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Date: Wednesday, 19 Aug 2009 12:36
Young woman working at the Roots store: Would you like a recyclable bag?

Me: No, thanks. I already have a bag.

YWWATRS: But it's recyclable.

Me: Well, I think no bag is better than a recyclable bag.

YWWATRS: Are you sure? It's nice. It's a recyclable bag!

Me: [blank stare]
Author: "Alison (noreply@blogger.com)"
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Date: Thursday, 30 Jul 2009 15:40
I'm in B.C., and it is HOT out here. Too hot to knit, but there are plenty of other distractions: peaches, cherries, apricots, raspberries, etc. It's a tasty, tasty heat.

How about showing some knits from the past few months? A quick parade of highlights:

1. Kingscot cardigan.

I love, love, love this cardigan, and I'm looking forward to wearing it in the fall. From the moment I saw it as a Twist preview, I loved this design. I followed Norah Gaughan's pattern to the letter (other than putting buttons all the way down the front), and it turned out perfectly. The yarn is Rowan Pure Wool DK -- an expensive splurge for me, but I loved working with it and I love the results. (Ravelry link)

2. Leafy Medallions shawl.

This was a quick shawl; I needed a lace fix. I used Evelyn Clark's book (Knitting Lace Triangles): 10 repeats of the Leaf Lace chart, and then 3 repeats of Medallion Lace before the edging. The yarn is Spirit Trail Lachesis -- a purchase from Rhinebeck last fall. It's 100% alpaca, but I found it slightly wiry. I didn't love knitting it, but it did block nicely; it's the thinnest laceweight I've used, so the resulting shawl is very delicate and airy. (Rav link)

3. Zetor shawl.

This is the last thing I finished, just a few weeks ago. Another case of simple pattern + yarn I didn't really enjoy = pretty results. The yarn is One of a Kind Lace Solid -- a wool/angora/nylon blend with no elasticity or shine. I do love the colour, though. (Rav link)

4. Portland pullover.

I'm not sure yet whether this is finished. (I have it "hibernating" in Ravelry.) I mistakenly knit an extra repeat into the body, resulting in an unflattering length. I'm not sure whether I'll keep it as just a warm sweater, or if I'll do some altering to shorten it -- I guess it will depend on whether I find myself wearing it or not. It did turn out beautifully; I'm very pleased with my finishing. I enjoyed knitting this. It seemed to go quite quickly. It probably took as long to sew the pieces together as it did to knit them. (Rav link)

At the moment, I'm knitting a Mountain Peaks shawl -- or, I would be if it wasn't so HOT. I chose this shawl because I wanted a lace challenge, and most of Mountain Peaks has lace patterning on both the right and wrong sides. It's been slow going, but before my holiday I finished Chart 1 -- and not a moment too soon. I was definitely getting tired of p2togtbl....
Author: "Alison (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "knitting"
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Date: Friday, 17 Jul 2009 16:17
Well, I vowed to myself that I wouldn't blog until I'd finished my thesis proposal. I didn't think it was going to take four months, but it did, and it's done. I have to do a little tweaking before formally submitting next week, but it's close enough to finished that I can relax. Hallelujah!

So it's been exactly four months since my last post. Mostly I've been working on my proposal, which included a couple of Toronto library trips and a longer road trip to Bloomington, Indiana, to do research at the Kinsey Institute. I've also done a lot of knitting -- I'll put up a few photos soon. In the spring I was on a bit of a book jag, so for now I'll leave you with a pile of inspiration:

From top to bottom:

- Whimsical Little Knits by Ysolda Teague (so charming!)

- Material Obsession by Aussie quilt-shop owners Kathy Doughty and Sarah Fielke (beautiful photos of fabulous quilts) (I see there is now Material Obsession Two, Lord help me...)

