That time I visited the Purple Purl…

Saturdays are made for going to the yarn shop. Since moving to Toronto, I find myself following an odd sort of ritual when going to the yarn shop. Here’s how the process usually goes for me:
On Friday night, after a long week of work (which this summer usually ends with me feeling like I didn’t get much done because things just aren’t going as planned), I decide a trip to the yarn store will cheer me up. But I’m too lazy to actually go Friday evening because I just got home, and took my shoes off, and Rufus is cute, and I just poured a glass of wine. So… Saturday morning. I wake up Saturday morning ready to go. I give myself a budget, kiss the boys (who are still in bed and grumbling about me being up) goodbye, and grab an iced coffee on my way to the subway. It’s a process that puts me into exactly the stupidly excited state of mind that I love about going to the yarn shop.

I usually prefer going to yarn stores by myself because nobody else I know here in Toronto is really into this whole crazy knitting/yarn-a-holic/fiber madness thing I have going on. So when I do go with other people, I always feel like they are waiting on me. And yarn requires time. It requires squishing. And face-rubbing. And oohing. And putting back a skein 5 times before finally committing on it – but wait, that blue is so pretty, too, or the red, or maybe orange?! You just can’t rush a good yarn shop experience. These are delicate decisions I am making. You don’t rush an artist.

This week was a great yarn shop experience. I visited The Purple Purl which is located in the west side of town. It’s a bit of a journey from my humble abode, so I hadn’t gotten around to visiting the shop before now. But I will definitely be back! This shop has one of the best selection of local and Canadian yarns that I’ve come across. Canada produces some great yarns, but they can sometimes be difficult to find (even in Canada) because they simply aren’t those “big name” yarn brands you usually come across, even in higher end yarn shops. Plus, you earn points with every purchase towards a $25 discount on pretty much anything in the shop. Why, yes, that is like earning a free skein of yarn just for knitting (which you were going to do anyway, but now that there’s a reward…).

So, of course, I bought some. (In the spirit of supporting local businesses and local yarn dyers, of course!)

These lovely skeins of Tanis Fiber Arts Yellow Label are destined to become a long, splendidly soft, texturally delighting Guernsey wrap. I haven’t used guernsey often in my knitting, but I find myself admiring it greatly because of it’s amazing simplicity and timelessness. Plus, this wrap will be perfect for keeping me warm through a long Toronto winter.

Do you have any yarn shopping rituals of your own? What do you love most about your favorite yarn shop?

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My love for summer farmer’s markets

One of my favorite places in the city is St. Lawrence Market. It is a giant, two-story market in Old Town that has anything you could ever need – butchers, seafood, bakeries, cheesemongers, bulk spices, fresh pasta, coffee, rice, various ethnic ingredients. It’s fabulous. And on top of that, there’s food stalls covering almost every type of food you’ve ever heard of (and probably some you haven’t). It is a grand adventure every time I visit. It’s almost impossible to capture in words or images – you just have to visit it and experience it for yourself. And if you went to their website (or visit the market) you’ll notice they are very proud of the fact that they were recently voted the number 1 food market in the world by National Geographic.

One of my favorite reasons to visit St. Lawrence is the year ’round farmer’s market they hold every Saturday. And the summer offerings are always the best: mountains of kale, amazingly fresh herbs, and the most gorgeous mushrooms are just a peek at the offerings. Right now is one of my favorite times to visit the market because fresh, local peaches are in season. And they are yummy! I’m talking, eat four-a-day yummy. And I try to take full advantage of peach season at the market, because in a blink of an eye, it’s gone. (I am definitely not the only person who is a fan of the local peaches. All the booths selling them were so jammed packed, I could barely squeeze in to buy some let alone snap a shot of their beautiful fuzziness.)

Just looking at the pictures makes me hungry – time for another peach?

Finding a groove

We’ve had cooler weather the past few days. On one hand, this gave me a reason to wear my Pluie cardigan without having to rationalize donning a wool cardigan in the middle of summer. On the other hand, the weather mostly felt like a cruel tease reminding me that for us here in the north, summer will be ending soon. Being a fall baby, I am predisposed to love fall, but this year I think I am still so traumatized from last winter that I’m not even looking forward to the beauty of crisp autumn days to come.

I also think part of my desperation to hold on to summer comes from the fact that even though the months have flown by, I feel like I haven’t done a many things of note. Maybe that’s what summer is about – lazy days in the sun just enjoying yourself and not accomplishing a thing. But when people ask me, “What have you been up to this summer?” I’m left uttering long “umm’s” and answering, “Work and knitting?” (The question mark at the end of that sentence is true to life as I feel I’m asking myself, “Is that really all you’ve done in the past three months?”)

