Saturday, July 30, 2005

Another FO!

Yes, they're coming thick and fast — another Finished Object to brag about. Yay! Well I didn't actually have much choice but to get busy in the studio since Thom was on-call for work this weekend and was using my computer for much of the day. (Methinks he needs to get a new one of his own!) I feel good about crossing another thing off the old perpetual list. The second shirt from this same pattern is about 75% done, but I need to change the serger thread to black and I decided to work on another garment that needs the red thread first. It's just such a PITA to change threads and get the serger working properly again. And I don't really want to use red serging on a black and grey shirt, even if it does have a thin red stripe every so often in the weave. So it's on to the tunic from my really vintage pattern (ca 1970's). It's a black and red tiny houndstooth (puppystooth?) and it has a nice woven feel to it. It should be very wearable when the weather cools off again.

Still knitting on the Hooray For Me gloves but since I'm only on the ribbing I won't post a picture just yet. Not much to see! As I usually do with socks, I'm knitting some on one glove and some on the other so I don't have SSS or in this case I guess it's SGS. It's expensive to have 2 sets of double pointed needles the same size but it saves a ton of hassle. With commercial sock yarns I only use one size (2mm) anyway.

One more "on-call day" at home tomorrow. Let's see how much more I can get done when we don't go anywhere! (No long walks; no major shopping trips...) Today I got the top and main floors vacuumed and the kitchen floor mopped. Doesn't sound like much but with the pinched nerve in my neck that's a lot for me in one day.

Friday, July 29, 2005

This Is My Workplace

I've been thinking (always dangerous!) about what I've been doing lately. All I seem to want to do is stay up here in my studio/study space and play. I've only been cooking and cleaning and gardening reluctantly. Have barely been watching television (not that there's anything worthwhile on this time of year) and instead I'm nipping back upstairs to my space. Haven't even been reading — paper at least. I only want to read stuff on the computer screen. I've been exploring the world of textile bloggers and knitting at the same time. I've been sewing some. And I've been collecting a whole bunch of ideas for things I want to try. And my mind is racing.

One thing I haven't been doing is visiting my poor mom as often. I've been feeling drained by my visits lately so I cut out Wednesdays and am down to Monday and Friday. Even then I can only handle an hour but still I catch myself watching the clock. Mom is less responsive than she was and sucks on her fingers a lot, which is annoying. Some of the others on her floor are starting to demand my attention too and it's hard interacting with people with varying levels of dementia. No wonder I feel like I've been sucked dry. Maybe that's why I'm in this odd space where I just want to run to my creative space and stay! It's mom's 93rd birthday tomorrow. I've been going to visit her in the home for 2-1/2 years now.

Another thing happened that convinces me I'm tired of doing things for others. I heard about a job that would be perfect for me and I'm not interested in applying. It's a couple of days a week teaching beadwork at a local private college. They don't need a teaching certificate which I don't have. It's not full time which is the only kind of job I would consider. I have all the prerequisites, experience, and knowledge — but I don't want the job. What gives? Am I crazy not to apply? Granted I already have my Wednesday night teaching at the wool shop which starts up again soon. I'm not really enthusiastic about that either. I still want to hide up here. And everybody else (except maybe Thom) can go away. Email me if you want to talk.

So, here's where I'm hiding out. First, this is The Study. I didn't show the computer desk, which is between these 2 pictures in the northwest corner. The right picture is my work desk for when I need a sit-down workspace. It's usually covered in archaeological layers of stuff. This is pretty clean. That tall drawer system is my beads. It's full! Plus boxes on top. I still don't have enough beads but I'm running out of places to put them.

The picture on the right is my not-so-comfy Morris chair (oddly without a cat) which needs reupholstering and of course Klaus the wheel, whom you met the other day. This is where I spin, do hand-sewing, and knitting when I'm not doing it somewhere else, like on the deck. You're still not seeing all the bookcases; there are more. And that little door to the left of the chair is one of the attic spaces, the spinning fibre one.

Below is the lovely view out my study window. Isn't it great? That's the green roof of the house next door. There's actually a huge pear tree to the left but I can't see it unless I crane my neck. This roof was more interesting before it got re-roofed. At least the moss and wrinkled shingles had a certain shabby-chic or wabi-sabi or something. I get a lot of afternoon sun in this window, when we have sun. But it gets hot in summer!

Here's the other room, The Studio. See the slanty ceilings? Please admire the yarn cones because they're finally off the floor. The table is actually a table top on two chests-of-drawers with boxes of fabrics in the middle. The top has two rotary cutting surfaces (because I couldn't afford one big enough to cover the whole thing) and it works really well for laying out large projects, drafting patterns, and cutting fabric and paper. The loom to the left is my little 12-shaft Woolhouse Carolyn.

The right picture is my sewing space. Looks so inviting, doesn't it? Why am I not there right now? The sewing table is twice as long as this shows. You can just see the back of the big loom to the left, which is currently acting as a place to hang things. She's an 8-shaft Woolhouse Gertrude 45" wide countermarche and she really needs to be used, poor thing. It's hard to photograph in this room without getting Gertrude in the way. So you aren't seeing the whole thing. What you're not seeing are more yarns in baskets hanging from the wall up near the ceiling and more yarn shelves plus a large closet. Also the view out the window in this room is much nicer: trees, shrubs and the house across the street. The view out the south and especially north skylights is obscured somewhat by green algae and grunge. I can't get up there to clean them from the outside. The main thing with this room is not to bump your head on the slanty ceilings. It helps if you're short like me. No wonder I get to do all the ironing around here.

Well that's the tour. See why I don't want to be anywhere else? All that's missing is a bathroom, a fridge, and an endless supply of my favourite hot tea. Good thing I don't have room for those, or I'd never come downstairs.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

One Finished and Another Started

I finally finished the Hat that goes with the Toddler Poncho. I do think it turned out rather well. Now it remains to be seen whether my granddaughter will wear it! She has her own ideas about these things. It didn't look very interesting flat, after all it's only a rectangular pocket. So lacking a small person to try it on, I used one of my yarn cones from the studio for a "head." At least now you can see better how it's supposed to look.

Cute, huh? You'll have to go back in my blog to find the pieces of the pattern if you want to make one just like it.

So I think my 2 sets of 2mm Clover Takumi bamboo double pointed needles were feeling lonely after finishing my socks yesterday, so I started a pair of fingerless gloves from a free pattern by Marnie MacLean. These are her Hooray for Me Gloves and they use good old self-patterning sock yarn. I'm using my leftover Fortissima Colori Socka Color in the Veracruz colourway. I love it because it's warm beige, peach, watermelon, dusty mauve, and dark grey and white spots. More Bryce Canyon than Veracruz I think (though I've never been to Veracruz). I wear the socks that I made from this a lot so it would be nice to have matching gloves for when my hands get cold but I still want to have some dexterity.

Yeah, I know I should be finishing yet another of my UFO socks instead. I'll work on one of them in front of the TV for the next while. I mean, I can't have less than my usual large number of UFOs now can I? It would be so unlike me.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Wheely Good News

A Finished Object! Well, actually two objects. I work on both socks alternately so they're both done at pretty much the same time. Saves me from the dreaded Second Sock Syndrome. Believe me, SSS is a definite problem for me! These are in Confetti self-patterning yarn but I'm not sure of the colour # since I misplaced the ball bands. There are a lot of Confetti ball bands around here — it could be any one of them!

Gee, look at the skeeter bites on those legs! I thought they were gone by now. I got them weeks ago when I went camping in Manning Park. And we won't discuss the fact that I refuse to shave my legs anymore. Underarms maybe, but only in summer.

I'm calling these my Blogger Socks because I did most of the knitting on them while reading other people's blogs. I'm going to have to put down the knitting and actually leave a comment on somebody's blog one of these days. Soon. Meanwhile I'm liking that I'm actually accomplishing something while peeking into others' lives.

On the hat, I have only one more of those darn corkscrews done — three more to go. They hurt my hands so I have to be careful. Ivy the Physio has made enough money from me lately! The day is young yet.

And yesterday's spinning news. First meet Klaus:

My Louet S90 spinning wheel is definitely industrial-looking rather than pretty. That's how I figured he was male. They don't make this model anymore which is stupid because this is a great wheel if you have little space or need to take it places. It folds up flat and includes a built-in lazy kate, and (for extra cash of course) a folding skein winder. It has 3 ratios, large bobbins (4!), and a wide treadle that can be used with either foot or both feet if you like. The draw-in is quite strong as you might expect from a bobbin-lead wheel but that can be compensated for by zig-zagging the yarn across the hooks once or twice or more if necessary. Notice I don't use the leather brake hanging to the side of the orifice. I rarely need it.

