Monday, 16 December 2019

October - Swift

My second FO in my "Year of Shannon" is the Swift Hat, cast on in October.  I knit this in Cascade Superwash 220 sport, in black.  It's leftover from my Soldotna pullover.   I love the lace pattern and the fit.  It's slouchy but not sloppy.

My November cast-on is on hold while I knit a few small gifts, but I plan to finish it by the end of December.  The December project is a garment, yarn and pattern are ready but I'll wait til winter break to cast on so I have time to make some progress on it.  Trying not to plan too far ahead, so I can cast on the project that speaks to me each month... but with temperatures dipping well below freezing now I'm definitely ready to immerse myself in some cozy winter knits!

Monday, 9 December 2019

September - Hudson

My Year of Shannon (see previous post) kicks off with Hudson, a bulky weight shawl knit in Briggs and Little Heritage.  It's rustic, cozy, and perfect for Canadian Winters.   The original from the book Within is knit in the colours reminiscent of the Hudson Bay Company iconic blanket.  The Point Blanket has its own history - read The Canadian Encyclopedia for more information - that links back to colonization and the fur trade.  At this time, the Europeans tried to deliberately infect Indigenous peoples with Smallpox, in Canada and in the United States.  This part of Canada's history reminds me that all symbols can be used to uplift or to oppress, depending on the use.  The blanket highlights the early origins of the trading company, but also underscores the systemic racism that is part of Canada's history as well.

My own Hudson is knit using Canadian wool in colours that I like to wear.  I've used Briggs and Little, a Canadian wool produced in New Brunswick, Canada.  It was a fun knit, easy and fast due to the well-written pattern and the large gauge.  Love this and will wear it a lot now that winter has arrived!

Year of Shannon

I love to plan.  I love to map out goals, ideas, projects, set deadlines, all of it.  Often, I follow through, to some extent.  And I'm okay with changing the plan as I go, because revising a plan is still part of the planning process.

This past year, I stumbled on to Stacy Elstone's "Stress Knits" YouTube channel and watched her share her projects.  She embarked on a "Year of Andrea" and worked on projects by one designer for the year:  Andrea Mowry.  Her blog post on the year of projects is linked above, and the Podcast on YouTube is embedded at the bottom of her post.  I was inspired by three things:

- narrowing the queue to include designs by one designer for this project (while still knitting other things too)
- exploring fit, style, colour and other elements while selecting one designer's patterns
- having a clear start and finish time (a year) for casting on and off

I went to my Ravelry Library and started searching by designer.  I have a few favourites but wanted to select a designer whose patterns I already own.  After a while, I settled on Shannon Cook.  I love her designs, already own her books and many patterns.  I also wanted someone I could relate to and support for her approach to knitting, herself, and the world in which we live.  I follow Shannon on Instagram and pay attention to the inspiration behind her designs, her thoughts on inclusive community and other designers she supports, follows, and collaborates with.  I realize I don't "know" her, I only know what she chooses to share; however, what she does share is thoughtful.  Recent posts on size inclusive patterns (like Kapsel) reflect this.

Shannon is also Canadian.  I wanted to plan to knit designs that support people that are local (although Vancouver is about as far away from me as England!).  I also plan to knit many of her designs using stash yarn purchased at my LYS and/or Canadian yarn.   Posts to come soon about each FO that I make as I work through the next few months - two are already off my needles and just need photos!

Sunday, 8 September 2019

back to routine

It's the first weekend of fall.  Yes, fall begins officially in another two weeks, but back to school means that it's fall.  This means back to work and back to routines.  And back to the pace of work/home life that leaves little time for reading.  It also leaves less  mental space for reading.  In the fall I find it harder to focus on books even when I do read as my mind is elsewhere.  Book clubs help with this!

This summer I read most of the selections from Anne Bogel's Summer Reading Guide - she's the genius behind the Modern Mrs. Darcy website, and the podcasts What Should I Read Next and One Great Book.  Every summer she suggests 30 titles for summer reading - most fiction, some non-fiction.  All are current (within the previous 6-8 months) and some are new releases out in early summer.  I read half of the titles over the summer, and still have 4 or 5 on my shelf from the library.  Hope to finish those in September!  My favourites:

This book had me stopped in my car in parking lots, the audio version of 'couldn't put it down'.  Shapiro narrates the audiobook - I highly recommend it and I rarely make it through audiobooks as my attention span is different when listening.  The story of identity will pull you in and make you rethink what identity, family, and nature vs. nurture.  It's the best book I've read in a very long time.

