Some Stones Unturned

Knitting, Biking and Some Sober Second Thoughts

Archive for the tag “knitting”

FO Friday: Coastal Hoodie

Coastal hoodie side view pockets

Two sweaters in one week. Now I probably won’t finish another one for years. Just the way the timing goes sometimes I guess. I really love it, although I do regret not waiting it out to knit it all in the same yarn, but it seems to be okay.

Pattern: Coastal hoodie by Tori Gurbisz

Yarn: Malabrigo Arroyo – 636 yards Prussia Blue, 319 yard Borraja (that gorgeous purple colour); Araucania Ranco Solid – 541 yard colourway 141 (blue), 114 yards colourway 146 (yellow green). I had a ton of yarn left over based on what I had calculated I would need.  I had about one skein left of both blues and the purple and there’s another entire skein of the lighter blue I didn’t even wind.

As I noted previously, I somehow bought the Araucania without realizing it was 75% non-superwash wool and 25% nylon so the sweater is not machine washable as I intended, which is a big part of why I wish I had waited to find all Malabrigo (=100% superwash) in colours and yardages I could use. The Araucania is a bit duller and fuzzier than the Malabrigo too. But overall they did knit up to the same gauge and you can’t tell from any reasonable distance, so mostly it’s the washing thing that annoys me.

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FO Friday: Aidez

This post is brought to you by the miracle of blocking and the letter A.

I know it’s not Friday, but I have paper corrections to work on and a couple of job interviews coming up and my apartment is a disaster, so I’m just going to write this up while I have a chance.

Aidez front view

You can see where I blocked a teensy bit hard on the front and it doesn’t quite fall straight down. Hoping it will even out over time.

I finished Aidez (or on Rav)! It knit up pretty fast. So fast that I actually ended up finishing it before Coastal Hoodie, which I started long before (I had to sew on buttons for that and lost my sewing needles, but I bought new ones and got them on and it just finished blocking, so once I have pics, that’ll be up too).  It was everything that was promised: fast, pretty, nice cabling but not overly complicated.

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Loose Ends: Coastal Hoodie, Aidez and Food

A lot of short things.

I have finished the knitting on Coastal Hoodie.


Before I did the button band.  Love the Borrjas (pinky-purple) colourway.

It is looking pretty sweet.  I ended up mixing yarns because I couldn’t find other available colours of Malabrigo Arroyo that I liked.  I went with Araucania Ranco and somehow it’s not machine-washable, which you would think would have been one of the things I checked when matching it up, but I guess I was so focused on finding a similar weight and that was challenging because the Malabrigo is labelled as sport but is closer to a fingering.  Checking the comments for Araucania, that’s also the case with that yarn.  Why didn’t I just check the fingering weight section for something appropriate and machine washable?  I can’t recall.  So anyway, I do think the Araucania looks a bit shabbier and it will prevent me from machine washing, but maybe after a hand wash and blocking it will look okay (the biggest issue is on the sleeves where I tried to duplicate stitch to hide the jogs but I’m not sure how successful I was.  Anyway, I think I left my main set of sewing needles at my parents’ and my wool needles are too big to fit through the holes of the buttons I picked while the eyes on my remaining few are too small to fit wool through, so that project is just awaiting my purchasing new sewing needles to finish and then I will show it off.

In the meantime, I have cast on for Aidez with some Knit Picks Cadena.

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Hello 30. You’re looking just swell.

Today I’m celebrating being on this planet for three decades. I’m pretty excited about it. Last year, when I turned 29, I panicked a little about it being the last year I could really lay any sort of reasonable claim to youth. My grandparents’ generation is almost gone in my family and both my parents retired and it seemed like it was maybe time to stop watching Kim Possible and wearing jeans to work every day and take on a little bit more responsibility. But when the panic subsided, it actually turned into a pretty good year. I tried a few things I never had before and learned a lot from all of them.

