Friday, June 30, 2006

Happy Endings

It’s the last day of June and I finally finished my beaded art doll, Mu Ni. She was due for two July 1 deadlines: the Complex Weavers Beads & Interlacements study group and the beaded_art_dolls Yahoo group’s Celestial Bead-Along. I’m now thinking that she needs a hanging loop from her head and some kind of wire frame to hang from for the “sky”. Might need to talk to the guy with the bigger wire and stronger hands (T-Man) for that one though. My craft wires tend to be soft and thin so my little hands can bend them. Anyway, here she is, front and back:

Mu Ni: Beaded Art Doll

Begun: May 1, 2006
Completed: June 30, 2006

Face and “DREAM” sign: commercial art doll moulds, translucent polymer clay, clear iridescent embossing powder, black acrylic paint, Diamond Varathane, E6000 glue.
Body: freezer wrap, scraps of black cotton fabric, polyester stuffing.
Beads: size 11, 10, and 8 seed beads; size 8 hex beads, pressed glass stars and other shapes.
Colours: Neutral palette including black opaque, dk grey transparent, slate black silver-lined, silver metallic, palest grey transparent AB, white pearl, white gilt-lined, white frosted transparent, cream pearl, pale gold AB, pale gold frosted AB.
Thread: Nymo size D, John James beading needle size 12 (developed a helpful curve with use!)
Beading stitches: Back stitch with 1, 2, or 3 beads; Bocce stitch.

I started by making the face. I used the embossing powder in the mould as a release for the well-conditioned polymer clay. When it was removed, I used a tiny tube to impress “craters” on her face. I did the same to the word DREAM (minus the craters). The pieces were baked in my craft toaster oven. After they cooled, I swiped on a bit of black acrylic to bring out the highlights, wiping off the excess before it dried. Then to seal it all, I gave the face 2 coats of Flecto Diamond Varathane.

I drew the body pattern on freezer wrap around the face, cut it out and ironed it onto 2 layers of fabric, right sides together. I took this sandwich to the sewing machine and did a short straight stitch all around the very edge of the paper pattern, leaving an opening at the bottom for turning. I trimmed the fabric to between 1/4 and 1/8th inch of the seam, clipping carefully into the corners, and peeled off the paper pattern. I turned and stuffed the body with fibre-fill, not too hard and not too soft. Then I hand-stitched up the opening. The face was glued into place on the head and the DREAM sign on the back of her skirt.

I chose a selection of beads that seemed to work together. I rarely ever use a neutral palette so this was a fun exercise in colour restraint! I just started in stitching on the front of her body in random patterns and “contour” lines of backstitch. When I got to the back, I did the back of her head in bocce stitch for hair. One row of the large light gold AB seed beads around the DREAM sign was all the light colour (besides a bit of silver) that I used on the back, which is of course the “dark side” of the moon.
This project took A LOT of time to do, but it was quite enjoyable and soothing. Each part just kind of worked into the next without much conscious planning on my part.

I’ve been up to a couple of crafty things, but haven’t had time to blog about them yet. I need to get further along first, methinks. Then there’s the usual socks that I’ve been working on, all 3 pairs alternately. And I’ve been trying to finish the weaving that’s been on my loom for… ever. I need to get on to winding the warp for the samples my friends and I need to weave for our guild. More on that later too.

It’s too hot to think up here in Damselfly’s Study right now, but before I send this off, I have to complain about the Ants In My Pants. That’s not just a cute kindergarten rhyme or a euphemism for “can’t stand still”. I actually had ants attacking me a couple of times recently in my garden. There are zillions of them out there and they’ve decided to take advantage of the ugly black aphids on the feverfew (which is a weed of major proportions in my garden, thanks to one plant I foolishly transplanted from my MIL’s garden many years ago). If you stand near the plants, the ants climb up you and pinch your bare skin. Hard. Nothing like getting ants up your legs pinching on your sensitive inner thighs, let me tell you! So T-Man pulled out feverfew and I pulled out feverfew and there’s still more feverfew. Whew. At least this morning I had long pants on which did foil them somewhat. Though they managed to climb up me as high as the back of my neck! Good thing I don’t freak easily, huh? Feeling creepy now? Sorry.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Hot Hot Hot

We broke records with the heat yesterday and it’s even hotter today. We’re not used to such extreme heat in the Vancouver Lower Mainland! There’s poor air quality advisories out for the valley but the wind is blowing enough here in town to keep the air fresh, if much too warm. No, I’m not complaining. They say it probably will cool a bit tomorrow. But the high pressure is supposed to stick around for close to 2 weeks. Yay! Summer at last! Watering all the plants is getting to be a bit of a pain however. But I’m still not complaining. Nope, I’m sitting here with the fan blowing on me and wearing shorts and a sleeveless tee. And yes, I still drink my extremely weak tea hot, even in the heat.

In crafty news, I’ve turned the heels on the Africa Socks which are turning out rather nice actually. T-Man likes them which is all that really matters since they’ll be on his feet, not mine. I’ve been plugging away at Mu Ni's beading and she only has about half an arm and a bit of her back left to do. I plan to go sit out in the shade on the deck shortly and work on her before I have to start dinner. Today I hauled out a bunch of fabrics that have been variously dyed and monoprinted in an attempt to get inspired to make a tablecloth for my ugly bistro table. I plan to even bead weights for the corners to prevent it from blowing off. However it got too hot in my studio and my brain seized up so I’ll wait until tomorrow morning to work when it’s cooler. Nothing like trying to iron when it’s about 35 Celsius. Ick.

I got a copy of the 3rd issue of A Needle Pulling Thread magazine the other day. This is a Canadian magazine, mostly embroidery which I don’t do, but there’s quite a few other crafts included. This issue has an article from my friend Ania and includes her story and instructions for a necklace. As well as wonderful beadwork/bead stringing, Ania makes lovely lampwork glass beads — she was the one who got T-Man hooked on it! Also in this issue is a really nice modular knit sweater-vest, a hooked sunflower pillow, an elegant jacket where the fabric has been shibori dyed in natural dyes, a mermaid doll pin and lots more. I’m still reading and enjoying it. This magazine is very well done and the articles are more in-depth about the designer than is usual for a craft magazine. I think this is the best issue so far and the editor is finding her voice very well in focusing on Canadian crafts and craft people.

You might like to know that Darth Dragonfly is now installed in the grass on the boulevard near the corner of our property. He’s already garnered much interest from passersby and the real dragonflies have flitted over a few times. This isn’t a great pic but it’s the best I can do. I’m too short to get the higher perspective. Our house is behind the shrubbery. Notice that Darth is aiming directly at the house!

We also finally got the kitchen sink epoxied yesterday but we can't use it for another week. I'm getting a little tired of doing the dishes in the bathroom but I'll survive. It's kind of like when you're camping actually except that you can't splash as much! While T-Man was painting the sink 4 separate coats, I was painting the inside of the back door. So once the sink is properly set, we'll be done the kitchen renovations that we started last summer. Well, except for the window I'd like to replace, but that could take another couple of years before we get around to it. Good things take time. That's why we've been here so long!

Friday, June 23, 2006

Passed One Test

Well, that makes me feel a little less old and decrepit. I’ve passed my physio’s assessment. She says I’m almost as fit as I can be in the neck and shoulders now. I have to promise to do all my exercises and behave myself by not overdoing things again. I’m good to go — for the moment at least. Does that mean that I have to do the vacuuming again? Oh darn!

Yesterday I forgot to mention that the hearing aids are $2,500 EACH! And I need both. I’m going to enquire about how long they might last if I’m careful and, if things go wrong, what the warrantee is on something that pricey. Do I have to take out special insurance on the darn things? We also found out that T-Man’s extended medical coverage may not extend to hearing aids. So it’s adopted mom’s inheritance (which I’ll be getting soon) that will have to pay. Thanks, mom!

