Monday, July 31, 2006

Knit One/Crochet Too?

I’ve come to the conclusion that crochet isn’t as popular as knitting for a reason: there are very few really good patterns out there for crochet. Most of the designs are either very simple or just plain tacky. You’d think yarn manufacturers would get with the fact that crochet uses a lot more yarn and uses it faster than knitting. They need to encourage more people to learn to crochet. There are only a one or two drawbacks to it in comparison to knitting. By its very nature, crochet is a heavier and less drapey fabric. But if you use a larger hook size than you would normally, you get more stretch and drape. It’s at least as warm as a knitted fabric, depending on how many holes you have vs. solid areas. Also crochet is great for those things that you want to keep their shape like slippers, purses, hats, and vessels. Knitting isn’t nearly as “sculptural” unless you full/felt it. Crochet (unless we’re talking Tunisian or Afghan crochet) usually only deals with one stitch at a time on your hook. Mistakes are simple to rip out with only one loop to pick back up to start again. You have the freedom to go in any direction and to work on the surface easily. Lace is easy too and individual motifs can be joined together even as you work to make a larger whole. There are lots of stitch variations to play with and lots of texture possible. Crochet lends itself to improvisation in a way that knitting does not. So why are there not more stylish, trendy, attractive, funky patterns out there that take advantage of all the lovely yarns we have available these days? I believe it’s because it’s actually harder to write clear patterns for crochet in a reasonable number of words and it’s even more difficult to follow them. And although there is a fairly standardized symbol set, not everybody is familiar enough with them to use them effectively. Too bad.

I also think that crochet gets a bad rap from all those acrylic toilet roll covers, ugly slippers, and interminable afghans. I’d like to make a sweater that combines both knitting and crochet. I have a design in mind and I have some yarn. I just need to check a few more projects off my Never-ending List first. Maybe by late Fall? It’s already the last day of July. Yikes!

Today we have what will probably be the last pictures from my old Nikon CoolPix 990 camera. The poor clunky old thing has been replaced in my heart by my new Panasonic Lumix DMC-LZ3. This little thing is tiny and powerful, with 5 megapixels and 6-X optical zoom. It only needs 2 AA batteries (instead of 4 like my old one) and uses postage-stamp-sized SD cards instead of the bigger CompactFlash cards. It even has 14 mbs of memory already without a card, giving you extra space or if you forget the card at home. The screen is much brighter and easy to see and it doesn’t need a lens-cap because the lens irises open when you turn it on. A really great innovation is the Optical Image Stabilizer which compensates for when you don’t hold the camera steady. This is usually available only on more expensive cameras. I’m so impressed! Technology just keeps leaping forward, doesn’t it? This one will be traveling around with me since it doesn’t need a pack-horse to lug it. For protection it even fits in my old rug-hooked Palm Cozy — better than my Palm T/X does! Now I just need to make a new T/X cosy.

Oh yeah, pictures. This is my Chinese hibiscus “Marina” (I just love that blue violet) and my Disocactus ackermannii in full bloom. The darn thing hasn’t bloomed for years but I finally remembered to water it enough after I brought it outside in late spring. It’s thanking me with 8 or 9 gorgeous flowers.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Seconds and Stuff

I finished the second pair of Kid’s Ribby Socks for my granddaughter’s birthday. I figure since she’ll be two she needs two pairs. And both pairs take about as much time to knit as one single grownup sock. I was cutting it really close with the leftover yarn from my Sea Socks and had to join new yarn on one sock. Twice. (I see a theme here.) They look pretty good though so I’m happy.

I was thinking about purses and bags today and what we put in them. Although I have many tote bags and several smaller bags, I usually use my MEC daypack. It holds everything I need plus my shopping and leaves my hands free. With the waist strap on it doesn’t even put any pressure on my neck and shoulders. This effect is hard to beat which is probably why I haven’t yet made or bought anything that works as well. Except that I’m really really bored of my black nylon cordura backpack. It has no individuality, no pizzazz, no “me”. What to do?

I have a gazillion things that I carry around with me, most of which is quite important otherwise I wouldn’t carry it. It’s not like I can leave everything in the car like those who drive everywhere. A small bag isn’t very useful. Must have space for all this:

Large heavy wallet with all the usual money, coins (we Canadians have lots of big coins!), bank/credit cards, ID, membership cards, coupons, pen, blank cheques etc.

Big key ring with lots of keys, including several for the house and both vehicles (even though I don’t drive I like to be able to get inside!)

Emergency stuff such as a cell phone, my Epi Pen in case of wasp sting or other serious allergic reaction, antihistamine tablets ditto, Advil in case of migraine (if I get it fast enough it goes away quickly), tissues, extra batteries for my hearing aids and a travel case for them if I need to take them off.

Sunny weather gear such as my hard glasses case with sunglasses (to be swapped with regular specs), water bottle, extra sun screen, sometimes a hat.

Rainy weather needs an umbrella.

My Palm T/X which includes everything from shopping lists, addresses and phone numbers, calculator and clock to books, patterns, and games etc. and (optional) earphones for listening to podcasts.

Shopping bag for when the backpack gets too full.

Optional (if I’m going to be anywhere I can work on it) my sock knitting box that includes the socks-du-jour, knitting needles, ruler, darning needles, and emergency crochet hook.

That last item pretty much fills up my backpack! I can’t think of anything I could really eliminate and lots more that I could add. For instance, I used to have a mini flashlight and my Swiss Army knife in there, but I recently took them out to save weight. I also had bandaids and handiwipes, but took them out too. I don’t bring a water bottle unless it’s very hot or I’m going to be somewhere where I can’t get anything to drink. That’s one large and heavy item! My Epi Pen is kind of large and takes up space but at least in summer and early fall, I’d hate to get stung and not have it with me. Last time I ended up in hospital for 3 hours; next time could be fatal. The cell phone is a pain since I never turn it on unless I need to use it, but it has come in handy occasionally to call T-Man. So tell me please, how do those people you hear about travel around the world with one little pack? I have trouble traveling around the city like that! If it were up to me, I’d be followed everywhere by a team of porters with 10 steamer trunks carrying all my indispensable items. Like those intrepid Victorian explorers with their silver tea service and their corsets and gowns to change into for dinner in the middle of the African bush or something. OK, maybe that’s a bit excessive. How about just one steamer trunk? With room for the groceries?

