Damselfly’s Delights

Being the continuing story of my creations and curiosities.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Where’s Noah When You Need Him?

We need to build an ark. It’s been raining hard for several days and although our city sewer system is built to take a lot of water, there are some quite amazing puddles out there. Big enough for ducks! Good weather to stay inside methinks.

So what have I been up to? Not a lot actually. The usual walking, knitting, a wee bit of spinning and a whole lot of reading. I’m making some headway on my Little Black Cardi and the Emerald Socks for Thom are cruising down the feet. I only have 2 bobbins spun for the Sweater Project so far though and only enough fleece for maybe 2 or 3 more bobbins-worth. I see more teasing and carding in my future. I’m going to need maybe 7 skeins though it depends on the yardage I’m getting. I haven’t calculated that yet.

I haven’t done any sewing or weaving yet. However The Hand is finally starting to improve. It still looks somewhat lumpy and scarred but the extra-sensitivity is reduced quite a lot. I actually ironed a shirt and some table linens! Whoot! It’s been nearly 3 months since The Incident With The Bed Frame. Man, it feels like forever.

I know this is a short post but really there isn’t much exciting to discuss! I’ll leave you with an action photo of the Littlest Grandbeastie, age 4, who decided that granny’s rocks (the ones I use for pattern weights) were too plain and needed some decoration:

ColouringRocks

I think the electric tea lights are for creating an artistic ambiance? Anyway, I wasn’t sure I wanted my rocks coloured at first but they’re growing on me. Hopefully the pencil crayon doesn’t come off on anything! At least she hasn’t done the whole basket full. Yet. Obviously, encouraging creativity is an important priority.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Finally Finished

We’re in the middle of January and I don’t have much to show for it, except this:

Silken Haruni

Pardon the “mood lighting”! As I said, it’s January. Anyhow, this is my Silken Haruni Shawlette. Haruni (“grandmother” in Elvish) is a free pattern by Emily Ross and Ravelry’s knitters have recorded nearly 9,500 of them! As always, I’m a day late and a dollar short but I finally got this one off the needles. I started it lo, those many months ago in September while we were away on our desert holiday. The yarn is silk (yes, I did a burn test to prove it!) from my deep weaving stash and the muted colours totally remind me of the Southwest rocks, sand and sage. The only mods I made were to go down to a 2.75mm needle for the very fine silk and knit the first chart to 14 leaf stems instead of the recommended 12. I also used a crochet hook and doubled yarn for the bind-off which took me about 2 hours to accomplish. The shawlette blocked out nicely (I mostly used pins and only used wires on part of the top edge) and is quite a reasonable size to wear as a spring or cool little summer shawlette or scarf, which is the way I usually wear these things. Check out the pretty 4-leaf tip:

Silken Haruni det

I’m particularly fond of leaf patterns! One thing I have to say about the pattern is that it is much too detailed, at least for a knitter of my experience. It even includes written instructions for those who are chart-impaired which is unusual – though I can’t imagine preferring many pages of line-by-line instructions to a few symbols. (I’ve been known to chart a pattern myself if a chart doesn’t already exist!) I personally would prefer to have more detailed charts instead since I had to refer too often to the wordy bits to find out how to interpret these ones. YMMV as they say. Obviously enough knitters have managed to follow the 14 pages of instructions successfully!

I have 2 versions of this pattern and there are actually 6 revisions in total. The final one has you bind-off using knitting needles which I attempted at first but found really awkward and confusing. So I went back to version 1 and followed its advice to use a crochet hook. So much easier! The technique I used is more common for lace doilies and uses the hook to “knit” a group of stitches together and then to chain off a loop before the next group. Doubling the yarn makes these loops a little more substantial. You can see how nice this looks in the detail photo above. I wonder why the designer chose to eliminate the crochet hook version in her last revision? Are knitters somehow afraid of The Hook? It’s only another yarn tool. Gee.

So now that I have an FO, of course I get to start a new project. Yay! Last night I just began a Little Black Cardi using the Trellis pattern from Lili Comme Tout (aka Julie Partie). The yarn is those infamous 6 puff-balls of Elann F05 sock yarn that I dyed semi-solid black. So far it’s going well after casting on 283 stitches, which I did right first try! Whoot! I’m going with a straight size L since that fits my measurements except that I’ve refigured the sleeves which are 3” too long for me. Hopefully the shoulders won’t be too wide. There are quite a few nice fitting instructions in this pattern including at bit of waist shaping, a wider front at the bust area and short-rows at the back neck. Also it’s all one piece from bottom up and then the inset sleeves are picked up and knitted down. Very nice.

