Thursday, March 30, 2006

Quick & Dirty

Oh alright — it’s not really dirty. Just really fast and no pictures. Sorry, but it’s this or no blogging at all. I’m exhausted from a day of setting up the shop booth for Fibrefest and I have to head for bed soon. Tomorrow we head out there again for two back-to-back days of fab fun! Needles and spindles at the ready. Then on Saturday evening we undo all the lovely booth we just created today. It’s funny but it only takes a fraction of the time to dismantle as it did to build. How is that?

I hope I’m ready for my sock demo. Whatever, they’re getting what I can give. I’ve knitted a lot of socks but I pretty much prefer one boring type: my Auto-Pilot Socks. One of these days I’ll post the pattern for them. Very basic and can be knit in any yarn at any gauge for any sized foot. I have a demo shorty sock in very bulky weight yarn that hopefully can be seen at the back. I actually made socks out of this stuff for my late mom when she was in a wheelchair in the care home. They kept her feet warm and were easy for the laundry to wash and dry. She actually went to her grave wearing a pair of my socks. Being acrylic they’ll be keeping her feet warm for quite some time in there!

Speaking of socks, I’ve been knitting (finally) on my leafy socks. I hope to have enough to post soon. They’re turning out very interesting! I haven’t quite gotten down to the heel but the long drives out to Abbotsford Tradex and back are giving me lots of knitting time. Unfortunately, it seems really hard for me to find time to knit on something that I have to look at in good light. That’s likely why I keep making the same old plain boring socks that I can work on mostly without looking while I read my email or blogs or watch tv. I have a couple of pair of socks that are in limbo waiting for me to do something. Frog ’em or finish ’em — whatever.

Well, I’m off until Sunday. More anon.

Sunday, March 26, 2006


Ah, perhaps you’ve been wondering where this Damselfly has been for the last few days. For starters, the T-Man is taking a week off work so my usual schedule (such as it is) is disrupted. Yesterday we went on a very long walk starting with shopping for an adapter so T-Man can use his iPod in the car. Then across the bridge to downtown where he bought a new harmonica to replace one that’s busted. We had lunch at Tsunami Sushi with the floating sushi boats going around and around. It’s a lot of fun to just grab something that looks yummy as it zips by. (No sinking these ferries!) Then we walked uptown across the bridge to the Pfaff sewing store where I broke down and bought the overlock machine I’ve had my eye on. What can I say — it was on sale for $200 off. But then how to get it home? Remember we were on foot (sore feet by now at that) so T-Man lugged the box to the bus stop and we took public transit home. It’s a long walk (3 very long blocks) from our stop to our house so we each took an end of the box. I think my arms are stretched a couple of inches longer now but we got the darn thing home ok. It’s surprising how something that doesn’t feel that heavy at first increases its weight geometrically each block you carry it so that it weighs immensely more by the time you get it home.

This is the machine, a limited edition coverstitch/overlock that has 18 different stitch programs and differential feed. It’s not the top of the line, but I don’t really need a computer system with a little screen to tell me how to set things up and thread the machine. Just more things to go wrong. I don’t miss the automatic tensioning that comes with the higher models either. I know I’d be overriding them often anyhow. Just something else that thinks it’s smarter than me.
I’ve been spending quite a bit of time today playing with the threading and learning its quirks. It’s actually somewhat easier to thread than my old machine because it has little levers that pop the loopers out where you can get at them. It takes 3 little tools to change the needles and thread them but it’s not as fiddly as it sounds. The only hard part is learning what things need to be changed for each type of stitch. I scanned and printed out cheat-sheets from the dinky little manual and popped them into page protectors.

One thing though, it’s a good thing that I’ve already been using a serger for 16 years. There are so many options and little levers and buttons and dials that it would be intimidating to a first-timer for sure. And the cheaper foot pedal that comes with this model has only one speed: racecar! The dealer of course offers free one-on-one classes to get you started. I think I might schedule one in a couple of weeks. There’s always tips and tricks that the manual doesn’t tell you. I’ve already learned that even though it says you must use the special EL needles, you can get away with regular ones in a pinch. Good to know.

One thing that I’m disappointed with is the spool pins are plastic and not metal. They’re also pretty short so I hope they support larger thread cones properly. I’ll have to be gentle with them and hope the plastic doesn’t get brittle over time. Yes, this is a concern. I keep my equipment for a very long time. My sewing machine is almost 30, my old serger is 17, my big loom is also 17, my little loom is 16, my first spinning wheel is 30, my second one is 14 and so on. I’m a little faster to replace things like computer equipment though! But I still squeeze all the juice I can out of them first.

Guess I’ll be messing around with this machine for awhile learning what fun things I can make it do. I need some new clothes and I also plan to restitch some of my t-shirts into more form-fitting and modern styles. I’m tired of my clothes looking baggy since I lost weight. Meanwhile I’m going to find out what can be done for my old serger. It’s still got some life in it if I can get it refurbished. It's so old I bet parts are getting hard to come by, which worries me somewhat. The place I'm planning to take it deals in Elnas though which means they should know what's what. They are the premier repair place around for just about all makes and models. More "Adventures in Serging" anon.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Spoke Too Soon

Now they’re saying that maybe one couple from 100 Mile House didn’t make it off the sinking ferry yesterday. They haven’t turned up anywhere. So many questions and no answers yet about what happened to them but their relatives are understandably freaked out. It’ll be awhile before they can check inside the wreck because it’s 1200 feet down. Meanwhile they’re finally trying to contain the oil slick it’s creating. About time. They should have been there yesterday. The Inside Passage is a pretty delicate ecosystem and it will definitely be affected in some way, though supposedly it won’t be as bad as originally thought. (We can only hope.) And they’ll have a tugboat and barge to serve the Queen Charlottes within 48 hours. This is going way back to what they had in the “olden days” before regular ferry service. There are stranded visitors and there’s goods to move right away before there’s a food shortage. The Queen of Prince Rupert won’t be ready for at least a week yet. My poor sister’s b&b business will be severely impacted by reduced ferry traffic this summer. And they’re just the tip of the tourist iceberg in the North. Unless they can find a proper sea-going ferry hanging around somewhere in the world to purchase this will take quite awhile to fix. They’re usually built to order one or two at a time.

