Swift Action

My father is pretty amazing.  For Christmas this year, he made me a swift.

Months back, while getting frustrated winding hanks of Berroco Modern Cotton, I mentioned that a swift, or a yarn weasel, would be super helpful with this task.  Dad asked what I was referring to, and I quickly sketched a weasel, something that is simple (very simple if I was able to sketch it!), but effective.  Little did I know, he kept the sketch.

Fast forward to a month or so before Christmas, and my parents asked what I would like, and I said that I would love to receive a ball winder.  I guess this triggered my dad’s memory, and he started doing research on winders, and how one might make a swift.  He spent afternoons at my grandparent’s and uncle’s, working on the swift, cutting and drilling.  He even researched what kind of finish, if any, it should have (the pegs were ultimately left unfinished to prevent any transfer to the yarn).

When I received my gifts on Christmas morning, I was astonished to find out that the professional looking puzzle pieces fit together to become a swift, and that my dad made it himself.  I honestly thought that they bought it.  I tried it out a few days later after a trip to my LYS, and the swift works like a dream.

There is a sense of satisfaction that comes from winding yarn by hand, but the efficiency that the swift provides and the uniformity that comes from a wound yarn ‘cake’, they are unrivaled.

Many, many thanks to my father for his innate awesomeness, for his creativity, and for this wonderful gift that I will treasure for years and years.

Before winding
Before winding
The swift and winder in action!
The swift and winder in action!
The finished, wound ball.
The finished, wound ball.

The Year That Was 2014

As the holiday season draws to an end and the new year approaches ever so quickly, all I can think is that 2014 was an amazing year for me, and I have so much to be thankful and grateful for.  So much happened over these 365 days, many ups and a few downs.

The year started with the celebration of my beloved grandparent’s 60th wedding anniversary.  Sixty years.  It was an amazing milestone, and I consider myself so very, very lucky to have grandparents who a) have reached this milestone to celebrate, and b) are in good health, and c) love each other every day. My grandparents are genuinely two of my favourite people in this entire world.  Celebrating this milestone was amazing.

Later on in January, I did something, well, adventurous… I thought I would try my hand at roller derby. Side note to this story – I’m klutzy.  Very klutzy.  Long story short, my first night, I fell and spent over 3 hours in emerg and had a pink cast for over 3 weeks.  My illustrious roller derby career was over before it began. The worst part of this was that cast was set in a way that made holding knitting needles near impossible. Desperate to hold yarn, I took up crochet.  Hats off to those who crochet because I cannot stand it.  I was happy to get the cast off and get needles back in my hands!

My pink cast.  My solace when my arm was injured was that the cast was pink.
My pink cast. My solace when my arm was injured was that the cast was pink.

This was apparently the year that I met famous people!  As I posted about last week, I met members of the Barenaked Ladies after their show in December in Toronto and they signed an album of mine in April. I had my picture taken with Nathan Fillion at Fan Expo (he liked the Cunning Cap I made – squee!!), and through a series at the Toronto Library, I met author Diana Gabaldon, politician Justin Trudeau, and singer Alan Doyle!  My boss told me a story, and the gist of which is if you want to meet someone, you need to make it happen, and that’s what I did this year.  I made it happen.

Me, Alan Doyle of Great Big Sea, Katie and BFF Ash
Me, Alan Doyle of Great Big Sea, Katie and BFF Ash – his book is amazing, by the way

I have amazing friends in my life.  I have known my best friend since high school.  It’s not that we’ve ever fallen out, but this year, it’s as if we’ve rediscovered our silly side, and we’ve been closer this year than ever, and for that I’m so grateful.

Ash and I being silly on a Summer day
Ash and I being silly on a Summer day

I travelled to Quebec City in the Fall, and it was such a fantastic trip.  The history, the museums, the architecture, the food.  I fell in love with the oldest city in our country and with la belle province.

