Odds and ends

This year, for my mom’s birthday I promised her 6 pairs of socks. One pair every 2 months.

I was ahead of schedule for the first half of the year but now…not so much.

I’m still working on the September/October socks and there are only a few days left in the month.

It’s not because I procrastinated – I had the yarn picked out in the summer. But then I misplaced it.

I grabbed different yarn and started a pair but after making one, decided they were not her colours so I finished them for someone else.

I started a second pair and when I got halfway through the first, I decided she wouldn’t like that yarn either. And besides, they were turning out too big.

After three failed attempts I finally just grabbed some odds and ends of leftovers and cast on from the toe up. I decided I’d knit until I ran out of yarn so that’s what I did and now they’re gonna be ankle socks.

I feel like these socks are a metaphor for life right now. Grand plans and lofty goals have fallen to make way for the odds and ends of getting by.

Since school started again, and our schedule includes some working from home, some working from work, and no safe (enough) option for using public transit, my time is chopped up into bits and pieces.

I fold laundry while on a phone call for work. I manage the work social media in my off hours. I stuff a turkey while attending a virtual conference. I carve out time in my evenings to finish the work I couldn’t cram into the day. I squeeze a shower into a 15 minute break between video meetings.

Odds and ends.

But it all works out. It all gets done.

And finally there’s something useful and maybe beautiful, even if it’s not the image you had in your head at the start.

Penny’s Mandalas

I’ve written before about the knitting I inherited from a woman named Penny. (Post 1, Post 2, and Post 3.) She was a friend of a friend of my parents and she passed away suddenly with many unfinished projects on the go.

When this pandemic hit a few weeks ago and we went into isolation mode I went to the basement and dug through my bins of “Penny knitting” and pulled out this mostly-finished mandala sweater.

All the pieces laid out on the floor.

It was a kit made by Philosopher’s Wool complete with wool, pattern, buttons, and a tag to sew inside when complete. Apparently it was a gift from her kids.

Penny had completed 8 and a half squares so I only had one and a half left. I tried to analyze the completed squares to find a rhyme and reason to the colour changes but it seemed to be random so I continued, randomly.

Once I sewed them all together I realized I needed to cut steeks to create a round neckline. The instructions said to machine stitch two lines but since I don’t have a sewing machine I backstitched with wool and then did a crochet chain to secure it. I left the cutting until the end (because it freaks me out to cut knitting.)

Steeks reinforced, neckline done, preparing to cut.

I picked up stitches for the waist, neck, wrists and button bands. …and then I realized I forgot to size down my needles so I added a couple crochet chains on the inside of the neckline and button band to cinch them in a bit tighter so they’ll lay flatter.

And then I finally cut the steek, and stitched down the inner facing.

In the end, I think it all looks pretty good. I never would have chosen this sweater on my own but it was a fun challenge to figure it out.

This is the card that came with the kit. There’s a happy birthday message written on the reverse.

And it was nice to have a project the keep my mind and hands busy during this weird time of busy inactivity.


Over on Instagram there’s a #fiberuary challenge, where participants are supposed to post a photo each day corresponding to a particular hashtag.

Today’s is #gratitude and when I started preparing a post I realized my caption was better suited to a blog post so here I am.

A woman stands against a white wall, wearing a hand knit sweater. The top and sleeves are sheer and fuzzy, pale green and aqua. The body is stripes in shades of blue, green, yellow and pink.

Thanks to my husband for the use of his camera and patience to get this shot. Thanks to my mom for the necklace which matches perfectly and the tank top underneath. This entire outfit cost me $6 and that was for the yarn.

I’m grateful for this Kidsilk Haze that I found at a thrift store for $4.

I’m grateful that this sweater finally worked out. I knitted the sleeves back in June and then tried to squeak a body out of the remaining yarn but it wasn’t quite enough.

I’m grateful that I found this coordinating Jawoll sock yarn at the thrift store in December and that one skein was just the right amount.

I’m grateful for the tiny spools of matching mending thread inside the Jawoll ball because it was the perfect weight to hold doubled with the kidsilk.

A closeup of the sweater showing off the different yarns.

Closeup you can see where I held both yarns together at the bottom edge, and also to soften the transition from the top to the main body.

