Crochet, knitting, astronomy & life in general.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

An ode to the circular needle

Oh circular needles! How wonderful you are! Seriously, they're versatile and flexible... you can knit in the round or back and forth, and if you want to knit something really wide, you don't have to worry about having a super long straight needle. Also, they're very transportable, since it's super easy to slide the stitches way down the needle without having to worry about dropping any. Currently, I'm using a 4mm 32" circular needle to knit a baby blanket for my friend Jo's baby (who hasn't quite arrived yet). I have about 6" so far, but there's still a ways to go. I hope I can finish it before the baby is born... I still don't know what to do with the edging. The two options are either a satin edging, like I remember my favourite baby blankets having, or a lacy crocheted edging in a complementary-coloured yarn (that fuzzy stuff is way too hard to crochet).

I guess that wasn't much of an ode, but whatever.

While I'm at it, I might as well dump a few other pictures. This is the different swatches I knit up for those two sock yarns I was contemplating using. As you can see, quite a difference in gauge. I guess they aren't interchangeable.

And finally, here's a little bracelet/cuff thingy I crocheted up with the very very last of that James C. Brett Marble Chunky stuff. I think it's pretty cute!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

A more or less (but mostly less) productive weekend

Yesterday, I made a shopping trip at the Yonge-Eglinton Centre where I picked up some kitchen supplies at Kitchen Stuff Plus (I love that store!) and a few balls of cheap acrylic yarn at Mary Maxim (since Romni doesn't sell anything either cheap or acrylic).

That evening, the man and I went to the TSO where they played Ravel's Alborada del gracioso and his Piano Concerto for the Left Hand in D Major, as well as Prokofiev's Symphony No. 5 in B-flat Major, Op. 100. The soloist was Louis Lortie and the conductor was Yannick Nézet-Séguin. The performance was absolutely thrilling. Nothing beats live orchestral music... We were sitting in cheap seats behind the orchestra, which wasn't so bad because we could see all of the conductor's facial expressions, and besides being a little brass-heavy, the balance was ok.

Today I started and finished crocheting a quebecois beer cozy for my boyfriend. It is loosely based on that pirate can cozy I talked about in a previous post, except I had to invent a fleur-de-lis applique pattern and switch up the colours a bit to be more... erm... patriotic. It turned out pretty well (though the applique could probably have been better, but I'm lazy) and the man loves it. A picture and pattern will likely come later. I think he's really missing la belle province, and it's nice to have reminders of home. His Christmas present was a Quebec care package, and he was super happy.

Speaking of beer cozies, the eyes of the pirate beer cozy were starting to fall off (stupid french knots) so I decided to try my hand at beading, and this was the result:

I think it's ok, though the mouth is kind of funky. It's my first time doing beading on fabric, so I guess it turned out alright for a beginner's attempt.

Finally (maybe), I started making a sleep mask for the man (gosh I'm a good girlfriend) from this pattern, altering it so that it's much less girly. I'm going to knit one layer of black and one layer of blue, and possibly put some fabric between these and then crochet them together with blue. The blue yarn I'm using is the leftover stuff from the quebecois cozy. It's Patons Astra in Electric Blue and it's very soft. I'm also doing it in stockinette stitch instead of garter stitch.

So, overall, I've been pretty productive, though probably not in the right areas of my life. I'm supposed to write an abstract for a poster representing my research by Tuesday, and there's this big pile of essays on my desk, just waiting to be marked...

Friday, March 27, 2009

New yarn! (or "Why I should get help")

I went to my favourite LYS, Romni Wools, to return the extra ball I had from my Cherie Amour sweater. Since Romni has a whompin' 2 floors and six thousand(!!!) square feet of yarn, I always wander around the store a fair bit. I checked out the sock yarn, and pestered one of the women who works there with my myriad of sock questions. She suggested I use the heavier yarn for the sole of the sock or for the ribbing, and the lighter yarn for the rest of it. Thanks yarn lady! I also picked up some Cascade Fixation in color 3688 (blue-purple), which I've been meaning to try out for quite some time because I have some project ideas.

