Happiness, for a knitter

I think the two most exciting days in the life of a knitter are those spent casting on and those spent casting off. So, according to these photos then, I’m having a pretty smashing week.

Do you want to know something? I am.

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I finished my Ecclefechan Mitts! (Notes here.)This project was one of the most gratifying knits I’ve done in a little while. I love them and I feel pretty certain that they love me, too, because wherever I go, there they are, right where they belong, on my own two hands.

Then, not long after that, there was another day that brought visions of this:

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and this:

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and this:

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… I figure I need to post at least one bathroom mirror shot of myself in order to call myself a real blogger (because I was just an imaginary one before)…

As you can see, my Pomme de Pin Cardigan is still missing a button band and is looking rather wrinkly because it hasn’t been blocked yet. But I do have the wool wash (Eucalan) ready and I hope it won’t be long now until this project is on the floor and outlined with pins.

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Knowing I will be casting on a new project as soon as that UPS carrier knocks on my front door (I sure hope it won’t be much longer now…), at this moment, I really do feel like one of the happiest knitters in the world.

Somebody pinch me, please.

Thank you for reading today. May there be many happy days in your life (knitting or otherwise) spent fulfilling little dreams.

p.s. If you would like to share in the joys of casting on (and maybe even casting off) an exciting new knitting project with me and a gathering of some truly wonderful knitting people, you might like to sign up for my leighside knit along. Hope to see you there!

A leighside knit along

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**I feel I should tell you in advance, that this is a very long post. You might like to take a moment and go get a cup of tea before you settle down.** 

Happy Monday to you! I hope you enjoyed a most lovely spring weekend, I know I enjoyed all the warm sunshine and fresh air.

As promised in last Friday’s post, I have returned to give you all the details about my leighside knit along. As I write this now, I realize I feel both excited and frightened. I am really, really excited to have some of my friends join me here on this adventure of mine (friends always make things feel better). But I am frightened, too, because all of this is new to me (what if this is a total flop? what if I make mistakes? when I do, how will I fix them?).

So, having said all that, it is in the spirit of nothing ventured, nothing gained, that I commence:

My (rather loftly) goals for this knit along are to develop a little community vibe here at leighside knits, as well as to share a feeling of connection with friends we both know and friends who remain yet undiscovered. It is because of this goal that this knit along is meant to be a little celebration of, and between, friends, too.

As I described in my last post, I believe knitting groups to be very special places where magical things can happen all because of a shared passion for making beautiful things with string and two needles (or lately, just two arms!). I have had the privilege of spending time with old friends and getting to know new ones, too, by attending knitting groups and knitting workshops. These moments shared together have vastly enriched both the quality and meaning to my life, and it is because of this I want to share an opportunity, with any of you who would like to join me, to gather together here, and share a little about ourselves and what we are knitting.

Personally, I could talk for hours about knitting, so naturally, this knit along sounds like a lot of fun to me. I hope sounds like fun to you, too.

So, what does this leighside knit along involve, and, more importantly, how can you get involved?

Well, first you need to know that there are three theme words intended to direct this knit along.

These words are: Friendship, Feminine and Pretty. I have chosen these words for several reasons, the first word for reasons that I think I’ve already made clear; the second two because they feel fitting to our present season (in the northern hemisphere, anyway). Spring is a time of delicate flowers like daffodils, tulips (you know how much I love those!), hyacinths, and crocuses as well as a time to wear bare legs and lightweight dresses with little cardigans. I also think of new Easter outfits and fragrant white lilies.

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However, I also associate the words Feminine and Pretty with my (and some of my other retreat friends’) choice of pattern for this knit along by the knitwear designer, Bonnie Sennott (of Blue Peninsula), with whom I feel most lucky to have met at a retreat last fall and have begun to develop a little friendship with as a result. These rather inspiring friends and I have chosen to knit some of Bonnie’s patterns in an attempt to surprise her with a little show of support and appreciation for her design work (she felt very honoured, yay!).

How can you join the leighside knit along?

Well, first you will need to choose a project to knit, maybe it is one you are already working on, or maybe it is an excuse to go out and buy some seriously soul-shaking new yarn that you have always wanted to knit with and find that perfect new pattern (like me!). And while nothing would please me more than to have you choose one of Bonnie’s patterns to knit along with us, it is more important to me that you to knit something that really excites you. Ideally it would be pretty and feminine, but maybe it is pretty ugly or hardly feminine at all. Like I said, whatever project that gets you excited to knit is the perfect project for this leighside knit along.