Knitting and blogging

I can’t declare these a total success since I took time off from both these things over the summer.  Still, there’s been a lot of progress. Even though I learned to knit when I was younger, it’s only over the last couple of years that I’ve started bigger projects.  After making socks for my entire immediate family last Christmas, I ended up taking on a sweater, a couple of shawls including my first lace project and lots of socks. Each project seemed to involve new techniques.

Similarly, it has been fun to get my thoughts on some books and movies out, even if they’re a little strange or incoherent at times.

Weight loss

Weight loss

June: 189 pounds
Dec: 165 pounds

I haven’t blogged about this, partly because I just reached my goal weight and everyone knows that maintaining weight is as hard or harder than losing it, so it probably makes sense to do a more thoughtful and reflective post in a year if this success is still holding. I also was leery of blogging about this because I do have a number of friends who talk about dieting a lot and I’ve always found it incredibly boring.

I didn’t initially intend to lose weight, even though I’ve been about 15 pounds overweight for quite some time. I’ve been that heavy even back when I used to swim competitively at a pretty elite level and I’m still around the weight I was in high school, so I never worried much about it. I was happy with how I looked and I worked out regularly and felt pretty healthy.

But I’ve always had a bit of a sweet tooth and also had problems with blood sugar crashing and it seemed that both of these things were becoming more and more problematic, making it hard to work late or irregular hours. So I decided to try keeping track of my sugar intake. This being 2012, it turns out there’s an app for that. And it also turns out that I was taking in more than my RDI of sugar just at breakfast some days with a giant bowl of Raisin Bran.

I may write a separate post at some point about various stages I went through and revelations I came to (as I say, if the results hold up). But for now I’m happy to report that I went from 189 pounds to, as of a couple of days ago, 165, which for 5′ 8.5″, puts me in the “healthy” category of BMI. I know lots of people will tell you BMI is nonsense, a vague correlate with body fat, average for the population, lots of outliers if you’re muscular which I like to think I am. But it feels good to be able to say I’m in the healthy range now regardless of that and I’m even happier with how I look and feel.


This one kind of snuck up on me. I wanted to be a writer as a kid, lots of ideas, etc. And one bit of advice I’d seen online about turning 30 was “Hey, time to write that novel you’re always thinking about.” How did they know that? I guess because it’s not that uncommon for people to wander around with what they think is a great novel idea. But very few people take the time to flesh it out and develop an actual plot.

As it happens, I was reading many of these posts about turning 30 near the end of October and November is National Novel Writing Month. And I figured “Why not?” I took one of the ideas I’ve had floating around forever and started to outline. I’ve always thought I was a big planner, but actually I think that’s my problem: if given infinite time, I would just rewrite bits of outline forever because I would never be prepared enough.

And that’s where Nanowrimo came in handy. Once November starts, you have to get 1667 words a day down (on average). I tried to stay ahead of the game, writing 2000 a day whenever possible. And it was really a revelation how much you can write this way, in relatively short chunks, and it isn’t that much time out of your day. I can’t say every word was a gem, but they really emphasize that it doesn’t have to be. The value of it seems to be in convincing you that first drafts don’t have to be great, but they do have to be written. Also, I learned the difference between having an idea and having a plot. BIG difference.

I even broke out of my introvert shell and went to an event. It was a walk around Mount Pleasant cemetery to hunt for character names (which is a great idea. I will always love the name Dalrymple and never would have come up with it on my own). And I got to meet fellow participants, which was interesting since most of them seemed to be returning Wrimos who could expertly summarize their plots and discuss their current problems and character dilemmas. At the midpoint of the walk, one girl took out a bag of leftover Hallowe’en candy and offered it around. It’s weird the things you do in a big city that would seem weird other places. I remember thinking afterward that I had just literally taken candy from a complete stranger, whom I had met as a result of recent discussion online, in a cemetery. It was like the trifecta of childhood warnings ignored.

