Saturday, June 25, 2016

She Speaks!

I have been inundated with family obligations, hence the bloggy silence for the past while. First there was Fathers Day/Car Free Day when 21 blocks of Main Street (3 blocks from our house) looked like this:
So fun to walk where the traffic usually flows! The littlest Grandbeastie in particular had a blast with the clown and the cotton candy and the face painting and the popcorn and all. And I quote: "Best day ever!"
Then we had a lovely multi-day visit from my sister. I so enjoy going clothes shopping with someone who actually fits into and looks great in the clothes! I'm just full of encouragement. ;)
Next we're heading to Manning Park for the Annual Fambly Campout. Since my son is moving this week Thom & I will be taking over the bigger Grandbeasties while he heads back early. It will be an adventure! If they get too annoying we can always feed them to the bears, right? No?
Whew! I'm exhausted already.
I did promise to tell you about the cool case/stand I made for my iPad Mini, didn't I? I used some Japanese fabrics from the stash for the front of the case along with some coordinating quilt fabric for the lining. The shape is formed by chipboard, aka book board, in between the layers. It's a pretty simple design but I was determined to be able to take photos without removing the iPad from the case. That took a bit of head-scratching to figure out but the results are quite successful. There are several configurations possible. First closed:
(Photos by Thom with his iPhone.) I can also fold the cover back:
Which is the way I use it most, propped on my Pyramid Pillow. It can also stand up which is good for when I don't have the pillow but want to easily view the screen:
The red Velcro dots I used to hold the cover closed don't work as well as I'd like but they're adequate. The peephole in the back for the camera definitely does work very well though:
The Eye sees all! So flushed with that success I started on another project. Not the Hiking Bag that I actually could have used next week while camping! No. I made a Knitting Caddy instead. It was a metric tonne of work but I really like the results. This time I used some African strip cloth that a friend had given me years ago with the promise that I would use it. Someday. There were four different designs and I found some coordinating brushed twill for the body and canvas for the lining, plus some me-dyed cotton for the pocket linings. Thom cut me a spare piece of Lexan for the bottom liner/stiffener and I bought some rectangular rings from the Outdoor Fabrics store to go with the strapping. It's a fairly hefty tote!
Here's the caddy empty:
Big pocket for pattern sheets or notebook. The extra Velcro strap keeps it from flopping open and you'll notice how the handle folds down on the rings out of the way of the bag's interior. 
This bellows pocket is for my Addi Lace Clicks case. And on the other end these pockets are for DPNs and crochet hooks:
The fourth side has many pockets:
Loaded with my miscellaneous knitting paraphernalia in the two long top pockets and circular needles in the bottom ones. You will note that the bag kind of starts to lose its nice straight rectangular shape when fully loaded:
However it stays open to easily receive my rather large sweater in progress. Except for the rings, everything I used for this caddy came from the stash. The stiffening for the ends is Timtex and you can see that it's much more firm than the generic stiffener that I used on the main body. It was rather a wrestling match to sew this beast! I broke 4 needles but managed to sew the sides together with a size 100. My old workhorse Pffaf barely managed to make it through the gazillion thick layers so I gave up at the end and hand stitched the final edge of the binding in place.
This caddy will be sitting beside me in the Westie as we travel and I'll have everything neatly to hand. It's already claimed a place in the living room beside my chair and I only finished it yesterday. Only one more bag to go! Unfortunately there is no time to finish before we leave tomorrow so it will have to wait until we get back. Oh well. I still have a bag to carry my water bottle and sunglasses on a hike. It just doesn't fit my iPad, which is currently my only camera. Or I guess I could carry my backpack if they're going fishing so I can bring my knitting and snacks as well.
Off to pack and shop for some last-minute supplies. Back to blog silence. Will return as soon as I may.