Come to think of it, adopted mom didn’t do very well with her hearing aids. By the time she got them, her brain was too scrambled so that it didn’t make much difference if she could hear you or not. She couldn’t understand that much anyway. My birth grandmother also had hearing aids (which she rarely wore) and Alzheimer’s too. Hope I can avoid that nasty complication of aging if at all possible. I’m going to try anyhow. I think Alzheimer’s (or other dementia) is worse than cancer in some ways. It kills you slowly and eats your true personality first. Less painful maybe but more insidious and with less that you can do about it. Right. They’ve got 15 or 20 years to find a cure before it might affect me. But I digress. At least my hearing problem can be managed just like my vision problems: with modern technology. (Sorry yours can’t, Melanie! Bummer.)

It’s getting downright warm around here today. No, I’m not complaining! There’s still a cool breeze blowing. Off to do something useful.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Offically Old

I now am truly an Old Crone! I just came back from my hearing test and I flunked bigtime. I definitely have serious hearing loss. And I need hearing aids! Aaakkk!!! How ancient does that make me feel? However, luckily I’m in the midst of the Baby Boomers and guess what? They have kewl new hearing aids for us “active” types. You can even get different coloured “skins” to match your outfit! I’m starting with black though. But I really want orange, green, and purple ones too. I’ll have to find out how pricey they are first before I go whole hog. The aids themselves are $2,500 for the ones just below top-of-the-line, which are recommended for me. And that’s not to mention the weekly or bi-weekly batteries for the things forever. Wonder if T-Man’s extended medical will pay some of that?
Here’s what they look like (just about full size). They go over the ear with just a little bitty thing actually in your ear and not blocking the ear canal. You can hardly feel it and it doesn’t clash with my glasses. It’ll be wonderful for me to stop missing conversation or saying “What?” all the time. (T-Man will love that too!) The specialist was impressed that I actually showed up for the test. She says most people my age are too vain or concerned about looking old to get hearing aids when they really need them. Well, I’m going to do my bit to make hearing aids fashionable for us younger folks!

At first I was feeling not too concerned about the prospect of wearing hearing aids. Then I was a bit shocked. Am I that deaf? Really? She showed me the test results and I’m down considerably from normal in both ears, though the right one is worse. (I knew that — the tinnitus is worse in that ear too.) Part of me is a bit worried about learning to deal with these new devices that will become part of my every-day, like my glasses. And part of me is really happy that I’ll be able to hear better again. I have to wait for almost a month before I can get an appointment so she can fit the hearing aids though. Then I get a free 45 day trial to see if they work for me. I’m almost unhappy that I have to wait now.

In other news, the socks I’m making for T-Man are now knitted past the Sea Socks and the Pomatomus Socks. The largest sock is just past the pattern repeat mark which is quite long. I’m calling these ones the Africa Socks because of the colours. It reminds me of the veldt with lions and zebras and also the Malian bogolanfini (mud cloth). I’m beginning to like having official titles for my projects. Makes them sound more like Art! As if…

The INline sock yarn which I’ve never used before is very “dirty” with spots of black in the wrong places and not very neat printing. This pattern is kind of interesting/funky though and T-Man doesn’t mind if it’s not perfect. He’s actually been wearing his handknit socks a lot so he deserves more new pairs. These ones might not be quite as long as the last pair unfortunately. It was hard to match the pattern for both socks and get the 100g ball exactly in half at the same time. Or I might make the toes different if I run out before then. He really doesn’t mind since he wears his shoes most of the time.

It’s a lovely day today so I’m heading outside to work on Mu Ni for awhile. I need to do some watering in my garden too. The disadvantage of warm sunny weather — the plants grow and need watering and weeding! Nah, that’s ok. That’s what’s supposed to happen. See my tomatoes in the greenhouse? Some of them are taller than me now. And I picked the first couple of snow and snap peas. Finally.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Happy Solstice!

It happened at 5:26 am PDT this morning. I was awake long enough to say “Summer!” and went back to sleep for another hour. T-Man was up though getting ready for work. And now it’s even looking more like real summer — the sun is out (though there are high clouds) and the temp is warming up. That’s good because our heat is off and it was only 15 degrees C. in our bedroom this morning. Almost winter temps and a degree colder than we let the rest of the house get at night when the furnace is on! Consequently we still have lots of blankets on the bed though we’ve been throwing the top coverlet off and pulling it back on regularly as the temperature has been going up and down. Yes, as you might expect our blankets are handwoven but not all by me. Though I did all the wool dyeing. I need to make another one or two soon.

We need some fibre content in this post so here’s a close-up of the Pomatomus sock that’s got one repeat of the pattern done. I’m loving the colours though they are pretty darn bright! They’ll spend most of their time inside my boots (outdoors) or my Birkies (indoors) anyway. I’m finding this pattern fun to knit thanks to Cookie’s good design and excellent instructions.

I’m surprised I didn’t have a migraine or some other effect from the lovely toxic stinky stuff we painted onto the stone mosaics last evening. It was pretty bad! Most of the kids wanted to help but their parents decided that it was too hard on their developing brains. Good thinking. Though we don’t care about my brain, do we? I only had 3 other helpers, one of whom was too young and shouldn’t have been helping but she did a great job. (Nobody stopped her!) We did manage to keep the lovely and very pregnant coordinator out of the area though. We got the last of the stones washed down and ready for more lacquer stuff on Thursday. T-Man and I have decided to sit Thursday’s session out. We’ve definitely done our share anyway. More than our share actually. Time for those who are younger and stronger to do their bit. We’re letting the stinky stuff dry until Saturday when we go to pick our up Darth Dragonfly and bring it home.

Here's the T-Man washing off the hopscotch pieces in Dawn's front yard. He's trying not to damage the flowers.

Here's Darth with his coat of lacquer-stuff. Note the Save Our Pool one in front. That's for the outdoor pool nearby where the city wants to tear down the attached community centre and pool because they're building a new community centre (a couple of kilometres away) and nobody needs an outdoor pool that you can only use for a few months a year when there's an indoor one available (a couple of kilometres away in the opposite direction). Hah. My kids swam in that pool every summer. There's a neighbourhood group who are trying to save it but so far all they've got is another year's reprieve. They aren't giving up without a fight though. We also have the flower, the spiral, the fish, the seagull, and the bicycle wheels with the slug and snail watching. There are lots more too. See? Note the bunny and my friend's in the middle with salmon, stream, and mountains.

But I won't bore you with them all. I think it's been great fun and I'm really glad that we had Dawn to organise it, Glen to mentor it, and the neighbours to take part in the project.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Saved By The Hook

Remember my Lichen Shell? I got mad at it because it curled up at the bottom cast-on edge when I wore it. To be fair, it was just a plain long-tail cast-on there. No fancy anything to prevent it from curling. The pattern didn’t give any finish and the swatch was too small to curl. But I conquered that sucker! I repeated the same crochet finish that I gave the neck and armholes: a row of single crochet, followed by a row of reverse single crochet (aka crab stitch). And — TA-DA! — it worked. I am now very happy with my shell and I’m wearing it as I type.

I’ve learned that these type of sleeveless tops, particularly if there’s a cotton content (mine is 50% cotton) demand a negative ease to fit properly. Mine is only 1” smaller than my bust size but in this case, maybe because of the wool, it seems to be enough. You could go up to 3 or 4 inches though or even more for a completely ribbed top. Cotton stretches out enough to make it loose if you don’t make it tighter than you think you need to begin with. I also needed to ease the armholes and neckline in quite a bit with the crochet stitches to make it fit properly. I don’t think the pattern makes this at all clear. Since I have very narrow shoulders the armholes’ new snug fit curves over my shoulder bones smoothly with no gaps. The length comes a little more than an inch past my waist (what there is of it!) and on my pear-shaped body it has to stretch quite a bit if I don’t want it to ride up. If it sat right at my waist it wouldn’t do that but I don’t think that’s a good line for me, chopped off right in the middle. So where it comes is a good compromise.

