Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Thoughts on Crochet

I learned how to crochet when I was about 10. I think I learned from a book but I don’t really remember. I do know that my adopted mom didn’t know how so she couldn’t have taught me. I found out much later that my birth grandmother did a lot of crochet and my birth mom can also. To prove it, I have a stiffened lace basket and some hot pads that my grandma made and some towels that Mother edged with red and white crochet for me. Grandma could knit too but Mother doesn’t. As a teenager I did a lot more crochet than knitting. I felt I had more control over something that only had one stitch to deal with at a time. I think it was a direct effect of all that crocheting that inspired me to learn how to knit with the yarn tensioned in my left hand. It felt so much more familiar than the “throwing” method that I never could master properly.

I actually like both knitting and crochet but for different reasons. Knitting for me is slower but the fabric is more elastic and drape-able. I’m no longer afraid of all those stitches on the needles! Crochet is sturdier, thicker, and has more texture. It’s much faster to work up which I think is why it’s used so much for afghans. I’m starting to see more patterns that combine the two techniques for an interesting effect. Some ideas use knitting for the main pieces and crochet for lace inserts and edgings. That way you get the more flexible fit with the knit parts and the more firm and decorative parts with the crochet.

The big problem I have with many of the crochet patterns in books and magazines is that they are so dated! Haven’t I seen those granny square skirts before when I was young? Guess if I can remember them the first time around I’m too old to wear them again! I’d like to see some more innovative crocheted garments with better fit and style. There are so many nice yarns out there now. You don’t have to look like something from the old school bazaar. (Think acrylic toilet roll covers and pink variegated dresser scarves.) With that in mind, I was going to knit myself a hat from the yarn that I spun from Aurelia rovings but after seeing a hat with ear flaps in the winter issue of Crochet Fantasy magazine, I changed my mind. I’ve already made most of the top of the hat but pulled it out because it wasn’t looking quite right. I’m partway down the sides on Try #2 and it’s looking better. It has a little point on the top which is supposed to be there! My yarn even doubled isn’t quite working up to gauge so I’m fudging a bit with 6 more stitches around. I’m liking it and it sure goes quickly. Don’t know if I’ll put the pom-poms on the ties or change them to something else such as tassels or stuffed balls. I’ll have to wait until I get that far. Next I’ll make a corkscrew scarf to go with it. The one drawback is that I can’t crochet and read at the same time!

I recently got this book “Felted Crochet” by Jane Davis which shows some excellent patterns for crochet that is then fulled in the washing machine. I particularly like what happens to lace when treated to the extreme. Knitted lace just closes up but crocheted lace keeps it’s holes quite nicely. There’s a pattern for a ball and a teddy and a hedgehog (with eyelash yarn for his prickles!) that might make good prezzies for kids. I’m thinking of making a couple of the balls to play with my granddaughter. She can’t catch yet, but she can sure throw!

Obviously I’m wandering a bit away from knitting into crochet lately. That’s ok. I like to spread out and use different muscles — both physical and creative.

Monday, January 30, 2006

What's Up, Doc

Well, it was a busy weekend. Auntie actually liked her necklace! She even said that she had the perfect outfit to wear with it. A good time was had by all at her party on Saturday. There was dancing and wine (T-Man’s home-vintage) and cake and laughter. DD and her C&C announced they’ve decided on a date at the end of April for their wedding. Luckily (or unfortunately, depending on your outlook) it’s April 2007! It will be a medieval theme so we’ll have to get dressed up in period costume. Sounds like lots of fun! We have more than a year to get it together.

Yesterday I attended a workshop at Birkeland Bros. Wool at the behest of Cara, the owner and also my occasional employer. The instructor was Rowena Hart of Ashford Handicrafts in New Zealand. We wove on their new little Knitter’s Loom. It’s a cute little rigid heddle loom with a specially designed reed that can accommodate lumpy, fat, hairy, or ribbon yarns. You can make a scarf in a fraction of the time it takes to knit one. This loom is actually more expensive than their other rigid heddle looms because it’s completely finished and comes with everything you need to get started including sley hook, threading hook, warping peg, 2 shuttles, 2 clamps, and a cool carry box. They’ve got a padded carry bag coming but I’m sure it will be pretty expensive. I enjoyed weaving even on this little thing after so long a time of not-weaving. It was fun! Here’s the loom and a scan of part of my scarf. I brought my camera but didn’t take any pictures at all during the workshop (naughty me!)

Scarf Details:

Date: January 29, 2006
Workshop: with Rowena Hart at Birkeland Bros. Wool
Loom: Ashford Knitter’s Loom (12” wide rigid heddle loom with 7.5 dent special reed)
Yarn: Warp – Sandnes’ Smart Superwash wool, 100 m = 50 g, colour purple tweed; Herwool Eros, 100% nylon railroad ribbon, 150 m = 50 g, colour variegated yellow-orange/blue/magenta
Weft – both of the warp yarns plus Schoeller-stahl’s Cookie, 42% polyamide/41% polyester/17% acrylic, colour red fine eyelash with magenta/blue/orange tufts and black binder.
Warp length: 2 yards?
Finished length: 54” plus 6” fringes.
Finished width: 5” (varies slightly!)
I added a strand of the leftover weft yarns to each knot on the fringes for a thicker effect. This was suggested by Rowena and it does make a difference. This workshop was lots of fun! A funky scarf in 3 hours total.

I also sat in later with some of Ashford’s western dealers and Sue of Treenway, who is Ashford’s Canadian Distributor. I was kind of there on false pretenses — or maybe not, because Cara was really busy with the shop and wasn’t able to be there for most of the presentation. It was very interesting to hear things from the “other side” of the cash register. We had quite a lively discussion of looms and wheels and yarns. And then most of us went out for dinner to The Reef further up Main St. from BB for Jamaican food. I called T-Man and he walked over to join us. It was pouring absolute buckets of rain and we were hopping and skipping over the monster puddles on the way home in the dark.

Friday, January 27, 2006

This 'n' That

So what do you give a rather wacky auntie who’s turning 90? This is a lady who wears leopard print sunglasses and white rubber cowboy boots and listens to the Rolling Stones. She lived in LA for 35 years so that might explain it. Somewhat. As far as I can tell she’s always been eccentric. She’s had 3 husbands (not at the same time, but all when she was very young) and no children but lots of pets. Anyway I decided that I’ll give her my experiment in Russian netting stitch — this necklace:

I once repaired a beaded ring for her, so hopefully she’ll like this piece. If not, I won’t be hurt. Shhh…don’t tell her, but the silver-lined beads were originally gold, but the gold came off! Also the necklace needed a bath in soapy water because I haven’t worn it in some time. It still looks ok but not what I started with. I have to repair one spot where the thread is coming loose. Then I can wrap it up for Auntie’s party tomorrow. In case you’re wondering, she’s T-Man’s aunt, not mine. I have enough strange relatives of my own.

Next I want to show a skein I finished yesterday from some very ancient (we’re talking 16 years at least) singles yarns that I suddenly discovered worked well together. I was demonstrating plying to my newbie spinners and just grabbed this combination: two plies of a blend of reds/rusts/golds and one of bright purple. Separately they were boring but together they have zing! I plied up the rest of what I had at home for one good-sized skein. No idea what I’ll use it for but that’s ok. The wool is mostly none-too-soft adult Romney so it’s not next to the skin stuff. It wears well though.

Did I tell you about the funniest craft book I’ve seen in a long time (maybe forever)? No? It’s called “Stupid Sock Creatures” by John Murphy. I absolutely adore these creatures! I was trying to get a copy for myself, but the usual on-line shops have it unavailable. I’m still hoping that my friend’s daughter (who gave her the copy that I’m borrowing) will be able to find me one in Montreal where she found the first one. If not I’ll have to wait until it gets republished. I did contact the voluble Murph and he’s pretty sure it’s not out of print. It’s only been out since last June and it seems very popular. Here’s the cover:

See what I mean? They’re funny, cute, and weird all at the same time. Check out the website for more pictures of his sock creatures. Each one has a name all its own and no two are exactly alike. I’m gonna make me one. Or more. I love them. There's got to be some single socks around here somewhere.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

A Mermaiding We Will Go

As I mentioned yesterday, I’ve committed myself to a Mermaid Challenge. I’m going to meet the first deadline: Feb 1 to show the body and the beads. Yesterday I finished two faces, one that was totally bronzed and one that only had a bit of bronzing on it. The reason is because I coated the mould with the bronze Fimo “pulver” (metal powder) and pressed the first face. It was pretty thick and I wasn’t sure that was what I wanted for this doll. So I used the scraps and pressed again to get a much thinner face cab with only some bronze highlights on a blue-green base. I baked them both and then coated them with a layer of Flecto Diamond Varathane semi-gloss to protect the surface from abrasion. I’m sure I’ll eventually find a use for the “rejected” face. It’s actually quite beautiful but not what I was aiming for.

