Thursday, January 11, 2018

The Sweet Spot

Just an addendum to yesterday’s post: I fixed the issue I was having with my weaving! I picked a time when I wasn’t tired or frustrated, sat with the loom a little while and really looked carefully at what I was doing. First I cranked up the tension even more which is easy to do on my big countermarche loom with its “ship’s wheels” as my Grandbeasties refer to the ratchet and pawl tensioning system:

You can get some pretty good torque going with those!

Then I watched as I threw the shuttle from right to left and discovered that some of the threads on the upper section of the shed were hanging lower than they should causing the shuttle to bounce over them. They looked fine when I got off the loom and took a photo from the side:

That space (called the shed in weaving-speak) is where the shuttle has to pass through on its way to the other side. There’s always going to be a little unevenness since I threaded this plain weave on 8 shafts and each shaft may not lift exactly even with the next. But close is (usually) good enough. It was then that I discovered that for efficiency I was leaving my feet on both of the treadles as I pressed down one or the other for each pass. It didn’t seem to matter on one side but somehow I was putting too much weight on the left treadle as I depressed the right one causing the shafts that those naughty threads are on to sink a little. So I deliberately concentrated on lifting the weight of my foot at the appropriate time and...hello...it worked! I haven’t had any more submarines or hopping and skipping shuttles since. Yay!

One last tweak was to make sure that my weaving bench was exactly the right distance from the loom so that I can reach the treadles and still make the wide swings to the left and right to throw the shuttle. You know my tiny T.rex arms, right? Well I also have short legs and my loom is a rather large one. There’s a definite sweet spot about 6” out from the bottom beam and I’d forgotten.

So I have nearly a yard woven now! I love this closeup view from underneath the loom:


One day I’ll give you the Grand Tour of the Countermarche Loom. It’s not a very common type of loom and it has some advantages and also quirks all its own. Mine was made by John Low of Woolhouse Tools back in 1989 and her name is Gertrude No.27. Parts of her often show up in my garment photos because she takes up half of my studio and it’s kind of hard to avoid her photobombing. Gee, I’m so glad we’re back on speaking terms!

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

A Long And Winding Yarn

Yes, I’m still here! (And I still have shingles - about which we will not speak. Bleh.) Anyway, I’ve been slowly plugging away on a couple of projects. All involving wool, which is absolutely my favourite fibre hands-down. Particularly for the colder months of the year but I still wear wool socks for walking even in the hottest weather. No substitute for the real thing. Sheep’s wool is insulating, wicking, self-regulating, biodegradeable, sustainable and renewable. What’s not to love? Unless of course you’re truly allergic in which case I feel very sorry for you.

So what exactly have I been up to? First of all, with Thom’s help I finally got the Stashbuster Blanket warp on the loom. It took forever because all that washing, rinsing, dyeing, and rinsing some more made the strands stick to each other just enough so that they didn’t slide past each other easily. It was a matter of wind a few inches, strum, shuffle, tug, pull, finger-comb and wind a few more inches for a full 11 yards. Yikes! There were a few broken ends and a few swear words but we took it slowly and got it wound on. For some reason, one of the sections was about 6” short at the end and I have no idea how that happened. Perhaps I wound it a bit tighter on the warping board than I did the succeeding sections? It’s actually amazing how just a wee difference in tension can add up over a long length. Luckily I have plenty of warp so it wasn’t really a problem. I just hacked the other ends off to match.

My warp is wound from 2 and 3-ply yarns but my weft yarns are finer single ply. Remember those kinky skeins that came out of the dyepot? They all needed winding into smooth cakes so I can then wind bobbins. Whew!


I have the skeins that I dyed green with the warp plus some extra in red, purple and orange. I’m adding the contrast colours randomly in narrow stripes and it really does help to punch up the greens:

Look! Cloth! It seems a little open and airy on the loom but it will close up and be lovely and light and warm after wet-finishing. I’ve only got about a foot woven so far. Again it’s really slow going. I seem to be having trouble regaining the ability to toss the shuttle across this wide warp. Especially from the right for some reason. I’ve had the shuttle fall through the warp and hit the floor (aka “submarining”) numerous times. I’ve tried tightening the warp and scootching my bum closer to the bad side which helped somewhat. But I still have to watch for skips. More practice necessary obviously. It doesn’t help that the warp threads are various thicknesses and twists and wool types which means that they are all somewhat differently tensioned. Nothing I can do about that really but hope I can overcome my rusty skills issue or this is going to be one tedious weaving project!

