Monday, November 28, 2011

It's True, I Need No Excuse

Photo courtesy The Toronto Star/Matthew Sherwood.
Piece in The Toronto Star today about knitting socks in public.

Excellent quote given by my friends Mary Margaret, Jane and Robbie.

(I was working on the Tuffy socks, in case you're wondering.)

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Procedural: Perfect Knitting Television

two separate
yet equally important
Like many serious knitters, I am an inveterate consumer of television.

(It's not just TV, for the record... am also a huge fan of intelligent radio documentaries, plays and readings.  BBC Radio 4 I'm looking at you.)

I joke sometimes that I'm not sure if I knit so that I can watch TV, or watch TV so that I can knit.

And my favourite kind of knitting TV is the procedural: the various Law & Orders, the CSIs and their ilk.  You name it: Homicide, Castle, Criminal Minds, Bones, The Mentalist, Spooks (MI-5), the original Prime Suspect, Cracker, The Wire in the Blood, and so on. The TV shows that feature detectives solving a crime.  (Any good recommendations?  Leave 'em in the comments!)

Hey, if someone dies before the opening credits, I'll watch it.

It doesn't have to be a murder - I enjoyed Law & Order: Criminal Intent during its run, and sometimes those stories were about fraud and robbery - but it most often is.

I find this kind of TV both engaging and satisfying - there's a puzzle, and there's a conclusion.  (Not to say I don't like TV without a conclusion; am currently totally obsessed with Fringe. Although on the surface it's also a procedural, there is a larger story arc that's fabulously complex and open-ended.)

And it's also very easy to watch while paying attention to something else. The point about the procedural is that they follow a procedure. The solving of the mystery follows a procedure; a set of rules the cops much (roughly) follow. The drama itself also follows a procedure. The procedural shows follow the same structure: a crime is committed, detectives are called. Evidence is collected. Suspects are interviewed. Someone is arrested. This person is proven to be innocent and released.  Evidence is reviewed. The right person is arrested. And then the cops go out for breakfast/coffee/beer.

This repetitive aspect is what makes them so very satisfying - but also very easy to watch while knitting.

If I miss a few key lines of dialogue because I'm counting stitches, I'm not going to get lost. If I need to leave the room to get a new ball of yarn, I know that the suspect they have in interrogation in the first 20 minutes is not guilty. If there's a particularly grisly crime scene (Criminal Minds, The Wire in the Blood) or autopsy (CSI), I've got something to distract myself with.

I can happily watch my "murders" all afternoon, knitting away. When I've got a knitting deadline, my TV supplier Norman knows he needs to ensure that I've got a bunch of DVDs or episodes stacked up on the DVR. It doesn't really matter if they are old or new, if they are set in the present day or the past, if it's a serial murder or a story about insurance fraud; if it's got a crime and detectives, I'll watch it.

Sure, if the detective is charming, funny and handsome (Castle), or the social analysis particularly intelligent and thought-provoking (Homicide), or the setting fabulously interesting (Wallander), even better.  But honestly, all I need is a crime and some cops.

The funny thing is that I've tried watching some of these without knitting in hand, and it's not nearly as much fun. The shows dealing with the more grisly or nasty crimes are difficult to watch and discomfiting. The lighter shows are often uninteresting or silly. The dated look or style of some of the older shows grates.

And I do enjoy other types of TV (Fringe, as mentioned above); and costume dramas like Downton Abbey, and of course, the single most engaging and intelligent piece of television ever made, The Wire.  And there's movies on DVD, too, of course.  (And I have pretty good access to those...)

But I watch at lot less of the "good stuff": the movies and high quality, intellectually challenging and visually engaging television.  Why? Because if I do miss a few key lines of dialogue, I could be in serious trouble.  And the engaging visuals demand to be looked at.  And foreign films require me to read the subtitles.

So it's not just that the procedural is good knitting television: I'd go so far as to say that knitting is really the best way to consume these shows, and these are really the best things to knit to.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Noro Kureyon 242: How I Love Thee

I know you know I love Noro.

And in particular, I LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE this colourway, #242. It's got all my favourite colours in it: black, red, orange, green and a smattering of grey. There isn't a colour in it I don't like. Everything I make with it matches everything in my wardrobe, because these are the colours I wear. And it looks great with denim.

