conferences can be productive…

… and I’m living proof – because I have not one, but two finished objects to share which were knitted from start to finish at a tenant advocate conference I attended earlier today!

They were both one skein projects – but then what the hell do you expect from me?!?

First up, number 1. I’m calling it “Feudal Forest”.

It was knitted with a yarn called Estelle 12 which I picked up at Knitomatic.

The yarn was advertised as 12 yarns in one. And I think that was correct, although I lost count. Finished scarf is 47″ by 5″, knitted on 10mm needles.

This one was just a simple garter stitch, but knitted lengthwise. I can’t tell you how many stitches I cast on. In fact, I freaked out a couple of coworkers because I had started knitting this from the short end but didn’t like how it looked, so just ripped back the whole thing, having knitted about 8″ worth. Two people at least at this point gave me the “what the hell are you doing?!?!?!” sign language …

And here is a photo with the proud (for now) owner.

And now for number 2, which I will call “Purple Prose” for this exercise.

This was knitted with one skein of Berocco Quest on 9mm needles.

Again, I cast on lengthwise (the needles were 24″ length and I just cast on as many stitches as fit). The pattern is as follows:

Row 1: K1, (K2TOG, yo) x whatever it needs to get to the last stitch, then K1

Row 2: P all

Yes, yes, I know the ends aren’t darned in. But I knit two scarves in five hours!!! What more do you want from me?!?

Finished size = 38″ x 6″ or so.

Oh, I should note that I lied slightly above when I said I knit all of this at the conference. In fact, I finished the purple one at the pub… but this is only because (a) I had to rip out the first scarf; and (b) I had to spend the lunch hour scouting the pub location for after the festivities with my trusty social co-convenor, J.

And here’s a photo with the proud owner of Purple Prose.

Now, put this all together with the fact that today I wore my Crazed Harlequin Dress:

…together with my Tuscany:

… and I know I came across as some knitting eccentric. But then again, apparently I’ve gained some fame in the wider admin law/poverty law circle… a lecturer today whom I’ve never met approached me and said “You’re the knitting lawyer, aren’t you?? I’ve heard of you!”

Hey, I’ve been called worse in my time.

Happy Tuesday!

Sherwood and other forests

A burning question: if April showers bring May flowers, what do May showers bring?

The answer: gloom and doom, with a beacon of hope.

I don’t know how people live in a climate where it rains all the time. I can’t stand three days in a row of rain, myself! Not to mention the damp chill.

So, I had to take some photos in the forest to remind myself that there is hope of regrowth after all.

And what did I find? Dead trees…

…and more dead trees.


But then I decided to take the glass half full approach to life for once, and was able to notice signs of life after all:

…both real and metaphorical!

And another shot of the Toronto forest (as opposed to Sherwood):

So, how is Sherwood anyway? Well, he’s ticking along quite merrily – as did Robin Hood and his men, apparently.

Gotta love these beads (there will be 1300 or so in the finished object, or so I’m told)! The yarn is Misti Alpaca Handpaints laceweight in the prosaically named “EZ05” colourway. I’m calling it Sunset in the Forest, myself.

And here’s the money shot:

Not bad, eh? It will be approximately 16″ wide when finished and I don’t know how long, but suffice it to say there are many, many more pattern repeats to go.

But now off to gather my materials for the big all-day legal training session I’m attending today…

Luckily I’m not presenting, which means that I might actually have the time to whip up a scarf!

Happy Monday!


the legend of a shawl called Icarus

Once upon a time there was a Princess called Aphrodite. She had the fairest figure in all the land of Trana:

For this reason, Aphrodite’s evil stepmother, the Handmaiden, was jealous. She kept Aphrodite locked up in this tower:

with only a shawl called Icarus for company.

Icarus was actually far better company for Aphrodite than one might think. He had been made of the finest Lace Silk which the Handmaiden had lovingly spun. Also, a wonderful designer called Miriam Felton dictated what form Icarus would take.

Now, Icarus had some very difficult moments growing up. He was constantly picked on by the full grown lace shawls in the tower. They even threw him outside a couple of times.

Even worse, he was attacked by the dreaded Frogman three times!

This left Icarus a little bruised and battered.

Perhaps it is for this reason that Icarus never reached his full weight. He was meant to become at least 150 grams with 1,000 metres of yarn, like all the other Icari. However, the Handmaiden used only a 3mm needle to make him – so he weighed only 90 grams!