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

A Breath of Fresh Air

Picked my first tomato from the greenhouse today and it’s a yellow Taxi! It’s somewhat cooler today and I’m happy that my brain is still unmelted — though it was a near thing over the weekend. I was able to get more done today because I wasn’t breaking a sweat every time I thought about moving a muscle. I don’t do heat. Come to think of it, I don’t do cold either. I’m a Canadian West Coast seaside kind of girl. Moderating effects of the ocean and the Japan Current, doncha know.

We had a lovely family barbeque on the deck last evening after my son and daughter-in-law came back from the movies. T-Man even brought his mom over after he finished work and the 3 of us played with the granddaughter while we waited for her parents. The poor little thing is all covered in owies from muskie-toe bites she got on her recent holiday at a Thetis Island resort. She looks like she has chicken pox but that’s so last-year (where it took her many many months to heal the last pock). Now it turns out she’s not only attractive to those pesky biters just like her dear old dad, but she’s really sensitive as well. Plus she scratches furiously when you’re not looking. If you tell her to stop you get her favourite word, “No!” It’ll be her second birthday in a couple of weeks and she’s going to still look pretty bad by then. Guaranteed to haunt her in the party photos forever more. Oi-yoi-yoi! (To quote my French-Canadian sis-in-law.)

I still haven’t run out of the Sea Socks yarn for her second pair of socks, but it’s going to be a near thing. When they’re done I have to get serious and finish the Pomatomus socks. They’ve been laying around taking up valuable knitting box space for too long. After that it’s the September 2006 version of my daughter and daughter-in-law’s birthday socks. I’ve had hints for a slight modification of DD’s socks to fit better and of course she’s already dyed the wool so she knows what she’s getting already. DIL’s will take a little more thought as to which yarn to use. I have to ask if her first pair need any mods before I start, though both of them have pretty similarly shaped and sized feet. I would like them to fit well enough to be worn!

In spite of a passed deadline to post a process pic, I haven’t put one single bead on poor Angel-Thing yet. But that’s ok. I’m not going to obsess over deadlines and UFOs right now. Don’t need any stress to complicate my life. As usual, I just plug away on things as it occurs to me, just going with the flow, until either the project is done or it becomes a TOAD. All creative people have a few TOADs lurking around. It’s part of the price of being creative. Now that I keep a book with info on all my finished projects, I can actually see that in spite of all the UFOs around, I actually do complete stuff. Eventually.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Alrighty Then

Just to make up for my spotty record of blog posting lately, I thought I’d make two in one day. Though this one will be short because I’m expecting family shortly. I get to play with my granddaughter while her parents go to a movie that I haven’t even seen yet myself! The theatre is only 3 blocks away so I really have no excuse. Pirates of the Caribbean second version. Johnny Depp. Orlando Bloom. ‘Nuff said.

I forgot to mention the info about what yarn I used for the Kid’s Ribby Socks in the last post. It’s Fortissima Colori/Socka Color number 2402. I’m hoping there’s enough left to make a pair for me out of the rest of the ball. I got the yarn at my LYS, Birkeland Bros. Wool. Extra points to me for remembering where it came from!

So how did I miss the latest issue of Crochet Me that came out weeks ago? It’s really good and I would say that even if I didn’t know the editor Kim Werker personally. She makes sure there are printer-friendly versions of each pattern plus there are comments allowed on every article. It’s interesting to read what people say about the patterns etc. This button with the link will replace the bare link in my sidebar, but first I have to post it here.

Kid's Ribby Socks

Here’s another new sock pattern for anyone who wants it. I tweaked the original pattern enough that I think this can be considered a new design. I’m halfway through the second pair and they look great!

Style: Top-down, wide flap heel, wedge toe.
Yarn: One 50g ball sock yarn (Confetti, Regia 4ply, Sisu etc.) There’s often enough left from a small adult pair.
Needles: 2mm dpns (set of 5) or whatever you need to get gauge.
Gauge: 8 sts per inch over stockinette. Sock is 5 1/2 inches long but quite stretchy. Will fit perhaps a 2 to 4 year old. Foot can be knit longer for larger size.

Cast on 50 stitches. Arrange 10 on needle 1, 15 on each of needles 2 and 3, and 10 on needle 4. Join in tube and work knit 3, purl 2 rib for 32 rows or desired cuff height.

Begin heel flap:
Shift last stitch on needle 3 to needle 4. Continue to knit rib pattern on needle 1 to just before the last st. Sl last st onto needle 2. Turn. (This leaves a symmetrical rib pattern for the instep on needles 2 and 3. The heel is worked on the 20 sts now on needles 1 and 4.)
Row 1: Sl first st as if to purl with yarn in front, purl across needle 1 and continue across needle 4. Turn.
Row 2: Sl first st as if to purl with yarn in back, k 1, (sl 1, k1) repeat to end of row. Turn.
Repeat these two rows until there are 10 sl sts at the edges. End after the last purl row. Turn.

With RS facing begin heel cup:
Sl 1, k 12, ssk, k1, turn. (4 sts left unworked.)
Sl 1, p 7, p2tog, p1, turn. (4 sts left unworked.)
Sl 1, k across to “gap” where work was turned, ssk using one st before gap and one st after thus closing gap, k 1, turn. (2 sts left unworked.)
Sl 1, p to gap, p2tog across gap, p 1, turn. (2 sts left unworked.)
Sl 1, k to gap, ssk across gap, k 1, turn. (no sts left unworked.)
Sl 1, p to gap, p2tog across gap, p 1, turn. (no sts left unworked, 14 sts on needle.)
Sl 1, k 6 (centre of needle).