That bobbin I'm showing in detail is all I managed to spin yesterday. It's all the rest of the dye-painted roving that matches the stuff I plied into last Tuesday's skein. Now I'm spinning up more black roving to ply with this bobbin and I'll actually have 2 skeins. Maybe enough to make something or maybe I'll have to find or spin something else to go with it. I don't know what it's going to be yet. I'll let you know.

I have other spinning wheels besides Klaus. There's Sleeping Beauty. She was my first wheel, a Saxony-style kit from New Zealand. We stained her parts dark walnut and assembled her ourselves. I've had her since 1976 and she's getting a bit wobbly in the legs from all her adventures over the years. She's a lot gentler than Klaus though so I use her when I want to spin something delicate. And there's the twins, Lillian and Frances. They're cottage (sometimes called Indian-head) wheels with one huge bobbin and an orifice big enough to stick my thumb into. (Hmmm...Sorry, that sounds rude...) I have no idea who made them but I suspect it might have been someone local sometime in the 1970's. I got them from two different people on different occasions who were giving up spinning and indeed, if they were my only wheels and I was trying to spin something finer than a ship's hawsers, I'd give up spinning too. They're great for spinning very heavy yarns and for plying slubby hairy novelty yarns. I would sell one of the twins but I'm not actively looking for a buyer. I can't tell you which one I'd give up because I've forgotten which is which! Lastly there is La Grande Dame. She lives on the coffee table in the living room and she can't make yarn because her arms are gone. She's missing a few other parts too but Thom promises one day to restore her to her full glory. Maybe after he retires? LGD is an antique parlor wheel with bone decorations and a teeny tiny orifice. Contrary to her large name she is very small. Unfortunately I was given no provenance for her but I suspect 1800's sometime by her elegance and frou-frou decorations. No idea on country of origin however, though Europe rather than North America is my closest guess. Oh yeah, there's also Sleeping Beauty's twin who belongs to my weavers and spinners guild. She lives in one attic space with the twins and the guild's other rental spinning equipment. One day I'll post pictures of the gang.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Garden and Stuff

Today I'm making up for the lack of pictures in my last few blog posts. I will now subject you to my garden. Edibles are my favourite things to grow. Even many of my flowers are edible. Either that or can be used for dyestuff. Why waste space on things that are just pretty and not useful? Yeah, I know I still have lots of "just pretty" in my garden, mostly in the front yard. Here are some from the back garden.

These are the beans, which are keeping me busy picking them. Today I have to make a large bean salad and freeze some of them before they go bad. They don't keep very long in the fridge.

Those red and white flowers are the Painted Lady runner beans and the plain red ones are Scarlet Runners. I like to alternate them when planting: Painteds are brown seeds and Scarlets are purple so they're easy to separate. The beans themselves are almost the same but Painteds aren't so fuzzy. And they both taste delicious. Those lovely speckled purple beans on the right are my Dragon Tongue bush beans. Unfortunately they turn yellow when cooked. The Burgundy beans in the middle turn green. Wish there was some way to cook them and keep their colours as well.

These are the tomatoes that are threatening to take over the world! The ones in front are the Juliette cherry tomatoes that are shaped like miniature paste tomatoes. They're indeterminant, aka Monsters! The rest are Taxi (yellow) and Oregon Spring (red) which are both determinant and behave themselves. Unfortunately, I might have to prune those bratty Juliettes to get them to stay in their house. Otherwise I might lose all the tomatoes to late blight if they get dirt splashed on them from the rain.

In front of the tomatoes, notice my pathetic peppers which are picking up a bit now that the weather is warmer. I actually have a couple of Gypsy and banana peppers coming. And if you really want pathetic, check out my sorry excuse for a pattypan squash! To give you the scale, it's less than 6" tall. But it's the only one left out of 4 and there's only one zucchini too and it doesn't look any better. Next year: I try them in pots.

Lastly I want to show off my berries. The blueberries are having an off-year (last year I picked buckets off my two bushes) but this year I haven't even filled one bucket and the early ones are just about done. Oh well, there's still lots in the freezer! However, the blackberries will soon be making up for the blueberries. They're loaded! We mostly only get the ones inside the fence because all the neighbours figure it's fair picking outside the property line.

Did you know a blackberry has to ripen for a couple of days more after it turns black before it tastes good? I had one yesterday! Tastes like sunshine and purple mixed together. Yum.

BTW, that gigantic tree behind the blueberries is my Persian walnut tree. It's taller than my house and sticks out over the fence to the street beside our house. But remember the squirrels? No walnuts for me. It makes a good sun umbrella though.

Craft Report
OK, I know it's spinning Tuesday and I haven't spun anything yet. The day isn't over yet! I'll post pictures tomorrow to prove that I at least spun something.

Here's Kiera's Hat in progress. The corkscrews are a bit hard on my wrists so I'm taking them slowly. The book underneath is Nicky Epstein's Knitting on the Edge where I got the idea for them. Yes, it's the same book that I got the lace edging for the poncho. It has earned its keep on my bookshelves now! I was going to give you a link but you can get her books just about anywhere.

Spinning. Right. I've got that great dyed roving, the same stuff I plied last time, don't I? Klaus my Louet spinning wheel and I are now heading for the deck under the walnut tree. Hope the squirrels aren't cheekily pruning walnuts down on my head today.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Monday-Monday Again

How does time go so quickly? Wasn't it Monday just a couple of days ago?

I've been trying to learn more about HTML and playing with the look of my blog. Being totally ignorant about coding, I started with one of the choices that Blogger offered me and — no offense to Douglas Bowman, the designer of the Dots template I chose — now I want to personalize it a bit more. Do let me know if anything looks hinky on your screen. It looks OK to me, but I'll probably be playing with it a bit further before I'm done. I also got nervous about the possibility of losing all my blog entries if suddenly dear Blogger decides not to host them anymore. (You never know!) So I've started to copy them to a Word file so at least I won't lose them entirely if something bad happens. I trust cyberspace about as far as I can kick it.

Yesterday we were working in the garden. I've just about given up on the idea of having any squashes. Why is it you either have way too many zucchinis or none? Next year I'll plant them in a pot to see if that avoids whatever it is that's killing them off. If they survive, they're so stunted they never recover. This problem has been getting worse over the last few years and even killing hundreds of wire worms, it didn't go away. Though I did pick two tiny little cucmbers yesterday. Nothing like I should be getting though.

Craft Report
I was trying to finish the hat to go with the poncho for Kiera's birthday. It's done except for the tassels on the points. I decided to go with corkscrews rather than loopies or pompoms. They take a lot more work to make however! Time-consuming but the pattern is simple enough:

Corkscrew Fringes
Using two needles held together to make looser edge, cast on a number of stitches. I wanted differing lengths of corkscrews so I used 20, 25, and 30 stitches. Turn and triple-increase by knitting into the front, back, and front again of each stitch. Turn and bind off purlwise. If the piece doesn't twist right up, help it along with your fingers.

The hat is going to be really cute! I'll take a picture when I'm done, hopefully this afternoon. I'm about ready to cross another project off my never-ending list! Oh goodie — Spinning Tuesday tomorrow.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Long Walk/Short Talk

Well, maybe a shortER talk!

Thom and I had a hankering to go on a long walk today after waking up to a cloudy day. I also woke up with a migraine (yuck) and didn't want to go grocery shopping even though the cupboards are getting like Mother Hubbard's. I'm lucky if I can remember my name with a headache, far less what groceries I need. Anyway, we decided to head north towards downtown. First to Andrighetti Glass so Thom could stock up on some glass rods for his lampwork bead making. He bought clear violet, pale amber, opaque white and black, and some light green opalino which he hasn't tried before. Yummy colours so I'm looking forward to some nice beads. Next we went downtown through the north False Creek area that's building up with new highrises. It's changing so quickly it doesn't feel like our own city anymore but that's good. It's too close to the infamous Downtown Eastside area though. I wouldn't want to live that close to the druggies and street people, but I guess alarm codes and concierges keep the riff-raff at bay. You'd still have to walk by them and sure wouldn't want to do it on my own after dark. Doesn't bother me in daylight however. So we went to Dressew which has a wonderful selection of sewing/costuming supplies. It has a huge area of buttons in tubes which you have to get a saleslady to count out for you. Each tube has a sample of the button on the lid and they're arranged in a loose colour order. It's like beachcombing for treasures! I got the buttons I need for one of my sewing projects, plus some thread. Always need thread. Can't ever have too much.

