so much squishy. so much goodness...

there is a full moon, a lunar eclipse, and a comet fly-by, all scheduled for the overnight hours, and i am missing the whole shebang on account of overcast skies. even with the current scientific understanding of such cosmic events, and the general acceptance of a little thing commonly referred to as coincidence, this much "cosmic" in one night leaves me wondering if the end is indeed nigh, because it kinda feels like that most days.

i finally mustered enough enthusiasm to take some photos of my latest finished object.

i started working on this sweater just before going to bed (at like nine p.m.) on New Year's Eve with the totally-arbitrary goal of having it done by the end of January. i was well on my way to making that happen, but i tossed the project aside for a week or so while i mourned the death of basic human decency. so, while it was finished a couple days later than intended, i am still over the (non-visible) moon with my new sweater.

the pattern is the Branches & Bud Pullover by Carrie Bostick Hoge. i have been salivating over this design ever since i first mentioned it way back in June, so it seemed appropriate to kick off a year of making things by finally making one of my very own.

the plan was to use an off-white yarn for the contrast, similar to the original design. i almost never make anything in the same colors as the sample garment, but this particular yarn only came in a few colors (black, dark-grey, grey, beige, and off-white). [this is the same yarn i used for the infamous squirrel cardi]. i had enough grey for the body of the garment, so the white seemed like the best contrast color. then things got complicated.

the sweater is knit from the top down (collar to hem), and i could not decide if i wanted to also use the contrast color for the collar edging or just stick with the grey. i casted on with a bit of gold scrap yarn, with the intent of removing that later and finishing the edge with either the white or grey yarn. by the time i got through knitting the collar band, i was in love with the gold/grey combo. problem was, the gold scrap was some (super-scratchy) yarn left over from a pretty lace cardi i made eons ago for mom. i was not going to ruin my squishy goodness with scratchy yarn!

[random aside: i received a gift of a wool sweater from some well-meaning person for just about every single Christmas of my teen years. coming from a family where it is regarded as being downright rude to suggest to someone that you do not like the gift they just gave you—or, even, that you were allergic to said item—i always offered a polite "thank you very much"... then traded it for something more tolerable from mom's wardrobe. my mother is not quite the delicate cupcake that i seem to be, and she did not think to pass along the particular genes that would make it possible for me to also wear such scratchy things.]

where was i? oh, yes... the quest for super-soft gold yarn! the recipe is actually a simple one: take the super-soft white yarn and add the desired shade of gold dye. simple!

now, it should be noted that my favorite animator, a bona fide professional visual artist, is the single worst person on the planet to ever ask about the color of anything... ever!

me: would you say that this was more ecru or camel?
him: [after a quick glance] it's brown.
me: worst. artist. ever.

that happens a lot around here. he did, however, prove most helpful in fine-tuning a gold that approximated the color i was after.

i love pulling out the dye pot, because it always feels like i am about to perform magic. with a wave of my rubber-gloved hand, we went from this...

to this... the perfect gold yarn. ta da!!! thank you... thank you very much!

i kept the scratchy scrap yarn in place and moved on to the stranded colorwork that forms the "branches" part of the design.

when done correctly, stranded colorwork can be as attractive on the inside as it is on the outside.

and, yes... this does involve working with both colors of fiber at the same time (note: the yarn was too thin for this project, so i doubled it up, hence two strands of each color).

i decided to also use the contrast yarn to finish off the lower edges of the sweater. i shortened the sleeves to bracelet length and finished the cuffs with a splash of gold. ditto for the hem, where i made two additional minor adjustments to the pattern.

i opted for a slightly longer hem in the back, and added a split along both sides for a better fit around my more-than-generous hips.

i really like how neat that looks from the side.

the last step was to remove the scratchy gold scrap yarn from the neckline, and replace it with the custom-dyed squishy goodness. so much squishy. so much goodness!

