March Fruit Loop Socks

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Project: March Fruit Loop Socks

Pattern: Froot Loop

Yarn: Knit Picks Stroll Solids

One thing that I did manage to work on during the strike last month were my March socks for Liesl’s monthly sock challenge. And I finished them just in time.

For March, I chose something bright and happy to help shoo away the grey wintery blues. I don’t usually buy solid sock yarns. I think my brain just sees all the beautiful colors of handdyed skeins and, like some kind of psychotic bird, can’t help but hoarding them all. But I also often am drawn to sock patterns that just don’t work well with those sorts of yarns, like Froot Loop, where the beautiful stitch patterns would be completely lost in a variegated yarn. This pattern has been in my queue for a long while now, but I didn’t have a yarn suitable for it in my stash. Until I bought this yellow skein of Stroll on a whim when it was on sale a little while back. And it just matched up – cheery bright yellow and lacey cables like sprouting vines – perfect socks for welcoming spring (soon, I hope!)

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I really enjoyed this pattern. The eyelet lace pattern is one of my favorite to work and it provides interest without being too holey. I don’t like a lot of lace socks because I find them too open for my tastes in socks, and as a person whose feet are just always cold, even in the summer, I need my socks to do their job and keep my feet warm. But be pretty. Is that too much to ask?

But this pattern is a great one (and it’s free – hello!). It would make a fantastic pair of gift socks because it looks complicated and beautiful, but is relatively simple. The repeating pattern is so easy to follow and work on mindlessly without getting bored. Those are some of my favorite characteristics of sock patterns. And because they are ribbed, these socks are also forgiving in the width department.

And I have enough yarn left over that I’ve started a pair of Stitch Surfers with some left over self-striping yarn for my April socks.

Getting back

Last night, the strike came to an end after a month, the longest strike in University of Toronto history. Both sides decided to go to binding arbitration because we were at an impasse over the language of the agreement. Now it goes off to a neutral, third-party arbitrator and we wait to see what the outcome is. The whole thing ended up taking so much more time and effort than I had originally believed, that most days I found myself physically and emotionally drained.

The strike was full of frozen fingers and toes. It was full of warm coffee and fire barrels. It was full of new friends I would have never met. It was full of new understandings of the living conditions of my peers less well off. It was full of passion. It was full of fear. It was full of frustration. It was full of uncertainty. It was full of juice boxes and warm samosas. It was full of early mornings and late evenings. It was full of creativity. And it was even full of laughs. It had high points and low points. It had beautiful, brave undergraduates and faculty who stood behind us. It had misunderstandings and anger from those who wished to bring us down. But above all it was full of solidarity.

But now it’s time to try to heal and get back to our lives. And that means getting back to knitting. Here are some of the goodies I have in the works and on the needles. Hopefully with my free time back, I can get these finished up soon.

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On the line

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Just a heads up, things are about to get a bit political.

For most graduate programs in the US and Canada, students are required to teach as part of their funding package. One of the biggest difference I’ve experienced between grad school in the US and Canada is that graduate student teaching assistants and course instructors are unionized in Canada. This year, the collective agreement between the union and the University of Toronto expired. The union had been bargaining with the university for a new agreement, but last Friday the agreement proposed by the university was soundly rejected by hundreds of the union members. So, we are now on strike. And it is an experience.

I have chosen not cross the picket line and show solidarity with my fellow union members, so the courses I am a teaching assistant for this semester are having to adjust to my absence. And yesterday was my first day on the picket line. All of this a new and interesting experience for me, as I have never been a union member before, let alone a striking union member.

One of the biggest issues we are facing is an increase to our stipend. The university only guarantees us a take home of $15,000/year in one of the most expensive cities in Canada to live in. This stipend is mostly composed of teaching hours, with some research assistant funding included. But importantly, it is far below the poverty line of Toronto which is $23,000. And while we may only teach part time during the year, being a grad student is a full time job and, even if we had the time, we are often discouraged or prohibited from getting jobs to supplement our stipend. For me, I cannot get another job due to the restrictions of my student visa. Most grad students work far more hours than we are contractually obligated to, ensuring the undergraduate students receive the best education experience they possibly can. And we represent an important line of communication and support for undergraduates. I, personally, love teaching and interacting with students and take my responsibilities to heart.

