Tuesday, October 31, 2006

This Is Halloween

I keep hearing that song in my head from Nightmare Before Christmas (one of my favourite animated movies). Jack Skellington, the Pumpkin King, is just so cute! And I love his girlfriend, Sally, who’s stitched together with needle and thread. Ah, romance. Sigh. Just keep the Boogey-Man away from me.

This is T-Man’s pumpkin. Pretty evil-looking huh? He’s having fun handing out candy while I’m up here blogging. I keep going down to see how cute the little ones are. I’m dressed in my pumpkin and ghost earrings with my baggy orange fleece that makes me look fat and pumpkin-ish.

I have a Finished Object to report! I sewed the last seam on my Little Squares Sweater and it is done. I like it! But it will have to wait until tomorrow to get photographed. I’m no good at doing it by myself and daylight might be a good thing too. More anon. Meanwhile I also finished the last wee bit of knitting on the Leaf Necklace but I’m still stuck on the clasp. I need to give it some hard thinking and perhaps try a few different things. The necklace is really quite heavy so the clasp needs to be strong to support the weight. I also need to repair 2 small missing beads and reinforce the thread through the stone leaves at the same time. The mistakes are on the back so it won’t show but I’ll feel better with some extra thread through the heaviest part. The silk is pretty strong but it’s not very abrasion resistant.

Now I can finish another UFO or start something new. I’m thinking I should finish the Peapod Sweater. There’s not that long before grandbaby number two is due and we should be scheduling a baby shower. I want to be ready without having to kill myself finishing at the last minute.

I read the whole “Spin to Knit” book this morning and have some comments but I’ll save them until the next post. Just had a flock of ladybugs at the door. Big ladybugs! And a little tiger. I should go help.

Monday, October 30, 2006

As The World Turns - And Turns

Yup, it’s still doing it, but not so bad as yesterday morning. I’m just a bit dizzy today so I’ll wait until T gets home from work before I go get groceries. If I hold his arm I’ll be fine. I just don’t want to get halfway home and keel over. And he can carry the groceries!

The Little Squares sweater back is off the needles! Yay! I’m blocking it now and impatiently waiting for it to dry so I can get busy sewing this baby together. Meanwhile I’m back to knitting on the Ribby Socks while I wait. I’m up to the heel turn on one and almost there on the second. See?

I love those hand-dyed colours, especially against my not-yet-carved pumpkin. What you can’t see is all the leaves on my deck that I haven’t swept yet. This time of year it’s never-ending. We had our first frost last night so I’m glad I brought the potted heucheras up onto the top deck on Saturday where they’re more protected. I also stuck the remains of the coleus plants in the greenhouse where it’s relatively warm. Maybe they’ll perk up again. The cuttings I took from them are doing really well under the grow-lights in the basement. They’ve all seemed root ok so I’ll still be having more if the ones in the greenhouse don’t make it. I rather doubt they will anyway but just put them in there to extend their lives a wee bit. I should put the geraniums in there too! Oops. Hope the ones out in the front garden are still alive! I’ll have to go check. The Wobblies kind of ended my gardening this weekend, so if they don’t survive I’ll just go buy more in the spring. Road trip to the garden shop. Yes. But we have winter to get through first.

Breaking News! Mailman just came by to deliver one of the 5 books I recently ordered from Chapters/Indigo. I had a $5 off coupon OK? That makes each book $1 cheaper, plus my membership discount, plus no shipping on orders over $39 even if they have to send each one individually. My story and I’m sticking to it. Oh, where was I? Book, right. This one is Shannon Okey’s “Spin to Knit” and before you think that it’s pretty basic for someone who’s been spinning for 30 years, I had to have it because my boss is in it! Yes the lovely Cara Birkeland has a photo of her with her family’s prized carding machine. And that’s not all — my friend Angela is in there too with a helpful plying hint. It’s way cool to personally know people in a real book! I’ll have to read this cover to cover but at first glance I’m not overly impressed with either the spinning or the project patterns. But for my newbie students this will make them not feel so bad about their first efforts! There’s also been some comments out there about the method that Shannon shows for Andean plying. I can’t really fault her because she describes the commonly taught way with the cross over the back of the hand. However, the cross should be on the palm, like this. So much more sensible. More discussion to come. I’m going to read my new book.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Well, So There

I have labyrinthitis again. Darn. All the dizziness with none of the fun of being drunk, not even the alcohol. Wonder how long it will last this time? At least I can sit at the computer and knit. I got plenty of work done outside yesterday, including planting the rest of my coleus in the greenhouse, moving the potted heucheras from my lower deck to the upper one by the back door, and sweeping off the decks yet again. I wonder why I bothered doing the latter though — we had a big wind all last night and this morning and the decks are covered in pear leaves from next door all over again. And the walnut tree has barely started to drop its leaves yet. More sweeping coming up.

We also went for our weekly Long Walk on Friday afternoon which is good because now I’m barely able to go from one room to another without holding onto the walls. Just because I had this dizziness thing last winter doesn’t mean I have to get it again and again, does it? Though I should be grateful that apart from acting like a drunken sailor I don’t feel too bad. Just a bit queasy occasionally. My ears didn’t plug up this time so I put on my hearing aids to see if that helped. It doesn’t. Nice try though. Guess I’ll just have to wait it out. Meanwhile I have an excuse to sit around so I shouldn’t complain too loudly, eh?

While we were out on said walk, we came across a dress shop on South Granville with this in the window:

Sorry for the low-res blurry pictures but they were taken with T-Man’s cellphone through the window of the storefront. (I forgot my camera.) There’s a bicycle and bench (plus a tree which we didn’t photograph) completely covered in knitting. There's also a flock of knitted birds. Very neat! The artist is Daria Tavoularis whom I hadn’t heard of before. Most of her work (and her website) could best be described as a bit weird. The knitted stuff is the most accessible, at least to me, though I couldn't find these pieces on her website. Anyway it was fun to come across them by accident so to speak.

