The Parasol Protectorate

The latest books I am listening to! I stumbled upon the Parasol Protectorate Series purely by coincidence. They were mentioned briefly at the end of another audio book series. The only thing mentioned was the name of the first book and the author, Soulless by Gail Carriger.

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These books are set in Victorian England; an alternate reality were werewolves and vampires are accepted into everyday society. The main character, Alexia Tarrabotti, was born without a soul. Her soulless state leaves her unaffected by other supernatural’s powers.

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This complicates things in the very beginning when Miss Tarrabotti accidentally kills a vampire. Queen Victoria sends her lead investigator, a werewolf named Lord Maccon.

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Unlike most of the books I read this series has concluded with five books. I am usually finishing off a last book and waiting forever for the next one to come out. I guess that will be true with this one, because no more will come.

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The thing I like most about these books is the humour. Miss Tarrabotti is unfailingly polite to everyone, even in the most ridiculous situations. Even though this is Victorian times she is not submissive at all. Miss Tarrabotti prides herself on being an intellectual woman with a sharp tongue, mostly aimed at Lord Maccon, but who’s counting?

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I haven’t finished the last book yet, but if it is anything like the other ones it will not disappoint. I’ve been texting my friends with quotes and passages trying to lure them into reading all the books!! Lets hope I can succeed!

Work and Whimsy

I know I promised to start an exciting new sweater last week, but I totally haven’t. I’ve been slogging through some technical knitting I need to get done. I’ve also updated a few things on Ravelry. I was looking at my Ravelry project page with all my finished projects on it and thought that it really didn’t do me justice. I felt like I’ve been knitting the whole year round, just not produced any finished objects. At that point I realized I haven’t been recording all the things I’ve knit for KNITmuch. They still count as knitting and need to be recognized! I updated my Ravelry projects page and the 2015 Finished Objects link here on the blog.

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I will admit that this took me much longer than expected so the photos on the blog aren’t linked yet, but I will be getting to that when I am back home from vacation! That’s right, I’m leaving!
Only temporarily, never fear. A friend of mine and I are going to take a road trip to Chicago! It’s one of my favourite places to go! I really REALLY like food, and trust me, Chicago is a food city.
One thing different, this time we’re driving; so when I am not taking my turn at the wheel, I will have a good deal of time to knit. I’ll definitely bring easy things that aren’t easily messed up. If I manage to start a sweater before we leave I could get some great progress on the body. Although that would mean dropping everything immediately and swatching to within an inch of my life. I’ve had one too many a sweater turn out wrong to avoid swatching.

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I was thinking about stopping into some LYS’s while I’m there. It isn’t often I get the opportunity to just go gallivanting around a city like Chicago. I have been to Knitche, in Downers Grove, and loved it! This was the store I bought all my Shibui Silk Cloud from. They were so so SO helpful and balled it all for me into three separate balls per skein. This was before I had a scale and I was totally confounded as to how we were supposed to achieve this. When I expressed my doubts to the ladies at this store they offered to ball it all for me if I picked it up the next day.

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I would like to pop back if given an opportunity. There are a lot of yarn stores in Chicago though and I wouldn’t mind seeing at least one other. We’re staying near Wicker Park so perhaps there might be one in that area!

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I just realized I am leaving on Friday and haven’t been OBESSING over which knitting to pack and take with me. I have a couple simple things on the go, but really, where is the fun if you can’t take a whole suitcase full of yarn?

Technical Tuesday: The Slipknot

The past few Technical Tuesday’s have been a little heavier with colours and how to make them work, so today I am going back to basics. One thing that always surprises me is how often I refer to a slipknot and people say “a what?” It has even happened once or twice with other knitters. I use a slipknot every time I start a project, or have to tie a knot in general.

You may not have known what it is called, but a slipknot is the first thing you generally learn when you’re first starting out. You have to tie the yarn onto the needle in order to cast on. There are a few cast on’s that don’t require a slipknot or have clever ways around it.