Furthermore, grad school isn’t so much being a “student” as it is being trained to be the researchers and professionals the university relies on. In the sciences, almost all the research done at the university level is done by graduate students, who receive guidance and support from their advisors to build strong and relevant research projects. At the end of the day, the work we do increases the standing and prestige of the university, whose name is attached to all of our published work and is often used to recruit the best and brightest to join the program. But as things stand, the money we get paid to do work for the university has not increased in years, as both interest and cost of living expenses have increased greatly. The funding package provided by the university is starting to drastically lag behind other schools U of T hopes to compete with.

I can personally speak to having more monetary issues here at U of T than during my master’s degree in North Carolina. And it is a big source of stress. On top of that, as an international student, my tuition fees have increased greatly since I’ve been here, so that now over 50% of my take home stipend (which, due to a government scholarship is fortunately more than the $15000 promised by the university) goes to pay the outrageous international student tuition costs. As it works out, each year I have actually taken a $1000 pay cut from when I first began this program. And graduate students are required to pay full tuition costs even in their later years when they have finished their course load and are not using the same amount of university resources.

So it’s back out on the picket line for me every day this week. I would much rather be teaching my students than wandering around in circles out in the cold. And I’m sure I’m not alone in that sentiment. But it’s important that things change and the university acknowledges that we at least need increases to offset rising living costs in this rapidly growing city if it hopes to stay competitive in its graduate and research programs.

Retro Flower Cardigan

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Project: Retro Flower Cardigan

Pattern: Adapted from Paper Dolls by Kate Davies

Yarn: Knit Picks Palette

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One of my very first knitting projects was Kate Davies’ Paper Dolls adapted with a Totoro yoke. It has some issues (like the sleeves being waaay too tight) because I was a little ambitious thinking I could jump in with all these fancy techniques after just learning to knit. But it’s not too bad if I say so myself. And the pattern is a great one. It’s well written, easy to follow, and produces a fantastic finished product.

And the pattern is super easy to adapt with a custom yoke. Just look at all the amazing adaptations people have come up with on the project page. So after getting very frustrated with my big planned stranded cardigan of 2015, I decided the best medicine for my poor ego was to get back on the stranded knitting horse and challenge myself to design my own custom yoke for Paper Dolls.

I was inspired by the great colors I had on hand for the original disaster cardigan and Kate Davies’ beautiful work in her new Yokes pattern book, specifically her Foxglove cardigan. So out of all of the chaos sprouted my Retro Flower cardigan. I originally planned all of the flowers to be the bright blue, but it was a little overwhelming, so I went with a more traditional poppy red with just one peek-a-boo blue flower.

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It was super easy to adjust the pattern to work it for a cardigan, changing the start of the round to the front where the steek stitches were placed. I secured my steek with crochet before I cut using Kate’s tutorial (can you tell that Kate is like the queen of fabulous yoke sweaters/cardigans and basically was a giant inspiration for this project?). I then covered the raw steek edges with a cute ribbon in a matching golden yellow for a cute little surprise on the inside.

Apart from steeking the sweater for a cardigan, I also worked 3/4 sleeves instead of the short-sleeves originally called for. I know I will get a ton more wear out of a cardigan with longer sleeves, and 3/4 sleeves make it adaptable across multiple seasons. I’m really excited to add this cardigan to my closet.

I loved working on this project. So much that I’m already planning another one. I want a long sleeve cardigan with a bit more positive ease. And the yoke will be foxes. These yoke cardigans are becoming an obsession. I have a bad case of Kate Davies fever.

February Storm Socks

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Project: February Storm Socks

Pattern: Storm

Yarn: Knit Picks Stroll Tweed in Indigo Heather

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For my February socks for Liesl’s sock challenge, I decided to give into dark, freezing Canadian winter and knit up some cabled, tweedy socks. I added this yarn to my stash during Knit Picks Cyber Monday sale because I had been envying tweed sock yarn for awhile, and horrible Canadian Februarys are the perfect time to break it out for a pair of warm winter socks.

Storm had been on my queue for awhile, so this project also allows me to make some progress with Emily’s Love your Library challenge (I’ve had a slow start on the challenge, but things are starting to pick up now). So that’s one project off the queue and using stash yarn, too!

Storm was easy to choose as my pattern because it’s free and it had a nice simplicity to it with ribbed cables that play well with the tweed flecks of the yarn without the two battling each other for attention. Plus, the cables add in a little bit of interest so the pattern never gets too boring, but it was very easy to memorize.

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The only thing I changed in the pattern was to work short row heels rather than the heel flap & gusset the pattern called for. I’m kind of in love with short row heels right now because they are so fast and don’t require me to work gusset decreases. And they work very well for ribbed socks patterns like this where you have built in stretch from the ribbed pattern and don’t need the extra space from the gusset.