In crafty news, I spun another ball of the yarn for my Little Squares Sweater and now I’m knitting madly away on the back. I’m about 2/3 of the way done and since it’s just a big square (ha-ha! Get it? A big square of Little Squares? Never mind.) there’s no shaping. Still haven’t tackled the finishing of the knitted leaf necklace yet. It’ll have to wait until I’m feeling better methinks. I can’t concentrate very well when the world is heaving like the deep green sea. Uh. Better not think about it.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

De-Cluttering, Part 1

Be proud of me. Be very proud! I went through all the clothes in my bedroom and I’ve gotten rid of maybe 1/4 of it and there is more room in the drawers. OK, so I actually took quite a large bag of t-shirts upstairs to the studio for assessment. If I “remodel” them with my serger, they will look much better on me. Or if I don’t get to them by, say, the end of November, they will join their brethren in the trash. Yes. I also “rescued” a bunch of cotton and wool (commercial version) socks that may (or may not) become Stupid Sock Creatures. They have until January 1st to become something or likewise they will find their little corpses out in the alley. I have spoken. It will be so.

Meanwhile T-Man has only done a portion of his clothes, but I will encourage him to finish. Soon. Next up is the front hall closet. There are more clothes in there. And shoes. A warning — this is merely Stage One of our newly-declared Winter 06/07 Blitz. This house isn’t very big as these things go, yet there are corners where an amazing amount of junk lurks. We’ve been here since 1978, for goodness sake! Though we’ve tried to pawn stuff off on the kids when they moved out, we couldn’t convince them to take everything. Then of course we bought more since then. After all, the youngest has been gone almost 9 years. Even for us, stuff wears out eventually. Or just gets old and gungy and out of style. Now I know why other people move so often. It makes a great excuse to re-evaluate. Unfortunately you can’t make me move, so I’ll just have to do this the hard way. At least there’s no real deadline except the one in my head. Spring. I’d like to have it done by next spring. Wish me luck.

Since I haven’t shown my Little Squares Sweater knitting for a few days, for some crafty content I’d like to talk about the “dip stitch” pattern. The pattern repeat is simple: knit 4 rows stockinette with the handspun wool, next row switch to ribbon yarn and work “dip stitch” across (see notes below), last row knit with ribbon yarn (causing a purl bump on the knit side of the work). Repeat these 6 rows forever. As I’ve mentioned previously, the reverse stockinette side will be the public side, just because it’s prettier. But the pattern counts from the knit side which is the side we're working on in the photos. Here’s how you do the “dip stitch”. It’s kind of fun even though I actually have to look at it. First knit 3 (I knit an extra stitch at the selvedges as the pattern suggests), then dip:

1. Go down 4 rows below the one on your left needle, insert your right needle there and bring up a loop. Note: when you have more rows of dip stitch you’ll be going into the ribbon stitch just above the last row of dip stitches and in line with the previous dip stitch.

2. Knit the stitch from your left needle normally.

3. Lift the dipped loop over the knit stitch.

4. Now you’re ready to knit 3 stitches again before the next dip.

Can’t you just envision a bunch of variations on this? Different yarns, different numbers of rows, staggering the dips, etc. Will the right-side be public or the wrong-side? I say it needs some serious swatching. BTW, I got the pattern from Sally Melville’s “Book 3: Color” but of course my yarns didn’t match her gauge so I’m doing a larger size with longer lengths. Except for the sleeves. My arms are short and sleeves are always way too long so I shortened them considerably. I’d rather have them a bit short than down over my hands or having to be turned up all the time, at least in this kimono-shaped sweater. The back piece is currently getting larger and heavier and harder on my hands. Plus I’m running out of handspun again so it’s back to the spinning wheel this afternoon. That’ll give me an excuse to listen to some more podcasts. I’m particularly liking Lime & Violet these days, as well as my favourites Cast-On and Craft Sanity. Listening allows me to actually get some work done because it leaves my eyes and hands free. However, I do get some funny looks if I comment or laugh out loud while out in public. Don’t know why — it seems like it's ok to yap loudly and incessantly on your cell phone anywhere anytime.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The Offspring’s Offspring

I finally got to play with my dear little granddaughter all by myself yesterday while her parents went to a movie. She was such fun as only 2-year-olds can be! We played with Granny’s toys for awhile — she knows the cupboard where they’re kept and wiggles the handle saying “Opie, opie” until I open it for her. Most of the toys were brought out but not all were played with. I think she’s outgrowing a few of them now, but her impending baby brother will get his chance eventually. Some of these things are older than their daddy! Later we went to the nearby park that has play apparatus geared just for little ones. Nobody else was there so we had it all to ourselves. The big hit was digging up a dish full of gravel and hauling it up the steps to the slide. It made a lovely racket as it was chucked down the slide and then she followed it down and started all over again with the shovel. This visit I noticed that they’ve added a wee bit of brightly coloured gravel to the plain old rocks. Sorting out the blue and red and yellow pebbles and lining them up took up some more time. Then it started to rain so we headed over to my LYS which was closer than home. My “boss”, the owner, was in and had a good cuddle with DGD while I swapped 2 balls of yarn for 2 other balls of yarn. She wants a little one of her own but so far it hasn’t happened but I’m willing to lend. It was really cute when DGD waved and repeated “G-bye!” on the way out.

I’m nearly halfway up the back of the Little Squares Sweater. I’m going to go until I run out of the last ball of handspun before I spin up any more. I have a wee little bit of the singles still on the spindle but I’m assuming I’ll need at least one more small-to-medium-sized ball before I’m done. I just don’t want to have a lot of leftovers in case I’d rather do something different with the rest of the fibre. There’s about 200g left at this point. I was so nervous about running out of the ribbon yarn that I bought way too much. I’ll probably have more than 4 balls left when I’m done, even after crocheting around the collar/fronts. Oh well, that’s better than running out and not being able to get any more! I’ll just have to do something else with it.

