Damselfly’s Delights

Being the continuing story of my creations and curiosities.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Another Update on The Hand

Now referred to as The Claw! The darn thing somehow got infected and, after waiting 3 hours to see my doctor on Wednesday, I’m back on antibiotics. It’s not improving so far. Of course it would have helped if I hadn’t accidentally smacked it hard yesterday right on the stitches while trying to open the coffee canister to make Thom’s morning cuppa! Doh. So painful! If things don’t start improving soon (I’m giving it until Monday) I have been ordered to go to Emergency. Sounds like fun, huh? This close to Christmas and all. Tomorrow is our family’s annual Solstice Party at my son and daughter-in-law’s. I’m NOT missing it. Meanwhile I’m taking my meds and probiotics and trying to keep The Claw out of trouble. Wish me luck.

Hope you all have a very Happy Solstice! It’s at 3:03pm PST (recalculate for your own time zone) tomorrow, December 21st. Yes, here in the Northern Hemisphere the sun is coming back and the days are getting longer! Yay! We need some positive energy and light around here for sure.

More when I can type better.

Monday, December 15, 2014


I learned a valuable lesson yesterday. At least this time I hope it sticks. I wanted to dye some of the white Elann F05 sock yarn. (You knew I couldn’t keep from doing my crafty things for so long without being sorely tempted, right?) I thought this would be an easy-peasy low-water immersion bath with just acetic acid and Lanaset black dye. As you might know, Elann yarns come in these little puff balls:

Elann F05 Photo from Amazon.ca

Somebody I read called the balls’ shape “tomatoes” though this photo shows the colour “persimmon” which is definitely what these ones resemble. My white ones look like marshmallows! I thought I could just dye them as-is since they’re loosely wound and mostly the dye should penetrate to the centre ok. I wouldn’t mind a little variegation just to keep the dead black from being boring. If I really wanted straight black, and if Amazon actually had any for sale, I might have just bought that and be done with it. But no. Work from the stash.

However, I forgot that the darn things disintegrate much too easily no matter how careful you are with them. I ended up with this:


That’s 6 balls! Which took longer to untangle and skein than it would have just skeining it up in the first place. Doh. Also I’m not sure I like where the blips of light gray happen – mostly just on the second half of each skein – and not very evenly over the 6 of them either. Oh well. If it looks bad when I’ve knitted my sweater, I can always throw the whole thing in another dyepot and then it really will be dead black.

I used Lanaset black for this because it gives me the most true black of all my acid-type dyes. The washfast acid dye blacks (I have more than one) lean either a little blue or a little purple or a little green especially in the grayer areas. Lanaset (also called Telana or Sabraset) is totally the best black of any dye I’ve ever used. I used a nearly-4% depth of shade in total, though it’s hard to calculate exactly after I mixed up a little more dye because the centres of the balls were still too white. Black areas are very black! And the remaining liquid in the dyebath was pretty clear when I was done so none went to waste. Another good thing about Lanaset is that it exhausts pretty darned completely. Also superwash wool/nylon yarn sucks up the dye like a thirsty camper after a month in the desert! (Ask me how I know.)

Oh yeah, I’m sure you want to know which sweater I was planning, don’t you? It’s this lovely little cardigan, Trellis by Lili Comme Tout (aka Julie Partie). I found that I have a need in my wardrobe for a little black sweater and this one looks just right, particularly with 3/4 sleeves. I’ve already purchased the pattern through Ravelry and printed it out. Not starting to knit it yet though!

I did do a little bit of knitting anyway. See?

NanaBlodgieSweater beg

I started Nana’s Blodgie Sweater. We decided that Thom’s mom needs a hot water bottle to warm her feet in bed. She’s always complaining of cold but doesn’t like to use her electric blanket. She didn’t even know that they still make hot water bottles (now known in our family – thanks to me – as “blodgies” for the sound they make when filled) but of course they are even more popular these days when everyone is trying to save money on heating and electric bills. And who can just wrap the poor thing in a towel when it can sport a lovely hand-knit sweater? Not me. I like to try out different cables on each one I make. This one is provocatively entitled Enclosed Cable Variation II from Walker’s Charted Knitting Designs.