Jenny’s Magic Cast On, for instance, does not require a slipknot. The theory being that it is still a knot and this one would be at the toe of your socks. Usually the slipknot’s themselves are invisible, so it isn’t a problem of seeing a huge ugly knot on your hem-line.

All the basic skills that are out there, this one is the foundation of knitting. All knitters and crotchetiers use it and, if you’re someone who is just starting out, this is the place to start.

Adventures with Paracord

As you might have noticed, I’ve been pretending to be athletic this summer. This includes running and biking outside. I read other bloggers adventures in running, biking and hiking for inspiration and ideas but one post I saw changed my outlook on outdoor activity safety.

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This was one of those posts about top 10 useful things for running or 5 pieces of gear you need to complete a triathlon. It was called a Road ID. It is a bracelet with your name, emergency contact information and any pressing medical conditions/allergies. You get to completely customize it so you can put whatever information you want onto it. I ended up putting my name, the city I live in, Paul’s number, my mom’s number and my antibiotic allergies.

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I kind of went back and forth about the Road ID. It is a good investment, but is it worth it? Maybe I could do it myself cheaper. I couldn’t find a place to do the little metal plate cheaper. The plate is engraved and affixed to the bracelet. There was no where I could find that allowed so many lines of text for so cheap. I wasn’t really keen on the bracelet part of it though.

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The bracelet is just a Velcro watch band, essentially. I could see it looking really good for a couple months and then looking absolutely horrible. I wanted something a bit more durable than Velcro as well. With a little bit of research online I found paracord bracelets. I went out and got the materials from Michael’s, it was not expensive at all. A couple of YouTube videos later I was in business.

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The funny part was, I kept seeing ‘emergency paracord bracelet’ and I couldn’t figure out why it was an ‘emergency’ bracelet. If you unravel the bracelet you have an extra length of paracord. A friend actually had to tell me that.

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It’s been keeping me out of trouble for a little bit and now I have an awesome bracelet wristband for my Road ID!!

On and On Again

What is going on with knitting this week!? Nothing much I am sad to say! I haven’t been all that interesting lately; I think I’ve lost some of my knitting mojo! It’s a real thing and happens to everyone at some point! For me it is usually in the summer when it is absurdly hot. No one even wants to look at a sweater let along knit it! This past weekend the temperature was in the high 20’s but the ‘feels like’ temperature was 34. THIRTY FOUR DEGREES!! I couldn’t look at what the humidity index was, but I am sure it was something absolutely atrocious.

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This past weekend I got a chance to sit and do nothing. No writing, no sample knitting, no knitting for other people. Just… nothing. I started thinking about knitting a sweater. It’s been a while since I’ve done it and at heart I am definitely a sweater knitter. I think my grandmother’s sweater has really annihilated my desire for sweater knitting. If I am knitting a sweater then I feel like I should be knitting hers because she asked me to so long ago. The last sweater I knit as a palate cleanser turned out to be an unmitigated disaster. I need a success, I need to just whip off an easy sweater and not worry about anything. I’ve listened to a podcast where the podcasters gave their listeners permission to change a pattern or put things on hold. I am officially giving myself permission to knit a sweater, out of whatever yarn I want, without guilt, without shame even!

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I think this is something every knitter gets caught up in. As soon as you start knitting, people start making orders. I always offer to teach them and they can make their own. I really think it’s interesting how quickly a lot of people back pedal away from the thought of knitting. It takes hours and hours of time for a knitted garment to be produced and knitters pour their blood, sweat and tears into these projects. I know I’ve mentioned this book before but Franklin Habit’s comic book It Itches really hits the nail directly on the head. If someone is knitting you something, that is time they are spending on you. There are a 1000 other things they could be knitting or doing, but they are taking that time aside and working on something special for you. Odds are, they’re thinking about you and how much you are going to love this gift, pouring good feelings into it.