However, his actual size was 66″ wide by 44″ deep – quite impressive for a scrawny underweight.

But back to our main story. Icarus, once he reached his full size, got restless and bored with life in the tower. So, one day, he escaped:

He initially got caught in the leaves protecting the tower, as you can see. However, he managed to disentangle himself and go exploring the grounds around the castle.

He found a rock wall to lounge around on for a while…

…but then got bored with this and went to find a more comfortable bed:

It was springtime in Trana. Being locked in the tower all that time, Icarus had never seen flowers, so went exploring a bit.

He had never seen anything so beautiful in his short life:

He then headed over to Millionaires Row – Aphrodite had told him never, ever to go there because the people who lived there were Evil and Corrupt Capitalists. However, Icarus didn’t initially see any evil people, only beautiful trees:

Meanwhile, back in the tower, Aphrodite wept bitterly. She could not be consoled by the other shawls, although they tried:

You see, unlike the other shawls, Icarus had a very delicate Rowan Kidsilk edging, which was lovely, but likely to shrink in the cold April rain:

As well, people called Icarus had had a history of melting in the sun, and Aphrodite, being the superstitious Greek Princess that she was, was scared for her little shawl.

(The Weatherman had said that it would not be sunny for several days. However, everyone knew that the Weatherman was always wrong – especially in April).

Icarus, however, wasn’t missing home a bit. He hung around in front of Spadina House for a while:

then found some pine cones to play with.

But suddenly, an Evil and Corrupt Capitalist jumped out of the bushes:

“Hey! Those pine cones are my property!”, bellowed The Capitalist. He then threatened to call the police, who would come and unravel Icarus so that Icarus could never trespass again.

Icarus ran as fast as he could to the safety of the Local Yarn Store, where he knew he would be protected by the Lovely Yarn Pushers:

However, he soon tired of all of the close up attention he was getting (Icarus was actually quite shy):

He also realised, seeing all the fabulous yarns, that he missed his lace brothers and sisters in the tower.

So, Icarus returned home to Aphrodite, who was thrilled.

And the Handmaiden, realising the folly of her ways in keeping all of them locked up, began to let them out from time to time:

And so they all lived happily ever after…

(Happily, that is, until Aphrodite got seduced by a Prince called Misti d’Alpaca who promised her all sorts of gold baubles:

…but then ran off, leaving her in a forest called Sherwood to fend for herself.

Stay tuned for the next fairy tale!!)

a sneak preview…

Well, I know I said I wouldn’t be back until Tuesday. Well, I lied. Couldn’t resist offering a sneak preview of my Icarus, hot off the needles!

Sadly, it’s raining, so the field trip I had planned with Icarus today to Casa Loma won’t work. Sigh. Will have to scheme about other photo op ideas…

And here are the very early days of Sherwood, my test knitting project:

Off to enjoy the rest of my long weekend do some tidying up now.

As you can see, we’ve been partying hard in the Brouhaha household this weekend…

Man, those duckies just can’t hold their drink!

Happy Monday!

Big Friday, redux

I’m feeling lazy today…I’m taking a day off for religious observance. That’s right, folks – it’s Big Friday for all us Greekish types (see my post this past Good Friday if you want to know why this is so).

So, being the high holy day in the Orthodox calendar, I’m spending the whole day in church, right?

Yep. The Church of Icarus.

(Oh, what’s that? You don’t think that knitting is a real religion? Check out this recent blog post by fellow raveller Genuine: The Sacraments of Knitting: A Simple Tract. I was a skeptic too, but she persuaded me and I’m a lawyer and all – I don’t believe anything, really.)

Anyway, if that excuse doesn’t work, my back up excuse is that I need to finish Icarus ASAP so that I can start on a test-knitting project that I’m doing for Susan of Sunflower Designs! The project in question is called Sherwood:

So, of course I had to go out and buy some new yarn for it today at Amerigo:


I know, I know – it’s not really my usual type of colour choices. Unlike, for example, the llama I already bought from Amerigo a month ago…

… or the Handmaiden Sea Silk from the stash that I had already designated for this project.

But I figured, what with the forest-like name and all, that I should go with a bit more natural hue. Makes sense, eh?