By now we were starving so we stopped off at White Spot for lunch and I was good and had a chicken caesar salad and tea instead of a Legendary hamburger. This is my favourite burger — even like it better than anything I can make myself. Must be left over from eating them as a Saturday treat when I was a child. So you can see how good I was for not having it. After lunch we headed over to Chapters for the usual magazine hunt. It was good pickings: we each found a couple of new issues in. Since I buy way way more magazines than Thom, I like him to at least feel like he's getting something too.

We walked home over the Cambie Street bridge and right into the grand opening of Best Buy, a huge electronics/entertainment store. It was a zoo with music and facepainting and corn on the cob. We skipped all that but still managed to buy something — a tripod for the digital camera. Now I can try photographing things without the camera wiggling. Tomorrow.

The sun came out, it got hotter, and then we walked home uphill all the way. Like I said: short talk.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Thank Goodness It's Friday

Actually for those of us who work at home, Friday is pretty much like any other day. The difference with weekends is there are more people around — in my case Thom — who because he had to stick around home on-call last weekend will likely want to go out this weekend. I guess we need some groceries anyway, at least the heavy ones that I can't carry home on my back (like 25 kilo bags of cat food). I pick up things on my way home from visiting mom or while running other errands all the time, but occasionally a car and a strong husband are helpful. Going to a big supermarket brings out the survivalist in me and I tend to stock up big! That's how I get away with small amounts the rest of the time — stuff that doesn't store for long: fresh fruit and veggies, dairy products, seafood etc. We eat pretty well around here. Good thing I like to cook.

Rant Alert! I'm annoyed with computer and peripheral manufacturers. My darling daughter recently gave me her old 17" monitor so I could have a bigger one. There's nothing actually wrong with my old one except that it's a mere 14" and I have to scroll a lot. OK, so I get this nice big flat screen and my speakers (which came with my last computer) no longer have a built-in place to hang and plug in. Thom managed to hook them up but the sound is tiny no matter how much we crank up the volume. Turns out my old speakers got their power from the monitor but this one doesn't have anywhere to attach them. The new monitor isn't the same brand and the manufacturer figures you have separately wired and powered speakers. So I had to go out and buy a new set of independant speakers. Luckily they aren't very expensive, but $2o could have bought me something a lot more fun, like yarn. Why couldn't there be some kind of standardization where things actually work together? Now I have yet another computer peripheral that I don't need. Add it to the several keyboards, mice, digital card reader, monitor, printer, and old computer running Windows 98SE, and I could set someone up with a perfectly functioning system — that's outdated. Who wants it? Any takers? I'll give it away free just to get it all out of my house.

Craft Report
Look what I found:
More of that dye-painted roving! I thought I'd spun it all up but it was actually only maybe half of it. Now I can make another skein like that one to the left and have enough yarn to make something more than a skinny scarf or mittens. I guess I enjoyed my Spinning Tuesdays. Now I've got a project to work on for next Tuesday. I can hardly wait.

I've been plugging away at my sewing. I got quite far on my two semi-simultaneous shirts yesterday. I already had dark red thread in both serger and sewing machine and would have had to change the thread over to black for one of shirt so I worked with the red one for awhile. Then I ran out of thread in the bobbin so after winding a new one, I switched to black on the sewing machine and carried on with the black shirt until I couldn't go any further without the serger. The stupid thing is giving me a hard time so I didn't want to change threads on the serger quite yet. I went back to working on the red shirt. It's not quite finished but I've gotten fairly far on both shirts. Should be able to finish them today before I head out to see mom in the care home.

It's been rather hot up here all week but today it's cloudy and a bit cooler. Much more pleasant to work with a hot iron, but I hope summer hasn't gone away again.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Book Review Plus More

I had a chance to read the book I got on Monday, Creative Cloth Doll Making by Patti Medaris Culea from cover to cover. There are some really nice dolls illustrated here and not all by the author. My favourite kind actually: colourful fantasy dolls but not too sticky sweet. The techniques shown are diverse including dye painting, freeform stitching, silk burning with a heat gun, and beading. There are three basic doll patterns from simple to more difficult but all the parts can be interchanged because they're all on the same scale. Detailed instructions on dollmaking help but I found some of the directions a little confusing. Simple steps were illustrated but more complex ones might be missing a necessary diagram. All in all, the book could have used a bit stronger of an editorial hand. One example, Patti uses the word "graft" to mean "graphed" — just a small glitch but glaring to me! I hope to actually do a real doll from Patti's books one of these days. But first I have to finish the beaded one I started last week. Sometimes I just have to rein myself in sharply!

I finished the first of my new wardrobe of shirts. This isn't a great picture but you get the idea. (If you read yesterday's post, note that's the red-orange side of my studio door. The other side is yellow-orange and the frame is blue-violet.) See how it looks like I dyed the fabric — except better? It's quite crisp, i.e. not drapey, but it feels like it's very durable like one of Thom's good cotton shirts. If I recall it's one of Hoffman's Bali Batik quilting fabrics that I bought a very long time ago at Puyallup's Sewing & Quilting Expo. I think I like quilting cotton though it's pricey. It's not a "fashion fabric" so it will be sure to last longer than a season or two. As you can probably tell, I like things to last.

Next I'm sewing one of the long-sleeved (roll-up) shirts that I found all cut out from ages ago. It's very lightweight cotton/poly striped in black, greys, and a tiny bit of red. Creases too easily but we'll see how useful it turns out. So far all this is really costing me is my time. If I've owned the pattern and fabric for more than a decade it doesn't count as an expense! This is stash-busting at it's finest. Maybe I should combine sewing this shirt with the one from the same pattern that I just cut out the other day. Make it kind of a production line. Good idea! Better get to it before it gets too hot in my studio. No, I'm not complaining. It's finally summer. I was worried we were going to skip it entirely.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Cleaning & Organizing

That title sounds pretty frightening doesn't it? However, cleaning and organizing is what I was doing this morning. I vacuumed the basement — except the woodworking studio which contains Thom's tools guarded by killer spiders. They're not at all civilized like my friend Queenie. (Thanks, Kim, for your comment on my spider!) I've offered to help clean this room with him but Thom hasn't taken me up on it. I'm not allowed to move anything or (horrors!) chuck anything out in there so I prefer to do it with his supervision/assistance. In the meanwhile I ignore it. Then I cleaned off my back deck and patio furniture which always get covered in dirt while just sitting there innocently minding their own business. I watered all my potted plants, swept the front steps, and washed the dirt off the front and back doors. Here's the front door so you can admire it too. See the nifty wire basket? I made that with some help with the heavy wire bending from Thom. It's got orange, translucent white, and blue beads on it. I decorate it according to the season; right now it's orange begonias.

While I was cleaning I collected all the squirrel-pruned walnuts from my back deck and yard. Hopefully this time I'll remember to use them for dye before they degenerate into a really slimy smelly disgusting mess. Some fermenting is desirable but maybe not 3 years worth as happened last time. Thom threw it all out after I realized I just wasn't going to ever use it. I'm feeling optimistic this time. Heh-heh!

Squirrels are pests. These ones are black (sometimes grey but both are the same species) squirrels imported from Eastern Canada and they don't belong here at all. I guess some easterner got nostalgic and figured we needed more squirrels here or something. First they inhabited Stanley Park. Then some bright spark decided that we also needed some in Queen Elizabeth Park, so they transferred a few over. Now they are infesting the whole city like fuzzy-tailed rats! I haven't had a single walnut from my huge tree in over 10 years and I used to get pounds of them. I don't get any of my hazelnuts either. They don't eat my American chestnuts, but other people do. Guess the, squirrels don't like the nasty prickles on the husks. My cats are no help — they're scared of squirrels. Wait, I'm scared of them! They're 5 times the size of our native squirrels (which you never see in the city) and get seriously grumpy if you try to scare them away. I wish the coyotes would eat more of the little devils instead of making me keep my cats indoors at night.