Everybody is saying that the crew of the ferry and the people of the tiny First Nations village of Hartley Bay are to be commended for their heroic actions. The village folks went out in fishing boats to help the Coast Guard in transferring passengers from the life rafts and they opened their gym for shelter and gave dry clothes to the survivors. Two hotels in Prince Rupert offered rooms for them when the Coast Guard brought them back. Nobody will complain anymore about all the emergency training the ferry crews have to take even if they’re just employed serving food or cleaning. It proved its worth in this disaster and everybody remained calm and did their job to help save everybody. It was sure a good thing it wasn’t summer! There would have been 4 or 5 times as many people on board and a lot more than 16 vehicles.

OK. Enough disaster news. I finished the Ninja Socks! It’s hard to take a photo since there are no feet they’ll fit around here and they look just weird by themselves. But here’s the scoop anyway. Sorry about the toe pattern written in Damselfly. If you have a hankering to make socks with strange toes, feel free to ask for clarification.

Ninja Socks

Started: February 15, 2006
Completed: March 22, 2006
Yarn: 3 balls Sisu, 80% superwash wool/20% polyamide (nylon), Col 1480 Lot 3037, 3 ply really dark grey and 1 ply white.
Needles: 2mm Clover Takumi dpns
Pattern: Cast-on 76 stitches, 2/2 rib for 30 rows. Leg 9.5” total before the flap heel. Foot 8-1/2” before toe decreases. Total foot is 10.75”.

Ninja Toes
Starting point is the centre of the bottom of the foot, between needles 4 and 1.

Right foot:
Tink back 5 sts (14 sts on needle 4). Backwards CO 8 sts for the fourchette. Slip 5 sts of needle 3 to needle 2. Stitches on needles 1 and 2 will become the small toes. Using a spare needle, continue knitting across the 14 sts of needle 3. As it’s more comfortable, use another spare needle and arrange big toe stitches on 4 needles with the gaps retained between needles 3 & 4 and directly opposite in the centre of the CO sts. Continue knitting around until the toe is 1.5” long. Begin decreases (similar to a regular toe but dec every row): on the needle just before the fourchette, knit until 3 sts from the end, k2tog, k1. On next needle, k1, ssk, k across. Knit across needle 3 until 3 sts from the end, k2tog, k1. On needle 4, k1, ssk, k across. Repeat until 16 stitches remain. Graft toe.

Add new yarn at the top corner of the fourchette and pick up 10 sts across it. Arrange Knit across needle 1 until 3 sts from the end, k2tog, k1. On needle 2, k1, ssk, k across. Arrange stitches on 4 needles with the gaps as established between needles 1 and 2 and another in the centre of the 10 picked-up sts. K2tog at the corner of the fourchette, k across it and ssk at the second corner. Continue around decreasing on the outside of the foot every other row 5 more times (6 times total), then every row until 16 sts are left. Graft toe.

Left foot:
K 5 sts with last needle (24 sts on needle 4). Knit across the rest of the sts on needle 1 and needle 2 to 5 sts before the end. Transfer these to needle 3. Backwards CO 8 sts and continue as for the right foot. The only differences are the numbers assigned the needles and when adding the new yarn for the wider section it will be starting at the bottom of the foot. All increases and decreases etc. are the same.

Comments: I might start the big toe decreases farther down and do some eor dec before the er ones. That will narrow the upper part of the big toe a bit more. But not this time! Reknitting it 4 times was plenty.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Sinking Feeling

At almost 1am this morning, this ferry hit a rock and sank off Gil Island on its long run from Prince Rupert to Port Hardy on Vancouver Island. I’ve been on the Queen of the North a couple of times. Now it’s causing a nasty oil slick. Luckily all the passengers and crew got off safely. My sister, who lives in Haida Gwaii (aka the Queen Charlotte Islands) and her family and neighbours are now without a ferry since this one was serving both the Inside Passage and the QCI. The one other ferry which can handle the nasty Hecate Strait is the Queen of Prince Rupert, but she was in for routine repairs. They have to get her up and running asap because a lot of the North Coast depends on the ferry for transportation and food, among other things. This is the first BC Ferry ever to sink. Sad really. We don’t have any replacements in the pipeline either. This should speed things up though but it's going to cost bigtime.

I’ve finally finished the Ninja Socks! Yay! They were a major pain in the patootie I’ll tell you. I frogged one big toe about 4 times. I think I’ve got it now, if I can write it up so I don’t forget what I did. Hope he doesn’t want another pair any time soon. I’m tired of honking big socks with weird toes. Photo later when they’re blocked and dry.