I got busy today and drew the mermaid body which I scanned into my computer to manipulate a bit more. I wanted her arms up and dancing with a flipped up tail and the original was too big. When I was happy with the shape, I printed it on the back of a piece of freezer paper and cut it out with paper scissors. I ironed it onto a doubled layer of the fabric, paying attention to where I wanted the fabric’s pattern to be on the front of the body. I was trying for a lighter area above the hips. With the pattern firmly pressed to the fabric it was easy to stitch around the paper with a short machine stitch leaving an unsewn area at her hip to stuff her through. I cut her out around leaving a 1/8” seam allowance (larger at the stuffing hole) and clipped into the corners and inner curves carefully. I used my trusty bamboo skewer to help turn the narrow arms and tail and finally got her right-side out. I stamped some greeny-bronze metallic fabric paint on both sides of her tail up to the hips using a scaley stamp I’d carved ages ago for another project. It doesn’t show up that much but I like that effect because it balances the bronze on her face. I ironed it carefully to set the paint.

Then I spent ages stuffing her with the skewer and little bits of polyester batting. I left her tail less filled and her arms and torso very tightly stuffed. When she was done, I stitched up the opening while making sure there was enough stuffing right to the end of the seam. Then I glued on her face with E6000 using less glue than I did last time so it didn’t ooze out. I also found another one of the T-Man’s broken beads that looked ok for her breasts. So now she’s ready for the next step. In case you really need to know — she measures 6 inches from the top of her hands to the bottom where she flips up.

I may or may not use what I’ve chosen for the beads. I’ll have to start in and see what happens! I don’t want to cover her though, just embellish somewhat. I don’t want to hide all the great fabric I dyed and stamped underneath! It’s interesting the colours that she ended up with. When I was first planning her, I was going to go with something more like the gorgeous pinks and greens that I’ve seen at the Vancouver Aquarium in the tanks exhibiting local anemones and corals. However, the mermaid had other ideas and wanted to go more with water and seaweed colours instead. There is no arguing with a doll who has her fuzzy little mind made up as to what she wants you to do for her. Ya just gotta go with the flow. I guess I'll just find out where she wants to go next.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Stuff and Robbie

Today I had a lovely visit here in Damselfly’s Pond with an old crafty friend whom I have only seen a couple of times in the last few years. You remember the Angel-thing doll I got before Christmas? She made her. We’re unfortunately both bad at making time to get together. So I made her tea (lavender) and lunch (salmon salad) and we had a great time sharing what we had been up to. It’s a wonderful thing to have friends like her — even though we don’t see each other often or even know each other all that well, we’re still really compatible. Oh, and when I suggested that I’d like to add some beads to Angel-thing, she was very enthusiastic. The only stipulation is that I have to let her see the end result. I can do that! And I finally paid off my debt for that dolly-gift by letting her keep one of T-Man’s beads that she very much liked. I offered her more, but she was content with just the one. How civilized! If I didn’t already own them, I’d have taken half the box! Or maybe I’d be polite. Maybe I’d take 5. Or 6.

My jewel orchids (Ludisia discolor “Dawsonia”) are in full bloom and have been pretty much since Christmas. These are so easy to grow. At least they seem very happy in my bathroom window. So much so that they’ve outgrown the sill (and their pots) to the point where I’m going to have to do some serious pruning. I got the originals years ago as a couple of cuttings from a friend’s plant. They came home clutched in my hot little fist with their stems wrapped in wet kleenex and aluminum foil which didn’t seem to be an auspicious start but they rooted easily. I’ve returned the favour by giving away several more cuttings. Obviously it’s past time to do it again. The flowers are really very tiny little orchids, similar to the much bigger orchids but with a clockwise twist to the lower petal. Jewel orchids also have very lovely leaves which are actually nicer than their flowers. They’re like dark green velvet with neat red stripes on top and smooth burgundy underneath. Their stems are big juicy fleshy things that break off easily though (and the roots are similar). They outgrow their pots and hang down in loops that you can’t bend back or they snap. So they do look kind of messy as they get older especially when old leaves start to die back. The leaves turn completely red before shriveling up. They bloom all winter which is nice when it’s so drab outdoors. Jewel orchids like subdued light but not sun and a fair amount of water but not too much. Plus they get some warm humidity being in my bathroom. Pretty foolproof. I just need a bigger windowsill.

Today I’ve picked out the dyed fabric I’m going to use for a mermaid doll challenge on my Beaded Art Doll yahoogroup. Right now I’m kneading the polymer clay for her face. I’m going to use a mould because I’m lousy at sculpting. Most of my pc is pretty ancient so I’m hoping I can get it to soften up enough to work with. It’s hard on my hands! Which is one of the reasons I don't use it very often. I’ll show you the fabric and face and maybe even some of the beads I plan to use tomorrow.

But I have to get ready for the second beginner spinning class tonight. This is Plying night so I need to locate some singles to ply up for the demo. And print out some copies of the "suppliers and websites of interest" sheet that I like to give my students. Having dinner might be a nice idea too — T-Man is going to school right after work so I’m on my own.

Don’t forget to play some Scottish music — preferably bagpipes — and lift your glass — preferably good Scotch such as Drambuie, but I’m drinking the T-Man’s homemade wine — today on the birthday of Scotland’s Bard, Robbie Burns. Here’s one of my favourite verses from the song “Green Grow the Rashes” (That’s “rushes” not some weird disease!) I wish you could hear the tune; I’ve been singing it all day. Oh wait. Maybe you don’t want to hear me sing.
Auld Nature swears, the lovely dears
Her noblest work she classes, O:
Her prentice han' she try'd on man,
An' then she made the lasses, O.

Whatta guy!

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

A New Day

The Ninja liked his silly card from me. He also got a big jar of veggie bacon bits and a gift certificate for Mark’s Work Wearhouse from his sister and her SO, a pomelo fruit and a promise of a painting of his late lamented bearded dragon lizard from his MIL, and a really funny card from his Nana (T-Man’s mom). We discussed what he would like me to make him and he actually does want socks. But socks with a separate big toe like the ones he wears with his ninja gi. And they don’t necessarily have to be black but not too flashy. Good thing I asked, eh? I would’ve never thought of that. Notice what odd presents we give as a family?

I was playing on the computer with this picture of my granddaughter, Sprout. I think it’s really cool, don’t you? I might even print out a big one to frame. Interestingly, there was some rumour that perhaps it might be time to consider a sibling for the Sprout. I’m waiting as patiently as I can! And I didn’t even hint — because I promised I would keep my mouth shut and not bug my kids to reproduce. But I’m excited! I can’t help it. Grandchildren are even better than having your own kids. You get to play and then give them back.

Welcome to my new readers led here by the VGFA Newsletter! (Hi, Rosemary!) Don’t be afraid to leave a comment, but realize that I can’t reply to you directly that way. The comments are anonymous. You can always send me email at my regular address which you should have in your guild membership file. I don’t like to post my email address on the blog for spammers to find.

Off to find out how to make a split toe in a sock…

Monday, January 23, 2006

Baby Poncho Pattern and More

Here’s the finished socks. Statistics are:

Confetti Socks
Begun: January 8, 2006
Completed: January 22, 2006
Construction: Top Down with 5 needles.
Gauge: 8 stitches per inch
Needle Size: 2 mm Addi Natura bamboo dpns
Yarn: 2 balls DGB Confetti, 75% superwash wool/25% polyamide, Col 778 Lot 293, stripes of burgundy, blue, and brown with narrow stripes of white and grey spots in between.
Comments: Cast-on is 64 stitches, 2/2 rib for 20 rows. Leg a little longer than my usual, 7” before flap heel and foot (6 -3/4” before toe decreases). These are for me. Again.

