Monday, December 28, 2009

Warm and fuzzy

A hectic end-of-semester, 4 exams in 5 days, a week of pre-clerkship classes that did more to discourage than reassure, a 24-hour train ride, and one week of vacation later, this blog post is finally happening. Being home has been a wonderful, relaxing, reprieve; and I'm once again reminded of how much I love my family and miss them when we're not together.

The past few days have been spent curled up by the fire with my favorite furry friend, good books, warm beverages, and knitting (photos to come!).

Finding a cozy place to nap...

Which turns into perusing the tree...

"What, me? Steal ornaments?" Don't believe the cute face - she's a yarn thief too!

I decided to forgo the usual Christmas cookie baking, trying out chocolate-dipped pretzels instead. The effort was rewarding - less time and energy required, but still lots of fun.

Monday, November 16, 2009


Stumbling across the following phrases has kept me amused while studying this week:
  • From an endocrine lecture: "To reduce your dietary intake of saturated fats, eat very little that had a mother."
  • In Lawrence General Surgery: "crackers and peanut butter" listed as a treatment for a surgical complication.
  • From a Gastrointestinal Review article: "Functional diarrhea is the neglected stepsister of IBS".
  • "ADCVAANDIML is a simple mnemonic to organize...." uh, right.

Please excuse the hastily taken photo!

I know it's exam time when:

  • MVN (medical variety night) is over. To see a clip of the musical medicine vs. surgery smackdown from our class skit, click here (the first 30 seconds are black).
  • I want to bury myself in a pile of sheepy wool, and fall blissfully asleep.
  • I suddenly start dreaming of the many, many complicated lace and cabled projects that I want to make. And I have the urge to start them all right now.
  • I attempt the above and fail miserably (note to self - do not try to learn and implement new techniques when tired and already learning-saturated!!!).
  • I spend too much time on Ravelry trolling for the perfect sock pattern - not lacy, slightly cabled.
  • I realise that all this time spent on Ravelry could have been spent knitting a plain ol' sock.
  • I give in and cast on said sock, and make a promise to myself to start interesting socks after exams. Ah, now that's better.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Creative Festival

One report begets one handknit sock
My research report is finally done - we did a study of physicians looking at whether being a musician influenced medical specialty choice. I'm very very glad to have it over with, as interesting as it was. There is next to no literature out there on this topic, however the one existing paper that was even remotely related mentioned knitting, go figure!
Mom was kind enough to come visit for Thanksgiving, after which we set off to Toronto in search of some fiber related fun. We visited the Textile Museum of Canada, which had a special exhibit of antique quilts from the 19th century. Surprisingly (to me), only a small proportion of them were cotton, and quite a few had extensive embroidery.

Close to 6000 hand-pieced hexagons!
My favorite, a very random cotton quilt from Canada (late 19th c.)

Creative Festival, a massive trade-show/conference of sorts for knitting, quilting, beading, sewing, etc. was also going on over the weekend. While the knitting displays were only average, it was definitely quite impressive on the quilting front. We met Sammy, a Latvian who extolled to us the virtues of real Latvian knitting, while also passionately pointing out errors in authenticity that are frequently made in what has become mainstream Latvian knitting (no variegated yarn allowed!).


While knitting inspiration was lacking, the quilt displays did re-motivate me to get back to work on the quilt I had started a few months ago, that has been collecting dust as of late. These emergency birthday-gift earrings were also a by-product of the weekend. It was so nice to spend time with mom and briefly get away from school... now it's back to the grind until Christmas!

Not fibery, but still fun to make

Thursday, October 01, 2009


Hi. This is where I've been hiding for the last little while...

There has been a palpable change in our class; it's more somber, more solitary, and just somehow different. I don't know if it's that we're now working toward separate goals rather than common ones; if our collective summer experiences apart have put us on diverging paths; or if we're just tired and focused, simultaneously terrified and excited about the fact that we're hurtling toward clerkship at warp speed.
The initial challenge of getting back to the daily grind has passed, and now I'm left with a challenge of a different sort: juggling clinics where I'm expected to know stuff learned a while back that has long since been forgotten, keeping up with readings, writing a research report, trying to keep active/cook/play music and see the occasional friend. Needless to say, there isn't much knitting that gets done at the end of the day, and when it does it's nothing fancy. Pulling out a chart and concentrating on counting ends up seeming more like a chore than a relaxing activity, so the red sweater and any sewing has been pushed aside for the time being.

