And the streets are paved with gold.

A and I are back in Canada. We’ve been in Toronto for just over a month. In that time we have found an apartment, moved into said apartment, CLEANED said apartment, looked for jobs, had interviews, waited by the phone, begun bathroom renovations, failed at bathroom renovations, selected paint chips, bought herb plants and gone to garage sales. In addition, I have spent almost two weeks in Victoria, BC, where I grew up and took a week-long course in XSLT encoding there. All in all, quite the last two months of our lives. Read More…

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All Out.

I just cleared out a lot of clothing that I don’t wear. This is round three of clothing purges over the last few months, and I think I may actually have reached some state of simplicity in my wardrobe. That is, I mostly only have clothing that I actually wear—something I don’t think I’ve ever been able to say (this, of course, excludes special dresses, even the copper lace dress that doesn’t fit over my recently, and naturally, much larger boobs…how can I get rid of that?). I also have two bags of clothing to give to Oxfam.

Ireland is interesting when it comes to giving clothing away. In Canada, at least on the West Coast, and at least among my friends/acquaintances/general social circle, if someone were moving or trying to get rid of possessions, they would most likely try to sell them. I experienced this first hand recently from an old friend: she offered to give me an air-conditioning unit, and then later clarified that she would either “loan” it to me, and would ask for it back at some hypothetical future date when I leave Canada again, or she would sell it to me. This is by no means strange for Canadians, and I’m sure for many people. But would an Irish person ever do this? No way. Read More…


To my adoring fans….

Although I know that my little blog has a wide audience of one (Hi, A.), I still feel bad having fallen down on my blogging duties so dramatically. My last post was January 30th.

Perhaps I can excuse myself somewhat.


Other people write, too.

In looking through Ravelry.com I came upon the designer, Kate Davies (ravelry name “wazz”), and her marvellous blog. I’m thoroughly smitten. Kate writes:

My name is Kate Davies. I live in Edinburgh, work at Newcastle University, and love writing, knitting, designing, and walking in equal measure. I find that all of these activities have a creative and a critical dimension, and the best of possible worlds is one in which I productively combine them all.

Read more about my new distance love affair…


Community Ties.

A’s tie is coming along nicely. I’m working it up in Debbie Bliss Aran Cashmerino and it’s already taken more than a skein (for a tie?!). To be honest, if I were to repeat the project I would use a much finer yarn. But A really likes this yarn—it’s soft and non-itchy—so hopefully he will like the tie when it’s all finished. Live and learn.

I’ve slightly altered my queue of projects to tackle. My aunt found an old pattern that belonged to her mother in the 60s. It’s this lovely pattern for girls’ school cardigans:

Sunbeam Aran Girls and Small Women's Cardigan and Lumber Jacket

My aunt’s mum made her the cardigan on the tall girl to go with her school uniform. My aunt made the point that, “in those days,” it was much cheaper to make school cardies than to buy them. Of course, anyone who knits today knows that knitting in anything other than acrylic is certainly more expensive (not to mention more time consuming) than buying clothing. But of course this brings up questions about availability of materials, and the influence of mass-production in the textiles industry. Indeed, contemporary school jumpers are (in my experience) made in acrylic. And they all seem to be machine knit. Whereas hand knitters, like me (if I can count myself among their numbers), tend not only to choose natural fibres, but to be attracted to fine wools. I’m making a generalization here, and I’m doing so without much empirical evidence or, for that matter, research.

However, what exposure I’ve had to knitting blogs, yarn manufacturers, books, and Local Yarn Stores (LYS) has shown an overwhelming occupation with the quality of yarns, and the luxe-sounding materials from which the yarns are made: “Cashmerino,” “Cotton Glace,” “Lamb’s Pride,” “Nature Spun,” “Silk Garden.” Yarn names seem concerned with communicating two qualities: luxury and the natural. It’s not too much a stretch to see how these two work together on a larger scale: a large part of contemporary luxury is narrated through “lifestyle choices.” These choices are at once indulgences and make the consumer feel as though their choices are responsible, are correct, are morally superior to another perceived consumption choice. I’ve already spoken to this, with the help of Zizek.