That sweater needs to get done so I can go on to other things. The projects are starting to line up! Poor Pomatomus socks are stuck, as are the Ribby socks and the Peapod sweater. I want to do a lace shawl with a gorgeous skein of cashmere/merino laceweight that’s teasing me. I think it’ll be this one from Interweave Knits Fall 06 issue. I’ve got an ancient cone of brown cabled merino fingering weight that wants to become this lovely lace cardi by Laura Chau (cosmicpluto) from Knitty.com. And before I start any of those new projects, I want to make a partly crocheted/partly knitted cardigan sweater from some handspun that’s been kicking around the studio. I’ll be designing this one myself so there’ll be more on this later as I swatch and calculate.

I got Interweave Knits new Holiday issue the other day and several of the patterns are giving me déjà vu, especially the already-available-as-free-PDF Heart Sachets which I made last December. Why would I willingly spend money on it a year later? The bag by Nicky Epstein also seems familiar but I’m not sure if it’s the same or a variation on several of her patterns that have been published recently. I do like the pears on the cover though. They would look cool in a handturned wooden bowl on the table. If you’re sick of socks, do check out Interweave’s glove gallery for some “handy” inspiration. I’m becoming a big fan of handwarmers especially if I can still type and knit with them on. Right now I think I need them. I’m freezing!

Oh wait. We need pictures. This here blog has been pretty boring of late with all text and no eye-candy. This is kind of how it feels here today, though this was taken on our holiday and is actually the edge of Cleome Lake near Fort Bragg, CA.

And this is what we call the Hobbit Forest, on the trail to the beach at Washburne State Park on the Oregon coast. It’s all dark and mossy and mushroom-y. This park really does have a trail called the Hobbit Trail but this isn’t it.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Yo Mama's

Argghh…I’ve probably mentioned this before but nothing gets my back up like statements such as “Not your mama’s _fill in the blank_” or “Not your granny’s _same thing_”. I’ll bet it was your mama or your granny or an aunt or somebody who’s mama/granny/aunt taught them who taught you how to knit or crochet. What exactly is wrong with how your mama or your granny did it? Styles change, sort-of, and yarns change, but the techniques are mostly pretty much the same as they were a hundred years ago. So why do today’s crafts have to be separated so emphatically from what has gone before? I mean they can’t really be afraid of looking too “retro”! Everything seems to have a 1950’s, ’60’s or ’70’s flavour to it these days. They just put it together it in different ways than we did.

Which brings me to my next peeve: I can’t tell anymore what’s fashionable and what’s just plain ugly. Recently I’ve seen so much that I remember from my childhood but the new combinations are sometimes bizarre! If I remember it the first time around, does that mean that I can’t wear it the second time? More importantly, would I want to?! Ah well. It’s hard to get me out of my sweat pants and Birkenstocks anyway. But please ’splain to me why anyone in their right mind would even consider a tartan blouse with puffy sleeves and a big floppy bow at the neck? Anyone?

I’m really happy that some styles have changed over the years. When I was a girl, we couldn’t go downtown shopping without a good dress, hat and gloves on. Men always wore hats when outdoors too. Girls had to wear skirts to school. No pants allowed until the year after I graduated when the rules changed, though they still weren’t as indulgent as they are now. I can’t imagine how my teachers would have reacted to the “thong panties sticking up above the low-rider jeans” fashion among young teenagers! Immediate suspension comes to mind. On the other hand, some of the new trendy little purses would have been right at home with my mom and I owned a black velvet newsboy cap when I was 15. Everybody seems to be wearing that shape, male and female, in all kinds of fabrics. Looks terrible on me now with my 2-inch hair. But I still adore hats. Ah fashion, fickle and strange!

So I forgot to mention how my guild meeting went. I was working away on my Little Squares Sweater and it was amusing when a new member and her mom who were sitting behind me exclaimed “Oh, you knit like we do!” We started looking around at all the knitting going on and it was pretty much split 50/50 for English vs Continental styles with maybe a slight edge to the English way. I really don’t think it matters as long as you get the results you want anyhow. Lots of people knit at guild meetings, at least until the lights go down for slides or whatever. The program was a slide show from a former member who used to weave rugs for interior designers but found that 1) it was a lot of work for not a lot of money and 2) it’s hard to weave even 2 rugs a year with a small child demanding your time. Heh. So now she works as a liaison between a Tibetan-owned rug weaving atelier in Katmandu, Nepal, and North American interior designers. A perfect job since she has had plenty of experience with both sides of the exchange. She showed slides of her stay in Katmandu studying with the weavers and dyers which were really interesting.

The atelier owner is a very smart Tibetan woman and she employs a mixture of both Nepali and Tibetan artisans, male and female. The styles they create are a mixture of traditional and Western modern depending on what is wanted. The traditional motifs are tigers, dragons, phoenixes and clouds. The biggest loom allows weaving a huge pile rug that would probably only fit into a commercial building and it takes 6 months to weave it! Impressive. They use silk as well as wool in their rugs and sculpt the pile after it is off the loom to enhance the design. She had an example skein of the handspun wool and it was lumpy and hairy and altogether not nice but the result after weaving was amazingly beautiful and long-wearing. Quite a lot of the yarn is lost after trimming with big iron shears which seems like a waste but you need a long enough length to work with. The Tibetan style of creating pile uses a rod and the yarn is knotted around the warp threads and wrapped around the rod to create the pile. The rod is left in until the whole row is knotted, changing colours where necessary for the pattern and then it’s beaten into place with heavy hand forks. Then the rod is removed for the next row of knots. This is quite different than the technique used in the Middle East, where they don’t use rods and the pile is also clipped after weaving but just flat without sculpting.

This isn’t the same company, but it’ll give you an idea of the designs and some history of rugmaking in Tibet and Nepal. And here is another interesting read.