And the finished and blocked baby poncho:

Baby Poncho
Date started: January 11, 2006
Date completed: January 22, 2006
Yarn: Lanett Superwash, 100% merino wool, 50g=195m, MC 5226/5188 purple, CC 5213/4772 lilac
Note: MC – less than 1 ball, CC – few metres
Needles: 3mm dpns (Swallow Casein), 2mm crochet hook
Gauge: 7 st per inch
With MC yarn and 2 of the double-pointed needles held together, long-tail cast on 80 stitches. Divide over 4 needles 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. Pass marker to right needle. 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. Pass marker. 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.

Continue in stockinette stitch (knit every round) increasing every other round as established until piece is 5-3/4” from the beginning measured on the straight grain. The stitches managed to stay comfortably on the dpns so I didn’t change to a circular like I did with Kiera’s poncho.
Begin circular garter stitch as for the neck area and continue with the increases every knit round. Work 5 garter ridges. Bind off.

Change to CC and crochet hook. Sl st in first bind off stitch in back loop. Ch 2. Work 1 dc in next 2 sts, sk next st. [2 dc in each of next 3 st and skip 1] repeat across to next point. Work 5 dcs in point and continue down the other side as before. Work 5 dcs in point and join with a sl st.
Row 2 – [Skip 2 sts and work 6 dcs in next st. Skip 2 sts and sl st in next st] repeat to point (fudging a bit if necessary to make pattern work out correctly). Work 8 dcs in point. Work back down second side and work 8 dcs in last point. Join to first st with another sl st. End off and bury tails.

Hide beginning end in neckline. Wash and block completed poncho.

I’m feeling kind of scattered today for some reason. We started the day by heading off to vote in the Canadian federal election at 7:30am. That was the only time we (well, T-Man) had available. If ya don’t vote, ya can’t bitch! Now I have my official bitching license and I’m ready to have at 'em.

I’m cooking a salmon for dinner tonight and having some family over to help eat it. What can I say — it was taking up room in the freezer. Then we’re going to The Ninja’s MIL’s for his belated birthday cake. His actual birthday was Saturday. Ohmygosh, my baby is 32! And it just feels like yesterday. Not. I do remember he surprised us by being 7 weeks early and it was snowing. Having to leave your tiny baby in an incubator in the hospital for a month is not the recommended way to give birth though he came out of it pretty well. (Luckily I already had his 16-month-old big sister at home to distract me.) So this is the second year in a row that his mother-in-law is baking the birthday cake. Hmmm…nope, don’t feel guilty. I don’t even have a present for him. We have to discuss what he wants first. I do have a card though. I made it with ninjas on it!

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Two New To Count

I managed to finish the two things that I’ve been working on recently: the latest pair of Confetti socks and the baby poncho number 2. The socks are the usual plain boring ones for me. I figure if I have enough pairs I’ll be able to rotate them so that they last a very long time before wearing out. I decided I don’t mend socks. Unless they’re handspun and only a little holey.

The baby poncho actually turned out better than I’d hoped. As I was knitting it the tension was pretty awful and I kept splitting the soft superwash wool yarn. I’m not used to working with anything quite that softly twisted, even though the yellow in the original poncho was the same brand of yarn. I also wasn’t really paying a whole lot of attention to my knitting which is a surefire way to court mistakes. Obviously I didn’t really have my heart in this thing. I just wanted to get it finished. Anyway, I modified the bottom of the original poncho so that there was less garter stitch and instead of knitted-on lace it had a crocheted edging. I think the results are not too bad! Here’s what it looked like before wet-blocking so you can see how bad it was. The finished item with pattern tomorrow when it’s dry and I can take a picture. (Same goes for the socks.) Hint: it looks a lot better than it did in this picture!

As is my wont, I immediately cast on for another pair of socks. This time they’re for T-Man in Sandesgarn Sisu (80% superwash wool/20% polyamide). I hope there’s enough to make them a bit longer than the last pair I made him. The Sisu has only 160 metres per ball unlike Confetti which is 210 metres so it’s a little bit thicker weight. The socks are only a wee bit wider than my usual 64 stitches at 68, but they have to be longer both in the leg and in the foot than mine. We’ll see. The toes may be another colour if I run out! This yarn was 3 plies of very dark grey and one ply of white but I dyed it burgundy. I have some black Patons Kroy leftovers that would be ok for toes. Knowing this relaxes me so I don’t need to stress over having enough yarn!

As I was casting on for yet another pair of socks, I thought about the Jaywalker socks that have been stalled halfway down the legs. Do I frog them or do I go on? Though they are somewhat tight I can get them over my heel ok so I figure I should carry on. But I need to concentrate and not try to read email at the same time. I might finish sometime this year if I make an effort. They’re next on the UFO list.

I was perusing the Winter issue of Knitter’s magazine (which I almost missed getting) and actually found 2 things that I’d like to make albeit with a lot of substitutions and modifications. One is a vest with simple kimono styling. I’d love to do that with modular knitting in colours for the body and a plain band. We’ll see! And the other item was a lariat necklace incorporating beads and novelty yarns in a unique way. It’s kind of a really skinny scarf made from loops of knitting interspersed with large beads and a tassel of focal beads on one end. I like it! More on that to come.

I also decided that crochet is going to be one of my study subjects this year. I haven't seen a lot of good crochet patterns out therr. Most of them have about all the cachet of toilet roll covers from the local school bazaar. There are gorgeous yarns out there and with a crochet hook you have lots of creative possibilities, many more than with knitting. And it works up so fast and frogs so darned easy that experimentation is a cinch. We have to bring crochet up to the exciting place in people's hearts where knitting is these days. Plus there's all the added possibilities of knitting and crochet together. (A taste of which is in my latest baby poncho.) So on that note, I've decided to scrap the beret idea I had and try a pattern in the Winter issue of Crochet Fantasy for an earflap hat. Not only will this go faster but it will protect my poor ears so I can hopefully avoid more labyrinthitis.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Yes, Virginia...

…there is a Kyrgyzstan! I have a nifty felt hat to prove it. Sorry, I couldn’t get a picture of it on my head. It fits to absolute perfection and keeps my head very warm. The seam is the back of the hat and it has embroidery all around the band.

If you haven’t heard of it, this is a country in the mountains northwest of China, one of the orphan “Stans” left when the Soviet Union broke up. The 5-million-plus people are mostly Kyrgyz (a Turkic-Mongoloid ethnic group) and speak both their own language and Russian. They are happy to live in a democracy (with some problems, but who doesn’t have those?) and are predominantly Sunni Muslim (where they actually get along with the Christians instead of blowing them up). However, they are very poor since they aren’t required to make armaments for the Russians any more. The Kyrgyz were a semi-nomadic people who lived in yurts (they call them “bozui”) and some still do in the summer in the mountains with their herds of sheep, horses, and yaks.

The centre of the stylized sun on their flag is the crown at the top of the yurt. So obviously they have had a long tradition of felt-making, since that’s what yurts are made of, as well as rugs and hats to keep them warm in the cold winter. A small felting cooperative was encouraged to find outside markets for their products by Yetta, the woman I bought my hat from, when she visited Kyrgyzstan. Yetta orders stuff from the felters and then sells it here and sends the money back to them. She says there are 12 people in the group now so they are doing quite well. The quality is very nice but they are encouraged to use more “Western-friendly” colours instead of their own bright and clashing palette. Personally I like the originals better. See? This is an original rug made for their own use instead of trade.

The hats in Kyrgyzstan are many and varied in shape but a lot of them are white with coloured embroidery. The women mostly wear patterned scarves instead of the hats. These boys are practicing for a play dramatizing their most famous traditional narrative poem. Cute, aren’t they?

Seeing Yetta’s pictures of Kyrgyzstan, where the streets are crumbling and the functioning water tap is 2 blocks away, I’m reminded that we have it so incredibly good here in Canada. Even with the street people and the crime and the high-priced housing and the cries of government corruption. Makes me want to smack people with their constant whining and bitching. So go live somewhere else if you don’t like the rain! And you can vote a new Canadian government in on Monday to complain about. Enjoy.