so, now i have a soft, squishy sweater that i (hopefully) will be able to wear for more than thirty seconds at a time (allergies are no joke, people), and i am already contemplating how to fill the newly-created space in my fiber stash. i may have to take a trip to the yarn shop. that is, if we make it through the night.


lesson learned...

there are two things to avoid when living in colder climes... frostbite and being driven crazy by all the grey. i have already failed at the former, but i am waging war with the latter (which i will talk about next time around). my story begins during the first real snowfall of the season, some weeks ago. what started out as a quick trip to the market ended up as a hard-learned lesson in remembering to always grab a pair of gloves before leaving home (or to swallow my pride and accept the pair of gloves being offered to me in the middle of a snowstorm).

grant it, this was mild as frostbite goes, and there was no talk of amputating any vital parts, but it was a highly unpleasant experience and a lousy way to end the year.

there was no real discomfort immediately following the initial exposure, aside from the customary spell of pins-and-needles once i got indoors. the worst part came about a week or so later when the dry, itchy feeling that had been mounting suddenly erupted into a sensation like having my hands doused in napalm and set ablaze. i literally woke from a dead-sleep one night, already in tears. luckily, that truly painful part lasted only a couple days, and the worst of it was abated by liberal application of Glysomed (note the green container in the background).

i carried one of their disc-shaped containers around with me for days, reapplying the super-rich cream to my hands every ten or fifteen minutes, which proved far more effective than all of the painkillers combined. there may have also been a couple weeks of hypersensitivity to hot (or even warmish) things, so i was relegated to bathing in cold water... in the Winter... in Quebec. sigh!

then my hands started peeling big time, but the pain was (thankfully) gone by that point, so it was a welcome relief to watch my body shrug off all that damaged skin. my favorite animator suggested that this is as close as i will ever come to understanding sunburn.

my re-surfaced fingertips looked like i had just emerged from a long bath, but they eventually filled out. i was not sure if my fingerprints would be identifiable in that condition, so i decided against finally crossing "brief stint as a cat burglar" off my bucket-list... which, i admit,  is an odd fantasy for someone who gets dizzy standing on a kitchen step ladder. see that? brand new skin!!!

the palms were the last to peel, but they are almost fully-recovered...


so, what did i learn from this experience?

him: you have a drawer full of knitted gloves. why don't you just keep a pair in your coat pocket and in each of your bags, so you always have them handy.
me: i know.
him: i even offered to give you my gloves that day. why didn't you take them?
me: i know, i know, i know.
him: why am i even bothering? you never listen to anything i say.
me: i know!

yep. pretty much.

[what follows is a lengthy aside/rant about what i am currently watching. you have been warned.]

i love love LOVE cozy mysteries and detective stories in general, and i look forward to the post-holiday season when all of the (mostly British) shows i enjoy are back on the air. i am also (slowly) getting around to a few titles i missed over the years. to that end, i am (re)watching all of Inspector Morse in preparation for starting in on Inspector Lewis (sequel about Morse's right-hand man). i did manage to push my OCD to the side just long enough to get through the first two seasons of Endeavour (prequel about Morse's younger days), but i was eventually overcome by the intense need to watch the original series (in order, without skipping a single episode), so that too will resume once i am done with Morse.

i watched some of the original series over the years, but i was never a fan. Morse is, in my humble opinion, a lousy detective and a deeply uninteresting character. the series is set in the world of the over-educated who seem to pass the day spouting quotes from classic literature (preferably in the original Latin) at the slightest provocation, lest anyone forget for a moment that they belong to that privileged set. it is the mental masturbation equivalent of throwing up gangs signs, and equally pathetic to boot.

beyond that, Morse seems to lack any real system or investigative method that underpins his work, and he ends up stumbling upon the truth more often than actually carrying out his role as a top-detective. then there is his lecherous obsession with any woman who crosses his path during the course of an investigation, most of whom seem to get arrested for one thing or another by the end of the episode. worst. detective. ever.