I never got any further with the cherry blossom braid (Kosakura Genji Gumi) so it’s still unchopped up and waiting for me to design a Spring card to put it on. I’m so uninspired. Must be the rain we’ve had the last couple of days. Speaking of rain, I spent hours today working in what my daughter lovingly calls my “grow-op”. I transplanted a bunch of little seedlings into bigger quarters and then I put them outside in the cold frame. With a heating pad. I’m hoping I’m not being too mean to them since I didn’t give them a chance to acclimate themselves to the cold first. There’s just no room for them all under the lights. I’m trying to resist running out in the dark and the rain to rescue them into the house for the night. Is it too late?

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Quiche & Meatloaf

No, not together at the same meal! That’s what I made today, the quiche for T-Man’s breakfasts for a few days and the meatloaf for dinner tonight and then lunches. I love to cook actually. The quiche has barbequed salmon and veggies and several cheeses (garlic havarti and swiss) — yum! No pastry though. It’s low-carb. And the meatloaf is somewhat like the ones my mommy used to make with oatmeal and Worcestershire sauce and ketchup, except that it has ground pork as well as beef and garlic as well as onions. Mom never used garlic, far less home-grown garlic like mine. The cloves are little but mighty! And the oatmeal is because mom was born in Scotland. Lots of good things have oatmeal in them.

Today I finished the cherry blossom braid after attaching another yard of the green strands that create the edges. I missed the fine print (in Japanese!) where it said that I needed to make them extra-long. I could have used yet another yard (that’s 5 yards per 3 yards of the north/south elements) but I cut it off anyhow. I have enough even if I cut the knotted bits off as well as the beginning where I made a few mistakes. Now I have to do the Happy Spring! card with braid write-up and details, print them, assemble, and get them in the mail by Friday. Hah! Maybe. I did get the diagrams done with Adobe Illustrator. I’m trying to get this in the mail by Friday. Yeah, right.

I forgot to mention that last week I bought this book:

Yes, I know I’m an incurable bibliophile. I can’t help it and I don’t want to be cured. This is a great book with lots of good ideas on making jewelry pieces from a basketry perspective. Yes, I know I don’t make baskets. Hardly ever. But I love wire and pine needles and coiling and beads and I’ve already signed up to take a class in coiled jewelry with Marilyn Moore from Seattle through my weavers’ guild. (Go see her stuff — it just blows me away!) This book is by Mary Hettmansperger who is also a pretty cool basket/jewelry artist but with a different style than Marilyn. I find it much more clear and inspirational than the relevant parts of the book I’ve had for a long time, Arline Fisch’s “Textile Techniques in Metal”. The latter book tries to cover too much in one volume and is a bit dated now. The original was published in 1985 and the (slightly) revised version in 1996. When Lark Books reissued it they didn’t get Arline to revise it enough especially the photographs, which in my opinion was a mistake. It was a seminal book in its time but other artists have improved upon her themes.

So has anybody found out how to stretch time or create more of it? The days just fly by too quickly for me.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Happy Spring!

It really does feel like spring here too with the sun out and a warm-ish 15 degrees Celsius. Lots of blossoms and flowers help the mood. I started my kumihimo braid for a swap that’s due soon. I was inspired by Spring so it’s a Cherry Blossom in pink, green, and variegated.

Sweet! While working the braid I realized that I was doing one of the cross moves using the wrong hands. This can cause the strands to not cross in the correct direction in some braids, but I’ve looked at it every which way and I’m pretty sure this is right. So why do the diagrams in 2 different books show it with the two hands opposite? It’s so much more symmetrical done this way. Might be “tradition” that’s the answer. Whatever. I’m doing it my way, like a good little rebel.

I’ve been super busy this last few days with family and friends, so I’m really getting behind in my blogging. I had a weavers guild meeting on Thursday, a luncheon with friends (from the guild) on Friday, a sewing show and a housewarming on Saturday, plus babysitting the grandkid, and last but not least I was so tired yesterday that I didn’t get much done except housework! Whew. My arms and neck are still sore from lugging around little ones on Saturday. Doesn’t matter how much exercise I do I can’t get my upper body strength up high enough so I don’t suffer after overdoing it just a bit. But I sure had fun with my nephew’s little 4-month-old baby girl and my sweet little toddler granddaughter! Even though she can finally walk, she didn’t like looking at nothing but a forest of grownup legs at the party! Her mom had to leave the party early and her dad was working, so we brought her home for her dad to collect later. It was nice to have her for an extended visit.

Before the party we (including my mother-in-law) went to a sewing show. It was ok but expensive to get in at $10 plus tax. At least the T-Man was free! (I guess they want to encourage hubbies to bring their wives.) I spent quite a bit of time looking at serger/overlock machines. I think this is the one I want. But I don’t want to get it from the shop that had the booth because it’s too far from my house. If I’m going to take the classes that come with the machine, I’m not going to truck all over the countryside. There are occasional disadvantages to not driving. There’s a shop within walking distance of me, but I don’t know what price they want for this same model. Maybe if I show them the sale brochure they’ll match it?

I also looked at a ton of different notions and gadgets while ignoring all the quilting and bear-making stuff. I got a couple of fat quarters of really gorgeous silk damask: one covered in dragonflies and one with dragons for $8 each. I could have bought a lot more but I controlled myself! I got some heavy interfacing stuff (like Timtex) and some non-skid backing for my Omni-grid rulers and a non-stick press sheet. I fell for some lovely rayon embroidery thread on cones for only $10 for 3. I got 6 because I couldn’t decide what colours to pick! Now I need to actually do something with this collection, right?