The best fiction book I read this summer was this one.  The story is multi-layered with characters that you root for even when they are the worst versions of themselves.  The exploration of mental illness, addiction, and love makes this one I couldn't put down. 

Another non-fiction that reads like fiction at times is the third on my list.  The author's voice (written word, not audible) drives this story about who we are, who we think we are, and who we want to be. 

The last one here is not from the Summer Guide, but my book club read it over the summer.  I really enjoyed it and think I'll reread it at some point, something I rarely do.  The book starts off very slowly, but is so worth sticking with as the second half pulls all of the threads together.  I want to reread it like one reads a mystery novel when you can't see the clues til the ending is revealed.  I want to go back, now that I know what's truly important, and read it again.

A book that was not for me this summer was this one:
The plot is compelling, but it's written in an interrupted style.  The first chapter is written in prose and it drew me in.  The rest of the book is written as interviews or interrogations of main characters by an unnamed person.  I gave up after about half-way; this style is not for me.  It's why I tried and couldn't read Daisy and The Six.  The constant change in voice, and interruption of the narrative drive is not for me. 

Saturday, 29 June 2019

Next Right Thing

I've always been able to steer my own course during difficult times by reminding myself that the next step forward just requires me to "Do the Next Right Thing".  Right is highly subjective and relative, but for me that phrase means I need to ask:

- what is kind?
- what is best for all (not just for me)?
- what is just? 

These questions help me at work when dealing with difficult conversations and relationships.  They also help me personally when I make decisions in times that are overwhelming or challenging.  These questions also allow me to forgive myself when I can't make leaps and bounds forward.  I'm not required to do ALL of the things, or change everything at once.  I can do the Next Right Thing and that is enough.

Hate is wrong.  Hate is not an opinion.  It is a statement of violence.  In Canadian Law, freedoms come with responsibility.  I am free to speak, but must also take responsibility for the impact of my words.  I can have an opinion about politics, laws, decisions, but hate speech goes beyond expression to become an act of violence.  To quote the Supreme Court of Canada in 1990:

Hatred is predicated on destruction, and hatred against identifiable groups therefore thrives on insensitivity, bigotry and destruction of both the target group and of the values of our society. Hatred in this sense is a most extreme emotion that belies reason; an emotion that, if exercised against members of an identifiable group, implies that those individuals are to be despised, scorned, denied respect and made subject to ill‑treatment on the basis of group affiliation.

Supporting those who take a stance against hate is the right thing to do.  And so the next right thing for me to do is to support those who speak up, and who fight against the violence of hate.  I can support through small steps, such as purchasing a pattern on Ravelry, supporting makers like Thea Colman who is donating profits from patterns to support new immigrants in the United States.  I can purchase books that teach me about racism, homophobia, inequity, and social justice.

This month, I read Robin Stevenson's book about the origins of Pride at school with students.  It's written for 10-15 year olds, but is suitable for older students as well.  The book explains the origins of Pride, from Stonewall forward, and reminds us that Pride was a protest long before it was a parade and celebration.

This summer I have many books on my list of books to read.  Some come from a great podcast about books and reading, The Stacks Podcast. 

All of these acts are small.  I have few followers on social media, a few readers here on the blog, and live a small but purposeful life.  I have no wide audience or platform.  I do the Next Right Thing not to be noticed, or applauded, or to gain approval from others.  I do the Next Right Thing because it's the difference I can make right now.

Thursday, 18 April 2019

toe-up, reverse st. stitch, and other problems

Problems with sock knitting are small compared to problems in general.  My knitting is meant to distract and comfort when I have larger problems; turns out my current sock project is not distracting or comforting. 

First, this is a problem with the knitter, not the pattern.  Fiona Alice's book Take Heart is lovely, and I'd love to have all of the projects in the book.  The photos are beautiful, the instructions are clear, and I'm using yarn that's similar in fibre content to the suggested yarn (alpaca).   The pattern has been incredibly easy for me to follow given the number of new-ish skills I'm using (turkish cast on, toe-up construction, after-thought heel, picot bind off). 

