Monday, February 23, 2009

Knit-a-thon 2009

Wow, what a day! We had almost twice as many knitters as last year, produced tons of stuff for the Clothe-A-Family charity and raised lots of money for the Children's Literacy programs at the library - all in all, a huge success!

We had experts and newbies just learning how to cast on. We had people from six to sixty (and maybe even one or two seventies, though everyone was so spry and excited we all seemed about six years old). We had tons of great donated door prizes, loads of donated yarns and the biggest box of donated needles you could possibly imagine - hundreds and hundreds of pairs of brand new double points, circs, straights, crochet hooks, cable needles and more.

The best way to describe an event like this is with pictures, so here's a sampling of the pictures I took during the day (you can see the rest in my Picasa album here.) I really tried to get at least a couple pictures of everyone but towards the end of the day there were so many people arriving that I know I missed a few - I'm sorry about that! I wasn't the only one with a camera so hopefully everyone's represented somewhere.

And finally, here are some of the things we'd made by mid-afternoon:

Not everything fit on the clotheslines and loads of things were still WIPs at this point but were hanging by the end of the day. Folks also took lots of WIPs home to finish and then bring back to the library, and many people also took home yarn and needles to begin brand new things to bring in to the donation box in the next couple weeks.

My three hats are on the walls somewhere; sadly, I didn't get any pictures of the last hat I made which was my favourite of the lot. I knit it out of some Lopi wool I've had since the dawn of time and put in some stripes and even a little tiny colour pattern. I hardly got to knit at all during the day since I was so busy running around but I did start my very first pair of mittens. I finished them up last night and will make a hat to go with if I can figure out what size to make it - I need to find someone to fit the mitts and then measure his head, I guess!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Gossip girls

I realized late last week that folks will be arriving at the knit-a-thon on Saturday with stuff already made, a fact underlined by one of my friends showing up for our usual Saturday night gig with yarn and needles in hand. "Oh boy," thought I. "I'd better get knittin'." And so I have!

I've been using a super simple pattern: Cast on 80 stitches, knit until you've got enough, decrease at 8 points. Easy peasey. Haven't worried about gauge - some hats are bigger, some are smaller, but everyone's head's a different size anyway, right? They'll fit someone out there. :)

That up there ^ is my trio of finished hats. Don't they look like gossipy little things? Not sure what they're saying with the heads so close together like that... can't be anything nice!

This was the first one I knit, using up odd balls of some bulky acrylic stuff I had in der stash. I started on Saturday after I finished the toe of my sock while the aforementioned friends were still over. They'd brought me a huge cuppa tea which just so happened to be almost the first caffeine I'd had in weeks, so I was up allllllll night - got the hat done around 4:00 aye em, as I recall. Ooph. And then promptly cast one this one:

More acrylic yarn from the stash. I'm never keen to weave with acrylics so knitting with it is a great way to use it up. I was really surprised by how soft this hat is - the ball didn't feel that soft before it was knit but hoooo boy is it soft now! I also really liked how the colours swirled around it. :) Good job it's too small for me or I might be tempted to keep it.

Took a break from human sized hats to knit up the one for Des Barres on Sunday afternoon, but then went back to finish the swirly hat on Monday. On Tuesday I cast on this one:

I cast it on twice, in fact, since I discovered after knitting the first few rounds (at Tim Horton's, OF COURSE) that I was actually knitting a mobius strip. Ho hum. Frogged it and started again, still at Tim's, and then finished 'er up on Wednesday. The yarn in the purple one is heavier than the others so I only cast on 72 and it's still plenty big. Doesn't curl up at the bottom the same as the others do either. I'm hoping it'll be slightly less toilet-paper-covery once it's blocked.

We went to Tim's for lunch again today so I cast on a new one. Just barely getting started on it:

Poor new kid on the block. I hope the gossip girls aren't too hard on it!

I've got more of all these yarns so, if the stars are right, I might get to knit scarves to go with. I'm not all that fussy about knitting scarves - they just go on and on an on and on and ON. Might try knitting them lengthwise but what I'd really like to do is combine the yarns with some other stuff to make it super bulky and then knit that to make it go even faster. Sadly, even with my ridiculous stash, I don't have the right stuff to combine them with and it seems wrong somehow to go out and buy more yarn when I've got such a pile already. I'm hoping to find the perfect thing at the knit-a-thon on Saturday.

