Towers & Trash

Back before all the Covid-19 disaster really got going,a friend and I were thinking about a trip in late March, somewhere easy and close-ish. New York City came to my mind – we went years ago and I have fond memories. It sometimes feels like a waste of a trip to go somewhere I’ve already been but on the other hand, it’s not like there’s nothing left to see and do in New York. As the Coronapocalypse built up in February we hesitated about booking anything and of course didn’t end up going anywhere.

While obviously it’s for the best we didn’t go to New York in March, I kind of wish we’d been able to fit in one last trip.

So Towers, Tenements & Trash by Julia Wertz is perfect for my state of mind. It’s about New York City, but not a travel guide since we’re not going anywhere. I was trying to describe it to my mom without quite succeeding then I noticed a line in the introduction that pretty much sums it up: “This is a book about unique and often forgotten stories from the city’s past, accompanied by illustrations of random neighborhoods as there were and as they are.”

There’s a few stories about some New Yorkers of note (Typhoid Mary – topical!) subway entrances, street cleaning, a landfill on Staten Island, that kind of thing. With lots of pictures to look at for those of us who have maybe been struggling a bit with words lately. As someone who likes to walk around the city (any city) looking for signs of how it used to be (faded advertisements painted on the walls,  doorways bricked closed, etc) I especially enjoyed the streetscapes then and now illustrations, of which there are many.

And who isn’t dreaming about the day we can travel again? Till next time, New York.

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A couple of weeks ago I was sorting through some old papers and found a print out of Solan by Gudrun Johnston that I was planning to make years ago and never did. It’s bottom up and I seem to recall a lack of enthusiasm about casting on the 300+ stitches to start. But it seemed perfect since I had a skein of Wollmeise burning a hole in my stash and my printer doesn’t work any more. I could knit a shawl and not squint at the pattern on my phone!

(I have yet to really embrace working from PDFs – if I have the internet right there I will inevitably want to look up just that one thing and get distracted. Obviously since I can’t borrow the office printer any more I should just replace mine, but having my work stuff at home already takes up too much space and plugs and life is just too hard these days. Maybe I’ll just take a break and knit for a bit…)

Anyway, Solan is knit bottom up. I don’t think I’ve ever done a bottom up shawl before and kept trying to look at the chart upside down but once you get a few rows in and the decreases start adding up it’s very motivating. Once you get through the lace there’s an extra couple of decreases per row which gives it a curved shape along the top and so it flew off the needles surprisingly quickly:

It almost all fits in the frame. Hey, that’s a couple pages I can chuck in the recycling. I’ll have this place cleaned up in no time!

I’m always a sucker for closeups of blocking lace.

Specs: Yarn is Wollmeise Pure in Rittersporn and no mods at all.

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Remember a few years ago when Wollmeise yarn was all the rage and people schemed to get their hands on it like sold out concert tickets? I was weirdly fascinated by the whole phenomenon and found myself scrolling through more posts of triumphant yarn pictures than was probably totally reasonable. Naturally I was curious about the yarn too, but not curious enough to get up in the dead of night and start hitting F5 on the website. When you say words like “cartjack” and “sneak up” I say words like “no thanks” and “hard pass.”

Nowadays you can just order it whenever you feel like it, so I finally did a while ago:

In these pandemic times maybe shipping from Europe brings back a bit of the old-time excitement but I’ve had these since before. The orange is Twin (the one with nylon) in Strohblume and the blue is Pure Merino in Rittersporn.

I finally got around to knitting some up. It’s nice yarn and I’m impressed by how deeply and profoundly blue it is, but it hasn’t changed my life or done my laundry. At least not so far, but I guess it’s still early:

(Pattern is Solan by Gudrun Johnston, another blast from the past that I was about to cast on years ago but somehow never did.)

So in case anyone is somehow reading from 2008, my advice is just wait it out and you can get your yarn without missing any sleep. Although the future has, uh, some other problems.

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Grey Lady

It seems like it’s been a long hot summer. The heat warnings have tapered off but somehow it doesn’t feel like it’s cooled down. I’ve been reading Mistwalker by Saundra Mitchell, which is about a girl in a Maine fishing village. Local legend says there’s a mysterious ghostly Grey Man on a nearby island, which is obviously not real. Or maybe he could be real?

Turns out he’s totally real and keen to recruit Willa to take on the curse and become the Grey Lady.

This book is half setting, and on a hot day in the city it’s so nice to read about all that sea and mist. While of course I don’t want to be cursed, it sure seems like one could do worse than being stuck on a island with a magic lighthouse. Like being stuck in a hot apartment during a pandemic. I’m just saying.