Photo:  Juju Vail (via Ravelry)

My problems are in my own knitting skills and lack of patience.  Purling in the round on 1.75mm (size 00) needles is not fun.  I'm slower at purling which is exacerbated by the small dpns and fine yarn.  I am dropping more stitches than I usually do, which are hard to see, pick up, and fix due to the fuzziness of the alpaca yarn.   Hence the stitch marker in the middle of the foot:

I also realize I don't like to finish one sock and then still have to add the heel.  When I knit top-down, I do a heel flap and gusset.  This means that when I graft the toe the sock is done.  Kind of like seamless garments when you bind off and still have a ton of finishing to do...  I also have a hard time gauging how long to knit the foot when I can't really try it on as I go.  I'm new to sock knitting and have guess-timated where the heel should go based on my foot and other socks.  Given that this is only my fifth pair of socks (and the previous four have fit issues), trying on as I do is important. 

I also have lots of 'ladders' which I don't have a problem with to this extent on other things.  I use dpsn a lot, but seem to have a lot of trouble with them on this particular project.  I'm pulling the yarn tight as I change needles, moving my starting spot to move the gap, and they're still there.  I am hoping they'll block out. 

Finally, I knit quite loosely.  I am not sure the picot edge will be tight enough to stay on my foot.  This again is not the problem of the pattern. 

These are a learning experience.  I may try toe-up again with a different yarn, and definitely not with reverse stocking stitch.  Or I may not!

Saturday, 30 March 2019

Marching toward spring

Lots of time to knit in March, with spring break in the middle.  It's also usually the time that I participate in the Annual Yarn Challenge at a LYS.  This year the yarn was Briggs and Little Sport, a rustic wooly sport weight yarn.  I chose to knit a warm hat, since the Polar Vortex rushed down on us in Southern Ontario for the last bit of February into March. 
The pattern is by The Petite Knitter, a designer who lives on an island in Nunavut (far north), Canada.   I chose the hat for a couple of reasons.  First, it's an awesome hat that will be warm and cozy that lends itself to a big pompom (Bernat faux fur).  Second, it's a Canadian designer.  I want to support people who live Canada, especially those who forge ahead with their small business in this current economic climate.  She has new patterns out right now - the Tundra sweater and matching hat.  Maybe next year, I'll knit one of them.    She also has a pattern in the Mason-Dixon March Madness bracket (knitting bracket similar to the NCAA basketball bracket - all fun, found here!)  It's the Iqaluit Shawl.  Iqaluit is the capital of the territory Nunavut, if you're wondering about the name.

I also knit my third pair of socks for the Grocery Girls Sock Bash.  The theme was movies/tv/books, so I knit Hermione's Everyday Socks (Harry Potter reference) in some stash Dream In Color yarn.  The yarn is almost too variegated for the texture pattern, but I enjoyed knitting them.  My LYS has 1.75mm circulars on order for me - hoping they will be easier on my hands and easier to use for my next pair!
Next month's theme is 'from far away' - yarn from another country.  Off to dive into the stash and pattern library for April!

Friday, 15 March 2019

Midway through March

March Break (spring break) is almost done and I've been doing a fair amount of knitting.  Being home during the day leads to that!  I've finished my Without A Paddle Sweater in Berroco Vintage Chunky.  The shaping for the front is problematic (see my Ravelry Page for details) but I think I'll get a fair amount of wear out of it given the style and yarn choice.  Not too warm but still bulky, so I can wear this into late winter/early spring. 

Looks lovely on my mannequin, which is a decorating piece and not a dressmaking form so it gives the gist of what I've made but isn't a true representation.  You can see the 'bumps' from the turns on the side, just under the bust.  More traditional short rows would have been better here.  The original yarn is Canoe, which has alpaca content and a bit of a halo.   Perhaps with that finished fabric these stitches might blend in a bit more.  I chose not to afford to knit it in Canoe, so the fabric is more flat and shows this a bit more.  I do like how the decreases swirl for the yoke, and think I can press out the bumpy stitches.  The yarn has an acrylic content so blocking may not do it.