However, today my hand is a little sore from all that activity so I should stop typing and rest up. I’ll leave you with the photo of our Scheffmas Tree in full regalia:

Scheffmas Tree

Every item has a story and most were made by us, family or friends, except of course the tin icicles from Lee Valley Tools. Also the basket on the front door is now filled with evergreen boughs from our neighbour’s tree (which blew over here in the wind storm last week) and decorated with sun, moon, and stars for Winter Solstice and a hilariously “nakey” angel doll, made by a long-ago friend. I’ll try to get a photo, although my decorating would not win any Martha Stewart awards!

More whenever…

Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Good, The Bad & The Not-So-Pretty

Hello, my dears! I know it’s been awhile but, you know… The Hand. I was going to write a really whiny post here because I’ve been having some very uncomfortable nerve zap issues since the surgery. But suddenly things are feeling quite a lot better today. Perhaps they’ll be better still when I get the stitches out next week? Really though, aren’t they interesting? (Please look away if you’re squeamish!)


Not to question the resident hand doc’s sewing skillz, but I believe this is going to leave a serious scar. Which I don’t really care about too much as long as I have the complete use of my hand back.  I’m still hoping that I’m just being too impatient and quick to judge the results. It hasn’t even been a week yet. Patience, damselfly.

These guys will now cover up the horrific view:


Yes! I have my own Minions!

So. Enough complaints already. Moving right along. Naturally I don’t really have much to discuss since I haven’t done much of anything except walk (when I can because the rain has been crazy), read, and watch Craftsy classes. I’m super-happy with the Fairy Bra Mother, Beverly Johnson’s bra making class! It deserves to be the hit that it is on Craftsy. You can sure tell she’s done this one a jillion times in real life! I already own two of Beverly’s books and have made 4 or 5 bras but even so, I’ve learned several helpful new things from watching her class. I want to sew. Now! Shut up. Patience, damselfly.

The only other exciting thing I’ve done is scan a vintage sock pattern booklet donated by my mother-in-law, Hand Knit Socks by Regent Vol. No. 20. Surprisingly, it’s listed on both Etsy and Ebay and in Ravelry.

RegentSocks cover

It must have been a popular pamphlet back in the late 1940’s when it sold for a whopping 15 cents! Nana says she knit argyle socks for Thom’s dad using one of the patterns in here. This copy is quite well-used indeed. Besides the argyles, it also has some textured socks, cabled socks, socks with moose and maple leaves (so Canadian!), some ladies stockings, plus 2 sweaters. There’s a couple of pairs I wouldn’t mind trying:

RegentSocks Page19

And especially a mysterious technique for knitting diamond patterned socks in the round just might need to be explored:

RegentSocks Page7

When I can actually knit properly again. Patience, damselfly!

Anyway, to that end I scanned all the pages, printed out an enhanced copy that was much more readable and then put the original in a heavy page protector to keep along with the printout. Now I’m trying to remember way-way back in ancient history – old Canadian/UK size 13 needles are 2.25mm, yes? I remember when I thought those were really tiny. Now I knit most socks on 2mm (old size 14’s) and have been known to go even smaller on occasion. Anyway, this pamphlet is like an archaeological dig! I wonder how the old yarns compare with modern sock yarns?

In other news, I hope you have gone and checked out Wendy’s Blog Hop post that came out on Monday following Myrna’s last week. Next will be Gayle’s linked from Wendy’s and you won’t want to miss that one either! So many great creative garment makers out there, plus other crafty stuff! I feel really blessed to be part of such a great collection of delightful, artistic, thoughtful and inspiring women.