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I’ve heard the philosophy, don’t knit angry. If you’re fighting with someone or unhappy, don’t knit on that project. I can remember what I was listening to or watching while I was knitting particular garments. Sometimes I don’t get specific scenes from garments, but I will get the emotions that film evokes; inspiration, anxiety, suspense, excitement. I know when I watch the Lord of the Rings movies and knit I always feel like those pieces are for travelling. I might have to start picking my projects based on what I am watching on TV at the time.

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When I was knitting the Harry Potter scarves for the last movie, I ONLY knit when I was watching a Harry Potter movie. To cut the fringe, I wrapped the yarn around the third Harry Potter book. I couldn’t help but remember the movies when I wore that scarf. I had to make about five of them and in the end, I think I gave the scarf I made for myself away. I might have to make another one and instill it with the same concentrated amount of Harry Potter power as the last one. Perhaps I’ll do something different this time? A Lord of the Rings or Doctor Who scarf? Decisions decisions…

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Technical Tuesday: The Colour of Truth Part 4

Now we get to the part where people are curious! How does your gauge affect the colours you are knitting with? Terms like ‘pooling’ will no longer hold fear for you here!!
When I went to Vogue Knitting Live in New York, one of the classes I took focused on using dip dyed yarn to make a pattern. There was no switching of yarns or anything, just math. This technique makes the yarn pool in a pattern. The best example I have of this is the snuggle sack I made my nephew when he was born.

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The yarn was variegated within itself and my gauge just happened to be the magic number to make this pattern appear. I didn’t do it on purpose and when someone asked me how they could replicate it, I wasn’t able to answer their question. Another one that happened more recently was this pair of Paul’s socks.

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They look striped, but that is just the gauge I hit. When I started the second sock, it wasn’t pooling the same; it turns out I had cast on a different number of stitches. Those two socks looked very different and that is what clued me in to my mistake!
Sometimes this isn’t always a mistake though. If you’re knitting a sweater and the body is 200 stitches, your sleeves are only going to be 40 stitches (these are rough ball parks, not in reference to a specific pattern). This means the body will look radically different from the sleeves.

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This swatch has a different amounts of stitches from the sock above, but it is the same yarn. If you’re counting on the yarn to pool the same, you’re going to have to do some fancy math. In this instance, what I would do is to attach two balls of yarn to the body of the sweater and alternate balls every two rows. This will allow the pattern to be truly random and if you do the same on the sleeves, the colours should be mixed up enough that you won’t be able to notice a difference.

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There are much easier ways to get around this. If you’re using a variegated yarn, you can always pair it with a solid colour. The solid colour will break up any unfortunate pooling. I bought some yarn online once; I thought it was mostly blue with a little bit of variegated colour in it. When I ended up getting it, the yarn was completely variegated. I got a sweater’s worth of the yarn and if I made a regular stockinette stitch sweater, it would have looked like a rainbow threw up on me. Needless to say, I have thought long and hard about what I am going to do with this sweater. I am going to make it a pattern of variegated with a solid. Now I just need the time to get around to doing it!

Board Games

One thing Paul and I enjoy is having friends over for board games. Paul is friends with a lot of people who are really into games, so we get all the best reviews. Occasionally, someone will get a new game and we will all gather the troops. This past weekend we got everyone together for a game of werewolves.

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Paul and I had played one night werewolf with his brothers and a few of their friends. The premise of the game; everyone is dealt a random card with a character on it. It could be a villager, werewolf or special character. You look at your card and then everyone goes to ‘sleep’ (we close our eyes). The werewolves open their eyes and look at the other werewolves, so they all know who one another is. Then the special characters; the trouble maker can switch two people’s cards, robber can switch their card with another person’s, the drunk switches their card into the middle with a totally random card.

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Then we wake up. No one looks at their cards and you have five minutes to decide who the werewolf is. If you started out as a werewolf, you might not be anymore and if you were the drunk, you have no idea what you are. There are more special characters than those three, but it is a lot of fun. Much pointing and shouting.