Last evening we spent with the Stepping Stone mosaic project at our neighbour’s house. A bunch of the participants met to take the stones out of their moulds and clean the sand off. Then the Intrepid Vanessa pressure-washed them clean. Here’s our Darth Dragonfly before pressure washing but after cleaning:

And a bunch of the participants stones:

Aren’t they beautiful? Each one is quite wonderful and individual. Note the cool one in the front: yin/yang fish with a bird between like an Escher print. That one is Vanessa’s. And here she is in full washing gear:

Tonight it’s our turn to bring our pressure washer and help clean the second batch of stones. Hope my neck holds out. We still have to paint them with epoxy to protect them and deepen the colours. It’s been a really fun neighbourhood-bonding project. On Saturday we get to install ours on our public boulevard beside our house. More photos to come.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Been Awhile

Somehow the weekends are always busy. It’s hard to post a blog entry when I’m running around doing stuff. It’s usually much quieter during the week. So where were we? Oh yeah, Saturday. That was too long ago so I can hardly remember what I did! Ummm…plant the rest of my flowers in the front garden. Right. That took the better part of the day and the bugs may eat them, but at least they’re in. They were very potbound from having to sit on my deck and wait for the garden to be ready for them or for us to be ready or for the weather to cooperate. As it was, it got very dark and rained on us a bit before we’d finished.

Yesterday was Father’s Day. Since neither T-Man nor I have a father left on earth, we went over to our Darling Daughter’s for dinner with all the offspring. Unfortunately T-Man’s mom wasn’t feeling up to coming. She’s been under the weather for weeks and the docs aren’t really able to pin down the exact problem. Nothing they’ve tried has worked and none of the tests have shown anything unusual. She’s usually feeling pretty chipper at 78 so this is rather unnerving for us all. Anyway we had a nice little hamburger barbeque without her presence and a good visit with our kids, played with our granddaughter, and got home in time for our 9 pm bedtime. That sounds early but try getting up at 5 am if you go to bed late!

Today was the first of my several fillings at The Dentist. It turned out that my son and daughter-in-law had appointments on the same day just before mine was scheduled. (Yes, most of the family including moms, aunts and cousins goes to the same dentist! Yes, he’s that good.) So they gave me a ride there which was nice. However, I ended up babysitting my granddaughter and getting the freezing and even part of my filling with her sitting on my prone lap! She didn’t want to go sit with either of her parents but wanted to stay with me for some reason. She was very good (remember, she’s not yet 2) and sat quietly playing with some little toys, watching the dentist, and sucking her thumb until her dad was finished getting his teeth cleaned. The dentist and his assistant were very cool about having her there, though he made sure I was holding on to her shirt in case she made a dive for the floor. He didn’t want me to jerk while he had the drill in my mouth! It certainly is an interesting way to take my attention off what he was doing while I concentrated on my granddaughter but I wouldn’t expect it would work out so well if we tried it again. I think they need to take their appointments sequentially or make sure I’m available to babysit next time! I'm pooped.

So first up is the T-Man’s grey socks that I finished the day before Father’s Day. They weren’t dry yet from their inaugural wash so he didn’t get to wear them. Here’s the scoop:

Grey Marl Socks

Begun: May 25, 2006
Finished: June 17, 2006 (just in time for Father’s Day!)

Yarn: Sisu, 80% superwash wool/20% nylon, 50 g = 160 m, colour 1438 (grey marl: 1 ply dark grey, 3 plies light grey), 2 balls. I only had about 2 metres of yarn left! Too close. Sisu has less yardage than Confetti or Regia 4 ply.

Needles: 2mm Clover Takumi bamboo dpns. 8 st = 1 inch

Pattern: My Usual — top-down, flap-heel, regular toe. Cast-on = 68 sts. Leg 9” total before heel, foot = 8.25” before toe decreases. Toe = 24 sts with “dogear” reduction before grafting.

On Sunday I needed something to work on in the car on the way to DD’s so I started some plain socks in Regia 4 ply. I’m calling them Sea Socks because I really like the colours in this yarn: greens, a bit of blue, and white. It reminds me of the ocean with whitecaps. They’re pretty true in this photo even though I used the flash.

Then today I started another pair of socks for T-Man, though there’s not enough yet to show off. He’s liking having handknit socks so I’m going to indulge him. This will be his first pair of self-patterning socks in ONline Supersocke 100, Sierra-Effekt. It does remind me of mountains (sierra) so it’s aptly named. The colours are browns/dull yellow, plus black & white. I did find one knot in the 100 gram ball though and it didn’t join up properly after the knot. I cut out the excess, about 2 m of black & white, and I’m hoping it will be ok after that. I was warned that ONline isn’t as well-made as some of the other printed yarns and I can see that there are spots of black or white in the coloured areas etc. I didn’t pay full price for this ball though. It was marked $9.97, regular 16.99, so I’m not going to complain too loudly. On the other hand I think I’ll stick with Confetti and Sisu with the occasional more expensive Regia thrown in. They are much better quality yarns.

Don’t worry, I haven’t given up my Pomatomus Socks. I just need to have something that I can work on while doing other things. Pomatomus ain’t it unfortunately! I need to concentrate carefully while I knit them. I think that trying to do other things is what got me into trouble with my Jaywalkers. Yes, I will get back to those too when I’ve re-dyed their yarn. I’m not heartbroken about frogging them. It’s the process that counts.

Friday, June 16, 2006


Now that I’ve had a chance to get a little bit past the cast-on rounds on the Pomatomus Socks, I’m finding them kind of interesting to knit. The colours I dyed are turning out really pretty! There are a few issues with this pattern though. It takes a bit of remembering to knit through the back loop on the knit stitches. I’ve modified the pattern slightly so that I don’t twist the stitches that are knitted into the yarn-overs because I think it looks better and lies neater. The pattern isn’t as bad as it looks, though there are no plain knit resting rounds between the “action” rounds. Row 12 is kind of tricky getting the needle into the back of the yo and the next stitch to work the k2togtbl, all without losing the last yo from the needle before. And I will have to remember to readjust stitches before starting over at round 1. When I get that far. I also hate working off 3 needles because that triangle is just so much less flexible than the 4 needle square. I know why Cookie did it that way — because it works logically with the pattern — but I was getting cranky so I divided the first needle onto 2 and now I’m happy again. It’s more of a trapezoid than a square but it’s more comfortable than the triangle. I’m betting that those who are pickers (aka knit Continental) are happier with this pattern than the throwers (aka English) due to all the twisted ribbing that this sock is made of. It’s much easier to switch from knit to purl with the picking style. It does take concentration (i.e. actually looking at it) to knit this sock so I can’t do other things at the same time except listen to podcasts.

I’m not going to mention all the podcasts I’ve been listening to recently — not in this post anyway. There are too many! This is just a taster. If you go here you can get links to some of the other podcasts you might like to try out. Told you there were lots! You can vote for your favourite on Podcast Alley too.

Cast-On with Brenda Dayne is now the reigning queen of the knitting podcasts. This one is literate and very entertaining to listen to. Brenda has the perfect broadcast voice! I love her theme series. She just finished up one on the Knitting Muses. We’ll wait to see what she comes up with next!

CraftSanity is another one I really love. Jennifer Ackerman-Haywood has great in-depth conversations with different craft people every week. As a journalist she’s able to get their stories out along with lots of laughs and information on the why as well as the how of their work.

CraftBorg with Rosemary & Julie is an excellent podcast (though the sound quality is a little iffy on occasion — they’re working on it). I love the banter between the two friends (who don’t live anywhere near each other BTW, which is why the sound quality varies) and how they express some well-thought-out opinions on craft and the people who do it. They include projects that you can do with them.

Math4Knitters is a fairly new podcast that I’ve just started listening to. Let’s face it, I’m a geek and I love the technical stuff — even though I’m also a math-phobe (or calculexic as my son refers to it). Lara is very gentle and non-threatening and can make complex things seem much simpler.