So I was busy spending my hard-earned money whilst gadding about on Thursday. Besides the Kyrgyz hat, I bought a bunch of fantasy pocketbooks (which I added to the pile I’ve yet to read) and 6 craft magazines plus 2 new colours of Confetti sock yarn. I really needed the yarn, didn’t I? The books and magazines were purchased downtown on my way to my weavers and spinners guild meeting; the hat was bought at the guild meeting (Yetta and her slides were the program); and the yarn I bought at a shop that I’ve never been in before. It’s called A Touch of Wool and it’s out of my usual area — a very sweet little yarn shop with nice salesladies. I love looking to see what other shops have to offer that I haven’t seen before. These are my yarn purchases:

And yesterday I had a delightful sushi lunch with DD. I actually saw That Big Light In The Sky yesterday. I even cast a shadow! It was awesome. Today we’re back to the normal Soggy Grey.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

More Knit Thoughts

This is the hint of spring on my front door. Note the stars still on there from Christmas. Seems like I can't quite give up the last season yet either. So I combined 'em!

So I was thinking some more (scary, huh?) about knitting and where my perspective differs from most knitters. As I was saying last time, “they” (other knitters, that is) like to have their yarns in small balls. “I” like big ones and I’m not afraid to turn a skein into a ball or vice versa. I have the tools for this: husband-built adjustable skeiner (winder and swift in one) and ball winder, or if you want to go even lower-tech, niddy-noddy and nostepinde (ball winding stick, see pic above). At the yarn shop, owners/employees have to do this for knitters or, at the very least, set them up with the swift and the ball winder because they don’t seem to have their own tools. Or a handy someone who will hold out his/her arms. Somehow getting their own equipment for this never occurs to them. After all, the service is available in-store. Why should they invest in things they might only need once in awhile? Guess I need them more often.

“They” are at the whim of whatever colours the Powers That Be designate as this season’s official palette. “I” can dye any colours I want at my own whim. I can overdye a boring or ugly colour. I can paint or splash or dip. I don’t care whether this year’s purple is Aubergine or Misty Morning and not the deep blue-violet I want. I don’t care that rusty orange isn’t a Spring colour so you can’t get it in February. I can wear my own palette that pleases only me. I just get out the dyepot and play.

“They” have to pick the pattern and find the recommended yarn or the other way around and — vitally important — Get Gauge. “I” can decide what I want to make, knit a swatch or two, measure my gauge, and create the pattern. OK, so that’s not quite that easy. But it’s fun! As a short-cut I can take an already published pattern and mess with it. It’s my knitting and I’m in charge. If I don’t like what’s happening there’s always the frog pond. Rip-it, rip-it, rip-it. (Remember it’s the process not the product that counts.) Yarn can be reborn as something else if it doesn’t like what it’s become. That is, of course, unless you work with steeks. Once you cut through your knitting you render your yarn non-recyclable. I don’t care how “easy” it is to knit with steeks. I don’t mind knitting back and forth instead of around and around. That said, I have actually resorted to steeks once or twice. Not often though, and not happily.

Then there’s the big deal about different brand name yarns and the popular designers. It’s even getting to the point where designers are having their own yarns created just for them. Now that’s control on a grand scale! I prefer to learn the same skills the designers have and use them to empower myself. I mean what do they have that I don’t, apart from a loyal following and a publisher willing to put money on them? It’s nice to have those beautiful coffee table books with all the gorgeous scenery and models looking fab in the designs. But truthfully, how many patterns in that $40 book are you actually going to knit — ever? Will it look that good on your body in normal surroundings and without all the props and accompanying accessories? I’d rather have a book of techniques like Montse Stanley’s “Handknitter’s Handbook” plus Barbara Walker’s many Treasuries of stitch patterns. (They’re all coming with me to my desert isle.) That’s not to say I don’t own any pretty picture knitting books. But I’m not buying them any more unless they have an unfamiliar technique or intriguing theme. I get more interesting patterns for free from the Internet these days. My Fingerless Mitts from Marnie MacLean by way of Spindlicity (on-line magazine) for one. And it was actually written for your own handspun yarn. How novel! I’d like to encourage that.

Also aggravating to me are the plethora of kits that knitters will buy. It’s so “knit by number”. I know — you can’t easily go out and buy 17 colours of Blah-Blah yarn to make the Multicoloured Cozy Sweater of the Year pattern. It would be prohibitively expensive when you only need a little bit of all but 3 of the colours. And the LYS is out of several of the colours and they don’t know when they’ll be getting them in. In that case I can kind-of see where a mail-order kit would be helpful. I just don’t work that way. That’s not to say I haven’t made up kits myself for some of my classes. In special circumstances such as a class situation I wasn’t sure whether my students would know where to get all the supplies themselves or even be able to get the right items. It was a shortcut and made certain we all started on the same page. People were happy to have the kits, though I had to make them pick a colour combination quickly or they would dither over it so long they’d cut into class time. It’s just a learning piece, people! Oh yeah, a Finished Object is important. I forgot.

In Blogland, and likely at meet-ups and stitch-and-bitches too, there are the ubiquitous KALs. These are the KnitALongs that everybody gets excited about. All you need is a popular pattern and the requisite yarn and join in. Everybody gets to kvetch and complain when something goes wrong with their knitting or pattern or yarn choice and also to encourage and offer help when someone has a problem. It’s kind of “knitting by committee” and for a lot of people it’s an incentive to try something you might not otherwise tackle because you have support if you get stuck and an audience to cheer when you succeed. I kind of like the concept of KALs but I don’t participate. Guess I’m too independent? Must be my Scorpio sun sign.

Yes, there was a Beginner Spinning class last night and yes, it went well. That was mostly because there were only 4 people there. 2 others were absent due to illness so I can start them off next week. It’s much easier on me not to have to get 9 or 10 people started all at once. I run around from one to the next trying to solve all their most basic problems and hold their hands until they can at least make some kind of continuous yarn. It’s exhausting! Small classes are far more manageable. These gals were pretty good too! Only one was still having problems after 2 hours.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Knit Thoughts

On this dark and rainy day (so what else is new, it’s January in Vancouver!), I thought I’d muse about the differences between me and regular knitters. First off, I’ve been knitting a very long time although there was a fairly large gap in my teen years where I was crocheting instead. I learned the English throwing method from my mom (adopted, in case you were wondering which mom) and my great aunt (who was the closest thing to a grandmother I had growing up, even if she did live in Wisconsin) when I was a child. I switched to Continental picking in my 20’s thanks to a German girlfriend. It was somehow closer to the crochet that I was better at because the tension finger is the left forefinger just like in crochet. In English knitting I never did get any good at looping the yarn over the needle with my right forefinger. My fingers are very short — at least that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it! I can still knit with both hands for 2-colour work but my tension is a bit off and needs practice every time I try it. I can’t put both yarns on my left like some people do and just pick which one they need for each stitch. I get hopelessly tangled up. One real advantage of Continental is the ease of switching between knit and purl stitches making ribbing and brocade patterns easier to work. Even my numb left forefinger (from nerve damage in my neck) doesn’t slow me down. Not that I’m a fast knitter or anything.

OK so I’ve been knitting for a long time and I’ve also been spinning for 30 years. That, I believe, is the reason why I’m not locked into certain yarns or published patterns. I had to make my own patterns or adjust other people’s patterns to work with my handspun yarns which never resembled the commercial varieties called for. I actually got spoiled for the unevenness of handspun (even though I’m a pretty good spinner) because it hides any sloppy tension and it feels somehow more real, more earthy, more satisfying to work with. I mean when you start with dirty raw sheep’s fleece and end up with a nice warm colourful sweater, you’ve invested yourself in every step of the way. Washing, dyeing, teasing, carding, spinning, knitting — it’s a lot of work but it’s also fun. Your results are much more personal than going to the store, picking out a pattern and yarn (from whatever colours and brands might happen to be available), and knitting to somebody else’s directions. It’s also a lot cheaper when you have more time than money. Starting with raw fleece it might cost $10 or $15 for a whole sweater, including hot water, soap, dyes, and heat source, whereas it can cost upwards of $100 or more for a sweater from commercial yarns and pattern. We aren’t counting the many more hours of fun and entertainment you had preparing your own yarn! Another advantage is that you can have the yarn of your choice in the colour of your choice and know that it’s relatively “alive” and unprocessed, much closer to nature and the environment. (You could buy fibres from organic farmers and use botanical dyes or leave it natural if you want to get even closer.) The picture is Sleeping Beauty, my first spinning wheel that I got as a kit in 1976. Pretty isn't she?