I’m beginning to avoid pieced instructions when I choose my patterns. Not that I don’t like seaming but why bother when I have had good experiences with one-piece construction? I haven’t been convinced by any of the arguments for knitting a sweater in pieces. I’ve done them every which way over the years so I think I’ve given each method fair due. The only reasons I would knit a completely pieced garment is if it was very large and I couldn’t manage the weight of the whole thing at once or if it had unusual construction such as pieces knit at different angles. Otherwise, either top-down or bottom-up works for me.

Interestingly, pieced construction harks back to garment sewing where you have a flat length of fabric off a loom and need to shape it to a decidedly not-flat body. (Ignore the fact of machine-knitted yardage for the moment. I’m trying to just focus on hand-knitting.) Unlike woven fabric a knitted sweater or other garment can be fitted to the body as you knit. Of course you can’t cut knitting without securing the edges or it will unravel hence the reason for knitting each piece to a specific shape. But furthermore, yarn can be manipulated in many different ways on the needles to conform it to tubes, curves and extremities. That’s such a big advantage over cutting and sewing that it seems silly to ignore the possibilities.

In my opinion, knitting in pieces was encouraged by pattern publications in the past because the editors didn’t understand what knitting could actually do differently than sewing. People pretty much followed instructions slavishly without really understanding it either. Elizabeth Zimmermann reported that her circular patterns got rewritten to flat in spite of her protestations. Her books were the first I ever read that showed me that there even was another way to knit a sweater! Another big thing was the invention of good functional circular needles. The ones I bought when I was young (and still have in my collection but never use!) sport stiff plastic wires that never lose their coil no matter what you do. Today you have any number of choices in wood, bamboo, brass, chrome, carbon fibre and even Lexan – all with flexible cords and smooth connections. No wonder one-piece knitting is becoming commonplace! Really, who uses those long straight needles anymore for any type of knitting anyway? Mine are all languishing in a box, the poor neglected creatures.

OK, off in a different direction. No new news about The Hand. I think I’ve hit a plateau in the healing process which is a little lot frustrating. Still too tender to hold a weaving shuttle or do much ironing (which kind of stymies sewing for now) or basically any time I have to grip something with my palm. (Who knew grinding pepper was difficult?) However, otherwise it’s mostly functional and I can knit and spin. With Thom’s help I’ve got quite a lot of the RomneyX wool carded and ready to spin up. Maybe not a whole man-sweater’s worth yet but a good start. We’ve also been getting out for walks as much as possible when the weather permits which doesn’t leave as much time for moaning. Yeah, life’s tough, eh? At least I’m not bored.

Friday, January 09, 2015

Gone Fishing

OK. Not really. But we do have fish!

fish

My Spectrum Study Group worked on these fish at our meeting yesterday. Mine’s the green one on the right (metallic fabric paint and beads and sequins). The fish bodies originally come from Japan, made by women displaced by the tsunami. (Yes, many still aren’t settled!) The decorated fish are being collected by our friends at the Silk Weaving Studio and will eventually be auctioned off to provide funds to help these people. I was trying to find the correct informational website but it’s not turning up for me. Sorry about that.

Meanwhile, I have a huge pile of half-carded wool on my work table. Thom was helping wind the drum carder for me. Since the proposed sweater is for him, his assistance is very welcome. It’s like having a motor on the carder! I’m not sure this will be enough for his sweater yet though so probably more teasing and carding will be needed. There’s lots of this RomneyX fleece left anyhow. However this will fill my basket enough so I can get to the spinning before I forget how. I’ll figure out how much more is needed when this is all spun up. Slow clothes indeed! He’ll likely be wearing this sweater next winter instead of this one. Oh well. At this point we can’t even decide on which pattern to knit!