Then, you need to leave a comment in the reply section of this post (you must click on today’s post title to get there), stating your interest in participating in the knit along. Make sure you leave me your email address (it is often required to write your address to leave a comment anyway, it will not be used for another purpose than this knit along) so I can email these following questions to you (make sure you are checking your junk mail, too). Only the first question is obligatory to answer in order to participate:

1. What project are you knitting? Who is the designer? What yarn have you chosen for your project?

2. Choose one of the theme words and describe what that word means to you. Does it remind you of an event, or a person or a place that you have a special association with?

3. Choose one (or all) of the following to answer:

*Do you have a favourite quote or saying that you would like to share?

* Can you tell me what method, or style, of knitting you use? I.e., Are you a continental style/yarn in the left hand picker, american/british/style right handed thrower or cottage industry/lever style, needle tucked under your arm knitter?

* How long have you been knitting?

* What is your favourite fibre to knit with? Why?

Once you have answered these questions (remember, the only one you must answer is the first question) and taken a photo of the project you are knitting (even if you haven’t cast on yet), email this information back to me.

I will then post each of your little Q&A on the leighside knits blog throughout the duration of the knit along that begins officially April 22nd, 2014 and closes May 16th, 2014. The frequency of these Q&A posts depends entirely on how many people choose to join (I may also need to set some deadlines for joining). I would also like you to share a final photo of your progress so we can all ooo and ahhh over your project here on leighside knits. You should not feel pressured to finish your project during this time (but what a bonus if you do!), remember the goal of this knit along is to have fun, to learn something you didn’t know about knitting and knitters, and to connect and celebrate with friends both old and new.

As an extra bonus surprise, I am doing a giveaway for one lucky knitter who joins me here before May 9th, 2014 (I will have one of my sons draw a name from a hat, I’m not very sophisticated I’m afraid). The winner will be announced on May 16th.

Once contacted, I will send this, a skein of Manos del Uruguay, Fino, as well as your own personal copy of Blue Peninsula’s birchleaf pattern (it’s one of my favourites) from me, to the winner.

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Thank you for bearing with me throughout this rather long post today. I hope you will join me on this leighside knit along and prepare yourself to have lots of fun knitting and getting to know more about other knitters. I will kick off this knit along next Tuesday, April 22nd with my own answers to the Q&A and a little sneak peak into the beautiful project I have chosen to do (did I say I was excited?). Until then, it’s top secret! Have a most lovely day!

Remember, if you would like to join me, leave a comment in the reply section of this post and I will get in touch with you as quick as I can. Thanks!

Food for thought Friday + an invitation

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“The world is so empty if one thinks only of mountains, rivers and cities; but to know someone who thinks and feels with us, and who, though distant, is close to us in spirit, this makes the earth for us an inhabited garden.”

- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about friends, friendships and about building community. Knitting community, to be more specific.

Before I moved to my current home, I was part of a knitting group made up of some very close friends. About once a month, we would take turns in hosting and gather together to catch up on all the latest personal news, drink some tea (or wine), eat some decadent goodies and talk about (by that I mean show off) our latest knitting projects. I believe these times together were very precious to all of us. I know I miss them dearly and wish I wasn’t so far away as to make these meetings no longer possible.

Since then, however, I’ve joined up with a new, local group that meets up at our local library and slowly, these knitters are beginning to feel like friends. And I think that is the magic in knitting groups. You put a group of women (and the occasional man or two) together with the common interest of yarn and two needles, and before long, you’ll find yourself with friends.

This was most definitely the case for me when I attended a creative retreat last fall. I went to this retreat thinking what I really needed was some time for me, some time alone spent mostly knitting. What I realize now, is what I really needed, and what I got, were more friends. I’d like to think we all had fun getting to know each other (I know I did!) and more often than not, most of our conversation happened while many of us were just sitting around, knitting. The word magic hardly begins to convey how I feel about it.

I am very happy to say that most of us have stayed in touch, sharing emails, letters and photos (usually of our latest knitting accomplishments) and it was because of some of these exchanges that an idea grew.

Let’s do a knit along!

A theme was developed, a time frame sketched out, a method devised, all with the intention of connecting together by means of a shared knitting endeavour, despite the vast distances between us and most definitely in the spirit of friendship.

We also have a little surprise planned, too, which I think we’re all feeling pretty excited about.

I am also very pleased to tell you that these friends generously agreed to do this knit along with me, here, on this blog, and also to extend an invitation to any of you who would like to join us in a little celebration in the name of friendship.

Why would you want to do such a thing? Well, because knit alongs, like knitting groups, are a lot of fun and because you get to learn new things and meet new people and sometimes, if you’re lucky, these people become great friends.

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Curious? Interested? I hope so. I will provide more details this upcoming Monday (if all goes according to plan).

Until then, I hope to leave you now, as we head into this long anticipated weekend, with thoughts of friendship, knitting and all things feminine and pretty (those are all little clues, just so you know). Have a lovely day.

p.s. As the next two Sundays are of special significance to me, I will not be writing my usual Gratitude Sunday posts then. I will, however, be back on Monday. See you then!