One of my biggest complaints with commercial yarns is the dinky little balls they come in. Gee, 50 grams is nothing! Especially when the heavier yarns only have a small number of yards per ball. I’m used to balls that weigh as much as will fit on my bobbins. On my Louet (which has pretty big bobbins) that’s about 200 grams of medium-sized yarn. It might take 4 or 5 of these for an adult sweater instead of 15 or 18 of the dinky ones. That’s a lot less joins! But the excuse I hear is that knitters don’t like to have a lot of leftovers so they wouldn’t buy that last large skein if they only need 1/4 of it. So how come I keep seeing pleas for that one last ball of a discontinued yarn in blah-blah colour to finish a project? I’d rather have lots of leftovers, way more yarn than I can possibly need, and not run out. But I guess if you were spending $12 for each little ball, you wouldn’t spend $48 for a 4-times bigger skein if you didn’t need all of it, would you? Hmmm…maybe there’s something to that.

On the other hand, there are yarns that I can’t (or won’t) spin. Fine sock yarns in superwash wool and nylon are popular with me. They last a lot longer than handspun socks no matter how well-spun and tightly knitted. I hate mending! Sometimes I like the printed faux-fairisle sock yarns and sometimes I dye plain ones to put my own stamp on ’em. And I buy the occasional novelty yarns like eyelash, brushed mohair (my mohair yarns don’t resemble these cloud-like confections), ribbons and the like. However, I won’t spring for the popular Noro yarns since it’s pretty easy to spin a multicoloured fat singles if I wanted to. (I prefer plied yarns though.) Noro feels quite coarse and scratchy to me too, particularly considering how expensive it is. I’m sure it’s the magic they do with the colours that keeps everybody interested. That and the fact that it fulls up beautifully into great bags and purses. The wool is relatively unprocessed. That’s why you find bits of straw in it! It hasn’t been carbonized. I always tell my newbie spinners that they’ll be able to make their own Noro-type yarns eventually. It makes a great incentive.

Speaking of which, I have no idea if we have a Beginner Spinner class tonight. Hope I hear before too much longer or I’ll be waltzing over at 7 pm on spec. T-Man has his computer class tonight too so we’ll be eating early anyway. Hey, it’s stopped raining!

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Tyr's Day Blather

Advice is what we ask for when we already know the answer but wish we didn't.
— Erica Jong

Since I didn’t have a clue what to write today, this is a weekly meme or a journal writing prompt from the blog called ...in other words... that I just picked at random from The Memes List. Now I have to decide what the quote means to me. Hmmm…

I’m not actually a big one for asking for advice from other people. I usually am the one to give it — at least about all things “fibrous”. (That’s just because I’ve been doing that stuff almost my whole life and some folks have discovered that I know a few things about it! 'Snot my fault.) In my personal life, I do use my friends and family for sounding boards sometimes but I don’t believe I’m really looking for advice. Reassurance maybe. Just an ear to hear me perhaps. But I don’t need personal advice as a rule because I usually know what I’m doing and where I’m going. Except maybe advice from my life partner. Yeah! Come to think of it, I do ask for advice all the time from him. He is my best friend after all. He gets the brunt of my enthusiasm, complaints, lectures, whining, squeals of joy, and occasional grumpiness. And I, of course, return the favour for him. That’s what this relationship is all about. Or maybe it’s why he goes to work to escape? Nah. We get along even better than we did when we were young. Can’t wait for him to retire! (I’m not holding my breath though on that one.)

We once decided that the best advice we could give a newly married couple was to never both go crazy at once. You’ve gotta take turns! That’s so the sane and sober one can help the other to get back on track. If you both go nuts, who’s going to stop you from jumping off the deep end? Somebody has to keep their head and their feet on the floor. Often for us that’s been the T-Man because it took me many years to learn to deal with those female hormones that often make women temporarily nuts. You should have seen me when I was pregnant! No, maybe not. Occasionally though, he flips out and I think I’m surprised by it when it happens because he’s usually so calm and sensible. I guess he’s entitled however. Good revenge tactic! No, that’s not true. It’s because he feels responsible for so much (even things that aren’t really his responsibility) and sometimes it just gets away from him. It’s understandable but disconcerting for me. We always joke that we take each other for granite! Guess you can tell that right now it’s my turn to be the rock.

So the quote means that what we’re looking for isn’t really advice at all but confirmation that what we suspect is true and that we should just get on with it even if we really don’t want to. Am I being too literal? Ms. Jong said it much better of course. She’s a Poet and Writer after all. I’ve never read any of her work since I don’t read regular novels or poetry either, come to think of it. I find fiction novels very strange, much weirder than the fantasy/sci-fi that I normally read. It’s true! The best fantasy takes ordinary people and puts them in strange situations whereas fiction takes ordinary situations and peoples them with strangers. I don’t get the point. Yes, I’m odd. I live with it.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Day After Dye Day

Well, geesh! That must have been the most painless (for me) and fun (for all) Dye Day so far! Everybody had a great time, learned lots, made heaps of dye-painted skeins and rovings, and cleaned up after themselves. All I had to do was wash the tea cups and put away the books and dyes. The group of 5 were almost total strangers when they came (except for 2 who knew each other) and rather restrained and polite. But they were all working cooperatively and chatting away by the end like old friends. Very nice. I love that kind of class! Makes scheduling these days more often seem like not such a big deal. Though after the screwy week I had, I guess I could be forgiven for feeling like I'd really rather not teach yesterday. Pulling the covers over my head seemed more like it. But there was no way I was going to cancel — again.

This was the pile of stuff I had all ready for them. This includes examples, books, notes, skeins of yarn, and "nests" of roving, plus tape and pens in case somebody needs to initial their stuff.

Below are the leftovers, except for some unused roving and a few skeins of yarn. They brought a lot of their own stuff so didn’t use as much of mine as they might have. From left to right: my 2 skeins of Sisu sock yarn that used to be very dark grey and white (4 plies dk/1 ply white) and are now 2 tones of burgundy; 1 skein (actually 1 and a half balls) of Confetti sock yarn that used to be printed grey and white spots with purple, green, and yellow thin stripes and now are dark red from the same dyebath; 2 leftover skeins that were ball-dyed in the microwave, and my pretty colourful painted demo skein that used to be grey. Look in the above picture for the original sock yarns in the middle under the green tape, the undyed balls on the far right, and the grey skeins in the front. They look quite different now, don’t they?

Going back to Saturday, here are a couple of pieces of the monoprinting I did with my Spectrum dye/surface design study group. We used sheets of Plexiglas in several sizes as the printing plates, fabric paint base with added pigments, and whatever fabrics we had hanging around. Besides plain white cotton, I used some pieces that were already dyed with Procion MX or, as in the second piece, one that had been folded and dyed in indigo. I didn’t get very imaginative with the monoprint designs — just trying to get some control of the results without too many variables. The “river” design comes from just adding paint to one piece of plexi and pressing it onto another. When you peel it up again it makes cool patterns on both surfaces. Two prints for the price of one. The other design was made with a loaded sponge brush on the plexi. See, told you it was simple! You can either put the piece of plexi onto the cloth or put the cloth onto the plexi. It’s easier the first way with the little squares and the second way with the big one. I used a brayer (rubber roller with handle) to make sure the fabric was contacting the paint properly. This technique is both easy and difficult at the same time. The concept is basic but making something you actually like is hard. Takes lots of practice and experimenting. Be prepared to add rubber stamping and other embellishment and to cut the good bits out and reassemble into something better. I don’t think I’d want to work on a big intact piece of fabric as it would be too awkward and I’m sure I’d screw it up. It was kind of fun though. Now I have to figure out what’s next in store for the pile of small pieces I’ve made. The group is determined to actually have a finished product each by December instead of just a bunch of samples.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

So What Happened There?

Well that was a major no-fun day yesterday! I spent most of it (8 hours or so) in the ER with the T-Man. He had an episode of chest pain at work and after his supervisor took him to the first-aid room and gave him oxygen, he took him to Emergency. Luckily it’s only 3 blocks from work so no ambulance was necessary. I can’t tell you how stressed out this breathless phone call I got from my husband made me feel. “I’m in the hospital! I think I’m having a heart attack!” It took me a few tries to get which hospital out of him, though I suspected the one closest to work (but you never know). I decided a cab was not necessarily faster and considerably more expensive so I took the bus. I have very little memory of the bus ride except that I’m sure I just missed one because it took forever to come! Probably only 10 minutes though. Luckily it’s only one bus but a fairly long ride. Of course once I got into the hospital I had no idea even where Emergency was so I asked a nice lady in scrubs (nurse?) who took me right to him where he was still in the waiting room waiting for a bed to free up.