I’m not sure why I’m so hard on myself about this (maybe I’m just in a mood today…that has lasted all summer) because the truth is that I’ve finished some of my favorite knits this summer. Projects I am really proud of. And even though I recognize that fact, I am still left wishing I felt more excited about what I’ve done this summer. So that when the sun disappears for winter and the 10 mile high snow drifts appear, I’m not left wishing I had made more of the warmth and the sun. Likely, though, I will look back in the middle of winter when school and work are in full-on crazy mode and realize that having even just a few lazy days of knitting and sunshine was a perfect way to spend a Toronto summer.

This week:

Knitting: I’ve started working on the Peabody sweater using some Knit Picks Wool of the Andes Sport that I over dyed to create a heathered burnt orange. I love the beautiful leaf lace panel on the front of this sweater and the lace motif running down the sleeves. Isn’t it just begging to be made for fall? I’ve only just started on the lace panel so mine just looks like a crazy long ribbed tube right now, but I’m very happy with how the yarn is looking knitted up. I’m also working on some very vanilla striped socks (using self-striping yarn). Nothing fancy – just stockinette stitch while watching the colors change and change and change. It makes for very good commuting knitting when I can zone out or listen to a podcast while I work.

Reading: I finished Days of Blood and Starlight, the second book in the Daughter of Smoke and Bones series. I love these books – I love the setting, I love the characters, I love the unpredictable plot lines. This series has me entangled. I am really itching to pick up the third book in the series, but it’s pretty new, so I’m on the wait list for a library copy. I am really trying to cut down buying books that I can just as easily check out as ebooks from the library. So, now I wait. In the meantime, I checked out a copy of The Coldest Girl in Cold Town by Holly Black. Isn’t that a great title? Hopefully the book will live up to it.

Linking up with KCCO and yarn along.

Blogitty hopitty hop.

The always lovely Jenna over at Hard Knit Life nominated me for a little blog hop – so let’s hop to it!

  • What am I working on?

Um. I don’t know. I’m still a bit undecided about what I’m going to tackle as my next big project. And when in doubt – pick up some socks and stockinette to your heart’s desire. I’m hoping it gets some of those creative juices flowing and brings me some inspiration (… as in, I will get tired of all of the stockinette and finally decide on a more exciting and ambitious project to take on.)

  • How does my work differ from others of its genre?
I’m not sure I can think of specific ways I try to differ from other knitters or bloggers, but I can ramble on about what I find appealing or inspiring in my work. First, color! I love working with color and trying to find great color combinations. I have been trying recently to push myself to try new colors that I wouldn’t commonly find myself working with: greens, oranges, blues. Discovering new color passions can be very rewarding and inspiring. I also find that I am drawn to classic shapes or concepts, but done in slightly unexpected ways. I feel that many “uninitiated” people still think of knitting as old-fashioned or just a way to make a hat and a scarf. They don’t realize that the cool cropped cardigan they bought last weekend is an example of a knit – it can be coo,and hand knitting gives you so much more control over the style, color, pattern, fit, etc. So I try to play with those ideas and make things I think of as unexpected knits, but still stylish and beautiful. 

  • Why do I write/create what I do?
I first go into crochet and knitting because I needed a way to release stress in university. Now, I’ve been doing it so long, I feel incompete, like something is missing, if I don’t have a project going. I find the creative process to be a nice release and escape. I can’t worry about work deadlines or other stresses if I have kept my brain busy trying to master new techniques and push myself creatively. The activity itself is one driving factor, but let’s be honest – it feels great to accomplish something and have others appreciate the time, effort, and skill that has gone into a project. Some times if I’m wearing something I’m especially proud of, it takes a lot of effort to not just say, “Why, yes, I did make this amazing feat of human creativity.” to anyone who even just glances at me. I’ve discovered Facebook is a great place for a little ego stroking if you need a place for a little bragging. 

  • How does my writing/creating process work?
It all starts with that little spark of inspiration. Sometimes it’s the yarn, lots of times it’s the pattern. Whatever takes hold of me in that moment, I’m run with it. Even if I might be in the middle of something else. (Sorry WIP basket. I’ll get back to you… soon.) I firmly believe that the greatness of creativity is passion. Do what you are passionate about, in that moment. If I’m not working on something I love (or will love when it’s finished), it’s not worth my time and effort. So I jump in head first. Sometimes it works out (like teaching myself to knit one Sunday afternoon), a few times it doesn’t (frogged yarn is just extra loved because you didn’t want it to waste away in an obsolete project). But as long as I’m having a good time and pushing myself, I’m happy. That’s how the process works – stay happy. 