The best thing right now though is the season - despite being heat/sun loving and always cold, there is nothing that beats the crispness and visual warmth of fall. I've had the urge to bake with zucchini, apples and pumpkin, and to cook squash after squash. The other weekend while babysitting triplets, we decided to do some needle felting. Their eight-year old attention span held just long enough for me to make three wee pumpkins, which can keep the real gourds company for the next few months.

In front of tonight's dinner, a local acorn squash... yum!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Sock Roundup

It's only been a week back at school and already I feel swamped/overwhelmed. I forgot what this was like. As expected, the only crafting I got around to this week was finishing up this plain ol' pair of socks, knit from yarn that was generously given to me by my aunt. I'm happy with the way they turned out, finished just as it's getting a bit too chilly for flip-flops. The yarn is Fleece Artist Basic Merino Sock (100% merino), which has apparently been discontinued.

I've knit over 20 pairs of socks with several different brands of yarn over the past few years, so I thought it would be fun to do a mini-review of some of my favorite/least favorite yarns.

Of those pairs, here are the ones that have stayed with me:

Sock family in chronological order: Sheepjes (2), Opal, Meilenweit cotton (2), Trekking XXL, Casbah Sock

Over time the length of my sock legs has shortened; when I first started knitting I would follow the pattern to a T, which called for an 8-inch leg, and a toe grafted over 11 stitches. I now do a much shorter leg for myself, and always graft the toe over 34-36 stitches to give it a more rounded look.

Of the socks that I've kept, they've all worn pretty well, with the exception of the two pairs that aren't in the picture. Those two pairs were 100% merino with no nylon content, and the only two I've had that have bit the dust. One pair was done in Artyarns Ultramerino: not only did the yarn pool like crazy, but the socks only lasted a few months before getting gigantic holes in the heels. The other pair was done in Koigu KPPPM, and met their untimely (and accidental) demise in the dryer.

The only other pair of socks that I've knit and heard of wearing out were done in Trekking Pro Natura... and that happened after only a few months of wear.

Some other yarns I've used:

Paton's Kroy Sock: I used this for the first ever pair of socks I knit, and for one subsequent pair, but will never use it again. It splits like crazy and doesn't have as nice a feel as other yarns.

Scheepjes Invicta Coloris: Again, I used this yarn in my early sock knitting days. It pills somewhat, but 4-5 years later my pairs show no signs of serious wear.

Opal Rainforest: I've knit two pairs from this. It's a rougher-feeling yarn, and the colors aren't that saturated. The yarn softened somewhat with washing and has pilled considerably, but has otherwise worn well. These are my itchiest socks.

Lana Grossa Meilenweit cotton blends: this yarn (and the socks) definitely have a different feel than the wools, but win the award for zero pilling. I've thrown these in the washer and dryer multiple times, and they look brand new. I find they don't stretch as much as wool socks, but are nice for warmer weather.

Trekking XXL: This is, hands down, my favorite yarn (in the non-handpaint category). I've knit 3 pairs with this, and all turned out beautifully. I love the subtle color variation! The pair I've kept have become my favorites, and after much wear they haven't pilled, but developed a cozy halo of fuzz. It's also low-itch compared to the others. Love.

Handmaiden Casbah Sock: I loved knitting with this and the socks feel like a dream. As for wear, we'll have to wait and see - it's a merino/cashmere blend with 10% nylon, so I'm hopeful!

Dream in Color Smooshy: I've knit two pairs with this, and both were given away so I can't comment on wear. Considering that both pairs went to people I know will wear them a lot, I'm a bit nervous about the 100% wool content (I'm 0 for 2 in past experience!). I thought maybe this yarn felt a bit coarse compared to some others, but it grew on me over time. I do love the short color repeat that virtually eliminates pooling while still looking handpainted.

Lorna's Laces Sock: this yarn had a noticeable sheen to it, and felt finer than some other sock yarns. The color pooling was a big turnoff however, so if I did use it again I'd go for a solid.

Regia Sock: I gave this pair away, but found the yarn soft and nice to work with. It also had a bit of a finer gauge.

Apple Laine yarns: this yarn comes from a Canadian company, and is a combination of merino, mohair, silk, and nylon. I was excited to try it out but really didn't enjoy knitting with it, as it split and felt quite thick. The finished product was fine, however.

Austermann Step: My dad chose this out of my sock yarn stash a few years ago. He's really hard on the socks I make him, and these have worn quite well. The other day I caught him proudly wearing them (inside out) inside his sports sandals... The yarn has built-in jojoba oil and aloe... which you can definitely feel while knitting.

