Damselfly’s Delights

Being the continuing story of my creations and curiosities.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Desert To Ocean Trip – Part 1

The day of departure dawned sunny and hot. We did all our last-minute chores and managed to get on the road about 9:30am. Unfortunately it took nearly an hour to get through the Canada/US border, most of which was waiting in line. The border guard was really quick and hardly asked us anything at all. Next stop was the supermarket in Mount Vernon, WA, for wine and groceries. There’s so much that you aren’t supposed to take across the border that it just seems easier to buy fruit, vegetables, meat and dairy after we cross.

The traffic was really bad through Seattle and Tacoma due to an accident. A big transport rig had rolled downhill from the northbound section of the I-5 freeway and slid nearly onto the southbound lanes! We were nowhere near but the traffic was backed up badly for many miles. It was really hot too so it was difficult to creep forward slowly with no shade even with the windows wide open. I had to put sunscreen on my right arm so I didn’t get burned! We finally got to Seaquest State Park which is on the road that goes to the north side of Mt St Helens at nearly suppertime. So much for Day 1.

Day 2 we went around to the south side of the Mt St Helens volcano:


The Flat Rats wanted you to know they have (of course) come along with us. And to remind me that I haven’t actually mentioned them. Oops. We all hiked the beautiful Lava Canyon. The trail has 2 bridges across the river canyon, one of them a high suspension bridge that was a bit wiggly and really fun to cross.


Can you see the rats on each post? Rats Gate Bridge! (Sorry. That was Vancouver area humour.) Then we went to the Ape Cave, a long lava tube with 2 sections. We only did the lower section which was 3/4 mile long and easier than the upper one. After all we’d already done a bit of a hike previously. It was pretty busy with lots of families and a flock of 6 and 7 year olds but still very interesting. This suspended rock about 7 feet over my head is called the Meatball:


Apparently it was a chunk of solidified lava that floated on the molten lava in the tube and got stuck where it remains, some 2,500 years later. We wisely brought our headlamps on this trip knowing we were going to need them. More lava tubes to go later.

Just down the road from Ape Cave is the Trail of Two Forests, the new one is obviously the usual green Pacific Northwest conifers and big leaf maples. The less obvious forest was the one that used to be there but was wiped out when a long-ago lava flow surrounded the big trees and just left holes, casts actually, where they had been before being turned into charcoal and worn away:


There’s even a tunnel formed from lava over casts of downed trees, called The Crawl, that you can worm through if you have a mind. We didn’t! You’d need knee pads, gloves and a headlamp to do it. We didn’t bring our knee pads. Awww…


Thom was only pretending that he is emerging from the end of the Crawl. The beginning is somewhere back behind him about 50 feet.

Campsite for Day 2 was at Battle Ground State Park, WA, overlooking the sweet little crater lake:


I got us here by navigating through the back highways of southern Washington State on winding roads through tiny towns and past little farms and lots of trailer parks. Thank you, Google Maps for your accuracy! Couldn’t have done it without my notes. It was late again by the time we got there though so we didn’t do much investigating. Good thing we had reservations for the first 4 days of our trip or we wouldn’t have been so relaxed about our timing.

Day 3 started with Fabric Shopping in Portland, OR.


We have nothing like this gigantic fabric store in Vancouver!  It has such an amazing selection. I went just a little bit nuts (of course!) and bought about US$340 worth. No taxes in Oregon. This is probably at least a dozen garments’ worth: mostly ponte knits, a herringbone twill in linen and rayon for a shirt for Thom and some wool plaid for a Sewaholic Minoru jacket for me with a Kaufmann batik for lining. My collection is currently stuffed in a back cupboard so I can’t photograph it until we get home. Because it will have to be dragged around for another month so, the most out-of-the way spot is best. I had such a fun time! Yet I think I was pretty controlled really. I’m SOOOO behind on my sewing projects!

After Portland we headed east along the Columbia Gorge. For the first time we went along the old Columbia Highway and stopped to see Multnomah Falls:


It was really busy but such a lovely waterfall! We hiked up to the bridge you can see above the lowest level. Afterwards we continued along the Gorge to Memaloose State Park where we had reservations. A hot shower, the first since we left home, was so delicious!

