Wednesday, January 25, 2012

joining the bears

Even though it isn't really cold out there, January still seems like the right time to hibernate. To help fuel this belief, I accidentally knit up the perfect hibernation sweater. My intentions were to use my favourite Debbie Bliss Luxury Donegal Tweed to make a slightly longer, open cardigan that I could wear to work. But instead I went overboard with the length (one small fault with the wool - it grows substantially in length when blocked) and the collar, so much so that the sweater is more like wrapping yourself in a blanket which doesn't really scream business casual. It only screams "go hibernate on your sofa". I've been closing it with a kilt pin (how lazy!) and with so much wear I am already rolling up the cuffs. The stitch counts were from Leaflet, though I ignored the lace panel at the back. If I were to make this again - in a wool that might be more suitable for work - I would try some short rows in the collar for a better fold over at the neck. But with Leaflet as a base, there are so many simple modifications you could make that would result in a very versatile sweater, hibernation style or not.

To go along with wearing blanket sweaters and knitting daily, I have been devouring books lately (winter just may be my favourite season). I enjoyed A Student of Weather so much more than the better-known Late Nights on Air by Elizabeth Hay. There was a moment in the story involving a baby and a snow storm that made my heart pound; I couldn't breathe properly until it was resolved, it was so intense. And I stayed up very late every night last week because I couldn't close The Weight of Silence. Now I'm reading The Elegance of the Hedgehog and it's delightfully different from the other two and intriguing in its own way. I'm slowly reading In Defense of Food because I don't want to stress too much about how awful my own diet is, but it's still a great read. It's just that while I'm in this comfy, hibernating mood I'd rather avoid food guilt. Life is too short and there are way more rewarding ways to enjoy this dark month.

For more knitting and reading recaps visit this week's Yarnalong over at Small Things.

Sunday, January 22, 2012


Classic foolishness: I complain about having a small house and then make something that needs a lot of room.

My big Christmas project for the kids - the one that I finished at 2am on Christmas Eve - is this teepee. Large sewing projects like this are especially daunting to me because I never have enough space to really know if I've cut the pieces properly. This partly explains why I was still sewing before Santa arrived; until that point I couldn't even set the dowels up where the teepee was going to live to make sure I had the right shape. But I'm also a procrastinator, so that explains the rest.

The bulk of the fabric is from a painter's drop cloth and I used homemade bias tape for all the edges. The opening flap is a little small but luckily the kids don't close it anyway (phew). We put a yoga mat at the bottom and then set four 24"x24" cushions inside to make a big a square floor which also keeps the dowels in place. I've piled a couple of quilts on top, creating a soft haven for the cats. Cats? Yes - I never quite realized they would think this new fort was for them. Again, more foolishness.

So all in all, this wasn't an idea totally thought through, but the result is pretty cute. And loved - by creatures big and small. I think that's enough reason for me to live with some extra clutter for the time being.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

love vs. list

Oh sure, this is not a new debate. And yes, everyone goes through it at some point. But knowing this doesn't help me sleep at night. I've been agonizing in the wee hours for the last half year trying to figure out if we should stay in our current house or start over.  Just writing it makes me freak out a little inside.

For anyone who watches Love It or List It (which I have to admit to watching, even though it's on a competitor station - sorry work!) we are basically any couple they follow. We've been in our house 10 years this summer, it's mostly good but there are shortcomings. It would be a stretch to afford a bigger house in our neighbourhood, if a house even came up for sale (it doesn't happen regularly). The renovations we'd need to tackle scare the bejeezus out of me, and I'm not convinced they'd turn this into our "forever" house anyway. Change seems like a nice idea, yet there is so much effort - and cost - associated with moving. And I value being able to live in a small space, finding creative ways to make limited space work for us instead of just going bigger. We've invested a lot of love and labour into this house and our location is hard to beat. But the house is dark and no amount of white paint is ever going to change that. See? Perfect Love It or List It content, though I'm not entirely sure which side Jay and I would be on. He mostly wants to stay, but is leary of renovating and has an easier time falling for other houses. I seem to be leaning towards moving but I am incredibly picky about other houses and so far we've seen about 10, none of which I feel are worth the move.

Here's what we need to do to stay: dig out and finish our basement. This would get us a second bathroom, handy for a family of 4 (though 1 bathroom hasn't been terrible), and also a larger work/studio/craft/play space for all of us to share. Even though I moved into the basement last spring, it hasn't been ideal. All summer it smelled bad and I'm storing my fabrics down there which isn't a great combination. Plus it's still a rough space; all we did was paint one corner for me but I'm always surrounded by piles of boxes, stuff on its way out, Jay's wood and tools and paint, hanging laundry...and on and on. Oh, and the cat litter boxes. It doesn't make me feel creative, you know? And if we took on this ginormous reno we'd finish up the rest of the list: install new hardwood floors upstairs to match what we did on the main floor, figure out air conditioning, redo the linen closet, replace the front walk and fix the concrete down the side of the house and probably change our oil to natural gas to gain more space in the basement and be able to turn our fireplace into something functional. Not a small list by any means.

