Presents

This Christmas I didn’t do much giving or receiving of gifts, which was a nice change as I am actively trying not to accumulate more possessions (abandoned vintage typewriters notwithstanding, of course). The few I did receive were very precious, such as this hand-thrown yarn bowl from Shireen:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now what is a yarn bowl, you may ask? Simply put, it’s a vessel for holding a ball or cake of yarn to keep it from rolling away and getting tangled while it’s being worked with. Put the cake in the bowl, run the end of the yarn through the slit in the side, and there you have it.

Shireen has only made a few of these bowls, which became quite popular for a while after being featured by the Yarn Harlot. Given the amount of work that goes into each one, she stopped making them for sale, but a lucky select few have received them as gifts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

My first project to make use of the yarn bowl will likely be Rock Island, a rather late Christmas (or, early birthday) gift for my SO, using the Renaissance Dyeing yarn I picked up in Montreal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I love these colours, especially in winter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Everything looks a bit washed out these late December days–white sky, dull grey snow, with the monochrome currently broken up by the heaps of broken branches from the ice storm.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Good day to stay in and knit before the festivities tonight. Happy new year!

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Snow >> ice storm

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s snowing in Montreal, which is greatly preferably to being in Toronto, where a massive ice storm has knocked out power and multiple forms of transit. It’s a good time to get some spinning done, in between trips out for food and espresso and beer. I’m trying to get through my first batt on a supported spindle, which technically I started several months ago (just before a walk up Mount Royal) and then put aside for several months once school began again. I’m not exactly a production spinner, I’ll admit.

I picked up some naturally dyed (with cochineal and indigo) yarn from a new shop here in Montreal, to use to make Rock Island. It will be a nice break activity when I’m back in Toronto, holed up with SPSS to finish my thesis. Although right now, with a massive winter storm headed this way, I may be staying in Mtl a bit longer than I expected…

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Curbside find

Back when I lived in Boston, the annual phenomenon known as Allston Christmas was an exciting time for poor students. Every September 1 (the standard moving day in the area), people who couldn’t be bothered to move or properly discard of their belongings would leave them on the curb, free for the taking to those most dedicated to having their very own second-hand IKEA shelving units, without the hassle of meeting someone from craigslist and parting with $15. Truth be told, the haul during Allston Christmas can be pretty good.

Quebec has a similar moving day, on July 1, but I haven’t seen anything like it in Toronto. So, I consider myself lucky that I live in a neighbourhood where people regularly leave fairly high-end items on the curb, just waiting for a grad student like myself to stumble upon them. The selection has so far included, among other things:

- Various books, including some rare editions of poetry, and a copy of Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress with photos from someone’s 1970s anniversary cruise on the QE2 stuffed inside;

- A stack of near-mint vinyl LPs;

- IKEA shelving units (of course);

- Strange (really, here I mean ugly), yet expensive-looking angel knickknacks.

I have mostly refrained from taking anything, with the exception of some books. My place is small, and I’ve really tried to keep from acquiring things I don’t absolutely need (or want). And then, last night, I spotted a neat row of objects on the lawn. I took a closer look, and found two very old typewriters and a stack of cattle vertebrae. I took the typewriters inside, figuring I could see if maybe one was in good enough condition to use for writing letters, a recently revived activity in my spare time. (I did not take the vertebrae.)

To my surprise, both typewriters–a Hermes Rocket and an Olivetti Lettera–were in working order. The Hermes is a 1960s version, barely used, and probably worth around $500. The Olivetti came with several sheets of paper from an old, now defunct Toronto publishing company and looks like it saw some heavy use. The Hermes I’m keeping for sure, adding to my small collection of old, well designed, functional things that I can both admire and use (see this post and this one). A few photos of the Hermes:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some of the dies barely had any ink on them:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I can’t wait to write a few letters on it and send them off. It’s quite different from a computer–there’s a particular way of striking the keys to get the letters crisp on the paper. Less forgiving, but much more tactile, than a computer. Time to get out the address book (ironically, digitally maintained).

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Quilting progress

I seem to be motoring through this Disappearing Nine-Patch I-Spy, as helpfully laid out over at Obsessively Stitching. I’m using fabric sent to me to by the other Wellesley alum who is quilting along with me, as well as some fabrics stashed from trips to the fabric store in Framingham, MA, way back when.

A true I-Spy quilt has squares of completely unique fabrics, and this pattern called for 88 prints. I was able pull together 11 with an animal theme, and cut 8 squares from each (except for one very small piece, compensated with extra squares from a similar piece). I’m done cutting, now piecing, before more cutting, more piecing… well, you know how quilts go.

 

 

 

 

 

 

After this, I’d like to try something a little more adventurous (e.g., shapes other than squares). Meanwhile, I’m almost done the scarf/stole made from the yarn I dyed this summer… more on that in another post.