Socks and a new pullover are on the needles, but more to come when they're further along.

Saturday, 2 March 2019


I'm intrigued by sock knitting.  I find them pretty, and fun, with lots of beautiful yarn with different themes, colourways, and other interesting aspects to them.  I have two problems - both practical in nature.

First and most challenging, I knit so loosely that I have had to special order size 00 (1.75) needles to use to try and get a tight gauge with sock yarn.  They are very thin, and a bit fiddly to hold.   To start knitting socks and be inspired to keep trying, I've decided to knit 12 pairs this year to participate in the Grocery Girls Sock Bash for 2019.  This may be a bit ambitious.
Themes for the first third of the year (image from Ravelry - Grocery Girls group thread):

 I started with bulky weight Lyndon socks by Alicia Plummer for January.  I figure that if I start with a successful project I'll be inspired to keep going.  They are done, and I wear them as house socks.

Second pair are Granola by TinCanKnits, knit with sport weight Malabrigo Arroyo.  They are slightly too big and I'll knit my next pair with more negative ease to allow for stretching.  Also discovered a dropped stitch after I wore them for a day so I'll need to mend them already...

Next up are my socks knit on the 00 needles.  Just started Hermione's Everyday Socks.  I figure if over 26 000 people have knit them on Ravelry, I can't go wrong.  My yarn choice may not show the texture well, but I'm moving ahead with them anyway.

My second issue with socks is more with fashion than function.  I don't own shoes that knit socks fit into, and my boots are tall or outdoor/winter boots that I can't keep on all day inside.  This makes my socks hard to wear on a day-to-day basis.  Short of buying different footwear (not really practical) I am not sure what I'll do about this.  I also notice that almost all sock patterns have photographs with no shoes or footwear - this makes sense as the knitter wants to see the entire project but makes it hard to imagine styling them for wear.   It makes knitting socks less appealing to me; however, I am determined to knit 12 pairs this year to get better at sock knitting.  Perhaps in a year I'll have solved the gauge issues and the footwear problem!

Monday, 18 February 2019

In Progress

I've been knitting a lot this month too - trying to keep myself focused on knitting but also have a lot of time to sit at various sports practices and games/meets/events.  Small project knitting is definitely getting done!

First up, I finished my 3 Colour Cowl (without the cashmere) by Joji Locatelli that was my Holiday cast-on.  Easy travelling project, fits in a purse or bag and is easy to follow, pick up and put down during sports events while sitting on very uncomfortable bleachers. Ends have been woven in and it's blocked now but still looks similar to this:

I also finished a bulky fair isle hat for a colleague at work.   I used a Caron x Pantone braid from Michaels, as she has very sensitive skin and also likely wants to wear this without worrying about taking care of a pure wool fibre.  I knit the hat in less than 3 hours during the 2019 Superbowl.  Game was quite boring unless you love strategic defense in a low-scoring game, but that meant I could focus more on the hat than the tv screen.  This yarn was great to work with.  It's affordable at $10 CDN for a 'braid' of 5 colours, and I purchased it on sale for 50% off.  Whole project was less than $5.00 and I'd knit another at full price.  The pattern is free on the Yarnspirations website.  In the debate about cost versus luxury fibres, I come out as a 'omnivore knitter' (more on that in another post) and use all kinds of fibres, including those easily found at a 'box' store like Michaels.

Speaking of Yarnspirations, I also like the patterns I find there.  They've started carrying Sugar Bush Yarns which are more expensive (for good reason - lovely yarn!) but a few patterns are free on the site.  I started Without A Paddle, a cropped pullover but am using Berroco Vintage Chunky in a dark purple colour instead, as I can buy it from my LYS at a price point that works for me.  It's meant to be knit in Canoe, a chunky wool/alpaca blend that is tweedy.   Mine won't be tweedy but I do like the way the Vintage Chunky knits up.  It's a bottom-up sweater with a yoke construction, so I'm done the body and am ready to knit the sleeves, then join them to do the yoke:

I have a few other projects on the go, or almost done but I'll save those for other posts as they have their own stories to tell.