As I write this I’m using WIFI in Safeway/Starbucks in beautiful downtown Pendleton, OR. Tonight it’s Farewell Bend State Park right on the dividing line between Pacific and Mountain Time zones with Idaho just across the Snake River. More soon!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Liftoff Is Eminent

One more sleep! We’re nearly as ready as we’ll ever be. But first I have to show you the very cool yarns I dyed. Remember the skeins of superwash wool/nylon sock yarn that I dyed first in gardenia yellow, then dipped in my home-grown Japanese indigo? I wanted yet another colour on it so I put a few of the walnuts that the squirrels have been chopping off my tree into a bucket, filled it with water, popped on a lid and left it in the sun for several days. It started to ferment slightly and get a little bubbly. It also got a bit mouldy but not too bad. Yesterday I dumped it, mould and all, into a small-ish dyepot and brought it up to a near-boil for about an hour. It actually doesn’t smell bad at all. Just kind of spicy and earthy – sort of like the way it smells when I rake the walnut leaves in the fall. Then I stuck the darkest end of the yellow and green skeins into the pot, leaving the walnuts in, and kept them there on a simmer for only about half an hour. I was quite surprised at how deep the colour got!

Here’s the sequence - first there was gardenia yellow:

Gardenia yellow yarn

Next there was Japanese indigo blue on top:Ai Over Gardenia yarn

And last there was dark walnut brown on the ends:

WAG Yarn

Now I’m really liking this colour combination much better! Interestingly this sock yarn has had no mordant applied, only substantive dyes. It still bleeds a little when washed but hasn’t gotten much lighter in colour and I’m sure it’ll stop leaking after a few more rinses. I wonder if the dyes underneath the walnut brown helped it to become darker than it normally does or if it was just because of the strongly concentrated bath. I’ve never gotten such a dark shade before from my English (aka Persian) walnuts. Of course superwash wool/nylon dyes really easily and deeply anyway. So satisfying.

Flushed with this success I hunted up another skein of sock yarn, this one from a different source and already in skein form. I had to add a little more water to the dyepot because there wasn’t much left at this point since I never pre-soaked my skeins first so instead the wool absorbed a lot more of the dyebath than usual. This second skein (115g) was also not mordanted first. I tucked it down into the walnut husks which were now starting to soften enough to break up into bits but leaving the walnut shells intact. It’s the outer green hulls that carry the dye of course. (I’m looking at my pant leg here with a tan stain where I knelt on a walnut in the grass by accident! These grey cotton knit pants have been machine washed and dried twice since then with no change in the stain. Seems pretty permanent as a dyestuff, no?)

Of course I couldn’t leave well enough alone when I decided that I really wanted quite a variegated skein so I went out to the dye garden and picked a handful of annual coreopsis flowers. These I poked down into the lighter parts of the skein hoping to give the browns a little warmer cast. Don’t know how colourfast they’ll be without a mordant but my fingernails are stained and it doesn’t wash off! (I sound very colourful, don’t I?) Eventually I turned off the stove and just left the pot to cool overnight.

I thought the walnut gunk was going to be a bit of a pain to wash off the yarn. This was after it sat overnight. Doesn’t that look rather disgusting?

Walnut Dyepot

Yes, there’s a whole skein of yarn in that goo somewhere. Usually I carefully sieve out the plant matter before dyeing in the liquid but I wanted a more speckled and blotchy yarn and hopefully a deeper colour from direct contact with the dyestuff.

Walnut Yarn

I think it was pretty successful! It’s a lovely golden brown and somewhat variegated all over. Just the way I wanted it. It still smells a little of walnut husks. Luckily not unpleasant really. This will probably become socks for Thom since he quite likes the colours – and the odour! But not anytime soon. I already have my travel knitting selected.

Well, the van is partially packed. The rest of the gear is waiting for tomorrow. I’m still watering my veggie garden. Off to see if I can find something left in this house to eat for dinner. I have enough milk and half an apple left for our oatmeal tomorrow. Pickings are a little slim but there’s still a few more items that need eating up.