Insubordiknit, Knit2BTied, and BritKnitCast are some new ones I just found. I’ll have to have a listen and get back to you on them.

Now for the scary technical stuff. (Told you I was a geek!) It’s really easy to listen to podcasts. You don’t need an iPod, iTunes on your computer, or anything fancy. You just need a program on your computer that can play MP3 files and speakers to hear it with. Go to the podcast’s website, click on the episode link, your player should come up automagically, and there ya go! If you want to save the file to your computer first, right-click, choose Save Target As (or something similar, depending on your browser) and save it somewhere you will be able to find it again. Now if you do have iTunes (free download) it’s even easier because you can subscribe to the podcasts. That means the program will automatically look for new episodes and download them for you all by itself. There are other ways to subscribe too but iTunes is the one I use. Did I mention that podcasts are free?

Now I can either play my podcasts directly through my computer or I use my Palm T/X for portable listening. I copy the MP3 files over to the SD card that fits in my Palm. Of course it helps that my computer (an HP) has a built-in reader for a bunch of different cards, including the ones for my camera which are different than the ones for my Palm. Hah! Anyway I like the sound from the Palm better and it’s more portable, but sometimes I don’t like having the earbuds in. If I play the podcasts on my computer then I have to stay in my study, but that’s where my work desk and my spinning wheel are located so it’s not usually a problem.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Enough Already?

I was going to start another project but I controlled myself. For the moment anyway. I have a Finished Object to report — my Lichen Shell is done! Here’s the scoop:

Lichen Shell

Begun: May 4, 2006
Completed: June 14, 2006
Yarn: Marks & Kattens Bomull, 50% cotton/50% wool, 90 m = 50 g approx., 5 balls colour 1502 Lichen (goldy-green)
Needles: Denise circular, US size 7 and 9 with 20” cable, crochet hook size 3mm
Gauge: 19 st and 26 rows = 4 inches in st st with size 7 needles.

Pattern: Original was in Knit’n’Style, Issue 143, Spring ’06, p. 33. I adapted it to circular knitting and substituted the yarn.

Ajoure pattern (over 3 st): In the round, work yo, double dec (sl 1 k-wise, k2tog, psso), yo. Round 2, knit. Back and forth (I ended up having to do the double dec on the purl row), yo, purl-side double dec (p2tog, sl 1 k-wise, sl both st back to left needle, psso, sl st back to right needle), yo. Return row, knit.

Cast on 151 sts with size 9 needle tips, placing markers after 75 and 150th sts. (I knit first and last sts together to make the 150 I should have had and to join work into a circle.) *Knit 36, work ajoure pattern, k to marker, rep from *. Work ajoure pattern over centre 3 st front and back throughout. Knit, inc 1 st each side of markers every 12th round 6 times. 87 sts between markers. Knit even until piece measures 11-1/2” from cast-on edge.

Shape armholes (circular knitting will now divide into front and back, back and forth knitting; join another ball of yarn when necessary): BO at each armhole edge at beg of EOR: 3 st once, 2 sts once, 1 st twice. (Work ssk on knit side and p2tog on purl side for single dec.) 73 st on each of front and back. Work even until armholes are 4” high, end with WSR. Continue even on back. Shape front neck: k 26, BO 21 sts, k 26. Work both sides (and back) at the same time and join on new yarn end for second shoulder side. BO at each neck edge EOR: 2 sts once, 1 st 3 times. Continue even until 7” from armhole edge. Shape back neck: k 25, BO centre 23 sts, k 25. Work all 4 sections at the same time and join in new yarn end. BO at each back neck edge at beg of EOR: 2 sts once. Then BO 2 sts at each back neck edge and at the same time BO 7 sts at the armhole edge on all 4 sections. Then BO 7 sts at armhole edge twice more.

Finishing: Graft shoulders together. Sew in all loose ends. Crochet 1 round sc around armholes and neck decreasing slightly to ease in. Approx. 1 st EOR on vertical edges and almost st for st on horizontals. Round 2, reverse sc (crab stitch) around easing a little in the inside corners to lie flat (dec 1 or 2 sts). Finish off loose ends. Wash and block sweater.

Comments: I started with a swatch in the burgundy colour of the same yarn because I wasn’t sure if I had enough to waste. Birkeland Bros. didn’t have any more of the lichen colour. I was testing to see which of 3 different ways to do a double decrease looked best. I tried the centred one (sl 2 knitwise tog, knit 1, p2sso), the usual one (sl 1, k2tog, psso), and just plain old k3tog. I liked the middle one best and T-Man did too when I asked him. It has more of a corded look than the other two and had more definition. The centred decrease looked neat but ho-hum and the k3tog looked a bit messy. I also wanted to see if the bottom hem curls because it has no ribbing (it doesn’t seem to) and to test what the crab stitch looks like (needed a smaller hook than the 4 mm I used).

I used most of the 5 balls but definitely had enough yarn. This stuff is splitty and shows every little blip. It consists of four 2-plies (one ply wool/one ply cotton) cabled together. It feels nice though, drapey but not limp. I was somewhat inconsistent with the lifted make-1 that I used to increase on the sides and it shows more than I’d hoped. Guess I should have swatched this too, huh? The pattern called for just the row of reverse sc (crab st) to finish the edges but I had more success with working a row of regular sc first. I have more control over going forward than backwards and it looked much neater. This made the shoulders slightly wider, like a little bit of cap sleeve. But it also curls in much less than the picture in the magazine. The sweater stretched a little longer when I washed it but shrunk back up when dry. Washing evened out the stitches somewhat but my tension is woefully uneven and somewhat loose! I’m definitely not used to knitting with regular commercial yarns. The shell fits well though. Hopefully it won’t be too hot to wear comfortably.

Ms Polly kept getting into every photo I tried to take but only as a blur or a body part! Nobody was available to take the picture on me so it’s on the deck.

Now I can concentrate on the Pomatomus Socks which have a deadline of Fall. I should be able to make that one. Just. I don’t have 2 sets of the same right-sized needles to work my usual two-socks-alternating, but I have a set of Brittany birch and a set of Clover Takumi dpns. So I’m using a combination of each set so that the differences, if any, are spread around. I can’t do my usual mindless knitting on these anyway. They’re a lacey pattern in twisted k1/p1 rib and need a lot of concentration. That’s where my favourite podcasts come in. I need to do a post on those one of these days. There’s some good ones out there: some old, some new. I've mostly stopped listening to the actual radio.

I also have to write up one of my beaded art dolls (will it be Lady O, Ulva the Mermaid, or the not-yet-finished Mu Ni?) for my Complex Weavers Beads & Interlacements study group. I have a couple of weeks. Just. It's the same deadline as Mu Ni needs to be completed: July 1st. Maybe she’ll be the one I document? There’s only 2 stitches on her which should simplify diagramming things. Not like Ulva’s fly stitch scales and branched fringe seaweed belt plus back stitch and the wigging technique I used on her hair. She’s not completely covered in beads like the other two dolls but she has her own complex allure! Mu Ni isn’t quite done yet however. I’m working on her every day, but only a little at a time.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Where's Waldo?

Er…I mean, where’s Damselfly? I’ve been so busy for the past few days, I haven’t had time to blog. We did have time to eat all those strawberries and I bought some more. This is pig-out time while they are in season. They are so good it makes me wonder why California even bothers growing those cardboard imitations. There’s no comparison, but then I’ve never eaten them ripe and fresh from the California field. When they’re picked before they’re ready and have to travel 1000 miles first, I think they get a little tired and grumpy. I would.