That's all I can think of for now... next on my list to try is Cherry Tree Hill Supersock. So, in sum, the 100% merino yarns I've used haven't fared as well in terms of wear, although to be fair I've only started knitting frequently with the handpainted yarns in the past year or so. The Pro Natura (which is a bamboo-wool blend with no nylon) wore out, and rather quickly at that. All of the nylon blends have worn very well, although they pill for the most part with the exception of the cotton blends and Trekking XXL. I'm curious to see how the Dream in Color will wear in the long run!

Looking at the upcoming semester, I have the feeling that there will be much sock knitting to come.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Jumping Right In

Today was the first day of class, and a stark kick in the pants that made it apparent that I've kissed the past laid-back and indulgent month of crafting goodbye. Soon, I will be relegated to mindless sock knitting in an attempt to stay sane... While extended holidays are good, they always make the abrupt return to crazy school life a bit more interesting.

When I was a kid, nothing was better than going back to school, and getting new school supplies. Oh, to have perfectly sharp pencils, new-smelling notebooks and duotangs with blank pages brimming with the possibility of perfection! And to meticulously put my name on everything with a black marker... type A perhaps?
I love September: it's the true new year, when it's still possible to do everything the way you want to. The weather is still warm, but with that fresh hint of crispness. The produce is cheap, local, and abundant. Even though I love the warmth and freedom of summer, there is something special about fall that just warms my heart.

Anyhow... in the spirit of fall, here's my first quilted "thing". It's supposed to be a table runner (using this pattern), but I doubt that it will ever be used in that capacity. The quilting itself was a bit of a disaster, as I ran into quite a bit of puckering despite best efforts. It seems less apparent after washing and drying, and I like it a lot more now that it's done. Hand sewing the binding on was definitely the most enjoyable part. For now, it will help make my study chair seem welcoming :)

Monday, August 31, 2009

Love-Hate Sweater, V. 4.0

I can't believe I've already been back here for a week. Leaving home was bittersweet this time, as it's the last time for quite a while (indefinitely?) that I'll be home during the summer, or for any considerable length of time. That's alright, however, because it was quite clear to me this time that life is changing for so many of my peers who now have jobs, spouses, babies... and that going home isn't quite the same any more. It's making me feel like I should feel like an adult (I don't, I'm just excited to be starting grade 19 in the fall).

I thought I'd throw a picture of this sign in for fun: I passed it on a bike ride last week, and it makes me laugh every time. It's on a small island in Lake Ontario, right by the customs office at the ferry crossing to New York state. It always makes me wonder who in Ontario is taking action to actually make me feel incredible...

Anyhow, I digress. Mostly because I'm procrastinating talking about this sweater, as I have with pretty much everything else concerning it. Sometimes I feel like this blessed sweater will always be a pox on my body of knitting... it just won't end.

Version 1.0 occurred back in January of 2006, over the course of a week. I loved the yarn, but wasn't impressed with the sweater. The button band rolled in, the neckline was weird, the rolled edges were much more exaggerated than in the pattern's photo, the shoulders were lumpy, and the whole thing looked boxy and short despite having added waist shaping and length. Long story short, I never wore it, but kept it in the closet anyway because it was hand knit, and the color was nice.

Version 3.0 - still blech!

V 2.0 happened sometime in 2008. I took the arms off the sweater, and decided to rip out and re-knit the neck. It didn't work. I felt stupid for (maybe?) misreading the pattern twice. V. 3.0: fall of 2008 to spring 2009. I ripped out the entire body, added a seed stitch button band, made up the neckline, added more waist shaping. Things looked a bit less bizarre after that, but it was still boxy, and the two times I wore it I couldn't stop fuming over my dissatisfaction with how it turned out.

So, earlier this summer when I had nothing on the needles and a severe case of knitter's block, I started V.4.0, with a totally new pattern (Fireside Sweater by Amber Allison), mostly because the pattern called for the exact yarn I had (Valley Yarns Berkshire). I'm not convinced that I'll wear this sweater, but at least it *should* look a little prettier sitting in a heap in my knitting basket, and it may provide amusement along the way. However, I'm not totally convinced the curse is gone, as I've already managed to lose the pattern (and my place) a few times. I think my gauge is off, and I'm quickly realizing that I'll need to order more yarn. What are the chances that the colorway will still be close after almost 4 years?

Oh, and in an act of lazy defiance I'm knitting it straight from the old sweater. We'll see how that goes!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Sew Fun

In a last-minute scramble to finish up a few projects before leaving home for the fall, I decided to make my sister's Christmas/birthday gift. When we were kids, she had a thing for vintage paper dolls, and now she's all about vintage-retro clothing. Her room is full of bright oranges, reds and fuchsia, so when I stumbled across this fabric I knew it was perfect for her. Here's the result:

Fabric: Snippets by American Jane
The throw pillow was fun to make; the pattern was improvised using bits of different tutorials. I love this fabric! While I don't find the process of sewing all that fun (there's a machine in the way!), the fabric choices and creative possibilities are quite enticing...