More deeply, I’m grateful that I have time to knit. I’m privileged enough to have free time, and to have a family who doesn’t mind when I choose knitting over household chores. A closeup of a hand stitching together a sweater while in the background the floor is covered in piles of unfolded laundry.

Part of the reason I can knit so much is because I only work part time due to my illness. I’m grateful that I have an employer who was/is able to accommodate my limitations so well.

I’m grateful that no matter how bad I feel, no matter how weak my muscles are, I can still usually knit. I’m grateful for the sense of accomplishment it affords me when I feel like I’m failing at most everything else.

And I’m very grateful that the pain I described in my last post lifted after a week. It felt like waking up, breaking through the barrier between nightmare and reality. I woke up Saturday morning and felt whole again.

So much gratitude wrapped up in one sweater.

A selfie of my in the sweater standing in front of a dark teal wall.

I’m grateful that my sweater matches my walls so well, making the perfect backdrop for a selfie.

All coming together.

I remember being a teenager and feeling a profound loneliness. It was only for a short time, but it’s always been a strong memory so a few years ago when I saw a teen girl I knew from church post on facebook that she needed a friend, I messaged her and offered to get together for coffee.

We went out for fries instead and from there she started coming to my house every Monday evening to knit and chat with a group of my friends. Craft night.

Over the years we saw her grow up, excel in high school, graduate, get a dog, and eventually move to the other side of the country. (She still Skyped in sometimes on Mondays from her dorm room.)

Now all grown up, she is married and about to become a mother. When I shared that news with the Monday night ladies they immediately asked when I wanted squares.

For every baby born from craft night we knit squares and join them into a quilt-style blanket. My friend Becky first arranged one for me when I was pregnant and we have continued the tradition.

So the squares for this newest young mom have been coming in over the summer and I’ve been piecing them together.

At the beginning it’s always hard to see how they might fit into a cohesive design. Once I start picking up stitches and knitting bridges it gets real wonky and there’s always a moment mid-project that I’m afraid I’ve lost the plot and it’ll be a disaster. But in the end it always comes together.

I’m reaching that end stage now where the final product I see in my mind isn’t far off from what I have on my needles. I’m excited to finish it up and ship it.

It’s a good metaphor for life in general, and it’s particularly fitting for the stage of life I’m in right now. My house is torn apart because I’m slowly packing everything to move. My other house is torn apart as we prepare it to move into. The disparate pieces are starting to come together.

It always comes together in the end.

Brightly coloured Knitted squares lay on the floor beside a Rubbermaid bin.

The blanket in process, and bins of packing in progress.

Knit Love

If you follow me on Instagram you’ll have seen several in-progress shots of a very brightly coloured fair isle sweater.

The sweater as it arrived.

It’s my latest project from all that inherited incomplete knitting I got back in December.

It took me a while to figure out what to do with it. First I separated the back from the front and completed the body. The original knitter had clearly set it up for steeked armholes which is a much more efficient way to work this many colours but I’m not confident in my steeking abilities (especially with acrylic) so I decided on the less practical raglan shaping.

Then I tackled the sleeves. There was no way I’d be able to match the patterns she created in the body so I decided to not even attempt it. She had left a large ball of plain brown yarn so I used that.

I did want to inject some colour into the sleeves so I looked at what colours were already in the body that I could extricate and I realized that there was literally every colour of the rainbow present, so rainbows it would be.

I wanted the trim to match the sleeves so I removed the blue ribbing from the waistband and replaced it with brown. I added a neckband and was done.

All along I didn’t have a clear vision of what to do with it once I was done. I didn’t know who it had been intended for and I didn’t know who would wear it.

A couple weeks ago I finally reached out to the partner of the woman who all this knitting cane from. I gave him an update on some of the things I had finished. I told him what a fun project this has been for me and what I wonderful knitter his wife had been. I did not mention the multicoloured sweater.

Me modelling the finished sweater.

He emailed me back almost immediately and I learned some important things. First, her name was Penny. All this time I had been working with her needles, her yarn, and her ideas but I hadn’t known her name.

Second, he attached a photo of the past two Christmas gifts she had made him.

It was obvious who this wild sweater was for.

I sent it with my parents and within a week he had received it.