Thursday, 7 February 2019

January Review - Reading

Aside from all of the knitting (see my previous post) I also did a lot of reading this month.  I love my library and get most books from there.  I'm trying to listen to books while I drive, but my commute is short (not a complaint, just a fact) and I only get about 10 minutes of reading at a time so the book feels disjointed.  I've also realized I can listen to non-fiction but lose the thread of the narrative if it's fiction.

I belong to two book clubs and our picks for January/February were very different.  One is historical fiction, highlighting the impact of federal and provincial policies on the most vulnerable people - in this case, children living in care or in mental health facilities in the 1950's.  The book is well written with complex characters, a balance between narrative drive and character development, and a satisfying ending.

 The second is a psychological drama, set in the near future.  The story unfolds in an interesting way, and has one of the most satisfying endings I've read in a while.
I also read two books that are on my list to read to learn more about perspectives beyond my own.  Brother is on the Canada Reads 2019 list this year.  It's set in Toronto, and the narrative moves between present day and and the past.  Race, immigration, and the impact of these factors on the lives of the characters make up the themes of the book.  It's short, but emotional and timely. 
The other I listened to on audio.  I recommend reading a hard copy with a notebook and pen in hand, the book is packed full of thought-provoking ideas and experiences.  Coates writes a letter to his son, describing what it means to be Black in the United States.  I love books that teach me something, and this one has so many lessons to learn.  Rethinking and unlearning are key ingredients to an excellent book, for me.

February's list looks just as interesting and diverse in genre and perspective - more on that in a month (or less)!

Saturday, 2 February 2019

January Round-up - Knitting

January felt good.  Productive but in a way that felt creative rather than deadline-driven.  I did a lot of knitting and rekindled my reading life.   More on the reading in the next post, but here's the knitting!

Lots of knitting due to my focus on only working on one or two projects at a time and giving each a designated time or location.  By this I mean that I worked on socks during the day or while dinner cooked (when possible) as they required a bit of focus and are more fiddly for me (at this point.  I'm a new sock knitter, so they aren't 'throw in my bag' kinds of projects yet).   I worked on sweaters in the evening as they are less portable and usually require less concentration for me right now.   I am knitting shawls/cowls/hats on the go as they are portable and relatively easy to do in congested locations (like on the bleachers at a sports event or practice). 

My finished objects this month:
Lyndon socks by Alicia Plummer knit in Patons Alpaca Blend - I'm trying to balance economical yarns and more expensive yarns this year - see the post at Knitted Bliss for a more eloquent explanation of how to incorporate different yarns into projects.

Lesley by Hannah Fettig in Cascade Eco+ (just learning about some issues related to Cascade Yarn, but I don't know enough to say more here yet - this has been in my stash for a couple of years) and the pattern was knit in pieces and seamed because I love seaming and like that knitting in pieces makes it less bulky to work on.
I also finally finished Bindrune by Amy Christoffers using the yarn I won from Berroco over a year ago.  It's super-warm and perfect for the Polar Vortex cold spell we just had this week:

This month I've also done some significant reading.  I finished

Thursday, 31 January 2019

think, rethink, learn, unlearn

Lots of conversations in this corner of the crafting community (see Ravelry's summary to start) about inclusion, racism, and privilege.  This is not a new conversation for me; as an educator I have been working on examining my own privilege, biases, role in an unjust system, and role as an educator in a position of authority and influence.  I know very little for sure, but one thing I do know is that in order to change my own thinking I have to read, research, reflect, and act.  Reading reviews or excerpts of someone else's learning brings little meta-cognition or internal change.   To read first- hand experiences and to understand the larger context, go to Instagram and look at stories by @astitchtowear @booksandcables @su.krita and others.

The best thing that I can do is to recommend books that help me frame my own understanding.  I have been raised to believe I am White.  I have inherited and benefited from the privileges that those who are seen as White are afforded.   I recommend:

To know more about being seen as White and the privileges this affords:

To learn about those who viewed as "other" or People of Colour (PoC or BIPoC) and their lived experiences:

To understand the historical roots of racism and the impact this still has on individuals today (both are told through historical fiction):

I have read all of these over the past few years (or more recently, for some) and all still stay with me as I continue to grow and learn.