I also had a chance to try the Ninja Sock on the Ninja’s actual foot. I got the other toes right but the big toe needs to be partially frogged and the top re-done again. I’ll get this darn thing right if it kills somebody. (Preferably not me!) Once I get the pattern corrected though I can make any number of tabi socks without stress. This is what a sock looks like while I’m wrestling with the toes. Scary, huh? Like a porcupine. I was too lazy to use a thread to hold the extra stitches so I just used more needles.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Yesterday's Rainbow

And it’s a double too! Ain’t it purty? It looks like the pot of gold should be in that house kitty-corner across the street from me, doesn’t it? Bet they can't find it! Notice the pink cherry blossoms in full bloom. Spring is well on its way here even though we had a bit of snow last week.

I’ve finished the project for the movie. Here’s the picture I was working from and the two finished spindles plus a bit of extra alpaca for the distaff if they decide to use it. Now I wait to see if it actually gets into the final cut of the movie! And got paid in cash already.

I ended up frogging the toes of the first Ninja Sock as it definitely wasn’t coming out properly. So much for the instructions in the Twisted Sisters Sock Workbook which I’m sure are not correct. My version didn’t resemble the picture in the book anyway. Next I’m going with the pattern at SpunMag for the Geisha Socks. A little adjustment for the increased number of stitches and I should be able to get the male version out of this. At least I’m hoping! I’ll put the instructions in a post as soon as I’m sure it’s working. Somehow I knew this wasn’t going to be a piece of cake. There’s a lot to take into consideration with the split toe. First you have to add stitches between the toes for the fourchette. Then on the outer edge of the little toes section you need to decrease more sharply towards the top. The big toe goes straight up until the quick decreases at the top, just like a glove finger. Now to make this actually work in practice.

I may or may not be teaching an Intermediate Spinning class tonight. I haven’t heard yet for sure if they got enough students to run it. Wonder what spinning technique I should start with? It’s hard to know actually. In some ways my intermediate classes are student-driven. One class wanted exotic fibres and another wanted fancy plying. One student spent the whole class time learning to wool comb. Spinning is either very simple or very complex depending on how far you want to take it.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

An Interesting Project

I got a request yesterday to spin up some alpaca for a prop for a movie that’s being made locally. I’m talking a big Hollywood-type movie, not a local indie or anything. It’s got Ben Stiller, Mickey Rooney, Robin Williams, and Dick Van Dyke in it. Cool, eh? My spindle of yarn will probably have all of a 2-second viewing and for all I know it might be cut entirely but that’s ok. At least I’m getting paid for it. Which is more than has happened in the past. I once lent out a bunch of skeins of yarn and some sweaters to a movie, “The Lotus Eaters” from 1993. It's kind of a cute feel-good movie but not really exceptional. Very Canadian. I didn’t get paid for that one but I did get everything back safely. I’ve learned since then to charge decently for my time and effort. BTW, I just noticed in next week's TVGuide that The Lotus Eaters is going to be replayed. Synchronicity. Yeah, that must be it. (Cue Twilight Zone theme...)

This time I’ve been asked to make two spindles and fill them with yarn for the character of a woman from South America. The reason why there’s two is so there’s a spare just in case. The yarn is already spun on my wheel and I’m just waiting for T-Man to come home from work so he can give me some advice on the spindles. My movie “liaison” (with the lovely name of Tiara) has supplied the parts to assemble them but they need some sanding. I supplied the almost-white alpaca from my stash though, get this — I had to talk her out of a turquoise-coloured yarn. Yikes! There’s no easy way to dye the fibre before spinning. Alpaca is so slippery it falls apart in the dyebath. Besides, the original photo they were going by of a real South American spinner had white fibre on her distaff and spindle. She’s too smart to try dyeing it first, if at all. And I just plain didn’t want to try it myself.

Another project that I’m supposed to be working on but haven’t even started yet is my kumihimo swap. I need to make a braid to embellish a greeting card. Right now I’m thinking “Spring”. My current idea is to make a cherry blossom braid, which is one I’ve never tried before. I have some heavy cotton yarn in the right colours that might work ok. It’s a 16-strand braid and 4 of the strands must be 3 times as thick as the others. These are the petals of the flowers so they have to stand out. I don’t have a huge amount of the peachy-orange though so I hope I have enough. Then there’s the area beside the flowers where I was going to use a variegated which has green, yellow, orange, and red twisted with white, and lastly the edges of the braid, which I thought I’d do in green. I’ll have to try it to see if it looks the way I had in mind. Then I have to make the cards (9) to mount the braids on (in a cutout?), plus 10 extra copies without samples. Inside the card is the braid information and diagrams. And it has to be in Seattle by March 31? Might be a bit late.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Weekend Travels

Well, that seemed to work. I now have a damselfly on my sidebar. Cool! I need to learn more about HTML and it’s dialects. It takes time though — time from other things. Like the toes on the Ninja’s Tabi Socks which I’m just about to tackle. More anon.

I was kept busy this weekend, as usual. Firstly, on Saturday my dye study group met at a member’s house to chat and eat…er, to make stamps from foam core, string, and fun foam to use with fabric paint on textiles. I made about half a dozen, including one of a damselfly (naturally). I haven’t tested them all out yet to see how they “perform” though of course the damselfly is perfecto.

Then on Sunday, the T-Man and I went walkabout and had a lovely lunch on Granville Island. We did a little gallery goggling and stopped into Maiwa, where I stocked up on some more dye for my classes and I bought this book:

It’s called “Colour: Travels through the Paintbox” by Victoria Finlay (Sceptre, 2002. I haven’t read it yet, but it’s full of vignettes about pigments and their discoveries and uses in history to the present. Promises to be as interesting as “A Perfect Red” I think.