When a bed was available they hooked him up to a monitor and we watched his blood pressure and heart rate slowly relax. They did an EKG, an x-ray, and took 2 rounds of blood. Meanwhile I knitted socks. I think all the staff was smiling about me sitting there beside my husband for hours knitting. I’ll tell you it was the only thing that was keeping me calm! Today of course I’m feeling the effects of knitting for so long and sitting on a backless stool that was too high for my short legs. I don’t recommend this as a way to get a pair of socks done. Nope.

I had to cancel my lunch plans with DD so of course that got her worried. In trying to find out what my cell phone number is she called her brother (the real owner of the cell phone) who of course doesn’t know the number. Got him worried too. She ended up phoning the ER to talk to us. Her dad reassured her that he wasn’t going to pop off any time soon.

And today of course it’s like nothing is wrong. He feels just fine. But he has to take a baby asprin a day and carry around a nitroglycerin spray in case it happens again. Or at least until they can determine what the real problem is. All his tests have been negative so far. Plus he has to get a stress test and more fasting bloodwork done and go see our family doctor. This guy is disgustingly healthy and active. He’s rarely sick and heals quickly. We eat pretty carefully though I think a little too much wine gets consumed around here. There’s no heart disease in his family either. Nobody can figure out what that episode was but at least they’re trying to determine if something is really wrong. Meanwhile we all hope it doesn’t happen again.

Whew! And I’m still not cleaned up for the Dye Day tomorrow. I have a play day with my Spectrum study group today. Hopefully I’ll feel a bit more like vacuuming and cleaning the toilet later this afternoon. Onward!

Thursday, January 12, 2006

This Is It!

People sometimes refer to labyrinthitis as an inner ear infection, but it usually isn't due to an actual ear infection. In the most general terms it's a condition which causes irritation of tiny structures such as microscopic hair cells which project into fluid-filled canals (labyrinths) within the vestibular system located deep in the inner ear. Normal balance is, to a degree, controlled by movement of fluid and particles in the labyrinths, in response to changes of body position. This causes the hair cells to send electrical impulses to the brain helping to define the body's orientation. In labyrinthitis the hair cells and other structures in the labyrinths have become irritated or inflamed. They discharge randomly, sending chaotic messages to the brain, tricking the brain into thinking you or your surroundings are moving or spinning. In the vast majority of patients with labyrinthitis syndrome, the acute episode is self-limited and lasts anywhere from days to weeks.

More information here. Conclusion: They don’t really know what causes it (49% of cases are idiopathic — aka “unknown cause”—unless it was viral or even more rarely bacterial) and there isn’t much they can do about it (unless it’s bacterial in which case antibiotics will help) except treat symptoms, which in my case isn’t warranted. I don’t have a temperature and I’m not vomiting. So thanks for all the well-meaning advice I’ve gotten from everyone! But I’m much improved today anyway. Hopefully this will be the last of it. I almost feel normal again — not lost in the Labyrinth with the old Minotaur. (How’s your Greek mythology?)

So here we have the finished baby hat. Cute huh? I just had a thought that if the corkscrews were green it would look like a plum! Too late. Vital statistics:

Date started: December 7, 2005 (it languished for awhile!)
Date completed: January 11, 2006
Yarn: Lanett Superwash, 100% merino wool, 50g=195m, MC - 5226/5188 purple, CC - 5213/4772 lilac
Amount: MC - about 1/2 ball, CC - few metres
Needles: 3 mm dpns (Swallow Casein)
Gauge: 7 st per inch

CO 100 st. Knit 6 inches in st st.
Decrease row 1: [k8, k2tog] around
Row 2 and all alternate rows: knit
Row 3: [k7, k2tog] around
Row 5: [k6, k2tog] around
Row 7: [k5, k2tog] around
Row 9: [k4, k2tog] around
Row 11: [k3, k2tog] around
Row 12: [k2, k2tog] around
Row 13: [k1, k2tog] around
Row 15: [k2tog] around; 10 st
Row 17: [k2tog] around; 5 st
Draw up all rem sts and fasten off.

Crochet Corkscrew Tassel
With contrast yarn and 2mm hook, ch 17.
2 DC in 3rd ch from hook, 2DC in each ch until last 2 ch.
In second-last ch, 1DC. Sl st in last ch. Do not break yarn.
Ch 17. Repeat row of DCs and finish as for first corkscrew, except that last sl st is in the same st as first corkscrew.
Make a third corkscrew as for second one.
Tie first and last tails together and pull through centre to underside.
Use these to stitch it through point of hat.

I’m partway down the poncho and I remembered another reason why those lifted increases worked so well last time. If you work the first one before the marker, move the marker, knit the centre stitch, and then work the second increase before the next stitch, you don’t have stitches building up between the marker and the centre stitch necessitating frequently moving it to the correct place. It just stays where it belongs naturally. Elegant. I like that.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006


This is defined by knitters (and others) as having a problem deciding which project to start next. Definitely not a problem with me! I always have so many things going the problem that I have is finishing all of them. I’ve even resigned myself to the fact that some things just never get finished. On the other hand, my track record isn’t too bad. Unless something goes really wrong, it usually gets done eventually. (My long list of UFOs notwithstanding.) Anyway, today I finished one thing, the baby hat for my nephew’s new little girl, and then started the poncho that goes with it. I had fun crocheting the corkscrew trim for the hat. It went much faster than the knitted ones I’ve made before and they look almost the same. Since the hat is drying after it’s completion bath, here’s the trim before it was applied. It looks even better on the hat.

And here’s the beginning of the poncho. It would be longer but I frogged the one I started using the lighter lilac that I used for the corkscrews as well as a double centred increase that I found from Kim Salazar. Turns out that the increase is fine for some uses, but it looks terrible on garter stitch and worked in the round. Since the increases on this poncho are obvious, they call for a more decorative approach. I went back to my original plan of lifted right and lifted left increases and the darker purple yarn. Looks good on both garter and plain knitting. You can see the Swallow casein needles that I mentioned yesterday in this picture too. I’ll use them until the poncho gets too big to fit and then move to a circular. I also think that I might just crochet the edging on this one instead of knitting it on like I did for Granddaughter’s birthday poncho. I like the combo of knitting and crochet and it’s a lot faster.

The other day when I finished the Crazy Color socks, I started these ones immediately.

I like the colours in this one: stripes of burgundy, brown, and greyed blue with short stripes of grey and white spots. I was getting tired of the Confetti yarns that are mostly grey and white spots with really thin colour stripes. Guess I prefer dark socks to lighter ones. Well you could tell that just by looking in my sock drawer — most of my purchased socks are black! These will be my Mindless Knitting Project du jour. Notice how when I finish something I immediately start something else? That’s why the UFO list is so long. The numbers continue to stay the same no matter how many things I complete. Sigh.

The dizziness is subsiding somewhat, though I also have a migraine today which makes it hard to tell for sure how much. If I do have whatever bug DD had awhile back (as she suggested in yesterday’s comments), the two doctors she saw in Emergency didn’t recommend anything except Gravol for nausea and just waiting for it to go away. It isn’t bad enough for the Gravol or I have more tolerance for “whirling” than she does, the latter of which is probably the case. She’s more like her dad that way. Merry-go-rounds are not his favourite thing whereas I used to love going round and round as a kid. Anyway, I’m pretty sure those ER docs know as much as my doc does, so I won’t bother wobbling my way to his office just to hear again that I should wait until it goes away by itself. On the other hand, if it gets worse or doesn’t disappear in a reasonable amount of time, I’ll be sure to make an appointment. Meanwhile, I have a lunch date with DD on Friday that I don’t want to miss, plus a meeting of my dye/surface design study group on Saturday and a Dye Day here on Sunday. Lots to do before then.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

So Tell Me

Why is it every winter, just when I’ve got some free time to spend in my studio, I get sick? Explain this to me, please. Am I unconsciously sabotaging myself somehow? I’m still dizzy today but I don’t have any other symptoms. I feel fine other than the fact that I can’t walk straight and the world makes strange dipsy-doodles on me. I can barely navigate the stairs and I’m holding onto the walls everywhere. I had to hold onto T-Man’s arm yesterday when we went for a walk, though it didn’t feel too bad out in the fresh air. Today I’m spending most of my time sitting down because I’m afraid I’m going to fall. It’s not even funny anymore! Next question: how long before I make a doctor’s appointment? I don’t want to bug him unnecessarily and I’ve already discussed this with him at the end of November (though it’s worse this time). Will this go away by itself again soon? Please? At least it gives me a good excuse to spend time on the computer. Gotta see the upside somehow.