Meanwhile I finished my grey linen top so I can wear it while I haunt my balcony as the Grey Lady:

Pattern is Bolan, yarn is Katia Lino that I’ve had for years waiting on the right pattern for it. I knit at a slightly firmer gauge than recommended for a less diaphanous, ghostly effect, and cast on some extra stitches to account for this and add some length. The pattern has you cast on at the centre and knit towards the side then pick up from the cast on for the decorative centre seam and knit the other way. I used a provisional cast on and worked each side as a separate piece then joined with a 3 needle bind off. Either way should work but I think it’s easier to get a neater seam with the 3 needle bind off, at least for me.

I’ve never knit anything in 100% linen before and once I got used to it turns out I kind of love it. There probably isn’t time to knit another linen sweater before the weather finally turns, right?

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My lace scarf is finally done! I’ve had this yarn for ages – there was a sale on Sea Silk and I thought, hey, you always need Sea Silk, right? But it turns out maybe you don’t since it took me mumblety some years to get around to it.

Still, it’s pretty. Oooh, blocking lace:

This pattern took a bit more concentration than I originally expected, but look at the tidy diagonal lines of it. So satisfying. (And coincidentally the pattern is called Diagonale) Yarn is Handmaiden Sea Silk in Topaz, which despite my procrastination, I do love.

And in action:

I did one fewer repeat across since I’m using ticker yarn than the pattern calls for, and I just kept going till the yarn was gone which worked out unexpectedly perfectly. I weighed a repeat worth of yarn by weighing the ball at the start and end of a repeat, calculated how many repeats were left and it worked out perfectly. (I swear sometimes when you do this some of the yarn evaporates or something but not today!)

Since, alas, it’s still too hot for wool I’ve been working on a linen top with yet more super old stash. Who knew all it would take to get me knitting through it was a wold wide catastrophe?

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A Lady’s Guide to Pairs of Socks and Piracy

Things have been slow on the reading front lately between the library closures and my need to check the news every 18 seconds to see just how apocalyptic the apocalypse is. So when the library re-opened for pickup I was looking for something fun and easy and went for A Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy by Mackenzi Lee, sequel to The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue about Monty’s little sister. It’s not quite as fun and goofy as the original because Felicity is a more serious narrator with goals and ambitions. She wants to study medicine but it’s the olden days and no one will teach a girl. What a wacky idea!

The beginning part is frustrating because Felicity is so frustrated. I want have some words with the guys on the hospital board, but of course they’d just call me hysterical and throw me out, which naturally only makes me more ragey.  Then she hears about a doctor in Germany who might take on a female assistant. Obviously the sensible thing is to write to him, but screw sensible, when a mysterious and possibly shady woman she’s just met offers to take her Felicity’s all in and finally our wacky adventures start. (Safety tip: probably don’t do this. But in our current travel limited universe, the appeal of just going now is obvious. Remember when we used to be able to, like, go places? *sigh*)

Also, there are pirates. And a naturalist who shuts down Felicity’s not like other girls nonsense – more books about Strong Female Characters need this.

Meanwhile, I’ve been carrying on my girly habit of knitting mindless socks, because I am exactly like other girls. Turns out I’m two pairs worth of mindless these days. Some cabled ones:

Pattern is Thank God It’s Sock Day knit in Sweet Paprika Pizzicato. It’s one of those patterns that hits the sweet spot between too boring and needing actual attention.

And a plain pair:

Standard sock recipe, yarn is Kim Dyes Yarn Sourdough Sock. Am I too slow for the Covid sourdough trend?


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Heat, Apocalypse, The Usual

When the local library branch opened for pickup I was so excited I booked the first open appointment without considering it was the most brutally hot and sunny time of late afternoon. So, fittingly, the book I picked up was Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse, which is set in a post apocalyptic future where most of the world except Dinétah (formerly the Navajo reservation) has been flooded in the global warming induced Big Water. Seems it might happen any day now.

So Maggie is in the monster hunting business in the bleak future and runs into an extra monstrous monster, which leads to further adventures, run-ins with trickster Coyote, meeting a boy (because of course), fighting monsters, etc. The premise and world are interesting, but the protagonist who’s too tough and damaged to have friends and participate in society tends to be hard for me to warm up to. (And the feeling is mutual, I guess.) Do well-adjusted people never have adventures?

Meanwhile, I’m hiding out in my apartment and not participating in society. (But not in a tough way. I just can’t go too far from the air conditioner.) I’m still on the silk lace train, because what other train should one be on during a heat wave?

At work on Diagonale in some Sea Silk I’ve had for far too long. Adventurous!

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