We also went to several book and magazine shops before heading home. I discovered this heavy tome in Oscar’s Art Books on Broadway near Granville (right across the street from the monolithic Chapter’s book store):

The book is actually wider than this but it wouldn't fit on my scanner bed. It was super-expensive but what a fabulous resource for a bead-lover! “Beadwork: A World Guide” by Caroline Crabtree and Pam Stallebrass (Rizzoli, 2002) is a huge book full of colour pictures of pieces (both ethnic and historical) all created using seed beads. (There’s even two pages on Greenlander beadwork! When I was researching that subject I didn’t find much info available.) The last section explains many of the bead stitches used in the pieces. It’s pretty rudimentary but probably helpful to someone without much knowledge of how beadwork is actually done. Someone with more knowledge just has to ogle all the lovely pictures to be very inspired! I think this is a book that will take some time to be savoured and slowly digested. It’s so yummy and rich. Yes, I know. I should start a chapter of Bibliophiles Anonymous but the trouble is I don’t want to be cured.

I’ve been specially requested to mention the Sock Competition at Fibrefest (March 31/April 1 at the Tradex, Abbotsford, BC). This exciting event is a first for Fibrefest and will be judged by the public with the prize a “knit-as-you-go bag”. It’s all in fun so every level of ability can feel free to join in and submit socks. They don’t have to be perfect because nobody is going to check every stitch. Socks can be dropped off at the Cortes Island Homespun booth at the fest or mailed to Jan Curtis. Email her at curtis at oberon dot ark dot com (you know how to make all the usual substitutions there) for more information. I hope to have a pair or two ready to enter though of course I’m going to need to use some of my socks for my demo talks! And don’t forget to join in the Spin-In and Knit-Out on the Saturday 10am to 2pm. It’s going to be a fun festival!

Friday, March 10, 2006

First Snow Then Sun

Boy, is it ever bright out there when the sun shines on snow instead of wet grass, sidewalks, dirt, and blacktop. I now remember why those who live where there’s a winter full of snow don’t suffer as badly from Seasonal Affective Disorder as those of us who live in the soggy wet. (It’s not surprising that the top specialist in this field is from our own University of British Columbia.) However, the snow is melting fast. This is what it looked like on my top deck this morning.

Now it’s a puddle of sloppy slush. Brilliantly reflective slush. I can actually see the dirt on the floors that I missed when I vacuumed yesterday. Unfortunately it’s too wet to sit out at my favourite table today to knit and read the paper. Oh well. I did a workout on this instead.

I love listening to podcasts while I do my 20 minutes on the elliptical trainer. Time goes by so quickly and almost painlessly that way. Picture me with my eyes closed. There’s nothing much to look at in the laundry room/dye & glass studio anyway. In case you’re wondering, those steps and that little door go into the cold room/wine cellar under the front stairs. Like an extra huge refrigerator this time of year!

Remember my Indoor Garden? Some of my little seedlings are coming up already. That was fast. Good thing I checked them to see if they needed water because some of them also needed to come out from under their blankies to get some light! Gardening in the house is so rewarding. No slugs. No wireworms. No snow. However I did harvest a fistful of flower bud shoots (look like rapini) today from some broccoli-ish plant that managed to make it through the winter in my garden. I’m not even sure what it is (something in the Chinese/Japanese greens family) but it’ll make a nice stir-fried or steamed veggie. There’s still quite a few big leeks too which I had better harvest before they bolt. Last year was my first experience growing leeks and surprise! — they’re easy-peasy. Who knew?

In fibre news, I’m heading for the toes on the Ninja’s Tabi Socks. These darn things are so big and I knit so slowly. I’m a bit nervous about knitting the split toe but I found a pattern in the Twisted Sisters Sock Workbook and also one at SpunMag. (BTW, the new issue of SpunMag should be up soon. Finally.) Between these two patterns I should be able to extrapolate a bigger size. I’m pretty familiar with making glove fingers and this isn’t much different.

Our fun Spectrum colour/dyeing/surface design study group is meeting tomorrow. We’re going to make some quick-and-dirty stamps to use with fabric paint on cloth. You take pieces of foam core board and glue string or craft foam shapes onto it. Painting over the string with acrylic paint makes it more durable. The best part of this group is the camaraderie and the potluck lunch! Looking forward to it.

Pardon me while I test a damselfly picture here. I'm trying to learn more about manipulating things on my blog.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

It's Winter Again

Exciting storm we had last night! I actually waited up until the T-Man got home from his night school class because I was concerned about the road conditions. It was really windy and snowing/sleeting. I spent about 20 minutes watching the snow in the light of the streetlamp fall up and sideways and swirly and fast and slow alternately. It was fascinating! Right now we have a wee bit of snow falling but not much more on the ground than in the photo from yesterday. There’s trees and branches down in some areas of the city but no damage around here. It’s still “unsettled” though so who knows what will happen later today.

Rant Alert!
I was reading various blogs last night and came upon a crocheter who was complaining that she had been treated badly at several LYS when they found out that she crocheted instead of knit. I don’t get it. Yummy yarns and large stashes are important to both crafts. One craft isn’t more or less “proper” than the other. Many people even do both, like me. So what’s the problem? Where did this snotty attitude towards crochet come from? I’ve never experienced anything like it myself. If I did, the perpetrator would certainly get an earful from me!