I also overdyed the black sock yarn skeins again. Third time was the charm! After the last effort they still had too many areas that were close to white instead of darker gray and since they were in skeins by this point anyway it was just as easy to give them another soak in a 1% black Telana dye. I have no idea what the total dye percentage is! So much for accurate dyeing, huh? Anyway now they are the slightly uneven black that I wanted in the first place. Lesson learned. Don’t try to dye those little poofy Elann yarn balls without skeining them up first! Got it. I may not get much chance to dye them anymore anyway since Elann’s new sales fulfillment plan, Amazon.ca, isn’t turning up any more of the F05 sock yarn at the moment. Figures that I just discover a yarn I want when it becomes unavailable. Pfth. Yeah, there’s some on Amazon in the US but I’m not going there when our Cdn dollar is so low against the US one.

Now I can’t start the Little Black Cardi that I want to knit with this yarn until I get at least one of my current knitting projects off the needles. I’m nearly at the heel flaps with the Emerald Socks for Thom. Good thing they’re too big for me or I’d commandeer them for myself! I love the greens and purple. And there’s still the Silken Haruni Shawlette that seems like it’s been going on forever and a day. I started this one waaayyyyy back in September when we were still in the desert. Then I frogged it when we got home and started again. I’ve only got about 14 rows to go before the bind-off but they are very long rows. Takes me about 45 minutes to knit one pattern row. Purl rows are slightly faster. The most I end up doing in one sitting is about 4 rows before my attention wanders.

Since my work table is inundated with wool fluff I haven’t been tempted to sew anything right now. Even though I have a huge pile of patterns and fabric! I don’t know if I’m really avoiding sewing or just currently more in the mood for playing with wool instead. It’s not like I don’t need more clothes! I certainly have been discovering where the gaps in my wardrobe lie this winter. As usual, I probably won’t get around to filling those gaps until spring and then I’ll have different needs. Why am I always a least one or two seasons behind? Yeah, I do have an excuse this time, don’t I?

The Hand continues to heal though slowly. At least it feels slowly to me! I can do a lot of things again anyway which makes me very happy and grateful. I just have to be patient and wait for further improvement. I need to tackle the ironing mountain, for one thing, and that still hurts somewhat.

Friday, January 02, 2015

Flowing Into A New Year

Hope everyone had a lovely peaceful New Year! Ours was fun but not particularly peaceful as spent with an 8- and a 10-year-old. We (that would be me, Thom, and the Biggest Grandbeasties) played Snakes & Ladders, built with K’Nex, watched movies (my favourite holiday show “Nightmare Before Christmas” plus parts of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” and “Back to the Future, pt. 1”, decorated ourselves with glow sticks and finally made it out to the front porch on time to yell Happy New Year and bang on pots and pans. We listened to the boats in the harbour (very loud!) and watched the neighbours’ fireworks (very pretty) and rather swiftly took ourselves to bed thereafter. We were all a bit groggy the next morning but revived somewhat after platefuls of my blueberry pancakes.

Then Princess Silverfang decided that Stargazer’s moon bears needed a baby so asked if we could make one. The original bear, Snuff, was a Gund “Snuffles” that their dad had since he was a boy so it’s 35 years old now. Stargazer asked for a wife for Snuff this Christmas so with the magic that is eBay they added Jessie to the family. She’s from 1989 so is 26. Obviously they’re both old enough to be acceptable parents, don’t you think? The creation of the baby was quite a production! Princess SF drew the original design and cut out the pieces from some fake fur I had in the stash. It was too hard for her to sew this stuff so I did all the sewing. We decided to use some shorter velour fur to make the ears and legs (much easier to sew) and Stargazer cut the moon out of some white fuzzy stuff. After sewing all the parts together, some machine-stitched and some that I had to hand-stitch, PSF stuffed it and I sewed up the tummy gap. She picked out beads for the eyes and I embroidered on the nose. Somehow it ended up looking more like a guinea pig than a moon bear but it’s cute!

SarahMoonbear

For a team effort and an improvised pattern, not bad. Princess Silverfang named her Sarah:

Sarah2

And here she is with her family:

Grandbeasties

Priceless!