Sherwood also calls for 1300 beads to be strung on. Here they are:

I figured I’d have to get a bit of zip in with the beads, at any rate. That’s fair, right?

And hope I’m not jinxing Icarus.  I’ve just finished the 3rd chart and now have only 20 (very long) rows plus the edging left.  Decided to pin part of it out to shore myself up last evening:

JJ just said to me “Aren’t ye glad ye didnae throw it off the balcony, hen”.  So I am. And I will be praying this Big Friday – if only to the Goddess of Knitting to ward off the dreaded Frogman.

So, that’s how my Big Friday will pass. Oh, and am I going to observe the traditional Big Friday fast (i.e. no meat, no dairy, no oil, no food that tastes remotely edible)?

Am I hell! (as JJ is wont to say). In fact, I’ll be hooking up with some friends on the Danforth for a big fat Greek meal which will involve as much pork souvlaki, saganaki (fried cheese) and galactoboureko (custard phyllo dreamy treat) as I can manage to ingest.

Hey, we can’t all be saints, eh?

A happy Friday to you all!

same old ball of wax

I’ve decided that Icarus should be today’s Sunshine Girl (wonder if they still have that feature in the Sun? I know it’s not on page 3 any longer. Political correctness at its finest!)

Why? Because… I finished Chart 2!

And it only seemed to take about 2 1/5 years. Sigh.

I’m almost scared to start Chart 3 in case I end up in deepest Frogland again. Besides, this arrived in the mail quite by surprise yesterday

It is a replacement skein of yarn for part of a yarn kit I got some time back. Claudia’s laceweight silk – 1,100 metres of it! The shop which is conducting the Year of Lace 2008 knitalong unfortunately had some problems with the first batch of yarn.

I hadn’t thought I was going to get a replacement – the only problem with mine was that the colour was rubbing off the yarn quite badly. My hands looked like I had done battle with a jumbo bag of Doritos and then with two econo-packs of Hawkins cheesies. It is not an unusual look for me, as you might gather.

Anyway, isn’t the colour fabulous!? Can you see why I want to start a new project now?

But, onwards and upwards with the Icarus.

Maybe I should dip my hands in wax before starting to knit? Then again, this didn’t go all that well for the real Icarus:

(Hmm – the background colour here resembles the Claudia’s yarn, don’t you think? Is this a sign?)

Enough. Off to work to earn my yarn allowance the rent money.

the curse of Icarus!

Now, I know that Icarus had rather a hard time of it…

… but why did a cheering section have to show up and party as he fell?!? I ask you!

And yes, there has been frogging in the Brouhaha household this weekend. More frogging than knitting, actually, I’m sad to report.

Last night, I had finally managed to finish Chart No. 2. Only after great patting on the back and admiring myself in the mirror did I notice this major booboo:

See that big gaping hole to the right? No chance of passing it off as a design feature. Icarus falls again!

(I should note that this is by way no fault of the pattern. Instead, I’ve decided that it is a big curse on any Greek who attempts to create an alternate image of one of her Gods.)

So, I had to take it all off the needles, and while it was off I thought I might as well snap this photo for posterity:

See – it looks so lovely that I can’t bear to stick it back in the frog pond.

Actually, I’ve been wondering if the high percentage of green in the project has attracted the project-dooming presence of the Frogman. (Anything but take responsibility and blame myself, eh? On that topic, the ever wise JJ has apparently observed over the years that I always screw up on knitting when it is “that time of the month”. And that is probably more information than you needed to know.)

This is the lovely pattern repeat that has foiled me yet again:

So, I had to call in some reinforcements…

…remind myself that only last week, I had come up with this brilliant solution to all thing frogging-related, and just get on with it.

Things seem to be back on track now, although it means I’m still not done Chart 2. Sigh.

But Icarus is soaring again (and let’s hope it’s not as brief and endeavour at the first time!):

… and I can only hope that Kermit is finally laid to rest, at least as regards this project.

Given that it is Orthodox Palm Sunday, I thought this representation of Kermit was quite appropriate.

So, am I off to church, then? In a way… I’m attending the High Holy Temple of Antiques and Junk, otherwise known as the St. Lawrence Flea Market, after several coffees with a friend. Please wish me luck in scoring some vintage knitting patterns!

And, in my brain at least, I’ve renamed this knitting pattern “Daedalus”. He’s the one to the left

I know he lost his son and so that’s not the luckiest name either, but it has kind of a nice ring to it, no?

