Archive for December, 2009

My Olympic Red Mittens on NBC

Thursday, December 31st, 2009

Have you got your Red Mittens yet? They are rather hard to find around here…so I made some, and I’m working on making more.

I’ve sold 25 patterns so far, raising a grand total of $125 for the Penguins Can Fly Swim Team for disabled children and their able bodied siblings.

Yesterday I was thrilled to see an article about my mittens posted to the NBC Olympics website.  Have a look!


I hope that the Olympic spirit is alive and well where you are. There’s still time to knit yourself a pair of Olympic mittens before the games begin on Feb. 12th.

I’m going to cast on for another pair tonight!

All the best in 2010

New Years Resolution: Knit from Stash

Thursday, December 31st, 2009

What New Years resolutions did I make last year?  Well….I don’t generally make resolutions, I make plans (sometimes they work, sometimes they get changed, sometimes they get postponed)

This year, after organizing my stash, I have made a decision…I’m going on a yarn fast.  I’m going to knit from my stash as much as possible for the new year.  We’ll see how long that lasts!

Note:  this plan involves me spinning up lots of fleece!


here's just some of my fleece

Wish me luck!

Happy 2010 everyone.


Wednesday, December 30th, 2009

As the New Year approaches I start to think about decluttering my shelves to get more organized.  This includes airing out the stash, and getting rid of all that yarn that I will most likely never use. (I’m not even going to mention the bags of fleece…3 bags full…gotta start spinning!)

I feel bad throwing things away that could be useful to someone else.  I try to donate my leftover stash yarn to groups that will put it to good use.

Whether you are moving, downsizing, or just cleaning up your house here are some places that might be happy to adopt your extra yarn.  Ask around…

  1. Local high schools or elementary schools might have a knitting club like the Knitter’s Anonymous that meet at my neighbourhood school.  Kids can learn with just about any of your stash yarn.
  2. Check the Project Linus site for a coordinator near you.  Maybe your local yarn store might be interested in becoming a coordinator!  Knitters could take your donated yarn, and make patchwork blankets for sick children.
  3. Thrift stores like Value Village or The Salvation Army Store survive on donations of all sorts of household items.  They will sell your donated yarn, and raise money and donate some of their earnings to local non-profit organizations.
  4. Some prisons accept yarn donations for their “Knitting Behind Bars” programs
  5. Some nursing homes accept yarn donations as well.
  6. Some keen knitters have put a call out for yarn to knit for charity purposes.  100 Hats is one that has caught my eye.  She’s done 26 now!
comfort dolls

comfort dolls

If you have the time to use up your stash, but haven’t thought of a good quick project, take a look at the following lists of links.  Find a charity near you!  You might be inspired to knit a teddy bear, comfort doll, or a hat or a blanket for the variety of people who are in need of warmth or comfort.

I knit about 20 hats in 2008 and donated them to the clients of a local soup kitchen in the fall.  It was such a worthwhile exercise.  I do hope you feel more comfortable parting with your clutter of stash yarn knowing that somehow, somewhere it will provide warmth and comfort for others.

Charity Knitting Lists (feel free to add more suggestions in the comments)

Halcyon Yarns

Interweave Press

Mac or PC-best ads of 2009

Wednesday, December 30th, 2009

Disclaimer:  I am a Mac person, from a Mac household…who appreciates the simplicity of the product as well as the ads.

I rarely will search to find new ads for a product.  Usually I try to ignore the advertising that I see.  However, the ads that Apple has made for the Mac are so entertaining that I not only will sit and watch them, but sometimes I will even seek them out to see what the new ad is.

I like them because they are slick, simple, predictable, and funny.

Have a look for yourself!  My choice for best ads of the year.

click to see more...

click to see more...

First Trip to a Yarn Store?

Tuesday, December 29th, 2009

Knitting is becoming more and more popular, which is great!  But, sometimes it is overwhelming for the beginner.  So much to consider…yarn, needles, patterns–there’s a whole new language, and charts too.

Beginners out there, bring a knitter friend to the yarn store the first time to show you around.  It can be quite overwhelming if you go on your own.

Things to consider when planning your first project (make a list BEFORE you go to the yarn store).