Monday, October 23, 2006


Time goes way too fast. Or maybe I try to cram too much into it. Anyway, here we are at another week when I hardly know what happened to the last one. Saturday we did our usual marathon walk, this time downtown. We went shopping at that famous institution that’s older than Canada (but sold out to US interests), The Bay. T-Man needed some new undies so I also managed to convince him to get a few cotton knit tops with long sleeves that he can wear now that the weather is getting somewhat colder. There’s no dress code at his workplace so he can wear whatever is comfortable. Anything to save me ironing his pure cotton and linen shirts every week!

Yesterday I finished the left front piece to my Little Squares Sweater and I’ve cast on for the back. That’s the last and largest piece! I think I might be getting somewhere. I’m kind of getting impatient to finish it now that I’m so close. I was knitting on the front piece while we drove out to the woodworking show in the MINI Cooper. Ha-ha! T-Man finally succumbed to a new lathe, though he doesn’t actually have it yet. It weighs 600 lbs (wouldn't fit in the MINI!) and but he still has some work to do in his woodworking studio to accommodate the new equipment before it can be delivered from the shop. He has to rewire for 220 volts and move the old lathe out and clear some floor space. He plans to sell his old lathe so there will still be some room to turn around in there. Reorganising is very necessary. Not to mention spider removal. Good thing I’m not afraid of them! I’m sure he’ll draft me into helping wrangle the dust bunnies too. Maybe I could get the spiders to corral them first with their webs?

The show was interesting as always. It’s very fun to watch guys (and a few gals) go as nuts over tools, machines and wood as we do over fibres, looms and spinning wheels! They totally understand the urge to make stuff. And collect stuff. It’s just that their stuff is heavier, noisier and takes up more room. Well maybe not more room than my big loom, but wood isn’t as soft as wool. Even when it’s reduced to shavings. But I’m really hoping that having a new piece of equipment and a clean studio will inspire T-Man to get back into woodworking this winter. He’ll be able to make me some neat fibre tools with his new lathe. After all, I don’t even have a T-made spindle. Talk about the cobbler’s children…

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Where There's Smoke

That was too exciting! Unfortunately the house across the street and one over was on fire this morning. The last (of four) fire engines is still there mopping up and reporting to the Chief and the Fire Investigation guy. I don’t think they actually needed four fire engines but I guess they were bored and didn’t have anything better to do at the time. They were obviously from separate fire houses because they spent an inordinate amount of time high-fiving and slapping each other on the back. Meanwhile white smoke was pouring out of the house and a few firemen were actually trying to put it out. It was disconcerting to see men with water hoses and axes go inside. Glad it wasn’t my house. It’s a nicely kept little house and recently sold so I don’t know the owners. But I didn’t see anyone who looked anxious enough to be them anywhere among the many neighbours who “casually strolled by” to ogle. Can you imagine getting a phone call from the fire department that your house is burning? Or coming home after work and finding your house in a shambles? The fire looked to be in the basement. Wonder what caused it so I can reassure myself that it won’t happen in my house. Brrr… And it’s raining again as well though it’s supposed to clear up by late this afternoon.

Hmmm…did I mention that the view of the Little Squares Sweater yesterday, though it looks like the front with the knit stitches and all, is really designated the back of the fabric? I hadn’t realized that side was up when I took the picture. The back is actually the beautiful side:

And the part you can’t tell by looking is how wonderful and crunchy it feels, especially after blocking it. The nylon ribbon yarn (Lion Brand Incredible in “Copper Penny”) and the slightly overtwisted 2-ply wool handspun knit on what, for the size of the handspun, are oversized needles (US 9, Denise), just gives it a crêpey feeling that is so nice. It drapes really nicely too, which is a good thing for this oversized kimono sweater. When it’s done all I’ll need is a sweater “stick” to hold it together fashionably recklessly in front. Maybe T will make me one on his rather underused lathe. Maybe if he gets the new one he wants? I’m hoping anyway.

This evening I’m going to the first weavers & spinners guild meeting that I’ve been to since last June. It feels like a very long time ago! I don’t weave much or at least I haven’t for the last maybe 5 years but I do spin occasionally. And it’s not like I don’t like weaving any more. It just seems hard somehow to buckle down and do it. Maybe I need to get the boa off the big loom and get some tea towels on it. I need tea towels. I don’t really need the boa. Even if it does have some wonderful yummy yarns in it including the aforementioned Copper Penny Incredible. It will totally coordinate with my Little Squares Sweater and I have to finish it, just to clear my loom if nothing else. It’s just so hard to sit down and do it. The warp is only a half-inch wide and the weft (not the fancy pattern yarns but the boring 6 shots of tabby between) are just tedious. I’m more than half done. For a whole 2 years! Yikes!

As I was saying, I love my guild. It’s the first one I joined when I found out guilds existed back in 1985. The ladies and occasional gents (the latter of which include our current president and the workshops chairperson) are the most supportive and generous and helpful and genuinely nice folks one could ever meet. Some of them are my best friends (next to T that is). They’ve hung in with me through teenagers, elderly parents, parental demise, discovery of my birth family, sibling troubles and even...gasp...textile problems! They’ve turned me on to a whole bunch of new fibre addictions and I've taught them a bunch as well. The best kind of friends. Many are elderly, some are young and enthusiastic. A few even have sadly passed away.