- Socks from the Toe Up by Wendy Johnson (patterns + general how-to)

- Ontario's Heritage Quilts by Marilyn I. Walker (wonderful historical quilts -- so glad I found this in the clearance section at a Chapters store)

- Country Weekend Knits by Madeline Weston (one of those books, like A Fine Fleece that I want to step into and live in)

- Victorian Lace Today by Jane Sowerby (old news, I know -- I finally bought this book not so much for the patterns as for the historical info on lace knitting)

- Stitched in Time by Alicia Paulson (pretty pictures of pretty projects)

- Chatelaine's Gardening Book (published 1976 -- a nice thrift-store find)

- Martha Stewart's Encyclopedia of Crafts (need I say more?)

- Retro Knits by Kari Cornell and Jean Lampe (great reproductions of vintage patterns and images)

Whew! Blogging takes a long time. That's why I'm not going to be blogging all the time anymore, but I don't think I'll disappear completely, either...
Author: "Alison (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "books, school, links, knitting"
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Date: Tuesday, 17 Mar 2009 15:38

In the fall of 2005 I bought a beautiful skein of Fleece Artist merino "basic sock" yarn at the Kitchener-Waterloo Knitters' Fair, and I've been saving it since then for the right project. It was just so pretty -- a semi-solid forest green. Too pretty for socks, even though Fleece Artist is a great sock yarn. Also, it was precious because it was from a previous generation of Fleece Artist sock yarn; a few months later, they changed suppliers (or something) and the sock yarn got a little fatter and a little softer. So once this skein was gone, my stash of F.A. v.1 would be gone, too.

And then, just a couple of months ago ... along came Ishbel.

A super-fast knit because it's half stockinette, Ishbel took me just a few evenings of TV-watching to finish. The pattern includes instructions for two sizes (as well as for sock yarn and laceweight); my version is a combination of the two. I'd planned to knit the small size, for more of a scarf, but when I'd finished the stockinette section I still had so much yarn left. I wanted to use as much of my pretty yarn as I could (what was I going to do with a quarter of it left over?), so I kept knitting. My stockinette section is from the large size, and then I went back to the small size for the lace portion. (I see on Ravelry that a lot of people have done this. It's certainly the way to get the most of your yarn.) Blocked, my Ishbel measures about 54 inches (137 cm) across the top, and about 23 inches (58 cm) at the deepest point (which isn't actually a point!). It's a great size -- not too big, but big enough to wrap solidly around my neck. And I have, literally, a handful of yarn left over. (So I'd estimate that it took ... about 320 meters?)

And with that, I'm going to disappear for a while. I need to be more focussed on my school work for the next little while, so I'm taking a break from both the Internet and knitting. Only e-mail and writing for the next month (?). We'll see how it goes, and I'll be back when I've got a good handle on my work. Enjoy the beginnings of spring! And thanks for all your nice comments on my recent FOs -- you're sweet. xo
Author: "Alison (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "knitting"
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Date: Friday, 13 Mar 2009 18:54

Here's my Amelia cardigan (free pattern by Laura Chau), in a springy green ("larch") wool-cashmere blend by ColourMart. Love it! The yarn felt like a wool-cotton blend while knitting, but it bloomed like crazy in the final soak and is soft and drapey. Much like the similarly shaped February Lady Sweater, I find that Amelia is universally flattering (having looked at a zillion photos of finished Amelias on Ravelry). The vertical lines are columns of twisted rib, which looks sharp and allows lots of stretch for a good fit. I followed Laura's pattern to the letter, and I'm thrilled with the results. Thrilled! New favourite.

Author: "Alison (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "knitting"
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Date: Wednesday, 11 Mar 2009 12:09
I tried to model my lovely new shawl outdoors yesterday -- it was windy and cold, and kind of dark:

Then I realized I'd been showing the wrong side of the shawl, and I was cold, so that was the end of that! Still, you get the idea. The pattern is Cleite, from the fall 2008 issue of Twist Collective. The yarn is Fino by Alpaca with a Twist: 70% baby alpaca/ 30% silk. It feels fabulous, and it's very warm. I did eight repeats of the main chart instead of nine, which the pattern calls for. There was enough yarn to do another repeat, but I thought the resulting shawl would've been too large. Mine is about 70 inches (180 cm) across the top, and about 36 inches (92 cm) deep at the centre point.