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Quilting, version 2

Every year at Wellesley, I was one of the small group of students who stayed on campus over the winter break, having the chore/pleasure of cooking my own food in the dorm basement kitchens and finding ways to keep from being bored over a month of cold and snowy days. At the time of my studenthood, there were several non-credit “fun” courses offered as well, usually meeting once a week and covering topics from Shakespeare to wine tasting to book binding. Unfortunately for current students, there are no more Wintersession courses on campus (but if you have a few thousand bucks sitting around and proficiency in one or more of a handful of popular foreign languages, you could spend the month abroad–they had this when I was there too, but I was severely lacking in the former requirement). So I’m glad I was able to participate in these classes, especially the one I took in 2002.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Taught by an admin in the Religion Department, “The Gentle Art of Quilting” was designed to teach all the skills needed to make a quilt over the course of four sessions. Above is the mini-quilt I made, proving that I have what it takes to make the real thing, minus the time/commitment. Since that very enjoyable course, I have made exactly zero full-sized quilts, having focused my sewing energy on skirts, bags, and other small, more manageable pieces.

And yet I’ve never lost the desire to really get into quilting, so when a fellow alum put up a post on Facebook looking for other Wellesley quilters to take part in a quilt-a-long, I quickly responded. She offered to send me some fabric scraps to get started, and yesterday I received this:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Around a kilo of novelty fabric bits, just begging to be cut into small finicky pieces and sewn together. A lot of them are animal-themed, and I plan to mix them with several of the animal fabrics I already own, in a disappearing nine-patch pattern. I have faith that this quilt will happen because a) I now own a sewing machine (hand-piecing that mini-quilt was SLOW), and b) I have the added motivation of quilting at the same time as someone else, even if she is on the other side of the continent. In true Wellesley fashion, we’ve discussed making a bigger project out of this, eventually involving multiple alums–we’ll see where that goes. For now, time to dust off the rotary cutter and get started.

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The old stand-bys

I’m a slow knitter, for two reasons: 1) I tend to have a lot of things going on that fill what could be otherwise used as knitting time, and 2) I do a lot of work with my hands and a repetitive strain injury could set me back in a lot of inconvenient ways. So, I don’t have quite the output of finished knitted objects that, say, some of my friends have.

As a result, I rarely knit a pattern more than once (despite my habit of remarking on what I would change to a pattern, were I to knit it again). If it’s going to take me a season to knit a scarf, I’d like to at least get a feeling of novelty for the next one.

All of that being said, there are a few patterns I’ve gone back to several times, and I don’t mean reknitting the same sleeve four times until it fits. I do a lot of my knitting these days either on public transit, or in dimly lit hospital auditoria–both places where it can be difficult to look at instructions, so memorized patterns have a real advantage. There are also patterns that produce great gifts, with reliably positive reactions from the giftees. And well, some patterns are also just fast.

Here are my three stand-by knitting projects–fast, easily memorized, and appealing. In fact, I’ve knit these so many times I don’t even have recent photos–I tend to do FO shots of the first one and skip the incessant urge to visually document the rest. Some of these go back several years (all the way to my old Colorado apartment):

Cartridge-belt rib scarf:

 

 

 

 

 

Cartridge-belt rib is not a true rib, in that it doesn’t have horizontal elasticity, but its vertical lines give it a strong resemblance to other forms of ribbing. I like this stitch pattern because it’s soft, reversible, dense, and pretty gender-neutral. It’s made a few nice and warm scarves over the years.

Christine’s Stay-On Baby Booties:

 

 

 

 

 

Being of the age where new babies are rapidly popping, quark-like, into existence into my social/family circles, I always find it useful to have a stash of them on hand as gifts. This pattern is quite simple, looks cute, and apparently is damn near impossible for babies to pry off their own feet. Great way to use up leftover fine yarn, too.

Mother Bear Project Bears

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m not sure how many bears I’ve knit for the Mother Bear Project over the years. Let’s just say, a lot. I’ve adapted the (very easy, very memorizable) pattern a few times, so that I can now knit them in the round and avoid seaming, and do raglan-style arms for a change once in a while. When I amass a few, I put them all in a box and ship them off to MBP.

What are your favourite patterns to knit more than once? Or do you always knit something new?

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Giveaway at The Blue Brick

My good friend Shireen is giving away two copies of her lovely new book on making resin jewellery. I have to admit that I’m biased as I had a hand in its production, but my opinion is at least informed when I say that it’s an accessible, thorough, and beautiful introduction to resin.

The earrings above are one of the projects in the book, made with Japanese washi paper. This very pair is now in my possession and they make me delightfully happy to wear them. Visit The Blue Brick for your chance to win a copy of the book.

 

 

 

 

 


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