Want to see some more of my pretty garden? Do you see a colour theme going here? Something about red-orange, white, and blue-violet (or violet-blue)? Hmmm...does it help more to know that my studio and study upstairs here are white walls with various combinations of blue-violet, red-orange, and yellow-orange trim on doors and windows?

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Spinning Tuesday

See this:
This is the yarn I plied today. I did actually spin a wee bit of it, but mostly I just plied from some singles that I'd spun previously on my little toy wheel spindles. The colours are brighter than real life because I took the picture in a patch of evening sunlight on my study floor. Otherwise it would just look uniformly dark and I wanted to see the colours. One ply is from a length of roving that was dye-painted in one of my dye workshops. It's got burgundy, browns, and dark bronzy gold in it. Then I plied it with a black singles that I spun when I was at Fibre Fest this spring. I ran out of the black and since I have no more of the dye-painted roving but do have lots of the black roving, I got out my spindle and kept spinning a bit more black, running out again, spinning a bit more etc. until I had used up all of the painted stuff. It didn't quite fill one of my Louet S90 bobbins which are pretty large. The result is about fingering weight or a little heavier. Don't quite know what I'm going to do with it yet but I'll think of something eventually.

The wee little skein in the front is some leftovers from a skein that I traded for a package of cool metal double-pointed needles that have 4 sizes from 2.25 mm down to 1.5 mm, each set of 5 needles a different colour. This yarn is many leftover colours of Romney wool carded with some hemp noils. It was sitting in singles form on a bobbin so I spun it up to get it out of the way. It's actually very pretty but I only have these few yards left. It was worth it though — I love those needles and you can't get them in Canada. I have lots more hemp noils so I can make more of this type of yarn again some time.

See! I actually participated in Spinning Tuesday and it was productive. Hope I can carry on again next week. Maybe figure out what I'm spinning for too.

The other thing I did today was get my new glasses. Happy dance! They are wonderful and I can see my work and my feet and even the computer screen much better. They're an improvement over my first pair of progressive lenses. They look quite different on me than my black oval frames that I had previously. More "not there" because the frames are very thin and so are the lenses. They're kind of a bronzy mauve or purplish bronze colour tht the optician called "mink". I've seen real mink and they aren't anything like this colour! But it's pretty. I think I have some beads this colour...hmmm... These are my first metal frames for quite a number of years, so we'll see how it copes with my acidic skin. I can turn transparent plastic frames opaque in less than a year. The plastic nosepieces will be the parts to watch for this but at least they're replaceable if necessary. I'm happy. I can see!

Monday, July 18, 2005


I got a great prezzie today in the mail. (Well, it was from me, but I ordered it so long ago it felt like a present.) It was from Out Of Hand in Calgary and it's two magazines and a book! I lovelovelove reading material. The reason the package took so long was the book's fault: the shop was waiting on a new shipment. The title is Creative Cloth Doll Making by Patti Medaris Culea, who is a wonderful creative doll maker. I already own her second book Creative Cloth Doll Faces so I figured I needed this one to complete my collection. It includes patterns and examples of how other people have used them to make their own doll versions. The subtitle "new approaches for using fibers, beads, dyes, and other exciting techniques" just gets my juices flowing. Yum! Now I just have to stop collecting books and magazines and start actually doing it, right?

One of the magazines is the reprint of the premier of Quilting Arts. I'm still missing issues 2 and 3 but I have all the others. I can sure see how far this mag has come by contrasting the current issue vs the premier. Hard to tell it's the same magazine: the layout, art, and content have grown and improved so much. There is a definite and very cool style about it now. OK I bet you're wondering if Damselfly does quilting. Nope. Not for many many years. However this magazine has some absolutely wonderful surface design stuff in it. Suitable for garments, purses, hangings, book covers etc. And you never know — I might be inspired to actually quilt something! Someday. Eventually.

The second magazine I got is the second issue of Cloth Paper Scissors which is a sister publication of Quilting Arts. It is equally wonderful, except with a focus on paper arts. There is a little bit of overlap but I sure like the style better than Somerset Studio which I got bored of after a few years of issues. I already have issues 1 and 3 so far but I managed to miss 2 somehow. This one looks great. I haven't read it yet though. Give me a minute.

So many crafts; so little time. Damselfly flits again! (Yes, I'm still knitting Kiera's hat. I had a bit of a boo-boo so some frogging later, I'm about 2" into it.)

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Quiet Day At Home #2

It's so quiet today that I don't even have a picture to go with it. We don't need one of me vacuuming, do we? Anyway that was the most exciting (and noisy) thing I did. I haven't done any more sewing yet, but I did start Kiera's hat to go with her poncho. About time — her birthday is in 3 weeks. I couldn't find a pattern I liked but I was kind of inspired by one with two "points" with pom-poms on them. Instead of decreasing for the crown part, you just knit straight and join the top with a flat seam. It's actually very simple and kind of cute in a jester-ish sort of way. So I cast on 100 stitches (which barely fits around my 3mm 16" circular needle) in the variegated yarn and am currently knitting in circular garter stitch (one row knit, one row purl). There's not much to show yet. I plan to carry on with the garter stitch for awhile and then switch to the plain yellow yarn and 3.5mm needles and continue in stockinette until it's tall enough for a hat. Then three-needle bind-off and add tassels or pom-poms in the corners and there ya go! Should go OK with the poncho anyway. Whether the Little Miss will wear it or not is another question. Pictures when I finish.

What else was I going to say? Oh yeah. Why can't that Damselfly ever stick with one thing for very long? Two reasons: one physical and one mental. (Always knew I was mental, didn't ya?) First the physical. I have some osteoarthritis in various annoying places, most notably my hands and neck. Three and a half years ago I had a pinched nerve in my neck from two vertebrae going flat that damaged the feeling in my left forefinger permanently. It's sort of tingly on the tip and the left side of my finger is mostly normal, but there's a whole section of the right side that I can't feel at all. My thumb and middle finger are also slightly affected. Now being right-handed you would think that losing the feeling in your left pointer finger wouldn't be a big deal, but you never realize how much you use something until something goes wrong with it. Plus I knit Continental-style and crochet, both of which use the left forefinger for tension, and also spin, braid, and weave, all of which are two-handed crafts. I can still function (thank heavens!) but I can't do anything fast or for very long at a time. And my bobbin lace has been put aside, at least for now. I can't grip the bobbins properly in the overhanded (picking) way of working. I'll have to learn the alternative (tossing) method — if I can. But then that uses my wrists a lot which also aren't very strong, especially the left one. What an old cripple, eh? And yes, I regularly do exercises with stretchy bands and weights and go see my physio whenever things get too annoying.

The mental reason why I flit around with my crafts is because I get bored rather easily once I see that things are coming out alright. I have to force myself to finish and I hate making more than one of anything. A set of placemats on the loom is just deadly! SSS would be inevitable if I didn't start the second sock right away while working on the first one. I like making mis-matched (aka "freeform") earrings too. On the other hand I don't like to make constant design decisions so I never took to tapestry, for instance. Don't get me wrong, I do like the processes of knitting or weaving or whatever but I'm always thinking beyond what I'm working on at the moment and get impatient to try that out before I've finished what I'm doing. As you might guess I have a lot of UFOs! I do end up finishing most of them eventually, but there's a minimum of about 5 that I'm working on alternately at any one time. There's the simple portable project (at the moment, either the toddler hat or those Confetti socks), the complicated not-so-portable project (the hooked rug, which I must confess I haven't touched for awhile), the not-portable-at-all project (in this case "projects" because there's the boa on the loom and the sewing), several begun-and-then-lost-interest projects (they'll either get finished someday or morph into something else), and a whole bunch of wannabees which I haven't started yet (but I'm working on ideas/designs/solutions in my head while doing something else). At least I'm never bored.

It's nice and warm and sunny (finally!) today and the weatherman says it's good until at least Thursday. So why am I not outside?

Saturday, July 16, 2005

A Quiet Day at Home

The two swatches here are going to become two more of my new shirts. The top leafy one is quite light and more loosely woven and is destined for a casual short-sleeved shirt with a regular collar. It's a Burda magazine pattern so the cut is a bit different than I'm used to (it has bust darts!) and I haven't made it before so it'll be interesting to see how it fits. I'm not sure I quite get Burda's European sizing system in relation to the usual North American pattern companies. The lower fabric with the vaguely oriental print is cut out for my old favourite shirt that has long roll-up sleeves, a back pleat, and rounded shirt tails that are longer in the back than in the front. The sleeves will be plain red on the part that's rolled up because the pattern only shows on the front.