Happy Sunday!


Substance over Form

…or, how I learned to love knitting!

(apologies to regular readers if you have seen this before. I thought it was time for a blast from the past, and for some reason this had ended up back in draft form on the Blogger site. Sigh. I’m such a luddite. Anyway, it was written in May 2007.

WARNING: potentially dull biographical commentary ahead. You may just wish to skip this and look at the pretty colourful pictures below. This is my first endeavour at personal writing in a long time (I write loads and loads for work) and so I thought I’d post it here for posterity given that it is topic-specific).

When asked what I do for a living, one of my snap answers is that I practice law in order to support my yarn habit. I like to think that I’m shunning the “lawyer” label, that being a “lawyer” does not reflect my identify or my interests. In my less glib moments, I realise that this smacks of reverse pretention. And, in fact, I’m really just trying to avoid either attracting the bad rap (who, after all, likes lawyers?) or fielding the almost-always inevitable “Oh really? That’s interesting. I’ve been having a problem with my divorce, inheritance, criminal charge, etc. etc.”).

Or perhaps it’s just that, for some reason, I find the fact that I am a lawyer embarrassing.

However, in many ways my personality reflects the worst Type A hallmarks of all those lawyer jokes. I am picky, technical, argumentative, cynical – and detail oriented to a fault. I’m also (traditionally) not big on doing anything unless I can find some authority in writing first.

This trend has until recently shone through perhaps most obviously in my approach to knitting. Had I not become a lawyer, I could very probably have made a decent living knitting samples for patterns and yarn companies (or, for that matter, gauge swatches for those fellow knitters who detest this task). My work is very technically proficient. I have never had any problems with knitting to the gauge specified in any pattern, with any wool or yarn, and the finished size has always been perfect.

An example – and the only time before nine months ago that I had ever knitted anything without a written pattern. While I was articling, my boss one day came to work wearing a gorgeous handknit sweater which had been made in Ireland several years before. It featured a lovely “tree of life” covering almost the full front of the sweater. I coveted it. I wanted it desperately – well, I wanted to knit it. However, of course there was no pattern available. What to do?

I stewed over this for much of the morning, then had a brainflash – I asked her if I could borrow the sweater for a while. And then I trotted off to the photocopier, sweater in hand, and spent the next half hour trying to reproduce it. It took me 15 minutes to get an image of the tree of life that satisfied me, and then I started on the back, and then the sleeves. This, as you might imagine, provokes no little hilarity – and scepticism – amongst the coworkers.

They weren’t giggling, however, when I came in to work five days later wearing the twin sweater to the boss, who by great fortune had turned up wearing it again. The following photo is my version: unfortunately, the former boss’ version is long gone. You’ll just have to take my word for it!

I still work for the same organization today, and once in a while they still bring this up.

And just what is so bad about this, you might ask? The problem was that everyone loved this sweater – but me. I could never get over two things – that I had no way of knowing with which brand of wool (if any brand) the original had been knitted, and that I could not locate the identical shade of wool despite scouring the entire city of Toronto.

These two issues made it impossible for me to actually wear the sweater, as every time I’d catch a look at myself in the mirror, I’d get completely stressed out. I wore it perhaps twice more, and then gave it to my mother. And – seeing the sweater still bothers me today.

This rigidity also made it difficult to enjoy knitting. Oh, I knitted. On and off, I knitted almost incessantly. But I didn’t really like it. It certainly wasn’t relaxing in any way. What amazes me in retrospect is how productive I was in knitting despite the fact that I would sometimes rip out the same series of rows 10 times until it looked “perfect”.

Also, I found myself unable to make several patterns I really liked because the yarn called for in the pattern was not available in Canada and I would not allow myself to contemplate a substitution of any kind. If the right yarn wasn’t avaiiable to me in the exact colour specifies – no go.

I should confess that I am exaggerating here for effect. But just a little bit. This was pretty much my knitting behaviour until perhaps four years ago or so, when I did try to modify a couple of patterns for friends. They were very happy with the outcome, or so they said. I, however, was not.

After that point, I did from time to time allow a shift in colour as well – usually to a different shade of the same colour. Again, I was very unhappy with the results (for no good reason, as the resultant sweaters were objectively speaking beautiful). I only ever knitted sweaters, by the way. I wouldn’t dream of knitting anything else.