It’s interesting that a number of my fellow guild members have branched out from just spinning, weaving, and dyeing into the larger territories of surface design, art quilting, book and paper arts, beadwork, and other fibre arts along with me. We’ve expanded. Which is why I recently joined the fibre arts guild as well. Several others from my first guild have done so too. I haven’t found as many good friends in the new guild (apart from those who came from my original one) but it takes time. Maybe after I’ve belonged for over 20 years? Hopefully not that long. But I like it because they don’t limit themselves as much. They’re more innovative and more interested in the “art” part of fibre arts. More interested in galleries and exhibits and statements and art in general. Maybe I just feel a bit restricted in the old guild and a bit more free in the new one? Or maybe it’s because nobody really knows me that well yet and I haven’t taken any guild positions or taught any workshops. I’m laying low and just absorbing. Being one of the crowd. It’s actually refreshing in some ways. However, I won’t give up my membership in the weavers & spinners guild. It’s a huge part of my life. I just zipper my lip these days when volunteer opportunities come up. I don't know why but I really feel I need a break from responsibility. I just want to do stuff for me for awhile.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Roots & Raindrops

I sat out on my upper deck all afternoon yesterday to finish threading the beads that I mentioned in the last post. Good thing I did because it’s raining again today and it feels quite dark in comparison. Undaunted I sat in bed this morning with my tea and my cats and my husband’s best reading glasses on top of my regular progressives and knit. With tiny little wires for needles and silk thread not much thicker than sewing thread and rather uncooperative beads flopping this way and that. The necklace is taking on a curve — at least I hope it’s a gentle curve and not a freakish distortion that will never lie flat. I have to watch the tension so that beads don’t pop through the stitches which makes them stick out in all the wrong directions. The beads are supposed to lie between the stitches and the most difficult ones to get right are the “picots” on top and bottom. You bring the bead down just after you’ve turned the work and attempt to keep it from getting away while you knit the first stitch. Knitting on this necklace can only happen in increments because I keep finding my neck and shoulders cramping with tension. Guess that means I need to watch my tension as much as the knitting’s tension, hey? Here’s what I’ve got so far at the almost halfway point:

Also, I’ve been plugging away at the Little Squares Sweater. Now that I have spun yarn to work with again it’s going quite quickly. I still need to spin more for the back. Might work on that for awhile this afternoon. Always nice to spin while the rain is on the roof. Besides I have to get in the spinning mood for my last Beginner Spinning class this evening. My boss went and told them I teach dyeing here in my dye studio, so now they want a dye class. If they all want to come maybe we can schedule a day and just do it. I hate trying to get enough people together for a class.

Last but not least, I have to show you this terminally cute vintage photo of a little girl.

Isn’t she adorable? This was taken circa 1930 and the little cutie just happens to be my mother-in-law. She's just about the age of my granddaughter, her great-granddaughter, here. Despite all the horror stories you’ve heard about mothers-in-law, she’s a wonderful exception and we get along great. I find it interesting how much she still looks like this person! T-Man talked his mom out of some of the family photographs so we can scan them and see if we can repair some of the damage. And also so we can share them with the rest of the family. After I lost 99% of my family photos to my &^%# adopted sister, I’ve been very aware how having only one set of prints can be dangerous. Any of a number of bad things could happen to them! We’ve already digitally photographed a bunch of our old slides to share with our kids. They should have some record that they were once children and we were once young too. And also to remind them of their grandparents and ancestors as far back as we still have pictures to prove they existed. It’s good to know a bit about your roots.

I just love the serious look on mom-in-law’s face. Maybe she wasn’t happy about being photographed? Or about holding her dolly? Was she wary of the photographer? There’s a bit of snow on the ground so it must have been cold. Maybe she just didn’t want to stand still long enough. Check out the cool animal-spotted trim on her hat and coat! Mom was the youngest of 4 girls and she has 2 sisters in their 80’s still around. She also has 3 sons, 7 grandchildren, and 9 (almost 10) great-grandchildren. Those roots have grown branches and leaves, I tell ya!

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Nine PM

A little late-night blogging. Oh, you don’t think 9 pm is late? How about if you got up about 5:45 am this morning? It’s been a long day. For me anyway.

What exactly did I do today? I…er, ahem…started another project. Yes, I know I shouldn’t have. I’m so deep in UFOs now that I can barely see over them. Yet, I couldn’t help myself. There’s this Canadian magazine, kinda new, kinda all over the fibery map with the subjects covered. In the latest issue (#4, Fall 2006) there’s a beaded knitted collar necklace. And I looked at all the beads that were on my desk. Even a spool of Gudebrod silk size F. And I couldn’t help myself. I started threading beads on that rich brown silk thread. I used beads that I’d bought on my vacation and a few from last year’s visit to Shipwreck too. The colours are lovely and I have about an inch knitted so far. I don’t know how it’s going to look when it’s finished yet or even if it will be wearable. But I swear I couldn’t help myself. Here’s the beginning of the threading:

I also knitted on the Little Squares Sweater now that I have some yarn to knit with. I spent a couple of hours yesterday spinning up another ball of the Tamarillo top from Aurelia. I’m almost halfway up the left front with only the back (the largest piece) to go. I’ll need to spin more before I get there but this should keep me happy for awhile. I pointedly ignored the Ribby Socks. I’ve already got enough projects that I shouldn’t be working on.

This is unfortunately a short post because I can feel my brain shutting down and the cats are wanting their supper. And so to bed, to dream…hopefully not about seagulls in sweaters.

Monday, October 16, 2006

I Do Textiles

I don’t know about you, but I have really strange dreams sometimes. This morning just before I woke up I dreamed that I made a black sweater for a white seagull. But the poor thing was having trouble flying with it on because I made the wing-holes too tight so I was trying to catch it to fix them. Then I went to a café and was listening to a couple of folk musicians when their sound system went off. While they were waiting for it to be fixed, I chatted with the fellow who asked what I did. “I do textiles,” I said, but I’m not sure he understood what that meant. I’ve always had trouble explaining what I do, even in waking life. After all, I don’t really make a living at it. I just have to do it. I sewed and knitted and crocheted as a child. I added spinning and weaving as a young adult with small children. Later I learned kumihimo and bobbin lace and rug hooking and a lot of bead stitches. Recently paper and book arts have crept in there along with some wire to go with the beads. So just how do you put all that into simple terms that anybody can figure out? “Fibre artist” usually has them asking where I sell my work. I don’t. “Fibre arts instructor” doesn’t tell the whole story. It doesn’t even count as a part-time job. Maybe I should just say “I’m a housewife” and leave it at that? Heh.