i am forcing myself through the remaining episodes (currently in the middle of season five), but i am looking forward to putting it behind me and moving on to Lewis' adventures, because he has always been a far better cop/detective and a more plausible character. i also plan to eventually re-watch all of The Inspector Lynley Mysteries (wholly unrelated to Morse, but a far-superior attempt at employing class differences as the subtext of storytelling without turning the main character into a grade-A jerk), which i binge-watched and thoroughly enjoyed several years ago.

then there is the stack of Ngaio Marsh books i need to get back to reading, and i also want to finish the Ruth Rendell novels before watching that  television series. it should be noted that i was in the middle of one of her mysteries—An Unkindness of Ravens—way back when i was contemplating a title for this blog, and i kept coming back to a list of colorful collective nouns... so it is really all her fault.


tea for two...

i encourage my two cats to compete for my affection by telling each one that she is my 'best girl' whenever the other cat is out of earshot. after only three years, it is still too early to tell if this strategy is having the desired effect. i have, however, noticed a pattern in which one cat always seems to keep me company while the other one sleeps, and i am beginning to fear that i may in fact be 'subject zero' in some twisted plan of theirs. i would elaborate on my suspicions, but Baby Bear is sitting right next to me, so it may be time to change the subject.

it has been snowing for most of the past twenty-four hours, and there is a polar vortex rapidly descending on the entire region. i can scarcely keep up with the demand for hot beverages.

we drink absurd amounts of tea (and the occasional coffee) around here in the Winter, and we prefer to use super-large mugs in order to avoid refilling the smaller cups every twenty minutes. problem is, we were down to one-and-a-half super-large mugs. the "half" in question is my white Santa mug, the handle of which had to be reconstructed several months ago with equal parts patience and crazy glue.

every cup of tea since then has been a gamble with the inevitable. Winter was here, and we needed new mugs. i found myself revisiting this one listing for weeks, so it seemed a good time to make a purchase.

the dream...

me: i really want to support hand-crafters. we should go on Etsy and find a potter. maybe we can custom order mugs with something interesting written on them or with iconic Canadian images to celebrate our support for small businesses.

him: remember when i told you about that four-week pottery workshop at one of the local art schools? we should take it so we can make our own mugs. 

me: that would be kinda awesome. 

the reality (about ten minutes later)...

me: ok, so we each get to pick one Disney mug and one Marvel/DC Comics mug, agreed? do we need anything else from Amazon?

yep. pretty much.

i was keeping my fingers crossed for something awesome in a Wolverine theme, as he is who i have deluded myself into thinking i would be in a comic book reality, but then i scrolled past this one, and kept coming back to it. girls!

i did have to draw the line at any silly Disney princess nonsense, since that has never been my cup of tea! i do, however, have a soft spot for The Nightmare Before Christmas. it is just Grimm enough to cut through the sugary-overload of the usual holiday season offerings. yes, i am that person.

my favorite animator opted for multiple Marvel heroes...

and Stitch.

in typical Amazon fashion, the items arrived in as many individual boxes as they could possibly manage, but the Nightmare cup still sustained a massive crack en route. a replacement was dispatched, and i was advised to dispose of the damaged cup as i see fit. where did i put that bottle of crazy glue?

i have a hard time letting go of mugs, especially the large ones i use every day. Santa is going to be retired from regular rotation and the cracked Nightmare mug will join it as holders for craft supplies.

the record for 'oldest broken mug' belongs to this green one, which has served as drip-catcher to this little plant for the past twenty years. [the frog was pilfered eons ago from one of mom's plants, and i gave him a small rock for company, because i am a compassionate thief].

i broke my go-to mug back in undergrad, and my best bud got me this one as a replacement... which i proceeded to chip and crack some several months later.

i did not have the heart to trash it, so it became home to the clay pot containing the few leaves i had pinched from mom's pothos (E. aureum), back when i "borrowed" the frog. this little plant has tagged along for the past twenty or so years of my life, and i hope it will see me through a few more decades of adventures.