I also worked my newly-functional hands faster than the wind and actually finished Nana’s Blodgie Sweater in time to give it to her yesterday evening:

NanaBlodgieSweater

Because I didn’t have enough time to wait for it to dry I wasn’t able to give it a proper wet-blocking but settled for a thorough steaming and dried it in place on the hot water bottle. That seemed to work pretty well though it’s still a bit on the funky side. I’ll blame it on the hand issues, shall I? To say Thom’s mom was thrilled to receive her blodgie would be an understatement! She could hardly wait to try it out on her cold feet. Success. Oh, and just as I was typing this she called to thank me yet again and to say that it stayed amazingly toasty all night long. Yup! Sometimes the best gifts are the simple ones, huh?

Meanwhile, now that I’ve cleaned up all the mountains of fuzz from the creation of baby Sarah Moonbear, I can make some new messes in the studio. I have a whole basket of teased wool to card next. And there’s still two current knitting projects to peg away at. I’m sure I’ll dive back into sewing more garments again soon but right now I’m just going with the flow.

It’s a whole new year, after all! More soon. Naturally.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Woolly Fluff & Stuff

It still hasn’t lost it’s glow for me – I can make things again! Wha-hoo! You can easily infer from that reaction the extreme level of frustration I was feeling since The Incident happened two long months ago. Back in the saddle studio now and trying hard not to obsess crazily or flit about aimlessly. Slow and steady, damselfly! Don’t push things too hard. Yet.

I’m slowly knitting on the Blodgie Sweater (aka hot water bottle cosy) for Nana (aka Thom’s mom). I made a major mistake and had to rip back 2/3s of what I’d already done. Boo. But I’m back up past that now and about halfway to the finish line. The cables are kind of complex but fun and they take some concentration though it will go much faster when I get to the turtleneck ribbing which I can practically do in my sleep. Sadly I won’t be finished by New Year’s Day but she will get this gift next week instead. No hurry really except that it’s been a bit chilly around here lately so a blodgie would be welcome to warm up the foot of her bed, I’m sure. Mine sure has made itself indispensible! Photos to come soon.

My other current project is The Sweater For Thom which is of course still at the teasing-wool stage. Lots and lots of wool to tease! Unlike most other spinners I really love that job. It’s mindless and soothing and I can listen to podcasts without dividing my attention. Recently I’ve been listening to a new one I just found: Woolful. It’s very interesting with an interview format, two per episode, with various fibre folk whom you might not have heard of especially if you don’t hang out on Instagram. (That would be me actually since I don’t have a smart phone!) The conversations are thoughtful and articulate and totally remind me of a lot of the back-to-the-land people I knew back in the 1970’s – a combination of the desire to DIY as much as possible, concern for environmental sustainability, and an acute awareness of their wider community. I do love me some youthful energy and enthusiasm. You go, people.

Meanwhile, woolly pleasures abound. So let me show you more about the process from fleece to yarn. To reiterate, this wool is a RomneyX from New Zealand that was gifted to me ages ago. As in decades. All I did since then was wash it in very hot water and Orvus. The fleece is coloured an extremely light gray, some almost white but with a few patches of darker colour. I’ve been systematically sorting out the much darker bits and the wool that is left when blended all together is a very pale warm grayish, not quite creamy tan but not quite gray either. I’m sure there’s a very chic name for it in paint chips. Sand? Barley? Elephant’s Ear? Dolphin Fin? I need to take the swatch into Home Depot and use their matching machine (spectrometer)! Or download the app. I want a cool name to call it by. Ahem.

This RomneyX fleece is quite long-stapled even for a Romney:

RomneyX locks

I really wonder what it was crossed with? You can see that some of the locks are nearly 8” long! This photo shows a good range of the colours too and a good idea of the wide loose crimp. You might be able to tell that this fleece has some brittle tips which I’ve been pulling off as I tease each lock:

RomneyX teased lock

Isn’t it pretty? This leaves me with a lot of debris so I’m teasing over a lap cloth and a flat basket to collect the fallout. I have a huge big deep basket-full of fluffy fleece now!

Next step after teasing is to run the teased fleece through my drum carder. For this relatively strong fleece I’m using my very old Patrick Green that I’ve had since the 1970’s. It has wide coarse teeth that work very well with the long-staple medium to coarse fleeces, especially Romneys which I’ve actually been working with since I learned how to spin way back then. I’ve heard that anything over 4” is too long for a drum carder but that’s just hooey. Does a fine job. Just don’t try to card too much at once and stop before it’s packed too high.