Had a lovely time with my Spectrum Study Group on Saturday. They were all working away on more Coptic stitched books but I decided to carve my 2 vine maple leaf rubber stamps. I had pressed a small leaf and an even smaller one from our last holiday campsite inside my journal. When they were good and flat I traced them onto the pink Speedy-Stamp material but I hadn’t gotten around to carving them. They turned out pretty good. I think I’m getting the hang of being loose with my cutting but not too sloppy. Whenever I got too anal it didn’t turn out as well. The stamps have the mark of the hand rather than the perfection and fine detail of the commercial stamps. They work well on fabrics too because they are bold. It's hard to photograph them though! Interestingly most of the stamps I carved recently are leaves. Fall always inspires me that way. Leaves are infinitely fascinating to me especially when they are more colourful than just green. Here’s a bobbin lace cherry leaf bookmark that I made a number of years ago:

That was before the pinched nerve in my neck and resulting numb forefinger made it hard to pick up the bobbins. I might be able to do it again now that I’m used to not feeling with part of my finger. I find lacemaking a real challenge to my brain, more so than any other craft I’ve tried. Like knitting it only has 2 stitches: twist and cross. But it’s what you do with those moves and where you put the pins that makes incredible pieces in the hands of the experts. I’ll never be an expert but it’s fun to do a little piece. This one is my own freeform design so it wasn’t that hard. If I made a mistake it was part of the plan!

We were going to go to the Fraser Valley Bead Show yesterday but it was raining. Lots of rain. More rain than we’ve had since December of 2005! Instead of driving out to Langley it was lovely to sit around reading and listening to the sound of the rain. I got caught up on all the newspapers and magazines that I haven’t had time for. We’ll be tired of it later when we’ve had days and days of gloom but it’s been so long since it rained hard that it was refreshing. T-Man and I were joking that we should have put up peace signs and called the news stations because we spent so long lazing around in bed it was starting to resemble John & Yoko’s famous bed-in! The cats of course loved it because they had nice warm bodies to snuggle up against. I should have checked for crumbs in the sheets before we went to bed last night, though the cat hairs are normal.

I hope the bead show did well anyway. This is the 3rd annual and they’ve had to move to a larger venue so they can include classes which is a good sign. Two of my friends were teaching this year which is great to see and another friend had her own booth for the first time. However, neither T-Man nor I needed anything after our visits to Shipwreck and Frantz Glass on our vacation and it was a long way to go just to pay $5 each to look at other people’s work. We don’t buy finished pieces and rarely others’ beads. Next year we’ll go again. It’s good to keep up with the local beadfolk and see what they’re up to at least once in awhile.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Tweaking The Code

Ha! I’m still messing around with my template but now I think it’s looking quite revamped, doncha think? Of course I have no idea what it looks like on anybody else’s computer screen. But at least it’s more original and less like the kit-form template that it was when I first started blogging. Hope it’s still readable. One big advantage is that now with the new Blogger beta I don’t have to republish the whole blog every time I make a change. Very refreshing and much quicker. I’m able to play with other people’s code a bit but I still would like to learn more about HTML and Blogger’s particular CSS code, but it isn’t that easy. It’s really time-consuming and I’d rather do other things. Like knit or spin or sew or read. My blog works OK the way it is. At least until I get inspired to mess with it some more!

The new system has given me Labels on the bottom of each new post. That way you can click to find all the posts that match that label. Might come in handy but there needs to be more posts first for there to be more labels. I’ll attempt to make the labels as relevant as possible anyway and see how it goes. But enough of this tech-talk! What’s on the blog-menu for today?

The weather continues to be gorgeous here — warm and sunny days followed by cold (but not freezing) nights. The weatherman warns that rain is coming this weekend but right now we’re enjoying this for all it’s worth. We even sat outside to have dinner last night as the sun was setting. Very romantic, even though I had to zip off afterwards to teach my spinning class.

The class has been going very well with most of my newbies making nice yarn after only 3 lessons. One is a little overtwisted still and one is having more difficulties and isn’t sure that spinning is for her. Unfortunately she’s going to miss the last class, where we could work on it more and see if we can solve her problems. But she has been invited to come during another set of classes for a remedial lesson if she likes. I hope she does because I hate to leave anyone unhappy. It does happen sometimes for whatever reason. I have to admit that I’m not the most dynamic teacher and some people are afraid to speak up, easily frustrated, not giving themselves enough time to learn, perfectionist, or just not paying attention to what I’m trying to tell them.

I had to go to the dentist’s office yet again today to have my teeth cleaned. Whew! I’m a little tired of the dentist right now, though my lovely hygienist does a great job and my teeth look positively glowing. The appointment was just too close to the last one less than two weeks ago. Good thing I don’t suffer from dentist-phobia anymore like I did when I was a kid. But I only have just so much tolerance for lying there with my mouth open with things poking. Glad it’s over for another 6 months. The one advantage was the perfect weather enabled me to walk both ways in pleasant comfort. It’s about 3 kilometres each way and, for once, home is downhill.

We need another picture in this here blog. How about the seashore? This one is looking north on the beach at Carl Washburne State Park, Oregon. Doesn’t it look peaceful?

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Adventures In Blogland

Technical talk alert! Technophobes please skip this part.

I managed to get my blog converted over to the new beta version of Blogger, but I dunno. I tried to change my template with their new “easy to use” system and lost all my loverly sidebar stuff. I worked hard to learn just enough HTML to mess with that the way I like it and there’s no way I was going to lose it! Maybe I’m too dumb for their Templates For Dummies approach but I found it cumbersome to even add a list or a link section. Back to editing the nekkid code for me.
However while I’m at it, I’m going to put a new picture of me that I played with in Paint Shop Pro X in my profile. But first I have to post it on here because I never did figure out how to avoid that step. And I’ll add a girl damselfly picture just for good measure. Maybe I can get it up there in my title area eventually if I can get the HTML right. Just to keep this exciting, I’m going to try to post from Picasa. Haven’t done that before! Always balancing on the edge, hey?