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Our friends have the longer version of this game, Ultimate Werewolf. There is a story to this game and no switching of the cards. You are dealt a card and the werewolves kill off one person every ‘night’ (when everyone’s eyes are closed). It is a more intricate game, but just as fun. The objective is to find out who the werewolves are before they kill all the villagers. In this game there is a sheriff, so the person appointed sheriff got to wear the cowboy hat…. After that the hats kept multiplying.

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These two games are excellent party games and one night werewolf is quick and can be played with as little as two players, but is really best with 4-6 people. The Ultimate Werewolf is excellent for seasoned gamers and can handle from 6-30 people.

The Story of the Dreaded Pocket

I’ll start with my own knitting, then… we will have story time!!
I’ve been plugging away at my knitting, little by little. Working on my Shibui gradient scarf, I have totally forgotten how amazing it is to knit with silk cloud.

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It’s not a really common fibre so when I pull it out to work on it everyone goes “ooooooooohh, what’s that?” This is the third gradient scarf I’ve done and I’ve got enough to make another one afterwards. These scarves are the epitome of potato chip knitting. The pattern is free on Ravelry.
You have to hold three strands of this yarn together and knit in a seed stitch. After completing one colour block, you switch out one of the strands for another colour. The pattern is very easy and the yarn is a dream to knit with, so you find yourself saying… just one more stripe. Next thing you know it is 4am and you’ve finished off another season of something on Netflix.

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I do have a funny knitting story to tell. A knitting friend, who wished to remain anonymous, came to me with a problem. She was knitting a sweater and could not make heads nor tails about the instructions pertaining to the pocket. I looked at it and had a hard time making it out. The ONLY reason I could tell what the designer was talking about was the fact that I had done this kind of pocket before. Basically, you knit your sweater till the place you want the pocket to be, you cast off stitches for the pocket. On separate needles, you knit a swatch the same amount of stitches as the ones you cast off for the pocket; knit until you have the depth needed for the pocket. At this point, when you’re purling back to the place where you bound off those stitches, you take the swatch that you knit (still with live stitches) and knit it in there. This creates a hole in the front with a flap; later you go back and sew the edges of the flap to the inside of the sweater. You can then put your hand in the hole and have a pocket! Victory!
I explained this, and she caught on; it wasn’t so difficult. The next day, she messaged me, upset and talking about ripping out several inches of knitting. I told her to wait and let me take a look. The way she described it, I didn’t think it would be necessary to rip out stitches. Sure enough, when I looked at it, all the stitches were fine and she had done the pocket totally and completely right. The pocket flap was on the outside of the sweater so she thought she would be sewing it onto the outside. She wasn’t visualizing the technique, but had done everything 100% correct. There was no problem with the knitting.
Afterwards, she felt really silly and that she should have seen that. I told her that I was impressed she had managed to get it right without knowing what the big picture was. That completely astounded me! I couldn’t believe she had followed those instructions without a mental picture of what it was going to look like! When she persisted that she really should have seen it, I said “well… at least you didn’t just rip it out!” The thought galvanized us into some very productive knitting for the rest of our hangout.
I didn’t manage to get any photos, but said friend told me to tell her story! Hopefully it put a smile on your face and gave you a pick-me-up on your Wednesday!

Technical Tuesday: The Colour of Truth Part 3

Self-Striping yarns are becoming more and more common now. They’re mostly made for things like socks, but can also be implemented in things like; leg warmers, fingerless mittens, hats, etc.
Self-striping, refers to yarn that will stripe for you; there is no need to switch colours or struggle with carrying around more than one ball of yarn. You don’t need to continually look at a pattern because all the hard work is taken out of knitting this kind of yarn. You can make a plain stockinette stitch sock, which turns out beautifully patterned.

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I’ve been dyeing a few self-striping hanks of yarn and that is lots of fun, but knitting with this kind of yarn it completely addictive. You know what the next colour is going to be, but seeing how it lines up next to the previous one makes you want to do just one more stripe.