And now, if you'll excuse me, I've got some knitting to do!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

You saw it here too!

Holy Cow! We actually made the front page -- in full, glorious colour, no less! We couldn't have asked for better advertising for the knit-a-thon than that! WOOOOOOOOT.

Thank you, Cape Breton Post for supporting the Knit-a-thon! Thank you, Steve Wadden, for such a great picture! Thank you to all our sponsors for donating signs, door prizes, lunch on the day, patterns for things to knit, yarn to knit and crochet them out of, needles and hooks to knit and crochet them with, and money for the Children's Lit programs at the CBRL. Thank you to all the knitters and crocheters who are planning to come! Bring your friends!

Okay, so that was a bit premature seeing as how the knit-a-thon isn't until Saturday. I'm just so excited to be on the front page that I'm overflowing with thankfulness. :) There are worse ways to be!

FYI: The text in the pic above is Pretty Small, but if you click on it you will see it in its full sized glory. For the moment (maybe just the day?), you can also see it in the e-version on the Post's website.

Of course, there are lots more close-ups and details at my original post on our exploits here.

Monday, February 16, 2009

You saw it here first!

Originally I wasn't going to blab about this 'cause guerrilla knitting is supposed to happen on the Q-T, you know? However, this wasn't exactly guerrilla knitting since we got permission from the Old Sydney Society and all, so there's really no reason to keep mum about it. :) Hmm, what do you call guerrilla knitting when it's officially sanctioned?

That's good ol' DesBarres, lieutenant governor of Cape Breton from 1784 to 1787, resident of the little park on the corner of Dorchester and Esplanade streets, and poster boy for the 2009 Knit-a-thon. The whole idea of the knit-a-thon is to get together and knit things like hats and scarves for folks who need warm things during the winter, and who needs warm things more than a big metal guy who lives on a street corner, I ask you?

This all started a couple of weeks ago when we were brainstorming ways to bring attention to the knit-a-thon. We were sitting at the Bean Bank, sipping our tasty coffees, when Chris mentioned that her husband had sent her an email with a picture of knit-graffitti in it. I'd seen tons of it online as well, so we started comparing notes and the next thing you know, Chris and I are out in the snow taking rough measurements of Himself.

By "rough" I mean I put my hand next to various bits and pieces while Chris took pics with my cell phone:

Gettin' an idea of the scale of this guy now? The span of my hands put together like that is 15" so I was guessing his whole head had to be around 35-40" around. (Ron and I went back later with a measuring tape and verified: 36" around. Am I good or what?)

This was like holding my daddy's hand when I was a little girl. :) Except that it was a whole heckuva lot colder! Ever held a bronze guy's hand in the snow? Brrrr!

After his measurements were taken, I made a quick trip to le Valu and picked up a hand knit sweater. Wasn't quite sure what I'd do with it but I figured inspiration would strike - and so it did! Chris provided the scarves and I whipped up the hat on Sunday (and tried it on for size late Sunday night just in case alterations had to be made).

As of this afternoon, DesBarres is wearing a fetching green hat and not one but two warm scarves:

He is also sporting the hottest new fashion accessory in park statue attire, the cabled legwarmer:

Aren't they great? Man, I'd like a pair of leg warmers like those! Note also his well turned (i.e. incredibly meaty) calves: they're 19" around, for anyone who's interested in his vital statistics. They're every bit as big around as his thighs. Not that I was feeling his thighs, no ma'am.

I made a wild guess as to what size hat he'd require but then had to skimp a bit on the rows before I started decreasing 'cause I only had just so much of this three yarn combo. Good thing his head is so much wider than it is tall: those rolls of hair on the sides of his wig add a lot of width but not height, you understand. I finished up with only two yards of yarn to spare and a hat that was just barely big enough but still looks quite nice on him, ifIdosaysomyself:

He looks happy about it, anyway! I suspect he also quite enjoyed having his leg warmers sewn on:

That's Chris and Sidney working on his right leg. I had the pleasure of sewing on his left leg warmer a bit earlier. And no, that's not a satellite in his right hand, thank you so much for asking.1 It is, in fact, a giant ball of yarn with giant knitting needles through it:

Who knew that DesBarres was such an avid knitter? Must've learned at the military academy along with map making and the like, I GUESS.