Are there any particular crafts that you look down your nose at? Somebody mentioned scrapbooking as one of those. And I’ve heard/read disparaging comments about tole painting and decoupage. How about crocheted toilet paper roll covers? That’s even looked down upon by some crochet folks! Glue guns, googly eyes, pom-poms, glitter, and pipe cleaners? Where does your “craft tolerance” end? Or does it really matter if people are enjoying putting things together and creating works that please themselves alone? We can’t all be Kaffe Fassett or Pablo Picasso or even Martha Stewart (though she has a herd of peons who assist her). Why not encourage people to create, learn more, improve, be inspired, and enjoy whatever floats their boat? Think positive rather than negative. Be open-minded and accepting. Even if it’s not your cup of tea, at least they’re making something and discovering the joys of creating. That’s essential. Those I worry about are the ones who don’t make anything at all.
End of Rant.

Check out this gorgeous ball of sock yarn I got at my LYS. Isn’t it fun? Each strand of the 4 plies variegates differently and they’re my favourite fall colours. This is a 100g ball which will make a pair (for me anyway) but if I want to do my usual knitting on both socks alternately, I’m going to have to wind half of it off into a second ball. No idea if I can match them yet either, but I don’t really mind if they’re different. As long as they’re very different instead of just a little bit different. Shall I try a pattern stitch instead of my usual plain knit? Wait a minute! I’m not allowed to start another pair until I’ve finished both the Tabi Socks and the Jaywalker Socks. So there.

Speaking of socks, I’ve just been asked to do a half-hour talk at Fibrefest on both days. I decided to discuss all the different ways to knit socks, but since I only knit them one way most of the time, I’m not going to have that many examples to show. But I can print out some pictures and point out the differences. Also I can discuss the various sock yarns and about spinning good yarns for socks. It’s a big and complex subject that should keep me yapping for the whole time without any problem.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Ranting & Raving

OK I’ve seen it all now. This is The Most Expensive Skein of Yarn I’ve ever seen — $61 US for 145 yards of nice-but-not-too-exciting-with-a-few-beads. There’s only ONE ball in existence apparently. Not enough for a whole sweater. Awww…

Oh wait. There’s more — skeins of handspun funk yarn that are smaller but also super expensive. How about this one that looks like first-effort yarn from my beginner spinning class only multicoloured for a mere $31 US for a whopping 60 yards. Check them all out and wonder.

No-no-no, THIS is The Most Expensive Skein of Yarn — $125 US for 56 yards. Of course it weighs 6.6 ounces so it’s pretty fat stuff. The spinner known as Pluckyfluff is the queen of the wild yarn spinners and she does have a following who will pay her prices. I’d like to get her book demonstrating her techniques but even that is too expensive for me. Though I’ve contemplated it a time or two.

People, it would be a whole lot cheaper to pay me to teach you how to spin your own! After a few skeins even the price of a spinning wheel will be recouped. Of course, more power to those intrepid entrepreneurs who can get that kind of money for their yarn. I wonder if the market is limited though. Time will tell. Knitting is hot right now with the young-’uns who would be attracted to the funkier one-of-a-kind yarns but they tend to have a short attention span. Maybe my view is warped because I’ve been spinning myself for 30 years or so? Anyway I’m much more impressed with the marketing than the actual spinning involved.

Such lovely weather we’re having today. It snowed on the daffodils and cherry blossoms. I’m not inspired to do anything in my garden, which looked like this:

Yeah, I know that’s not much snow but it’s wet and dark and cold and windy. Ick. A big storm is on the way right now so even worse weather is expected later today. So I gardened inside and got all my earliest seeds started. This included broccoli, rapini, onions, leeks, peppers, parsley, cilantro, lettuce, mixed baby greens (arugula, mizuna, several more lettuces, and endive), and flowers (marigolds, ageratum, lobelia, and coreopsis). T-Man kindly washed out all the flats for me yesterday. What a guy! See the seedlies all tucked into their little beds with their blankies (newspaper) on top:

Oh yeah. You can't see them because they're underneath the Georgia Straight newspaper. (I've been reading this free weekly since I was 17.) I took this photo without the light on but it stays on to give them some heat. Later when they sprout I’ll take off the blankies and leave them in their little plastic-covered mini-greenhouses for awhile until they’re big enough to uncover all the way. I take out chunks of the supporting wood under the shelves as they grow to keep them below the lights, which go off at night when the seedlies are up so they can have a nap. When they outgrow their little seeding flats, I replant them in bigger pots (or in the same ones except deeper and farther apart) with potting soil instead of starter medium. In a couple of weeks I’ll start the next bunch: tomatoes, eggplant, basil, more cilantro, and dill. Later there’s cucumbers, summer squash, and sunflowers. The only things I plant straight into the garden are peas and beans. And I have to cover the peas with nets or the birds eat them off as they come up. I’m not bothering with potatoes this year since we don’t eat many any more and they never do as well as they should thanks to flea beetles.

It seems like a lot of work, but mostly it’s not a big deal. And we get to munch on the yummies in the garden all summer. “Pick ’em and eat ’em before they scream!” You can grow things that aren’t easily available in the grocery stores and you know they are fresh with no nasty pesticides. I only consider my produce as “semi-organic” because I do use a wee bit of artificial fertilizer when the seedlings are growing in the flats. Other than that they get fish fertilizer, some chicken and steer manure, and lots of compost.