Next post will be from Who Knows Where!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Closer Than It Appears

Obviously I’m taking advantage of my cable Internet connection while I have it available! Only 3 more sleeps now. We’re busy trying to eat up the perishable food left in the fridge. Salads! Oh, how I love you. Mostly produce from my garden too. I put a second batch of tomatoes in the dehydrator to process so I don’t lose my entire harvest while I’m gone. If I freeze them I won’t use them. Dehydrating works best for us so that’s what we do. We’ve owned this dehydrator since the 1980’s and it still works just fine! Sometimes it’s good to hang onto things you will use. They aren’t particularly easy to come by anyway and they’ve kept their price just as high.

A lot of stuff is now packed and ready to go. Sadly we can’t load up the Westie until the day of departure. Otherwise we risk break-ins. A very high risk it is too! So we just wait to load until the last minute. Better to be safe than sorry, huh? At least this time we don’t need quite as much as we brought last year for our Cross-Country Trek. This trip is shorter by nearly half and mostly in the desert or near enough to desert to be virtually indistinguishable. We don’t have air conditioning so ice will be very important to us. At least it’s available at nearly every gas station! Potable water is harder to come by including showers sadly. Making do is the name of the game. We need lightweight clothes that don’t restrict, don’t wrinkle too much, are breathable and don’t hold perspiration smells. When it’s super-hot and very dry, basic survival becomes very important! Forget all your city slicker ways. Queue the theme from Deliverance….not.

Just to cover all the bases we are expecting some colder temperatures as well as possible rain. You just never know! That means packing for quite a large range of weather possibilities but that’s actually kind of normal for us. Woolies and shorts. Check. Umbrellas and sandals. Check too. Ready for ya! No. That’s not a challenge. Urp. (Careful, damselfly. No point in tempting fate, huh?)

Not much more to do in the next 2 days apart from tidying the house and watering the garden. Laundry tomorrow. And possibly one more load at the last minute on Tuesday night. Does anyone else have so much to finish up before going away for awhile? I don’t recall reading about anyone’s pre-escape preparations. Or maybe they just don’t blog them? I know there are a lot of people who leave home for months or even more. They escape winter to Mexico or Arizona or Florida. Or they head for Europe or South America or Australia. One of my friends spends half the year in her home country of New Zealand and the other half here in the Vancouver Lower Mainland. Another spends most of her time in England and her original home near Victoria is now a vacation spot. How does everyone else do this? I find it difficult and rather stressful getting everything ready to go. Or is that just me? Yes, I’m still in Packing Mode. Obviously. At least until we’re in the car and at least a kilometre from home. Only then do I start to relax. Start. Umm…relax.

My late and very dear friend Masami used to say that I have very deep roots. So true.

Meanwhile I finished a sweater:

Ophicleide Cardi

Ophicleide Cardi

For:  me

Begun:  June 27, 2014
Completed:  August 20, 2014

Yarn:  Italian silk noil, approximately DK weight, navy blue. From the weaving stash.

Needles:  Addi Lace Click interchangeables, 3.75mm with 24” cable.

Mods:  My gauge was a little looser even with one size smaller needles so knit the 91cm (36”) size which ended up about a 40” bust size. Followed pattern but worked one more set of increases on the body to get enough length. Didn’t put the sleeve stitches on hold before working the i-cord bind-off. I just kept going all the way around the cuff again to the centre under the arm (picking up a stitch or two in the corner gaps) and knit-cast-on 3 sts on the left needle to start the i-cord.

I was at a loss as to how to fasten this cardigan. None of the buttons in my stash really looked right. The original had you use hooks and eyes and I just happened to have some really big ones in my stash. Just perfect for this project I’m thinking! I used only 5 since they were larger than usual plus they took ages to sew in properly. I used regular sewing thread that matched very well.

Ophicleide hook det

Big Black Hooks instead of buttons. This photo is quite light compared to the real thing. But at least you can see the details.

Comments:  I quite like this sweater and was sad that the designer, Kamicha, decided to discontinue her free pattern on Ravelry. Some of the original pattern symbols were not familiar so I re-charted the yoke using Knit Visualizer making them more understandable which worked well. I knit the original short puff-sleeve version but it would be nice in the longer sleeved version also.

