Friday, April 28, 2006

Nifty New Tool And An FO

I’ve had it for awhile but I haven’t used it much yet. It’s called a Versa-Tool from these guys. I got it at my local Michael’s store. I thought that I’d had my braiding stool (marudai) that T-Man made me for quite awhile (since 1997!) but he didn’t sign it. So I got out my trusty woodburning tip and wrote his name, the date, and my name on the bottom of my marudai. That was so fun! I want more wood things to burn! Pyrography here I come. Oh-oh. I’m already craft-overwhelmed. Better not go there. I could use this thing to singe the edges of fabric for art quilting. Or to cut out stencils from plastic. Or make embossed designs in velvet. Lots of uses. Long as I don’t singe myself with it that is.

Today I finished my beaded mermaid doll that I started way back at the end of January. Her name is Ulva (sea lettuce). See, she wanted to go for a swim in my water garden but I thought it would mess up her novelty yarn hair. The Great Auk, who lives at the edge of my water garden, gave her a shoulder to lean on while she perused the glass bubbles. Thinking better of her swim (after all, it’s only fresh water) she’s now residing on my desk until I can think of a better way to display her.

Next I’m going to start another beaded art doll, this time with a Celestial theme. I need to make the face and body form and pick out the beads before the May 1 deadline. I’m going for a Moon and this one will be small and completely bead-covered.

Meanwhile, I’m still braiding my ties for the Vogue Knitting top/vest Thingy. I still think the shoulder straps are too long for me, but that’s what I get for following the directions exactly. Might still be wearable though. Maybe. After this I’m going to finish at least one of the current pairs of socks and then start on the sleeveless shell I was originally planning on making. Quick before it gets too hot to wear it. (Wishful thinking, that.) I’m hoping I have enough yarn since there’s no hope of getting any more. Guess I’ll have to swatch some before I start and I plan to do it in the round eliminating unnecessary side seams. Since there’s some increasing going on at the sides, I’ll be using stitch markers to keep my place. More on this later. Writing about it is making me want to start right in. Not good.

What else? Oh yeah, T-Man put this arbour up over the side gate yesterday for the clematis. Hopefully we can convince the Jackmanii (deep violet) on the right to let go of the pieris and lean the other way. The Ville de Lyon (magenta pink) on the left with roots in the geranium is only a year old and much smaller so it shouldn’t be so hard to convince. This is going to look really pretty when it’s grown up more. The arbour will help the gate stay more sturdy too. It tends to wobble. We’re getting closer to planting the greenhouse. There’s Moo Poo in there now and the garden is dug.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Ergonomic Crosstraining

That’s what Syne at WeaveCast calls it when you do more than one craft. Yes, that’s IT! I knew there was a reason other than that I have the crafty version of ADD. Right. Sure.

I finished the wacko vest/top thingy from Vogue Knitting and guess what? It’s most definitely wacko. Even my increase and decrease stitch choices were somewhat inconsistent. Nobody would be able to tell though unless you get really close! Since the cotton/linen yarn was really old, I washed it in Orvus and ran it through the washer’s spin cycle to get out the excess water, then blocked it out on towels to finish drying. That’s where it is at the moment letting the air do its thing. Meanwhile I’m making a kumihimo braid for the sides. It’s an 8-element braid called Kusari Kaku Yatsu (which means “chained square eight” and it’s only got 4 moves. Very simple. It kind of looks like it’s knitted with V’s up each side of the square cross-section. I’m braiding with a single strand of yarn on each bobbin and I added an extra ounce of weight to the counterweight for a total of 11 ounces to make it a bit softer and not so stiff. I hope to put some beads on the ends after I thread the ties through the knitting. This thingy doesn’t cover much anatomy so it’s definitely an embellishment piece. Like a torso-sized necklace. No idea where I’ll ever wear it. I’ll await my opportunity. Picture coming as soon as it's really finished.

I also made a pair of silver wire and bead earrings today. T-Man’s beads are rarely made in pairs but these two go together well enough. They’re dark red-brown with an “orange” raku frit speckled on. The frit is mostly earthy ochre colours rather than the bright orange you might be picturing. I think they came out rather well and I have to give credit to Stephanie of A Realization In Texture, Color And Movement…blog for the design idea. They were very quick to make and I got to use my pliers and my hammer and my bench block and my cup burr — Tool Time!

I have to teach the first lesson for a new group of newbie Beginner Spinners tonight. There’s only 5 so we should be able to manage OK. I hope. Hafta go eat something and fortify myself first though. The first night is always the hardest.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

I Knew It All Along

Today I’m too tired to blog. I’ve done 4 loads of laundry, changed the bedsheets and vacuumed the whole house. For fun I tried a Blogthing. And it’s totally true!

You Are Fall!






Monday, April 24, 2006

On Earth Day...

…we built a greenhouse. Well, it actually took all weekend and it was A Lot Of Work! It was like a giant jigsaw puzzle made out of plastic and aluminum. Oh, and crossed with one of those games where you slide the pieces around until they’re in the right order. But we were a team, I tell you! Nobody lost their temper (much) and very few swear words were heard. Out loud anyway. Lots of beer and cider and pizza consumed. A few pulled muscles and grazed skin. A little sunburn and lots of sweat. This baby is never going anywhere ever again. I just hope my tomatoes, eggplants, and peppers appreciate what we did for them and grow really happily in there. We won’t talk about how many vegetables I could buy for the price of that sucker. Even if it was on sale. Ahem.

Ain’t it gorgeous! Yes, it’s huge — 12 feet long by 6 feet wide. No glass to break under falling pears or injudiciously wielded shovels. Two opening vents and lots of room to stand up in. Now all we have to do is re-dig the soil that we indiscriminately trampled, add some compost and/or manure, and plant. Right.

Yay! I have an FO to report! I foolishly started but very quickly finished the Fibermania Shawl that I started on Thursday. It’s warm and fuzzy and I’m wearing it right now! And no, Angela, I’m not confused! I might be incorrect about whether or not you dyed that yarn yourself, but it was you who gave it to me, hon’. Remember the Fish Ornament you made a couple of Christmases ago? Hey I might get some people mixed up but not you and Felicia and I didn’t even know her then. So there. (Shall I post a picture of the fish to remind you? It’s cute and hanging in my dining room!) Here’s the shawl lounging on the deck. I couldn’t get a good picture of it on me since my resident alternative photographer is at work. How do people take pictures of themselves in the mirror anyway? Here’s my results. No it’s not your eyes — it’s definitely fuzzy. (Note that thing behind me is my loom, in reverse, in the background. I will finish that warp. Soon.)