Begin gusset:
With spare needle, knit across last 7 sts. and with same needle pick up and knit edge sts on flap, picking up 10 plus one extra stitch in corner of gusset. (18 sts.) Using spare needle, knit across needle 2 in rib pattern and repeat for needle 3. Using last spare needle, pick up and knit one st in corner of gusset and 10 sts from side of heel flap. Continue to knit across the last 7 st to centre of heel. End of round.

Continue with gusset:
Knit across needle 1 to 3 sts before end, k2tog, p 1. Knit across needles 2 and 3 in pattern. On needle 4, p 1, ssk, knit to end. Next round knit without decreases, keeping knits and purls as established. Instep will be in rib and sole of foot in stockinette. Repeat these two rounds until needles 1 and 4 have 10 sts each. Continue even as established until sock foot is 4 1/2 inches long from back of heel. (Adjust foot length here.)

Since there’s more stitches on the instep than the sole of the foot, adjust before beginning toe as follows:
On last round of foot, purl last st of needle 1 together with first st of needle 2, k 1 more st from needle 2. (New needle 1 has 11 sts.) Continuing on needle 2, k 2, p2tog, k 3, p1. Shift last p st on needle 2 to needle 3. (Leaving 11 sts on needle 2.) On needle 3, p 1, k 3, p2tog, k2. Shift last 3 unworked sts to needle 4. (Leaving 11 st on needle 3.) On needle 4, k 1, p2tog, k to end. (All 4 needles now have 11 sts each.)

Decrease for toe:
Knit across needle 1 to last 3 sts, k2tog, k 1. On needle 2, k 1, ssk, knit across. On needle 3, knit across to last 3 sts, k2tog, k 1. On needle 4, k 1, ssk, knit across. Knit next round plain.
Continue to alternate decrease and plain rounds until there are 5 sts on each needle. End with a plain round. Continue to knit across needle 1 to end at right edge of toe. Break off yarn, leaving a tail for grafting.

“Ear Reduction”:
Arrange top of toe on one needle. Bottom should already be on one needle. Lift the last st over the second-last st at each end of both needles. (8 sts on each needle.) Graft the remaining sts together with Kitchener stitch. Darn in ends. Wash socks, block, dry, and you’re done!

Monday, July 24, 2006

Turning a TOAD into a PRINCE

I heard a couple of new knitting acronyms the other day (new to me anyway): first you have a TOAD (Trashed Object Abandoned in Disgust) and which you can then turn into a PRINCE (Project Resurrected Into a New Creative Endeavour). Of course, I’m sure you first you have to get over the disappointment and frustration of your project becoming a TOAD before you can bear to even think about what kind of PRINCE it might become! I do like this concept however. It was the lovely Wren Ross (singer, author, actress, and knitter) who clarified it for me on Guido Stein’s It’s a Purl, Man podcast Episode 10 from way back in June. What can I say? I’m behind in my podcasts, email, blogs…well, virtually everything these days. However, you must hear Wren’s version of “Baa Baa Black Sheep”. It's a hoot!

Since it’s been way too hot here to be on the computer except in the morning, I haven’t even been turning it on much. I don’t do well past about 25 degrees Celsius and it’s been around 29 outdoors and over 30 in my studio. Even sock knitting is difficult when the bamboo needles stick to my puffy swollen fingers. My loom is now out on the deck so I can work on the sample warp. Otherwise nothing would get done and I’d just loll around in the shade with a cold drink!

There’s no pictures today because Blogger is being snarky. I finished the first pair of GD socks and they turned out very well. They’re drying on the railing outside right now. I’ve already started the second pair from my Sea Socks leftovers, but since I’m not sure if I have enough yarn (and yes, I work top-down) the cuffs are a bit shorter and the toes may have some contrast yarn on them if I run out before the end. I’m writing up the pattern, since I did change it somewhat from the original, but I won’t finish today. I’m heading out to the deck before my eyeballs melt.

Thank you, Maureen, for being the first to download my Lace Leaf Socks (at least that admitted to it!) and I hope you’ll let me know if there are any errors in the pattern. And yes, Susan, you can peek at the GCW sample. That’s the perks for being Guild President, hey? Sharon, I didn’t find that missing needle and there’s not enough yarn left for it to hide in the ball. But I did make a new one from a bamboo skewer even before you suggested it. Hey, it feels just like the other ones! So why are the Addi Naturas so expensive, eh? Or conversely, why am I buying them when I could make a gazillion from a cheap package of skewers? Yes, that’s a rhetorical question.

Oops, I lied! You can still get 2 out of the 3 lace books I mentioned in the last post from Schoolhouse Press. I should have known. Meg wouldn’t let these go OOP unless she had no choice. Guess I should have looked first, huh? Nice to know there is a place to get them because if you love lace knitting, particularly designing your own, these are indispensable. There’s also another hard-to-get book there, Hazel Carter’s “Shetland Knitting from Charts” that I should contemplate adding to my library.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Summer Reading

Not reading books, email or blogs which are fine things to read also — but I’m talking about reading your knitting. This is an invaluable skill that can help you in many ways. This includes saving you from mistakes just as you’re going to make them or allowing you to fix a mistake if it sneakily happened when your attention was elsewhere for a moment. Being able to read your knitting allows you to change something about someone else’s pattern that you didn’t like, such as some little asymmetry or something big like the fit of the sleeves or raising the neckline. Heck, you can even design your own patterns from scratch. You can become the master (mistress?) of your own knitting. It’s intoxicating!

In order to “read” knitting, you need to really look closely at the stitches on your needle. Which stitch leg is in front? Normally that would be the right leg but if you’re one of those knitting rebels who have your own method of forming stitches, then it really behooves you to figure out how it differs so you can adjust if necessary when doing some tricky maneuver that assumes you knit like the pattern designer. There are many increases and decreases that not only are worked differently, but they look subtly different from each other as well. Which ones look the way you prefer and act best in a given knitterly situation? Nobody said you had to use the particular version you always use or that is specified in the pattern. (Test anything tricky first on a swatch though, unless you don’t mind frogging and reknitting if it doesn’t work out the way you envisioned.)