What are your skills?

Can you knit and purl, increase and decrease, cast on and cast off?  These are good things to practice BEFORE you dive in and start a big project.

Check youtube for knitting videos.  You’d be surprised what you can learn!

Can you knit in the round?  That’s when you use circular needles or a set of 4 double pointed needles to knit a tube.

What are you hoping to make?

Projects increase both in difficulty of technique and length of time to complete it.

Scarves, bags, hats, armwarmers, mitts and socks are good places to start.  Sweaters and blankets will take significantly longer to complete.  Consider your knitting stamina.  Choose something that is easy enough for you to do, but not so tedious that you will get bored.

Who is it for?

What size is the recipient?  Is the recipient allergic to wool?

Finding a pattern

I always check Ravelry first for free patterns to download.  They will be stored in your computer for ever, and in your Ravelry pattern library too.   I often lose paper copies of patterns, so I enjoy knowing that I have an online backup.  There will be pattern leaflets for sale at any yarn store.  Often patterns are sold in booklets-choose a booklet that has more than one good pattern in it if possible.

If you are having trouble with finding a good simple pattern, try some of mine.  I’ve linked to some great visual tutorials in the toe up socks pattern.

Yarn thickness

lace, fingering, sport, worsted, bulky

lace weight (not for beginners)

fingering-socks and gloves/baby clothes

sport weight-heavy socks/mittens

worsted weight/aran weight-mittens/hats/sweaters

bulky weight-thick hats/sweaters


Pay CLOSE attention to your pattern.  There are three different standards for needle sizes.

Generally thin wool is knit with thin needles, and thick wool with thicker needles.

Socks: 2.5mm or 2.75mm needles are good with fingering weight yarn

Mittens/hats: 4mm needles with sport or worsted weight yarn

Do you need circulars, or double pointed needles, or single pointed needles?  Read the pattern to find out.

How much yarn?

Before you go crazy buying everything in sight…check your pattern.  It should give you an idea of yarn quantity required.

For a pair of socks you need 100g of fingering weight yarn.  If you want knee socks, you’ll need up to 200g.

For a pair of adult mittens you will need 100g of worsted weight yarn.

Be sure if you are making a big project that you get enough of the same dye lot (check the tag on the wool to check the numbers).  If the wool was dyed in a different batch, the colours may not be the same.

Fiber content

Any yarn that will go against your skin should be tested on your skin to see how it feels.  Don’t just pat the yarn.  Pick up the ball of wool and rub it on your neck, or the small of your back (if you are daring)–this skin is sensitive, and you will know almost instantly how you feel about that yarn.  Remember, hands are less sensitive than necks, so mittens can be made from more scratchy wool without a problem.

Wool from Topsy Farm Amherst Island Ontario--I use it to make mittens all the time. It softens a bit when washed

Don’t assume that just because something is made of wool that it will be scratchy.  There are different kinds of sheep that produce different kinds of wool.  Some wool is so soft–but it is also probably so expensive!

Superwash wool is more easy to care for than regular wool.  Wool is elastic, and will keep its shape better than other fibers. Wool is also very warm.

alpaca yarn from Silver Cloud Alpacas. I met Nancy and the alpacas a few years ago, this is top quality stuff!

Alpaca is warmer than wool.  It feels extra soft, and is luscious for scarves or for lining mittens.  It is not as hard wearing as socks, and not elastic.  Not all alpaca is equal…try it on your skin before you buy it.

organic cotton yarn

Cotton is not very elastic, and not very warm.  I personally don’t enjoy knitting with cotton because of how it feels on my hands.  Some people have told me that I just haven’t found the right cotton yet.  Who knows…I live in Canada, in my mind knitting should keep me warm.

Ive used this to make a lovely hat for a friend who had cancer.

I've used this bamboo yarn to make a lovely soft hat for a friend who had cancer.

Bamboo is such a soft yarn that apparently has antibacterial properties.  I bought some bamboo sock yarn which is sitting in the stash just waiting for the perfect project.

A baby hat I made from acrylic yarn

A baby hat I made from acrylic yarn

Acrylic is a synthetic fiber.  It is very easy to care for, so it’s great for baby clothes.  It comes in bright colours, and I’ve found it is often less expensive than other materials.  Any of the “novelty” yarn choices like what I used in “hippo’s ugly hat” are made of different synthetic fibers.