Look! It worked!! OK, you technophobes can come back now.

This is going to be a short post because I need to go teach my newbie spinners tonight. I still have to find a few items to bring with me to show them about preparation. Not that many of them want to be bothered with raw fleece, but you never know. When I was a new spinner, there wasn’t much choice! Dirty greasy fleece from some meat sheep was about all you could get. Now you can get lovely carded or combed preps and even dyed and blended with silk or tencel or other yummy stuff. These gals don’t know how spoiled they are! I’m going to try to tell them tonight. Wish me luck.

I’m getting towards the top of one of the fronts on my Little Squares sweater. I need to spin more yarn because I’m running out. I might make it through this piece but that’s it. I’ve been trying to be good and ignore the Ribby Socks I cast on. And as you probably guessed, I didn’t help my DIL with the curtains. I sewed them all by myself while we chatted. Then I made us all dinner.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006


Is the act of making something good for you? Mentally I mean. I think it feeds the soul in ways that other pastimes don’t. How do you feel after playing video games? Watching TV? Reading a book? (Guess it depends on the book!) For some people playing sports makes them feel good, unless their team loses. And that’s probably adrenaline and dopamine or something chemical from the exercise. But I don’t like sports, either watching or playing. Making, the act of creating with your hands and your heart and your head, is a really positive thing. It channels your more destructive impulses and anxieties and gives you something back for the time spent on it. I think world leaders need to take up crafts. The world would be a much better place if all we were fighting over were things like the bargain yarn bin at our LYS and whether Addi Turbo needles really are the best or not. (Not. The tips are too blunt. IMHO!)

Even if your project doesn’t quite turn out the way you envisioned or you have to frog a sweater because it really makes the recipient look turnip-shaped, you still have all those pleasant hours of working on it. Your mind was in a state of gentle concentration, watching each little part come together into a whole. Creation of something complete from individual parts. Something all yours in a way that not much in the modern world is these days. The process is more important than the product. It’s kind of the antidote to technology, even though we often use technology (like the Internet) to learn techniques, plan our projects, discuss our failures and successes, and show off our products. I’m really glad more young people are getting into crafts in a big way. It’s sure better than whining about their life and how they don’t look like the celeb-du-jour. Oh wait, that’s what stitch & bitches are for.

So if it’s truly good for you, arts and crafts should be emphasized more in school and not relegated to “waste of time and money” status. Skills and creativity should be encouraged but not necessarily graded or marked. Or they could be integrated into the curriculum, where they’d fit well in math and science and history classes. Could you imagine how much quieter a class of 10-year-olds would be if they were crocheting? A friend of mine who is a teacher with a specialty in “difficult students” teaches them fibre crafts like braiding and weaving as a treat after they have completed assignments. They come back to the classroom at lunchtime to continue on their projects without coercion. It helps them to concentrate and to finish things. Also to have some pride in what they can accomplish. She’s a really special teacher but I’m not sure she’s aware of what a gift she’s giving these kids. I’m sure it’ll stick with them forever.

When I was a kid you couldn’t keep me away from crafts of all sorts. I did everything from paint-by-number and mosaic kits to drawing my own paper dolls complete with elaborate wardrobes. I still remember sitting outdoors on a school bench trying to knit a straight scarf for my baby doll without accidentally increasing or dropping a stitch. I wound lengths of fabric around my Barbie and tacked with a few stitches for a glamorous dress to wear with the necklace I threaded with beads from mom’s old jewelry. I tried to crochet a doll hat without really knowing how to make the stitches properly until I was older. I wove a beaded belt on an “Indian” bead loom. I learned a lot from books because my mom only knew how to knit and hem and I never went to camp where other kids learned how to make popsicle stick birdhouses and braided bracelets. I still learn more easily from reading and doing than taking a class. I mostly only took classes for the really hard stuff (bobbin lace is one that I couldn’t get enough information from books) and for the camaraderie. These days I get most of my camaraderie from the Internet and from the guilds and groups that I belong to.

Well if I’m going to get anything done today, I’d better get to it. My son, daughter-in-law, and granddaughter are coming over while their water is turned off for repairs. They’re taking me out to lunch! And then DIL wants help cutting and sewing some curtains. Just because, I’ll add a picture here since I still have so many good ones from our holiday. This is a collage of rocks, clockwise from top left: Capitol Reef, Bryce Canyon, Zion Canyon, and somewhere in the mountains in mid-eastern California. Doncha love the different colours and textures?

Monday, October 09, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving!

Well, it's Thanksgiving here in Canada anyway. We had a lovely dinner yesterday at my brother-in-law's with the majority of the family attending. Very pleasant gathering. Yummy turkey, pumpkin pie, all the trimmings. This is definitely the right time of year to have a harvest celebration, while the leaves are turning and the pumpkins are mostly still in their patches. We went home by the light of the Harvest Moon, just one day past full. Perfecto.

I spent a little while working on my coleus plants today. The sun was warm and I really needed to get this done before bad weather sets in and my plants either freeze or (more likely) rot. It was really hard to chop chunks off them when most of the plants were looking very gorgeous. But I forced myself! I got about two dozen cuttings and they’re all tucked into starter soil in mini greenhouses under my grow lights. This is the aftermath of clipping off the lower leaves from the cuttings:

Isn’t that pretty? Love those colours. Couldn’t help but take a photo before I dumped them into the compost.

And here’s the latest pair of finished socks for T-Man that I promised. They're sitting on what's left of some of my coleus by the water garden! Just the usual basic pattern with Sisu yarn. Too boring to do a formal Documentation here. You’ve seen them before lots of times. Yawn.