To help you choose the right stitch for a given situation, it’s wonderful to have a library at hand. A techniques book such as Montse Stanley's is great for putting many different cast-ons, bind-offs, increases, decreases, shortrows, and other skills and options at your fingertips. Then there’s the Barbara G. Walker Treasuries, Vogue Knitting’s new “Stitchionaries” (there’s 2 out with one more coming), Nicky Epstein’s “Knitting On the Edge” and “Knitting Over the Edge”, plus her “Knitted Embellishments” and “Knitted Flowers” for more inspiration. These are all invaluable for substituting pattern stitches or giving you a gazillion ways to make your knitting your very own individual statement.

Reading your knitting means you can tell whether to knit or purl the next rib stitch just by looking at it instead of having to count or refer to a pattern or chart. This can extend to more complex patterns with practice and can be a real time-saver. There are always symmetries and similarities in knitting patterns and you can find them if you look carefully. That’s why they’re called “patterns”! If you’re hooked on lace (and who isn’t?) you could try books like “Heirloom Knitting” by Sharon Miller, “Knitting Lace” by Susanna E. Lewis and “Creating Original Hand Knitted Lace” by Margaret Stove, all of which seem sadly OOP and are worth looking for in second hand bookshops. (Avoid eBay where they are available at incredibly inflated prices! Unless you are either rich or desperate or both.) These have great information on the “whys” of lace as well as the “hows”. When you can read your knitting you see where you’ve made an error and can rescue a missed yarn-over easily without having to frog which is more difficult in lace. You can tell if there’s an error in the pattern and figure out how to fix it. There are always errors lurking around that even the best editors and proofreaders miss.

So really look at your knitting. Get to know it intimately in all its twists and turns and get control over what you're doing. Then you can ditch the “Blind Follower” epithet that Elizabeth Zimmermann coined and become an Enlightened Knitter.

In other news, I finished the Sea Socks a couple of days ago:

They’re plain socks (for me) in Regia 4ply Multi Effekt Color, 75% superwash wool/25% polyamide (nylon), in colour 5378. It took me just about a month to make them but then I was knitting on 2 other pairs at the same time! Of course I immediately cast on for another pair of socks, this time for my granddaughter. She hasn’t had a pair of my socks since she grew out of the first pair I made before she was born. She’ll celebrate her second birthday in a couple of weeks so I thought I’d make a new pair or two (if I get that far). There might even be enough left of the Sea Socks yarn to make a second pair. The pattern I’m using is adapted from Opal Kid’s Sock with just a few changes. I didn’t like the ruffly cuff (I just ribbed) or the round toe (I subbed a wedge toe) and I made a tiny adjustment for rib symmetry (always important with me!). I’ve finished one sock and it looks quite small but stretches a lot due to the k3/p2 rib that makes up most of it. Now to make a second the same. Yes, I broke my own rule about knitting on two socks alternately because I was too lazy to rewind the 100g ball of Fortissima Colori/Socka Color into 2 balls. Bad Damselfly. I need to make the second sock fast enough so that I don’t forget what I did on the first one. I've already cast on and knit a bit on it.

Also, we have weaving:

As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, I volunteered to help my weavers’ guild make samples for the Guild of Canadian Weavers newsletters for 2007. We’re using some of the new fibres out there now to show what can be done with them. The yarns in my cloth are bamboo which is wonderfully soft and drapey. It’s been quite fun to get back into weaving after not doing it for so long. Though I am a wee bit rusty, the skills come back pretty quickly. I don’t even mind doing this on my Woolhouse Carolyn table loom with levers instead of treadles. It’s a pretty easy weave to memorize. Although my friend Sandra lent me her WhichOne gizmo for Carolyn which is kind of nifty, I didn’t need it past about 2 repeats of the pattern. I am using my littlest Toika temple however to maintain my selvedges because I’m really bad at pulling in too much. It’s a teeny bit short but it seems to be helping quite a bit. It’s awfully easy to beat to hard or too soft too so I’m trying to get it right. Maybe by the time I’ve woven the first yard? Heh! Here’s a close-up of the pinwheel twill. Purty ain’t it?

Unfortunately we’re running dangerously low on the dark brown bamboo yarn. (No, it isn’t black but points for noticing that they are my colours — and I didn’t choose them!) I’m hoping that the organizer of this project either has or can get some more so we can finish. I think we’ll only need about 3 bobbins full. I have enough to do my couple of yards and then the loom passes on to Sandra.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Another Week in Summer

My weeks actually begin on Monday. Though for some reason I can’t make visual sense of a calendar if the weeks begin on Monday, like the French ones do. I always think of Monday as the beginning anyway, which I guess makes Sunday the last day of the week? Since it’s actually a continuous spiral in time, I guess it doesn’t really matter. In any case, Monday is the day I catch up on all the things I didn’t have time to do on the weekends, which are often full of family concerns or shopping or marathon walks with T-Man and don’t leave much time for email or blog posts. Or making the bed or laundry either, come to think of it.

Saturday was Dye Day with Darling Daughter and her Friend. We did a number of skeins of sock yarn and they both dye-painted some roving for spinning. Of course I get sucked into knitting one of DD’s pairs of socks with her friend’s mom getting the other one. You don’t think she was going to knit her own do you? Even if she does know how, she has never actually finished even one sock. Not to worry, I’ll try to have them done by her birthday in September. Since I’ll actually be away on holiday at the time, that will give me extra time to finish them! Nice extra-bright colours, see?