What else? Oh yeah, the wacko vest/top thingy is split back into two pieces again. I delayed splitting it for a little ways past where the pattern dictated (the only deviation so far) because the division seemed to come up too high. Not that I plan to wear it without something substantial under it anyway. I’ll try to get more done on it today. I want to finish!

The weather has been fabulous all weekend and into today — almost hot and very sunny. We actually had to wear sunscreen and hats while working on the greenhouse. The daffodils are mostly finished and the tulips are out in full force. My lilacs are budding but they’ve only just started to come out. Just as well for my hay fever though I adore the scent. Spring is well along now and everybody is loving the sunshine after all the rainy cold days we’ve had lately. I think things started out ahead of schedule but then slowed down so that now we’re a bit behind normal budding and blooming for this time of year. Some years the lilacs are finished by Mother’s Day which is only 3 weeks away. Pardon me while I go knit in the sunshine and listen to a few more podcasts. I can never seem to catch up. There's new ones coming all the time.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Oh Heck!

Why is it that we finally get a nice sunny spring day and I feel like crap? I have a migraine, the-usual-Advils-aren’t-even-touching-it kind of migraine. And the sun is too bright for my eyes. So I’m hiding up here in my study (so what else is new, you say?) and trying to get some work done. I haven’t had a migraine in quite awhile. I was hoping that my slightly odd version of menopause was going to take care of most of them. Don’t have a clue what caused this one, unless it was a lack of my usual glass of wine with dinner last night? Nah, can’t be that. Sushi? Doesn’t give me headaches. Not enough tea in my system? Nope, I’m sloshing. No idea but it sucks anyway. Hopefully it’ll go away if I pay it no further attention. But I’m still using it for an excuse to avoid vacuuming the house.

So what is odd about menopause for me? Hey, I’m missing out on all the “fun” my contemporaries describe! No hot flashes, no mental mush, no crabbiness, no real difference except no periods since last November. And less migraines. Unfortunately not NO migraines. Could be worse, yes? I actually feel better than I have in probably decades. Told you it was an odd menopause. But then my periods were also odd: highly unpredictable, crampy, spotting, headaches, PMS. And forget Me and The Pill. Yikes! It almost caused a divorce. Luckily I only needed it between kids because after number two I got my tubes tied. Nice to have all the reproducing over with by age 24! And my weird periods didn’t stop me from getting pregnant when I wanted to. Yeah, I’m kinda strange. I live with it.

Now what was I going to say before I interrupted myself? Migraine-fuzzed brain. Oh yeah. I did a silly thing and joined a KAL. I don’t do knit-alongs normally but I decided that sometimes I need deadlines. And there’s always exceptions to every rule, right? This one is a nice long deadline too: fall. I’m knitting Cookie’s Pomatomus socks along with a bunch of other nice people and Candace (Twisted Thistle) has a lovely little button to go with this KAL. I’ll put it in my sidebar so it’s clickable in case anybody wants to join in. I need more socks right? No??

Meanwhile I’m behind on my mermaid beaded doll. I have to hurry because her deadline is May 1st and I’ve said I would go right into the next Beaded Art Doll challenge: Celestial. I have ideas. Must make a body and a face. Also I’m cruising up, I mean down the front on my wacko Vogue Knitting vest/top thingy. It’s faster now that it’s back in one piece rather than working on the two shoulder straps alternately. I’ve turned the heels on the current Mindless Socks and I…er…started another knitted project. I shouldn’t have, but I did. I got 2 balls of this soft variegated novelty fur yarn called Kickx by Moda Dea (Coats) at Dressew. (They never had much in the way of yarns before. This is new.) It’s the colourway called Lucky which is pretty much a slightly muted rainbow. I’ve teamed it with an unknown wool yarn hand-dyed by my friend Angela in oranges and I’m loving the look. I’m knitting Melody Johnson’s simple tie-on fuzzy shawl. Her website Fibermania is great but I can't find the URL for the shawl. If you have to hunt for it you’ll get to see all her wonderful art quilts on her fabu (as Mel would say) blog. You might just forget what you were there for. So I’m cold. I want this shawl now.

Wait! There’s more! I also took Nancy, my knitting spool, and started what will become (I hope) a necklace/scarf thingy with attached tendrils and flowers and leaves. I’m using a ball of yarn that was one of my demo skeins in my dye class. It’s a bit heavy for Nancy to handle (she’s rather a slender girl) which means that I have to go back and loosen up the stitches every now and then so I can keep working. Which is making for some uneven tension. I do plan to felt it somewhat though so that should help. More info on Nancies here. When I started this I had a real flashback to when I was 8 years old, sitting on a quiet bench at school at recess or lunch break or something working away on my knitting spool which looked pretty similar to this one. I made a couple of things with the resulting “ropes” aka “horse reins” such as a hot pad for mom and a weird hat that I never wore. Probably also tying up my younger sisters...but I digress. Truthfully I just liked the action of going around and around and didn’t really need to make anything specific. It was the process that counted. BTW, some people go around clockwise and some widdershins. I’m a widdershins corker myself. (Corking, french knitting, and spool knitting are alternative names for this technique.) Yes, I could knit I-Cord with knitting needles but this is more fun! No I don’t have ADD, though the number of current projects may whisper otherwise. I’m just easily bored with projects and I need a lot of variety. It's to keep my wrists, neck, and shoulders from getting too sore. Right.

Last but not least, here’s my pieris in full bloom which includes the gorgeous red new leaves. These shrubs are about 10 feet tall and have been pruned so they aren’t even taller! They’re one of the plants that doesn’t mind growing underneath my walnut tree. We have another baby one with red flowers but they don’t seem as hardy as the white variety. Pieris japonica are in the heather family and love our acid soil, along with rhododendrons, azaleas, camellias, and blueberries. Your horticultural lesson for the day. Back to my knitting.

