Friday, September 26, 2008

island holiday

Tomorrow morning we're off on our PEI holiday. Of course, it will be a day and a half of driving before we get there, but the scenery should be lovely. If the trees are already changing colour around here, they will be even nicer as we head east.

We have no set plans for while we're there. We seem to have this holiday style of waking up, checking the weather, and then deciding what would be best to do that day. I'm hoping for at least one really warm sunny day, so we can go to the beach (swimming isn't necessary, as long as it's nice enough to walk and play in the sand, I'm happy). There's a food festival going on, so even if the weather isn't ideal, there will still be lots to do. Some of the activities are quite expensive, but hopefully we can get into a few of the free and equally fun ones.

I'm sure the week will just fly by, but at least we'll be having fun and relaxing! We've both had a busy few months, and my husband is especially looking forward to a break from the daily grind. Then the weekend after we get back is Canadian Thanksgiving, plus my niece's first birthday party, so we get to extend the fun and food a little longer. Also, I'll let you in on one of my surprises when we get back, so there's something for you to look forward to!

Monday, September 22, 2008

hint #8

I haven't posted any hints in a long time, so here's a little advice on something I was thinking about this morning.

Stuffing a knit toy properly goes a long way to making the toy look great, and it's not quite as simple as it might seem. Stuffing a cloth or crocheted toy is much easier, because the fabric is not stretchy, so you just stuff until you can't fit any more, and the finished toy should end up the shape you intended. However, knitted fabric is very stretchy, even when knitted on smaller needles, as my toys are. So if you don't get the stuffing quite right, the finished toy can look lumpy or with strangely shaped body parts.

The type of stuffing you have will make a big difference as to how you go about stuffing the toy. I've only ever used polyester fibre fill, because that's what I can get, so my discussion will be limited to that. If you've used cotton or wool stuffing, feel free to leave a comment about how those work. Polyester stuffing tends to be either light and springy, or soft and dense. I like the springy kind because it's less lumpy and the toy ends up squishier. The soft kind will pack in tighter, giving your toy more weight.

With the springy stuffing, you can just pull off a chunk thats about 1/3 to 1/2 bigger than the piece you're stuffing, stuff it into the body part, and squish it around until the shape seems right. Adding extra bits if you haven't enough rarely leaves lumps on the surface. Adding a bit extra in the nose and for round cheeks makes the head look much nicer, rather than just having a round or oblong blob.

With the soft kind of stuffing, you'll want to pull off a chunk, and roll it around in your hands until it seems about the right size and shape for whatever piece you're stuffing. If you need a bit more, be careful how you add it so you don't end up with lumps. Then carefully put the stuffing into the body part so it fills it out evenly. If you're stuffing a bunny leg, you can do it with two pieces: one for the foot, and one for the leg, squishing the stuffing around a bit so there's no obvious gap between the two.

If you notice any lumps after you've sewn the piece closed, you can use a darning needle as a sort of lever to smooth out the stuffing. Just insert the needle into the lump, and wiggle it into a better position. It does take some practice to get it just right the first time, so try not to get frustrated!

With either kind of stuffing, you'll want to make sure you don't over-stuff the pieces, because the stuffing will show through the knit fabric and look ugly. You won't be able to get a very firm toy with a knit fabric, but I find knitted toys to be quite squishy and cuddly, which is good in it's own way :)

Friday, September 19, 2008

lovely autumn friday

It's a lovely day here. It started off cool and crisp, and now it's sunny and warm. A perfect autumn day, right down to the changing leaves, geese honking overhead, the smell of earth and wood fires. If only my niece would have her nap, so I can take her for a walk later (really it's so I can enjoy the sunshine, but she doesn't seem to mind).

It's definitely a learning experience, spending so much time around a little one. An exhausting one too. I was 13 when my younger brother was born, so I was old enough to change diapers, feed him, babysit, and a lot of other things. But that was a long time ago, and he has a very different personality from my niece. It's all making me rather excited to meet my little one! Our list of names is getting shorter, and my belly is getting bigger, but it's still so many weeks away. At least I can feel him moving around now, so it's sort of like we're already getting to know each other.

In between playing, feeding, and changing diapers, I've managed to make progress on some new patterns I've been working on. All this is in preparation for next year, when I'm sure to have less time for designing and knitting. It's hard holding all these projects back, not being able to share them with you because they won't be released for so long. Everyone seems to be having fun with my other patterns, though, so I guess you're not bored yet!