The 2 skeins on the left in red/orange/green are DD’s (Ha! Fooled ya! Bet you thought they were my colours, didn’t ya?) The middle ones in purple/turquoise/olive are my attempt to not make my usual fall colours and the right-most skeins are an over-painting in red and brown of my former Jaywalker socks yarn. Hopefully the Jaywalkers will look better now. Originally they were dyed in the ball causing the inside of the ball to be a pale version of the outside of the ball and for both balls not to match in any way. They have been bumped farther down on the NIL (Next-In-Line) list because I have several other things I want to do first. I’ll probably be the last person in the world to knit my first pair of Grumperina’s Jaywalkers, but that doesn’t bother me. I never was one to follow the crowd anyhow.

Meanwhile my Sea Socks are almost up to the toe decreases which is farther along than the Pomatomus socks which aren’t even up to the heel flaps yet. See, I just can’t work on anything that takes concentration. I must have my “mindless” socks to knit on which means they get done first. After they’re done I will be starting an Anonymous Project, which I won’t mention until it’s completed and gifted to its intended recipient. One hint, I’ll need the needles from the Sea Socks for it.

Speaking of those #&^$* needles (my 2 sets of Addi Natura bamboo dpns) — I’ve managed to misplace one of them. I’ve looked everywhere! No skinny little bamboo needle anywhere to be found. You’d think carrying them around in my decoupaged lunchbox would help keep everything together in one place, wouldn’t ya? So where did the darn thing go? Wait! I haven’t searched my backpack yet! There’s hope. Meanwhile I made a spare from a bamboo sate stick. Lots of sanding and a rubdown with waxed paper and it’s as good as any of the $13 (Canadian) per set Addis. Hmmm… However, I’ve only got a couple of these particular sticks left. The new ones are much thicker, more like a 3mm than a 2mm. That’s an awful lot of sanding to get it down small enough. Besides, if I have too many sets of sock needles, I’ll have too many pairs going at once. I need to keep them under some kind of control. Somehow. Ha.

Friday, July 14, 2006


So what is it about me and vacuuming that makes me want to do just about anything to avoid it? I don’t remember having this problem a couple of years ago. I would dutifully haul out the vacuum and suck up all those hairballs, dust bunnies, kitty litter tracks, and food crumbs with nary a whimper. Why would I now rather spend time ironing T-Man’s shirts, picking the blueberries, weeding and watering the garden, knitting, reading the free newspapers, washing dishes, and even — heaven help me — type up this here blog instead? If I don’t try to do the whole house at once but stick to one level at a time, it’s neither painful nor onerous. But I’m having trouble convincing myself to start. I’ve put it off so far for about, oh…say, a couple of weeks! Just One Floor, darn it. Move!

It’s not working. I’m still typing.

There’s actually a compelling reason to vacuum. I’m trying to get tidied up so my daughter and her friend can come over tomorrow and play in my dye studio. Not that my daughter cares a fig about tidiness but I can’t stand crunching on the kitty litter that my multi-toed cats track all over the basement and up the stairs. And it’s a housewife thing, you know? Along with cleaning the brown stains out of the toilet and making sure there’s a clear path to the doors. Hygiene and safety are important. Yup! Get moving, Damselfly.

It’s not working. I’m still typing.

Maybe I’ll head over to my LYS and get some more yarn to dye. And then come home and wind some skeins. Maybe by then T-Man will be home and I can convince him that I need him to vacuum for me. Nah, that would be mean. After all, he just worked an entire 8-hour day while all I did was avoid my housework. Get. Going. Girl.

Oh, ALL RIGHT already! But not until I go buy more yarn first.


Ummm…3 hours later and I’m still here. But the house is vacuumed! All 3 floors. And the bathroom is clean. All by myself I wrestled with the giant man-eating dust bunnies and put most of the jillion baby spiders outside. (Sorry to the ones I squished or sucked up! All those webs were not attractive.) Now I’m too tired to go anywhere. There’s always tomorrow. Right now I need to relax a little — and get my shoulders massaged.

So why does a house with only 2 people in it, one of whom is gone 9 hours a day/5 days a week, plus 2 cats, who sleep at least 20 out of 24 hours, get so darn dirty? Oh.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

How Long Is A Piece Of String?

That’s my stock answer whenever I get the common question “How long did it take you to make that?” Things just take as long as they take. One bead, one stitch, one pick, one inch at a time. My particular habit of working on several projects at once tends to make each of them take even longer than they would if I just concentrated on finishing one at a time. But how fast I finish isn’t the point. Even if I’m really happy with the completed item and celebrate its check off my never-ending list, it’s still the process of working on it that was important to me. I can tell because immediately upon finishing something, I start something else. The list of UFOs and Next-In-Lines (hereafter referred to as NILs) never seems to get any shorter. Sometimes longer, but not shorter. There is no end — except likely either my total incapacitation or my demise. I can’t help myself. I have to be doing something entertaining with my hands.

So today I finished winding the warp for the Bamboo Samples. Now we have to get it on the table loom so I can start weaving. I have to wait for my weaving partner to have the time available to come help me. If I start without her, she’ll think I don’t want her help. Wrong! It’s much more fun to thread the loom with company. This is nice yarn and I’ve never worked with bamboo before. The colours are rust and dark brown (almost black) and the feel of the brown is somehow softer than the rust. Don’t know why since they are the same brand and size. The warp feels drapey and heavy which is likely what the finished fabric will be like. Then it gets all cut up into teeny little samples! The structure is an 8-shaft pinwheel twill which might prove interesting to weave on a table loom with levers instead of treadles. Though I won’t have to change all of the levers with every pick (just on a couple) which saves time and motion. Here’s the draft. Notice the plain weave sections which will help to show where to cut the samples.

Next, I’ve gotten up to the heel flap on the Sea Socks. Did I mention this colour pattern is really nice? It almost looks like something I would dye myself because in the “solid” sections it’s really short lengths of different shades of blue and green. Likewise the “spots” on the white sections are grey, blue, and turquoise. Very yummy. This is Regia 4ply in colourway 5378. Me likes. Though I forget where I got it. But that’s ok because they won’t have any more of this anyway.