The navy noil silk yarn guarantees that it will coordinate with my previous Buonasera Tunic in the same yarn. I predict that the duo will see a lot of wear this fall and winter. Yes, it looks a lot cuter on than the flat photo would suggest. Sorry about the lack of human modelling.

Ophicleide sleeve det

Puffed sleeve detail.

BTW the name ophicleide (pronounce OFFa-clyde) refers to an antique brass instrument which replaced the even more antique serpent. In turn it was the forerunner of the more modern tuba and euphonium. I love old instruments. Very cool bass sounds!

So I’ve backed up my computers, packed digital books as well as paper ones, have my knitting patterns in both formats (paper and electronic), filled a tote bag with necessary gadgets to keep everything running and cross my fingers that I haven’t forgotten anything important. Getting closer.

More whenever. Or soon. Who knows?

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Googly Eyes

thing-a-day-2013-16-googly-eyed-rock Source: http://laurelgreen.com/thing-a-day-2013/day-16-googly-eyed-rock/

Yes, I haz them! I think I’m all ready now. I hope. I am SO tired of maps and websites and chasing down campgrounds and grocery stores and wifi hotspots. We’re as ready as we’re gonna be on that front. Now it’s just packing and cleaning and tidying and watering and….and….and….4 more sleeps. I swear last year I wasn’t nearly as ready to go twice as far. Guess I learned a few things since then? Or not.

Anyhoo, my lovely sister D is coming to stay at our house for some of the time we’re gone. My kids are checking in the rest of the time. Alarms will be set. Things will be locked, loaded and secured. We will still have a heck of a mess outdoors to clean up when we get back! That’s always the way. No matter how much we do before we go there’s always more to do when we get back.

I’ve packed all the maps and directions. The automobile association is fabulous for the actual printed paper stuff and no charge for any of it. They are so friendly and helpful to deal with and absolutely worth the membership fee. I’m completely computer-literate but our van doesn’t have a GPS. No hand-held one either. Luckily I can totally read a map – if it’s accurate. (Not all of them are. Or detailed enough sometimes.) But I’m pretty sure that now I’m clear on the routes we need to take. It’s SO going to be a blast! A blast from a furnace if current temps south are anything to go by. That’s what we get for heading to the desert. I think I enjoy it so much because it’s so different from our temperate coastal rainforest climate. But I do prefer it to be somewhat under 100F.

Yes, I packed my knitting first! I’ve already started a new project, basically because I was going squirrely without a relatively simple one to work on. And I have a bunch more to keep me busy enroute. I’ve parked my current weaving project which may or may not be a total disaster. I don’t care now until I get home. So there. I still need to wash and iron and perhaps mend a few things before we head out. Thom’s Camera Sock is coming apart where it attaches to his belt. I knit this one just as we were heading south on holiday in 2008 when we got stuck at the US border crossing for a couple of hours. I totally understand why it might need help after 6 years of vacations!

Nearly the last thing I need to do is back up my computers just to be safe. We always pack a ridiculous number of batteries, chargers, plugs, inverters and other gadgets so we aren’t completely technologically out of touch. Thom has his iBook and iPhone and I have my netbook computer and my iTouch. Then there’s our cameras and several flashlights and headlamps (for caving) plus the reading lights in the van that all need spare batteries. Most of the books I’m planning to read are on my netbook. (I love my local library’s digital collection!) Only a few actual paper books are coming which saves some of the extremely limited room in the van. But of course we‘ll need to recharge everything as we travel so we have a plug that goes in the lighter. I mean, who needs that thing for anything else? Really.

We’ve dehydrated a whole bucket-full of little tomatoes from the greenhouse. They are delicious that way! The drying just concentrates all the flavours. Yum. Then we freeze them to keep everything as fresh as possible. Last year we barely got any tomatoes so it was a nice present this year to have so many. We’ve also been eating through the last of the garden produce before we go.