Here we are, the four mad knitters. Sidney on the left, Chris in the middle and, yes, that's me on the right with the pink needles stabbing through my head. DesBarres getting back at me, perhaps?

This pic was snapped by the very obliging guy who came to take pictures of the entire enterprise for tomorrow's Cape Breton Post. I'm hoping that we'll get on the front page so that it'll be in colour but I'm not holding my breath. There may also be some t.v. news dudes by tomorrow to interview Himself - will be very interested to hear what he has to say!

Hopefully between the paper, the news and all the folks driving by, Col. DesBarres will help us get the word out about the knitathon! This being the word in question:

So there you have it: a full confession by Sydney's newest officially-sanctioned-so-not-really-guerrilla knitter!

Oh! I should also mention that Col. DesBarres is not the only poster boy for the 2009 knit-a-thon! By now, Alexander Graham Bell and his wife Mabel are also spreading the word about our sister event in Baddeck from their perch on a park bench. :)

1. I kid you not: at least two people have said that the yarn and needles look like a satellite. I'd no idea satellites came in hot pink. Maybe I ought to make another yarn/needle combo and crash it into the first...

A preview of coming attractions

I know I've been quiet the past few days - this is because I've been working on Top Secret Plans for advertising the Knitfit Knit-a-thon.

Here is a sneak peak of what I'm talking about (quarter added for scale):

I'm bad for knitting my hats slightly too large but this is by far the biggest hat I've ever done and I'm afraid it's too small. Also, those are by far the largest stitches I have ever made: nearly 1 stitch per inch! I used three strands of bulky weight yarn and The. Biggest. Circular. Needles. EVAR.

And now I'm off to go play dress up with larger than life dolls... hee hee hee...

Saturday, February 14, 2009

In defense of overshot

I have been meaning for some time to clarify my statements regarding overshot. I said that I don't like it; what I should have said is that I don't love it. Mostly I don't love weaving it (owing to the whole two shuttle thing) but, truth be told, it's not my fave even when someone else does the leg work. Even so, I've seen things done in overshot that absolutely take my breath away and I've woven a thing or two myself that I enjoyed making and enjoyed giving away even more.

My complaints about overshot are thus:

1) Two shuttles are slow! I'm one of those weird people who prefer planning a project and dressing a loom to actually weaving. Once I've gotten the first couple of inches done, I'm anxious to get the warp woven off and start on a new one. Two shuttles make that take longer.

2) Two shuttles are fiddly! If I've got to grit my teeth and weave off a long warp, I want to spend as much of that time zoning out in weaving zen as possible. Two shuttles require concentration and interrupt my zen.

3) Overshot is ... well, kinda boring. I dunno, maybe I'm just being obstinate, but around here overshot and tartan are the staples of the weaving diet and I'm not crazy about either one. My favourite overshot fabrics have something unusual about them, usually something to do with colour or fibre.

In light of these, I like weaving overshot best when:

1) I'm doing something unusual with colour or fibre. I like to weave it using chenille for the pattern weft. I like to put the colour in the tabby and use a white pattern thread. Better yet, I like to put a lot of colour in the warp and tabby weft.

2) I'm weaving it as a present for someone. If I have to focus on the project at hand rather than zen out, I don't mind as much when I can think about the person I'm weaving for, what the reaction will be when it's received... makes all the extra effort and attention to detail worth it.

3) I'm weaving with with someone. My guild has a 90" loom that requires two weavers to operate. We warp it with blankets or tablecloths and then take turn helping one another weave. If you've got to stay present while weaving, it's a lot more fun when there's someone else there to gab with while you work.

Here are a couple of things that fall into these categories that I'm really pleased with:

This is a coverlet that I wove a few years ago for my mother in law's 75th birthday. My MIL is allergic to wool, so I wanted the coverlet to be 100% cotton. You can't tell from the pic, but that's a cotton chenille pattern weft. It's sooooo soft!

It was woven in one piece on the aforementioned 90" loom. My dear ol' mum (over there on the right- hi, Ma!) helped me weave the first part while she was visiting and another woman in the guild helped me finish it. It's Double Chariot Wheel, taken straight from Weaving a Traditional Coverlet by Helen N. Jarvis. We threaded the full 90" at 20 epi and I had a hand in threading every one of the 1800 threads in the warp - did I mention I like dressing looms? Mmm, threading! Pretty sure we put on enough warp for 10 or 11 coverlets that time around.