While exploring the bargain basement (which is actually in the basement), I couldn't help but pick out a few choice skeins: Debbie Bliss Cotton Angora in bright purple (which has since been discontinued), some Romni Wools bamboo yarn in a coppery brown, and my favourite, Strumpfwolle sock yarn by Altenburger Handarbeiten...

The picture really doesn't do it justice. And it was such a great price! Usually, something like that would go for $10-11, but I got it for $6. Whee! My new sock plan is to make some basic socks out of that Patons stuff, just to get a feel for sock construction, and then make those Monkey socks with the Strumpfwolle. They'll be soooo pretty!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Sock ramblings

I think I desperately want to be a sock knitter, but something about it terrifies me. Maybe it's the things that people have said about turning a heel being a right of passage, or maybe it's just that it requires working with teeny tiny double pointed needles and super thin thread. So for my first sock, I'm going to try the Monkey Socks by the queen of awesome socks, Cookie A., which might sound overambitious, but I don't think there are any new stitch techniques to learn and the lace pattern doesn't look any more complicated than stuff I've done before.

My other problem revolves around maybe not having enough yarn. I found some really nice powder blue Patons Kroy 3 Ply (no link because Google seems to think that the Patons site has malware) in my grandmother's stash. There's one skein of 262 yards per 50g, but the Monkey pattern requires 360 yards.

I have three choices. The first is just to make those socks a little shorter, and possibly being able to finish them with the one skein. This would be ok, except I'm terrible with figuring out how much yarn it takes to make something, so I wouldn't know how much to shorten them by. The second option is to use this other unlabeled yarn of a similar colour and weight when I run out of the 3 ply stuff. Unfortunately, this other yarn is 4 ply instead of 3 ply, so a little heavier, and it's also an ever-so-slightly darker colour. I suppose I'll just have to swatch to see how different they really are, or I could remove one of the plies from the heavier yarn, but that would be a pain in the butt. The third option is just to buy some new sock yarn. Seems silly when I have a whole skein of that stuff already... but I'm going to my local yarn store today (Romni Wools, nom nom nom!), so I guess I'll check it out. I need to pick up some Cascade Fixation anyway...

It seems silly for me to start something new when I have three projects in the works right now, but I just have so much inspiration! (Cue corny romantic music.) I'm currently working on a baby blanket (using up that fuzzy green yarn, yay!) for my colleague whose fiance is having a baby, the stupid frickin' candy apple shrug (should I just rip it out at this point?), and the circles rug from the Crochet Me book. I should probably slow down and get some real work done... Oh, speaking of which, I just made a breakthrough in my research which will save me days of work, so I'm in pretty high spirits. I wish I'd figured it out weeks ago, but, alas, such is the nature of research.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

A new hat!

Aren't I adorable? I finally ended up making the Kitty hat instead of the Devil Hat, mostly because a Devil hat in pink seemed inappropriate. That and I kind of wanted to make pom-poms at the end of the I-cords (tie strings). It turned out fairly well, even though I messed up the I-chords a bit and didn't line up the ears perfectly. (My office mate says he can't even tell.) And I managed to use up some of that pink yarn!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Too much pink acrylic yarn!

In the same vein as the post about too much fuzzy yarn, I have too much pink acrylic yarn! When I first learned to crochet, I picked up a pound (yes, I was motivated) of worsted weight yarn of "unknown fiber content" at Zellers. It's apparently mostly acrylic, though I guess I can't be sure. I've made a few things with it, the first being a crocheted off-the-shoulder top which failed terribly. Well, I guess I failed terribly... At any rate, I somehow made it much too large (yeah yeah... always check your gauge), the front and the back pieces were different sizes, and even the nifty skull applique (from Not Your Mama's Crochet) didn't save it. It's in my stash waiting to be frogged.

Unfortunately, (or not, depending on your point of view) I still have most of it left over. It's not the greatest colour, though for some reason I thought it was when I bought it, and there's only so much you can make for yourself. I would make gifts out of it, but there aren't many people who I know who would want pink things. At the moment, I'm making the Adult Devil Hat, though it might turn into the Official Kittyville Hat if I change my mind at the last minute. I might even put a pom-pom on it...

The other project I've made with this yarn is a Do Not Disturb sign from Knitty. It was my first attempt at colour changes and I'm really happy with it. I made it in two days part of which was during a car ride to Ottawa. It now resides happily on my bedroom door, though I suppose it's sort of silly since my boyfriend and I live alone.

