Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Decisions, decisions

You would think that something as simple as a garter stitch scarf would be quite straightforward, but it seems I'm capable of turning it into nothing less than a series of major decisions. Major, because this scarf is for James' birthday and I want to get it RIGHT.
First, since he wants a striped scarf, we have to decide on the colours. He wants black and something else. So I hunt through my stash and we discuss the options. Black and red (Trinity College colours)? The red is too bright for his taste. Black and grey? Too boring, I say. Black, olive, and grey? Better. Black, olive, and navy? Yes.

Cascade 220 in black, navy, and olive heather

 Second, I have to decide on horizontal or vertical construction. I like the look of the latter, but the problem is that I will  have to decide in advance exactly how long the scarf will be. Also, the cast-on may involve hundreds of stitches. Undaunted, I decide to forge ahead with a lengthwise project.
Third, I have a discussion with James about the exact dimensions of his birthday scarf. He shows me the ratty synthetic one he is currently sporting (how embarrassing for his mother, the knitter!) and tells me that he wants the new one to be both longer and wider. How long? 72 inches. That's how long it will need to be to extend to his fingertips when he wears it hanging around his neck. He wants to have enough for wrapping.
Fourth, I need to decide what gauge I will knit at. The Cascade 220 I'm using knits up at 4 1/2 or 5 sts per inch. I think I will knit at the looser gauge, since that will help the scarf feel softer and drape better. I work out that 72 x 4.5 = 324. YIKES! That's at lot of stitches. I reason that the scarf may grow a little when blocked, so I nip 2 inches off and arrive at a cast-on of 315 stitches.
Fifth, I need to decide what type of cast on to employ. Long-tail cast on will give lots of elasticity, but it won't match the cast off. I want the two sides of the scarf to look alike. So, I steel myself and cast on all 315 stitches using Sally Melville's crochet cast on from this book. It's slow and tedious, but well worth it. See?

Crochet cast on on the left.

Monday, December 27, 2010


We're in recovery mode here --from Christmas, from a ghastly cold virus my daughter brought home from university and shared with us, and from a really dreadful computer virus that knocked out our anti-virus software.
In spite of the cold, which has involved prolonged coughing fits around 2:00 a.m. each night, I managed to do the Christmas feast thing. We had a local organic turkey from Old Farm Fine Foods. It was one of their "small" ones, weighing in at 14 1/2 pounds, so I was happy to have James available to carry it home for me. I made stuffing, although I actually cooked it outside the bird, cranberry sauce, gravy, and our traditional melange of turnip (rutabaga for any American readers), onions, celery and carrots. No potatoes. There is a limit to how many calories one ought to consume at one meal. And how much work a meal should involve! And for dessert--vegan mincemeat pie. I'm not vegan, but this recipe is a little lighter than the traditional version since it has no suet and the pastry is made with canola oil. Yum.


Yesterday, I discovered that our desktop computer had been taken over by a virus called "System Tool". It was really crippling since it prevented our normal security software from doing any scans. Eventually, I discovered how to go into "safe mode", download new anti-virus software, scan and eliminate "System Tool". I'm feeling brilliant at having solved the whole thing on my own, although I suspect most teenagers could have solved the problem in half the time.
Now, for a little birthday knitting. James was a New Year's Day baby. He'll be 22 next Saturday and he's requested a scarf. I'm knitting it lengthwise and I've cleverly (I think, anyway) cast on using Sally Melville's crochet cast on so that the beginning and the end will look alike. No photos yet. Perhaps tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Christmas Baking (Edible and Inedible)

At this time of year I like to have some Christmas cookies ready to go as quick little gifts. This morning I'm going for coffee with Marjorie Cooke, our real estate agent, at the Mug and Truffle. I've got this nice little tin of goodies for her.