It's a well-written pattern, and as far as lace goes, it's easy. Cleite would definitely make a good first shawl for someone to knit.

I also finished my Amelia cardigan on the weekend, so I'll show you those photos next time. March to the finish, knitters! Get those languishing knits off the needles!
Author: "Alison (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "knitting"
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Oh, Noro   New window
Date: Friday, 27 Feb 2009 11:57
I recently bought a ball of Noro Kureyon Sock yarn, and I want to use every single inch of it. There are two steps to achieving this goal: (1) divide the 100-g ball into two 50-g balls and (2) knit socks from the toe up.

Step 1 is done. Obviously no attempt will be made at making matching socks. For me, the whole point of Noro Kureyon is the colour changes, so I will be knitting plain stockinette socks and just watching the magic happen. This is colourway S236: medium green, teal, black, grey, pink, gold, lime. It sounds like a crazy combination, but it will work somehow, because it's Noro.

I'm not going to cast on for these socks until I finish something else, though. I have five WIPs on the go right now, which is a lot for me: two cardigans, two pairs of socks, and a shawl. My next FO will likely be either a Cleite shawl (1 repeat left) or an Amelia cardigan (1 sleeve + yoke left).

Mooky says have a good weekend...

... and can I come in now, please?
Author: "Alison (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "Mooky, knitting"
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Date: Tuesday, 24 Feb 2009 16:35
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Knitting the Threads of Time: Casting Back to the Heart of Our Craft takes knitting seriously, as a historical practice, a significant economic force, a means of communication, a gathering place for women, and a path to self-awareness. No apologies, no distancing from "grandmas," no deprecation of knitting's pleasures -- indeed, Nora Murphy does the opposite: she actively seeks to locate hand-knitting within a larger history of fiber and fabric production, and she writes of both her own WIP and the craft in general (and the people who do it) with nothing but respect.

At one level, the book is the story of a sweater, from conception through finishing. The author decides to knit a sweater for her son, and the project takes her through four winter months in St. Paul, Minnesota. (Any of us who go through a similar "dark season" each year can certainly relate.) This WIP is a device that allows Murphy to weave a number of different ends into the story, so to speak: arriving at the point where her stitch count requires a switch from DPNs to something longer, for instance, she ruminates on the material origins of "knitting pins" (early North African knitters used brass wires, rural knitters in New Zealand used fencing wire, etc.). Such historical information is not limited to knitting but extends to weaving, First Nations beading and quillwork, and other crafts; Murphy also brings in ancient legends and historical events related to handicrafts, fabric, and clothing, showing that such "women's work" has in fact played a very important role in culture and history in many parts of the world.

I absolutely recommend this book. Because I'm bookish and nerdy, KTTOT had me at its index and bibliography (swoon!). It's a smart book about history, a compelling account of a craft, and even -- just a little -- a tale of suspense (Will she or won't she finish Evan's sweater by Christmas?). It has something for everybody without trying to please everybody, if that makes sense. I can imagine I may even pull it off the shelf and read it again when next year's dark season comes around.

p.s. to Nora Murphy: Have you considered making your other son a quilt? Because I'd read that book. I'm just saying...
Author: "Alison (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "books, knitting"
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Date: Friday, 20 Feb 2009 14:24
...to cook up two batches of yarn.

1. starting, 2. measuring, 3. cooking, 4. cooling, 5. drying, 6. admiring

Last weekend, I did some stovetop experimenting with wool, food colouring, and white vinegar. I had a 100-gram ball of white wool, which I divided into four small hanks. Batch 1 had 20 drops of red food colouring in it (which made a pretty light pink), and batch 2 had about half the 28-mL bottle (which made the most saturated bright-raspberry colour!). I think I'll knit a striped hat.
Author: "Alison (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "crafty, photo mosaic"
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Date: Saturday, 14 Feb 2009 17:24
This is a project I've always wanted to make. I remember discovering that a particular little green book on my parents' bookshelf wasn't actually a book at all, but a hollow hiding place. My mom would sometimes take money out of it before church, for the offering plate. I thought it was the cleverest thing ever, and now I have one, too! A few weeks ago I bought a secondhand hardcover book, and today I followed this How To Do Stuff tutorial. (Let me say that I ordinarily don't believe in the defacement of books. I bought this one at a thrift shop -- a Reader's Digest version of My Ántonia, which I've read before -- and since it was unwanted, I consider this to be repurposing rather than vandalism.)