It’s Finger-Knitting Night in Canada

For those of you who do not know my husband personally, there are a few things I should tell you so that what I am about to show you bears any real significance.

Eric is one of those gifted few who makes everything he does look like it’s the simplest thing in the world to be doing (do you know any of those? my sympathies if you do). Teaching a three year old how to ride a two wheeler, no problem. Taking three boys to the grocery store early on a Saturday morning, easy-peasy. Riding a 2 day 400km cycling tour, no sweat (well, maybe a lot of sweat, but you get my point). Writing policy, balancing mind-blowing budgets, giving radio interviews with Anna Maria Tremonti on CBC (I could go on but I think it would embarrass him)… it’s done, done, done, all in a days work.

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Finger-knitting? Well, that’s a different story.

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So, you can hardly blame me for running, yes, running for the camera when I see this scene unfold before me. Confusion is not an expression I see on this face very often and I have to savour this moment while I can. The Jens Voigt T-Shirt graphic sums up his feelings quite well, I think.

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I’ve got to give Eric credit for trying, and Mr Ben credit for trying to teach him how (God bless his finger-knitting heart), but what you see there is about as far as he got.

Now, I know a good, healthy marriage does not thrive on one-upmanship, but I can’t stop smiling about how, in this house at least, I’m still the best knitter around.

And, oh, please don’t ask me about what the score was in the game, I was too busy watching the finger-knitting that night.

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Thank you for reading today. Have a wonderful day, full of laughs and life’s little triumphs.

Little updates

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Some of you may have noticed that I have removed the shop page from the blog, so I thought I would take a moment or two to tell you why.

I’ve always felt that one of the driving forces behind the leighside knits blog is my desire to start producing patterns for sale (and for free) and having a way of sharing my ideas and inspirations about them. I still feel this way and I am still working on some patterns now.

However, I am realizing that my timeline is changing. While I would like nothing better than to release several patterns right this very moment, there are a few things holding me back, one of which is my own stamina. How often I have wished I was one of those people who can tackle a multitude of projects without breaking a sweat. Most days, just keeping up with my boys is enough to put me to bed early. So, I think it’s going to take me a little longer to get my patterns out there than I had originally hoped. Seeing an empty shop page every time I sat down to write a post just made me feel bad about the whole thing so I removed it. And just like that, I began to feel much better about everything.

Now, having got that little piece of housekeeping out of the way, I can move onwards and upwards to more exciting updates… my Ecclefechan Mitts:

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As I write this, I’m a little more than halfway there. Progress to be happy about, indeed.

Thank you for reading today. Have a lovely day!

Gratitude Sunday

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Today I am joining Taryn (from Wooly Moss Roots) and many others to pause, reflect and name some of the many things I am grateful for this week. I find practising (in my case, praying) gratitude helps me remember that each day I get to share with my family, is a gift, and not just an overwhelming mess of laundry, lego and dog hair. If you would like to join the conversation you may add your list in the comment section, or, visit Taryn’s Gratitude* Sunday post and post your own list there for the world to see!

Today I am grateful for:

* how my love for tulips keeps growing (though you might be tired of seeing them!)

* spending time on my wooden swing for the first time this year

* watching the grass patches grow

* my faith, a gift that guides me through both the good and the bad times

* my husband and sons, warts and all, who love me, warts and all

* time spent with my dad and step-mom who stayed with us this week, and watching their relationship with my kids grow stronger

* all the wonderful meals (and wine) we’ve shared together this week

* phone calls from my mom (who lives very far away)

* a surprise day off for my husband, much needed for everyone’s sanity here

* having an extra pair of handyman hands around while there was water coming into our basement

* spectacular new-ish moon views, it was such a beautiful golden colour

* birdsong and robin sightings

* yellow dishcloths

* an opportunity to use 2mm needles for the first time ever, and loving the experience

* emails shared with people I really admire

* for all of you, my readers, who take the time to visit my funny little blog

* letters and thank you notes received this week, I don’t think I can truly express what joy they bring to my quiet home routine, far away from my friends

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Thank you for joining me today as I reflect how truly blessed I am, I hope your day leaves you feeling just the same way.

*** this just in, I am also very grateful to hear about the birth of a new baby boy today, born to very dear family friends, congratulations everyone!***

Food for Thought Friday

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“Rest nurtures creativity, which nurtures activity. Activity nurtures rest, which sustains creativity. Each draws from and contributes to the other.”

- Kim John Payne, Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids

I will keep it short and sweet today as I find myself, at the end of this week, feeling on the edge of a nasty cold and a little off-centre as a result. Time for a little rest, I’m thinking.

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And knitting, naturally.