So what have I been up to? On Saturday I went with my Spectrum buddies out to the Surrey Art Gallery to see the Quilt of Belonging. It was unbelievably spectacular especially from the point of view of us textile enthusiasts. Each “square” (really a diamond) representing the countries of the world and a significant number of Canadian First Nations people was a little work of art. This included embroidery, quilting, beadwork, weaving, collage, bobbin lace, knitting, and crochet. Even quill work, moose hair tufting, and pieced seal skins were used. Several of us wisely brought binoculars to see the stitches up close. The top is about 4 metres off the ground and there is a barrier to keep people from coming too close or touching so the binoculars worked great to see the details. Better than in the book even. Oh yes, I did get the book. It tells the story of each individual piece and the whole “quilt” in detail. You don't quite get the immensity of the real thing, but you get the information in order to appreciate it more. If it wasn't an hour's drive, it might be worthwhile going back to see it again after reading the book. The display is only on until June 25th.

After we spent a couple of hours ogling the quilt, we all went over to the park next door and had a picnic lunch. When we got full on cheese, hummus, bread, strawberry and greens salad, pasta salad, olives, and cake, we pulled out the spindles and had a little Spinning In Public session. It was International Knitting In Public Day, but we won’t quibble. And yes, I did knit a bit in the car on the way. Unfortunately, on the way back on public transit I didn’t get a chance to pull out my knitting or spinning. It was pretty crowded and my back pack was so full, I couldn’t get at anything in it!

On the way home, two of us detoured to the home/studio of young member of our weavers’ guild who has just graduated from the textiles program at Capilano College. She had an open house to show off all her two years worth of work and it was pretty impressive! She is especially interested in weaving and bobbin lace and plans to take over teaching lacemaking from Lenka Suchanek, my original instructor. I would have loved to have done that college textile arts program but when it first started it included clay and I’ve been there/done that/have no talent for mud. Plus I was well-acquainted with the instructors at that time and didn’t feel like I would get enough out of it except the certificate. Now the program is more art oriented (in the “showing your work in galleries and selling” sense) which no longer appeals to me. I’ve given up on doing stuff just for recognition and don’t really need a certificate for anything. So I follow my nose — or my muse or whatever you want to call it — instead. More power to Jay though! She already has found work weaving and is planning to continue her graduate studies. She done good.

Sunday was fairly nice, warm with a cooler breeze, so the T-Man and I decided one of our Long Walks was in order. OK we were avoiding the gardening again! We first walked to Canadian Tire where he bought himself a Father’s Day present of a new razor which was desperately needed. (The old one sounds like a wood chipper. A broken wood chipper.) Then we walked across the Cambie Bridge downtown where we treated ourselves to another go at the Tsunami sushi boats. Then we headed for the seawall in order to get back to the bridge but detoured instead to the Aquabus which took us across False Creek to Granville Island. Just up the gangplank, we collapsed on the patio at the Arts Club bar for a beer (him) and cider (me) and watched the tourists and the boats coming and going for awhile to rest our tootsies. Then over to the Market where we picked up some jerk pork chops for the barbeque later. Of course I couldn’t miss Maiwa and found a book I had to have (of course) plus more little packets of their Indian sequins. We also visited the Silk Weaving Studio to see the tiny little silk worms they’re growing in the shop. They are so cute! (Yes, I know they’re caterpillars but they’re adorable and they’re not about to eat my garden.) We'll be sure to go back to see them again when they're bigger. Then we walked home by way of Mayfair News to get my copy of the latest issue of Spin-Off. (It wasn’t in yet at Chapter’s downtown.) Needless to say we were pretty pooped by the time we got home. I must be pretty fit though because I wasn’t stiff or anything the next day and my bad hip has been behaving itself.

Yesterday, I began with a visit to my lovely torturer…er, physio for another session. She thinks I may only need one or two more sessions and then I’ll be as good to go as I ever get. Her exercises are interesting in that they are strengthening different muscle groups than I’ve been doing before. More in the middle of my back between my shoulder blades. Whatever takes the pressure off my neck, I’m happy with.

Then I had a visit from my birth mom and my sister D, who was in town from Haida Gwaii (aka Queen Charlotte Islands). I hadn’t seen her for awhile so it was nice to share some of the projects I’ve been working on. She likes a lot of the same stuff I do and loved the book about the Quilt of Belonging. (She’s going to get a copy or, more accurately our sister is going to get one for her.) When said sister, M, was finished with a meeting we all including T-Man went for dinner at Tomato, a very classy diner that serves organic foods that mom can eat. (She’s on a special diet for her cancer and so far it’s working. We don’t mess with success.) T-Man is pretty brave to go out with 4 related women at the same time, doncha think? He’s pretty laid back though luckily because we were being pretty silly. Dinner was yummy! I had candied salmon and goat cheese salad on a bed of mixed organic greens with maple dressing. And an English cider to drink. I was joking that I could have made the salad at home since my fridge is full of my own organic greens, but it was nice not to cook. My kitchen is in a bit of a state since we’re trying to refinish the sink with epoxy but the grout has to be cleaned and some tiles re-glued first. I’m washing the dishes in the bathroom for the time being. Anyway, D is heading back to Haida Gwaii today so it was lovely to have a wee bit of time with her first. And B-Mom and M too of course. I don't get to see them all that often either.

So here I am today, trying to catch up with my email and blogging. Still not vacuuming but I did catch a dust bunny or two by hand. They’re getting pretty brazen so if my neck feels up to it, I may get out the bunny-sucker (picture the one in Wallace & Gromit’s Curse of the Were Rabbit) and give them a rousting out tomorrow. Before they start attacking our feet as we walk by like B-Mom’s kitten Angel (who is anything but these days).

BTW, I had to post the next progress pictures of my Mu Ni doll for the Beaded Art Doll Yahoogroup so here she is, front and back:

Not quite done yet, but we're getting there. It's hard to work too long when my neck protests mightily when I've overdone it.

Friday, June 09, 2006

The Chicken Or The Egg

Which comes first: The yarn or the pattern? The idea or the fibres? The colour or the shape? The need or the want? What makes you break out the needles or the hook? I’m wondering whether the yarn companies should concentrate more on making wonderful yarns while making lots of patterns cheap (or free!) and easy to get? Or should big-name designers continue to publish those lavish and expensive coffee table books with the model photographed among the exotic scenery, the exact yarns used being of secondary interest? Or how about the books that feature how-to techniques with some patterns thrown in to illustrate the ideas under discussion? What fires your inspiration to start a new project?

These questions occurred to me while I was looking at the Berroco website. They have a gazillion free patterns in both knit and crochet, a free e-newsletter, and a look at what’s new in their inexpensive booklets. Their yarns are also relatively inexpensive and easily available (all my LYSs carry some of them, at least) so if you do want to use the recommended yarn, you can. (Unless it’s been discontinued which does happen.) The styles range from conservative to quite trendy. The patterns are graded as to skill level but they don’t hold your hand even on the ones rated "Easy". The instructions are curt and assume you know some basics. No schematics either. I like some of the styles a lot and have seen a few things that I’d like to make. This cute bag is on The List! Might do something very different for the handle though.

Further to my chat yesterday about fashion I’ve noticed that, just as I’ve gotten used to a more closely-fitted silhouette, styles are starting to loosen up again. I guess since “completely shrunken” only looks good on a few people of an appropriate age and they aren’t very warm or particularly comfortable to wear, it was an inevitable move. Speaking of wear, I have to describe this really funny sight the other day while I was out walking: a family (mom, dad, teenaged girl and little dog) were walking together down a busy main street and the mom kept moving up behind her daughter and tugging down her flippy little pink skirt which was hiking dangerously up her nether regions. The girl was quite young and still had some of her pre-teen baby fat and this skirt was obviously not compatible with a more rounded body shape. I was amused for several blocks watching the scenario until mom picked up the dog and no longer had a hand available so the girl ended up pulling down her own skirt. Not often enough for her parents’ comfort though I bet! On the same street I also saw a lovely slim young woman wearing a long pure white asymmetrical crinkle skirt and embroidered blouse and while waiting for a light to change she was tugging up her skirt which was sliding down her hips. Ah, the sacrifices in decorum for fashion! Why oh why do we bother?!

So we need a picture today, yes? How about this one? I got these fresh local strawberries at the market on the way home from my, physio. Yum! I wait all year for these. (No chickens were involved, blog title notwithstanding.)