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The type of yarn dyed by indie dyers is one-of-a-kind, there can be multiples of a batch and they may be close, but not exactly the same. Each hank is hand dyed by a person. Whether they are dip dyed or hand painted, there is going to be slight variations between each hank.
There are certain kinds of yarn that are self-striping, but they the patterns are computer generated. These hanks of yarn will be exactly the same every time. The computer generated pattern also means there can be a lot more intricate pattern than hand dyed yarn. The photo below is Regia yarn.

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This is one of my favourite types of variegated yarn. It makes for excellent mindless knitting and there is always an exceptional finished object at the end.

A Cat Calling

I realize I haven’t officially introduced my fur-balls on the blog, so I am going to do so now. I have three cats; who are my constant knitting companions. They’re only allowed near recreational knitting because they have a love for yarn that almost rivals mine.

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Above is Lucky, attempting to grab a ball of yarn and run with it. I don’t know if it is just the movement of the yarn or the smell or something, but she will attempt to grab a ball of yarn in her mouth and run with it.

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Just above here is Sassy; she has a variety of variations on her name, such as Sass-a-frass, Frasser, etc. In that photo is my warping board with shoestrings, pant strings, and all manner of string the cats have managed to steal from various types of clothing. The warping board had just been sitting in the hall way and I threw a few of the strings on it entertain the cats. Total hit.

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Last but not least is Chloe. I don’t know if her fondness for yarn is truly a fibre obsession or if she just likes sitting on my lap. There are literally thousands of photos of her on my computer; she is either snuggling yarn, or all tangled up.

I have definitely knit a couple things for the casts, like this…

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But they forgave me eventually. Chloe actually didn’t mind the little sweater; she purred the whole time it was on.

I don’t try to put them into little sweaters or Halloween costumes (that only happened once) very often. I don’t think they would forgive me otherwise. Those are the three troublemakers who allow me to live in their house and even grace others with their presence sometimes. What is the best thing you have ever seen knitted for a pet?

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Not that you can’t tell, but she was not amused.

Mastery

What has been up in the knitting world? Not a whole lot of recreational knitting. I’ve been having a lot of fun playing with new yarns and writing for KNITmuch. My second week of articles came out a couple weeks ago. I’ll link to those in the photos throughout the post. I’ve also been thinking more and more about the master knitting course.

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I was noodling around on the internet a couple months ago and found some information about a Master Knitting Certification. I was immediately interested and started looking up blogs about people who were taking this course or just had more information than I did. I actually found the blog of another Canadian taking it! I wasn’t sure if it was something that would only be recognized in the US or if it would be more international.

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Turns out there are three levels, you must complete all three to become a certified Master Knitter. One of the blogs I looked at suggested doing the different levels in different colours of yarn so you can tell them apart later. That is one of those easy little tips that would make a world of difference.

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I didn’t think this course would be easy, by any means, but from the couple accounts I have read, it seems like it is very difficult. The first level consists of sixteen knitted samples: three swatches each of ribbing, basic stitches and gauge; mirrored increases and decreases; yarn overs; cables and color change. Seventeen questions to research and answer, one hat and a two-page report on blocking and care of knits.

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I know this might seem onerous to some people, but it really excites me. It looks just like being in school again! If it wasn’t obvious, I love school and learning in any way, shape or form. I do think that I will completely disappear into this program the moment I order it, so I am going to TRY to make it a goal to finish my Grandmother’s Sweaters before I order. That will be the reward for finishing those sweaters!

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Now for what I have been doing with KNITmuch. The lovely people over at Red Heart sent me their With Love yarn to play with. It is fantastically soft and a fibre you could make anything out of. I did spend some knitting time making these samples, but it was really hard to put down this yarn. All the photos are linked to their corresponding articles over at KNITmuch!
That is all for this week, I am hoping to gather the motivation to continue a row or two on my Grandmother’s sweater. It’s been a very long time and I really REALLY need to finish that bad boy off. Soon. Very soon. I’ve got this guys, totally got this!

Technical Tuesday: The Colour of Truth Part 2

Today we’re going to talk about long colour shifts! These ones are by far my favourites, but you really have to watch what you’re doing if you’re trying to get clever with them. I’ve seen photos of people do sweaters with a long colour shift. It totally blows my mind when I think about how they got the sleeves to match.