Paper dolls on the back!

Another project finished up: two of my dear, sweet friends are getting married to each other today. I had no idea what they needed, so I made them some cheery dinner napkins. Off to the wedding!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Whales and Tails

With great summer weather out in full force and the company gone, Mom and I decided to head off to Grand Manan island for a day of fresh air, hiking, and of course some bonding over the new Interweave and our knitting. I managed to get this done:

Ishbel by Ysolda Teague, in Malabrigo Lace Velvet Grapes

I've wanted to make mom a shawl for some time now, but couldn't picture her wearing something large or elaborate. The Ishbel pattern provided just the right amount of lacey goodness for her to drape around her neck come fall/winter. I've pretty much knit exclusively on this project for the last few weeks, and am pleased with the result - now it's back to some other neglected projects!

Thanks to my sister for modelling!
The yarn is Malabrigo Lace, in the color Velvet Grapes. It is so, so, soft and buttery to the touch... although I'm a bit wary of how it will wear being a single ply and all. In real life, the color is a bit darker and less red than photographed, and the variegation is more subtle. I knit the large sized stockinette portion of the pattern, and then did the smaller sized lace repeat. There was a fair bit of yarn left over, so I'm left wondering if I actually could have done the larger lace repeat, but I didn't want to risk running out!

I also uncharacteristically broke my "no more than three WIPs at a time" rule and cast on a sock. It just felt wrong not to have one on the go, especially since everything else I'm doing at the moment requires reading a chart. The yarn is Fleece Artist Merino Sock, which has been sitting in my stash for a while. Looking at the skein, I wasn't sure how the colors would work together, but as soon as I wound the ball everything clicked.

And... because I love New Brunswick so much, I thought I'd share a slice of Grand Manan (a fishery-based island off the Fundy coast). NB has unfortunately earned the nickname "the drive through province", because often people coming for vacation from outside the Maritimes will drive through it on their way to Nova Scotia and PEI. However, there is so much natural beauty and history to be found here as well! Consider Grand Manan: going there is like stepping back in time, to a simpler, untouched place. Although the trails are less well maintained than in provincial and national parks, there is ample scenic coastal hiking dotted with friendly handmade signs. It's a place that feeds the soul.

Old Smoke House, Seal Cove

Hike from Southern Head to Flocks of Sheep

Sunset at The Whistle, Grand Manan NB

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Alpaca 101

Dad and I recently returned from a camping trip in Maine. I love the East Coast, love Maine, and will miss it all when I go back to Ontario, so it was great to have a few days of fresh air and hiking. Our first stop was Acadia National Park. It was soooo crowded with tourists, but once we got out onto some of the trails, the scenery was awesome.

Acadia National Park, ME

Our next stop was Recompence campground, just outside of Freeport, ME. It was a pleasant surprise- a quiet, peaceful campground nestled between a farm and Casco Bay. But perhaps one of the best surprises was the Alpaca farm we found just down the road!

Casco Bay, ME

Indulging my someday-fantasy-mini fiber farm dream, we visited the farm, and the very welcoming farmer obligingly fielded my many questions about alpaca rearing. It was an educational visit, and left me feeling like it's not such a far fetched idea after all.

Tripping Gnome farm specializes in alpaca breeding services. They also focus on keeping their yarns and fiber products 100% alpaca, which has not proved easy when trying to find a place to get their fleeces mill-spun. It was so neat to get such a friendly tour of the farm, and to talk about how they got started, and what's involved with the whole process. I don't know what it is about farms, but they have some sort of intoxicating effect which always leaves me daydreaming and yearning for a simpler life. Maybe it's the quiet, fresh air, natural beauty, animals... sigh.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009


While walking home today, I ran into the librarian who taught me how to cross-stitch in the seventh grade, and she asked me if I was still at it. I no longer enjoy the process of doing cross-stitch, but last year my mom put me on to embroidery via Sublime Stitching. It's perfect when you're in the mood for something quick, different, and instantly gratifying, or need something mindless to do while chatting. I did this bib for one of my little cousins who's visiting.

The patterns are quirky, retro, and fun. Whenever I start one of these projects I find that I can't put it down until it's finished, probably because finishing it in one sitting is somewhere in the realm of possibility (unlike with knitting where I'm usually resigned to the fact that it won't all be done then and there!). Plus, the stitching reminds me of surgery...

