Tag Archives: inspiration

I lost my knitting mojo.

Last week, I lost my knitting mojo.  I’m not sure if it’s because I was sick all week, or because I’ve been a little stressed at work. I’m usually pretty dauntless when it comes to trying new things, but the challenges I had with my Overby sweater,  and argyle socks left my confidence as a knitter a little dented.

Usually when I finish I project, I know exactly what I want to make.  Inevitably, there is something I just can’t wait to make.  Most of the time, the only challenge is narrowing all of my ideas down.  This week, however, I made three half hearted runs at Skew socks, but ended up frogging them. (I’ll try again this summer, when I have the stamina to concentrate on all those directional increases, which are currently my knitting kryptonite). After giving up, I couldn’t think of a single thing to cast-on.

I looked through my ravelry queue, browsed all of the knitting blogs I follow, and pawed through my stash, but remained uninispired.  And then I found this:

My very first knitting project, knit two decades ago on my grandma's couch

My very first knitting project, knit two decades ago on my grandma’s couch

my first ever knitting project, cast-on on my grandmother’s couch two decades ago. It’s just a rectangle of garter stitch in scrap yarn, cast-on for no particular reason, other than to knit it.  To engage in the process. To let my fingers repeat and master a simple movement. To spend some time with my grandma.

The simple joys of knitting: socks in Sweet Georgia Tough Sock in Summer Dusk

The simple joys of knitting: socks in Sweet Georgia Tough Love Sock in Summer Dusk

So I did something unusual. I cast on a pair of simple garter stitch socks. It’s a pattern I’ve made countless times, and frankly a little boring.  I usually knit because I want to wear or give the project.  I mostly choose projects, because they will challenge me to pick up or develop a new skill, but these socks couldn’t be easier, and I have no recipient in mind for them.  I’m just really enjoying the process.  The reassuring repetition has calmed my unquiet mind.  My frustrated fingers are finding their confidence again in this familiar task, and I’m being reminded of knitting’s most significant gift: peace of mind.

Completed toe-up slip stitch heel socks by Wendy Johnson in Sweet Georgia Tough Love Sock in Summer Dusk

Completed toe-up slip stitch heel socks by Wendy Johnson in Sweet Georgia Tough Love Sock in Summer Dusk

Fisherman socks and Canada’s Rock

Towards the end of One Week, on the beach in Tofino, a pair of German tourists tell Joshua Jackson’s character that he lives in a beautiful country.  On the one hand, it’s a little on the nose, but as Canadians sometimes we need European tourists to remind us of the total awesomeness of this country.  Too often, we look south or east for travel destinations, and miss the beauty, culture and adventure closer to home.

Chesterman beach in Tofino, BC

A few summers ago, in the spirit of patriotism and wanderlust, my husband and I decided to see both ends of the TransCanada highway.  Given our limited travel time and budget, we decided to fly to Newfoundland and drive across the province to St John’s in July, and to fly to Vancouver and drive to Tofino in August.

A carnivorous pitcher plant  in Grosse Morne, Newfoundland's provincial flower

A carnivorous pitcher plant in Grosse Morne, Newfoundland’s provincial flower

Newfoundland has been on my mind this week, as I cast on these fisherman socks (my second last Christmas gift!).  My father’s favourite travel destination is Newfoundland, so it seems appropriate to make him a pair of fisherman socks to keep his feet warm on his twice daily dog walks (surprise, Dad!).

Newfoundland is a place of stark beauty and contradiction.  The landscape is harsh and cold, and the people are warm and friendly.  Many people in Newfoundland have been hard hit by the collapse of the fisheries in the 1990’s, and will tell you how happy they are to have found seasonal work in the tourism industry. However, their hardships have done nothing to diminish their spirits. Everything you have heard about friendly, open and easy going Newfoundlanders is true. They also have fantastic knitwear to keep them warm on their cold and beautiful rock in the North Atlantic, and I came home dreaming of creamy woolens, cables and gansey.

We started our trip camping in Grosse Morne and the landscape must be seen to be believed.  It was worth the total lack of groceries anywhere near by.

A lighthouse on the West coast of Newfoundland

A lighthouse on the West coast of Newfoundland

The spectacular beach at the end of the Green Gardens trail in Grosse Morne

The spectacular beach at the end of the Green Gardens trail in Grosse Morne

From Grosse Morne, we traveled east to St John’s. We missed a lot in Newfoundland’s north, including the Viking settlement at isolated L’anse Aux Meadows, but it’s always nice to have a reason to go back.  In St John’s, we walked the brightly coloured streets, got a sense of Newfoundland’s history at Signal Hill, and saw first hand the reason for Newfoundland’s hard partying reputation on George Street.

The bright painted houses of St John's

The brighty painted houses of St John’s

Puffin!

Puffin!

We also had one of the most spectacular travel experiences of my life in Bay Bulls.  My parents tipped us off the Colbert’s Puffin Tours.  A friendly former fisherman took us out in his fishing boat to tour a landscape that I cannot believe wasn’t covered in BBC’s Planet Earth.  I was awestruck and humbled by the beauty and power of nature, as we toured the bay, spotting puffins, terns and a humpback whale and calf.  I cannot wait to share this experience with my son, who I hope will one day be as transformed by it as I was.  It is impossible to see nature in this way, and not feel a desperate need not to protect it.