Saturday, June 18, 2016


Just thought you'd like to see the results of my weavers' guild tea towel exchange. This is my group's haul so far:
There's one missing still. Well she had a legitimate excuse! Poor thing broke her shoulder in a skiing accident. We insisted that she accept her exchange towels and now we await her contribution which should be ready by the end of summer. Don't they coordinate nicely? Can you recognize mine? If you'll remember we used this photo of a Yellowstone hot spring as inspiration:
I'm really happy I participated in this swap. It had a couple of benefits. I got the stalled Summer & Winter placemats off the loom, successfully planned and wove the tea towel warp, and regained some of my rusty weaving skills. Now maybe I can find the incentive to finally chuck out some of the most worn-out old towels in the drawer? Some of them must be 20 years old at least and are long overdue for the ragbag. I need the space for the new ones.
The other two groups had some really lovely towels to show us as well but they all used a different theme or inspiration. Most were cotton, some mercerised but mostly unmercerised, and a few included some cottolin (50/50 cotton/linen). Thirsty fibres make for good drying towels! And yes, they will be used. Possibly abused. And eventually rags. That's what they were made for.
In other news I've finished making a cover/stand for my iPad. Sadly I discovered that I can't take photos of it with the iPad in place! It turned out pretty well though. More soon.  

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Not For Coffee

Hello, my darlings! It's relatively cold and rather rainy today. Makes me glad for woolly shawls, just saying. However yesterday had a bright and sunny evening which helped a lot to dry my latest FO. I give you the Thinking About Tea cosy:
The pattern is actually called Thinking About Coffee by Lisa Risager but since I hate coffee we won't go there, OK? I made this cosy to cover our Bodum that we keep in the Westie to use for brewing our tea while we're camping. No coffee has ever come in contact with it! Whew. It doesn't keep the tea hot though so I found the last leftover ball of my vintage handspun yarn and went to it. I was playing a desperate game of knitting chicken at the end because I was sure I was going to run out but I made it with a couple of yards to spare. Yay!
As it came off the needles the beast was huge! I was worried that it wouldn't felt down enough to fit the pot:
I started fulling it in a dishpan by hand but finally ended up throwing it through the washing machine on a hot wash/cold rinse which finally did the trick. The Romney wool that I spun this yarn from so many years ago takes quite awhile to full but it does work eventually. It comes out very fuzzy! I hope it will add some insulation properties to the cosy. At least it fits very nicely now:
A rather simple pattern but there's even a hole in the top for the handle of the press and the loop is very handy for manipulating it on and off. We will be giving the cosy a trial run later this month when we go on our annual camping trip with the fambly in Manning Park. Looking forward to the getaway but it needs to warm up and dry off again somewhat before then.
More camping accessories projects to come. I hope. Currently I'm digging through the fabric stash and pinning ideas to my Pinterest board. Wish I spent nearly as much time actually accomplishing something though!

Wednesday, June 08, 2016

Eco-Dyed In The Wool

Last week my Spectrum Study Group (aka a small and very select group of friends) got together for our usual monthly meeting. There were only four of us available this time but we definitely managed to be productive! The theme was eco dyeing, a contact printing method using plant parts made popular through the books and workshops of India Flint from Australia. This time Leslie offered to share her wool jersey cut into scarf widths for us to play with. Several people brought foliage and natural dyestuff and we also foraged in my garden for leaves and flower petals to supplement the supplies. Unlike India's usual technique the wool fabric was mordanted with either alum or copper acetate (made by soaking copper pipe bits in vinegar for an extended time). The bundles we made were rolled up and either steamed in a colander or popped into a logwood dyepot and simmered. We all promised not to unroll the results for as long as possible.
Then yesterday everyone was madly emailing each other exclaiming rapturously about the results! Not wanting to miss out but I got busy and somehow managed to wait until today to unwrap my bundle:
The piece of wool jersey I got was mordanted in copper acetate and started out a pale green from that process. I added leaves from cranesbill geranium, weld, heuchera "Purple Palace", ninebark "Diablo", purple smoke bush and thread leaf coreopsis, plus sprinkles of dried marigold petals and crumbled purple onion skins.  I spritzed on a little vinegar (perhaps not necessary but what the heck) and the whole thing was rolled up around a stick and simmered in the logwood pot and then just left on the counter for four days.
The lines are from the string resisting the logwood dye and of course they only extend partway along the scarf though there's some logwood dye along the edges. The centre that was wrapped first on the stick is more plain but still very pretty. The leaves that usually give me purples and greens are here more tan and brown from the copper. The intense orange bits are from the purple onion skin and the gold flecks are from the marigold petals. I love how intense the colours are on wool! It was nearly dry in the last photo and they're still strong.
This dye technique is surprisingly easy to do and very forgiving. Even plants that don't work in an immersion vat will amaze you with colour. For an excellent detailed tutorial try this one from Wendy Feldberg, who also dyes paper with this method. Don't miss the comments section as there is even more info there. One of these days I'm going to get up the courage to include my rusty Kettle Valley Railway spike in a bundle. Soon.
Meanwhile I have been working on the bug nets for the van. I fixed the one for the sliding doorway and have the ones for the front windows cut out and pinned together. When I went to test them in place it started raining on me! Of course it stopped as soon as I gave up. Now the sun is out again. Sigh. Plus I'm still spinning white wool in my every spare moment. Three skeins completed now. Halfway.