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Exellent New Fashions

Much as I might complain about “fashion” I’m detecting a couple of really interesting trends. Maybe they’re limited to the Internet-savvy community but hopefully, like ripples in a pond, they will travel outward to the rest of the population. Or at least some folks. Every little bit helps! One of these is recycled clothing. No I don’t mean just shopping at the Sally Ann or other local second hand shop. I’m talking re-making new clothing out of old. Cutting bits of this and re-seaming that together and making something hip, cool, and functional. Check out the Wardrobe Refashionista’s website (sign-ups are closed now, darn-it). Participants took an oath to not buy any new clothes for up to 6 months. You must make your own, whether that’s knit or crochet or sewn. I love that lots of people are suddenly interested in learning to sew. Some are doing this out of respect for the environment and some because they don’t have much money. My favourite reason to sew is to have things that just aren’t available in the stores. Totally unique and totally personal. That’s why I made my first dress in Grade 8 when I was 13. I am amazed though that people find it hard not to buy new clothes for only 2 mere months? I’ve gone as long as the better part of a year without buying so much as a new pair of skivvies. But then I also rarely throw anything out unless it is completely kaputski with no hope left. One little stain or hole just isn’t enough of a reason. For example, I’m currently wearing a t-shirt that I’ve had for at least 15 years, black pants that are faded to a different grey than the t-shirt, a 10-year-old was-black-now-grey sport bra that I reinserted elastic under the bust after it pooped out, and newish silk undies (the most expensive part of my outfit!). Surprisingly I didn’t make any of them myself.

Check out the video here! This is one community’s idea of refashioning. (Hornby Island is on the map for things other than baby eagles.) And here’s an online community of refashioners. Check out the illustrated tutorials. Some of this stuff is pretty ingenious. Even if I wouldn’t wear it myself.

Another new fashion that I’m liking is that lots of knitters are learning to spin and dye. Yes! Start by dyeing and overdyeing your boring yarns with Kool-Aid and continue on to make your own faux Noro and Fleece Artist yarns. It’s not hard and you don’t even need a spinning wheel to get started. A spindle can be made from a toy wheel, a dowel, and a screw eye for under $3. Cheaper than knitting needles. And I’m so totally envious that there’s all this wonderful prepared fibre out there for spinning. When I started to spin (when dinosaurs roamed the earth) there was only raw greasy fleece available likely from some meat sheep. You had to pick carefully, wash it, card it, and then spin it. And hope it didn’t turn out like sisal string because the wool wasn’t very fine or of the best quality. Picking out hay and burrs wasn’t fun either. Meat sheep breeders don’t care about the wool. They just want sheep that have lots of lambs that grow fast. Throwing the hay on their backs and leaving them out in muddy fields full of weeds is just fine. The fleeces they get after shearing are either packed off to the wool pool for a buck or two each or are just left to compost. Wool sheep are much more pampered. They get hay from feeders that keeps it off their wool. Some even get to wear coats to keep the sun and weather off their backs. A precious few get to live their lives inside a barn with their feed carefully monitored for the finest merino fleeces. (Probably a pretty boring life, hey? Luckily sheep aren’t rocket scientists and don't need a lot of stimulation.) A reasonably good soft clean spinning fleece is worth the care put into it and the nicest ones come from caring shepherds. A renewable resource and hours of fun and entertainment for the spinner.

We won’t discuss the fashion trends that I can’t stand. I was happy when belly buttons mostly got decently hidden, but who’s idea was it anyway for those little baby-doll tops to come around again from my teenager-hood? They make even skinny girls look preggers. Not that there’s anything wrong with having a tummy but you don’t want to keep getting asked when the baby’s due when you aren’t even expecting. It’s quite embarrassing — for both parties. And another thing: TV is so full of “reality” shows that there’s nothing left to watch now that the murder mysteries and doctor shows are finished for the season. I can’t stand cranky, whining, greedy people being mean to each other. If “real” people do that, they can do it somewhere where I can’t hear them. Time to start renting all the movies I missed in the theatres. Did I mention that I prefer to watch them at home on my comfy couch with my feet up and with tea and chocolate at my elbow and the ability to talk when I want? Even if my screen is not much bigger than my computer monitor. I only sit a few feet away so the picture looks bigger anyhow. Of course my husband would prefer that I didn’t talk so much, but he’s used to ignoring me while we’re watching TV. That’s why our marriage has lasted so long. Last night it was “Brokeback Mountain” and he DID tell me to shut up. Hmmm…must have been a good movie.

Blogger is having hiccups again, so this was posted with fingers crossed!

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Current Progress Report

This post is much later than I actually wrote it because Blogger was down. I feel for the poor techs frantically working to restore things to their natural order before all the frustrated people throw a million hissy-fits. It’s a tough job. You never get the credit when things run properly but have it go down for a minute and the world starts throwing rocks and broken glass at you. Magic wands don’t help either. Thanks guys! And/or gals.

After another visit to my torturer…er, physio yesterday, I have a new tape pattern on my back. This one is a little more uncomfortable but it’s holding my shoulders in a way that makes it harder for me to slouch. That’s a good thing. I have a couple more exercises to add to the ever-expanding list too. I have to play music to entertain myself while I’m doing them. It takes so long I get bored! However, while I’m singing along I forget to count reps. Oh well. Things are improving and I have one more visit on Friday. Maybe the last one for awhile — it all depends.

To make up for the lack of pictures in my last few posts, I’m ready to show a few things I’ve been working on. First up is Lady O, the beaded art doll I made last fall. I just made her a wire stand so she can stop slouching. It works better than my tape! But I don’t think I would like anybody to shove a wire up my wazoo like I did to poor Lady O! To give you an idea of scale, she stands about 3 1/2 inches to the top of her hair/headdress. Pretty little but it took me hours and hours to bead her. This was my first completely beaded doll and I did a lot of it while sitting either in my VW van at the table or at a picnic table in Oregon and Washington state.

Next up we have the shell top in lichen green Bomwull that I’ve been slowly working on. I so rarely knit a pattern that someone else designed, particularly with machine-made yarn, that it’s always a miracle to me when it actually works out. I couldn’t help myself from changing something though. So far I’ve changed the flat knitting to circular which worked fine, except for joining in new balls of yarn. My joins suck. Badly. I’m used to handspun 2-ply wool which just melds together any way you want. This stuff is plied (one wool and one cotton) and then cabled (results plied together in the opposite direction) and each of the four 2-ply strands wants to un-cable and stick out. This makes for splitty yarn to knit with and my joins have bits that stick out of them on the public side. I ran all of the bits through the back of the knitting on one join, but the second one is still looking bad. More messing with needed and maybe some fray-check on the back. I need to practice more invisible joining methods for commercial yarns. For some reason I don’t have the same problems with sock yarns but maybe that’s because they are so fine compared to this. And fuzzier even though they’re superwash. Anyway, I’ve now split for the front and back and decreased for the armholes so I’m working back and forth instead of around. I made a mistake and split on the wrong row of the lacey pattern in the centre front and back so that I needed to do the tricky bit on the wrong side row. Rather than frog back and knit one more row, I got out my trusty Montse Stanley. (Everyone has a copy of her book, don’t they?) Luckily there is a way to do the double decrease from the purl side. It’s a wee bit fussy but not that bad. There’s only 1 of these on each side of the sweater so it’s not a biggie. The two balls of yarn in the picture are all that I have left so they’d better be enough to finish. Though I’m going to need to split my knitting again for the front neck and shoulders. Note my sloppy tension. I’m hoping a lot of that will disappear in the blocking. As I said, I’m not used to knitting with commercial yarns, except novelties and sock yarns. The former hides any unevenness and the latter is knit on such fine needles that it doesn’t show. This is a big experiment for me! I’m gaining new respect for “regular” knitters who buy the yarn and knit the pattern as is. It’s harder than I thought.