Anyway, I technically “won” Nanowrimo since I wrote 50,000 words, but I still had about 10,000 words to get to the end I think. I said I would keep writing past the end of November to finish, but actually didn’t (sigh). I still may come back to it, although I’m not sure why. I don’t think what I wrote is really amazing or captivating, or even that it’s as strong or coherent an idea as I thought it was. But I think that was the most valuable lesson for me. A lot of the time I take things to seriously, as though if I’m not going to be the next Dostoevsky, there’s no point in writing anything. But the development of an idea and those moments when writing a scene and it really takes off, writing is incredibly fun. And when you start to stress about what it all means and whether it’s important enough and whether you’ll make people feel about reading the way all those really great books you’ve read have, you can’t have fun. You just have to write the things that inspire you and put yourself out there and maybe it works for other people and maybe it doesn’t.

Summing Up

That’s sort of the common thread in these experiences: I tried new things and that mostly paid off. Taking risks isn’t really my strong point; I don’t like setting myself up for possible failure. This is really holding me back for my biggest challenge in the coming year: a career path. The biggest thing that happened to me this year was I defended my PhD, which was a huge relief and my supervisor was kind enough to let me stay on with him afterward, leaving me in a comfortable enough spot to do a lot of these things. But the intention was that I would start looking for post-docs elsewhere and every time I think about it, I start to get stressed. What if I choose a project and find I’m not capable enough to finish it? What if I don’t get along with the people in the lab? What if I move somewhere and find it’s not bike-friendly and actually have to buy a car? All of these things keep me locked in indecision about where to apply or what I want to do.

But I need to remember that really it’s an opportunity. A short-term one since most post-docs are only a year or two. If it turns out I don’t like it, I can always find something else, but if you don’t take a chance, there’s no opportunity for anything new and great to happen to you. Why, just today a friend reminded me that if I find a post-doc in the States, there are way more opportunities for free shipping on yarn. How can that go wrong?

So, time to open myself up and be vulnerable to failing I guess. After 30 years, it’s about time I realized that that seems to be the only way you learn anything.

ETA: For some reason this didn’t actually post on my birthday even though it was scheduled to.

Tidings of Joy!

I feel fantastic. At the risk of seeming like a terrible jerk to those of you who aren’t quite there yet, I’ve finished my Christmas shopping. I got a couple of things at the end of November, but most of it I got last weekend. I had a list, made a plan about where to go and went out for about five hours last Saturday determined to get it all, no matter how busy it was or how long I had to stand in line. And actually, it wasn’t as bad as I thought. I didn’t make the rookie mistake of going to any Toronto malls. And I set out as early as I dared based on opening hours to try to get the downtown stuff in the morning. My plan was a walking route that took me down to Bloor and back, which is about 7.5 miles, so it was like my (very low-intensity) exercise and Christmas shopping all in one.  Multi-tasking!

The longest wait was actually in line for lunch at Tim Horton’s where, amongst many other problems in the comedy of errors I seemed to have entered, a bagel caught fire in the toaster. I don’t mean the bagel was a little burnt. I mean there were flames inside the thing for a good minute and the whole cash area filled with smoke. So they turned down the speed, but not enough and burned the next bagel they put in. Twice.

Fortunately I don’t have too many people to buy for. I’ve gradually convinced old high school friends we probably don’t know each other well enough to do gifts (at least not meaningful gifts that aren’t junky or conspicuous-consumption-type things) and work people are fortunately not that into Secret Santa, so it’s just immediate family and while they’re getting tougher to buy for, they also seem happy with anything I’ve come up with. But I did find the perfect birthday card (that is to say an incredibly inappropriate and curse-filled card) for a good undergrad friend, so I picked that up intending to send it by regular mail. Remember like in ancient times when you put stamps on stuff and had to leave your house and physically drop it in a box? Ugh. Two extra minutes worth of effort there. But anyway, I messaged her for her address (remember when you didn’t have Facebook and had to keep addresses and phone numbers all carefully up-to-date in a little book?), but felt compelled to warn her that it wasn’t anything big and not to get too excited. And then I started thinking that maybe there was something small I could make that would fit in an envelope.