Now, who to pass the blog hop onto. I think it would be great to hear from Kylie @ LPOAS, Karen @ Pumpkin Sunrise, and Martina @ SnapShots and WhatNots

FO: Pluie cardigan

Project: Pluie cardigan ::: Pattern: Pluie ::: Yarn: Knit Picks Palette

Phewie-pluie! It’s finished – everything sewn up, blocked, and (most of) the ends woven in. I had a lot of fun working on this cardigan and pushing myself to learn a new knitting technique. At times it felt like there were a million bobbins of yarn to untangle and I was spending more time untangling things rather than actually knitting, but as I worked along, I was so happy with how it was coming together, that it was easy to keep going and work towards the finished product. I must give lots of credit to the pattern, which was very well written and easy to follow. I’ve only worked one teeny bit of intarsia one other time before this cardigan (on the heels of a pair of socks), so from my experience, I feel this cardigan is a reasonable place to start if you are thinking of tackling this technique. In my opinion, the trickiest part is correctly changing colors to avoid gaps and tight stitches. Here are a couple of sites I found to be helpful while working on this sweater:

But now what? After working almost exclusively on this project for the past three weeks, I feel kind of stuck on what to start next. Do I want to tackle a pair of socks? Or start another cardigan? Or maybe this beautiful cowl? I just can’t decide right now. Do I want another complicated project? Or something sweet and simple? I’m kind of aimlessly working on projects here and there waiting to feel that gut punch of inspiration.

“Bring your knitting to work” day

There are some days at work when parts of my day are just spent waiting. And this waiting can sometimes take up to five hours. Five hours of watching a line of blue dye move through a gel at an excruciatingly slow pace (I shouldn’t complain… 5 hours is better than the 45 I had to wait for some experiments to work). These days are deemed “Bring your knitting to work” day.

I usually bring my knitting with me to work everyday so I have something to work on during my commute. But on “Bring your knitting to work” day, my knitting gets to come out and keep me company in the lab. I can usually read while working on a simple project, so knitting is a good way to keep my hands busy while I try to catch up on reading scientific papers. (Okay, full disclosure – the knitting is a way to try to keep my somewhat sane when reading gems like the one above. Just look at that title! Riveting. It was a real page turner. Are you catching all this sarcasm?)

It’s on these days that knitting keeps this from happening in the lab. Sometimes. After three hours of reading, the remaining two hours are a perfect time to catch some zzz’s when you are the only person in the lab. The lab nap is a scientific rite. You know you’ve made it when you find yourself sleeping in the lab. Just remember to set a timer or all that waiting will have been for naught when your gel run fails (not that this has ever happened to me).

This week:

Knitting: Keen eyed readers may notice that, yes, that is the sleeve for my Pluie cardigan. It’s actually the second sleeve – I’m almost there! If you are suffering from knitted umbrella motif withdrawal after the last few weeks of updates, don’t worry, I’ll have the cardigan finished soon.

Reading: I’m about half way through Days of Blood and Starlight. I also picked up two new books at the used book store: The Twistrose Key and Sea of Shadows which I look forward to starting soon.

Linking up with yarn along and KCCO.

Knitting magic

This week…

Knitting: Sometimes I’m still amazed by what a difference blocking can make on a knitting project, especially with a project like Pluie with lots of color changes.  It’s like a little piece of magic – transforming a manhandled piece of knitting into a smooth and even fabric. Plus it makes me really excited to get this cardigan finished. (Are you tired of looking at it yet, because I’m not tired of working on it) I’m almost done with the two front pieces (the one on the left has been blocked while I’m still chugging away on the piece on the right) …maybe by this time next week it’ll be a finished cardigan (but no promises that all those ends will be woven in by then).

Reading: After sitting there and staring at the choices I had picked out to read last week, I knew what I really wanted to read was the sequel to A Daughter of Smoke and Bone, but I had put it off because I was trying not to buy any new books (I have so so many books sitting in my to-read pile already!). But life’s all about the little pleasures, right? So I just gave in and bought the Days of Blood and Starlight eBook. And it’s just as good as I was hoping it would be. This is quickly becoming one of my favorite series and definitely some of the better books I’ve read this year.

Watching/Listening: I’ve been a fan of “Weird Al” Yankovic since I was little. (It’s a nerd thing.) This week he’s putting out a new album and releasing 8 new music videos, one each day. My favorite so far is for his parody of “Blurred Lines,” titled “Word Crimes.” If you have ever been annoyed with people’s lack of grammatical correctness (that’s a grammatically correct statement, right?), this song is for you!