Then there’s the spinning that I’ve been doing for the Little Squares sweater from Sally Melville’s Book 3: Color. I’m still not sure where I’m going with this pattern since as I’ve mentioned I’m loving my swatch but I’m not getting anywhere near gauge. It’s not stopping me from spinning up more yarn to carry on with however. This will become Something eventually. I don’t think I needed a whole 500g of Tamarillo sliver but it’s nice to have spare just in case. Hopefully I have enough of the ribbon yarn, but I’m pretty sure I can get more if I need to. As long as I don’t take too long to find out whether or not I need it! It’s Incredible by Lion Brand and pretty ubiquitous. The dyelots don’t seem to matter much either since it’s a variegated colourway.

Further progress on other projects: T-Man’s boring gray socks are past the heel turn, I’ve frogged the Jaywalkers and will redye the yarn before trying again, and I’ve just cast on for my Pomatomus socks. Oh…and Mu Ni, my Celestial beaded art doll has “hair” and I’ve partly done the back of her dress. She needs the rest of her back and her arms done still. I really enjoyed using “bocche” stitch for the back of her head. It’s really easy to work (pick up 3 beads and go back in one bead width away) and results in a nice texture. It uses lots of beads but is fairly fast to do. Faster than backstitch anyway which is mostly what I’ve used for the rest of her. I’ve got a week before the next progress photo is due. Maybe I can finish her by then and beat the due date of July 1.

The new issue of MagKnits is up! Go see.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Art VS Craft Redux

Ah yes. The age-old debate. Chicken and the egg. I’ve thought a lot about this and I think I’m really a craftsperson. I don’t use the word “crafter” if I can help it because it just smacks of old church bazaars and glue guns. (Not that there’s anything wrong with those things.) And I’m not really an artist in the classic sense. I make stuff. But I don’t do it to get across A Concept or A Message. Everything I make pretty much is useful in some way. Or is very small and nice to have around if it isn’t exactly useful. I don’t have any huge desire to be displayed in a gallery and I only have so many walls and places to prop things in my home. I don’t need to sell anything so I don’t need publicity or patrons to buy my works. Art doesn’t need to fit into everyday life but my stuff does. This kind of puts me in an awkward situation sometimes. Not in my own head, but in the minds of others. They don’t quite know where I fit and most people that I meet casually (not my crafty buddies of course) haven’t got a clue what I really do or why I do it. And it’s often hard to explain so usually I cop out and say I’m a craft instructor at my local wool shop, even though I probably only teach about 34 - 40 hours total (for pay, that is) in a whole year. If I say I’m a fibre artist they want to know where I sell my work. Saying that I just stay home and create makes me sound so decadent. OK, maybe I am decadent. In which case I need more chocolates!

So I was listening to an episode of the CraftSanity podcast where Jennifer was interviewing Alicia Paulson who survived a horrible accident which changed her life and limited her mobility. She completely re-cast what she wanted to do with her job and started to embroider and create other items for sale. Now she has a small shared shop and an online website where she offers her items (handbags, baby items, pins and barrettes etc.) for sale. And she keeps up her excellent blog. Her style couldn’t be farther from mine! It’s sweet and light and bright and English country kitsch. Bravely she’s doing what she loves and making a go of it, though she has to remind herself to slow down sometimes and do some things just for herself, even if that is just sitting relaxing. One thing she said stood out for me: about having to decide what’s really important and how to achieve it and that it was the accident and resulting disability that forced her to go there. She had to reinvent herself in a way. I can relate to that after having had several problems first with my wrists that made me quit a part-time job that I liked. (It was probably 10 years before I could lift the frying pan or open a jar without pain!) And now with my neck etc. which is actually more serious but less debilitating in some ways. Sometimes I can do things just fine and sometimes I can’t. If I forget to pace myself and overdo, I pay for it later. I know my aches and pains are not even in the same ballpark as her accident but it still changed my life in a lesser way and made me think really hard about what was important. About how I can do the things I love without crippling myself totally. I’m wallowing in a little self-pity at the moment as I go through a new round of physiotherapy. There’s nothing that helps me feel better more than seeing how others have managed to pull themselves out of that old wallow. I don’t have to stay in it and get covered in mud.

On another track entirely, I found this great tutorial on how to make custom labels for your custom clothing by the brilliant Grumperina. It uses iron-on transfer paper suitable for your printer, a dry iron, satin ribbon, and a drop or two of Fray-Check. It reminded me that I have some of those transfer sheets that I bought a zillion years ago and never used. Must try this out sometime. It can’t be much worse than the printed ribbon labels I bought years ago where the printing comes off in the first wash. By the 3rd wash, they’re totally blank and completely defeating their purpose. Of course the person I bought them from recommended dry-cleaning but I hardly ever get anything dry-cleaned. Can’t even remember the last time I was there, now that they no longer have a cheap copy machine in their shop.

OK it’s nice outside. I should go out and murder me some pill bugs. They’re chomping the heck out of my beans and cucumbers.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Stepping Stones

One of my neighbours, the lovely (and very pregnant!) Dawn, somehow got the great idea to have local people get together to create stepping stones using a stone mosaic technique. The city gave her a budget to put together the program and we decided to get involved because it’s fun to embellish boring grass boulevards and also we wanted to learn how so that we could do further pieces ourselves. It seems like it should be easy but there are a surprising number of tips and tricks that we learned from the local master of stone art, Glen. He’s a cute young guy with multiple piercings who has a real love of what he’s doing to liven up city spaces with mosaics. The city actually pays him and 4 part-time employees to assist local groups to learn the techniques and to actually do a lot of the work in building and installing the stones. It was fun!

Here’s what ours looked like after we arranged the rocks into a thin bed of sand. It wasn’t as easy as it sounds! The rocks had to be placed just so and the sand had to be the right height around them. Everyone keeps asking what the yellow lines are around my Darth Damselfly and I have to explain they’re like aerial screech marks! DD is doing maneuvers, changing directions, and starting and stopping. Just like me! Glen wanted to know why I chose black for the damselfly and I said because blue or green is just too cute. This damselfly is serious and edgy. She has green broken T-Man beads for eyes, so she's not totally black anyway. This is what it looked like as Glen poured the first layer of expanding grout over the rocks that we’d just spent about 4 hours arranging. The hard part is that we won’t get to see what our stone finally looks like until June 24th. Then we get to put it on the public boulevard at the side of our property, neatly tucked into the grass for people to walk on and admire. Meanwhile it’s hardening and curing in plastic. I hope. We left before we saw whether or not the second layer of concrete got put on it.

Other people, some helped by their kids, were working on their own designs. There was a salmon in a stream with mountains above, made by a long-time friend who is moving away soon. There was a spiral, a snail and a slug watching bicycle wheels go by, a house, a loved cat, and a complex mandala. Dawn is also getting people to work on a stepping game that will be installed in a place where it can be played by neighbourhood kids. This consists of several smaller pieces which include numbers and kid’s footprints with other designs around them. It will be cute when in the future the kids whose footprints are traced in stones will be able to come back and point them out to friends and family. My friend who’s moving soon wants to leave something of herself in the place where she’s lived so long. It’s a great idea.

I found placing the rocks was a lot like beading on my art dolls. Lining up individual elements into a whole shape, fitting rows in between others, using colours that defined the different areas of the design, culling stones that didn’t fit properly or were the wrong shade. We could have spent a lot more time than we did, but my neck was getting sore from standing over the table. And it is possible to get too anal about these things, of course. The rocks were gorgeous though: red, yellow, black, and cream shiny polished ones, plus bluish and grey smooth matte ones and white and green rough ones. I used everything except the blue and green ones. Go figure. We even get to coat them with a sealer afterward to protect them for at least 5 years from the weather.

Now I want to do more of these. I want to have a whole pathway’s worth marching down the boulevard and all over my back yard particularly in the garden. It remains to be seen how far I get on this project though! It’s kind of like so many of my other grand ideas…

But today we’re resting after our labours.