We also have blueberries and blackberries and rhubarb. You can see the nicely pruned blackberry bushes on the back fence in the photo. Those suckers grow 12 feet in a summer! They attack cars driving by in the lane and eat small children and dogs…wait. I just wish they’d eat dogs. Particularly the large noisy ones next door that get let out right near my bedroom just when I’m trying to go to sleep every night. But I digress. (Learned that phrase from the T-Man.) The neighbours get much of the fruit on the outside of the fence except for the ones that are hard to reach. Why is it that picking somebody’s flowers without asking is frowned upon but it’s ok to pick their blackberries? Not just a nibble as they walk by, but with buckets? Some kind of hunter-gatherer remnant in our back-brains? So where are these people when T-Man is out there trying to prune back the prickly things, eh? Nowhere to be seen. But I again digress. We also have two blueberry bushes that give us plenty of yummy berries to eat and freeze and occasionally give a bag or two away. The nut trees (hazelnut, walnut, and chestnut) are a write-off thanks to the darned squirrels. And more neighbourly snitching in the case of the chestnuts. So much for my “city farm” attempts. But at least we get to enjoy a few fruits of our labours.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Musings In The Rain

“Craft is what I do all day; art is what I have at the end of it."
Harlan House, Ontario potter (He was born here in Vancouver.)

This is just another point of view — one that I happen to share, though most of my stuff remains craft at the end of the day nonetheless. A lot of Harlan’s art could be considered functional, but darned if I’d drink tea out of his gorgeous delicate celadon porcelain tea cups! I’d love to own one though…

It’s a grey and occasionally rainy day today. It felt strange to hear the rain on the roof as I was trying to sleep last night. Guess we haven’t had a lot of rain recently when I’ve been awake enough to notice.However, it is becoming spring-like very quickly. See?

This is the sidewalk beside a house that’s a couple of blocks from me. The owner is a gardener by trade and I always enjoy passing through what feels like a woodland glade instead of a city street. I check to see what interesting flowers or leaves are showing as the seasons progress. His backyard is just as interesting but it’s a hidden treasure behind that big old fence. (I peeked!) We could do something like that beside our house since it’s in the same orientation of southwest corner, but we don’t have a sidewalk on our boulevard. Just grass…er…moss. Our plantings are starting to impinge on the city property side of our line as we expand our garden. But it seems unfair that we would have to pay for a path or sidewalk either if we put it in or the city did. As a matter of fact, it would very likely cost us considerably more for the city to do it. People walk by on the grass all the time but it would be nice to have a meandering path.

This is a city-scape that I took last Friday. I was standing on Yukon Street kitty-corner from our city hall and looking north. You can’t really tell that there’s False Creek (really an inlet) between the construction cranes and the downtown highrises, can you? That area right beside the south end of the Cambie Bridge is getting a facelift these days. There are four (count ‘em!) cranes in this one little photo.

And some actual fibre stuff just to prove I still care: the Tabi Socks so far. I screwed up the heel flap on the second sock so I’m a bit behinder than I should be. These are pretty big — the Ninja has bigger feet than his dad. I’m glad I bought the third ball of yarn because this time I’m certain I’m going to need it.

I know I haven’t gotten back to telling you about the new podcasts, but I’ve still been listening to them. And there’s more coming all the time! The Weavecast is well done, though only up to Episode 1 (really 2, but the first one is Episode 0). I was thrilled to find out that host Syne Mitchell interviewed my old buddy Judith MacKenzie-McCuin. (Sorry, Judith’s website hasn’t been updated recently. She’s much more low-tech than hi-tech!) I haven’t listened to that podcast yet — I’m waiting for the right moment. Syne’s first podcast was very good however, as it should be since she’s a published writer. (Of sci-fi books. I bought her latest one for T-Man. It seemed more up his alley than mine.) She promises to post a WIF for the draft of each weaving project she discusses and there’s one up already for a baby blanket. I also have to mention that I love her Celtic Funk theme music! Somebody likes my kind of music.

Monday, March 06, 2006

A Lick And A Promise

I've been super busy for the last few days and just haven't had time to get around to posting. I've been shopping up a storm and got (among other items) some sheets and pillowcases for my bed (in black and red!), veggie and flower seeds for the garden, several books and magazines, some new clothes for myself and a few for the T-Man. Yes, I actually found some clothes that I liked and were within my price range (aka cheeeep) at the Bay of all places. Black cotton/lycra seems to be the fabric that attracted me. I got 2 pairs of loose elastic-waisted pants, a little jacket with zips, and a fine-ribbed snap-front cardy that all work together. Plus 2 industrial-strength sports bras for the elliptical trainer and 4 pairs of comfy panties in red, purple, lavender, and black. At another mall outlet I found a couple of long racer-back sleeveless ribbed T's in black and red. I wear these as undershirts in winter, as exercise wear, and as a top in summer and my vintage ones are wearing out. All-in-all much more successful than my usual clothes shopping trips which usually end up me coming home empty-handed or with just one item.

Now I'm making a new database of my seeds collection in my Palm. This will make it really easy to keep track of what I have and what I need next year. I need to get a bunch of things started under the lights in the basement. I rarely plant directly in the garden except for peas and beans because the seedlings just get chomped off as soon as they appear. If they're a few inches tall they have a bit more of a chance to survive. The tomatoes and peppers are allowed to get quite big and even start to flower before they go in the garden. When they run out of room under the lights they graduate to the little cold frame on my deck and thence to the garden when it warms up enough.

I actually harvested a bit out of my garden already. There are several herbs including my lovely rosemary (which is getting ready to bloom), parsley, and chives (garlic and regular) plus quite a few leeks. The purple sprouting broccoli looks too small to do much this year but we'll see. I'll try to plant it earlier this time so it's bigger before it gets cold. It should be at least a foot tall by Halloween and it's barely that now. Some years things don't grow quite as well as others.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Thursday Blatherings

I made the March First challenge deadline for my mermaid doll’s in-progress photo shoot. Here she is with her tail finished. (Yes, both sides!) Her name is Ulva which is sea lettuce. Next up: her arms and hair. Final deadline isn’t until May 1, so she just might be taking a break while I finish up some more things. I have a March 31 deadline for the Complex Weavers Kumihimo spring swap, which is a card embellishment. I only have a couple of weeks to do this and I’m really not inspired in any way. Bummer. It’s not so much fun when you’re doing it just because you feel you have to rather than because you want to.