RomneyX carding

The results after two passes are pretty good. Occasionally I miss a piece of of the brittle tips which show up when I hold the batt up to the window:

RomneyX carded batt

Not hard to remove them at this stage. If I left them in they’d just add unwanted lumps in my yarn. The zigzag-stripped batts look pretty nice:

RomneyX roving

All ready to spin. When I get about a kilo ready to go I hope I can remember how I did my best sample, that was Sample #4 – long-fibre, long-draw. Whew! It’s a new technique for me. Guess I’ll get lots of practice in though before there’s enough ready to start knitting the sweater. I need about 1300 yards total for a medium man’s long-sleeved sweater. I’m not even sure which pattern I’m going to use for it yet.

Hand update. Just in case you’re not sick of the whole stinkin’ issue, poor old Righty is looking pretty healthy these days. The skin is peeling where the infection was. I’m still slathering on my aloe, vitE and lavender whenever I think about it. It’s healing well but I’m still getting the occasional pin-pricking or light nerve zapping. It’s a LOT better than it was though so I’m expecting it’s going to go away eventually. I can use it almost as well as normal now anyhow so I’m generally very pleased. It’s been a very long haul. One I don’t really want to drag into next year with me. Still a few antibiotic tablets to go though.

We are priveleged to have the Biggest Grandbeasties tomorrow overnight. Rumour has it that they really want to stay up until midnight for New Year’s and honour the local tradition to bang on pots and pans and shout out with the neighbours. From here you can hear the boats in the harbour too which is my favourite part of it all. Since they’re only 10 and just-turned-8 that will be a challenge! Or maybe that would be their grandparents having a hard time keeping their eyes open. We shall see who quits first! The gauntlet is thrown down. Heh.

Here’s wishing all my Dear Readers a very happy, healthy and productive New Year! Big hugs to you all. On to 2015!

free-download- new-year- welcome-images

(image from here)

Friday, December 26, 2014

A Year’s Worth of Makes

Merry day after christmas photo Merry20Christmas202005.png

(Borrowed from here.)

Christmas Day was delightful and most of the family made it to Milady Daughter’s for a delicious turkey dinner. (Thom made butter tarts and I made the salad and the gravy. Yay! Mostly functional hand.) Glad that’s over for another year! Now we just have New Year’s Eve with the two biggest Grandbeasties coming up before a couple of months’ worth of peace and quiet ensues. Hopefully. Wishfully?

Anyway now that I can mouse and type again properly, I decided to do the usual review of my production in 2014:

Knitting

  • Socks – 7 pairs (and one in progress)
  • Gloves/mitts – 3 pairs
  • Cowls – 3
  • Scarves/shawls – 3 (and one in progress)
  • Sweaters – 4
  • Miscellaneous – 2 glasses socks (and 1 hot water bottle cosy in progress)

Sewing

  • Tops – 5 (and one in progress)
  • Dresses – 2
  • Jackets/vests – 2
  • Pants - 1
  • Miscellaneous – 1 neckpiece (and a whole lot of other things in progress)

Spinning

  • Black Shetland – 1 bobbin
  • Boysenberry Glitter – 1 bobbin
  • RomneyX (in progress)

Weaving

  • Towels – 4
  • Scarves – 1
  • Placemats – (2 still on loom, more in progress)

There was also some dyeing here and there but it’s too much trouble to count them up! It’s not usually an end in itself anyway but part of the progress of a project. Like teasing, carding and spinning.

Total finished items for 2014: 40

So, obviously not quite up to my usual production numbers. Last year was 59! Of course I couldn’t really accomplish much during November and December due to The Splinter Incident so there’s that factor. Also several makes just took more time to complete. I know it’s not a race here! Just an interesting observation. At least there was some weaving to report this year which is definite progress. Now I need to sew some more garments, both for me and for Thom. I promised him some shirts and sweaters, preferably before winter is over. I plan to go up to my studio today for the first time in what feels like forever! Probably just over a week or so in reality. I’ll probably tease wool because that’s what’s calling to me the loudest right now. I know it’s not sewing but it is progress on his knitted sweater project. Gotta start somewhere, don’t I?