Whilst I wait (patiently!) for healing to happen, Thom is being a huge help and is learning more about cooking than he ever wanted to know! So far I can’t chop or lift anything heavy with my right hand. But together we’ve managed a lot of basic housekeeping and kitchen stuff that I usually do by myself, me directing when necessary. At least I finally made a pot of tea without assistance and washed most of the dishes today (with The Hand sporting a disposable nitrile glove). Baby steps. So frustrating though when I want to be flitting about in my usual manner! Good thing all the Holiday Stuff is elsewhere this year (I so appreciate my responsible adult children!) and the minimal gifts are ready to go. I can’t imagine if I had to make the usual full-on turkey dinner for 25+ family members only a couple of weeks from now. Yikes! Normally it would be no problem. Not this time, honey. I haven’t even put the decorations yet on Scheff, my very large and very old Schefflera arboricola who lives in the dining room and has been serving as my Christmas tree for a number of years now. OK, so he’s not a fir tree. But he is an actual live plant and enjoys the decorations! So much so that we never find all of them when we try to put them away and he ends up sporting some leftovers all year around. Sneaky thing! Doncha love it when your houseplants get uppity on ya?

More soon. Less moaning. (I hope.) Maybe even a photo of Scheff in full holiday regalia.

Saturday, December 06, 2014

2 X 4

Just a super-quick update (because it’s really hard to type with one hand) – yesterday I had my appointment at the hand clinic. Resident checks the spot, asks all the important questions, and then tries to put the surgery off to another day. That’s when I whined at him. Noooo!! Sliver has been in there for over a month! I want my hand back. Get it ouuuutttt!!

Luckily it worked and they found me an operating room right away. Semi-hysterical granny power. Yay! The doc was actually surprised and I was shocked when the piece turned out to be a wicked-sharp chunk nearly 2 cm long. Yikes! So now I have 3 stitches and a bigger scar than my granddaughter’s bed is sporting. At least I’m wood-free and can get on with healing. Meanwhile I’m going just a little nuts not being able to do much with one hand. (For starters it somehow took a whole 12 hours for the anesthetic to fully thaw.) But I’ll be back crafting up my usual storm PDQ.

One question though – why are nurses so bad at bandaging? You’d think they would get enough practice to do it really well! This one is coming off ASAP. It’s barely hanging on the wound but the rest is way too tight. Sheesh. I could do better with one hand…

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Winter Has Come

Look what the Frost Fairies brought us:


First Snow! Poor Anna (the hummingbirds are all called Anna) found her feeder frozen so Thom carefully thawed it out. I suspect this may be an ongoing task this winter when the temps drop below freezing.

So the update on The Hand is that I have an appointment with the surgeon on Friday morning, more than a month after I got the splinter. Sheesh. I’d better not get put off any further because I’m going just a little squirrely here. I can knit (carefully) but anything where I have to grip with my whole hand is out. That includes rotary cutting and ironing (no sewing), sweeping/raking/vacuuming (no cleaning), teasing and carding wool (no spinning unless the fibre is already prepared) and a bunch of other things that remind me sharply if I forget. I’m also running out of antibiotics which concerns me mightily. I’m attempting to hang in there for another week. There will likely be more whinging from me in the meanwhile.

I did manage to spin up another sample of the RomneyX that had already been teased and carded. I know that I thought I had the definitive yarn already but…I’ve changed my mind. You can blame this issue of PLY magazine that I borrowed from my kind friend Jo Anne:

PLY magazine

Have you heard of PLY? It’s an actual paper magazine edited by the indomitable Jacey Boggs and comes out 4 times a year with themed issues. It’s very good and I’ve learned some new tricks. This one kicked me into overdrive since I’m notoriously crappy at woolen spinning. Long draw has long escaped me up to know except on a charkha or a great wheel where I spin with one hand and turn the wheel with the other. There were a bunch of great articles in this issue but this one:

PLY article

“Woolen Rebels” by Amanda Hartrich is the one that got me thinking. The RomneyX is definitely a longwool and one that could benefit from an airy woolen spin in order to keep it light and soft or else it quickly turns into harsh carpet yarn. She said all I had to do was let the twist in and draw back! It worked. I did it! Only took me nearly 40 years of spinning before I could finally do a supported long-draw like all the cool girls. It’s fast too – much faster than Ann Field’s “drafting to the crimp” short forward draw. The resulting two-ply is somewhat thicker than the first sample but definitely softer than the second one (which I never even bothered to knit up). Here they are in order, with the most recent sample on the right:


Here’s the yarns close-up and close to life-sized so you can see the differences better:


The final twist is much closer to the crimps per inch too. Here’s a clearer photo of the knitted and blocked swatch:

Oatmeal swatch3

I used the same 4.5mm needles as before for a more solid gauge on this thicker yarn. The feel is definitely denser and less drapey than the first knitted swatch and it also has some halo. It reminds me of the feel of Lopi or White Buffalo unspun yarns even though it does have twist and ply. I think it will make a warm but hopefully not too heavy outerwear sweater for Thom. However, since it’ll be awhile still before I can move forward on this project I hope I can remember how to match the sample spinning!