I meant to show off the finished Ophicleide Cardi but it still needs to be photographed. It’s very cute and I hope it will get lots of wear. Silk is surprisingly warm. I can actually wear it over its coordinating Buonasera Tunic since I knit it in the same yarn. I have lots of that stuff left too. I actually had 2 cones of it in the stash. Knitting with yarn actually meant for weaving is fun! I seem to have done a lot of that lately.

Oh yeah. One more outstanding thing to do before we leave is to try to figure out what I want to look for in the Portland fabric stores. I’ve got a number of garments I want to make and a few gaps in the fabric stash. Like t-shirt and pant knits and maybe something in wool to make a warm Sewaholic Minoru jacket. I wear my water-resistant one all year except for summer. I also want to find some appropriate fleece or sweat fabric for a Thread Theory’s Finlayson Sweater for Thom. Truthfully I don’t need a lot more fabric but who’s going to pass up the opportunity? There’s always something different than what I can get at home.

Plus I’ve already got a wish list for Dharma Trading in San Rafael, California. We plan to stop as we go by on our way to the coast. I know I can order online but I actually like to see things first! More hankies are tops on the list since we’ve nearly worn out our first bunch that I picked up on a whim last time we were there. Who knew they’d become so important in our little household that I haven’t bought a box of tissues for years? We both prefer cloth over paper. They might be nearly worn out now and rather dingy-looking but they are soooo soft after being machine washed and dried a gazillion times.

OK. I’m completely babbling now. Off to actually get something accomplished today. No point in rushing and panicking at the last moment, is there? Only 4 more sleeps. Yikes.

More soonest! Or whenever…

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Google-Fu Master

My brain is tired and my mouse-hand is even tired-er. It’s been hard work but I think I’ve conquered the travel plans for this year’s vacation! And WOW!!! It’s going to be fun! Probably also very hot and dry. There are water falls, lava tubes, Anasazi ruins, rocks of all colours and shapes, petroglyphs, canyons, deserts, mountains and, eventually, ocean beaches. Nine Western US states in total, two of them twice – a big loop. Also fabric shopping because I can’t go through Portland without hitting the Mill End Store and Pendleton Woollen Mill Store. They’re very near each other on the same road so it’s not too big of a diversion.

However, because it’s so far to go we’ve decided to leave earlier than we’d originally planned. Which means we’re heading out a week from Wednesday so we’ll need to step up the prep and packing. What doesn’t get done won’t until we get back. Oh well. I’ll have to kiss my garden goodbye for the season. Some things did really well this year including my coleus in the deck pots. Most of them were grown from seeds. This year the leaves on some were huge!


Like the “Kong” variety but these aren’t. The ones I bought were because the seeds aren’t on offer. These “Mehndi” were particularly colourful:


On the right you can see the “Sedona” in gorgeous red rock colours. I love colourful leaves even better than colourful flowers. Yes, odd, I know. I’ll get over it. ;)

Meanwhile, I did finish my second pair of Toe-Up Shortie Socks from the same ball of DGB Confetti:


Again I used my slightly modified version of Wendy D. Johnson’s Toe-Up Socks With A Difference. I’m now starting to get the hang of it though that’s not to say I didn’t have to rip out the heel turn twice on the second sock! I also haven’t figured out how to size it up for Thom or someone else with larger feet than mine. That shouldn’t be too hard though now that I’m more familiar with how it works. They look silly off the feet but fit very closely especially under the arch and heel.

I dyed this pair when they were done just to make them different from the earlier pair from the same yarn. I used some Lanaset Red plus a bit of Black that I had premixed and never used and dyed them in the craft microwave. Now they’re kind of a burgundy but light enough so that the stripey bits still show. Yeah, I’m too lazy to do a proper FO post. If you want more deets you can go to the Ravelry page.

It seems like posting to this blog is going to get a little rare to non-existent in the next while. So sorry! First of all, this next week is going to be crazy busy getting ready to go. (Aaakkk!!!) Also, unless there are more places to get wifi than I’ve encountered in my Googling, I will be very hard-pressed to get out an account of the trip while it’s actually happening. I hope to at least keep writing posts and saving them up for whenever there’s an opportunity to send them. Best I can promise for now.