The upside is that I can get my email read, my blog posted, and some knitting done. I’ve forced myself to leave off the new pair of socks to go back and finish some old stuff. First under my hand was the Topknot baby hat in purple Lanett (superwash wool) so I’m knitting on that. My tension is crummy but hopefully it will even out in the wash. I’m using one of my 2 sets of casein needles for this, the 3 mm. The other set I got is a 2.75 mm. I originally got them for knitting socks with handspun yarns, hence the particular sizes of dpns I chose. These are kind of strange needles. Casein is a hydrolyzed milk protein that is used in paints and glues and also a dietary supplement. It looks like plastic (my needles are tortoiseshell brown but they also come in pearly colours) and is warm and smooth. I don’t recommend putting the needles in your mouth though because they taste chemical-y (formaldehyde used to harden the casein) but they’re supposedly safe. They were hand-manufactured by Swallow in Australia and seem to be still available there, but the Canadian distributor Elann has very few sizes left and don’t seem to be getting in any more. Maybe they weren’t very popular? I like them but I can’t imagine they come in very small sizes because they would be too flimsy. The ones I have are very flexible. The website recommends keeping the moisture content in the casein steady by not letting them dry out. In my climate that hasn’t been a problem even though I don’t store them in a sealed bag. I do keep them out of the sun though. I haven’t broken any and I’ve had them for years.

Sorry I can’t take pictures today but maybe when the world stops rotating without me. Or I stop rotating faster than the world — whichever applies.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Around and Around and Around

For some reason my dizziness is back. Maybe I haven’t gotten over my middle ear infection as well as I thought? I don’t know — but I do know that this is no fun. It makes me feel pukey. Remember when you were a kid and twirled around and around until you fell down? Just like that — but it doesn’t stop. I keep veering to the right so I guess I’m whirling clockwise instead of widdershins. If this doesn’t go away soon, I’m going to go bug my poor doctor again. At least it gives me a really good excuse to be lazy today. I have a lot of computer stuff to catch up on anyway.

They're dry now from their bath so I have the Crazy Color socks with the lace-rib cuffs to show off. Here’s the scoop:

Begun: December 23, 2005
Completed: January 8, 2006
Construction: Top Down with 5 needles.
Cuff: 7.5 inches
Calculated Cuff Measurement: 7.47 inches.
Gauge: 7.5 stitches per inch
Total Stitches: 56
Rib Stitches: 56; Rib Repeat: 14 sts. Based on “Girl’s Anklet Socks” from Socks Two p.19. (See pattern below.)
Heel Style: Flap/Standard; Width: Standard; Stitch: Partridge Eye
Toe Style: Standard; Toe Shape: Standard
Needle Size: 2.25 mm Boye Silavalume dpns
Yarn: 2 balls Regia 6 fädig Crazy Color, 75% superwash wool/25% polyamide, Col 5404 Lot 57865, stripes of purple, pink, lime, orange, and navy.

Scalloped Lace Rib:
Worked on a multiple of 14 stitches.
Foundation rnd: *k1, p1; rep from * around.
Rnd 1: *k1, yo, [p1, k1] twice, p1, sk2p, [p1, k1] twice, p1, yo; rep from * around.
Rnd 2: *k2, [p1, k1] 6 times; rep from * around.
Rnd 3: *k1, yo, [k1, p1] twice, k1, sk2p, [k1, p1] twice, k1, yo; rep from * around.
Rnd 4: *k1, p1; rep from * around.
Work rnds 1-4 once more.

Shift beginning of round over 7 stitches to the left and redistribute stitches on rest of needles to match. This brings the scallops centred over the leg.

Comments: The lace top ribbing is quite nice. I think I might increase stitches after the cuff to 60 or even 64 or use a larger needle size if I was to do it again. These are quite dense! Though time will tell as I wear the socks to see if they are comfortable just as they are. They will certainly wear better knit tightly. I can get them on anyway and they don’t feel uncomfortable. The colour patterns didn’t quite line up as hoped. The repeat is just slightly different the second time, making the full repeat almost a whole sock! (See the skinny dk blue stripes in one repeat and not the other.) It would be better just to let them work out completely differently that than try to match. The second sock ended up with an orange toe tip! Cute.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Working For A Living Is Hard!

Now I know why I’ve never had a full-time job in my life. By Thursday I was totally worn out! I begged off on Friday since Thursday was already one day more than I’d planned. Yeah, I know — nobody feels sorry for me at all. I like being a kept woman, I tell ya! But at least now I have some “play” money that I earned by the sweat of my brow (plus the crick in my back, pain in my thighs, and strain in my arms) and that feels good (now that I’ve recuperated). Sorry if you missed me!

I did bring home a few goodies too: some moorit sliver that may be Shetland but nobody knows for sure (a pretty brown though and soft), some natural black merino sliver, and 2 hanks of very fine merino/cashmere yarn. The latter might be too soft for lace like I was thinking originally, but maybe I could resurrect my fine-gauge knitting machine and see what happens. I don’t know, but it’s awfully nice stuff. Oh, I also got 2 little tubes of polyester thread with beads on it to see what it will do when plied with wool. Plus a cone of natural grey 2-ply Dalesman wool yarn for my dye classes. I like to overdye grey yarns and sliver to show them how nice the muted colours can be. So I think that was a pretty controlled collection, especially since I was handling literally hundreds of kilos of yarns and fibres! But I’m still dreaming about balls, and cones, and hanks, and bags of fluff…and what I could do with it all if I had several more lifetimes.

I also have a Finished Object to report. I completed the Regia 6-ply Crazy Color socks. They’re drying right now after their bath, so I’ll have to take a picture tomorrow. I’ve already cast on for another pair of Confetti socks though so there’s no reduction in the UFO list. Yet. I’ll see what I can do tomorrow when I finally have a day to myself.

Speaking of socks, I’ve been using a simplified method of knitting my socks that works easily for me. I don’t have to carry a pattern around with me everywhere, just a ruler or measuring tape to get the leg and foot lengths right. The rest all works off the original number of stitches that I cast on. Here’s the gist of the formula:

1. Use a number of stitches for your cuff that is neatly divisible by 4. You need to take into consideration your knitting gauge with your chosen yarn and needles, how tight or loose you prefer your socks, and how stretchy your yarn (or pattern stitch if you use one) is. Socks are small enough so that if you aren't happy with your results after knitting part way down the leg, you can easily frog and start again. I've given up making swatches for socks!

2. Use a set of 5 dpns so you can take advantage of the neat number you cast on. Divide the stitches evenly between the 4 needles and knit with the 5th. The number of stitches you have on each needle will be The Magic Number that you need to make the rest of the sock.

3. Use the tail of your cast-on as the marker for the rounds. Knit your desired cuff (1/1 rib or 2/2 rib or whatever) and then knit your leg down to the top of the heel flap.

4. When you get to the heel flap, knit across needle 1, turn, sl 1 and purl across needle 1 and needle 4. These will be your heel flap stitches and they're all on one needle for ease of working. The tail will line up with the centre of these stitches (the back of the leg). See, no counting!

5. Remember to slip the first stitch of every row of the heel flap as if to purl (but with the yarn at back on knit rows). On the right side rows, work the heel stitch: [sl 1, k 1] across. On the wrong side, purl. Repeat these 2 rows until you have as many slip stitches on the edge of the flap as your Magic Number. This time you do have to count!

6. Now you start the heel turn by slipping the first stitch (as usual) and knitting The Magic Number of stitches PLUS 1 more. You should have a total of The Magic Number plus 2 on your right hand needle. Continue SSK, k 1, turn. You’re turning in the midst of the row with stitches still unworked. That’s why this part is called a “short-row”.

7. Sl 1, purl 5, p2tog, p1, turn. This row is always the same no matter how many stitches you cast on.

8. Sl 1, knit across to just before the "gap" that you can see in the row (where you turned before). SSK together the stitch before and the one after the gap, closing it. Then k 1, turn.