Awkward selfie in Quebec City - the lower city is in the background
Awkward selfie in Quebec City – the lower city is in the background

It has also been a busy year knitting wise.  I’m always trying new patterns and techniques, and this year I’ve made a few larger projects.  A new yarn shop opened up in my city, and I’ve met new, wonderful people by going to the knitting circle hosted there.  It has become my Wednesday night staple, and easily it is the highlight of my week.

Here is a sampling of some of my finished projects from the year.

The Firefly Cunning Cap I made for my dear work friend. This was the hat that Nathan Fillion said he liked!
The Firefly Cunning Cap I made for my dear work friend. This was the hat that Nathan Fillion said he liked!
Spats - they make me feel fancy
Spats – they make me feel fancy
A TARDIS ereader cover.
A TARDIS ereader cover.
A New England Patriots hat I  made for my brother for Christmas
A New England Patriots hat I made for my brother for Christmas
My Chateau shawl. My grandma gave me a gift certificate to my LYS for my birthday, and I made this lovely slouchy sweater  with it
My Chateau shawl. My grandma gave me a gift certificate to my LYS for my birthday, and I made this lovely slouchy sweater with it

The Ultimate Whovian Knitting Project

Yes, I am talking about THE scarf!  The iconic scarf.  The scarf that goes on for miles (or so it seems!).  The scarf made famous by the Fourth Doctor, Tom Baker.  Perhaps the most notable accessory worn by a Doctor, although I think bow ties, fezzes, and converse shoes give the scarf a run for its money!

Tom Baker was the fourth incarnation of the Doctor, on the long-running British series, Doctor Who.  First debuted in 1963, the show came up with an ingenious way to adapt to when a lead actor would leave the show, regeneration.  The Doctor is a Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey,  and Time Lords can regenerate, or change their physical form and in turn their personality, most often as a way to save their lives.  Wow, explaining regeneration is complicated!  Tom Baker was the fourth actor to portray the Doctor (hense why he is referred to as the Fourth Doctor), he had the longest tenure of Doctor than any other actor, and he is often regarded by fans as the best incarnation of the Doctor.

And he wore one of the best pieces of knitware television has ever seen.

Tom Baker as the Fourth Doctor and his iconic scarf - from Wikipedia.com
Tom Baker as the Fourth Doctor and his iconic scarf – from Wikipedia.com

His mismatched , 14 foot long scarf made its debut with Tom Baker in 1974.  The story goes, a costume designer provided a local knitter with a bag of assorted yarn and asked her to knit a scarf, but the instructions weren’t more elaborate than that.  The knitter then made the scarf using all of the yarn she was provided with.  A piece of television history was born.

I fell in love with Doctor Who in 2013.  Yes, I am a late convert to this show, but once I started watching the 2005 reboot, I watched episode after episode, and I knew my love was solidified by the time I watched The Empty Child and The Doctor Dances.  Brilliant episodes.  By early 2014, I wanted to make the scarf, and I finally jumped into the project during the summer.

My completed scarf, pinned to my blocking boards
My completed scarf, pinned to my blocking boards

Here’s where I admit to a little secret: I CHEATED… The original scarf is 14 feet in length and a foot wide.  My scarf: 7 feet long, 8 inches wide.  I wanted a scarf that I would actually wear and be comfortable wearing, and I knew my patience would seriously be tried if I went for the 14 footer.

Me and my scarf when the latest Doctor Who Series debuted.
Me and my scarf when the latest Doctor Who Series debuted.

I finished it in time for the Season 8 debut (the first episode with Peter Capaldi as the Twelfth Doctor), and then I wore it a week or so later at Toronto’s Fan Expo, Toronto’s answer to Comicon.  It was a HOT, humid August day, but I proudly wore my scarf.

Now that the weather has turned colder, I’m wearing my scarf more often.  And I love it.  It is warm, geeky, and it reminds me of the time and love I put into it.

Many, many thanks to doctorwhoscarf.com for having not only pattern instructions available for many types of yarn weight, but also having a multitude of yarn options for colours suggested as well.  The webpage was bookmarked on my phone for months as I searched out the yarn for the project.  I followed the acrylic suggestions as best as I could, and ultimately, I am so very happy with my scarf.