The weather changed yesterday and it rained enough to water everything pretty well. It was cold in contrast to how warm it’s been and, since there’s no heat on in my house, I had to apply more layers on my body instead. Today it’s cleared up somewhat though there’s still a lot of cloud around. It’s supposed to improve over the weekend but not be as warm as it was. Good. Sounds perfect to me. Right now it’s warmer outside the house than in. I think I’ll go spin out there or something and warm up. My hands are cold.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Problem Solved

Well, one problem anyway. I had a bit of trouble with my hearing aids slipping down out of place so I emailed my audiologist. (Gotta love that high-tech communication stuff, eh?) She reminded me that there were little plastic support thingies that hadn’t been installed (and that she hadn’t mentioned when I was there). She was going to fix them for me at my next appointment but that would have meant waiting a whole week. So I did it myself and…TA-DA! It works! They curl around in the cup of my ear and hold them in place better. Yay! Now they are comfortable and work really well and I’m in love with ’em. So is the T-Man. He really likes it when I can hear him properly. Wonder why? I normally only wear the hearing aids when I’m going out or he’s home, but I’m wishing I could justify wearing them all the time. The teeny tiny batteries don’t last very long though (one died already and I haven’t even had them a week yet) so it’s silly to waste them when I’m home by myself. Funny that I went for so long this way without even noticing, but now I crave the improved hearing that I get with my new aids. Just shows you what I was missing all along.

I’ve started plugging away slowly at the weaving that’s been on my loom for something like a year and a half. It’s the Boa that’s listed on my sidebar under Languishing. I got bored and distracted by other projects and haven’t needed my big loom for anything recently, so there it sat. It’s too warm to wear the thing when it’s done, but that doesn’t matter. I’m feeling the need to finish something from my UFO list. Especially one that’s been on there for so long. It’s kind of pretty I think; it uses the same ribbon yarn as I’m using in the Little Squares sweater, along with a bunch of other knitting and weaving yarns. The colours are similar to my Pomatomus socks, though there’s more orange in the boa and more green in the socks. They work together nicely anyhow, plus I’ll be able to wear the boa with the sweater. If I keep this up, I’ll have a whole outfit! Here’s the boa on the loom:

When you take it off, you tie up the ends so it doesn’t ravel and then you twist it and fluff it until it looks all rounded and feathery. Hopefully I haven’t screwed up the weaving too much so it still holds the twist. I’m not sure I followed the directions properly all the way through. It was too long between weaving sessions to remember what I did!

Yup, it’s all the crafts all the time here at Damselfly’s Pond!

Oh, yeah! I almost forgot to say Happy Birthday to my fat old kitties, Ms. Polly Manytoes (tabby) and her darling daughter (tuxedo), Julius. Polly is 18 and Julie was born 17 years ago today on my kitchen floor. Love ya, fuzzballs!

And Happy 17th Birthday also to Julie's brother Dhoughie, who lives with my daughter and her sweetie.

Monday, July 10, 2006


Way back in December my friend Nancy gifted me with this cute little doll. I loved her grumpy little face and her wild hair but her white body was really not exciting. So the other day I got out my new Golden fluid acrylic paints (quinicridone nickel/azo gold, q. burnt orange and q. green-gold) and my GAC900 fabric medium and mixed up some (say, equal parts of each paint and medium) and diluted with water. I put a shower-cap on Angel-Thing (plastic wrap) to keep her hair dry and out of the way and painted her all over. I tried to keep her face lighter and was hoping that Nancy hadn't used something water soluble for her features! Luckily they didn't run. When she dried I used some Pebeo glitter gold wash over both sides of her wings for some sparkle. I'm hoping it won't interfere with beading but we'll see when I start. I ironed her wings to set the paint and glitter and that made them a bit stiffer too which is good. (But now my ironing board has gold glitter. The stuff is insidious!) As you might guess I don't plan to cover her all up, but just give her a dusting of beads, particularly on her wings. She has picked out her beads in compatible colours and we’re all ready to get started. Eventually.

I also finished the Africa socks. I didn’t divide the 100g ball of yarn into very equal parts so I had to join in the leftovers from one sock to the foot of the second sock so I could finish. Luckily I was able to match the patterns. Here they are on the happy recipient:

He already wants me to make more pairs. He only has 4 at the moment and he’s starting to like them better than cotton or nylon socks. Uh-oh. I’ve created another sock monster! He seems not to care if they’re quite wild so at least I don’t have to make a lot of boring and hard-to-see plain black socks for him. I’m running out of room in my own sock drawer anyway, so it’s ok if I make a bunch more for somebody else for a change. I’m still working on the Pomatomus and the Sea Socks for me anyhow. I have to have a plain pair going at all times, no matter what else is on the needles!

While I was playing with Pattern Maker Pro, I’ve somewhat down-sized the Little Squares jacket pattern (from Sally Melville’s Colour book) and re-worked it for my handspun and commercial ribbon yarn combo. It’s an oversized garment but the sleeves especially would be just huge on my short little arms. I graphed the whole thing out so that I could see at a glance where the shaping goes. The fabric is so stretchy lengthwise that I have to work by counting the ribbon rows instead of using a ruler or measuring tape anyhow. I’ve spun up a full bobbin of the yarn so I can carry on knitting the second front band. It should last me until I get some more spun. I’ve got lots of fibre so I can just keep spinning until I’m done knitting. I have no idea how much it will take, but since it’s knit on larger needles than I would normally use with this fingering-sized yarn (Denise US size 9/5.2mm), it shouldn’t be all that much by weight. More pictures when there's more to see.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Chilled Out

It’s cloudy today and much cooler than it has been. This is kind of a mixed blessing: I still have to water my plants but I also have to close up the greenhouse to keep the heat in. A big advantage is being able to sleep with all the covers on. I like heavy covers. I don’t sleep well under just a sheet.