I finished these socks just in time (I blame all the sweaters/cardigans that have been hogging my attention lately). I think for March I’ll go with some cheerier socks. Something that reminds me that spring actually will come. Soon. I hope.

Crew

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Project: Crew

Pattern: Crew by Amy Miller

Yarn: MadelineTosh tosh merino light in Medieval, Antler, and Charcoal

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After spending a weekend seaming and blocking, I finished my crew sweater early last week. And I’ve worn it three times since then (including right now). Because I love this thing! It fits really well, which I was a little nervous about because I chose to use a fingering weight yarn rather than the recommended sport weight. To compensate for the smaller yarn, I knit the sweater up a size. It’s meant to be worn with positive ease, so I figured it would give me a little wiggle room in the sizing without too much fuss or worry. And it worked out just fine. Better than fine. The fit is perfect and I didn’t have to modify a thing. I love it when a pattern works out.

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I have loved Amy Miller’s designs for awhile now (more than a few of them are on my Ravelry queue), and this design is beautiful. The sweater is knit in pieces and seamed together, so it can feel like a lot of stockinette while you work it. The stripes and raglan shaping help to keep things interesting, but I didn’t truly love this project until I started to see it come together with seaming. I made no modifications to the pattern. It was straight forward and easy to follow, and the dimensions worked out great for me. There is no waist shaping in sweater, but the way Amy has designed the front to narrow at from the armhole to the ribbing provides a flattering line on the front.

This sweater can be worked in so many great color combinations. And the buttons are just plain, straight-up, great details. I can’t recommend this project more highly. And the Madtosh is holding up to the wear (it is so comfortable and soft – perfect for close to the skin sweaters). I wish I could afford to make more sweaters from this yarn, but it’ll end up being a once in a while splurge for special pieces. If you have it in your budget, though, I recommend filling your shelves with loads and tons of fluffy soft merino wool sweaters.

Northern Neuk

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Project: Northern Neuk Sweater

Pattern: East Neuk Hoodie

Yarn: Cascade 220

I finished my Northern Neuk! And just in time, too, because it seems like every day we just get more and more snow and things have remained resoundingly chilly. But my Neuk keeps me cozy and warm, just like a thick guernsey-style sweater should.

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I enjoyed working on this sweater, even though it uses up a pile o’yarn. The yards feel like they go by quickly when working the different charted patterns. Almost everything is worked seamlessly, with just the sleeves having to be fit in afterwards, so I enjoyed learning how to make the front pouch and the hoodie without too much sewing! I also really like the asymmetry at the bottom hem – because bums need to be warm, too. But I think my favorite bit is the beautiful peek-a-boo of patterned stitching on the back that moves into the hood. I like the idea of having a little surprise of unexpected texture on the back, giving it a bit of interest so all the fun isn’t just on the front.

My row gauge was a bit off from the pattern, so I had to make small adjustments to how tall I worked the pouch and the hood. But other than that, I didn’t make any other modifications to the pattern and it came out fitting nicely. Perfect amount of positive ease so you can toss it on over another shirt, but I’m not completely lost in an oversized sweater.

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My only complaint with this project is the shaping of the hood. I don’t like it at all. The top of the hood is no way deep enough to be worn easily, so it sits far back on your head. And the body of the hood just feels oversized and slouchy (I told Andy I feel like a Jedi knight with my robes on because of how the hood falls around my face). The hood fits better when the buttons are done up, but it still just doesn’t feel deep enough to be worn comfortably. I had never made a hood before, so I wasn’t sure how it would turn out until the whole thing was finished, but I would recommend increasing the depth if you know what you are doing. As it is, I wasn’t planning on wearing the hood much, so it’s not too much of a disappointment for me.

January Hedgerow socks

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Project: January Hedgerow Socks

Pattern: Hedgerow socks

Yarn: Malabrigo sock in Lotus

I decided a little while back that my Effervesce socks were not going to be finished in time for this month’s sock challenge. So I broke out a skein of Malabrigo and chose a simple, comforting ribbed sock pattern and went to town. I finished these up just in time for my January socks for Liesl’s challenge.

I enjoyed this pattern. It plays with the regular ribbing design and keeps things interesting by adding in a bit of texture using different stitches. I altered the pattern just a smidge and worked a short row heel rather than the heel flap + gusset. It took me a couple tries to get my picked up wraps looking pretty, but now that I have it figured out, I am definitely a fan of these simple heels.

These socks are a happy addition to my sock drawer and they are doing their job keeping my toes warm on this snowy Saturday.