Hippos Ugly hat

Hippo's Ugly hat made from a variety of novelty yarns

When you are at the Yarn Store

Spend some time looking around and patting the yarn, but remember to keep yourself focused on your current project (or else you might get into stash problems).  Be sure to check for a “discount” section in the store, sometimes there are great deals to be found!

Ask about refund/exchange policy.  If you go home and realize you bought twice as much sock wool as you really need, they might trade the unused wool for something else next time you go back.

There might be a customer loyalty card for you to get stamped.  I’m almost done my third card at Wool-Tyme.

Before you leave, check for lessons or a social “knit-night” where you can get advice from your friendly neighbourhood knitters. Sometimes the local shopkeepers will be happy to help you solve a knitting related problem if the store isn’t too busy at the time.

Pretty soon you’ll be making “wool-runs” like a professional!

Biggest Laugh of The Year: Push Button For Pizza!

Tuesday, December 29th, 2009

The month of December is winding down, and so are the days of Gwen Bell’s Best of ’09 Challenge.

The topic of today is the biggest laugh of the year.

Thinking back, I’ve laughed a lot this year–A good sign!  The biggest laugh came in a hotel room in Mississauga, when a group of us were tired and hungry and really needed pizza.  We weren’t just regular tired, we were tired to the point of everything being hilarious, where once one person started to laugh, the rest of us caught the giggles and pretty soon had forgotten what we were laughing about.

It all started because we were in a new city, unsure of what number to call for pizza, and who was going to make the call.  Being in a hotel is a novelty for us, and using a hotel phone was a bit of a challenge.

What area code were we in?

Do we need to dial the area code?

Is there a phone book….no….that’s not a phone book in the drawer, that’s a Bible! (giggles started)

Finally found the phone book….looked up a number for pizza delivery

did rock paper scissors for who would call and order…..

Ended up ripping page out of the phone book by accident…. (giggles and more giggles)

We taped the page back in (still laughing)

Someone started to dial for pizza, and we noticed that the hotel phone had a button you could press for “Pizza”. (too much laughing)

We were in such a state already, that a “push button for pizza” was enough to send us over the edge.  If I recall correctly someone ended up laughing so much they fell off the bed (between the bed and the wall)…which only set us off even more.

I don’t think we ever did order pizza….nobody could get through the whole call without cracking up.

What a night!

Making Sheepy Cards and Knitted Cards

Monday, December 28th, 2009

This looks like a very cool stash-busting craft to make. Explanations are on the Sheepy Hollow Farm Journal website

Sheepy Note Cards.  Image from Sheepy Hollow Farm Journal

Sheepy Note Cards. Image from Sheepy Hollow Farm Journal

I’ve got lots of fleece. I may try making some of these in the new year. They look SO cute.

Here’s another cute idea from the knitted blog. Knit a square, add buttons, make a card! So many possibilities!

card idea from the knitted blog

card idea from the knitted blog

Ohhh…these are cute too! Mini sweater and stocking Christmas Cards. Pattern located on the Better Homes and Gardens website.

Image from Better Homes and Gardens

Image from Better Homes and Gardens

These would be my top three choices for best stationery, if I had time to make them!

I do write letters, but usually I use coloured paper that I decorate with doodles as I write.

What Comes First, The Pattern Or The Wool?

Sunday, December 27th, 2009

It’s certainly a good question!

Sometimes you’ll see or feel such a lovely yarn that you have to buy it.  It will sit in the stash begging for the perfect pattern to come along where it can be shown off in all its glory.  When you find that pattern, the yarn will leap from the shelf and the knitting will fly off the needles, just like it was meant to be.  Now, this is not always the case, but when it happens, it is magic!  Sometimes you need to make up the pattern yourself as I did in the hat I dreamed up.

Dig through your stash from time to time, and you might be surprised what yarn will speak to you.  Listen to it… it….you’ll be amazed with what you can create.