The other project I’ve resurrected is the grey Coopworth yarn spinning for a sweater for Thom. Nothing bad happened with this but other things just demanded higher priority so it got back-burnered for awhile. Instead of knitting (which I still haven’t been doing at all for weeks now - yikes!) I’m spinning in front of the TV in the evenings. Unfortunately I can’t spin without watching what I’m doing (unlike knitting) but I can glance up every now and then to keep up with the action. It seems to be working anyhow and I’m currently on the third bobbin-full:


There will soon be enough to make some 3-ply yarn. Yay. It’ll be fun to use my Mega-Kate that Thom made to hold the bobbins while I ply. More on this when I get to it.

Along with no knitting, there has been no sewing action either. There has been a little walking when the weather cooperates but mostly I’ve been reading between short bouts of the above-mentioned weaving and spinning. I’m already 6 books up on my Goodreads challenge for 2018! My energy isn’t up to its usual level and I’m still feeling periodically uncomfortable thanks to that health issue I’m not speaking about. Nearly 4 weeks now. It’s not going away quickly and quietly. Grrr...

Back to winding the rest of the cakes and more bobbins. Or maybe I’ll just go read a book.

Monday, January 01, 2018

Hello 2018!

Hope you all had a Happy New Year! We tried to snooze through it but the neighbours had other ideas which included a lot of noisy fireworks. Some of them couldn’t tell the time correctly either, judging by their half-hour late start. Just as we were getting back to sleep again too. Oh well. Hard to fault someone for having fun!

Anyway, instead of an inspirational word or anything like that I have decided that I’m going to declare 2018 the Year of the Slug!


Before you say “EWWWW!!” just bear with me for a minute. Slugs are actually auspicious creatures that the Chinese Zodiak managed to leave out. Yeah, they have their negative side but who doesn’t? However there are some very positive aspects to slugs too. Here is what I’ve learned from my old buddy Billy up there:

  • Don’t rush.
  • Go at your own pace.
  • Smooth your own path.
  • Wear comfy shoe(s).
  • Take nature walks.
  • Play in the garden.
  • Avoid the hot sun.
  • Stay moisturised.
  • Enjoy the rain.
  • Eat your greens.
  • Chew your food well.
  • Reduce the garbage, make compost and recycle.

See what I mean? Good advice, no? OK, I’m not going to advocate decimating the lettuce seedlings in somebody else’s garden and we won’t even talk about the slug’s weird mating habits. Nope. Not going there. But for me anyhow it’s going to be the Year of the Slug. Just watch me!

In other news, I’ve officially retired my first Bullet Journal and thank it for its yeoman service. I used all but about 10 pages so I don’t feel too bad about leaving it behind. Now it’s onward to my new green Leuchtturm1917 pocket-sized notebook. Or as they say in BuJo-speak: migrating.


This little beast is even small enough to fit inside my pencil case if necessary for travel. Yes, it’s a lot smaller than the more common A5 size that many people use but my life is not that exciting and my to-do lists are much shorter than, say, someone with an actual day job. I can fit whatever I need to keep track of in it - even if sometimes I’m turning it sideways in order to have enough width for the columns. I really like the dotted format better than blank pages to keep things spaced better. It’s working well so far. I’m still in the process of setting some things up but once I do, it will be fairly easy to maintain for as long as the 185 pages hold out. Theoretically I should be able to fit in a whole year. Unless I write more than I have been so far.

I’m really glad I had the original notebook to get started with. It’s given me over 4 months to make sure I was going to keep it up and to add and subtract features and logs until I think I’ve got a pretty good handle now on what I need to record and track. Of course this system is really flexible so I can continue to play with it and change things if I want as time goes on.

I’ve found a Bullet Journal excells at assisting my not-always-reliable memory. I’ve added little weather icons, when I blog or Instagram, when and how far I walk, my energy levels, shopping lists, what to expect in the post, when a project was started and when it was finished, where I put that pattern file and a whole lot of other snippets of information. All in one place and in a simple easy-to-update format. Gotta love it. I even get to use all my pretty PITT pens!