To move, ideally we need the space above ground to handle our studio needs including an outdoor garage that's either insulated or easy to insulate. I don't think I've posted about Jay's awesome garage studio (another reason that makes this house hard to leave). We had it built in the fall of 2010 and it's perfect for the toxic part of his process (mainly, epoxy) while also being a well lit, comfortable working space that I envy every time I walk in. It's a single car garage that fills the back of our yard, the length of the garage being the whole width of our yard.

So it's a plus. And even though our backyard is teeny I actually really like it. It feels private, we have a 150 foot pine tree and vines that take over the yard all summer, which somehow makes up for the lack of grass. We built the deck and Jay laid a recycled brick path. I love walking right from our pantry onto the deck, reading in lounge chairs on a warm day, and watching the kids water the flowers while I'm at the counter making sandwiches. Sure, we share the backyard with a family of raccoons every summer but what Toronto backyard doesn't?

Hmm, I think I just fell into an "I love my house" tangent. I could go further and add to the love list being able to walk to the subway, Loblaws and No Frills, Shopper's Drug Mart, Starbucks and Tim Horton's (that's for Jay, not me), a knitting store (that's for me), the library, an LCBO, Goodwill, Salvation Army, a number of sit down and take-out restaurants (the Stockyards, anyone?), a kids shop for last minute birthday gifts, the revamped Artscape Wychwood Barns with its Saturday Farmer's Market, Cedarvale ravine, at least four parks with kid equipment, and finally Sadie's school, which is a whole 2 minute walk from the front door (yes, we've timed it...chronically late people tend to know these things). Did I mention this is all by foot? I'm not sure I could ever give it up.

Basically if a detached 4 bedroom, 2 bathroom house with a separate garage and at least one more room on the main floor came up for sale within a 4 block radius of where we are now and it didn't need renovations but was suitable to our style and also affordable...that would be ideal. But likely impossible. Sigh. I'm open to any and all advice. Yesterday I felt staying here was right, and then today someone told me we only live once and change is good.

I guess a few more sleepless nights are still to come.

Saturday, January 07, 2012

no. 85

For some reason I've been having little to no luck making clothes this past week, either knit or sewn. Maybe it's a post-holiday crash. Or maybe it's just a symptom of being a confirmed over-achiever; any time I'm away from work I feel I should be super productive on the handmade front. For goodness sake, my last post had me stating that all I want to do in 2012 is make more things. Umm, how about relaxing a little? Is that such a crazy notion?

One small success was a sweater for Milo. He doesn't like zippers near his neck and hoods are a bit cumbersome with parkas and scarves right now. So I figured a couple of crewneck sweatshirts shouldn't be too hard. I didn't have quite enough navy fleece to make the entire body for one so I improvised with a band of red fleece left from Ragdoll's pants (already used to make this sweatshirt). Since this made for an overall sporty look, it seemed to make sense to use the cute "no. 85" patch from the pants too (plus, when Ragdoll's little man gets this sweatshirt next she'll get an extra kick out of the addition).

Oh, and this is Milo's new camera face. It goes along with saying "cheese" - which is not only a fun word for him to say, but also his favourite food choice. He's a pretty simple guy, hanging out in his new sweats, no pressures on the horizon other than naptime.

Clearly I could learn a thing or two from him.

Sunday, January 01, 2012

hoot-y new year

In the blink of an eye, it's another new year. And my only resolution - if it can even be called that - is to continue making things. Fun, handmade things that are meant to be used. Owls to be loved and clothes to be worn. This gentle activity keeps me sane as the days and years speed by and the most wonderful bonus is that a love for making has already migrated to Sadie. I think the highlight of my holidays was taking Sadie to the Museum for Textiles here in Toronto and watching her fall in love with the weaving looms. I sat across the room knitting with their sample needles and wool glancing secretly at her while she sat at the loom happily moving the shuttle back and forth while alternating the lever and beater (and I may be getting these parts wrong - I know very little about weaving). She has knit and done a little embroidery, but she simply fell into a rhythm while weaving and it was so amazing to witness. She's been talking about weaving ever since, a conversation I'm more than happy to be a part of. And so we may start the new year with a cardboard loom project. New year = new textile craft.

The owl above is from the Purl Bee's free Big Snowy Owl pattern. As simple as the pattern was, I used lighter weight wool and smaller needles and had to rip back twice because I was making him way too big. Then I think I made the eyes one round too large but I just went with it. He was finished up the night before Christmas Eve, so at that point I couldn't be too picky. I used Berroco's Vintage Chunky to make him extra durable since I read that this owl often doubles as a pillow (he's been hanging out in Milo's crib since Christmas so I can already vouch for that claim). Oh, and I also ignored the stitch pattern in the body. I wanted to keep everything simple before Christmas, especially in my knitting. But now it's a new year and I can get back to small challenges in my making. Like attempting a sliding cable in this Graystone sweater pattern. That and some weaving and we're all set to begin 2012.

Happy New Year!