This is the twin of a blanket that I wove for my dad and his wife. It's a name draft that spells out "Dave and Elizabeth". I'm pretty sure the little blue blocks are Dave and the big red blocks are Elizabeth, which I suppose makes the green stripes between them And. I used Fiberwork's name draft feature to work the initial design and then fiddled with the incidentals between blocks and the border pattern until I liked 'em. That's is a rather pretty border on it, isn't it?

The warp and tabby are 2 ply wool from Briggs & Little; the pattern weft is a heavy 4 ply wool that I got from South Landing. Man, I wish I could get more of that stuff - I used it in some really lovely huck blankets I did, too. Num!

It may just be possible to tell from this close up that I used different shades of blue and red in the warp and weft in this one just to create a greater depth of colour in the background. I love the interplay of colour and the way the white pattern floats on top. I'm really glad I put enough warp on for two of these and made one for myself, too! It lives on my couch and matches absolutely nothing else in the room. I couldn't care less because it makes me happy. :)

So there you are! See? I'm not anti-overshot!

And now I am off to enjoy the incredibly delicious chicken penne alfredo that Ron makes me every Valentine's Day because he knows it is my absolute favourite thing. Omg, it is TO DIE FOR. Yum!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Mmm Mmm Mmmacro!

Why do all my posts seem to involve food lately? And such tasty desserty foods no less - you'll think I never eat any proper fiber at all!

Believe it or not, this one isn't actually about food. I just like this pretty picture, which is one of the very first taken with my new new camera Bella. (No, that wasn't a ptyo. There are meant to be two "new"s there. Those of you who've been following my ongoing camera drama on Scarfaday will be nodding to yourselves right about now.)

I've been thinking about photography a lot lately, and not just because of Murphy and Stella and Bella. I've been using photography for my artist dates, trying to remember all the stuff I knew once upon a time when I took photography classes in high school, and playing with all the spiffy manual settings on Stella/Bella. It's even been turning up on some of the other blogs I read. Must be something in the air.

I've always loved macro photography in particular, ever since Dad got me my first proper 35mm camera and a macro filter to go on the kit lens. There's just something about isolating and capturing one small element out of a riot of information and distilling it somehow, focusing your attention on that one thing by literally focusing on that one thing... makes you really notice the details, makes you take a careful look at the world around you and each individual thing that makes it up.

Whether it's stopping to smell the roses or stopping to take a picture of one drop of water on a rose petal - anything that brings me up short and makes me notice and appreciate all the tiny and amazing pieces of the things that make up my world rather than zipping through it without thinking twice is a good thing, in my book.

And chocolate chip muffins aren't half bad either.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Haiku II

treadle, throw, catch, beat
a moving meditation
I find weaving Zen

Two steps forward, five (or is that six?) steps back...

Yay! I finally got a skein of the purple wool done. Just goes to show that to-do lists can be fun! That's what I'm doing right now, you see: working through my to-do lists. Yes, spinning and plying the purple yarn is on there. Or was, anyway. Now they're off and knitting the purple yarn is on. Two steps forward one step back, hmm?

I'm pretty excited about this purple yarn. It's not anything terribly exciting to look at, no, but it is the first yarn I've ever spun with a particular purpose in mind. In fact, it's the first yarn I've ever spun with any intention of using it at all. Most of my handspun either goes into a bag and is promptly forgotten, or goes into a basket to be slept on by the cats. Every once in a while I dig through that bag and discover things I didn't want the cats to get at, like these things I found today while hunting for my niddy noddy:

I think I intended to ply the green with a chocolate brown. Mmmm, more chocolate yarn! Didn't have any plans at all for the blue - it was a really pretty sliver that ambushed me in a yarn shop in Victoria while I was there with Ron and Mom a couple years ago. I'm such a sucker for topknots of unspun fibre. All the pretty colours - how could I say no?

The wine coloured skeins were some absolutely delicious uncarded stuff that my friends Chris and Lisa brought me back from the Spinners' Retreat... geez, maybe five years ago now? I loved spinning that yarn - I didn't card it or flick it or anything, just teased the soft and silky locks open a little bit and spun them up into lumpy and bumpy and twirly stuff, then plied it with a really fine commercial 2/32 wool to stablize it without covering it up. Seeing as how it's plied already, I think I'll use it as an excuse to buy this book or perhaps this one, both of which I saw for the first time on Sunday at the Unspun Heroes' spin- and dye-in at CBU. And of course then I'll have to knit it up into something too...