Wait! Check out SpunMag — they’ve finally overcome all difficulties and have an issue out today. Yay! Get on their mailing list if you don’t want to keep checking back for new stuff. Just a hint.

Thursday, April 20, 2006


Today we have a theme. I discovered this button on Knit and Tonic’s blog and it made me think about how many socks I’ve knit in my lifetime. I knit my first pair in 1987 but I also won a prize for the handspun set that included them. That was cool! But since then I think I’ve only knit about 31 or so pairs, most of them in the last year or so since I discovered self-patterning sock yarns and the fact that they are a lot harder to wear out than my old ones. Before that I used handspun yarn which took time to create and then they wore holes, got patched, wore more holes, and sat in the sock repair drawer until I either mended them or forgot about them. (More likely the latter.) That first pair in a Bohus-type stranded pattern has now morphed into a little purse:

And I can knit plain socks in my sleep — except for the heels and the occasional dropped stitch. But anything more complicated and I have big trouble finishing them. I make tons of mistakes and have to frog back. I can only work on them while not doing anything else, which definitely doesn’t happen often. So why do I like to knit anything else besides plain socks? For the variety. Just to prove I can. To drive me back to plain socks from the frustration. I currently have something like 5 or 6 pairs on needles and only one of them is getting knitted on. You guessed it! The plain-knit socks. Sheesh.

While we’re on the socks theme, I thought I’d mention my all-time favourite sock knitting book. “Sensational Knitted Socks” by Charlene Schurch. With this book you’ll never need another sock pattern. She covers all the things I would have if I’d written it first, and then some. Top-down, toe-up, plain and fancy, ribbings, pattern stitches, charts, and tips — it’s all there. Except how to pay attention to what you’re knitting. I think she expects me to figure that one out on my own.

So since I always have several pairs of socks on the go, I guess that makes me a member of the Sock Nation too. I’ll put these buttons on my sidebar later. The only way I know how to do that is to put them in a post first. More buttons to come. I hope.

Off to my weavers’ & spinners’ guild meeting this evening. We’re having a talk from Julia Mantius from Oleana Norwegian sweaters. Should be interesting. The sweaters are nice with machine knit colour patterning but kind of pricey so I don’t think I’ll be buying anything.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Used It!

OK I finally used my new serger for something other than teeny little samples. I took a mock-neck long-sleeved t-shirt that I had scrunch-dyed (greens and browns — I could hide in the shrubbery) and that definitely no longer fit me (if it ever did) and remade it into a very much nicer and more fitted t-shirt. I took a newish t-shirt in the modern “girly” shape that I have and used it for a pattern. I cut off the sleeves on the old t-shirt, redrew the armscye and the side seams, and re-set the sleeve and stitched up the sides. And bob’s-your-uncle! I’ve finally got something that doesn’t look like a reject from the Sally Ann. It only took about an hour and part of that was rethreading the machine and testing the stitching on scraps to get the settings right. The neat thing was I made use of the differential feed and the 4-thread overedge stitch, neither of which my old serger has. This made me feel that the new one is truly justified. From this experiment I can make a paper pattern and use it to fix more of my oldie-but-goodie t-shirts. Cool. I love recycling.

Today I’d like to chat about one of the books I recently purchased:

Book 3: Color by Sally Melville, subtitled The Power and The Glory (love that!) and the third in a series of instructional books The Knitting Experience. I don’t own the first two: The Knit Stitch and The Purl Stitch mostly because I thought they were too beginner level for me. Even though I love the big asymmetrical garter stitch sweater on the cover of The Knit Stitch, I resisted! There weren’t enough other things in the books to catch my interest. However, I got snagged by this one and found even more than I bargained for while reading the book. Sally’s designs are quite nice, though some are starting to look a bit dated due to the lack of a close fit that’s now more in style. (Note my efforts to fit my t-shirts more closely above!) But the skills sections are very clear and I learned a lot about why my stranded knitting wasn’t looking as good as I’d like. Sally discusses it all for both left and right-hand throwers and using both hands and even alternatives like having one colour around your neck. Velly intellesting! There’s a section on variegated yarns and using the different types of variegations. I also liked the sections called Meditations, particularly the ones on learning and time. Lastly, the photo essay in the back on the crew’s filming trip to Greece was kind of fun. These aren’t things you’d normally find in a knitting pattern book, are they? Don’t know if I’ll make anything out of this book, but I’m still pondering what I’ve learned from it.

What else? Oh yeah, I got a call today to say our greenhouse we ordered arrived in the store. T-Man’s gone to get it in the van as I type. This is a substitute for the tomato house that has seen better days. The uprights are starting to rot and the plastic needs to be replaced. Though we may just put it up too and use it to keep the excess peppers and eggplants covered and warmer than they would be out in the regular garden. Depends on how much fits into the greenhouse first. We have been looking for one that doesn’t include glass for a couple of years now. We have this problem with the huge old pear tree next door that drops pears from 50 feet up like bombs. Anything glass (or your head) is going to get damaged during the dangerous season. And we won’t even discuss the wasps that get drunk on the rotting pears. I keep my epi-pen handy but I still don’t relish another trip to the ER. As I mentioned in a post last year, tomatoes must be under cover here if you want to get any before the late blight gets them first. Whole plants rot into black goo almost overnight. Not a pretty sight. You have to keep your plants dry, except for their roots of course. The blight splashes up from the soil onto the plant leaves and even landscape fabric doesn’t help much to prevent it. Only covering them over well with a roof seems to keep the disease at bay, though some people have had success in pots with sterilized potting mix. That might be ok for a couple of plants but I usually grow at least a dozen or more. Yep, me loves me my tomatoes — especially the little oval ones called “Juliet”. Cherry tomatoes shaped like miniature paste tomatoes with some of those traits including more flesh and less juice. Yum. Can’t wait until summer! Meanwhile the plants are getting too big for the space under the lights in the basement. They’ll be going into the greenhouse as soon as it’s ready.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Tiny Treasures

Started: April 17, 2006
Completed: April 18, 2006

Pattern: originally in Quilting Arts magazine, Winter 2005. Revised instructions

Comments: I used 2 pieces of monoprinted fabrics that I did at my Spectrum surface design study group. I used blue with purple printing for the outside and white with purple and very muted black for the lining. In between I used one layer of fusible pellon and one layer of Steam-a-Seam2 fusible webbing. The instructions say to use an 8” square but unless you increase the pattern size, a 7 or 7 ¼” square would be sufficient.