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This beautiful example above is a pattern designed by Nataliya Galifianakis and is available at her Ravelry store Neuroknits. This particular pattern gets a gradient effect by holding several strands of yarn together, so it isn’t the perfect example for a post about long colour shift yarn. It is a lovely pattern with a stunning finished object that really accentuates why it would be to difficult to knit a sweater with a long colour shift yarn.

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Take this sock for example. The yarn was dyed this way (by KnitCircus), all I had to do was knit in my K3P1 pattern; the yarn did all my work for me. That sock is 64 stitches around, if I were knitting the sleeves of a sweater it would generally look very similar. For the sake of argument lets say the sleeves are done and look like this 64 stitch sock. When I start on the body of 250 stitches, those stripes are going to progress a lot more rapidly and not match the sleeves. I’m going to go over this problem in more depth in the next couple of weeks and give possible solutions, but here are some ideal projects for colour shift yarn.

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Socks are probably one of the most common. They are small and both socks usually have the same measurements. Indie dyers are doing gradient sock yarns that fade from lighter to darker or another colour completely!

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Scarves! This is an entrelac scarf made with Noro yarn. Noro is a longer colour shift than regular variegated yarn, but it is not the gradient like the sock above. The small squares in the entrelac were just big enough to make it look like there was a different colour for each square.
Shawls are also an excellent candidate for long colour shifts and gradients. As the colour sweeps along the contours of the wrap it gives an elegant grace to any pattern.

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Colourwork! Doing a long colour shift yarn through a yoke sweater like this, or a philosopher’s sweater, gives a really interesting effect. The same thing can be achieved using several different balls in different colours, but who wants to buy an entire skein of yarn for the sake of 10 yards? A long colour shift gives a similar effect and you’re only increasing your stash by one.
What was the proudest colour shift project you ever completed? Frogged? Left in the UFO bin? Did any specifically not work out?

Athletics Update

Now that the weather is really nice out, the training for the Give it a Tri (now to be referred to as GT) has been going much easier. It’s nice to get outside and do things in the open air.
Last week I went for a run in our neighbourhood. Near my house there is a labyrinth of small residential roads; growing up in the country, I underestimated the complexity of these roads. I started my run in an area I knew and worked my way over to places I had not explored. I knew the general direction I was going and a few of the key road names, so I was watching out to pass a road I knew. The running section of the GT is only 2.5K and I usually run around 3-4K. This time, I ended up running 6K… because I got lost.

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I had to actually take my phone out and pull up the map in order to make sure I was actually heading home. As it turned out, I was heading in the right direction, I was just going the long way around.

We manage to see Canadian geese every bike ride!

We manage to see Canadian geese every bike ride!

I’ve been getting up around 5am (or trying to) in order to get to the gym, but my schedule has been atypical the whole month of June. This week, we got Canada Day off in the middle of the week, which threw me off. I have high hopes for getting to the gym on time with July though!

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I’ve been really focused on fuelling properly for these bouts of physical activity. Paul and I usually go on a bike ride Sundays. I’ll go for a short run immediately after to practice my transitions. A few weeks ago I felt really shaky after the bike ride and ended up not going for the run portion. I think it was a dip in my blood sugar level; I probably had not eaten enough before hand. It happened once or twice more so I’ve been watching what I eat a little more carefully. I got a free app for tracking diet, which I started on the first day of the ‘Oh Canada Ribfest’ here in Waterdown. If there was any meal that need not be recorded, it would be that one.
New gear consists of a helmet! There are a lot of rules and regulations about the type of helmet and the certifications etc, etc. I got a new one to make sure everything was up to code and if I should get checked, there are no problems.

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I am still looking into what I am going to wear because the bane of my existence is struggling with a sports bra with damp skin. You need to be some kind of cross between a cirque du soleil contortionist and a greased weasel to make that situation work. I’ll just let you marinate on what that would actually look like. I hope everyone has an amazing weekend!