Moving right along. What’s next? I still have some healing to do and some energy to regain but progress is happening. (Even if it feels too slow some days.) Then I’m going into production mode bigtime! First the blanket needs to get woven because it’s been hovering on the UFO list far too long. Then I assess the sewing pile and make some kind of sensible order of what needs doing first. I want to get a whole wack of things accomplished before it’s time to start gardening again. And we just might go on a wee camping trip, weather permitting. But that has to happen before it’s time to plant my seedlings because once that happens, I’m chained to my wee veggie babies! Don’t trust anybody else with that job but me. However that’s a few months off yet. Meanwhile the studio is calling. Soon.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Goodbye 2017!

Hello youse guys! Yup, still here. Still hurting a little from the roofing tiles...er, shingles but on the mend. It didn’t stop me from socialising with family anyhow though I was careful to insist on gentle hugs! (My gang really know how to hug, just sayin’.) It was a low-key but very fun time but as always, I’m now antsing to get back into the studio for some makin’ time. I haven’t even knitted a single stitch for a couple of weeks! Imagine that. Must be a new record or something.

I did manage to compile a list of all my projects for this past year. It’s quite the list! For once I sewed more than I knitted. And I dyed a lot of yarn and fabrics, mostly with natural dyes, and even crocheted a couple of things. Here’s the highlights (or at least all I had to patience to collage):

Knitting, which is what I consider my main creative outlet these days, added up to 16 items in total. Of course 6 of them were rather large sweater projects mostly in fine yarns:

Only the Licorice Allsorts Tunic was handspun, which I found interesting. I’ve been rather obsessed with Cloudborn Fibers fingering yarns which comprise the rest of the sweaters (some hand-dyed by me) and I still have enough for a couple more projects including my only current project still on the needles. I’ve certainly been getting a lot of wear out of this bunch since it got cold around here. I also knitted 4 shawls, 4 pairs of socks and 2 hats. Not too shabby.

Crochet, which I don’t actually do all that often even though I like it and am reasonably proficient, added up to a whopping 2 items - one at the beginning and one towards the end of the year:

They used up a lot of rather elderly stash yarn too which is all to the good. I’ve actually been wearing the scarf on the regular since I quite like it’s lacey look and autumnal colours.

Sewing is the craft that kept me working hard in the studio this summer. I perfected a few TNTs so there was a lot of basics sewing going on: leggings, t-shirts, tunics and crop pants. I was also super happy to find an excellent pattern for shirts for Thom. These are just some of the highlights:

I also did some home dec/other sewing when I made the cushions for my chair, the iPad Pyramid for Thom and the mostly hand-stitched Boro Tea Cosy. 12 projects using woven fabrics and and 10 using knits for a total of 22 sewing projects this year. I still have a couple of unfinished projects that hopefully will get done very soon though it’s hard to go back to what was actually summer sewing in mid-winter!

Dyeing. The dyepots got a workout, especially after Thom fixed my old propane camp stove so I could work outside. Most of the projects were natural dyes and most of those were home-grown dyes as well. Yay! I also tried to use up some of my very ancient synthetic dyes since I’ve had it on good authority that it’s better to use them than to try to find somewhere to dispose of them.

For the most part they’ve worked surprisingly well. Hmmm...I wonder if you’ve noticed a colour theme here? I’m not exactly sure how many dye projects this adds up to but it’s at least 10.

Weaving. I had such high hopes for finishing my Stashbuster Blanket - or at least getting it on the loom. Nope. The reed is nearly threaded but that’s it, at least until I feel more up to reaching over the beater. Soon.

So the grand total for 2017 is 50 (I think!). And there’s lots more in the queue. Well, all the queues. Of course! Making things is not an option for me. Here’s to plenty more in 2018!

Hope you all have a very Happy, Safe and Warm New Year! We spent our day with Thom’s brother and sister-in-law out at the Reifel Bird Sanctuary feeding our feathered buddies. The weather was chilly but sunny and the birds were definitely hungry! Now I have to wash the chickadee spit off my gloves before I wear them again. Heh. Sorry there’s no photos of hand-feeding the little feathered piggies since obviously my hands were kinda busy.

I climbed the lookout for a view towards the north. See my shadow? And Thom and Rob below yakking while the ducks chowed down on the birdseed:

The whole family loves spending time out there. Mud, grass, birds (including eagles, hawks, snow geese, about 6 kinds of ducks, sandhill cranes, black-crowned herons and a lot more) and a warming hut with a fire going in the stove. What’s not to love?