Sunday, June 05, 2016

Faffing & Futzing

It's very warm here today! Everything is starting to dry out again and we're back to watering the garden. The plants already think it's July! Me too.It's very warm here today! Everything is starting to dry out again and we're back to watering the garden. The plants already think it's July! Me too.
So instead of accomplishing anything more useful (like repairing the curtain and the bug nets for the van) I've just been faffing around. Spinning:
This is only about 1/3 of the yarn spun up so far - nearly 900 yards of 2/ply fingering (@1700 ypp). It's so pleasant to spin that I just can't stop! And no, of course it isn't going to remain white.
OK. Technology Alert! Those without an iPad or iPhone might want to move along.
In an ongoing effort to avoid printing my knitting patterns out I finally broke down and purchased a new app: GoodReader. Not to be confused with the similarly-named Goodreads (which I use to keep track of the books I read), this one is a substitute for iBooks, the PDF reader app that comes with the iPad. Unlike iBooks you have many more options available in GoodReader including multiple folders to keep everything organised, coloured stars for your favourite files and folders, renaming files, importing images and text documents and other file formats and more. But the best thing of all is markup! Lines, arrows, boxes, highlighters, sticky notes, text, and drawing/handwriting all over the pages! It's glorious. Now I can highlight my size, adjust the pattern to fit, make notes on the pages as I go and bookmark the page I'm working on. Even more fabulous, I can have moveable lines in any colour to mark my place in a chart. Unlike magnets or stickies the lines can't be moved accidentally or fall off. I can also enlarge the chart to fill my screen or scroll around it if I make it even larger. And all of the markups are editable, moveable and deletable (is that a word?). 
The only thing missing is one or more counters but I don't like them on the iPad anyway. Otherwise I could get a separate app because there are many out there. But I don't want to leave the iPad on while I'm knitting and I can't be bothered to turn it on every time I need to click it. In a pinch I could always use hash marks on the pattern page. My usual method is just to count my increases, decreases, rows or whatever by looking at my knitting. Unless the yarn is particularly wild and fuzzy (or it's particularly dark in the room!) I can read my stitches. Gotta have some skills after 60 years of knitting. Erm...
So I spent a couple of hours getting up close and personal with GoodReader. It's a bit of a learning curve since it's really quite powerful. It has a fairly comprehensive Help though it does tend to get a mite more technical than necessary for some people (including possibly me). Experimenting I found two ways to get my PDFs into the app: download them in Safari and tap the Open in... at the top of the page and choose GoodReader from the app list or use iTunes to move files over from my computer when syncing. GoodReader has a rudimentary browser but it doesn't work well enough to get past my Ravelry login unless you have the exact URL of the PDF. Too fiddly to be useful. Screen captures or photos are easy to import internally though, as are other files if you have iCloud Drive, which I don't. Final conclusion? Me likey! I may never use iBooks again. So there, Apple, who somehow think it's just fine to not update their app since 2013. 
Sadly however there's still an iPad reading issue. I can't get my library ebooks with either iBooks or GoodReader. I need to either read them online in Safari (the interface is very nice!) or download them to Adobe Digital Editions (of which I am not so fond). There is an Overdrive library app but not all the library books are available for it yet. I'll wait. Just like I'm still waiting for a truly functional app to write these blog posts!
OK. Technology Alert Off!
My wee brains are toasting. It's nearly 30C outside and not a whole lot cooler in my studio! The wool is sticking to my sweaty fingers. Time to have a cool drink and make a salad for supper. I have plenty of greens and reds from the garden.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Adventures in Blogland