Handspun, hand-dyed bunny by Elizabeth.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

feeling grumpy

Our downstairs neighbour likes to practice his bass guitar. I don't usually mind because it's not too loud, and he does it during the day. However, he seems to have left his amp on really loud, with some kind of feedback, and he's not home. I think I'll hide in the bedroom for the rest of the night, with ear plugs, reading a book.

In case you've been wondering what happened to me this week, I started babysitting for my sister now that she's back at work. It's interesting spending so much time with a 1-year old. Needless to say, it didn't leave much time for blogging this week. Hopefully I'll get more used to it, and get more work done while she naps.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue, Québec

Promenade in Ste-Anne from Konstantin Ryabitsev on Vimeo.

We don't actually live in Montréal proper, but in a small suburb on the Western tip of the Island of Montréal called Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue. Even though most of the West Island towns are posh bedroom communities for lawyers, doctors, and company execs, Ste-Anne is a welcome exception, for a couple of reasons. Firstly, because it's a much older settlement than most others -- so there are no super-expensive McMansions lining the waterfront, and secondly because there are two high schools, one CÉGEP, and the Macdonald Campus of McGill university -- all in our small town of 5,000 people.

Even though the majority of West Island is historically mostly English-speaking, Ste-Anne is divided pretty evenly between French and English, especially when McGill is in session. Most townspeople are fluent in both languages, and those who aren't usually know just enough to get by. Even though I speak fairly fluent French, most people will switch to English when talking to me because I do not sound like a native (Québec has a very distinct local accent, while I learned the Parisian pronunciation). The further East you go in Québec, the fewer English speakers you will find, until you get to New Brunswick, which is the only officially bilingual province of Canada. From there on, the direction reverses and you get squarely into English-speaking territory by the time you're in Nova Scotia (with Acadia being a notable exception -- this is where the Cajuns came from).

Heading to ultrasound from Konstantin Ryabitsev on Vimeo.

The best way to get to Montréal from Ste-Anne is by taking the train, which takes about 45 minutes with all the stops. Sadly, the train doesn't run nearly frequent enough and is only convenient for commuting to and from work. The city of Montréal is trying to change that, but for the time being it's more profitable for the railroad company to let the freight trains through instead of the commuter trains. With gas prices around here being about $1.35 per litre lately (that's a whopping $5.40 a gallon), hopefully there will be more and more people taking the train instead of driving, and that might change how much pressure the city is able to put on the railroad company. Perhaps we might even see more than 3 trains a day during the weekend. :)

But, despite all of the above, we're quite happy living here without owning a car. Most stores are within walking distance from our apartment, and for stuff that we can't get in Ste-Anne, we usually plan weekend trips, sometimes involving Communauto -- a local car-sharing co-op that we're part of. Plus, we have lots of local restaurants to choose from and a Farmer's Market on the weekend that lets us stock up on organic locally-grown veggies.

Marche Ste-Anne from Konstantin Ryabitsev on Vimeo.

We quite like it here. :)

Friday, September 12, 2008

long day

I worked on a pattern all day, and it feels like I made no progress at all. Sometimes new patterns work out perfectly on the first or second try. Sometimes I make half a dozen attempts, before getting frustrated and leave it be for a few days, before trying to work out whatever is wrong. It could be the wrong kind or weight of yarn, or I'm trying a design that's too complicated or tedious, or the stitch pattern just isn't working with the overall design of a piece of clothing.

In better news, I was completely overwhelmed by how many people joined the Ravelry group within the first day! I guess I better make more of an effort to figure out what's going on! I had a pretty good day in my shops too, which was nice to see after a slow summer. Little Batly is pretty popular!

Anyway, I'll leave you with this cute photo of a farmer sheep, who looks all ready for this year's harvest. (knit by Sarah)

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Ravelry group

I went ahead and started the group on Ravelry. Please sign up so I don't feel so lonely! I don't have much there right now, but I will be adding information as I figure out how it all works. I'm not very chatty on Ravelry (or in real life, for that matter) so hopefully some of you will start discussions.

plans schmans

While I believe my plans for next winter and spring are pretty reasonable (and I'm glad you agree) we'll have to see how it really works out! I've learned not to be disappointed when things don't go exactly as I wanted, and make plans more tentatively. Maybe I'll have more time for knitting, sewing, and blogging that I thought, maybe I'll have much less. But whatever happens, I will try to keep writing here, and let you know how things are going. Besides, I'm sure to have a million baby pictures to share with you!

Speaking of baby, he's really starting to move in there! It's such an amazing feeling, when it's not uncomfortable :) I think all babies must start out wanting to be soccer (football) players. At the moment his favourite kicking spot is my belly button. I can't wait until my husband can feel it too!