What a joy to be able to not only finish someone else’s work, but to be able to get it to the intended recipient. I firmly believe that knitting is love made tangible and I’m so glad that I was able to help, in a small way, to pass on Penny’s love.

Half circle

Over Christmas I inherited some unfinished knitting projects from a lady who passed away suddenly. I’ve been plodding along on a couple things (cute and tiny birds that I have yet to decide what to do with, but when I do I’ll show them off. Maybe a mobile for a baby’s room?) and have finally finished one that had me stymied for a bit.

It looked like a circular shawl, made up of short row sections. Each section got increasingly larger though so it would not have made a circle. And it was in baby yarn. Multi coloured baby yarn.

I asked Ravelry for help tracking down what pattern it might have been and though they had many good suggestions, none quite fit. We finally determined that it was likely an experiment designed by the knitter.

Now I don’t know what end result she was intending but I have several pregnant friends so I decided it would be a baby blanket.

Finishing part of this lady’s legacy of knitting projects? Check.

A gift for a tiny little girl coming in May? Check.

Less knitting for me? Check.

It seemed like the obvious choice.

So I followed the lady’s method and continued on. When I reached the point that it made a half circle I bound off, picked up stitched across the top, added a wavy border and there we have it.

It’s a bit unusual. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a baby blanket that shape but it’s the right size and texture and I really don’t think babies are all that picky.

It’ll tuck nicely into a stroller or car seat and the black and grey sections will give good visual contrast for a newborn to focus on.

It was fun to try to interpret someone else’s plan. You’ll see as I share more of her work that this woman was a talented and creative knitter. This was one of the simpler projects so I chose it first. We have very different styles so it will be a joy to learn from her as I go along.

Right now we still differ in our approach to colour choices but who knows, by the end of all this I may come around and see things her way.

We’ve been promised loads more snow from the weather forecasters but so far, this is it.

Unfinished business

Christmas has come and gone and I haven’t written in over a month. I was busy knitting, and crafting, and wrapping. (Also working.) Then I was travelling and visiting family. Now I’m home and unpacking.

Aside from the regular unpacking of gifts and dirty laundry, this year I have something else. A massive bag of yarn.

An acquaintance of a friend of my parents’ passed away unexpectedly recently and she was a knitter. She left behind a huge stash of yarn – more than she could have probably knitted in her life if she had lived another 20 years, and many, many unfinished projects. Her husband didn’t care what happened to all her yarn but hoped some of her projects could be finished and used by someone.

I took several of her projects and I’m going to try and finish them over the next year. Some came with paper printouts of the patterns, some are easy enough to read the knitting and some are more mysterious.

This will be a very interesting, as this woman was a very adventurous knitter and some of her unfinished objects are things I would never think to try. It’s fascinating trying to follow someone else’s thought process by following the clues left behind.

I’m starting with the simpler projects and working my way up. I seamed together a pair of slippers and stuffed some tiny birds (photos to follow once they have beaks) and am now trying to tackle this short row shawl (although it’s knitted in baby yarn so it could be a blanket?)

I can’t tell if this was from a known pattern or was this woman’s own invention so I’ll ask on Ravelry and trust that the hive mind of the internet can help me.

Squares in squares

There’s a wave of babies happening here so I’ve been working on blankets, sweaters, and stuffies lately. Two blankets were wrapped up this weekend for coworkers’ upcoming May babies.

A few weeks ago I needed to travel for work so I threw four balls of chunky green marbled yarn in my suitcase and pulled out some knitting pattern books. I snapped a few quick photos of pages that interested me and set off.

If you knit, you’ll know the fear of running out of yarn. I think every travelling knitter throws in that extra ball (or two) just in case.

This time there actually was a just in case. Several actually. Delayed trains, slow busses and missed trains meant an impromptu sleepover on my brother’s couch, and a whole lot more knitting time than I had planned for. I ended up using pretty much all the yarn I had packed and when I came home I had most of a blanket done.

It was inspired by Entrelac – Babydecke from Geshenke aus dem Wollkorb but I didn’t feel like properly translating all the instructions, and I wanted a more traditional entrelac look so I changed it up, using instructions from How To Knit by Debbie Bliss.