Stitching was a tiny zigzag around the edges using copper metallic in the bobbin and orange-red rayon embroidery thread in the bobbin. The centre free-motion stitching was done using the same threads but a straight stitch. I had a little trouble with the tensions on both the zigzag and the free-motion and I managed to break a needle when the darning foot came loose. Just shows how out of practice I am!

I finished the box by painting Fray-Stop around all the edges including the slits, and then going over the edges again with copper Pebeo fabric paint. I randomly stitched on Indian copper sequins with purple seed beads using purple sewing thread. Each one was knotted on separately so I didn’t have threads going all over the lining. I Fray-Stopped each knot. I tried to avoid putting sequins and beads where the flaps overlapped.

What the pictures don’t show is how small this is — only about 2” across when folded. I think it turned out kinda cute! It would be a great place to put a pair of earrings or a small bracelet something.

The weather is really cold out even though there’s some sunshine. It keeps raining at night continuing into the morning, then clearing up for the afternoon and evening. Everybody is wearing their winter puffy jackets and hats though I did see the postman in his usual shorts, but also wearing a toque! That proves how cold it is. You know we’re in trouble when it’s the same temperature in Calgary as it is here and considerably warmer in Toronto.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Easter Monday

Hope everybody had a lovely Easter/Passover/Whatever-You're-Celebrating with family and friends. We had a lovely ham and a plethora of potluck dishes at my sister’s. The organic chocolate bomb cake was sooo yummy! Got the garden tour of my sis’s quarter acre and it definitely looks like spring with the blooming trilliums and flowering currants. We even went home with a dozen of her chickens’ eggs — a very Easter-ish symbol, doncha think? Her new chickens are doing very well after her little pet flock was decimated two years ago by an over-zealous government concerned with bird-flu (which her birds didn’t have). It’s nice to have your own organic free-range eggs. (Sometimes a little too free when one gets loose!) The rooster would drive me nuts with his constant crowing however! Guess I'm a city girl at heart. Though I'm not any more fond of dogs barking or hot boom cars or big trucks backing up.

Recently I’ve been trying to make the plunge into art quilting, but all I’ve done so far is read about it. You’ve gotta realize I have no interest in making traditional quilts. But I’ve been reading Quilting Arts magazine and it really gets my creative thinking going. Unlike other magazines, it has detailed tutorials but without all the brand name items that one supposedly must have and without the “you too can make one just like mine” attitude. It’s more about techniques and inspiration which gives you the tools you need to make something all your own. I just love the magazine’s Challenges and how different artists interpret the same shape or theme or item. They’ve done angels, ATCs (artist trading cards), angelina fibres, and art dolls — among others. I’ve got every issue except two that are out of print! There was a little Treasure Box in the Winter 2005 issue that’s got me interested to try. It’s small enough to be quick yet it’s also functional. Revised instructions are here. Though be aware the pattern should be 7” across its widest part according to the one in the magazine so you might have to resize it. So far I’ve just printed out the pattern on freezer paper and started collecting materials to make it with. I’ve got lots small pieces of fabrics that have been dyed, stamped, painted, and/or monoprinted to work with. See, I’ve got the non-stick press cloth, the pellon, and the fusible webbing. Threads, sequins, beads…already to go. Just gotta do it!

On the knitting front, I’m working on 3 projects at once. Which means of course that it’s taking me forever to get anywhere on any of them. The leaf socks are almost up to the heel flaps, the plain self-striping ones are just about as far along, and the wonky-wacko Vogue vest/top thing is a bit closer to joining together at the front neck. I’m working hardest on trying to finish the top mostly because I feel somewhat guilty about doing it at all. Is it going to look any good or even be wearable? Who knows? The process is a interesting challenge anyway and I guess that’s good enough to keep me working on it. The leaf socks are another “concentration-necessary” project so I’ve mostly been ignoring them at the moment. The other pair of socks is plain so I can read or watch tv and knit on them at the same time. That’s why I’ve gotten so far on them. I was getting frustrated at not having anything “mindless” to work on. It seems that’s really become important to me so, since there’s a ton of self-patterning yarn in the world that I haven’t knit up yet (!), I can always have a pair going for somebody. Is it possible to have too many pairs of handknit socks?

In a comment, Felicia (whose handpainted yarns are sooo delicious!) mentioned:

“I would advise getting the clamp for the Forsyth mini combs. I didn't and it is quite uncomfortable to hold the comb between your knees when you are dizzing off because of the little knobby bit. IMHO”

Thanks for your thoughts, hon', but I didn’t even think to hold it between my knees! Not that I’ve used them A Lot — yet. I was able to diz off by holding the comb in one hand and pulling and sliding the diz with the other. It’s not as fast as two-handed dizzing, but it works ok. I don’t really think of these mini combs as heavy-duty tools, but as something to use while away from home and/or for a limited amount of fibre needing to be prepared at a time. I plan to include them in my “traveling spinning kit” along with my spindles, wrist distaff, and nostepinne. I would use them to prepare some fibres so that I can carry on spinning before needing to prep some more. If I’m on the go, I might not have a convenient surface to clamp to anyhow. I think I’ll try using my mini combs some more before deciding one way or the other. They still need to find their useful place in my fibre life. I already have proper big 4-pitch English combs that I’ve used quite a lot but they are most definitely not easily portable! They scare the livin' you-know-what outta most people and you don't want to lose your concentration for a second while using them. They could do some serious damage!

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Missed One

Last Monday when I was talking about online knitting, crochet, and spinning magazines, I forgot to mention a new one that’s just out called For The Love Of Yarn. There isn’t that much content yet, but there’s a great article by Claudia Dunitz on “Confessions of a Reformed Pattern-Slave (Freeformer) Or, How I Threw Away My Knitting Patterns and Learned to Love Crochet.” Definitely worth reading. There’s also a couple of really cute amigurumi snail and turtle patterns. So far crochet is beating out knitting with only one knit sweater pattern and it’s rated advanced. What this mag does have that’s different is a free classified section for regular folks (aka not shops) to sell their excess knitting and crochet related items. I’m staying away from there.