I’m ready for 2018 now. Bring it on!

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Happy Solstice!

Hello, my darlings, from beautiful snowy Vancouver. Yes, it did indeed snow on Tuesday and we have about an inch and a half of the semi-melted icy stuff left in our front yard. Looks all festive and wintry out there.

Tuesday was actually an interesting day - in the ancient Chinese curse sense at least. First thing in the morning I had to walk down to my doctor’s in the pouring rain which of course turned into big fat snowflakes just before I got there. All because I had a weird rash. And a sneaking suspicion. Bet you know where I’m going with this, don’t you? To celebrate the Holiday Season I have a delightful case of shingles! (Or as Thom calls it “roof tiles” because ???) Bleh. Welcome to my Pity Party.

Will this make me feel guilty about not getting the vaccination because, hey, I could think of several other things to do with $200 that seemed to be more pressing? Perhaps. Or maybe not because it’s not 100% effective anyway and the antiviral meds I have to take only cost $50. Can’t make it go away but it helps. I’m actually feeling on the mend today anyhow. Apparently I’m getting off reasonably lightly compared to some. Assuming feeling like you have a mild touch of the flu and a few aches in odd places is lightly. And the rash of course which doesn’t feel like much at all except I couldn’t comfortably wear a bra for a couple of days. Poor me.

But the sad thing is I missed my Guild’s Christmas party today and tonight’s Solstice lantern walk with music and folk dancing and the fire dancers. Sigh. Here’s my poor sad stay-at-home lantern:

It’s the same one from last year but with new colour-changing LED tea lights in it! It looks much prettier now. Maybe next year it’ll get a chance to walk with me again. Meanwhile, the shortest day is gone and longer days are just ahead. Next stop: Christmas! Man, am I relieved that I don’t have to cook a big dinner or host the Thundering Hordes this year. Just whip up a salad and pack the remaining butter tarts and shortbread and we’re good to go. I currently have about as much energy as a wilted 3-day-old lettuce leaf but hopefully more recovery will happen before Monday. I’m not missing Christmas with the fambly!

Anyway I will be so relieved to finally get all this holiday stuff over with for another year. Oh, to not have “Holly Jolly Christmas” as a permanent earworm! Oops. Did I just pass that on? You’re welcome! Mwah-ha-ha...

Saturday, December 16, 2017

‘Tis The Season

I hope you noticed that I’ve refrained from my usual bah-humbugging this year. I’m trying to be all zen about it and let it flow off me. Who am I to tell people to stop being crazy? They have to figure it out for themselves. Quite a number of folks have already lowered the expectations and slowed the manic pace. The advertising is still as relentless as always but somehow it seems easier to resist it. Or ignore it as much as possible. Works for me.

I have a couple of traditions that I really do like to keep though. One is the lower key Solstice Dinner with our family. That one is tomorrow at Milady Daughter’s house. Then there’s the actual Solstice on Thursday (at 8:28 am PST). I have my Guild’s Christmas party in the early afternoon. And then Thom and I plan to walk down that evening to Granville Island for the annual lantern procession. Hopefully the weather will cooperate. It can’t be nearly as bad as last year when we just about killed ourselves on the icy pathways and streets. It’s been much milder this year - at least so far. Rain of course is always a possibility but we’re hoping for reasonable weather.

Then Christmas Day is at Thom’s brother and sister-in-law’s. See how we got out of hosting anything? Slick, huh? This year the family has split up into smaller groups too so it’s not so onerous for anybody. Then one more even smaller gathering and we’re right into the New Year. So relaxed.

Well, I have actually been doing a few things. Like baking shortbread and butter tarts because my family would disown me if I didn’t provide them! We decorated Scheff, my Schefflera arboricola tree and Thom put up some pretty red and blue lights outside. So we’re at least somewhat festive around here. And I dyed my warps and weft yarns for the Stashbuster Blanket:

See? The green dye toned down all the colours into harmony. Despite what I said last post, I didn’t have enough of any of the warp yarns to serve as weft so I dug into the singles wool, including some pink and some yellow in order to have enough yardage. They also got dyed in the green. It took 6 dyebaths to get all that wool done, 2 pots on the dye stove at a time. One moment of panic as I was pre-scouring the singles they turned all corkscrewed the minute they hit the water. Yikes!