You can see an additional log of dough ready to roll beside the tin. I'll bake some more tonight so that I'll have something to give to friends in Ottawa who are going to put us up tomorrow night. Gingerbread cookies can be as hard as bricks, but this recipe makes ones that are either crunchy or chewy, depending on how long you cook them. I use unbleached flour and cow's milk instead of wholewheat flour and soy milk and they turn out perfectly every time.
           Cookie cutters can be used to make terrific ornaments as well. We have ones on our tree that the kids made fifteen years ago, as well as ones we made last year. I hung a few on our front wreath for photo purposes so you can see how pretty they are.

Here's the recipe:    4 c. flour
                              1 c. salt
                              1 1/2 c water
Roll the dough out, cut with cookie cutters, poke holes with a knitting needle (of course), and bake for about an hour in a 350 degree oven (or until golden). When they're cool, paint with acrylic paint and glitter glue.
This is fun to do with little kids, if you're feeling patient. Best done on a snowy day with logs burning in the fireplace!
I'm off now for coffee, wearing my new "Lucy" scarf.


Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Just in Time

Perhaps scarves have been on my mind since watching the new BBC Sherlock Holmes. Benedict Cumberbatch certainly wins the prize for the most dashing wearer of scarves (apparently the episodes were filmed last winter during Britain's record-breaking cold snap). I knitted "Lucy", the companion scarf to "Tumnus" (both available free on Ravelry), while watching all three episodes, and finished it yesterday evening. Here it is in its unblocked state, looking unremarkable.

Unfortunately, the lustrous quality of the Green Mountain Spinnery "Sylvan Spirit" doesn't come across in my photos. I gave the newly finished scarf a bath in warm water and a little Eucalan,

and laid it out, stretching it a little, on a towel. By morning it was dry. This was the view out our bedroom window this morning when I checked on my new scarf.

Isabel is home from the University of Toronto, so I talked her into modelling "Lucy" on our third-floor deck. She tried out a couple of ways of wearing it.


 With more snow on the way, it seems that I managed to get this bit of knitting done just in time!


Sunday, December 5, 2010

A Quiet Day

It's snowing outside, but too dark for photos. I'll take some tomorrow, if I have time. When I walked to the bookstore earlier today, a few snowflakes were beginning to drift down, but hardly enough to notice.
This is what I did notice.

As good as a postcard, isn't it? Tonight, there is a layer of white over everything. I'll try to take some pictures tomorrow.
I visited our local Indigo store to check out the new knitting books. I was tempted by "Sock Yarn One-Skein Wonders", edited by Judith Durant, and "Gifted" by Mags Kandis, but I realized in time that I need to save my money for Christmas presents. Perhaps I'll drop a few hints in the right direction!
I returned home and put up our wreath.

Now, for a cozy evening of scarf knitting. I'll have to remember to pick up some firewood tomorrow so that we can light a fire in one of our three fireplaces. Hard not to love winter when you're a knitter!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Thinking Ahead

Well, here we are in December. No snow on the ground here yet, and that's a good thing, as far as I'm concerned. Skating rinks are being prepared,

 Newly flooded rink in Kingston's market square.
 my window boxes are dressed up for the season,

 and the pot by our front door is filled with red dogwood branches. No wreath on the door yet.

I'm working on some Christmas knitting. Here's this year's version of  "Tumnus", a favourite scarf recipe, photographed in appallingly poor light on a wet, grey day. The original was in red. At the time, we had a garden gate, which opened onto a small, private park. We used to joke that on a winter day, we expected to see Mr. Tumnus and Lucy come through the gate into our garden.

This is a unisex scarf with reversible cables (looks the same from both sides). I hesitate to call it a pattern, since it's so ubiquitous. My own twist (pardon the pun) has been to add a trick that keeps the ends from flaring out. I'll post it as a free Ravelry download later today.
Thinking ahead in a bigger way, I'm ruminating about the possibility of organizing a winter knitting retreat here in Kingston for the winter of 2012. Here we are, with several wonderful inns within easy walking distance of skating, restaurants, a university, shops, fabulous 19th century architecture, and Lake Ontario. We're accessible by Via Rail (in case driving doesn't appeal in February), and close to Interstate 81.
So, I'm wondering, what makes a knitting getaway work? What would make you want to attend such an event? Is it the place, the teachers, the "students", some combination of the above?