So anyway, yesterday wasn’t all that Bad in retrospect. The weather cleared up somewhat and when T-Man got home from work around 3pm we went for a walk. Good thing too because today we’re back to the rain. I’ve been listening to podcasts and knitting on my funky Vogue #17 top/vest thingy. I’m now partway down the shoulder sections on the front (chart part 2) and heading toward where I join them back together at the front neck. It’s pretty oddly shaped but very fun and a challenge to knit. I’ll take another picture soon — but not today. I’m reserving judgment on what it’s going to look like while being worn until there’s enough of it to try it on. I’m also thinking it needs some beads?

I must be on a roll because I also found a pattern for a simple shell that I can knit with the 5 balls of green-gold Marks & Kattens Bomull (50% cotton, 50% wool) that I have. It’s a cable-twisted yarn with a nice crisp but soft hand that I really like. Maybe worsted weight? I originally bought some for a kumihimo class (among a bunch of different yarns) and I also used some for a crochet class and it worked up really nicely into a small bag. I have all of this particular colour that the shop has and can’t get more so it’s either going to do it or else. According to the pattern (Knit ’n Style Spring 2006, p.33) it uses 400 yards and I have over 490 yards. Plus I’m thinking I might do the crochet edgings in black, of which I have one ball. We’ll see. Gee, I’m turning into a regular-type knitter! Gotta Get Gauge!

While we were walking yesterday we went to Chapters (what else!) and I got an issue of Burda magazine at Mayfair Magazines (across the street from Chapters, which doesn’t carry Burda). There’s a few interesting patterns in this issue (4/2006). If I make just one garment, I’ll have justified the cost of the magazine. We’ll see. Ooh, there’s an echo in here.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Bad Friday

Well, I don’t understand why it should be called Good Friday. It wasn’t a good day for that guy a couple thousand years ago, now was it? It didn’t rain all day today as it did yesterday, but I’m cold for some reason. I have more clothes on than usual but I’m not warm enough. Time to locate something warmer to put on. Or as Brenda Dayne of the Cast On podcast always says “If you’re cold, put on a sweater. That’s what they’re for.”

Speaking of clothes, I did a leetle beet of shopping the other day when I was at the mall. (I had a dentist appointment so I had to go there!) I got lost in the ladies department in the Bay where I managed to find a few new items. This is the second time in as many months that I’ve actually liked something and (miracles!) it fit. Perhaps the styles are starting to come around to being wearable on women older than 15 and heavier than a broom handle? Well some of 'em anyway. I got a couple of ribbed t-shirts with a “golf-style” neckline (the one with a button placket and a collar), a regular t-shirt, a short-sleeved blouse (made from the neatest elastic-ruched fabric), and a slinky rayon lace-knit 3/4 sleeve sweater. Plus a couple more bras to replace my 10-year-old ones with no discernable elastic left in them and a pair of shoes (well, sandals). Most of the items are my staple colour — black — but two of the t-shirts are muted red-orange. One is brilliant yellow-orange and I’m hoping that it will help the cars avoid me if I wear it on the street. Though maybe it'll make me a target. Who knows?

What I didn’t buy were the very fashionable beaded and sequined t-shirts that were prevalent on the racks. Whatchacallit…the Boho Look? I quite like them (hey, there's beads!) but they won’t hold up to wear or washing. Some were already starting to look frayed. I’d rather wear my beads as a separate thing that doesn’t need to be cleaned as often as clothing does. Another item I passed up was a cotton and cashmere sweater that was already showing pilling and lint problems. Even if it was drastically on sale, I can look linty, pilly, and rumpled any day of the week already without spending more money to do so. That’s why I have cats.

I also didn’t get the sandals that I really wanted because they were uncomfortable where the buckle dug into my ankle. The ones I got are a simple slide style (no buckles) but even they aren’t exactly walking shoes. I’ve been wearing them around the house with socks on to break them in. Some days I just don’t want to look like a “granola” in my Birkenstocks, OK? Even if I did recently pay $40 to get my Birkies re-soled and repaired. And yes, my new sandals are black. Of course. (The Birkies are green though!)

So now I have a few new things that actually fit and don’t look too old or baggy like the rest of my wardrobe. I’m still stalling on starting to sew more clothes. I know, my new serger is calling me and yes, I can hear it. However, I’ve been reading a lot and looking at clothes in the shops to get some ideas. I’m liking the kind of raggy-edged deconstructed look but I’ve mostly seen it in skirts. I’m not going to make a skirt that I’ll rarely wear so it would have to be a jacket or something else instead. I also like the capri-length pants with pockets and buttons and drawstrings and such. The pants are getting a bit wider in the leg now and if I make them myself, they will actually fit and with a real waist too. I have to admit that I have no idea what commercial size I am: 10? 12? 14? Since the garments I bought are mostly L but there’s an M (the blouse) that is actually larger than the L’s, even S/M/L/XL isn’t particularly definitive of anything. I have to try everything on. Guess that’s a common problem? I go clothes shopping so seldom, I don’t know what’s normal these days.

And some of it I don't want to know. It’s tough actually. I’m somewhat-more-than-middle-aged but I’m neither a polyester pants nor a jeans kind of girl. I don’t work outside the home so I rarely wear anything dressy. I have definite likes and dislikes in shape, colour, fabric, and style. Plus I’m a fibre artist so I want to show that off to some extent but stay comfy and casual at the same time. I’m almost always wearing something I’ve made. Right now it’s just hand-dyed handknit socks. But I made them.

So in honour of the season, this is my Christmas cactus that thinks it’s an Easter cactus. And yes it did bloom at Christmas too but a bit early. It was a cutting from my mother-in-law’s plant some 34 years ago. Purty, huh? Note the handwoven runner underneath. And T-Man's turned bowl filled with agates and other rocks we've collected. It's a Handmade Life around here.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Mindful Knitting

OK, so I succumbed to the top I mentioned in the Spring/Summer 2006 Vogue Knitting. Better finish quick since this isn’t what I’m supposed to be working on right now! The pattern looks like this:

Wild huh? Notice that I flopped the picture of the back to the right way around? It was backwards in the magazine. I also checked out the errata on the Vogue Knitting website. There was quite a bunch for this pattern already, though I found most of them myself already. Just problems with the descriptions/symbols for the wacky cables. The charts are ok so far. One important one they missed is the fact that the right and left points of the back were mislabeled and you’re supposed to start on the right point. Guess the flopped photo confused them? I left a message telling them about it but it hasn’t shown up on the errata page. I don’t think it really matters which point you start with as long as you get them oriented on your needles correctly when you go to join them together.