All you need is a book, white glue, a paintbrush, a ruler, a pencil, and a sharp blade. And some patience. Mine turned out better than I'd thought it would. Here's the finished inside:

I've always been a person who likes to have secret hiding places. (Probably everyone does. Why not?) This was fun, cheap, and easy to make. I can fit my passport inside, or cash, or whatever, and put it on my bookshelf with all my other books. (And two months from now, when I forget which book my passport is inside, well, that's what blog archives are for.)

I hope you're having a good weekend and a happy Valentine's Day! xo
Author: "Alison (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "crafty, books"
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Date: Friday, 13 Feb 2009 08:13
A link for you: check out artist Joy Kampia O'Shell's website for some impressive crochet sculpture. The links under Portfolio will take you to examples such as the crocheted bicycle and the sundae dress as well as lots of food, from breakfast through dessert. Enjoy!
Author: "Alison (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "crochet, links"
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Date: Tuesday, 10 Feb 2009 11:15

I am here to testify that you CAN crochet a cute top that doesn't look like a 1970s granny square. Behold the Icelandic Turtleneck (published in the Crochet Me book)! Easy enough for a basic crocheter like me, and the result is a cute, warm, stretchy layer. I love it.

Here's exactly what I'm thinking in the following photo: Um, Bill -- taking this photo from below is probably not going to be so flattering for a pear-shaped lady like me...

Oh well, it's a good photo of the top. I left off the turtleneck -- I did about half of a turtleneck. (It's folded over in these shots.) Otherwise, I followed the pattern for the 41-inch size. I used a 3.5 mm hook and (I think?) 4.5 50-gram balls of Jojoland fingering-weight wool. The result: a 35-inch bust, which is perfect! Clearly I have some issues with gauge in crochet, but happily, it all worked out in my favour.

I didn't block it. All the crocheting is done through the back loop, which makes a stretchy garment. I don't want it to lose its springiness. You can see the weird bagginess in the upper chest area, which I don't really understand. Doesn't matter. I'm happy with this top -- putting it on is like slipping into a big sock. It's great.

I tell you, the more I crochet, the more I love to crochet! I enjoy the motion of it. I'm not sure what's next in my crochet queue; I like the Pinwheel Beret in the current Interweave Crochet magazine. There are also a couple of cardigan patterns I've got my eye on (like this Rav link), and I'm also thinking of using up some pink angora to crochet a ripple scarf. Oh, and I want to make a Tiramisu blanket for a friend's baby, but the baby won't be here until late summer. We'll see. For now, I'm back to knitting my Cleite shawl.
Author: "Alison (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "crochet"
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Lace love   New window
Date: Sunday, 08 Feb 2009 10:47
The preview is up for the spring issue of IK! It looks good. I've been preoccupied with lace yarns and patterns lately, so I'm very excited to see two! shawls! as well as a stole and an adorable little laceweight cardigan.

Good incentive to get cracking on Cleite -- so I can start a new lace project when IK comes! I've done four repeats. Of course, each one is longer than the one before, and the pattern calls for nine repeats, so... I've got some knitting to do.

I bought some new laceweight yarn last week, too, with no particular project in mind -- but I am powerless in the face of that vintage aqua blue: 2 skeins of One of a Kind wool-angora lace. Lovely, isn't it? Like a bit of blue sky on a winter day. (Thanks again for the home delivery, Robyn!)