Heading out shortly to the Littlest Grandbeastie’s 4th birthday party. A Princess Tea Party to be precise. I’m staying far away from the bed that bit me. More soon!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Stashing Less

The Update On The Hand Ouchie is…there is no update. Still waiting on getting an appointment. Waiting. And waiting. (Note: Canadian universal healthcare is not really all it’s cracked up to be. But I suppose it’s better than many other alternatives.) However in the meanwhile the antibiotics seem to be doing something useful. Hence the reason that I can babble at you because I can use the mouse more comfortably! Basically I’m bored because so many other activities have been stymied.

So. Have you been following the adventures of Felicia of The Craft Sessions on her Stash Less Project? I could so relate to this:

So I would purchase something I love for a project. Then I wouldn't get around to it and so the materials would sit on the shelf. Over time I would figure out other things I “could” do with that special fabric/yarn and so then there would be multiple options. Then I would get confused over which one was the “best” use of the fabric/yarn and so I would avoid making a decision. And then there would be so many things I would want to use it for I wouldn't want to “waste it” by using it on just one. So I wouldn't use it at all.

Oh. Yes. And she said it so much better than I could! I’ve kind of been following her same thinking – to stash less and stash more mindfully. Also to just use what I already have. It’s easy to justify fabric and pattern purchases when I haven’t bought ready-to-wear (except a couple of pairs of bamboo socks for sock liners and two pairs of fleece-lined leggings) in several years. However, the percentage made up vs the percentage still in stash is tiny! I don’t want to stop stashing entirely but there has to be a plan and that plan has to be a reasonable one that I will stick to.

I think what happened was that before Thom retired 2-1/2 years ago, I was collecting madly while we still had an income. I wanted to make sure I had all the toys and tools and wasn’t going to run out during the coming “lean years” before Old Age Security and pensions kicked in. (There’s still one more year to go before we’re officially seniors and, through luck and good planning, so far we’re doing somewhat better than we thought we would. But still…) Stashing for the future was a good plan in its way but somehow I have a completely incorrect sense of how long it actually takes to make each thing on my list! And sometimes it takes so long that things actually forget what they were going be and decide to become something else instead. Which is just fine, I suppose. Needs and tastes change. However now there are stashes that I know I will never use. And I have no idea what to do about that. Further consideration is necessary.

Anyway we seem to be using less in general and hanging on to what we have as long as possible. We were always careful about the bigger purchases and tried to get good quality that would last. I find that much harder in these days of slap-dash manufacturing where you’re lucky if a toaster lasts 2 years. (Ours is positively ancient!) Will it fill the need and last long enough to justify its cost? Will it please us aesthetically as much as possible? Some people like the constant cycle of new things and enjoy shopping for them. We don’t. Just. So. Much. Junk. Ugh. It’s quite a different story with the crafty supplies! Hence the stashes. Have I just come back around in a circle here? Most likely.

Another concept I have trouble with is FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out). It’s kind of a combination of social construct and marketing ploy. “All the cool girls are making a…” or “Everybody is buying this nifty…” And you can’t help but want to join in and be cool too! So hard to fight the urge. Luckily a lot of what I see is for the younger and slimmer and more retro-inspired so I can let it go. <Insert popular animated movie song here> But some things are harder to ignore. Umm…any pattern by the Tiltons for instance – even if it isn’t something I want to make right away. Or at all. I guess in the scheme of things, succumbing occasionally isn’t a big deal. But it also goes against my rebellious won’t-follow-the-crowd side. Gee, is that a double negative? Now I’m really tying myself up in knots!