More when I can!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Real Rain At Last

It was so lovely to wake up to the sound of rain yesterday morning. (Yes, remind me it’s so lovely when we’ve had about 4 straight months of it come winter, will you?) I would have had to do a major watering job if it hadn’t. Things are so dry around here! It also seems rather dark but I don’t really mind it for a change.

The rain didn’t dampen our spirits but rather invigorated Thom & I into walking downtown to go see the movie “Guardians of the Galaxy”. Yes, we totally loved it! I thought it was a Star Wars for the 21st Century, it was that good. Great characters, a plausible story line and excellent and very believable 3D special effects, based on a rather obscure Marvel comic series. As you might know if you’ve read this blog for any length of time, I love sci-fi and fantasy. Our son owns a comic book shop. (I’m sure he was influenced by us in his childhood!) Our daughter plays in the Society for Creative Anachronism. They all game too, whether board or online. We don’t – but we get it. Most of my friends and family would rather read biographies or regular fiction or mysteries and look at me funny if I chime in with my fave reads. I don’t care. I love it when someone creates a movie that captures the feel of a good sci-fi romp. Doesn’t happen often really. Can’t wait for the next one. Of course there’ll be a sequel. They even tell you that in the movie credits! And next up I’m waiting for the last instalment of The Hobbit. Not until Christmas again though. Sigh. Seriously though, if it wasn’t for the giant 3D screen and surround sound I would love to be able to avoid movie theatres entirely. The girl next to me had stinky perfume on and the man next to Thom smelled like stale tobacco. Ugh. At least the popcorn was fresh.

OK, enough of that. Back to the crafty stuff. On Tuesday two of my buddies and I had an Ai Day and played with most of the last of my Japanese indigo. It was pretty successful though I left quite a few of the plants alone that have already started to flower for me. We got a pretty reasonable blue even though some of the leaves were pretty tough and old and some were quite young and small. I only had one item to dye so I dipped my lovely yellow sock yarn that had previously been dyed in gardenia pods. Before the dipping:

Gardenia yellow yarn

Now it looks mostly green:

Ai Over Gardenia yarn

But I’m thinking it needs yet another dip in something else. Perhaps the walnuts that we keep chucking into the city green bin (aka compost pick-up) after the squirrels chop them off the tree before they’re ripe and don’t always eat them. I’ll need to collect a few and soak them for awhile. This yarn hasn’t been mordanted so unless I want to do that first, I need a substantive dye like walnut. I just want to darken one section of my skein to make it a bit more interesting! I don’t want to ruin it though.

BTW, I found out the gardenia dye is Gardenia jasminoides, aka common gardenia or cape jasmine and it’s in the Rubiaceae family. They are subtropical and need heat, bright but not direct sunlight and acid soil to survive so they won’t grow here except as a fussy house plant. The portion with the dye is the dried fruit or seed pod and it’s traditionally used as a dyestuff, a food dye and a medicinal. The latter use is why it was available from the Chinese herbalist.


You can see the yellow of the fresh pod in the photo I found. Dried ones look brown. It seems to dye protein fibres best and brightest as a substantive dye. It will colour cellulose fibres with an alum mordant but it doesn’t give nearly as bright a yellow as we found out. The cotton ties in my wool skeins didn’t take any yellow at all! And the bamboo yarn was very pale but the wool and silk took the dye quite well. But then superwash wool and nylon yarn dyes very well in almost any dyestuff. The shade as you can see in the top photo is a lovely warm yellow.

I also finished spinning my 2-ply nearly-black merino wool worsted-weight yarn:

MidnightMerino handspun

At least I thought it was merino but it might actually be Shetland now that I think of it since it wasn’t labelled. (Of course I’m going to remember, right? Right??) It’s quite nice anyway. I made quite a lot more than I really need for the sweater that I want to make but I can always knit another Bandana Cowl if there’s enough left. I have about 220 yards or so and I only need enough for the neck edge. More on this when I get to working on it.