(In a quick thrift yesterday, I happened to find a Melmac platter in that same fabulous aqua. Woot!)
Author: "Alison (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "thrifting, knitting"
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Date: Thursday, 05 Feb 2009 11:42

Bill's golfing Che on the left; my scarf-wearing Che on the right.
Author: "Alison (noreply@blogger.com)"
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Date: Tuesday, 03 Feb 2009 11:16

- got plenty of much-needed vitamin D

- read the last few weeks' worth of New Yorkers on the gorgeous beach in Varadero, Cuba

- drank a lot of Cristal, plus a proper Mojito and a Cuba libre (not because I even like rum & Coke, but for the same reason I had a Singapore sling when I was in Singapore)

- took two tennis lessons with, it turns out, Cuba’s 1977-81 national champion (or so we heard)

- went to a Cuban National Series baseball game in Matanzas, in the Victory at the Bay of Pigs Stadium (Camagüey beat Matanzas 15-0! Ai-yi-yi)

- took a daytrip into Havana on a lovely sunny Wednesday

- had lunch at the Hotel Inglaterra (est. 1875), one of the older, swankier hotels in central Havana

- rode in a bicycle taxi through part of the city, alongside Ladas and big beautiful old Buicks (the city feels like a living museum of the 1950s, mixed with very old, crumbling fortresses and elaborate architecture)

- visited a UNESCO World Heritage site for the first time: Old Havana

- admired the interior and exterior of the 220-year-old Catedral de la Habana (and then had a beer in the square out front)

- went into the Castillo de la Real Fuerza, the oldest fortification in Cuba, and climbed the bell tower to get a better view of the water and the flea market below

- enjoyed the visual freedom from commercial bombardment: no billboards advertising products, only messages promoting socialism (many of which pointed out that this year marks the fiftieth anniversary of the revolution)

- wandered through a colourful outdoor used-book market (most of the books were about Cuba, in Spanish)

- spent my last peso on a postcard of Che Guevara wearing a knit scarf (Bill bought one of Che playing golf. There's a Che for everyone!)

- had a fabulous, relaxing, wonderful time with three of my very favourite people

- knit one and a half sleeves of a Forestry cardigan and three repeats of a Cleite shawl
Author: "Alison (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "trips, links"
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   New window
Date: Sunday, 01 Feb 2009 14:53

I'm back from Cuba -- I'll post a holiday recap soon!
Author: "Alison (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "trips"
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Date: Friday, 23 Jan 2009 16:34

A few days ago, I was doing the toe decreases on my first Alternating Rib sock, and I realized it was time to stop and face facts. Every time I'd tried on the sock-in-progress, I could see what was happening, and I could ignore it no longer: I was knitting what would become, after about five minutes of wearing, a slouch sock. And since I haven't actively sought out a pair of slouch socks since about 1985, I knew what I had to do.


I ripped the sock back to about 5 inches of leg and started doing paired decreases (every 5 or 6 rounds) at what would be the back of the sock, so that by the time I got to where I wanted to start the heel flap I had 8 fewer stitches than before. And it was So Worth It. The sock fits better, and the stitch pattern looks better. I think I could have maybe tried harder to make the decreases look better in the back, but I'm happy enough.

I'm not advocating perfection; I'm just saying that sometimes you know you have to rip. And you should. It's only knitting. It's like hair -- it grows back.

More from the "We like free" Department: In case you don't know, the Canadian Living site is a good source of free patterns. At the moment, you can find the Mason-Dixon hand towel pattern (Ravelry link) and a pattern for crocheting a tote bag from old plastic grocery bags. Plus the site archives its patterns -- both patterns that were published in the magazine and those excerpted from books (e.g., the Bountiful Bohus cardigan pattern [Rav link] from More Big Girl Knits).

OK, we're off dark and early tomorrow morning on our holiday to Cuba! See you in a week or so!
Author: "Alison (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "links, knitting"
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Date: Wednesday, 21 Jan 2009 13:14
I'm not pregnant. (If I didn't say it right off the bat, I know you'd be wondering, and I'd get wink-wink questions in the comments. :) But if you are, or if your friend/sister/daughter/partner is, you'll want to pick up The Expectant Knitter: 30 Designs for Baby and Your Growing Family. It's like a knitter's version of What to Expect when You're Expecting. It includes patterns for baby knits, of course, but there are lots of other useful things, too.