I actually scanned and printed out the two charts because you need to follow them very carefully if you want the same thing as in the picture. Otherwise I guess you could make it up as you went along — which would definitely be a whole lot easier! As it is, I’m being anal and doing it as the chart says. I carefully annotated the charts with every row indicated, all the edge stitches of the moss stitch marked whether it’s a purl (with a dot), and counted and wrote the exact number of stitches for each part of the cables and whether or not they are held in front or in back. This has been really helpful and so far I’m right on track. See?

Note that I used stitch markers to divide the cable areas from the moss stitch. Those are my elegant handmade markers and they’re made with sterling silver headpins, jasper stone beads and tiny sterling flower spacers. (No ugly plastic markers for this knitter!) They’re a wee bit small for my size 4.5mm Denise needles though because I made them for my smaller sock needles which makes them a bit tricky when transferring from one needle tip to the other. But they really help in knowing exactly where I am. Have I mentioned that I loves my Denise needles? I know they’re not beautiful but I really like the heavier but soft cord and the moveable tips. When I needed to hold the first back point while I knitted the second one, I just switched the tips for stoppers on the right point, put the tips on a different cable to knit the left point, and moved the tips as I knit the two pieces together. It worked beautifully and saved me from transferring stitches and fiddling with holders or thread.

Oh yeah, you want to know what yarn I used. It was some that I bought a very long time ago (at least 20 years?!) for a cabled sweater I never finished because A) I ran out of yarn and couldn’t get more and B) it was tooooo heavy to be wearable. This stuff is 50% slub cotton and 5o% linen and made by Dilthey Wolle, a German company that spun mostly cotton and some linen (don’t ask me why they were called “wool”) since the 1800’s. They are still in business but apparently they only make cords now, not knitting yarns. I learned this from a website that was translated from German and, of course, not translated very well. One good thing is that I have LOTS of this yarn for something this small. I haven’t even unraveled the back and most of a front that I’ve already knitted and I have 7 balls still with the ball band on. There’s at least that much still in the knitting so I could make something else relatively small if I want. The colour is a dark grey with the cotton a slightly lighter shade than the linen. It consists of 4 2-ply strands, each strand having one ply of slubby cotton and one ply of smooth linen. 50 grams = 80 metres. Sometimes fibres just need time to figure out what they’re ultimately going to become, right?

This pattern is knitted from the back points through the shoulders to the front points. Sometimes you’re working on one side and then the other and sometimes you’re working across the whole width. The sides are laced together to fit the body. This is a great place for me to use kumihimo! Obviously you’re not going to wear it without something else underneath. At least I wouldn’t! And even the lovely model is wearing a dress or something under. There isn’t one row on this thing that is the same so you really have to pay attention, move the magnet on the chart carefully (I’m using a large Lo-Ran magnet board), and count a lot. Mindful Knitting for sure.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Resting Up

It started out rainy today, the T-Man is back on his early shift, and I’m feeling like doing a little catching up. The Dye Day we had on Saturday went off without a hitch. We had a lovely bunch of folks including my first young male dye student. He’s a new spinner and very keen. I was too busy to take any pics during the class unfortunately. But here is the piece of grey roving that I demonstrated dye-painting on. Purty, huh? Too bad that’s only enough for a few yards of yarn!

I’ve been reading a lot: books, magazines, and online publications. Today I checked out the free parts of KnitNet. This was the first online knitting magazine and was originally completely free, but in the last couple of years they’ve gone to a paid subscription-type model where the articles and a sampler of patterns can be viewed free but the rest is for subscribers only. The patterns aren’t impressive enough to pay for, in my opinion so I just read what’s freely available. They don’t keep archives either, preferring to sell CDs of the year’s patterns. I guess they need to make money, but seems to be able to manage to keep going with free access plus their patterns are far more fun. If I’m going to pay for a magazine, it had better be on paper and worth the price to me. BTW, KnitNet’s current issue shows a Honeycomb shawl with knotted fringes where the fringe ends are left all ratty and uneven. Couldn’t they afford a few moments to trim them? Ick. I’m feeling cranky about this magazine: editorials, patterns, paid subscriptions and all. Opinions? Talk amongst yourselves.

Whilst I’m on the subject, some more online mags: Spun Magazine still doesn’t have their next issue up though it was supposed to be out in March. Website now says April and we’re well into the month. Sigh. They’re having some editorial changes and difficulties. Hope it gets solved soon. I know how much work it must be to put out an issue but people forget to check for the next one if it’s too long between. The same goes for the AntiCraft (though their website problem was solved pretty quick) and the MenKnit magazine both of whom have only had a couple of issues so far. Southern Cross Knitting from Australia is now sadly gone bye-bye (which is why I don’t have a link).

More positively, has their spring ’06 issue up now and it’s a goodie as always. There’s an excellent article by my friend Sivia on knitting with beads. There’s an article from Michael “Wormspit” Cook on silk with a great recipe for degumming. In the patterns, I want to make the nautiloids! And I especially love the article on the history of knitting because I think it’s the most accurate take on this I’ve seen. Go. Read. Most of the mags I mentioned have links in my sidebar too.

While I’m on the subject, over at MagKnits which is British-based, they don’t have articles but they have some fun patterns. In the new April ’06 issue, I particularly like the skull wrist warmers with the “girly” skull sporting a pink bow! Spindlicity has their spring issue up too with some great articles including spinning a flame yarn and a pattern for a pretty fulled Garden Beret that includes embroidery. And last but not least, the Spring issue of Crochet Me has some really cute “amigurumi” patterns, which are Japanese-inspired crocheted critters. An interesting addition that this particular mag has is the opportunity to leave comments on patterns and articles so you can go back later and read what others have to say. Cool.