On another subject entirely, it’s just under 3 weeks now until we go on our annual month’s vacation. I have yet to actually figure out our route but so far I do know we’re heading south this time. Hopefully we can combine desert and rocks with seashore on the way back. That’s my job today – working my Google-fu on the big computer to plan and gather information. I’m so looking forward to getting away for awhile. I love home (so much that it’s sometimes hard to get me out of it!) but I also love getting a different perspective occasionally. Anyway I’ve packed my knitting already! Too many projects for the time available but that’s just fine. Always nice to have alternatives just in case something doesn’t work as planned. I hope we can find wifi while we’re gone so I can post while we’re gone. It’s not easy or always possible but I like to think it’s becoming more and more common everywhere. I’ll be truly happy when I can get online with a fast clean and preferably free connection anywhere anytime. I know I’m not the only one with this wish.

The weather promises to be a little cooler and damper for the next while so maybe I can even get some sewing done. I have a couple of things I’d like to take with me. We’ll see. I keep thinking I need to do a bunch of garden and house tidying before I go away but so much of it just needs doing again when we get back that it’s hard to get motivated. I usually tend to go into a bit of a frenzy before we leave and I’d rather skip that if I can help it. Thom calls it my “packing mode”. I’ll try to get around to everything that really matters but I’m not going to bust a gasket! Last year was rather more seriously major because of the length of time we’d be away so we worked like crazy for the last few weeks of July. At least this year we’re only going for one month, not two. So this time I’m trying to be somewhat proactive without going nuts. Wish me luck.

More soon.

Saturday, August 09, 2014

In Case You Were Wondering

Yup, I’m still here! Nope, no further bad things happened with the wasp sting. It now looks like a mosquito bite but after feeling rather uncomfortable most of the week it has finally mostly ceased to itch. Won’t stop me from carrying my epi-pen around everywhere though! You never know. I almost got stung again yesterday out at the Steveston fish wharf. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

It’s been a fairly busy week and I’m missing a few photos that would illustrate things better. Camnesia? Or just plain lazy. I will attempt to do better in future. (Sure.) Of course there’s the ever-present watering of gardens. The weather remains quite lovely though slightly cooler than it has been. Just perfect, in other words! We took advantage of the dry spell to refinish the back deck:


All the railings too, including the ones by the basement door and on the front stairs. Tedious to do, just sayin’. Doesn’t it look nice? Of course that was before the Stoopid Squirrels spit tiny bits of my walnuts all over it! It’s been a bumper crop year and we won’t get any. Again. Nor our hazelnuts either. Have I mentioned how much I HATE squirrels?

Anyway, it’s done for another 3 or 4 years. I love our deck. We spend quite a lot of time out there in summer. I’ve been spinning out there and nearly have a skein of black wool to contrast with the leftovers from my Rainbow Dark cardi to make another sassymetrical. And speaking of knitting projects, I’ve been sorting out my patterns, yarn and needles for our September camping trip. Not even sure exactly where we’re going yet, but I’ve got knitting to do while we get there! Far too much knitting probably but it’s good to have choices. You know. Just in case.

I also finally finished the divoré on the rayon/silk velvet. If you remember that far back, this will be a rather elegant cardigan or jacket adapted from Katherine Tilton’s Butterick 5891. I only burned out the sleeves and the front bands/collar piece and left the body solid velvet. Now I need to dye the pieces before sewing them together. I will use Procion MX in a scrunch-dyed technique but I still can’t quite decide what colours or how intense I want it. Greens perhaps? I think I need to just do it and see what comes out! Good thing this fabric doesn’t fray much because it goes through a LOT of processes before it becomes anything: washing, drying, divoré paste, ironing to activate the burn-out, scrubbing out the loosened pile, washing some more, dyeing, rinsing, simmering in Synthrapol, rinsing some more and then, after all that, sewing the final garment. Whew. I hope the dyeing process will remove the rest of the loose pile fuzz because currently the pieces shed little sparkly rayon dust all over every time I touch it! I still need to thoroughly vacuum all around my ironing board in the studio. It looks like it snowed up there.