I don't know what to do with the rest of it... maybe I'll make some big project like an afghan.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

International Year of Astronomy

Since I'm involved with all this IYA stuff, I feel I should be giving it some good publicity. A couple of months ago, I was involved in the IYA kick-off at the Ontario Science Centre, which involved making planispheres for the kids (and for the young at heart) and showing off some meteorites, along with handing out astronomy pamphlets. It was a lot of fun, and a lot of exhausting.

I'm also one of the assistant coordinators for the UofT Astronomy Public Tours, a programme which allows the general public to have contact with real astronomers and to learn something about astronomy. It generally consists of a public talk at 8pm on the first Thursday of every month (except January) followed by observing through our 10" Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope and our 8" refractor. Generally, there are about 100 people at these tours, and last month we had an exceptional 200+ attendees.

Upcoming events include observing during Earth Hour, which will take place on March 28th at 8:30 pm. For this event, the entire city of Toronto will be turning off their lights for an hour, allowing us a full hour sans light pollution! I'm pretty excited for that. There are also public tours which you can find out about on the upcoming UofT tours on our website (linked above).

Monday, March 16, 2009


I always find that using up leftover balls of yarn is strangely cathartic. I recently had the opportunity to finish off a couple of skeins, one from my sweater and the other from the hat and scarf, both mentioned in the previous post. The first project was made from the leftovers from my Cherie Amour sweater. I wanted to make a Queen Anne's lace scarf, but it turns out I barely had enough yarn to make the "scarf" go around my neck once. No problem! I found a funky button, and I made a neck warmer.

I think I actually like this better than a scarf. It's not bulky but it still keeps my neck warm, and it looks super cute peaking out from under my jacket. The second stash buster was the Simple Crochet Headband, which I modified by adding one of those roses I like so much. This was done with that pretty yarn from the scarf and hat I made for my friend...

Speaking of leftovers, Saturday was Pi Day, and my astronomy friends and I celebrated in style with many, many pies.

I made my first successful double crusted pie (unlike last time). I think the trick was using white flour instead of whole wheat... the crust was fantastic. It's a blueberry pear pie because I ran out of blueberries and had a can of pears lying around. Turns out that it's better that way because the pears add a nice texture to it.

I had some crust dough left over (as well as some pears) and so I made a pear turnover. I think this one got devoured almost immediately, therefore, success!

At the moment, I still have three unfinished pies in the fridge, as well as a tubfull of apple crumble. Needless to say, I'm in heaven...

Monday, March 9, 2009

Cherie Amour, oh how I love thee!

All rejoice! Ilana has completed her first sweater and it wasn't a total disaster!!! I'm pretty proud of myself.

Now, admittedly, it's a little too large, especially in the sleeves, but I don't mind so much since the pattern is supposed to be hippyish and flowy. However, the front was gaping a little too much for my liking, so I crocheted up a quick rose and sewed it to the bottom of the V-neck to pull it together a bit more. I think it's even nicer because of it. Here's the rose detail (a little blurry):

Oh, and here's that scarf and hat I talked about a couple of posts ago which I made for my friend C. That's my lovely boyfriend modeling for me... I have a feeling he doesn't like having his picture taken.

Sunday, March 8, 2009


In a bout of procrastination, I opened an account on Ravelry and proceeded to upload pictures and descriptions of all the projects I've done, check off all the needles and crochet hooks I have, put my various craft books in my library, and make a queue of projects I want to try. It's not important that I have a 15-page progress report due Tuesday... craft websites are much more important!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Pie hat

A short while after I discovered the crocheted cupcake pattern from Bittersweet, and after having perused countless beret patterns, I thought it would be a great idea to crochet a pie hat. Pies, as well as being my favourite dessert, are also the perfect shape to be fashioned into a cute little tam. I practically had the pattern all mapped out in my head, and then I did a Google search to see if anyone else had thought of it. I saw a couple of unsatisfactory knitted pie hats, but they weren't really what I was looking for. I promptly forgot about it, and went on with my life.