I just realized that I forgot to mention that Monday was our 35th wedding anniversary. Even though it was a stat holiday (for Saturday’s Canada Day) T-Man had to work. (He got Tuesday off instead.) We had a lovely evening out. We walked downtown along the edge of Chinatown and went to Tinseltown to see the X-Men III movie. It was very well done for the comic book movie genre. (I admit I have always had a thing for Wolverine! Or maybe it’s Hugh Jackson I have a thing for? Nah, I was reading the X-Men comics when they first came out and Logan was just ink on paper. Snickt!) After that we walked to Yaletown and went to a very pricey restaurant called Blue Water (mains in the $30+ range) and had a yummy seafood dinner, with equally-pricey drinks, wine and dessert. Ya just gotta splurge once in awhile, eh? (Though that nearly-$200 could have bought a lot of yarn! Or glass!) Then we walked home. Yes, we could still have afforded a cab (barely) but it was a nice evening. And we needed to wear off some of the chocolate dessert.

I’ve been studying knitting symbols. I’m looking for The Definitive Version but I can’t seem to find one. Every publication or author has their own ideas. For instance, the knit stitch can be just a blank square (or rectangle) or a vertical line. A purl stitch can be a dot, a horizontal line, or a dark square. There’s a bunch of different symbols for decreases too: diagonal lines, angles, triangles, and upside-down Y’s — though a yarn over is pretty much always an O. And on it goes for every move you can make with your pointy sticks and string. There’s even 2 kinds of charts: one type for stitches (lace, cables etc.) and one for colour patterns (fairisle, intarsia, duplicate stitch). No wonder knitters need a key to each and every chart.

I usually draw my charts (or any kind of graph) with a program I’ve had since the very first version, Pattern Maker by Hobbyware. I use the Pro version because it can make proportional graphs (i.e. not square) and has other handy features, like exporting as a JPEG. I’m holding off testing the latest version 4 until I have time to play with the evaluation program which is only good for 4 days. I’m not sure I need it, but it might be better — won’t know until I try it, will I? Along with Pattern Maker Pro, I use a knitting symbol font from here. It’s pretty comprehensive but you need to use it in a spreadsheet or something to make the grid. If you need to have the grid built in to it, the other knitting symbol font that’s available is from David Xenakis (the first X in XRX publishers) here. It’s a little harder to get some of the symbols since his key chart doesn’t really relate to Microsoft reality and the characters don’t look that great on-screen. (He’s a Mac-head, what can I say? I’m sure the Mac fonts work just fine.) There are actually 2 fonts available, one that might be more useful for the second kind of chart, the colour one. Currently I’m trying to map it out on my computer in order to make a better cheat-sheet. It’s a challenge! However, I can see where this type of symbol font could be useful just to type a quick chart into a Word file or something without having to open yet another program.

Getting the symbols on paper is one thing, but knowing what symbols to use for what knitting move is another! That’s what brought me to start looking at knitting charts in many publications. It turns out that as long as you have a key somewhere, you can make it mean anything you want. It is true that some symbols are more reminiscent of the actual effect than others. I like it to be as pictorial as possible so that I don’t have to look at the key constantly. I’ll be playing with this some more in the future. These kind of things just fascinate me. Yes, I’m weird — but you knew that.

There are several new issues of online fibre publications up: Spindlicity (love the articles from kids), Knitty (with patterns for socks — including one from my friend Sivia — hats, and gloves), the second issue of For The Love Of Yarn, and the very first (and rather good) issue of Fiber Femmes. Go, get a cup of tea or coffee, come back, and read them! I’ve now got 2 new buttons for my sidebar:

Next, my buddy Mel has asked in a Comment about Mu Ni, my beaded art doll and how big she is. She’s about 4 inches tall and her skirt is about 4 inches wide. I can’t tell how thick she is, though it’s something like 1-3/4 inches through the puffiest part of her skirt. Her face is just over an inch across. Does that help? Happy gardening, hon’!

Update on my hearing aids: I’m getting much more used to them and have been wearing them for most of today. Some things still sound too loud and I can hear my bones creaking! But I’m more able to deal with the odd stuff. Like when I move around sometimes there’s a little sound like jingle bells? I think it’s my hair or my glasses moving slightly near the pick-ups. The parts that go in my ears aren’t tickling as much today. I really think this is going to be a piece of cake getting used to them. But I’d better not say that yet! Just in case.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

So I've Been Quiet...

…but the world is a much noisier place for me now. I just got my new hearing aids! They are so cool. However, I can hear myself walking and breathing. I can hear the refrigerator and the lawn mower a block away. The sounds of crackling paper, water running, and the beep of the microwave when it’s ready are really loud. Even my own voice sounds odd to me. I feel like I have to learn how to hear all over again. How to ignore the sounds I don’t want to hear and focus on those that I do? The birds are chirping!

Right now I’m only wearing them for a short while to get used to just having the microphones in my ears. At first they tickled unmercifully! The main part of the hearing aids goes over my ear which feels quite normal since I also wear glasses (and have since I was in grade 7 — back when dirt was young). That part doesn’t seem to clash with the earpieces on my glasses. They’re coexisting nicely. The biggie is the part that actually goes in my ear, but still leaving space for air circulation. My ear canals seem to be somewhat ticklish and sensitive so a program of increasing wearing time will help get them used to the feelings of having something in them.

I think in the long run I’ll only be wearing my hearing aids some of the time. After all, I spend a lot of time at home by myself. I don’t need to hear anything then except maybe the radio which I’ve been listening to less and less. I don’t get many phone calls or anyone coming by during the day. I can listen to podcasts on my Palm with the earphones on when I can’t wear my hearing aids at the same time anyway. So I’ll be wearing them when I go out or when I have company or when T-Man’s around. He gets tired of me saying “What?” all the time. That adds up to maybe less than half the time I’m awake total that I need to wear them. But first I have to go through the adjustment period so I’ll be wearing them quite a bit for awhile. I have another appointment with the audiologist in 2 weeks. She promised to find out how much the new coloured shells cost so I can change out my black ones if I want. Do I want purple, orange, or green? Bright or light? Decisions, decisions.