So what else? I’ve been reading my Serger Secrets book from cover to cover but I’ve been avoiding actually putting the secrets into practice. Yet. Found a funky vest/top pattern in Spring/Summer Vogue Knits (the one with the tooth-decaying picture of the blond in a pink knit skirt) that I want to make. No, NOT the pink skirt or the actually-boned corset or the skinny little ’60’s dress, but the green top on p.84. It’s kind of deconstructed off-kilter-ish cables. This Vogue issue also has an article by Iris Schreier, the queen of the short-row diagonals, which is why I bought it actually. It certainly wasn’t for the “Very New Very Vogue” stuff which is pretty old-hat if you hang around the knitting blogiverse at all. Ryan Morrissey’s Dulaan project for Mongolian kids, Yarn Harlot’s Knitting Olympics, Freddie Robbins’ knitted wedding — all got lots of coverage previously elsewhere. That’s the trouble with printed media. They just aren’t as au courant as the Internet can be. BTW, has anybody noticed how much crochet is starting to become part of knitted garments as well as just more crochet in general appearing in knitting (as opposed to crochet) magazines? We really need to mix ’em up more and get over that big “cultural” divide that seems to be out there. I can’t understand it myself since I’ve been able to do both since childhood. I like them for different things.

OK, I need to spend some time beading on my mermaid doll, Ulva. (FYI that’s a type of sea lettuce.) I’ve missed a deadline in the Beaded-Art-Dolls Mermaid Challenge so I have to get a move on if I’m going to make the May 1st finished date. The next challenge is Celestial and I’m looking forward to it! Without the impetus of a challenge or swap or demo, I know I’d never get much done, I’m sure.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Dye Day Tomorrow

I’m getting ready for another one of my Dye Days with a full class of 5. I spent this morning cleaning up the basement/dye studio but I haven’t got all the stuff put out yet down there. We need plastic on the freezer, washer/dryer, and counter plus the dyes, cups, spoons, syringes and plastic wrap all ready to go. I’ve printed out the handouts yesterday so I just have to staple, sort, and label the folders. I have to wind and tie all the skeins and make all the rovings/slivers into nests. Then I have to find all the samples and books to plop down in the middle of the dining room table. It takes a bit of work to prepare, but it’s a great excuse to clean the house! Students have to get comfortable in my house and we end up using most of it. (It’s not that big!) My last several classes were very tidy and had the place cleaned up by 3:30pm with a chance to sit and chat for awhile before they left. I’ve done it enough now that there’s a routine. Though each class is quite different: some are exuberant and flinging dye everywhere, while others are subdued and gently pressing the minimum dye into their fibres. I’m enjoying it more now and it’s not taking so much out of me to teach. I used to feel like a wrung-out sponge afterwards. Still try to take a quiet day after a class though so I don’t overdo things. I want it to remain fun or otherwise why bother? It’s not like I’m making any money really.

I went a little bit nuts yesterday while I was downtown on my way to a fibre arts guild meeting. I went to Dressew first and bought some white and some purple shimmery polyester chiffon and some black tulle. Just a yard of each to play with some surface design/art quilty things. The way things are going though it’ll be next week before I even get around to messing in the studio. The muse has to sing to me first. I also went to Chapters (of course!) and got a few more magazines and (because I’m feeling rather reckless) some more books. There’s a neat magazine-nearly-a-book out from the publishers of Belle Armoire and Somerset Studio (the latter is a name I can never remember). This one is called Haute Handbags and it’s really quite wonderful if you’re into the current craze for one-of-a-kind purses, handbags, totes etc. and want some inspiration to make your own show-stopper. They’re supposed to have another special issue too, Belle Armoire Jewelry but I haven’t seen it yet. It may not be on the local newsstands but I’m not going to order a copy for $14.95 US plus an extra $7.95 US shipping and handling. Yikes. $17.95 CDN is enough to pay for something that’s more than a magazine but not quite a book.

I also got another book on serging called Serger Secrets. It has some great information and tips and tricks that I haven’t seen elsewhere. It’s a bit dated (1998 vintage) but very usable. I need to play some more with my new machine. The summer issue of Cloth Paper Scissors is out. Some really interesting multimedia work including the challenge pieces from a drawing by Violette. Folks took the drawing of part of a girl’s face with a bird on her head and made their own interpretations. Fun to see where it took them. This is all the purchases I’m going to admit to for the moment! I’m just about to start the local chapter of Bibliophiles Anonymous.

Well, now that I’ve read over the list of things I still have to do before 10 o’clock tomorrow morning — I’d better get to it!

Thursday, April 06, 2006

More Fibrefest and More Socks

Here’s another picture I found that T-Man took of me yapping away while spinning. You can see me, right? In the middle in black with the short hair and glasses — can’t miss me. Check out the crowd watching! You’d a thunk they’d never seen a spinner before, wouldn’t ya? Though maybe it's the woman in front of me on the spinning wheel drawing some of the attention. She'd never spun before and I had her making great yarn right away. A natural!

Finally as promised, here’s a progress pic of the Lace Leaf socks. I just spent about 20 minutes fixing an error where two whole stitches went awol somewhere on the way to Fibrefest. Found 'em and picked them up with the crochet hook. I find it really pays to Know Your Knitting: what the stitches should look like and how many of them there should be. That way you know when something goes wrong and maybe can fix it without having to tink back too far or frog a bunch of rows which is hard to do in lace. Use stitch markers if you have to in order to keep track of where you are. I make pretty ones with silver wire and beads but I rarely use them! In this case the needles naturally divide the lace into sections with two repeats of the pattern on each of the four needles. I use both a stitch counter (on a lobster claw clasp) and a printed pattern with a post-it to keep my place. I’ve charted the tricky lace yo’s and double decreases but every other row is plain knit so I didn’t bother putting those on the chart. (Just don't forget to knit 'em!) This pattern is a compromise between two different lace patterns (one bigger, one smaller) from Barbara Walker.

Some weird things I discovered working lace patterns in a circle as for socks means that sometimes things don’t work out quite the way you expect. In my pattern on the first 2 rounds of the chart I have to remember to work a yo before knitting the first stitch on each needle. Then on the last 4 rounds, the centred double-decrease (arrow symbol: sl 2 tog k-wise, k1, pass 2 sl st over) happens over the last 2 stitches of one needle and the first stitch of the next. On those rounds I have to remember to knit an extra stitch before the yo only at the beginning of the round or everything gets out of whack. That extra stitch gets swallowed up on the last double-decrease and we're back where we were. The chart works out ok on the rest of the round, though sometimes I end up holding the extra needle in my mouth while I knit the last part of the double decrease off the next needle. I know — this is as clear as three-day-old coffee, isn’t it? Try it and you’ll see what I mean. This might be a good time to try Magic Loop or Two Circs sock knitting instead of dpns. But I'm stubborn.