But at this point, I don’t want to condemn the knitting community for being attracted to beautiful materials, or for being attracted to materials that come from local sources, that are made by small, careful manufacturers. Indeed, I’m attracted to exactly the same products myself. And I’m similarly attracted to them because I can be more confident that the products I’m using have used fewer resources, if only by virtue of the fact that they haven’t been shipped long distances, and by the trust that I put in organic certifications and the honesty of small(er) businesses.

This is lazy of me. This isn’t radical enough. To be able to fully marry the practicality of craft and the rigour of critical thought I am required to undertake more profound lifestyle changes than choosing local or organic wool. This returns me to my fundamental dilemma. I don’t know if I’m willing to make the changes that would satisfy the rigour with which I should be acting. And, perhaps this idea of rigour is an infinite regression that I will never be able to fulfill.

In the meantime, though, I would like to make the lumber jacket on the left hand side (the little girl with the dog). It’s a bit small for me (the largest finished garment is only a 34″ bust), so I think I’ll just knit to a larger gauge to get a couple of extra inches.

Which brings me to a project that I have all the tools to start. The other day I bought Debbie Stoller’s Stitch ‘n Bitch: Superstar Knitting: Go Beyond the Basics (2009). It’s a beautiful book and all of the 41 patterns are just lovely. There’s a beautiful little cardigan, the “Sheepy Time” cardi (pg. 220, here’s the Ravelry.com site for Laurie Undis’s pattern) that I’m going to make up for my baby cousin.

Laurie Undis's Sheepy Time. Photo credit ©Workman Publishing.

So I’ve bought a few skeins of Debbie Bliss’s Fez in a lovely bright turquoise (colour 15) to match the sample piece in the book. I’ll be teaching myself how to knit back and forth in the round for this and how to knit on double-pointed needles. I’m really looking forward to it.


Superstar Wrists.

Last night I made A a wristband:

Basic Intarsia Wristwarmer

A's wrist is a superstar.

To make it I used the “Powerful Wrist Protection” pattern from Stitch ‘n Bitch and I knit it up in Wendy Merino Bliss in the black and another Merino blend whose label I’ve lost for the red and mustard (same yarns as the headbands I knit in the earlier post). The pattern called for the main colour (black) to be knit with two strands of yarn held together. I didn’t say anything about the contrast colour, meaning that it probably only wanted one strand, but I took the liberty of using two strands held together since A wanted a star that “changed colour.”

It was really satisfying to make the wrist warmer. It was a small, discrete project that I did from beginning to end. Incidentally, this was the first project that I did from beginning to end, since the headbands are still a work in progress.

A has requested a tie. I do not have a pattern, so I’m winging it.


Project update.

I realize that I haven’t talked about what I’ve been working on in a long time. The answer is headbands. I’ve been making these:

Cherry and Mustard Headbands

The picture is a little overexposed, but they’re knit up in a cherry-coloured and a mustard-coloured sport weight wool. They’re presents for two of my dearest friends. My problem is that now I need the big flowers to go on them, and I need to learn how to make them. I started (rather ambitiously) assuming that they should be crocheted. But betting crochet-overwhelmed has put a hiatus on the headband making. I’ve finally come to terms with crocheting not being the answer; I will look into ways to knit flowers.

Another good friend requested a headband in both black and turquoise. So, fairisle knitting, here I come. As such, I learned to do a bit of intarsia and knit a heart. It looks fairly decent. I think I might be ready for more. As such, my next planned project is a set of these:

Fiddle Head Mittens (Image from helloyarn.com)

These Fiddlehead mittens are from the site helloyarn.com. I think I might make my mom a pair of these too.