Recently, I started reading the blog Monster Crochet (I have this tendency to read newly discovered blogs from the beginning), and I found that in November, Lady Linoleum had created a whole slew of pie hats, ranging from a cranberry-orange pie with a lattice crust, to a pumpkin pie with a dollop of whipped cream. It was as if I had somehow channeled my idea to her... Not that I want to take any credit for her genius, but it is rather strange that she crocheted almost exactly what I had envisioned. I guess it's possible for several people to come up with the same concept...

Anyway, now that I've seen this, and since no pattern is posted, I'm tempted to try to reverse engineer one of these pie-rets. That or I'll get lazy and buy the pattern. Or I'll forget about it again...

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

A simple scarf

On the Valentine's/Family Day weekend, some friends of ours were visiting from Ottawa. One, who shall be called C, stayed an extra couple of days so that we could see a Ben Folds concert (which was pretty awesome, by the way). The concert was on a Tuesday, and since the boyfriend had to work all day, C hung out with me for most of the day, following me on my errands and everything. We just happened to pass by the Yonge-Eglinton mall where there's a Mary Maxim, and since I can't resist a yarn store, we dropped in. C decided that he wanted to buy some yarn so I could make him a nice scarf, so we looked through the whole store, finally deciding on a nice variegated blue and brown.

However, leaving the store, we saw this gorgeous gorgeous ball of variegated copper, brown, green and blue yarn. It was two-ply and the yarn changed colour differently for each ply. It was really neat... and even though it was a chunky acrylic, it was still beautifully soft. So we returned the other yarn he'd bought right away and got that one. At about $10 for a 200g ball, it was a steal. Unfortunately, I've thrown out the yarn label, so I can't say what brand it is... but this is what it looked like:

The day after C had to go back to Ottawa, I started knitting his scarf with a simple 1x1 ribbing pattern. It was really fast, and I got this picture the day after I started knitting it:

The yarn is a joy to work with. It's super soft, of course, and watching the colours change is rather addictive. I finished knitting it last night, and here's a wonderful self-portrait in the bathroom:

None of the colours really show up as well in the pictures as they look in real life, but that should give you some idea. I had a bunch of the yarn left over (turns out a 200g ball is really big!) so I'm also making a simple toque with the same 1x1 ribbing pattern. I'll have a picture of that when I'm finished.

I'm also currently working on this gorgeous sweater from Knitty. I have one more sleeve to knit up, then I have to sew the whole thing together and block it. I'm really excited about it. The yarn I'm using is a beautiful purple, and I'm sure it'll drape wonderfully when it's blocked. I'll post pictures of that too when I'm finished.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

A little bit of astronomy

I've talked a lot about crochet, knitting and baking in this blog, but after eight posts, I still haven't really talked about anything astronomy-related. Looking through some old pictures, I noticed a photo taken by the telescope at the Bishop's University Astronomical Observatory, where I used to work over the summers. I didn't take the picture myself, but I did combine the images taken with three different filters in order to create this colour-composite image, the first I'd ever attempted.

This is an image of M57, also known as the Ring Nebula in the constellation Lyra. It's one of my favourite objects to look at with a telescope, and it makes me sad that it's impossible to see in Toronto. I do miss the unpolluted skies of the Eastern Townships...

All hail the chief!

A few months ago, when the american presidential election campaign was in full swing, I received in my weekly Lion Brand newsletter a pattern for Obama and McCain finger puppets*. Though I don't care much for politics, I'm a liberal at heart, and so my views are much more aligned with those of the democrats than the republicans, so I decided to make the Obama finger puppet (though one of my friends insisted I make both so that they could fight, gladiator style).

Now, despite my general apathy about politics, and despite the fact that I'm canadian so american politics shouldn't matter so much to me, something about the Obama campaign really inspired me. Compared to the previous president, he just seems like such an intellectual, who really has the best interest of his citizens in mind. That and he's the first black president, which really is a huge step for americans. So after he won the election, I was so excited that I designed and made a crown for him.

Hail to the king, baby!

I've since retreated into my post-Obama political apathy, but I still hold great hope for this president. Maybe he'll make the world a better place, and fix those problems that have been plaguing the world for so long...

*Note that to access the patterns, I think you have to have an account on the Lion Brand site. It's free, so if you're really interested, it only takes a moment to make an account.