As far as I can tell from the printed selvedges, both these fabrics are "decorator" fabrics — not really meant for clothing but for curtains or pillows or whatever. I just buy materials because I like them. Sometimes they work out really well and sometimes they're...well, a mistake. I'd like to think that my mistakes are somewhat less frequent after more than 40 years of sewing but the manufacturers have other ideas. Like why should they bother to make fabrics that wash well without fading or shredding, that don't catch and pull into loops or pill, or that don't hold creases that never iron out? Who actually sews their own clothes anymore anyway?

I'm giggling since I discovered that most of the patterns that I've been working with are from the 1980's and one is even from the mid-1970's! Now what does that say about my style? I know — what style? I don't think they look that dated. At least I've been wearing the original garments that I made from those patterns and nobody has laughed at me — at least to my face. I did modify the oldest pattern somewhat to update it. It's a tunic with a rounded inset button-front yoke and full sleeves gathered into a cuff. I cut the sleeve narrower and eliminated the cuff and widened the neck with band collar slightly because it was chokingly tight. I just threw the last version (number 3!) out a few months ago because it was stained and faded and I found a new one (number 4) already cut out and ready to sew.

So to begin with, today I finally started sewing on the floral batik shirt that I described a few days ago. This fabric is lovely to press and sew (being cotton quilting fabric) but it does wrinkle quite easily. I finally got my serger to sort-of work OK on it. I used a lot of thread and chopped up quite a few scraps before I gave up adjusting it. I'm even more convinced that the darn thing needs to go into the shop for an overhaul. Or something. I'm only using it to finish the seams anyway. Not any structural sewing.

Thom is on-call for work for the first time this weekend which means that he must stay close to the computer so we lazed around in bed half the morning before I started working in my studio. He unfortuately actually had to answer a couple of calls (rather than it being as quiet as everyone promised it would be) so he thought better of trying to make beads. It would be difficult to have to answer the phone with hot melted glass in his hand! So he went outside to weed the garden and mow the lawn with his cellphone in his pocket. You know, you think a nice quiet weekend at home would be rather nice, but when you have to do it, you keep thinking of all the things you can't do. Like shopping or long walks. There's no pleasing some people. And there's another day of this tomorrow.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Where Am I Going Now?

Since it's dark and rainy again today (after we had such a lovely day yesterday too) I thought I'd brighten things up with my lampwork bead collection. I recently spent hours sorting them out after Thom messed them up by annealing the whole collection willy-nilly when we got the new kiln. Can you say "dragon with her hoard"? It was a lot of fun putting collections together and imagining what I would do with them. I can certainly see how far Thom has come since he started lampworking. Not all of the beads in the boxes are his but most are. And you can see a couple of the face cabs I made from polymer clay using a push mould. These are for beaded art dolls.

Which brings me to this little item:

This is Phase1 of my first beaded art doll. She used to be this sweet little dolly that was supposed to become a pin, but she was just way too cutesy for me and I never finished her. I ripped off her blue wool braided hair and glued one of my enigmatic face cabs over her twee little face. Then I glued one of Thom's broken beads on for boobs. She's growing up already! Now I'm looking for coordinating beads to encrust her. She's only about 3" tall so I hope I will finish the project while I still have the momentum going.

Unfortunately, I've got a busy day ahead of me so I hope it stops raining soon. I will explain that I don't drive. I walk, rain or no rain, and adding a few more kilometers to my usual 30 or so that I hoof in a week. I have to go pick out a new set of eyeglasses frames, go to the eye doctor for an upgraded prescription, and then have lunch with darling daughter Celeste. Sushi! So she says her sweetie Sean is bringing over their 17" monitor for me tonight! Yay! It's just taking up space in their apartment after they bought matching 19" flat panel monitors for themselves. This one that I'm using here is only 14" and so old we bought it 3 computers ago. It's good quality (being HP) but I have to scroll to see whole webpage or document widths. Unfortunately my weird eyes don't like flat screens so I'm hoping that the new monitor and my new glasses will be compatible. We'll see! (Pun. Get it?)

Thursday, July 14, 2005

I Have a Friend

She lives in my kitchen and she (or one of her offspring) has been there for almost two years. See her upside down there by her hidey hole? I know that having a spider in your kitchen might announce that you're a lousy housekeeper, but Queenie (that's what I call her) and I have an understanding. I mostly leave her alone — unless her web gets too big and messy — and she snags any errant fruit flies or bugs she can get ahold of. I'm pretty sure she has another web outside the window. The pickings are pretty thin indoors and she's a pretty big spider. I haven't identified her genus yet. Whenever I get too close Queenie dives into the hole in the window sash (the window no longer opens and is painted shut). She's pretty smart but I don't think she quite understands that I'm just curious and not hostile. I'm sure spiders have had to put up with a lot of abuse from arachnaphobic humans over the millennia. (A few visitors to my house have noticed Queenie and weren't impressed with our human/arachnid relationship.) Queenie's wariness is understandable. So I leave her alone and she stays in the window and we have peace in the kitchen. Except for a few not-terribly-elegant spider webs. Maybe I could teach her how to do lace? Braided, bobbin, knitted, or crochet?

Craft Report
Continuing with the sewing projects from yesterday. I have to spend some time on my serger to see if I can get the darn thing functioning at least with a three-thread overlock. It really needs to go into the shop for an overhaul. Or, preferably, I need to sell it and buy a better one. I've been putting that one off for about a decade now. Of course the longer I wait the less resale value I'll get from it. Though it was a pretty good serger when I bought it, it wasn't the model I really thought I was getting. I need differential feed which this one doesn't have. I should have stuck with Pfaff instead of jumping ship for an Elna. I do love my Pfaff sewing machine even though it's almost 30 years old. Never gives me a problem and has only been in the shop once in its whole life. It needs a new coat of paint though. Oohh, maybe something better than beige — how about my favourite rusty orange?

I have a migraine today. Good thing I don't have to do anything complicated or make any complex decisions. (The benefits of not having a "real" job.) I will have to double-check to make sure I'm not attaching the wrong pieces together in my sewing. Hope the headache is gone tomorrow because I have to pick out a new pair of glasses frames. I'll have to wear my decision on my face in public for the next few years so it had better be good!

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Different Direction

That old Damselfly has flitted off into yet another direction: sewing. Yesterday I said I was going to dig through my fabric stash and see what pieces have finally decided what they want to become when they grow up. I found a couple of interesting fabrics and a few blouse/shirt patterns that I've made before so I know they fit. Three are short-sleeved which may mean limited wearability by late fall, but the fabrics I want to use with them aren't quite long enough for long sleeves anyway. One (the upper batiked one in the photo) is a longer piece so I also cut out a pair of capri-length pants so I'll have a matching outfit. The blouse that goes with them has a round neck with no collar and short dolman-type sleeves (cut as part of the body). This fabric was handwoven somewhere because the selvedges are very funky and the resist pattern doesn't quite line up with the woven plaid which was overdyed in navy. It has an almost crinkly texture. The other batiked fabric (the lower one in the photo) is just enough for a shirt the original of which I wear often. It has short dolman sleeves, rounded shirttails, and a collar. There's a pleat in the back that makes it extra comfortable and it's quite long — thigh length. This fabric is actually for quilting and it's a nice weight and hand and looks hand-dyed. Even if I didn't do the surface design stuff I'd still like my clothes to look like I could have.

I have some more fabrics and appropriate patterns but I haven't started on them yet. I figure these garments are enough to get me back into the sewing thing right off the bat. Once I get started though, I know I'll keep going. I used to always sew nearly all my clothes but I've been slipping lately. I think it was disappointment with my aging and lumpy body but as I've mentioned in a previous blog, I'm much happier with it now. Even though it's still nowhere near perfect — just not quite so lumpy! Plus I can't find anything I like in the stores. They're making clothing for very skinny and very youthful midgets these days. And in mostly boring colours or with corporate logos. Not my style at all. Interestingly, Threads magazine continues to show some very attractive clothing ideas, so there are others out there with similar taste to mine. Obviously they sew their own clothes too.

Oh please, don't get me on a rant about the current "fashions"! Cheap, sleezy, impractical, uninspired, and ugly are words that come to mind. Why is it that what's cool today is what was dorky when I was a teenager? Oh right, they have to be the exact opposite! I guess finding their own style is out of the question? Wait, I forgot about the piercings and tattoos. Only seriously "bad" people had those in my youth. I wonder how today's "body decorated" will explain these things to their future grandchildren! And what will those future children have to do to be different? Frightening thought.