Thanks so much to everyone who wished me well over the past little while. Whether I know you IRL or not, you darlings are just The Best and your good thoughts really helped a lot! Poor old abused Righty continues to improve. I’m slathering it with aloe gel, vitamin E and lavender oil every time I think about it. The swelling has gone down quite a bit and things are feeling much more normal though of course I’m still being very careful. No desire to go back to Emergency or even the doctor’s office for the foreseeable future! Moving on…

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The Tale of…The Claw

<Cue creepy music>

In the last episode we left our brave Damselfly attempting to hold off The Claw from getting worse and prevent it from ruining her Solstice. Uh, nope. I fought The Claw and The Claw won. (Are you all groaning now? How many trite expressions can I come up with? Mwahh-ha-ha!!)

Yes, I finally broke down and went to Emergency on Saturday afternoon right after I wrote the last post. Things were getting ugly. And my timing was actually good because I ended up having to go four days in a row! At least it didn’t end up overlapping Christmas Day. Whew! But I’m getting ahead of myself. Back to the beginning.

Emergency in BC’s largest and busiest hospital is…an experience. You need vast reserves of time and fortitude. A patient patient. They will take good care of you but it happens at its own pace and you have to be prepared to wait until they can get to you. After all there are many others waiting too, some in much more serious states. They keep track – even if it seems kind of haphazard when you’re in the middle of it all. It’s nothing at all like the TV shows would have it. Thank goodness.

So we gathered all our patience and walked (in the pouring rain, of course) because parking is a PITA and we only live 2 km away. I’ll spare you all the minute details because that would be as boring as the waiting. Here’s the Coles Notes version. That first day, Saturday, The Claw was getting nasty so they took a pus sample (ewww), decided that I needed IV antibiotics (sigh), had trouble getting the IV catheter in my left hand (ouch, bruise), poked me again with a temporary one (double-ouch), gave me a Fast Track paper and told me to come back the next day for more fun and games. Which of course was Solstice at my son and daughter-in-law’s so I whined enough for them to schedule things early enough to hopefully get out in time for dinner.

Day 2 (Sunday) was an ultrasound to make sure there wasn’t any more lumber embedded (gooey), the stitches finally removed (HUGE ouch-ouch-ouch), a proper IV catheter in my right hand (much less ouch), IV antibiotics (again), and a line drawn around the reddened area to see whether it was responding properly. At least the stitches were finally gone and, although the nurses were grumpy about having to put the catheter in my ouchie hand, I still had one more-or-less functional hand left instead of both being incapacitated. Fun sleeping with the IV catheter in though. I spent Solstice with The Claw looking like a mummy or a small turkey roast:

TheClaw

My darling son had to cut my dinner up for me into bite-sized pieces so I could eat it with my left hand! Had a delightful family time anyway, in spite of being semi-incapacitated.

Back to the hospital again for Day 3 (Monday) and this time just the relatively quick IV antibiotics. Things were already clearing up. Day 4 (Tuesday) and the last dose of IV antibiotics and the catheter out. The Claw is gone and, although not 100% yet, well on the way to health and function. Yippee!! I still have to take a week’s worth of oral antibiotics, the ones that I didn’t have a chance to take when they put me on the super-antibiotics. They won’t go to waste anyhow. I’m using soothing aloe gel and slathering Vitamin E and lavender oil on the scar to hopefully minimise it as much as possible.

Hint: the infection started to clear as soon as the stitches were out. They did NOT dissolve but festered instead. Mystery: solved. I knew they needed to come out properly a week ago and I should have insisted. My Dear Family Doc is not in my good books at the moment. Any snipping they did just made it harder in the end to remove the stitches completely. Lump of coal in your stocking, doc! We will not discuss how much time was wasted and pain suffered during this two-month-long Splinter Incident. It would just make me cry.

I’m still taking it easy on poor old Righty now that I have her back. It hasn’t even been 24 hours yet! Even though I’m chomping at the bit to get back to the studio I don’t want to push things. I’m still revelling in having a bare hand that doesn’t hurt. Gotta appreciate the small important things. I have the best Christmas present I could wish for this year!

Righty

And the Scheffmas Tree is now sporting my two hospital wristbands as decorations. Hah!

Wishing you and yours all the very best of the Holiday Season! Now that I can type again, I’ll be back as soon as I have something new to say. Off to darling daughter’s tomorrow along with 25 or so of our closest relatives. Merry-Merry!!