So what has that damselfly been up to lately? Not much really. Spinning, spinning and more spinning. See?
I'm nearly finished the second bobbin now and then I can ply them together. There's plenty more wool still to go though! I ply as I go along just to break up the action.
What else? Weeding the garden. I know - boring! However we finally had some delicious rain and everything is now sproinging up like crazy. I'm trying to make amends for my half-arsed garden this year by at least taking care of what I've got going. Lots of greens (and reds) for the salad anyhow.
Oh and I got invited to a brunch with some delightful blogger buddies! There was Melanie of Bag and a Beret:  
And Shelley of Forest City Fashionista who was visiting from London, Ontario, along with Sue from A Colourful Canvas:
We ate at the delicious Acme Cafe in downtown Vancouver. I felt like I got to play in the sandbox with the big kids! I adore these women and their sense of playfulness and fun. Go visit their blogs for more photos. Dear Melanie actually managed to get a decent pic of your notoriously non-photogenic damselfly:
And you have to see the backs of Shelley and Sue's jackets:
Shelley's is actually a drawing by Melanie and Sue's is pieced and quilted by her own talented fingers. So adorable.
Whew! Now that I've floated back down to earth I guess it's nose to the, spinning wheel again.
Oh, by the way, I added a widget to my blog to help those who have had trouble subscribing to my blog for some reason. Scroll way down to the bottom and you can subscribe by email. HTH!

Friday, May 27, 2016

Plans and Projects

Been awhile, hasn't it? I haven't solved my blogging app issues yet and the workaround is somewhat awkward so I think it's slowing me down. Plus all I've been doing is same old same-old: carding wool, knitting on endless sweaters, picking garden produce and weeds, and plotting our next big cross-country trek. I did manage to finish the carding finally thanks to some Grandbeastie power on the drum carder. So pretty, all stripped down and wound into nests:
That's just shy of 800g (equal parts Arcott and baby Romney) and it's a dream to spin. Totally worth all the work prepping the fleece myself! I'm looking forward to spending some quality time with the spinning and plying next.
The Falklands Flare sweater is coming along. It's down past the armholes now after some fast fudging to get the numbers correct. That will teach me to avoid knitting dark colours in the evening in front of the TV. (Series ending of "Selfridge" didn't help, did it?) Anyway it's going fine now:
Carrying on. I'm developing a crazy amount of patience for long sweaters in fine yarn. I don't care if they take ages to knit. This one is such a perfect shape for me that I don't need any adjustments to fit me, except for a couple of inches in length. The garter stitch neckline is quite clever to knit and a flattering shape. No wonder it's my second Veera Välimäki sweater in a row! I love so many of her designs. After this third one of hers (I've already made "Plain and Simple" as well as "Still Light" and now "Flare") there are plenty more that interest me. The designs are unfussy and very wearable but with a twist that takes them out of the ordinary.
One good thing about knitting from the stash is the fact that I have to spin the yarn first before I can knit any more sweaters. Otherwise I would have far too many of them! Kind of like how I have too many shawls and hats and fingerless mitts. I have lots of lace-weight yarns and sock yarn leftovers to knit them with. It might slow me down a little if I had to spin for them. If my rate of productivity keeps up I might actually have to give some away. Or frog them and make something else. Surprisingly one can have too many accessories. Who knew?
While all that has been going on my sewing mojo has up and taken a vacation. At least now that I've cleared the wool fleece off my studio table I might be able to find it again. I hope. I have two bags and an iPad cover to make. Plus we've decided to make window screens for the Westie so we can sleep with the windows open in the heat. We bought more noseeum netting and a gazillion rare earth magnets and I plan to repair the doorway net with them as well. It's lovely to have a relatively bug-free space but also with air circulation. We discovered that it's problematic to leave the sliding door open at night even with the net though after we had a visit from what we suspect was a raccoon. Scared heck out of us! And also not a good idea in bear country either. However with only two small screened windows open in 90F weather it can feel like a sauna in the van. Being able to leave the bigger driver and passenger side windows open will be nice.
The Trek is only two months away from its beginning and there's a whole list of projects to finish before then. We have our Newfoundland ferry reservations so we are feeling like it's really going to happen! I have our route well-plotted, including campgrounds and grocery stops. I am not the just-winging-it kind of traveler. I'm basically a complete homebody so when I travel I like to know as exactly as possible where I'm going. We leave a little wiggle room for serendipity to happen but not much. And really truly this is going to be a loooonnnng drive! Preparation is key to our enjoyment. Otherwise it just becomes a marathon slog and that's not what anyone wants, is it? This is likely our last chance to go this far. We plan to make the most of it but also not worry about anything we miss. You can't do everything or be everywhere anyhow. It'll be fun. Can't wait!