I didn’t knit a cuff on these socks but I’m hoping they’re tight enough to stay up anyway. The lovely deep texture that you see in the photo pretty much goes away when they’re on my leg and it’ll probably go away all together when they’re washed and dried flat. Hmm… I could get some interesting effects by wearing different coloured socks underneath them, now couldn’t I? It would show through the lace holes. Notice that the socks are very differently coloured. As I’ve mentioned before, there was no place on this yarn where there was a matching section. No problem. I like them this way.

On another topic completely, I just read a good online article about recycling yarn here. The hints are really great and she covered all the bases. I can totally relate because I used to do the same thing when I was very young and we had hardly any money. You could use the same criteria for recycling yarn from your own sweaters too, as well as thrift store ones. We don’t have too many really nice wool sweaters locally since it doesn’t get cold enough for people to consider real wool, which is a bit more trouble to care for, over acrylic which washes and dries ok but “ages” quickly and feels clammy to wear. And most of the cotton sweaters I’ve seen are serged — not good for unraveling. I regularly recycle my handspun yarn when the garment goes out of style or my shape changes. Heck, it took enough work to spin and dye it, so why just give it to goodwill for somebody else to recycle? Besides, nobody has as much respect for my handspun yarn as I do! Even the 20-year-old stuff.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

A Real Post This Time

Hope you enjoyed my surprise guest blogger. She certainly seems to know her way around a keyboard! However she’s also famous for locking up or accidentally rebooting when you least expect it. It’s highly recommended to be sure everything is saved and backed up before letting the little darling near a computer!

Backing up a bit — here’s what the Birkeland Bros' Fibrefest booth looked like Thursday night before the thundering hordes:

And here’s what it looked like in full spate on Saturday:

Things are almost back to what passes for normal around here today. T-Man’s at work and I’m in front of the computer! I’ve unpacked my shopping from Fibrefest. See?

Arranged on the lovely piece of dragonfly silk from Mostly Silk (Vancouver, BC), there’s the new wool colourway from Aurelia (that I designed!) called Retro Topaz. This is the third one they called “topaz” but at least that’s my birthstone. There’s nothing that reminds one of “damselflies” about it unless you know This Particular Damselfly! I spun some of it up on my new spindle from my friend Cheri Hamilton’s husband that I purchased through Knitopia (White Rock, BC). The whorl is redheart (Erythroxylon spp.) and it spins like a dream. The shaft is long which I really like because it gives me enough length to give it a good run up my thigh and still have room left to wind on the yarn. There’s the Angelina fibres I got to play with (the Enchanted Forest is gorgeous) and the gripper strip to make a rug hooking frame both from Legacy Studio. Some variegated sewing thread from Quiltopia (Maple Ridge, BC) and a little soap from Joybilee Farm. Behind that there’s the mini-combs I got from Susan Forsyth. I don’t need much in the way of tools after having been spinning for so long, but I didn’t have any portable combs. These come in their own little carry bag. I didn’t get the clamp though, not knowing whether I would use it or not. If I change my mind I can get it later. Not pictured (because I was using it!) is the sheepy-shaped needle gauge from Sun Bench Fibres. This is the one made in brass from the Elegant Knitter/Goose Pond and I particularly like it because it goes down to 1.25mm (0000). Most needle gauges only go to 2mm and I regularly use dpns that are smaller than that. One annoyance is that it doesn’t have 3mm or 4mm, preferring instead to go by the American sizes measuring 3.25mm (size 3) and 4.25mm (size 6). Other than that it’s really accurate and includes a 2” stitch and row ruler.

The weather is really nice today and a warm 15 Celsius. I still haven’t finished transplanting all my little seedlings which are getting quite large. More than half are out in the cold frame and are doing well. I planted my peas last week so things aren’t totally behind but I still haven’t finished their netting, which I’d better do before they start peeking out or the birds will eat them. I picked leeks, parsley, and broccoli sprouts from the garden yesterday and the asparagus and rhubarb are almost big enough to start nibbling on. The daffodils and hyacinths are in full bloom and it’s very invigorating. So why am I in here typing?

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

April's Guest Blogger

This blog post is guest-authored by my 20-month-old granddaughter, The Ninja’s Sprout. Here’s what she has to say:


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Monday, April 03, 2006

I'm Baaack...

I worked really hard but had a great time at Fibrefest. There seemed like there were lots of people and plenty to do and see and buy. I amazed myself and didn’t buy any books but I did get a few other goodies which I will photograph when I have enough energy to find the camera. The T-Man spent a lot of time in Birkeland Bros booth and learned how to weave on the Knitter’s Loom. Even our Darling Daughter got into the act and was teaching her friend how to spin. DD also won a door prize but it was a CD of patterns for an embroidery machine which she doesn’t have. I managed to talk the donor into swapping for something she could use so she ended up with some iron-on Swarovski crystals and was much happier. From my point of view it was very successful this year and I’m already looking forward to next time.

I didn’t get a chance to see the fashion show, but rumour has it that there were mostly felted and woven garments and some surface design but there could have been a lot more knitting. I entered the Ninja Socks in the sock competition just for the novelty factor knowing some other lovely pair of socks would win instead. My first sock knitting demo inadvertently followed Lynne from Knitopia who was demonstrating knitting socks toe-up on two circular needles. She covered a lot of information (even though her approach is the total opposite of mine!) so only a few stayed for the beginning of my demo and then left. After sitting there by myself for awhile two interested ladies showed up so they got the royal treatment. My second demo on Saturday went better and I had a nice crowd including DD and her friend. Of course I missed some info and repeated others but just winging it isn’t all that easy even if you know the subject really well. Hope I didn’t steer anybody wrong anywhere!

This is short (again!) because I’m just waiting for The Ninja to bring his lovely wife and The Sprout over for a visit. He gets to keep his socks now that I’ve finished showing them off. Hope he doesn’t want another pair right away!