Because I don't work in a corporate job, my clothing needs are somewhat different from most women's. I rarely wear a dress or skirt and never a suit. I don't have to be invisible or unobtrusive so truly I can wear whatever I like. Mostly, I'm at home where nobody can see me anyway so stretchy comfy pants and t-shirts are common. You don't want to do housework or craftwork wearing garments that took hours to make. But I do have a few handwoven pieces and some that are dyed or stamped or otherwise embellished. There's handspun handknit sweaters and lots of socks. Since I also make jewelry, there's earrings and bracelets. I'm almost always wearing something handmade — even if I'm digging in the garden. If I was a millionaire I wouldn't buy clothing or furnishings because they were expensive but because they were beautifully handmade. I'd commission pieces to be made especially for me and if I was really rich, I'd support a whole village of craftsmen and artists. OK, I'm getting carried away now. Back to sewing.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Where's Summer?

Okay, I'm starting to get annoyed. Here it is, well into July, and I'm wearing fuzzy felted slippers and a sweater. Where did summer go? It was here back in May when it was warm and sunny and I got my garden off to a good start — I thought. Now the cucumbers and squash are stunted (wire worms are the biggest culprit), peppers are stunted and their leaves tiny and wrinkled, and all my salad vegetables are bolting. Only the tomatoes, safe in their house, and the beans look healthy. The tomatoes are actually too healthy. They're starting to escape from under the plastic. I keep tucking them back in but I might have to prune if they get too cocky. Don't want the late blight to get them! There's enough rain to be worrisome since that's the method that blight gets on the lower leaves, only to travel through the whole plant and boom — it all turns black and dies. Anyway, I'm totally tired of rain and dark skies. Remind me about this when it gets hot and sunny again and I start melting and complaining about the heat, OK?

The "big blog gap" you might have noticed last week happened because Thom was off work. He keeps me busier than usual — lazing around in bed reading, making fancy breakfasts, going on long walks. Then we were invited to go camping with his brother and family in Manning Park, in the mountains east of Vancouver between Hope and Princeton. Luckily I packed for every kind of weather because it ended up being rainy, sunny, windy, and cold, sometimes together and sometimes separately. I think I got down to my t-shirt sleeves twice for a few minutes during the four days. The rest of the time I was under several layers of fleece and wishing for mittens, which I didn't bring. Goretex raingear was also an important part of the wardrobe along with an umbrella (not exactly proper camping gear but sensible). If you got wet you stayed wet and cold. All that aside we did have fun. Our 12-year-old nephew caught most of the trout which we had for Saturday dinner. Yum. Walked around Lightning Lake a few times, including once in the rain. Read a few books. Saw momma osprey feeding her baby way up in a treetop nest, baby loons too big to ride on their mom's back learning how to dive, and baby diving ducks doing the same thing. You know, you can't easily tell what kind of duck they are when only fuzzy brown babies and nondescript brown mommy are all you have to go on. You need daddy duck with some distinct plumage for identification purposes.

There aren't any pictures unfortunately. I brought the digicamera but didn't use it once. I think I was just too depressed about the pine beetle devastation that was so obvious from the campsite and the lake. All the rusty dead lodgepole pines killed by those evil bugs — you could see how much it had spread over just the last year. It's going to get dangerous as those dead trees dry out and become a fire hazard. We've seen forest fires in Manning Park before but that was pre-beetles. The damage is much too extensive to log selectively. I guess we'll see what happens as time goes on. It ain't going to be pretty.

Craft Report

I got tired of knitting baby things so I went back to my last pair of socks for a change. I know, how can socks be a change when I make so many pairs? Well, it's been months since I've worked on these. Originally I was planning to do a short-row heel but I've decided that I'm just not a short-row heel girl, even the deeper version that I like better than the one worked on half the leg stitches. I prefer the old-fashioned flap heel; it fits properly and wears well. So what if it doesn't work out quite as neatly with the printed sock yarns. My socks spend most of their public time in my Blundstone boots anyway where all you can see is a bit of the top and cuff.

As you can see, I work on both socks alternately so as to avoid SSS — the dreaded Second Sock Syndrome — to which I'm particularly susceptible. These ones aren't quite matching exactly on the heel turn, but I don't really care anymore. I'd just like to cross them off my list of UFOs.

Later today I plan to dig out some sewing and see if I can get back into making myself some much-needed clothes. I've actually got a bunch of stuff cut out but whether I want to make them up or not at this point (they've been waiting for years now!) is to be decided. I'm beginning to be pretty sure this old body isn't going to lose any more weight any time soon. It's been holding where it is since the beginning of last December and shows no signs of shrinking any further. I don't need any summer things. (Summer? What's that?) I already have lots that I saved from before my weight gain that now fit again. But I do need some "intermediate season" clothes for when it's too cool for sleeveless and too warm for fleece and wool.

Off to work!

Monday, July 11, 2005

Happy Birthday, Cats!

Sixteen years ago today, our young tabby cat Ms. Polly Manytoes had her 5 babies on our kitchen floor. We had a nice comfy bed for her but of course she wouldn't stay in it. During her long 5-hour labour she insisted on lying on the cool floor. The advantage was it became easy to clean up the mess later! All except one kitten had some combination of mom's extra toes and suspected-dad's crooked tail — double mutants. Three were black and white "tuxedos", one was orange and white splotches, and the last (or should I say first because she was "Numero Uno") was tabby like mom. They were really cute and since our family had only ever had boy cats before, we were entranced with the births.

Lest you think we're irresponsible pet owners, I have to back up to explain how we came to own a pregnant cat. Our last beloved cat had recently died of feline lukemia and we were catless for the first time ever. Thom's mom had been feeding a young stray cat in her neighbourhood and felt that we could give her a good home. She had 6 toes plus dewclaw on each front foot giving her an endearing big-footed splayed-out way of walking. We couldn't resist. She was only around 9 months old so when our vet checked her out he suggested we bring her back in a few weeks to be spayed. He completely missed the fact that she was already "knocked up" but we noticed her gaining weight in the mid-section as time went on. The vet confirmed our suspicions and said we could either let her have her family or have an abortion so we opted for the pro-life choice. She was only about 3 days pregnant at the first vet visit so it's no wonder we all missed her condition.

When they were old enough we found homes for three of the kittens. Celeste kept second-born Dhoughal, the orange and white, and she still has him today. He has 5 toes on each foot and a very short kinky tail. Dhougie is very sweet but not too bright. She still hasn't trained him out of his insisting on walking all over her at night begging for pats while she's asleep! He even brought her a dead rat into her bed once. Ick.

We kept mama Polly of course and her last-born, Julius, who was named after Groucho Marx's real name on account of her moustache and her attitude. Julie is a tuxedo and has the most toes of all the cats, six on each foot. Regular cats look like their feet are too small now that we've gotten used to polydactyl cats. They are good about being brushed regularly (love it actually) and I only need to clip Polly's front claws because they don't wear properly. For some reason, Julie's never need clipping maybe because they're more like big platters rather than Polly's "2 thumbs up." Apart from being somewhat overweight, they're pretty healthy for old lady cats. Needless to say Julie got spayed as soon as she was old enough. We have enough cats now to keep me warm on a cold evening.

Julie and mama Polly
Since we have no idea when Polly's birthday is, we celebrate all three cats' birthdays on the same day. They're fat and lazy and sweet and gentle. (Well, Julie is actually more weird than sweet!) The girls only go out for a short time during the day. They (mostly) come in when they're supposed to and they (almost) voluntarily go downstairs to the basement to their comfy fleece beds, food dish, and litter box at night. They also (mostly) leave my yarns and fibres alone — though Julie has an irresistable thing for unattended tissue paper dress patterns. Happy Birthday, my little Fuzz-Butts! And many more...

Monday, July 04, 2005

What To Do Next?

See the cute baby birds? These are bush tits and Thom photographed them a few weeks ago as they were sitting in our hydrangea bush while their parents were hunting for yummy bugs nearby in our shrubbery. There were five in total and these three sat pretty still to have their picture taken. If you know how small a bush tit is, these guys are almost life-sized on the screen.