More stuff for my to-do list! How many steps back is that now? I've lost track, but who cares? The trick is to keep filling the list up with stuff I want to do so that I can feel that satisfying sense of accomplishment as I tick things off, even if I never do get to those bits I'm avoiding...

Monday, February 9, 2009

Just a wee spot of yarn...

I've mentioned my stash a few times lately, on der blog, in email, when chatting with friends... then today my dear ol' Mum got her plane tickets to come visit for the whole month of May (woot!) and this got me thinking of my stash again. How on earth are they related, you ask? Because my stash occupies my Yarn Room (yes, a whole room of yarn) and, while Mom is here, she also occupies my yarn room, while it is cleverly disguised as my Guest Room. Yes, it's true: I stash my yarn AND my mother in my yarn room.

It's not a very big room, mind you, and our inflatable bed is a huge monster that fills up almost the entire thing. We literally have to wedge either end of it under the shelves. Mom sleeps there, surrounded by walls of yarn. She says it's very inspiring. She says she loves staying in there. I believe her 'cause, you know, I would too. I like just going in and looking around. I'm only in this whole gig for the yarn. It's always been the yarn.

So here is the part of my stash that actually fits in the yarn room:

The south wall: cones and spools of wool, mohair, chenille, acrylic and cotton. Recently some of my spools of heavy cotton snuck over to this side of the room when the opposite wall got too full... Note Mom's bedside table. Those are her pillows poking out the bottom left corner, too! (Yay! Mom is coming in May!)

The west wall: balls of knitting yarn, skeins of wool not yet turned into balls, and more stuff that's leaked over from the production wall. Also Mom's bedside bookshelf. Once upon a time this wall was organized by colour from left to right and by fibre from top to bottom. This did not last.

NB: The Tim Horton's cups are absolutely critical pieces of weaving equipment. I sort the little bits of string I use to tie my warp chains into them. Long strings go in the large and short ones in the medium, OF COURSE. I've got more cups near the looms in which I collect the little strings as they come off the chains. Am I neurotic organized or what? (Please don't answer that.)

The north wall: spools of the cotton and acrylic that I use in most of my weaving for sale. Lots of other spools of stuff that I've bought with the intention of using it to weave for sale, including those big grey cones of really fine and really yummy "cashwool". Why did I buy such fine stuff? I do not weave with fine stuff! I am such a sucker for mill ends. The clamp lights are also guest room accoutrements.

Back of the door: more knitting yarns. I am told that some people actually use this kind of yarn holder for shoes. Shoes, in a perfectly good yarn holder! What are they thinking!? Who could possibly have that many shoes anyway?

The closet: wool yarns that don't fit anywhere else, alpaca and wool fibre for spinning, and some cotton warp chains wrapped in newspaper that my sister found at Goodwill. The newspapers are from 1967 and I'd be very much surprised if the warp chains aren't as well. I'm afraid they'll fall apart if I unwrap them.

I know, I know what you're thinking: "Where does your Mom put her clothes if that's the closet?" Do not fret! Buried under all that stuff is a little filing cabinet, and I've very generously emptied out the front half of one drawer for her use. AND there's also a spring loaded closet rod just out of frame at the top of the closet for her to hang her clothes on. Lap of luxury, that is.

All I can say is: it's a darn good thing Mom caught the weaving bug from me or I don't know where the heck I'd stash her when she came to visit. Who but another weaver would put up with this? And who but a mother would be coming for an entire month to help me make stuff for the shop -- for the second time! Who's the luckiest thing? I am the luckiest thing!

Not pictured: the shelves filled with cones of wool and the other shelves filled with Pendleton wool selvedges near Mabel, the big boxes of vintage wools (circa 1952!!) and the laundry hamper filled with 2 ply for blankets in the library, the chest filled with fibre for spinning in the living room.... the list goes on and on. And I haven't even touched on the basketry supplies, the fabrics, the beads (omg, the beads!)...

Clearly, my husband loves me as much as my mother does to put up with all this. I repeat: I am the luckiest thing!