Just perfect.

I have so far made a Lanesplitter and a hat from the Lanesplitter leftovers; I've also made a crochet shawl in the Sock version of the yarn. Up next: fingerless mitts, and I'm hoping I can find the time to knit myself an Undercurrent cardi in the same colourway. How excellent would that look? (Not worn together, though... that's a little crazy even for me.)

The sad part is that the Kureyon Sock has been discontinued, so I've had to do some bartering for the yarn required for the fingerless mitts.... I made a trade for a different sock yarn...

 I'm also thinking I need to find another ball of the Sock so I can make an actual pair of socks with it. Anyone have another ball of it hiding in their stash?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Tuffy Socks: Free Pattern

I'm often asked, usually at this time of year, for a recommendation for a thick sock yarn.

There seem to be two common motivators: knitters are seeking a yarn that will make warm boot socks for the encroaching winter. And they are also seeking a yarn that will knit up quickly, for gift knitting.

My favouritest thick sock yarn is Briggs & Little Tuffy.  Briggs & Little, based in New Brunswick, is the oldest continuously operated wool mill in Canada.  Operating for over 150 years, they produce classic wool yarns and blankets woven from their wool.

Now, here's the thing about Tuffy: It's hard-wearing yarn spun tight and blended with nylon for long-lasting socks.  It's machine washable, and very easy-care.  And it comes in a wide range of classic colours. But soft it is not.  It's woolly.  Boot-sock woolly.

Also in its favour is the unbelievably low price: $5.99CDN for a skein, purchasable online from Ram Wools in Winnipeg.  1 skein will make a pair of women's medium socks; anything larger requires two skeins.  Still a bargain. And they will last you a lifetime, I guarantee it.

I'd heard rumours about the wonderfulness of this yarn, but was having trouble finding it in Toronto.  A couple of years ago a student found me a couple of skeins at Spun Fibre Arts in Burlington. I was easily able to get two pairs out of those two skeins, and wore them to death in my boots last winter. My feet were warm, well-protected and comfy.

Prompted by a student in a recent sock class, I've written up my pattern and made it available for free.  Download now, from Ravelry.  Naturally, there are multiple sizes: Women's S, M, L, covering US shoe sizes 5 to 10, and Men's S and L, covering US shoe sizes 6 to 12.

So whether you're in a rush to finish up a holiday gift, or just need a pair of socks for the oncoming snow, your needs are taken care of.

I do regularly rave about the yarn, and another student of mine was recently visiting family in New Brunswick, and she brought me three skeins back! These are screaming out to be made into a pair of striped socks, don't you think?

Socks Sized for Men: Basic Ribbed Sock with full range of sizes

I've gone on and on about this topic - sock patterns with multiple sizes.

I've had several knitters leaving comments on my blog looking for the multi-size version of my Basic Ribbed Sock.

The original pattern was published in a single size, but I resized it to include sizes for a full range of men's and women's sizes.

The multi-size pattern is available for download from Ravelry, here.  This link should work if you're not a Ravelry member.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Intrepid Knitter of the Week

I've been teaching my War & Peace socks class a fair bit recently. 

I love this class, as it's a great way for experienced sock knitters to test their skills, expand their knowledge and learn a new party trick. And it's an excellent way for me to meet intrepid sock knitters.  

On a recent weekend, an extra intrepid student made a long drive across southern Ontario to attend the class.  And she rocked it.

In the class we work my training sock - 24 sts in worsted weight yarn on 4.5mm needles.  Small enough that you can make decent progress in the class, and thick yarn so you can see what you're doing...

And this student, lovely Danielle, really got into it.  

After the class, she headed off to the curling rink to watch her boyfriend curl, and knitted....

Two socks, hiding:

Two socks, revealed:

Go Danielle!  She gets my Intrepid Knitter of the Week badge.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Resisting no more

Although I had a passing knowledge of spinning, I'd never formally taken the plunge into actually buying a spindle and fibre and creating my own yarn.

The idea that I would take time away from knitting to increase the size of my stash was a bit scary.

But I knew that I needed to tackle this, to expand my skills and knowledge of yarn.

So at Rhinebeck, I finally did it.  I spun! Read all about it on the Knittyblog...