on a parting note, i would like to report that a murder of crows has descended on a tree close to our building. there must be nearly two hundred of them perched along the bare branches, in stark contrast to their snow-covered surroundings. it is intensely unnerving to see the occasional large cloud of dark shapes circling that close overhead, and the cacophony bears a striking resemblance to a rallying cry uttered before a battle. i saw the movie. this will not end well.


war and pieces (of winter wear)...

it is Monday and the world outside looks like a giant, freshly-shaken snow globe cast in tones of brown and grey. i pity anyone who has to drive about in this stuff, but boy is it beautiful from up here.

the past week has been a veritable roulette wheel of first-world problems, culminating in an official declaration of war against the evil forces of UPS. the first clue that something was wrong came when their tracking tool showed my package crossing the Prime Meridian for the third time. it went on to make three crossings between Canada and the States (Quebec to Kentucky and back to Quebec), and was scanned arriving at the local Montreal airport a total of three times (in a row with, no corresponding departures), all within the span of twenty-four hours. worst part? that was only one half of a two-part shipment. so, i find myself dressed and ready to head out the door today... just as soon as the delivery guy shows up with package number two. after several frustrated phone calls last week, i would not be surprised if this one arrives tied to a large rock... flung through the largest window in the place. first-world problems indeed!

i decided to use part of the waiting-in-vain to assess my hat situation for the season. it was either that, or do something actually productive. hats win every time!!!

this is pretty much my default winter look. the blue shawlette is something i whipped up when trying to get rid of a small batch of yarn i had dyed for some other project. the hat too is knit out of yarn i dyed in a colorway i call mixed berry trifle, the rest of which will (eventually... hopefully) become a scarf/shawl, also for self. i have been known to wear this hat around the house for days at a time. so much love.

i attended a fiber festival some many years ago, back when i was relatively new to spinning, where i purchased some wool from a local(ish) shepherdess, which i spun into some rather lovely yarn. it was far too stunning to dye, so i left it bare and knitted a Slouch Tuva Hat (note free pattern on Ravelry).

crazy though it may seem, the small lace holes are a bonus when working with such heavy yarn. they keep the hat from being too-warm, which can happen even on the worst of Winter days.

i had a lot of this yarn left over, so i did what one (naturally) does in such a situation. i made myself a big-kid hat...

 complete with earflaps...

and fingerless mitts to match.

i was really proud of myself, as both the hat and mitts were made sans pattern, back when i was still relatively-new to the craft. that the mitts actually fit is still surprising all these years later.

i should also mention the matching earflap hat for my favorite animator. it was the prototype, as i spun and dyed that yarn a year or more before making my own. the colorway was meant to evoke those leather helmets from the early days of football, back before they understood concepts like concussion and permanent brain damage. to the casual observer, his hat may appear a bit small on my head. i like to think that it is a reflection of my brilliance, but it is probably just that i have a big head.

then there is the hat designed by my fave knitwear designer, Norah Gaughan. it is from her book Knitting Nature, which features thirty-six patterns inspired by—you guessed it—NATURE. [aside: there will be a mostly-Norah post in the near-future, as i am still thumbing through her latest tome, the Knitted Cable Sourcebook]. where was i? oh, yes... i made a Norah hat.

the yarn is a bulky, natural-colored alpaca purchased during one of my first visits to Montreal from my (current) local yarn shop back when they were located near le Marché Atwater... so, well over a decade ago. it is a tam, which should (in theory) look something like a beret, but this one looks more like an ornate pork pie (of the edible kind).

the top features a beautiful array of mini cables, all arranged after the manner of the humble sunflower...

right down to the stem. ah, Norah!

it is now well past nine in the evening, and i fear that my package has fallen victim to the multi-vehicle accidents befalling our fair city on such an icy day. seems like a perfect time for some honey brown lager. salud!