9. Do the same on the purl side: sl 1, purl across to just before the gap, p2tog across the gap, p1, turn.

10. Repeat these last 2 rows until you've used up all the heel flap stitches. Heel turn completed with very little counting!

11. Right side of heel: sl 1 and knit across to the middle of the heel (in line with the tail). Using another needle, knit across the rest of the heel stitches and then start picking up the sl sts at the side of the heel flap. To avoid the hole in the corner of the gusset, pick up one extra stitch. Your needle should have half the heel-turn stitches, plus your Magic Number of heel flap stitches, plus one.

12. Now knit across the instep stitches on needles 2 & 3 (the ones that have been sitting idly while you made the heel turn) as normal. With the next free needle, pick up the extra corner gusset stitch and then continue up the side of the flap picking up the Magic Number and then (still on one needle) across the half-heel to the centre. As for your first needle, your last needle also should have half the heel-turn stitches, plus your Magic Number of heel flap stitches, plus one – only in the reverse order.

13. Now you need to decrease the gussets every other round. Knit across needle one until 3 st before the end, k2tog, k1. Knit across the instep needles (2 & 3). On needle 4, k1, SSK, and knit to the end. Next round just knit all the way around. Alternate the dec and plain round until you have your Magic Number on each needle again. Hint: you can remember whether to do a k2tog or a SSK by whether the decrease area is at the beginning or the end of a needle. At the end of a needle, it’s always k2tog. At the beginning, it’s a SSK. Also you can tell whether the round you’re knitting on is a decrease round or not by looking to see if there’s an obvious doubled stitch between the stitches on your needle (where you decreased) or not. If you can see that doubled stitch this round is knit plain. If your previous round looks like normal knitting, this is a decrease round.

14. Knit the foot until you're ready to decrease for the toe. Usually this is about 2 inches before the end or try the sock on and see if it comes up to the joint of the big toe. Some people like their socks snug and some like them more roomy.

15. Just like when you were doing the gusset, knit needle one until 3 sts before the end, k2tog, k1. On needle 2, k1, SSK, knit across. On needle 3 (like needle 1) k until 3 sts before the end, k2tog, k1. On needle 4 (like needle 2) k1, SSK, knit across. The next round is knit plain. The decreases will create a wedge toe. As for the gussets, you can remember which decrease to use by whether it’s at the end or beginning of the needle. K2tog at the end of a needle, SSK at the beginning.

16. Continue alternating the dec and plain rounds until you have about 6 stitches left on each needle. (You can have less or more depending on the foot shape.) Continue to knit across needle 1 so the stitches on 1 and 4 are on the same needle (bottom of foot). Combine the stitches on needles 2 and 3 onto one needle (top of foot). Now you can graft the stitches on the 2 needles together with Kitchener stitch.

The above method takes advantage of several things: an even division of stitches among the 4 needles, the tail as the marker for the beginning of the rounds and for back-of-leg orientation of the sock, using "knitting to just before the gap" instead of a specific number to work each row, and 1/4 of the cuff stitches as a constant Magic Number to use to calculate other areas of the sock. This simplifies things a lot! Once you've followed this formula enough times, it's easy to size up or down to fine-tune the sock for a different foot or yarn. I've made socks for babies up to adult males using the exact same methods, just adjusting the Magic Number and the lengths of the leg and the foot.

I also try always to work on both socks alternately so they match more exactly. I don’t have to remember where I’ve deviated from the pattern or count rows. I also don’t have Second Sock Syndrome. Of course it means that I have to have 2 sets of the same double pointed needles. I knit differently with different brands so they have to be exactly the same. I use either Clover Takumi bamboo, Addi Natura bamboo, or Boye Silvalume aluminum. The common grey Aero needles don’t come in sets of 5 so I’d have to buy 3 sets to have enough. The nice short Brittany birch needles are too brittle in the smallest sizes to be useful. I’ve broken about 4 of them but I’ve never broken a bamboo one in the same size. And I don’t knit tightly either. They seem to break where the size is impressed into the wood. My personal ideal sock needles would be really polished bamboo, 5-1/2 inches long, with nice medium (not too blunt or too sharp) points, in sets of 5 (ok, 10!), and in sizes 1.75mm, 2mm, and 2.25mm. Oh, manufacturers, where are you?

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Happy Hogmanay!

Say what? That’s the Scots New Year greeting and what my Irish-Canadian dad used to say to my Scots-born mom on New Year’s Eve just to tease her. The accent is on the last syllable. Just like most places in the world, in Scotland they have the usual drunken midnight revelry but there were some unusual old traditions like First-Foot, the first foot to step over the doorsill after midnight bringing good luck. A strong dark-haired man bearing gifts is preferred! (The one to come up with that must have been female, eh?) Other traditions are fire-ball swinging (like a fire-dance) and a bonfire, both of which are obviously from the ancient midwinter/solstice celebrations. Of course, we’re well past Hogmanay and into Ne’erday now. (That’s New Year’s Day in Scots dialect.) No, I’m not making this up!

Well, I’m pretty tired today after sleeping over to babysit the Sprout. She was just fine (slept like a log actually) but it was sure noisy last night with all the parties and firecrackers and horns and all. Plus we stayed up too late watching the Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl (again) and didn’t get to bed until after 11 — which is a full two hours after our usual sedate bedtime. It’s always harder to sleep somewhere else besides your own bed anyway: it’s too hot, too hard, too…different. So I’m ready for bed even though it’s only mid-afternoon.

Sprout’s parents are even more ready for an early night I bet. They didn’t get in until 3:30am! But they had a great time so it was worth it. Unfortunately their daughter was really grumpy with them this morning for leaving her with us. Amazing how a one-year-old who can’t talk yet (beyond a couple of proto-words) can express her disappointment and dismay at being “abandoned” — even though we had a perfectly fun time with her and she went to bed as good as gold for me. Even this morning she was fine all through breakfast, until her mom woke up and came down for her breakfast. It was an interesting insight into a toddler’s mind. First she got clingy-mommy then it switched to clingy-daddy. She wouldn’t even respond to me or her grandpa except to cry. Hopefully she got over it after we left. Her parents looked like they could use a nap along with her!

The T-Man had this week off and he spent most of it relaxing (apart from fetching and assembling my Billy bookshelves). However there was a modicum of cleaning that went on in his wood studio (I hear the vacuum) and he decided to play with his glass for awhile. Here’s the results:

For size, the big striped one in the upper right-hand corner is about 2cms long. I really like the green swirly ones. That’s a new technique he just tried, including the Christmas tree bead. The glass rod used there is called filigrana. It has a solid coloured core with a clear coating. The effect is really interesting, kind of like coloured smoke under water. (Yeah, I know that probably doesn’t make sense but meditate on it.) He’s still practicing his clear encasing technique too, which seems to be rather difficult. I don’t know — I stay away from hobbies that include hot melting glass and roaring flames! I have no idea what I’ll do with these beads but for now they’re going in their bead box. You can just see the stack of bead boxes on top of the yellow and orange drawers in one of the photos from yesterday. That brightly-painted drawer system, which comes up to my shoulder, holds the majority of the Damselfly Bead Stash. And as you can see from the boxes on top, there’s some overflow. At least it takes up less room than some of the other stashes around here but it definitely cost more per volume.

So what’s up next on my to-do list? In the midst of my cleaning frenzy, I’ve compiled a list of the most obvious of the UFOs. It’s only 30! (Somehow I thought there'd be more. Or maybe they're just hiding out.) Some just need a quick finishing and some need more work. I usually came to a screeching halt when something was not quite working. A few things need to be recycled into their component parts. There’s a whole box of handspun handknits that could be frogged and re-used. They don’t fit or they are so old they’re completely out of style. If worse comes to worst, they can always be fulled and then cut up and sewn. Nobody would appreciate my handspun at the thrift store and I’m not chucking it out! It can become something new instead.

One last comment for today — good news. Tomorrow I start work! Yes, it’s only a week's temporary job, helping with the inventory at Birkeland Bros. Wool. But since I actually have some inventory experience from many years ago (at Circle Craft), I offered to help out. I may regret this, but I hope I have fun instead. Though if I’m not careful, I may get paid in merchandise instead of money! Having that much luscious stuff pass under my nose will be a serious temptation. One for you; one for me; one for you; two for me...