Oh, The Weather Outside is… Canadian?

Yes, I am Canadian, and proud of it.  I love my country, its history, its diversity, its beauty.  However, the one thing I could live without is our winter.  I don’t have too much of a right to complain.  I live in Southern Ontario, so our winters aren’t as bad as, say around the 60th parallel, but still, our winters can get a little frigid. Yes, the inner child in me loves the first snowfall, and I love having a white Christmas, but the adult driver in me curses the snowfall and having to travel in it!

This week, the weather got cold.  Waking up one morning, it was -10°C (or, for any American readers, about 14 Fahrenheit).  If anything, this weather has given me the push I need to get knitting, because, really, no knitter worth their salt should be cold.  A few years before I truly learned the craft, I was gifted a pair of mittens, and while they are nice and toasty, the quality was lacking, and after a short time, they were falling apart.  After far too long, I’ve made a replacement.

Rest in pieces, white store bought mitts...
Rest in pieces, white store bought mitts…

I made my mittens, a variation from Kate Atherley’s Alcazar Mittens.  One thing I loved about the falling apart mittens was the cable along the back, so I included a 6 stitch cable on my mitten.  For the right mitten, the cable is worked at the beginning of the round, and for the left, it is worked at the end.  As well, rather than decreasing to 4 stitches, then drawing the yarn through, I decreased to 16 stitches, then re-arranged the stitches and did a kitchener stitch bind off.  If I was to make another pair like this, I would decrease another 4 stitches before the bind off, but hindsight is always 20/2o.

Completed warm mittens
Completed warm mittens

I chose to use Loops and Threads Charisma yarn for this project.  I’m wool intolerant, so I often do gravitate to acrylic yarns, and although it can pill, I find Charisma soft and warm.  And for these mittens, it hasn’t let me down, as they are soft and keep my fingers warm.  I’m also not very patient, and it is bulky and knits up fast, so these mitts were a quick, satisfying project.

I’m hoping later this winter to make more of these quick mittens and donate them.

 

Socks: It’s Complicated

Do you have a project that you love and hate at the same time?  For me, it’s socks.  They are the project that I love to hate, or hate that I love.

Relationship status with sock knitting: It's Complicated
Relationship status with sock knitting: It’s Complicated

I was well into my knitting addiction when I began my first pair.  I bought a skein of Berroco Comfort Sock, soft and purple, from my LYS.  It was perfect for my first pair of socks.  It is self striping and created a lovely mix of colours, and I chose a fairly simple sock pattern with lots of stockinette and YouTube tutorials for when I inevitably got stumped on a step in the pattern.  They are soft and warm, and they make me happy when I’m wearing them.  Yes, I truly am about the simple things in life.  Since knitting this first pair, I find myself being drawn to bright, colourful sock yarn.  My stash doesn’t need anymore sock yarn… or so the logical part of my brain thinks.  These are the things I love about socks.

My first pair of socks - a little slouchy, but I love 'em!
My first pair of socks – a little slouchy, but I love ’em!

Flip the coin, and oh socks, how I loathe thee.  First, and perhaps I haven’t adequately stated this about me, I’m not a patient person.  When they were handing out virtues, I seem to have been skipped for patience.  I love chunky, bulky yarn, big needles, and the instant satisfaction that comes from starting and finishing a project.  I just don’t get that instant satisfaction from socks.  The yarn is so fine and the needles so tiny!  Maybe with more practice, I’ll get faster at them, but socks definitely test my patience.  And then there’s the fact that they are a pair!  Once one is finished you have the Yay the project is cast off feeling, but then, alas, you are ONLY HALF DONE!!  You get to repeat the process ALL OVER AGAIN!

Despite all the things that irritate me, I am still drawn into sock knitting.  I have a lovely pair on my needles right now, the yarn is green and blue and reminds me of the ocean, and I have a small ball of pink and white yarn just waiting for a simple sock to be made.  I might grumble, I might curse the knitting gods, but I do love me a knittted sock… and David Tennant agrees

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