These are a couple of my favourite knitting books. How To Knit has such simple instructions, and a just-enough-but-not-overwhelming stitch dictionary that I reach for it often. Geshenke Aus Den Wollkorbe was a souvenir I bought at the last minute as a colleague and I stopped in a small town book shop on our way to the Stuttgart airport 4 years ago. I have made several projects from this book but more often than not, I fudge things rather than do the hard work of precise translation. My knitting skills are much better than my German.

I had a small amount of that green yarn left over, and I found five balls of a chunky white wool blend yarn at a thrift store so I decided to mix the two and add in all the other green leftovers in my stash. I did not have a plan other than to knit squares and see what happened. A friend was watching me lay them out and suggested I go for two groupings and this is how it turned out.

I think it looks like pixels. Another friend said it looks like farm fields. Either way it’s squishy and warm. (Also very hard to lay flat for a photo.)

That’s two down. Three more to go. Stay tuned.

Red is Best

When I was a teenager my family took a day trip to an outlet mall in a barn. There was a little store on the second floor that sold cosmetics in discontinued colours and styles. I bought a red Revlon lipstick that was perfect. Deep and bright and long lasting.

And I still have it. But it smells weird and it’s thick and gross and I can’t wear it but I’ve been keeping it because it’s just. so. perfect.

Finally, yesterday, my daughter and I went to Shoppers Drugmart and tested it against every red lipstick they carried. The back of our hands were covered in little red dots and dashes by the time we found the one.

As we were eating dinner afterward took a selfie to check the colour and was delighted to see it matches the colour of my new hat.

Four years ago we went to Banff on holiday, as a last we-better-fly-somewhere-now-before-our-baby-turns-two-and-costs-money trip. It was pouring rain as I was shopping up and down the Main Street and I found the most amazing store. Jacques Cartier Clothier sells clothes and yarn made of quiviut, the fibre of the musk ox. It’s ludicrously beautiful, soft, warm, and expensive.

They have several variations of their yarns in different fibre blends. I bought one ball of the cheapest kind with the smallest percentage of quiviut fibre. It was $30 and it took me a year to settle on a use for it. I made a hat.

And it was the most amazing hat I have ever worn. It’s lightweight, warm, comfortable, and never gives me hat head. It is also frequently stolen by my daughter.

I was extolling its wonderful properties to my husband once and he took that information and ran with it.

I got a ball of 100% quiviut yarn last year for Christmas.

It costs $100.

They keep it under glass at the yarn store.

I always wondered what kind of ridiculous people spend that much money on one ball of yarn. Turns out the answer is loving husbands who need gifts ideas for their wives.

It sat on my shelf for a year while I planned.

And then it took two months because I knitted it nice and slowly on size 2 needles and enjoyed every minute.

And now I have a new hat.

And it is as perfect as I had hoped.

And I have about 40% of the ball left.

So now I need to scheme some more.

Warm hands

I used to have the most beautiful, warm, kickass knitted mittens that took me a year to make and had little birdies and Christmas trees and banners that said “let it snow” and were made of bunny fir yarn but then our car was stolen while we were on holiday and my mittens were in it and I lost them forever.

That was three years ago and I was so sad/mad about it that I couldn’t bring myself to make another pair until this winter.

So back in the late fall when the cold came I went through my yarn stash and pulled out some angora and some sock yarn, rifled through my old copies of Interweave Knits and settled on a plan. I made those mittens so quick, I popped them on my hands, and immediately thought ….

Oh. Those are Breanna mittens.

Breanna is one of my childhood best friends. I love her deeply and I just knew those mittens were meant for her.

So I prepared to cast on again. I used the same pattern, dug through my stash, pulled out leftover yarn from my husband’s cardigan and paired it with some cotton I dyed in the summer and made….

Wool-less mittens for my other childhood bestie Kris because she has sensitive skin. My knitting, like my love, for Bre and Kris is always equal.

And then I caught the stranded-knitting-Christmas-present bug and I made….

Socks for my grandma.

Since my grandpa passed away in the fall she says she has been colder at night so I thought angora and wool sleeping socks might help.

She has reported that they do.

And once my Christmas knitting was complete I went through my stash one more time, found a new pattern, and cast on again. A few tweaks and two months later I finally have …

Warm hands.

(Pattern is Deathflake.)