Alrighty then. Enough of this babbling. Instead, have a nice photo – or several. These were taken with Ruby, my iTouch, and the Hipstamatic app the other day when it was actually sunny. We went for a good long walk at Colony Farm in Coquitlam. So nice to get outside. I swear you can’t take a bad pic with Hipstamatic. They all look very arty and cool!

HipstaPicsFall2014 011

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Monday, November 24, 2014

Around The World Blog Hop

Yep, it’s my turn to post as I follow darling Dixie of With Needle and Brush. She is always sewing up delightful garments, often with fine details including piecing and stencilling with fabric paints. To dye for! Thanks for asking me, Dixie! (And please don’t forget to go check out her blog.)

1. What am I working on?

Ummm…more like what am I not working on! Currently I have 2 knitting projects on the go: a shawl from silk yarn that I hand-dyed (the Silken Haruni):


I did one extra repeat of Chart A and just starting on the border Chart B which is easily half the shawlette. And also a Secret Gift from handspun. This is the yarn that I spun from Aurelia’s Boysenberry Glitter and chain-plied:


Hope you can see at least some of the sparkles in the sunshine. This stuff is really hard to photograph! I’m not telling what I’m making until after it’s been gifted so you’ll just have to wait for the big reveal. And there’s a weaving project: placemats in many variations of Summer & Winter weave:


No, they haven’t gotten any further since the last time I posted about them but at least it’s a new photo! And there’s a spinning project I mentioned yesterday: a NZ RomneyX fleece in a very pale warm gray for a sweater for Thom:

SweaterProject swatch

This photo is different from yesterday’s because it’s not in the sun. The yarn sample was spun using Ann Field’s “spin to the crimp” technique though I didn’t quite reach the 3 twists per inch to match the fleece’s wide crimp pattern but got a slightly tighter 4 tpi instead. Good enough since it’s quite as airy as I’d want it anyway and a bit fuzzy which surprised me. The sample swatch was knit with 2 different needle sizes, 5mm and 4.5mm. I like the fabric of the tighter stitches (top half, above the white cotton tie) better and the stitches are more even. Now I need to tease, card, spin and ply another 1.5 lbs or so of this stuff before I can choose the pattern and get started knitting. Whew!

And several sewing projects: a T-shirt (my own pattern based on MariaDenmark’s Kirsten Kimono Tee, cut out and ready to sew), a pullover sweater for Thom (Thread Theory’s Finlayson, pattern ready to cut out), and pants (Today’s Fit V1411, pattern needs to be traced and fit adjusted). This is the current chaotic state of my big work table and you can see more stuff that I pitched over to the sewing table on the top right to clear space:

Work Table

We will not speak of the bajillion other items waiting in the queue!

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Of which genre in particular are we speaking? General fibre crafts? I think I’ve tried nearly every one of them at one time or another. And I prefer not to compare myself to others. I just makes ’em as I wants ’em! Everyone else is totally free to do the same. Go. Create. Just do it. It’s good for you.

3. Why do I create what I do?

Because I can’t not make stuff! My hands get twitchy without something to do and when I’m not actually doing it, I’m thinking and planning and documenting it. I just want to surround myself with me-mades and T-mades (that’s the stuff that Thom makes). And perhaps a few somebody-else-mades too. It’s comforting and special and I just like knowing the who and the where and the what of my possessions. It’s an ongoing lifetime project. And somehow I never end up with too many finished objects. I use what I make every day so things always eventually wear out and need replacing.

4. How does my creating process work?

See something. Get an idea. Hunt down the materials. Make. Record. Wash. Rinse. Repeat. Gee, wish I knew how to write something profound in artspeak here! However it doesn’t seem to be part of my WYSIWYG personality to obfuscate with high-sounding concepts. Mostly I just follow my inclinations. It’s the path to happiness! Also I like to talk about what I’m doing so here I am - 9-1/2 years of blogging later.

OK, that was fun! Please follow on the blog hop with the very talented Myrna Giesbrecht who will be posting next Monday (Dec 1) with her take on the four questions. Myrna sews artful garments and knits and blogs about her creative process in an extremely thorough and insightful way. Enjoy!