Okay, enough chatter for now, I guess. I have a full day of pattern editing ahead of me!

Monday, September 8, 2008

no title

Here I am, procrastinating about making bread, despite the fact that I won't have anything for lunch tomorrow if I don't. Well, I will get to it as soon as I answer a few questions.

First, someone asked me recently what yarn I use for the Siamese kitty, but for the life of me I can't find the email. I guess that happens sometimes. Anyway, I use Elann's Peruvian Highland wool in worsted weight, in coffee bean brown, nutmeg heather, and bisque. If you want more contrast, try bittersweet for the dark brown. I love this yarn, because it's soft, comes in lots of great colours, and is really affordable.

The other question was about my Ravelry id. My patterns are here, and my own account is here. I do have a shop, but it only has the free lamb pattern. (these links only work if you have a Ravelry account) I'd looked into having my other patterns there, but decided it wasn't worth it for the extra work it would create. It looks like lots of people would like a Fuzzy Mitten Ravelry group, so I guess I need to look into how I do that.

Someone also asked what will happen to Fuzzy Mitten once I have my baby. While there's still a few months to wait, I have been making some plans. I have a couple new things coming before Christmas, but then January will probably be pretty quiet while I get everything ready for the new Mitten. Some of the secret stuff I've been working on are new patterns that I will release next winter and spring. I'm hoping this will keep things interesting for you, while being the minimum of work for me. My Etsy and Lulu shops will stay open, though it's likely there won't be any kits or toys for the first few months. I have no idea how much time and energy I will have for blogging, so we'll just have to wait and see. I hope that sounds reasonable to all of you!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

batty batty bat...

That song from Sesame Street keeps going through my head!

Just a little later than I thought, here's the Bat pattern, all ready for you (Etsy and Lulu). I must thank my lovely friend Amanda, plus Jocelyn and her knitting group, for test knitting this pattern for me. They didn't seem to have any major trouble with the pattern, so hopefully it will go smoothly for those of you who try it. The trickiest part is probably finishing the nose, and I might see about knitting up another head so I can get some clearer photos for you (just in case).

I'll probably get this pattern up on Ravelry later this weekend. Please post your photos, so I can see how your bats turn out! For those of you who don't know what Ravelry is, here's a good place to find out. If you're interested, sign up! It usually only takes a few weeks to get in, and there are so many great things about it.

Friday, September 5, 2008

bat delay

After a week full of meetings, my husband asked if he can finish the bat pattern this weekend. It's supposed to be rainy tomorrow, so it should be a good chance for him to work on it. If all goes well, it will be ready for you late Saturday, or sometime on Sunday.

not toys

So here are a few of my personal knitting projects. As many people know, making a hobby into a job leaves you little or no time for any hobby-type projects. I find an hour or two to knit in the evening, maybe twice a week, depending on how tired/hot/lazy/into a good book I am.

These socks have certainly been on the needles the longest (since sometime last year)! The yarn is bamboo/merino, specially dyed for me by Zen Yarn Garden. I started these to try learning the magic-loop method, only to find the circular needle left me with horrible hand cramps after a few rows. This one is ready for a heel, if I can only find the time and motivation.

Second longest on my needles is this Endpaper mitt, which I started in March. I wanted them for Spring (ha ha!) but then lost the chart I was working from. I was soon too busy to think about them, and it was too warm to wear them anyway. I might take these on our holiday, and try finishing them while the weather is still right. They should look pretty with my scarf.

A project I started recently is this shawl. The yarn is Malabrigo lace (so yummy!) in the pearl colourway. This yarn was originally intended for one sweater, then tried with a second sweater pattern, only to discover halfway through the back that I wouldn't have enough for the whole sweater. Lately I decided it would be nice to have a pretty shawl for nursing, which would be a great use for this yarn. The pattern is one I modified slightly from a chart I found in a stitch book. I even tried a provisional cast-on, so I can make both ends the same.

The fourth project I have on the go right now is a quilt/rug thing, made from a bunch of "fresh from the sheep" yarn a couple different people gave me. It's essentially just variously sized square swatches, which I'll sew together at the end. It's my mindless-knitting-during-movies project. I didn't take photos, because it just looks like a stack of squares right now.

If you add in all the random toys I knit from day to day, it's certainly enough variety to keep things interesting. It's not surprising I find no time for painting any more.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

a million meetings

Thanks so much for being so understanding and supportive! It really helps lighten the load when I can air my little insecurities. It puts everything in perspective when I write it down, and makes me feel a little less crazy that you understand where I'm coming from :)

Today I'll be working on the bat pattern, taking some new photos, and trying to get everything just right for the final version. Usually my husband does the last bit of formatting for me, but he's had about a million exhausting meetings this week, so I might attempt it myself. I think the first week of school is as much work for a university's staff, as it is for the profs and students. The software he uses is more than a little confusing, but perhaps he'll have enough patience to show me what to do.