The Expectant Knitter is organized into four parts: pre-pregnancy, and then the three trimesters. Each section contains relevant patterns as well as information about conception and pregnancy. For example, in the first part -- "Planning Ahead" -- you'll find notes on prenatal vitamins and adoption alongside a pattern for the "Take-Me-Home Swaddle Blanket" (and other stuff). I learned that breast enlargement accounts for about 2 pounds of weight gain during pregnancy (really?), and that a newborn uses about 10 diapers a day (really?!).

The patterns throughout are both precious and practical. On the one hand, there is a long, delicate christening gown knit in a blend of silk and cashmere; on the other hand, I imagine the pattern for wool diaper covers will be indispensable. In all, there are about 25 patterns for baby -- pants, tops, cardigans, dresses, socks, hats, a bib, washcloths, etc. -- but there are also a handful of patterns for other family members. (The dog-sweater pattern is followed by a page of info on introducing a new baby to one's dog.) My only complaint is that the yarns called for are generally quite fancy and expensive, but of course substitutions can be made. (Personally, I think baby duds should be machine washable, but at the same time, who wouldn't want to wear a cashmere romper?) And to top it off, the book itself is pretty.

(Psst! The author of The Expectant Knitter, Marie Connolly, is also the owner of Stitch DC, and on the shop's website you can find links to two free pdf patterns: a wee sweater (Ravelry link) and little legwarmers (Ravelry link). They're not from the book, but they're free. We like free.)
Author: "Alison (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "books, knitting"
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Date: Saturday, 17 Jan 2009 15:40

I finished the crocheted faux bois pillow, and it turned out so well. The pattern says it's 20"-by-20", but mine is about 17" square. (I stuffed a flattish 19" pillow into it.) I bought 3 balls of Red Heart Soft Touch and 2 balls of Bernat Satin for this project, and I think there's enough left for a second pillow. You know what would be awesome (and pretty easy to do)? Adapting this pattern to make a blanket.

I wish I could photograph this pillow against the wood panelling in my parents' house! That would be crazy.

I spent some time last week putting lots of my vintage Beehive pattern booklets into my Ravelry library. (Rav link.) It was inspiring. I want to use more of those patterns. The patterns for women's sweaters can be tricky, because they were generally designed for women who are smaller than me to start with, and then wearing a girdle or a corset or something, but the sock patterns are gold. They usually have to be adjusted slightly, because today's sock yarns are generally 4-ply while the patterns are usually written for thinner 3-ply (and most of the patterns I have are for men), but that's not hard to do. (For example, I'm planning to start a pattern called "Alternating Rib" next, from Patons book no. 113; the stitch pattern is a multiple of 4 stitches, so instead of casting on 72 sts., I'll cast on 64.)

I don't know if it's cold where you are, but it's super-freezing here. Another week of this winter weather, and then we're off to Cuba for a week! Bill found us a cheap all-inclusive deal in Varadero, and two of our best friends are coming, too -- I can't wait. I'm thinking a lace shawl will be a good thing to take, so I'm packing a skein of Alpaca with a Twist Fino and the pattern for Cleite. Who knows? Maybe I won't knit at all. Maybe I'll read novels! Maybe I'll just look at trashy magazines! But I'll tell you what I won't do: slip on the ice, freeze the tip of my nose off, or stay indoors all the time.
Author: "Alison (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "trips, crochet, vintage knitting pattern..."
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Quick fix   New window
Date: Wednesday, 14 Jan 2009 11:15
Bill was recently complaining of having cold feet in the house. Sure, he has handknit socks (not nearly as many pairs as I have, poor thing), but he still had chilly feet. Me, I have leftovers of worsted-weight wool. Everybody wins with scrappy slipper socks!

They ain't pretty, but they're effective. Worsted-weight wool held double, knit on 5.0mm needles. (Isn't it weird how they look kind of pixelated where the green and black were held together?) No pattern; I cast on 32 stitches and improvised from there. They weren't that fun to make, because I was using two circular needles, so there was a lot of circ-cord action happening. I'd make another pair, though -- on dpns and with prettier colours. In fact, I might have to. I'm a little jealous of Bill now.
Author: "Alison (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "knitting"
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