Picture from

Sometimes it’s a good pattern that will speak to you from the pages of a magazine, or from the depths of Ravelry.  The February Lady Sweater was one such pattern that grabbed my attention.  It was all the rage 2 years ago.  I went on a search and found the wool to match the sweater.

Now, whether you are looking for the perfect pattern or the perfect yarn, things have certainly changed a lot in the last 10 years.  This fact was illustrated on boxing day in the midst of our “ball winding party”.  I had gotten my mom a great ball winder from, and we were winding up different skeins into center pull balls.

My grandmother, my mom and I were discussing what to knit for a cousin who is soon to be a new dad.  My first instinct is to head to ravelry, or now that I’ve joined twitter and connected with so many awesome knitters, I’d ask them what’s good to make for a new baby.  My mom went to look in her pattern drawer for books and leaflets of patterns that she’s used through the years.  My grandmother wanted to knit the bonnet that her mother taught her to make.  She knew that she had the instructions on an index card somewhere.

It hit me, on Boxing day, sitting in a multi-generational knitting circle, that some things really have changed, but in some ways, they haven’t changed at all.

How To Wash Hand Knit Socks

Sunday, December 27th, 2009

Did you get socks for Christmas?  If you are lucky, someone knit them for you.  Knitting socks takes a great deal of time and effort, so it is important to care for them properly so they will last a long time.

After you wear your hand knit socks several times, you’ll probably want to wash them.  There are a few things to consider before you do this.

Ask the following questions to the sock knitter.  They will be impressed you are taking so much interest!


Are the socks made from wool? Wool is a fiber that has an amazing ability to felt.  If wool is agitated in hot water, the fibers grip to each other and mat together.  (more information and pictures here)

Is the wool “superwash”? Superwash wool has been treated to keep the fibers from gripping to each other if agitated in hot water.

  • You should handwash all knit socks to keep them in good condition, and prolong their life.
  • You MUST handwash all non-superwash wool socks, or else you might not be able to wear them again!

Felting can be done intentionally, like I did with my elf slippers

Before Felting

Before Felting

After Felting

After Felting


Some dyes are not colour-fast.  This means that the first few times you wash the socks, the colour may leave the socks, and could stain anything else washed with the socks.

  • Washing socks in a sink/basin one pair at a time in cool water (with salt added) will help with colourfastness.


You can use a small amount of detergent to wash your woolens, which will require a separate rinse phase but there are other options too.

Eucalan is a no rinse washing liquid

Soakwash is another option (lots of great info on their site)

I don’t have experience with either of these liquids.  I use a gentle laundry detergent.

How I wash my socks

  1. Fill up the sink with lukewarm water.
  2. Add a small amount of gentle liquid detergent.
  3. Agitate the water to make suds before placing the socks in it.
  4. Add the pair of socks
  5. Let them soak for 10-15 minutes
  6. Squish the socks gently with hands from time to time (no rubbing)
  7. Drain the sink
  8. Rinse in cool water
  9. Squeeze out the water (no ringing)
  10. Dry on a drying rack or a sock blocker (hang them from a clothesline if you don’t mind them stretching)

Argyle socks drying on sock blockers from

new and old sock blockers my Christmas present

new and old sock blockers my Christmas present

Pattern: Hold On Mittens

Sunday, December 27th, 2009

Hold on to what is good

Hold on to what is good
even if it is a handful of earth
hold on to what you believe in
even if it is a tree that stands by itself
hold on to what you must do
even if it is a long way from here
hold on to your life
even if it is easier to let go
hold on to my hand
even when I am have gone away from you

-Pueblo Indian Prayer

Dedicated to the memory of David, a good friend who passed away too soon.


Needles: 2.5mm DPN (set of 4)
Yarn: Any fine fingering weight yarn will do.  Two or three colours with a significant light/dark contrast.
Stitch holder or scrap yarn to hold thumb stitches
Darning Needle

Skills: knit, purl, increase, decrease, stranded colour work, chart reading, kitchener stitch

Download free .pdf pattern including full colour charts for hold on mittens.

May these words inspire you to appreciate all of the good things in life, and remind you that there is always someone out there who will be glad to extend a hand to help you when you need it.

If you like this pattern, check out my pattern for Olympic Red Mittens.  The games start on Feb. 12th….better start knitting!