“In the nineteeth century, knitting was prescribed to women as a cure for nervousness and hysteria. Many new knitters find this sort of hard to believe because, until you get good at it, knitting seems to cause those ailments.

The twitch above my right eye will disappear with knitting practice.”                                               -Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, At Knit’s End: Meditations for Women Who Knit Too Much

And maybe I’ll do some grass watching, too.

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Thank you for reading today, I hope your weekend is full of rest, comfort and all things that renew your spirit.

The Battle of Ecclefechan

No, there was no such real battle, only the very brief battle of will power that happened in my mind. There is an actual place called Ecclefechan, in Scotland. More importantly, to me, at least, there is a relatively new fingerless mitten pattern by that same name (in fact, it was named after the place and the tarts made there) produced by one of my favourite designers, Kate Davies. I’ve talked about her work here before.

It so happens that I received a Ecclefechan Mitt kit recently. It was a tremendous gift given to me by a very thoughtful and considerate friend with whom I share a passion for Kate Davies. I was so shocked and happy when I opened the package that I cried, it was so unexpected and perfect. (I had been coveting these mitts ever since their release.) Naturally, I wanted to drop everything right there and then and cast on. But after a few moments of deliberation, I decided not to. This project would act as my proverbial carrot before the horse, motivating me to finish my Pomme de Pin Cardigan before I was allowed to start something new.

That was last week.

This week, today (to be precise), I declared defeat (I think there was never much hope for victory in the first place). And boy, I can tell you, surrender has never felt sweeter.

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I am so excited to be knitting another Kate Davies pattern.

I am also so in love with this yarn. It’s Jamieson & Smith’s Shetland Heritage. It’s Shetland wool, but spun worsted, so it’s much smoother and crisper than it’s fuzzier, woollen-spun sibling. It’s ideal for this bold, black and white graphic pattern.

I’ve knit with it before and loved it just as much.

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This is my Fair Isle Cap. I started this project last summer and was so bummed when I ran out of yellow (Auld Gold) yarn a mere couple of rounds away from no longer needing it. As you can see, I’ve purchased a new ball. I hope to finish the crown and the lining sometime before Christmas 2014 (we’ll see).

Right now, in any case, I’m in my own personal heaven on earth/knitter’s paradise knitting these Ecclefechan Mitts. I plan on enjoying every single stitch of it, however long it may take.

Thank you for joining me today, I hope you get to spend some of your day in your own version of paradise, too. Have a lovely day.

focus

These days find me admiring the view here (Amici Bracelet and some favourite buttons):

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Or here (a selection of Alice Starmore’s Hebridean 2 ply):

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Finishing these (my green and white experiment and The Sweetness of a Simple Life):

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Or these (stay-on baby booties, an archived pattern, I will try to put up my Ravelry notes in my notebook for those who might have an old copy) :

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Barely holding back from attacking this (baa ram ewe Titus in White Rose):

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Or this (this one is really, really, really hard not to dive into, it attacks every weakness in my defences, any guesses?):

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Having so much fun making a ridiculous amount of these (Akira Yoshizawa origami butterflies):

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While having such a hard time focusing on this (my Pomme de Pin en rouge):

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The never-ending sleeve. Personally, I blame working the lace in the round. Until this moment, I never knew how much I strongly dislike knitting lace (or is that lace knitting, I don’t know how many times I’ve looked up the distinction and I can never remember) in the round. The glass of wine helped though, which makes me a little nervous…

What is it going to take? Any suggestions?

Thank you for joining me while I may (or may not) focus on finishing my cardigan today. I hope you have a lovely day, focusing on whatever beauty and joy crosses your path.

Gratitude Sunday

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Today I am joining Taryn (from Wooly Moss Roots) and many others to pause, reflect and name some of the many things I am grateful for this week. I find practising (in my case, praying) gratitude helps me remember that each day I get to share with my family, is a gift, and not just an overwhelming mess of laundry, lego and dog hair. If you would like to join the conversation you may add your list in the comment section, or, visit Taryn’s Gratitude* Sunday post and post your own list there for the world to see!

Today I am grateful for:

* two weeks worth of yellow tulip cheer

* dress up days at school, so fun

* musical jam sessions shared between brothers… sweet and loud harmony!

* warmer, above zero days

* my husband, despite his crazy work week, taking everything in stride, including the water leaks in the basement (because of the warmer days)

* waking up to the sound of crows roosting, mourning doves cooing and of a cardinal sing its poor little heart out

* pizza night fridays

* origami butterfly making, so addictive

* laughs shared while playing Tim’s butterfly race game

* visiting and catching up with my dad and step-mom

* kind pattern comments

* my friends and all the calls, coffee dates, emails, letters shared together and wonderful gifts received

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Thank you for reading today, I hope your day gives you much to be grateful for, too.