Linking up with KCCO and yarn along.

That time we hiked in Rouge park

Being in the middle of a big city like Toronto has its perks a lot of the time – walking to the market, good food all around, relatively efficient mass transit – but sometimes you just need to get away from cars and sidewalks and buildings and noise and people. I was feeling a little worn down by the city lately. Instead of just hiding away in my tiny apartment and pretending it all didn’t exist (which is hard with sirens blaring down the street several times a day), I decided to find some close-by options for hiking. I knew this option would be very popular with the resident fur-baby, who is small in stature but adventurous at heart.

We ended up at Rouge park, which is a large, gorgeous area of wilderness inside of the city. It’s actually very close to where I work each day, but I didn’t even know it existed until I did an online search for dog friendly hiking areas around Toronto.

I loved it. It was really what I needed to feel rejuvenated and happy this past weekend – little flowing rivers, tall shady trees, singing birds, and green all around (even a large green frog in the middle of the path who was decidedly not a leaf and did not want to be stepped on). Even though we only spent about an hour exploring one tiny portion of the park (with Rufus happily leading the charge), it was a great way to forget the bustle of the city and start a relaxing weekend.

Progress and choices

This week…
Knitting: The back of my Pluie cardigan is almost finished. Unlike my usual habits, I’ve been very knitting faithful to this project and have hardly worked on anything else all week. It’s a challenging knit, and the challenge is just enough to keep me energized and inspired (unlike challenges that just end up frustrating me and get tossed in the ‘to be discovered in the next big stash cleanup years later’ unfinished object bin). I have found I also like working on sweaters in pieces because each piece feels like you’ve accomplished something. It satisfies the cast-on/cast-off fuzzy feeling. But then I look at the back of this thing and see all those ends that have to be woven in and all fuzzy feelings of almost being finished with this piece melt into an overwhelming sense of forth-coming procrastination. I see a long night with a large glass of wine in this cardigan’s (and my) future. A million loose yarn ends aside, I’m loving this knit.
Reading: I just finished my book last night, and I haven’t decided what I want to tackle next. I’ve narrowed it down to three choices, a little bit of fantasy, a little bit of history. I really can’t go wrong with any of the choices. We’ll just see how I feel later on. 
Enjoying: It’s one of my favorite times of the year: when nectarines are cheap and you have afternoon thunderstorms every other day. I can’t believe it’s July already… it feels like summer has just flown by this year. 
Looking forward to: The Toronto International Film Festival! I just bought our TIFF tickets this week. I. Love. TIFF. This year, I went for the package for 20 daytime tickets because Andy and I mostly were seeing afternoon movies the past two years at the festival. That means this year, Andy and I will have 10 movies in two weeks. I can’t wait for the lineup of movies to be released soon! 
Linking up with yarn along & KCCO.

Teensy cute things

It is a universally accepted truth that the smaller an object is, the cuter it must be*.

*This truth does not hold for microscopic organisms, which are just mostly bizzaro looking. Very few people in the world would ever describe a bacteria as cute (I may just happen to be married to one of them). The biologist in me just had to acknowledge this caveat for scientific purposes.

Baby sweaters are not an exception to this rule. They are tiny sweaters made for tiny people, and that makes them freakin’ adorable. There is just no escaping this fact.

My Ph.D. advisor is having his first child this fall. And because it’s also a relatively well accepted fact that fall/winter can be a wee bit chilly here in Toronto, I was left with no choice but to knit adorable, tiny baby sweaters. So I went in search of some patterns on Ravelry, and just could not pass up the Hoot cardigan: 1) It was a free pattern (that is so cute I think I probably aww-ed out loudehen I first saw it), 2) there’s something about owls that is perfect for fall, and 3) it recommends the squishy, cloud-like softness that is Malabrigo worsted, which I just happened to have an extra skein of lying around. Look at that. It was fate.

Once I had finished the sweater, I kept holding it up and saying to Andy, “Look at it! It’s so tiny! Why is it so tiny?! Isn’t it cute?” His response was to nod politely and pretend not to notice me chasing poor Rufus around the apartment trying to get him to hold still long enough for me to put the baby sweater on him. (It is also a universally accepted fact that dogs in human clothing are mostly ridiculous, but pretty cute, too.) But, shh! Don’t tell my advisor I tried to put his child’s sweater on my wiener dog (who was having none of it). We’ll just keep that between you, and me, and the whole internet.

What are your favorite baby knits? I would like to finish a few more things before the baby arrives in September (like I need an excuse to browse knit baby items).