Also, I'm planning to combine a couple of other patterns like I did with the bunny ones, in order to keep things simpler in my shops. I'm undecided on whether the monkey or bear patterns would be best, although I will most likely do both eventually.

While I have the camera out, maybe I'll take some photos of knitting I've been doing for me! I have several projects that I've been working on, when I'm not too tired in the evening. There's a pair of socks, which I think I've been working on for about a year. They're pretty and fun, but for some reason socks don't inspire me. There's a pair of fingerless mitts, which I lost the chart for, so have been on hold since spring. There's a quilt/rug for the baby's room, made from a bunch of different yarns that have been given to me. And a shawl, which I plan to use when nursing. It's knit from some malabrigo lace yarn I'd intended for a sweater, but I like the shawl much better.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

the new me

A slight departure today from my usual ramblings.

As my pregnancy has progressed, I've noticed that the changes to my body are as significant as what I went through during puberty... and I'm only half-way there! I'm not sure why this is such a revelation, maybe because most women don't talk about what pregnancy is like until you find yourself in that condition. Perhaps they believe the truth will turn too many women off of having children, or perhaps they would rather forget about all the changes that happen to your body.

While most of me is very happy to be pregnant (because I get a baby out of it!), a small part of me is struggling to deal with the new me. I was a very shy and awkward kid, who always thought of herself as unattractive. Then in university I gained lots of weight, which made things worse. I have worked so hard since then to stay fit and healthy, and it took me a long time to overcome that negative image of myself and become happy and comfortable with my body as an adult. So, it hurts a little when each piece of clothing becomes too small, when doing yoga in the morning becomes more awkward because of my growing belly. Among other things.

I know that most of the weight will disappear in the first few months after the baby is born, but I also know that I will never look quite the same as before. I suppose time will help me become accustomed to the new me, and I will probably forget about most of my struggles in the day to day business of taking care of a new baby. But some days it is hard to look that far ahead and be content right now.

I thought of an idea this morning which, while it won't help me now, might help me once my baby is born. I keep hearing about friends and fellow bloggers doing the 365 photo thing on flickr, but I never thought my life was interesting enough from day to day to both joining in the fun. But I think that a photo a day, of the slowly changing me and my baby, would be a project worth undertaking. I also think it would be a fun thing to share with my son one day, so he can see how much he changed and grew in the first year of his life.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

happy batly day

Hello everyone! Happy back-to-school day! I've really enjoyed my little break, as it's given me time to get some projects finished, and think about stuff other than blogging. Also, I'm finally able to share one of my secret projects with you!

So the secret new pattern is for a bat! A really super cute little bat, who looks a lot like my other toys, but has a different construction and uses knitting in the round. I know a bunch of you already alter my patterns for knitting in the round, because you hate sewing seams. Well, I decided to get the look I wanted, this toy's body had to be knit in one piece. So you make each leg, then join them together and knit the body. My test knitters have said the directions are really clear and easy to follow (as I always try to make them) so if you've used dpn's before you shouldn't have any trouble.

Because it really wasn't possible to make an outfit for the bat, I've included a simple pattern for a little Jack O' Lantern. These are so quick to make, and the faces are really fun to embroider. I might just make a bunch to decorate for Hallowe'en! I've even thought about adding some whole cloves and allspice inside, so they smell yummy too.

Now that you're all excited about the new pattern, I must be honest and tell you it's not quite ready yet. However, it's really only the final formatting that needs to be done, so it should be all ready by the end of the week! I really hope you like this new addition to the Fuzzy Mitten family. I'm so very pleased with how the new body construction worked, and will probably be using it for some toys in the future.

A few other things I want to share quickly: I just ordered more yarn for Fuzzy Knits kits, although these won't be ready until the middle of October. I will also likely make up another set for sometime in November, in case anyone has someone on their gift list who would like one. Also, my morning sickness is finally done with, so I'm feeling much better! My belly is even getting big enough that I look pregnant, instead of just chubby. Although it's starting to get in the way, which will take some getting used to. Finally, my hubby and I are going on a little holiday at the end of the month to celebrate our first anniversary. We're going to Prince Edward Island for a week, and if this lovely weather holds, we should have a great time! I promise to share some of the photos we take while we're there.