Speaking of the studio, here’s the Mountains & Valleys scarf on the loom:

BigBumps on loom

The black wool parts look like window screening! Really hard to beat that lightly especially on my big countermarche loom with overhead beater. I have to just barely touch the weft into place. It shifts around like crazy if you just breathe on it too so I’m going to have to be careful to pack some sticks in the cloth beam to prevent the cords from causing too much slippage. Some is inevitable though I think. Hopefully it will all come right in the wash. It has to be really well fulled to shrink up the wool and leave the silk to bubble. That’s why the rectangles rather than squares because it shrinks more width-wise. Whatever. That’s as good as I can beat with this. Otherwise the warp has been very cooperative this time. Yay. I just have to carry on as I have been right to the end. The wool is continuous but the silk has to be started and cut off for each stripe so it’s not going very quickly at all. No hurry. It’s a good challenge for my weaving control anyway.

So I think I’ve accomplished my goal of kick-starting the weaving mojo! Now I keep finding things I want to weave. I certainly have enough stash to carry on with for quite some time to come. More will have to wait until autumn though. And of course meanwhile I haven’t been sewing! No new summer clothes while it’s still summer. Sigh. Can’t do everything unfortunately, can you?

The garden is winding down. There are bare patches now so I’ll be planting some fall rye seed soon. I made sweet spiced bean pickles out of a couple of large bags of beans. It made 7 and a half jars. I think I still have to work on the recipe some more though. They keep floating in the jars. We may soon be dehydrating some of the bumper crop of mini paste tomatoes too. Nice to have them ripen before September! Next week we’ll be doing another Ai Day with the Japanese indigo. I may not get to the woad this year but that’s ok. Or maybe when I get back in October. The indigo is already starting to flower too. I found it helps to leave some plants untouched and they’re the ones sending up flower shoots. It takes a long time for the seeds to mature however. They’ll need to be picked in late October to finish ripening in the house.

And speaking of dyeing, at our Spectrum meeting on Thursday we had a pot of dye from dried gardenia pods going. I’ve never heard about this dye in any of the books. These were bought from a Chinese herbalist (we have lots of those locally because of our large Asian population) and obtained with great difficulty by one of our members who had to try to explain what she wanted. Not easy even armed with the botanical name and the Chinese name. (I need to find out what these are myself!) Finally she found a shop where the woman figured it out right away and sold them for the very reasonable price of $1 an ounce. These pods give a lovely warm yellow that is substantive (i.e. doesn’t need a mordant). I dyed a couple of balls of my recent Elann sock yarn acquisition and didn’t even bother to skein them but just threw them in. I didn’t really want an even dye but it came out rather more even anyway probably because those cute little puff balls are quite softly wound. I plan to skein them up and dip-dye in the indigo vat next week. Photos to come.

Yesterday Thom & I took his mom out to Steveston, a cute little touristy fishing village that is part of the municipality of Richmond. We had fish & chips and fish tacos at Pajo’s on the dock and then wandered around for a bit before going down to the fish dock. The sockeye run is just starting so we bought a medium-sized one and a couple of pounds of side-stripe prawns. Oh big yum! Thom & I had half the prawns for dinner last night with garlic butter (first of my new batch of garlic!) and half the rest in an omelette for breakfast this morning. Ambrosia. The fish was descaled and cut into 3 chunks, two for the freezer and one to barbeque for dinner tonight. I love living by the sea. Apparently the run this year is going to be a really good one so hopefully we’ll have another chance to indulge. It’s fun to go directly to the fishers for their catch and know they get to keep all the proceeds themselves. Just like the farmers market only wetter! Thom also stopped at a farm stand on the way home and bought some fresh strawberries. The second flush of the everbearing varieties are perfect right now.

Today we need to go find something crafty to give the biggest grandbeastie, Princess Silver Fang, for her 10th birthday. (Can’t believe she’s hit the double-digits already!) Today’s the day but the party is tomorrow which gives us a little more time. There are two big art/craft stores on our walking route so I’m sure something will inspire. She’s so hard to fathom sometimes (serious introvert) but she does love to make things as long as it doesn’t have complex written directions. Illustrations are better. Or just created from imagination. I always like to encourage making stuff.

More soon! It’s warming up out there and…my garden needs watering. Again.