I still can’t figure out how I became so enslaved to patterns and so fearful of deviating from them. This has not, for some reason, been the case with other crafts that I “practice”. A few years ago, for example, I took up making mosaics after a friend took a course with the Board of Education and told me how to do it. I have rarely followed a pattern and have made many original (and I think, beautiful) works:

The irony (or, possibly, the explanation?) is that I only learned to knit in the first place because my father’s mother, who did beautiful lacework night after night after night and who probably was not even aware that patterns for knitting existed, refused to teach me how to do what she did.

Why? Because she was an old school Greek woman who valued education and was very proud of her smart granddaughter – what she told me was that knitting was a pastime for “ignorant, uneducated farmers like herself”, and not appropriate for someone who was going to become a professional.

As I mature, I find the fact that she devalued her own work so much increasingly sad. At the time, however, I was 12 years old and no-one was going to tell me that I “couldn’t” do anything. So – I taught myself to knit. From – you guessed it – a pattern book.

And so it went – until about a year ago when I picked up a new book of patterns – Mason-Dixon Knitting by Kay Gardiner and Ann Shayne. I was intrigued by it immediately I saw it at the local yarn shop, although it took me a full month to actually break down and buy it, mostly because it didn’t seem to contain any sweaters. Instead, it contained a lot of fun looking projects, short and less short. I started off by knitting a log cabin blanket – without doing a swatch! – and I have to confess, it was very fun.

Around the same time a friend asked me if I would knit a felted bag for her. I had never heard of felting, and so I agreed – only to panic when she gave me the pattern (which she found on the Knitty website – the French Market Bag, Summer 2002 [?]), which made it obvious that it was impossible to predict what the finished size would actually be. I then realised that my friend didn’t seem to care (after I bored her for a good fifteen minutes with my various apprehensions) – so why should I? She felted it herself as the machine in my building is front-loading. I liked the look of it and immediately found more felted patterns. I even felted them in the front loader!

Then, one fine day, I realised that I wasn’t happy with the length of one of the bags… and decided to modify the pattern to make it longer! And the earth didn’t come to an end. I realised also that I was really starting to look forward to my knitting time, rather than self-dreading it. I also found myself starting to wonder how I could broaden my knitting horizons even more…

Then one day I came across Freeform Knitting and Crochet by Jenny Dowde. A book of patterns about, essentially, how to work without a pattern – genius, I thought! How ironic – and how perfect for a recovering type-A knitting lawyer like me. I didn’t wait a month to buy it this time. And – I’m now doing freeform work without Ms Dowde’s (very wise) patterns to guide me.

At this point in time, I have never felt more contented with knitting, or more proud of my knitting work. I now believe myself to be a knitting artist, rather than someone who knits well – which feels tremendous. And funnily enough, this sense of contentment has spilled over into my personal and professional life and calmed me down from my Type A hyper highs.

Mind you, I still knit compulsively, I would say, and I still buy pattern books and make patterns – albeit using different colours and yarns than specified. But then again, Rome wasn’t built in a day – or even a year. And then again, I’m still someone who practices law to support my yarn habit…


colouring my world

You’re not going to believe this… the other day was the 15th (a.k.a. PayDay) and I did not go to a yarn shop. What steely self-discipline!! (I should confess something, though – that was only because I went to the mosaic shop instead.) My middle name should be “magpie”. I cannot resist shiny glass things, particularly when they are mirrored and I can see my face in miniature warped dwarfdom. I then hit the Goodwill across the street and came across some treasures: The purchases would seem to indicate that I am just about ready to get back to mosaic. For some reason, spring and summer are the only times I seem to break plates and stick them to things anymore. Guess I’ve got to go with the muse when she hits, eh? But now I’m torturing myself because I came across these fabulous tapestry photos on line.

I want one!!!! And check out this stunning tapestries by Irene Dunn!

If I had one of these in my apartment, I’d feel like King Henry VIII. And by all accounts, he had a great time! I’m reminded of the fabric mosaic that the very talented Sequana sent me sometime back, although her colours are bolder as befits the modern ethic, of course!

Oh no. Now I want to take up tapestry and needlework. When will it end?!?! Then again, I probably won’t bother because this is about as talented as I get in that particular arena:

Hmm. I’d be defeated before I started, I think. Wah.