Humpback whale in Bay Bulls

Humpback whale in Bay Bulls

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Puffins!

We have no immediate plans to go back (writing this post has put Newfoundland on my summer shortlist though!).  For now I’ll have to content myself with fisherman socks and those PC holiday commercials!

Update (December 16):

Fisherman's sock in Cascade Superwash Sport

Fisherman’s sock in Cascade Superwash Sport

I’ve finished the first fisherman’s sock.  The pattern was really small, but the 5 stitch repeat and the 1×1 ribbing made increasing the size a little tricky.  I cast on 46 sts, decreased to 45 sts in the first row below the cuff, worked a 22 sts heel flap and decreased down to 44 sts through the gusset (so that the top of the foot is 22 sts – 1 purl, 4 repeats of the pattern and 1 knit). It was a little twisted before blocking but warm, cozy and attractive on a foot!

Turkish Delights and Noro Inspirations

The Hagia Sophia

Our travels often influence both my own personal style and my knitting; but no trip was more inspiring this way than our 10 day sojourn in Turkey.

The surreal fairy chimneys of Cappadocia

In the spring of 2011, we had planned to visit friends teaching in Cairo.  Fortunately, we looked at our tickets, and decided that our 48 hour layover in Istanbul could be easily extended to fill the entire trip.  After long negotiations with Turkish Air (I’m reasonably certain at this point that our travel agent winces when we call) and extensive perusing of our Lonely Planet, we had a new itinerary.  Our friends met us in Istanbul, and we spent 10 days in what has become my favourite travel destination.  Our trip was limited to Istanbul and the surreal landscape of Cappadocia, but the seacoast and East remain on my bucket list!

Turkey is a feast of colour and texture for fashion and textile lovers.  The streets, clothes and buildings are a wash with soft yellows, oranges, blues and greens.  As a knitter, the gorgeous chaos of Istanbul’s bazaars was awe inspiring.  Sandwiched between piles of pottery in saturated mosaics, and artfully arranged spices from across Asia and the Middle East are some of the most beautiful, hand crafted textiles and accessories I have ever seen. On the way home, our bags were packed with scarves in pinks, greens and turquoises for our moms and friends, and colourful silk ballet flats and earrings.  A rug was mostly definitely not within my maternity leave budget, but I went home dreaming of thick, handcrafted swirls of burgundy and gold to rest my feet on.

The view across the Golden Horn (Istanbul)

Turkey is geographically quite spread out, but domestic flights are very reasonable, and we were able to escape the bustle of Istanbul, and visit Cappadocia.  A long history of bizarre geology (the fairy chimneys) and human habitation make it a fantastic place.  People are extremely friendly, the food is terrific, and everything is waaaaay cheaper than Istanbul.  If you make it to Cappadocia, do not miss the eight story underground cities, used by ancient Christians to hide from Romans, or the magnificent local cuisine – I’m still dreaming about the tomato soup!

The shops of Goreme

Since the trip, I’ve thought about designing a scarf pattern inspired by the intricate colourwork of Turkish rugs and scarves, but may, in the end, have to leave that to the experts.   However, one of my favourite yarns has given me an outlet for all of this Turkey love: Noro Taiyo.  The combinations of earthy and saturated colours bring me back to the Spice Bazaar, and the uneven, organic texture is reminiscent of Cappadocia’s surreal hand carved architecture. Since coming across this yarn shortly after our trip, I’ve been using it everywhere.

The yarn itself can be frustrating to work with.  It’s thickness is purposely inconsistent; which can give your work a beautiful organic texture, but can also be an absolute pain when a particularly slim section pulls apart in your hands (full confession: I’m a tight knitter).  Each multicolour colourway contains a clear outlier, a colour that looks nearly ugly in its contrast to the rest of the yarn.  In the right project, the outlier makes the entire work more beautiful, but it in the wrong project, it can make an intricate pattern or adult sweater look plain wacky.

My top Noro successes have been relatively plain patterns that embrace it inconsistency and 70’s colourways.  The Paintbox Log Cabin blanket (available for free at Katherine Keyes’ blog: Get Your Hook On) was designed with Noro in mind and it shows.

The Spice Bazaar

My log cabin blanket

This blanket took months to make (and upwards of $100 in yarn), but was worth every minute and penny.  Katherine Keyes used Noro Kureyon, while I used Noro Taiyo, it is less expensive per yard, and a little easier to care for.  This caused a major overestimate in the number of skeins required, and I’ve been experimenting with remainders ever since.

Elizabeth Zimmerman’s Baby Surprise Jacket has eaten up a few of the leftovers.  I used the 1968 pattern to make one for each of my two year old nieces, on 5.5 mm needles, it’s a perfect fit.  The pattern is technically really easy, but difficult from a reading comprehension perspective, and I highly recommend the 6 episode YouTube videos for anyone unfamiliar with her patterns.  It’s knit in one very strange piece, with a single pair of seams across the top of the shoulders.  The wacky colours and uneven texture make for really beautiful, obviously retro sweater.  The great thing about toddlers is that they can get away with a fashion statement this bold!

Amelia’s toddler surprise jacket

Finally this really simple Entrelac cushion cover is now a staple in our living room.  The variety of Noro colourways makes it easy to match any couch, or living room and I’ve since knit cushions for half the family.

Entrelac cushion