What else? I’m up to the heel turn on both Ninja Socks. I have to get past that point on at least one of them so I can knit at my fibre arts guild meeting tonight. Mindless knitting is best for meetings. Otherwise I end up making a mistake and having to frog it the next day which makes it kind of pointless.

An interesting thing happened to me today. I was looking all over for my Del Mar fingerless mitts. (You remember those? Burgundy-ish handspun? With sparkles?) And I couldn’t find the darn things anywhere. I hadn’t worn them in a couple of weeks but my hands were cold. I still wanted to knit and the fingerless mitts are perfect for that. So I gave up looking in frustration until T-Man came home from work. I asked him if he had seen them anywhere. No. So I climb the stairs back to my study, turn around once, and scream — there they are on top of the marudai (Japanese braiding stool) in the corner by the closet door. I’d walked past them several times while hunting but didn’t see them. Did I mention that T-Man just has to walk near something to fix it? I think his gift is expanding into Lost-and-Found as well as Fix-It. Shhh…don’t tell anybody or they’ll want to kidnap him to use his gift for their own ends…

Geek Alert! Run. Hide. Cover your eyes, all you techno-peasants.

I did promise to give a review of the new podcasts that I found yesterday. However (do I hear a sigh of relief from you Non-Geeks, assuming you’re still reading?) I didn’t get a chance to listen to more than one. That one was really interesting though! CraftSanity is hosted by Jennifer, who seems to be interested in a wide range of fibre crafts. Her format is an interview with interesting craft people and the Episode 1 that I listened to (over an hour long!) she’s chatting with Regina (aka Linoleum Lady) the artist behind Monster Crochet. It was a very thoughtful discussion about art/craft and where it fits in our lives and a lot more. Regina’s work is very….ummm…shall we say, odd. But too cool! If you don’t get how to subscribe to podcasts, you can just click on the link to hear the MP3 audio. Or right-click and download it to your computer first and then click on the filename to bring up your resident player. I’m looking forward to hearing the rest of the episodes. There’s 6 up to the end of February including my old buddy John Murphy of Stupid Sock Creatures fame. Jennifer has been a busy lady! That’s a lot of podcasts in only a month or so.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

The UFO Dilemma

Blogger isn't letting me post pictures right now, so don't blame me if this post is word-heavy! I started to write this as a reply to an email message from one of the YahooGroups I’m on, but the more I wrote the more it looked like a good blog post instead. So here it is — plus more.

I think we get too many UFOs when our desires become more than our time and hands can produce. We get excited about something new. Plus if something goes awry with a current project we want to go on to something else when we can't figure out how to fix it right away. Unless you are really super-disciplined (ok, downright anal) you're going to have a bunch of UFOs no matter how hard you try to avoid them. But sometimes your pile of UFOs can be a drain on your psyche, to say nothing of your storage space. So my thought is to kind of strike a balance between the desire to start new things and the need to finish old ones. Yeah, if only it was that easy. However I do have a few strategies and I'm trying to put them into practice.

I've discovered that there are some things in the UFO pile that will never-ever-in-my-lifetime get finished. I've vowed to either take them apart in order to reuse the materials in something else or (horrors!) Chuck Them Out! I thought about passing them on to somebody else but let's face it, everybody has their own UFOs — they don't want yours too.

OK that gets rid of some of your UFOs. The next bunch are almost-but-not-quite-finished. Maybe the bloom was gone on the romance with the idea or something else came and swept you off your feet. Whatever. These will be quick to check off the list because they're almost done! So either do it -- or see the previous paragraph.

The hardest things to eliminate from the UFO pile are the ones that aren't quite working out but still have potential. Sometimes after a good long separation from it, the cure will suddenly occur to you. Or you might go in a different direction entirely from where you left off. Or you just gird your loins, buckle down, and finish the darn thing. The latter works best for those projects that aren't really bad but just boring and tedious. Tease yourself to finish by offering incentives like "If I do X-amount of this, then I can do something more exciting for X-amount of time". Repeat until it's done. Remind yourself that it's the process that really counts anyway. If all else fails, threaten it with Reduction Into Spare Parts or The Round File.

Now if only I could take my own advice, eh?

Further to the UFO list is the Desire List. It's almost as long but doesn't take up as much room because it's all in my head or at most in my Design & Inspiration Book. Have I mentioned my Book? It’s just a fat 3-ring binder (and soon becoming TWO fat 3-ring binders) full of stuff that I started in the Fall of 2004. There are two major parts: the Ideas section and the Finished Objects section. It’s obvious why it’s going to be two books — there’s an easy division and it’s getting too full. All I have to do is take the second section out and give it its own binder. I’ll have to make coordinating cover insertions for it too. This one will be for each project as I finish it. I write it up, add photos, print it out on cardstock, and attach any relevant swatches or snippets to the pages. It’s all there for reference when I plan future projects or when I think I haven’t really done anything lately.

Other Stuff

Go check out the new Spring issue of Spindlicity just up today.

And tomorrow I’ll mention some more podcasts that I’ve been listening to while beading. There are getting to be so many now: mostly knitting, some general crafts, and just for you, Susan darlin’, there’s a weaving one! There’s only one episode so far however but I'm sure there will be more coming.