Friday, June 02, 2006

The Dark of the Day

Pardon my lack of a picture again in today’s blog post. The weather has been iffy and it seems too dark to give me any photo inspirations. I prefer to avoid the flash since it washes things out too badly. Are you sure we're only a few weeks shy of midsummer?

I went back to my lovely torturer…er, physio this morning and now my shoulders are taped back to see if that helps. I’ve been having some quite sharp pains after my first visit on Tuesday. I’m trying to rearrange my work/computer space to get more comfortable while I work and to do all the exercises I'm supposed to. It seems to be helping somewhat so far, but only time will tell. She says the problem is right between my cervical (neck) and thoracic (upper back) vertebrae. Fun, huh? This aging stuff is the pits — but it sure beats the alternative.

I’ve been trying to bead on Mu Ni but I’ve given that idea up for the moment. I can only work on her for a short while without the pains in my neck and shoulders increasing. Knitting isn’t much better either. So next I’m going to try spinning. I can actually support my left arm on the arm of the chair which might help a bit, though I’m not sitting symmetrically. I don’t plan to do any one thing for long anyway. When I get tired of spinning, I’ll go get more comfy in my bed with a book. Got lots of things to read anyhow.

I’ve been mentioning my latest book purchases only one or two at a time, so as not to scare myself with how greedy I’ve been. Today I’d like to discuss another very new book Hand Felted Jewelry and Beads: 25 Artful Designs by Carol Huber Cypher. We’re talking wet felting here with some dry felting using felting needles. None of that “fulling” knit or crochet stuff — this is the real thing. The felted shapes are further embellished with beads but not so much that it distracts from the wooly stuff. The emphasis here is on the felt first. Some of the pieces have a wire armature inside to help it hold a shape such as a coiled bracelet or neckpiece. An interesting idea uses a lampwork bead on one end of a lariat necklace with a counterpoint of a felted imitation of the bead on the other end. There are also a number of flower and leaf shapes and an almost eerie pendant consisting of a cone of felt with a bead in the end like an eye. An even more eerie scepter has an eye bead embedded in it. Lastly there are two projects using “nuno” felt techniques (felting through a fabric support). What I like about this book is that the pieces are small and easily do-able even by someone with limited facilities and experience. The projects each include lists of all the materials and equipment you need plus the a reference to the particular skills needed, which are discussed in depth in the beginning of the book. This saves a lot of redundant verbiage. I feel the gallery section could have been a little more extensive, since the author has a particular style and I wanted to see what others might have done differently with the techniques she teaches. I haven’t made much felt really so it will be fun to try some of these small pieces. But not until my neck feels better. Pressing down is absolutely the worst thing I could do.

While I’m on the subject of small items to make, another book I got is Nicky Epstein’s Knitted Flowers. I love her books on the peripheral techniques. Knitting On the Edge and Knitting Over the Edge are great resources for ideas as is the earlier Knitted Embellishments. This book takes some of the flowers in the latter book and expands on them. There are knitted flowers, knitted and felted (fulled) flowers, and fulled knitting that is cut and stitched into flowers. The book also includes some patterns incorporating the floral embellishments including a bib necklace and a rose bag. Even a pair of evening shoes get metallic yarn flowers. This is a beautiful hardcover book from a typographical and design sense too. The photos are detailed and every page is deeply coloured: purple, green, magenta, blue-violet etc. with the text in white. Very floral.

I’m not telling how many more books there are to review. I’ll talk about them as I like! And guess what? The sun just came out! However, it's raining at the same time.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

The Stash And Stashing It

Today’s theme is a frequent one among fibre craft enthusiasts — including me. Accumulating, storing, hiding, and hopefully ultimately using all that good stuff we need and the even more stuff that we want. I’ve discovered that those lovely clear plastic boxes that organic baby salad veggies come in are the best for holding small projects. The lid fits tightly and they stack beautifully. The clear plastic allows you to see what’s in them at a glance. The labels come off easily if you heat the back of the plastic with hot water (not the label side) and peel slowly. There are two sizes, smaller and larger. Mu Ni, my Celestial Moon doll is in the one large box that I’ve so far collected. The lid covered with one of my beading mats makes a perfect working tray. The trick is to be able to eat all the greens in the big box before they croak! Of course now that my garden is producing its own baby salad veggies, I’m not getting any new boxes for awhile.

Another great source of containers is the local dollar store. Mine is only 3 blocks away (dangerous!) and has lots of goodies that can be put to uses unthought-of by the manufacturer. Among other things I got several brightly coloured rectangular plastic baskets at 2 for $.99. They hold a few more of my never-diminishing pile of WIPs (that’s Works in Progress, in case you aren’t up on your acronyms).

Of course the frightening part of all this organization is that you can easily see how many WIPs and UFOs that you actually have going. Another downside is that you can end up with supplies scattered into different boxes and baskets so that you forget where they are or that you even have them. I spent quite awhile one day looking for a set of my Denise needle tips without success. A week later I found them on a languishing project in one of the baskets. At least with Denise needles you can remove the needle tips and leave the knitting on the cord with the stoppers on the ends so the stitches don’t fall off. Of course you have to remember what size needle tips you were actually using when you go back to finish the project. Might be a good thing to make notes. Before you remove them.

Another great storage item is those plastic drawers on casters. I have 5 of them but it’s still not enough. However I’m running out of places to put them and with my slanted ceilings it’s not easy to stack them up. They have to be the same type to stack too and then when they’re stacked you can’t use them for tables and you can’t move them around so easily. The drawers are only good for smaller items. They fill up pretty quickly.

In my attic (fibre storage side) I have several lovely big wicker baskets that are great for wool while teasing and carding and spinning a large amount. However you can’t keep wool in them over time or the moths find it through the large spaces between the weave and chow down. Ask me how I know. So far the m-words have stayed out of the good lidded boxes that my birth mom made out of recycled cardboard. And they’ve stayed out of the pillow cases that a lot of my wool lives in. However, puffy pillowcases don’t stack well. I get avalanches happening if I’m not careful. I’ve even made use of those zippered plastic bags that bed linens and comforters come in for fibre storage. I also have several of those big Rubbermaid tubs and would love to get more. They cost money though that I’d rather spend on other things. Recycling and reusing are much more satisfying.

Most of my fabric stash is also folded in recycled cardboard boxes. Some of those are 30 years old or more! Keep ’em dry and they last for a good long time. I don’t think I’ve ever had much of a problem with fabrics discolouring or damaged from being in contact with non-archival cardboard. If it’s really delicate or expensive I’d put it in a plastic bag or tissue first though just in case.

I never have a problem slipping my purchases past the T-Man. He’s pretty observant so it’s not much use to try! Besides he pays most of the bills. That does tend to slow my rampant spending down a little, but not much. I’m very lucky compared to some women because he never (hardly ever) gives me a hard time about it. He has his own stashes of wood and glass and his tool collection. He does tease a bit sometimes and we both have a good chuckle. Anyway, I don’t hesitate to tease him back! In the past we had to be more careful of our money while bringing up kids and paying off the vehicles and the mortgage but now we have enough that we can play with — within reason. I also don’t buy cosmetics or expensive clothes or even eat out all that much so I have different priorities for the family finances.

Speaking of purchases, I got the last of the books I ordered today in the mail. It’s Crocheted Wire Jewelry: Innovative Designs & Projects by Leading Artists by Arline M. Fisch. This book is just been published by Lark and I’ve only glanced through it so far. The pieces seem very sophisticated and professionally finished. It’s somewhat more advanced than Nancie Wiseman’s Crocheting with Wire book and benefits from a larger number of individual designers. Arline is well-known for her book Textile Techniques in Metal and it’s nice to see just one of those techniques finally presented in more depth.

First of June already! Hope it’s not raining where you are. I want my sunny days back, even if they’re too hot! (Don’t listen to my complaining.) It’s pretty warm today anyhow at 19 degrees Celsius. And damp. Did I mention rain?