This tutorial for box pouches caught my eye, and I decided to give it a whirl. I liked the way they turned out, so I made another longer one to replace my ratty old dollar store pencil case. I'd been lovingly saving that piece of brown fabric for about 10 years, and now it will make going to the library that much more exciting!

Homework Happiness!

There is still knitting going on here, partly the same old stuff, with a new project or two. Now it's off to Maine for some outdoor fun, and hopefully a farm visit:)

New projects, TBA!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Excursion Around the Bay

I have an aunt (and several other relatives) visiting at the moment. She's a brand-new knitter, and mom and I are so proud of how she's caught the knitting bug. She's lost her taste for acrylic novelty yarns, and is hardly seen to be sitting still without whipping out her project. Since Fredericton lacks a good yarn store, as does the city she's coming from, the three of us decided to take a road trip to Black's Harbor, NB, home to Cricket Cove yarn store.

I had only heard of this store before, but didn't imagine it to be as incredible as it was. Black's Harbor is a tiny community (pop. 950), where you'll find the Brunswick Sardine packing plant, the ferry crossing to Grand Manan Island and surprisingly, a store full of high-end, hard to find, and unique yarn. While the internet makes it possible to get your hands on just about anything, there is nothing like spending a few hours in a good yarn shop petting all of the yarns you hear about and read about in knitting books and magazines.
Mmm... tweedy wool. Top: Cricket Cove wool, Bottom: Briggs and Little Heritage

My aunt had a true knitter moment when, for the first time, she spotted a pattern from a book knit up in the wild. It had been a while (maybe a year and a half?) since I had purchased yarn, and I came away with some heavy fingering weight tweed wool (it had no label, so I'm assuming it's their own line of yarn) destined to become Selbu Modern, as well as some Arequipa sock yarn.

We were going to drive to St. Andrew's as well, but the pea soup fog convinced us to head home. On the drive back we randomly decided to stop at the Briggs and Little outlet/mill, in Harvey (yet another small town with a big yarn). The mill only runs during the winter, but the shop was full of dirt-cheap Briggs and Little. I picked some up to make a pair of thrummed mittens for a friend. I love this wool... it's tweedy, rustic, and smells like lanolin.
Traditional Thrummed Mitts at Briggs and Little

I asked the lady working there where the sheep were that supplied the mill with fleece. She told me that they need about 26,000 sheep to meet their demand. This all happens through the Canada Wool Grower's Association, so the sheep are scattered all across Canada. Briggs and Little happens to be the biggest buyer from them.
Briggs and Little Outlet Store, York Mills, NB

The car ride gave me time enough to finish off Nanny's Lorna's Laces socks. I really wanted to get these done, because I find the colors quite garish. This pair used exactly one skein, so much for getting it out of my stash! She will love them, however, so they're off to the gift pile until Christmas.

Anklets for Nanny, Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock

Thursday, July 23, 2009


I've got quilts on the brain. Let me preface this by saying that I am in no way a sewer! The extent of my past sewing experience pretty much involves making my own hair scrunchies back in the seventh grade (hey, it was the nineties, they were still cool!). I'm always impressed and awed when I see beautiful handmade quilts posted on other people's blogs (check out these adorable potholders!), and wish that I had the same talent.

So, since there is an overabundance of rainy days and I've got the free time right now, I decided to work on a few projects.

Back in high school I made a t-shirt quilt as a semester project. Essentially, it was a solution to the problem of having many many oversize t-shirts hanging around, that I never wore but couldn't get rid of because they came from an event or had sentimental value of some sort. I wanted the quilt to take with me when I started university, and it sat happily on my dorm room bed for four years.

A few years ago I decided to make a second one, and got as far as piecing the front panel together. Admittedly, I did a sloppy job of the whole thing, mostly because I bought the wrong type of interfacing, and didn't have a rotary cutter or good way of cutting the pieces evenly. It's been sitting in my closet for three years now, waiting to be finished... mostly because I wanted to track down the rotary cutter and mat that I had borrowed in order to cut the strips for the binding. I gave in and went to Fabricville today, and bought a cheap mat/cutter set (hopefully it works and I won't regret skimping!), so I no longer have an excuse not to finish this!

The store was also having a very good sale on some of their fabrics, so I picked up some material to make a few knitting needle holders. I made one for myself and one for my mom several years ago, and was quite pleased with the way they turned out. The lady at the store commented that I must like muted tones, and that the fabrics reminded her of Little House on the Prairie. It's true, no matter how hard I try to like the bold, fun fabrics, I'm always drawn to the more earthy and natural tones (case in point - the last four things I've knit have been green).


We shall see how this goes, this time around I vow to read up on proper techniques instead of just trying to do things right off the bat!