So you want some fibre content on this here blog? Enough of Damselfly’s personal afflictions? OK, how about a photo-tutorial on painting cloth with fabric paints? There’s a cool technique that I use quite a bit and it’s very easy. It works differently with different paints though so some experimentation is in order. Because I just recently got some Golden Fluid Acrylic paints and the accompanying DAC 900 fabric medium, I thought I’d test it out and see what it does using the scrunch technique. I also thought I’d do another piece of fabric at the same time with Pebeo Setacolor transparent fabric paint, which I know works well with this technique. The weather was cooperative too, being warm and sunny so the fabric dried quickly, which is the secret. Not the light, but the drying makes this work. Remember that fact. There’s erroneous information out there that says you need sunlight for “sun printing” of which this is an off-shoot. But you don’t. You need heat and dry air.

First I got out the paints and mixed them in small containers with water. I used quinicridone nickel/azo gold which is a lovely yell0w-gold acrylic and red ochre Setacolor. I didn’t measure sorry. Approximately ¼ teaspoon or so of paint and enough water to completely wet the pieces of fabric. Plus a few drops of DAC 900 in the case of the fluid acrylic. I put them on my tray and scrunched the pieces of fabric up with my fingertips, creating mountains and valleys in the cloth. Then I put them out in the sun to dry.

At first they looked all-over one colour. Pardon the variations in light in these photos — they were done over several hours and the light changed. It does that sometimes.

But as they started to dry, the colour started migrating up the mountains to the tops.

The mountains’ colours deepened as the valleys lost a lot of their pigment.

When they were dry, I flipped them over to see the other side. It was much lighter.

Then I ironed them thoroughly which both set the colour and got out most of the wrinkles.

The results were interesting: the fluid acrylic (left, gold) didn’t darken much more than at the very tops of the mountains. It was missing the middle tones and “contour” lines that I like so much with the Setacolor (right, red). Plus there are spots of pigment where I didn’t mix the paint and water very thoroughly. This piece of fabric needs more work to be at all exciting. I do like the colour but the hand is somewhat stiffer than the “real” fabric paint. I doubt I’ll be rushing out to buy more fluid acrylics unless there are colours that I just can’t get with Setacolor or there is a technique that works better with them. More experimentation needed. It'll be fun.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

I Love Esmeralda

I love Esmeralda because she’s pretty, delicious, resistant, forgiving, and reliable. She’s happy when it’s cool but slow to bolt when it gets hot. I keep tearing off her light green skirt and she just tosses her head at me. Wait…what am I talking about? My favourite lettuce, of course! Here she is at her best in my garden:

Her seeds come from a local company, West Coast Seeds, and she is just about the most perfect lettuce I’ve ever grown. Esmeralda is a butter lettuce but she’s not the delicate thing I’ve seen offered as butter lettuce. She’s tough enough to resist insects and slugs and her leaves stay perfectly lovely above the first row (which sometimes get a little damaged). The taste is crunchy and mild. And best of all, it keeps in the fridge for at least a week without going mushy or brown. I’ve been growing Esmeralda for about 4 or 5 years now and I just started another bunch of seeds for plants that will go into the fall. I pick only the outside leaves until it starts to head up and then I cut off the head leaving a rosette of leaves on the root that hopefully will grow more small leaves that I can harvest.

And what’s the perfect colour complement to Esmeralda? Merlot, from the same seed company, is a gorgeous deep red leaf lettuce that makes a really pretty salad. It isn’t quite as bolt-resistant as Esmeralda, but it does pretty well. It’s just now starting to think about bolting and it’s been very warm here for almost 2 weeks. I consider that acceptable, especially since the endives, arugula, Tah Tsai, and mizuna bolted weeks ago. Here’s the beautiful (for the moment) Merlots:

I was picking the mizuna and Tah Tsai sprouts until I couldn’t keep up with them before the pretty yellow flowers appeared. Since you’re supposed to eat the young leaves, the sprouts were actually pretty tasty and keep well in the fridge. Meanwhile, I think the heat has been good for at least some of the summer squashes and the cucumbers that aren’t in the greenhouse. They’re starting to pick up from having their roots munched by pill bugs and who-knows-what-else. The peppers outside look pretty sad though. The peas are almost finished by the heat but the beans are growing better. The Dragon Tongues (I love those!) are bigger and stronger than the other 3 varieties of bush beans. Too bad they lose their pretty purple blotches when you cook them and they become an odd shade of yellow-green instead. The Scarlet Runner beans are taller than me and you can almost see them grow.

In the greenhouse, the cukes are starting to form little fruits and the tomatoes are starting to grab me when I walk in the door! There are lots of little green tomatoes and a few peppers in there but I’m thinking that the eggplants may have been a mistake, warm weather notwithstanding. They haven’t grown any bigger since the day I transplanted them. They’re stuck and if they actually manage to grow a new leaf, an old one gets munched off. Now I know why I’ve never tried to grow them before. And I may never grow them again! Unless a miracle happens in the next 2 months and I see something edible happening.

We’ve had our first couple of blueberries! Much picking to come.

No fibery news today. I’m picking away at 3 or 4 different projects and there’s nothing really to report. Oh, and Happy 139th Birthday yesterday to my country, Canada! Yay! We went around all day wearing red and white in celebration. Resisted painting a maple leaf on my face though we did see a few of those downtown! Tried to sleep through the fireworks. Luckily they’re far enough away not to be a big deal. The Celebration of Light international fireworks contest will be starting soon however, and those wake us up every time. They’re closer and louder and we go to bed too early. Several Wednesday and Saturday nights will be a lost cause to try to sleep until about 10:30pm. Folks are having fun though, so we live with the inconvenience. They are pretty spectacular and if we bother to look we can sometimes see the highest up ones over the houses. Not worth going down to the water with about half a million other people to see it properly. It’s way too crowded and we’d be half the night trying to get home. We’ve done it when the kids were young enough for it to be a Big Deal. Now we’ll let others enjoy without us in the way.