This was a test of the new Blogger system for downloading pictures to my blog. I think I like it better than Hello. (Sorry, Hello, but you are kind of annoying.) At least this way the pic goes straight into the blog file instead of me having to go chase it down and edit to add more text. And each one doesn't become a separate blog file either. I'm delaying a final choice though because it took 3 tries to get this pic downloaded. Don't know what happened the first few times, but some baby bush tit clones are out there lost in cyberspace without their mommy.

Craft Report
Now that I've finished the poncho and written out the pattern in a (hopefully) comprehensive way, I'm not sure what I want to do next. So I'm cleaning, tidying and reorganising my work space instead. I always get inspired to do something when I'm cleaning. Either I find something I'd started so long ago I'd forgotten it or I find the makings of something new.

I'm really lucky in that I have the whole top floor of my house to play in, plus a third of the basement space as well. It sounds like a lot but in reality our top floor is only two rooms with slanted ceilings and no wall lightswitches. Oh wait — there are also 2 large closets and 4 attic storage spaces that are so low I have to put on kneepads to search for anything. However, they are wonderful for stashing stuff out of the way. To make it possible to find anything again, I have to muck them out every now and then.

One of the rooms is designated "the studio." This is the place where my looms (yes, that's plural), sewing machine, serger, ironing board, large work table, a ton of yarns, more fabric, and paper arts supplies live. The attic spaces in the studio contain spinning equipment in one and fabric, old patterns and ton of assorted junk in the other. (This one needs major help!) In the closet lives a collection of weaving and yet more spinning equipment.

The other room is called "the study." This is where I am right now because my computer lives here. Also more yarns, two more spinning wheels, knitting supplies, kumihimo (Japanese braiding) equipment, beads and supplies, desk, and 6 bookcases with my library of craft books and magazines. There's also an antique Morris chair that is desperately in need of reupholstering. The cats use it more than I do because it's so lumpy and uncomfortable. My cats like lumps. The closet has my equipment for teaching kumihimo, the vacuum, and seasonal clothes that are swapped out of the bedroom closet. One attic space has all my spinning fibres and two knitting machines, and the other has family stuff like Christmas decorations, suitcases, and the sad remains of my kids toys from their childhood. I'm sitting on the Lego until Simon asks for it back. He probably will as soon as Kiera is big enough not to eat the little pieces. Or maybe not — he likes her to have her own toys so he doesn't have to share his.

I've actually left out a lot of things mostly because I doubt anybody cares. Suffice it to say that there's a lot of stuff up here. Thom is mock-concerned that one day the floor will give way and crash into the main floor. At least I think his concern is mock? I keep the books situated against the wall and the yarns and fibres are pretty fluffy. The beads might be a problem, though he's the one who keeps making me new ones. The glass travels from the basement where his torch is upstairs two floors to my bead boxes. It changes shape first from long and skinny rods with no holes to lovely beads. So far I've given away a few but I'm really reluctant to sell any. I might feel differently when I run out of places to put them however.

Back to cleaning and tidying...where did all this paper come from? The computer's printer? Do I have to file it all? My hands get tired opening and closing binders...

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Toddler Poncho is Done!

Just too cute, eh? Here's the pattern with a lot of extra explanations. Hope it makes some sense!

Toddler’s Poncho

To fit: about a 12-18 months size (though she won’t outgrow it very quickly). Finished neck is about 12" wide. Length from neckline to lace tip down the arm is 7.5"; from centre point of neck straight down the front to lace tip is 8.75".

Yarn: Fingering weight. Sandnesgarn Sisu (80% superwash wool/20% nylon, 50 g = 160 m) in a variegated egg-yolk yellow/orange/red/green. Sandnesgarn Lanett (100% superwash wool, 50 g = 195 m) in matching egg-yolk yellow. I used most of one ball of Lanett and less than half of one ball of the Sisu.

Gauge: 6.5 sts = 1 inch over stockinette stitch

Needles: Don’t laugh. I used a whole bunch of different needles. I’m sure you could get away with only 2 or 3 different ones. Clover bamboo 3.25mm dpns, Aero metal 3.5mm 16" circular, Addi Turbo 3.25mm 24" circular, a single Aero 3.25mm dpn. The Addis and the single Aero dpn measure differently on my needle gauge than their marked size. They are actually 3mm. Go figure. I used so many different sets because was trying for a combination of comfort and the right gauge. The bamboos were only a set of 4 (instead of 5) and the stitches started slipping off fairly soon, so I switched to the Aero circular which was slightly larger but since I knit loosely on bamboo and tighter on metal, you can’t tell any difference in the gauge. Then I went down to the slightly smaller Addis when I got to the garter stitch area near the hem. And I used the slightly smaller single Aero dpn to help knit the lace since it’s the same size as the Addis.

With variegated yarn and 2 of the 3.25mm double-pointed needles held together, long-tail cast on 80 stitches. Divide over 3 or 4 needles (depending on how many are in your set) and join in a circle. Purl around, placing a marker before the 40th and 80th stitches. The poncho’s points will be the single stitches just after the markers, so don’t forget to continue the round one stitch past the last marker. At the beginning of the next (knit) round, make a left lifted increase. Continue to just before the next marker and work a right lifted increase. Knit centre stitch (the one after the marker) and work a left lifted increase. Knit to just before the last marker and work a right lifted increase. Knit the centre stitch. 84 stitches on the needles (increased by 4). Purl the next round without increases. Continue to knit in garter stitch (one round knit, one round purl) with the increases as established on the knit rounds for 3 ridges total.

Change to plain yarn by joining with a Russian Join. Tink (un-knit) back several stitches of the last round to complete the join and knit them up again. Your link between the two yarns should be right at the beginning of the next round. Continue in stockinette stitch (knit every round) increasing every other round as established until piece is 5” from the beginning measured on the straight grain. You’ll have to change to a 16” circular needle somewhere before reaching this point when you have too many stitches to stay comfortably on the dpns.

Change to variegated yarn (again with a Russian Join, as before) and a slightly smaller circular needle (mine measures 3mm by my needle gauge). Begin circular garter stitch as for the neck area and continue with the increases every knit round. Work 7 garter ridges or until desired length. It helps with the lace part if the number of stitches on the needle is divisible by 4 minus 2, though a little fudging is possible, I’m sure.

Change back to plain yarn (that Russian Join again) and reverse-loop cast-on 5 stitches on the left needle. Using a matching sized double-pointed needle (just because it's easier than trying to use the right end of the circular needle), sl 1, k 3, k last st tog with first poncho st on left needle. Turn. Begin lace pattern with Row 1. It took me almost half the way around to memorize the pattern enough so I didn’t need a “cheat sheet.” If you're feeling nervous about that hanging right needle point you can put a point protector on it. Doesn't need it though. You'll be working back and forth with the spare dpn and the left end of the circular needle. Lots of turning here, but knitting back backwards isn't really an option — all the exciting stuff happens on those "back" rows.

Knitted-On Lace Edging (“Eyelet Points” from Knitting on the Edge by Nicky Epstein, p.70, modified)

Notes: Odd numbered rows are wrong-side rows. Slip 1 is worked as if to purl with yarn in front, yarn back before knitting next stitch. The double yarnovers are worked by knitting the first yarnover and purling the second. On row 8, sl the first st as established, knit the next st, and lift the sl st over it to bind off the first st. Bind off the other 3 sts as usual.

Row 1: sl 1, k1, yo, yo, k2tog, k 1, turn.
Row 2: sl 1, k2, p1, k1, k last edging st tog with next poncho st, turn.
Row 3: sl 1, k3, yo, yo, k2, turn.
Row 4: sl 1, k2, p1, k3, k last edging st tog with next poncho st, turn.
Row 5: sl 1, k1, yo, yo, k2tog, k4, turn.
Row 6: sl 1, k5, p1, k1, k last edging st tog with next poncho st, turn.
Row 7: sl 1, k8, turn.
Row 8: Bind off 4, k3, k last edging st tog with next poncho st, turn.

I apologise for their not being a nice chart to follow. I wasn't able to create one that would transfer over to the blog properly. I tried 2 different ways! I'll have to work on this for future patterns. I prefer charts myself.

Continue with the lace edging as established until you get to the first point. To help the lace ease over the point, I worked an extra short row (Row 6) by knitting the last stitch instead of knitting it together with the next poncho stitch and then turning to begin Row 7.

Now carry on until you get to the last point. Work the last repeat over the point with an extra short row as you did the first point and graft the last 5 stitches to the cast on row as invisibly as possible. It will be worked on the wrong side.