I managed to straighten them a little but they had better behave when I wind them into balls and then onto the pirns ready to weave. The warp sections I left in loose chains to dye and they handled perfectly. No tangling. The dye stock was mixed with ancient synthetic dyes of all sorts but they worked just fine. Perhaps not as strong as fresh dye powders but considering that some of these are probably from as far back as the 1970’s I would say not bad at all! I was going to chuck them out but have been dipping into the box whenever I can in an attempt to use up as much as possible. Just on projects where the outcome isn’t terribly important just in case they are total duds. Totally in the spirit of this project, right?

So next I have to get the warp yarns onto the loom. The structure is plain weave so I’ll just use all 8 shafts and thread a straight 1-8 repeat. Easy-peasy. I hope. It will be just over a yard wide on the loom and I’ll weave enough length to cut it into three pieces to stitch together. I like big blankets that tuck in properly so that’s the best way I’ve found to get the width I want. Done properly you can’t even see where the joins are unless you’re hunting for them. Warping will have to wait until Monday to begin though because it’s family party time tomorrow. Bet I’ll get a request to make my patented lumpy gravy!

Meanwhile I hope you are taking it easy, having fun, eating yummy food, and cherishing family and friends. That’s what it’s all about. The rest is just marketing. Take what you enjoy and leave the rest.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Think The Robins Will Notice My New Hat?

It’s a lovely sunny day today, especially noticeable after all the foggy days we’ve had lately. Kind of chilly too but that’s normal here in winter. If it’s clear it’s usually going to be colder than if it’s cloudy. I’ll take it anyway. Winter sunshine is precious!

I’ve finished my Garden Wurm hat just in time for cold weather.

I think it turned out pretty nicely. I didn’t have quite enough of the doubled Fibre Art Studio Sparkle yarn to do a full 10 repeats so I settled for 8. It’s not quite as slouchy as it should be but it’s fine with my wee head. I like the way the Grape Garden colours of purple-brown, lilac and muted greens pool and blend. This is a really good (free!) pattern written for worsted-weight yarn but judging by the plethora of different yarns that the many knitters have used it is quite adaptable.

I’m well supplied with woolly accessories now! Not that that will stop me from casting on for more. But right now I only have two projects on the needles and am really only concentrating on one of them, the Rusty Folded sweater. The other is linen which totally beguiled me last summer but isn’t calling my name now that it’s winter. Perhaps I’m going to have to bribe myself to finish that linen shawl the same way that I’m bribing myself to work on the Stashbuster Blanket.

Yes, the blanket that has been sitting waiting for nearly a whole year! Poor abandoned thing. I decided that I still want it and therefore I needed to make an effort to get back into producing it. I have no recollection of why I stopped except that winding the warp one or two ends of a yarn at a time and then switching to the next one was just tedious. I wanted to thoroughly mix the very disparate yarns to minimise any seersucker effects. The only thing these bits and bobs have in common is they are wool (non-superwash) and sized somewhere between sport and aran in weight. There are handspun and mill-spun yarns. There are hand-dyed and commercially-dyed yarns. Some are two ply, some three, some finished s-twist and some z-twist. A lot of them are really vintage - 30 years old or more. I just want to use them up.


Unfortunately this blanket isn’t going to use up all the yarn. There’s nearly enough left for a second one! Yeesh. I may have to change my plans a little to use more of it up. I was originally planning to use some finer yarn for the weft but I just might use the rest of this pile for weft instead. I need to see if there’s enough and I’ll also need to decide whether or not to dye it along with the warp. Decisions. Decisions. It’s obviously going to be a long-term project anyhow. So what else is new?

So I’ll leave you today with a couple of photos from our late afternoon walk up to Little Mountain. More formally known as Queen Elizabeth Park, this city landmark is an extinct (we hope!) volcano, former rock quarry and the highest point in Vancouver. The gardens are gorgeous and a backdrop for many a wedding photo and tourist shot. The bronze sculpture is called Knife Edge by Henry Moore, one of 4 casts of the original mould, 1962-65. It’s been up there since I was a child and I’m very fond of its use as a drum! Heh.

There’s the crows heading for their evening roost!

And the sun setting over the sunken garden.

Such a pretty city, don’t you agree? My house is down there somewhere to the right. Can you see it? Me neither!