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FO Friday: Orion’s Belt Shawl

Orion's belt shawl

Maybe a shawl or maybe another scarf for winter. Anyway, I’m pleased with it.

shawl pre-blocking

So I finished the knitting…

shawl being blocked

…then tried to pin it out into a crescent shape as best I could, even though I didn’t have enough boards and tried to just keep part of it in place with reference books. And it was all sticking out where it was pinned and I thought “Don’t those blocking wires curve?”

shawl during blocking

Yes. Yes they do. So I unpinned it, inserted the blocking wires and repinned it all back out. Bit easier to get a crescent shape, although I still don’t think it’s quite even.

Pattern: Orion’s Belt by Paulina Popiolek

Yarn: Tanis Fiber Arts Blue Label Fingering in Cobalt and Shadow

Needles: 3.5 mm

Size: 11.5″ x 62″ (or maybe not that wide. I measured that stretched straight, but if you let it droop in a crescent it would be smaller) before blocking; 13″ x 59″ after. Probably didn’t really need to be blocked as it came out nice and even, near the right size. Also note that I skipped some stitches/rows (see Modifications below) so the full shawl would come out slightly larger for me on these needles.

I really liked this pattern. It’s reasonably quick in terms of number of rows (though the rows are long) and has some short rows, some slipping of stitches in the colourwork (I think I mentioned I found this surprising and a cool way to do this, but then I looked at the pattern description and it says right in there. Good memory, just short apparently). And since it’s a space-inspired pattern, I took some time to contemplate the big mysteries of the universe. Things like “Where the heck did I put those blocking pins?” The answer was, of course, “At the bottom of the bag with all the half-skeins and bits of yarn so that I would have to make a huge mess on the floor emptying it out to find them.” The answer would obviously never be “Right in the top of the craft bin with all the other pins and needles and small things you often need easy access to, where they would be easy to grab when you’ve got a damp shawl sitting in the middle of your living room.”

Modifications: As expected, I ran out of Cobalt yarn, so I stopped doing the edge increases on row 39 and on the last garter section, I only did eight rows (and even one of those I had to finish the last bit with a different blue yarn, though I don’t think you can really tell the difference). Then I switched to the Shadow and did those seven rows garter plus cast off.

See more FOs at Tami’s.

FO Friday: Skew Socks

Ugly Skew Socks

Completed Skew socks. Funky Christmas yarn was one thing, but apparently it’s possible to go too far.

Skew socks

For the person who found my blog by Googling “ugly socks Toronto,” I’m sorry you had to wait so long, but I hope these are satisfactory.

Pattern: Skew by Lana Holden

Yarn: Patons Kroy Socks Jacquards, Rouge

Size: 8 shoe size

I had to finish these and just get them off the needles so I could start a new sock pattern. I said when I started that I was addicted to this pattern, but I think I kind of cured myself of that. Or maybe I just got distracted by other projects (shawl is almost done). When I did sit down to knit them, I got huge chunks of them done. Somehow these ended up being knit on the subway, at an ultimate game and on the train to my parents. I am not a big knitter-in-public, so I’m not sure why this ended up being the project I subjected everyone to.

Modifications: The ankle size on past knits has come out a bit too big and this yarn is even thicker than usual, so I modified the gusset decrease to try to compensate. Round 1 is supposed to start with k1, k3tog and round 3 with k1, k2tog. And you repeat 4.25 more times. Instead I did k3tog on rounds 1 and 3, k2tog round 5, k3tog round 7 and 9, k2tog round 11, then went back to alternating k3tog and k2tog until I had the specified number of stitches (36), finishing with a k2tog row before starting the short rows. The ankles still feel a bit big, but I haven’t worn them around much since it’s sandal weather. With the right combination of yarn, the more frequent decreases would probably be a good fit for me.

For the ribbing, I don’t have a smaller size needles so I compensate by skipping every fourth LLinc or RLinc on the first set-up row, leaving me with 68 stitches, down to 66 after the second setup row. This seems to work pretty well.

See more FOs at Tami’s.

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