Hide the beginning end in neckline. Block completed poncho. Pop over head of recipient.

Note that although I carefully worked a point of lace over the poncho point, it still ended up looking more like a swallow’s tail. The lace has a bias which you can’t block out in this instance. The yarn is superwash wool and the fact that it’s knitted on makes it a little more full than it would be if you knitted it separately and sewed it on. I think it looks just fine though and, apart from the tiny graft (which is nothing if you've done a few sock toes), there’s no sewing up!

Since this poncho is a first birthday present for my granddaughter, I still have until August 7 (the birthday party, the day is actually August 9) to make a hat to go with it.

Other Items
Today is our 34th wedding anniversary! No, we aren't doing anything special but that's OK. We spent most of yesterday on one of our long long walks in the city. North down the hill from our house to the seawall, around the end of the seawall past Science World (or whatever they're calling it these days), continuing on along the downtown side of the seawall to the Plaza of Nations, over the pedestrian overpass and down Robson Street to the public library (which looks like a Roman coliseum). We had a lovely time on the 6th floor hunting for craft videos: Thom for lampwork beadmaking and harmonica lessons, me for charkha spinning and exotic yarn spinning. I also found an interesting book on stitched chenille which would be a great way to use up some of the heaps of fabric I've got around here. You layer them from 4 to 6 layers deep, stitch rows at a 45º angle and then clip through all but the last layer. After massaging in slightly soapy water and drying in the dryer, the cut edges bloom into a thick soft fabric kind of like wide wale corduroy. Cool.

From the library we went down Robson to Tsunami Sushi because I was starving by this point. The more I exercise the hungrier I get! We sat at the bar with the boats going around and I grabbed dish after dish. I was actually surprised that the bill came to under $30! It helps when you don't order saki but drink tea instead. You can even grab the red dish which is the most expensive one. Yum.

Next it was back east on Robson to Chapters book store where I found 2 magazines I had to have plus Yarn Harlot's bookbookbook which I passed up the last time I was in Chapters. I hope she forgives me for my grave error. From Chapters, I had to go see if there were any sci-fi/fantasy books I needed (can't miss one of a series, you know) at the Granville Book Company. They know me so well in there that I get a 15% discount. Twenty years patronage (matronage?) and hundreds of books purchased has to count for some respect, don't ya think? And it's a locally owned cooperative business, not a big chain store. I love those guys. And I added 3 pocket books to the pack.

We staggered home with our burdens across the Granville Street Bridge. By the time we were up the hill past Broadway, we were on a beeline for home. We ran out of water in the communal water bottle, but managed to sweat our way the last few blocks. Home, the back deck in the shade, and a bottle of beer (for him) and pear cider (for me) felt awfully good by that point! Thom's pedometer made it out to be almost 12 kilometres total and 4 1/2 hours, including lunch break. Whew.

Vancouver is so beautiful but there's still a lot of construction and land that's waiting for development. Still some sleazy areas too. But if you move people out of one area they just move down a few blocks to the next, so it takes a lot of fixing up and "gentrification" to get things looking good again. And somewhere else goes downhill at the same time. It's kind of a moveable problem. Gee, you don't have to be rich to throw stuff into the trash instead of on the street. But you have to care about things to do it. How do you make somebody care about anything when they are poor and sick and alcholic and drug addicted? Nobody really knows the answer to that conundrum. It's very sad and frustrating. Meanwhile I don't give money to panhandlers but I will speak to them kindly. Don't hate me. Most panhandlers make more money than I do. I just spend it differently. And I have my patron of the arts, who kindly shares his paycheque with me and in return I cook his meals, make sure he has pressed shirts and clean underwear, and keep most of the cat hair off his pillows.

Happy 34th year with me, Thom!

Friday, July 01, 2005

Eh to Zed: Thoughts On Canada Day

Happy Canada Day!

You know, I never think of myself as being especially patriotic. I think it's a Canadian thing. Americans get all prideful over their flag and even just the colours red/white/blue make them stand up and salute. But we Canadians are usually more subtle about our patriotism. (Just don't call us American!) Today however, I found myself getting all choked up when I heard Oh Canada on the radio. Weird.

I do know I love my country but the trappings of patriotism like flags and anthems have always seemed kind of silly to me. Maybe it's because I remember when we schoolchildren were feverishly drawing and submitting our designs for the new flag to replace the old Red Ensign? (Yes, I'm that old. They didn't pick my design. The seas on either side of that maple leaf are not red, they're dark green. At least that's what colour my Pacific Ocean looks to me. I've never seen the Atlantic.) Furthermore I get embarrassed by rituals (must be left over from my Catholic upbringing) and though I like music and singing, making one particular song more important than a bunch of other perfectly good songs is just not giving everyone else a chance. I mean, I've got thousands of good songs in my iTunes here on my computer. (Thom gets the iPod.) And what was with changing some of the words to Oh Canada? Now older people sing it one way and young people sing it another. It's like getting to the part in Happy Birthday where everyone sings "Happy birthday, dear..." and they all sing a different name.

It's interesting that in the last couple of years Canadians have been celebrating Canada Day a lot harder than they used to. The wearing of red and white is pretty common. Even more frightening is the propensity of people to paint flags and maple leaves on their faces and arms. Reminds me of the old "be-ins" that I used to attend in my hippy youth. We painted flowers on our faces though, not leaves. There are events all over the city today. (I'm not going to any of them. Thom is working and I'm going to visit mom in the care home instead.) Even darling daughter Celeste is off to Ottawa with her sweetie Sean to celebrate in style in the nation's capital city. I guess it helped that Sean's dad paid for the plane tickets.

One little negative — I often feel that Central Canada forgets about us over here on the Left Coast. Just the phrase "Central Canada" annoys me no end. They're way over there in the southeast and they think they're in the middle? Haven't they looked at a map recently? Hello? My Canada includes all the provinces and territories. Even those frozen islands up there in the Arctic. One day I hope to see more of it than BC, Yukon, and half of Alberta.

Top 10 reasons why I love being Canadian (in no particular order except as it occurred to me):

1. I'm not American — or anything else for that matter.

2. Canadian English is easily comprehensible by just about anybody who understands English. Unfortunately our French isn't understood by anyone else.

3. I get to say "eh?" instead of "huh?". I also say "zed," not "zee." And I'm careful to put all those u's in colour, neighbour, favourite, mould etc. But I don't say "oot" or "aboot." Are we clear?

4. Canada has multiculturalism. That means we get to have the best restaurants in the world with more kinds of food than you can imagine. We also get to have Chinese, Korean, and Punjabi on our signs, except in Quebec where we only have French. Funny thing, out of those languages I can only read the French.

5. Multiculturalism also means that we can understand any accent as long as the language is vaguely English. I do wish I could speak Cantonese though. I never use the Parisian French that I spent 5 years trying to learn. Now I've forgotten most of it anyway. I can still read it though.

6. We have more bald eagles than the US, even though they think bald eagles are a big symbol of theirs. We have lots of other wildlife too. Though they have some things we don't have, like armadillos and my beloved manatees. (I've never actually seen a manatee, but Thom has. So they exist. They're cute!)

7. Canada is the second largest country in the world in square kilometres (after Russia). Lots of room for our small population — though I guess living where there's snow and ice for 10 months and muskeg and mosquitoes for the other 2 months is asking a bit much of most people. Consequently most of us are jammed down as far south as we can get without crossing the US border.

8. We Canadians have the reputation throughout the world as being "nice". I hope that's a good thing.

9. Being nice means we stay out of stupid wars that make no sense and don't help the people they're supposed to be helping.

10. Being nice also means we help when we can. Even if Bob Geldoff gives us a hard time for not forking money over willy-nilly to help Africans unless we know first where the money is going and who's going to benefit. Note to "Sir Bob": Just throwing money at a problem doesn't necessarily make it go away.

Craft Report
What craft report? I'm still working on the poncho edging. I'll let you know when it's done.

Happy Canada Day!

EXTRA NOTE: OK, I was wrong yesterday. (Takes a big girl to admit when she was wrong.) Roberta's comment was indeed wonderful but I completely forgot about 2 other comments! Silly me. There was my buddy Judy from Ontario. And dear Joanne who helped me back when I was in the early stages of my blogging learning curve. Sorry, Judy and Joanne! Please forgive my brain blank. I appreciate you are the first people to read this blog besides Thom, who doesn't count as The Public.