Today I’ve been knitting faithfully on my Little Squares Sweater. I’m almost out of the handspun so I’ll have to do more as soon as I run out. Might be able to get most of one front done first though. Now somebody smack me — I just can’t help myself! I tried to resist another pair of socks right away (at least until I finish a few other things) but failed miserably. Yes, I’ve started to cast on in some Sisu that I dyed purple, deep turquoise and olive. I’m not sure who they’re for yet. I’m doing a K4P1 rib in a grown-up version of the ones I made for my granddaughter’s birthday. They will fit most feet depending on how long I make the foot. So I don’t have to decide who gets ‘em until I get near the toe. I’m hoping the pattern is simple enough to knit while reading. Of course it’s keeping me from the Pomatomus socks, isn’t it? Oops.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Joining Together

AH-HA! Marriage is insidious. It even sometimes catches the wary — like the Yarn Harlot. (Big kudos to her and her Joe actually finally tying the knot, the same one that they’ve had loosely tied around them for so long!) Yes, I do believe in marriage: two people (of whatever sexual persuasion) joining their lives together in a meaningful and public way. I’ve been married for 35-1/2 years and it’s been a wonderful life. One of my kids is married and the other one engaged to be married next spring. Even my parents were “until death do us part” and now they’re together again there in heaven. I’m a HUGE big believer in the institution of marriage. Not the one that all the religions tout, but the real one in both of your hearts. OK, so some…maybe a lot of them don’t last. So what? Maybe they went into it with the wrong ideas or not quite the right intentions. Maybe they weren’t the right match. Maybe one or both screwed up. However, I totally believe that when it works (and it does more often than we acknowledge), that marriage is the binding of two hearts and two lives together inextricably. I would have been married even longer if we had been older than almost-18 and just-18 when we met! It took 2-1/2 years to convince our parents that this was it. We were life-bonded. And we were getting tired of waiting until we were old enough (by their standards) to actually get legally hitched. Yeah, we’re weird — I think I’ve mentioned that in previous posts!

My daughter is in the midst of planning her wedding. (Yes, he’s definitely a keeper. Even if he doesn’t like spiders. It’s just a minor flaw and we all have them.) However, this wedding is a little different. It’s a full-on SCA period costume wedding. The Society for Creative Anachronism (at least the local branch) covers the 650–1650 AD European time-line. Daughter was thinking maybe her dress should be Byzantine. Everybody else is on their own for time and place and I was a bit disappointed to find out the distinctive costuming from the Greenlander period I was thinking of was totally historically incorrect. Darn. Back to the drawing board. I have no more ideas but I only have until April to come up with something for myself and of course also for the T-Man. And I may have mentioned within earshot that I might be interested in beading a neckpiece for the bride. Did I say that? So far I haven’t found anything definitive enough, but I’m open to suggestions. April comes awfully fast, doesn’t it? Erg.

Our best advice for those contemplating marriage has always been “Never both go temporarily insane at the same time.” Both of you will have your off-days, your insecurities, your hard times, your doubts. But as long as one of you is strong and sure (even if you’re faking it!), the other one will be supported and everything will turn out fine. Also, cut the other some slack and as the cliché goes “Don’t sweat the small stuff.” I’ve seen so many relationships falter on silly little nit-picking details that Don’t Really Matter. AT ALL. Lastly, watch what you say and how you say it. No, don’t keep everything to yourself. You can express your feelings and your opinions. Just do it with respect and caring and (dare I say it) diplomacy. It can be done. We do it all the time. And always be willing to forgive. But only if they REALLY mean it and actually try to mend their ways. We won’t even discuss the personality disordered crazies that can only be survived if you run fast in the opposite direction. You wouldn’t get involved with one of those, now would you? Not if you value your happiness and your own sanity. Pick the right person and follow these simple rules and all will be well. Granny Damselfly has spoken. She knows whereof she speaks.

In Crafty News, for T-Man’s dark grey socks are blocking as I type so no photo yet. I’m soooo tempted to cast on another pair of plain socks, but I’m knitting on the Little Squares Sweater instead. I need to spin more yarn for this sweater though so I may not get too far on the knitting until I do the spinning. Still haven’t touched the Pomatomus Socks yet.

Yesterday we both worked at getting the house vacuumed and dusted and then went outside to clear out the tomatoes and cucumbers from the greenhouse. There’s a whole bucket of green and starting to ripen Juliette tomatoes in the kitchen now. I transplanted a few lettuces, mizuna, and endive from the garden into the empty space in the greenhouse along with a few little sprouting onions. Everything was really dry in there so I watered well. Hopefully the greens won’t bolt immediately in the warmer temps inside. I left some in the regular garden too, hedging my bets. Lots more work to do out there however. I still have leeks, broccoli, onions, and some herbs (parsley, rosemary, thyme, oregano, chives, and garlic chives) so it’s not bare. The rest has to be pulled out and composted. It’ll keep us busy for the next few nice afternoons.

Heading off now to my bro-in-law’s for Thanksgiving dinner with the ever-extending family. T has to work on most stat holidays so we usually have big family do’s on the Sunday. We’ve got lots to be thankful for!

The photo today is Textures from our holiday.

Friday, October 06, 2006


Have you ever had a series of unfortunate events? Of course you have — happens to everybody now and again. Or some people just kind of attract ‘em like flies to sh*t. In this case, since my life is usually pretty good, when there’s a series of stupid/bad/dumb things in a row I tend to notice. Most things are not too major and eventually get worked out one way or the other. This time was no exception to that, but I could have skipped oh, say the last 24 hours and be a little happier about it.

I’ll spare you the boring details of everything that went wrong but you might learn a thing or two from one of my tales of woe. Suffice it to say that buying software in a retail store is not a good idea. Even though they package it in some supposedly thief-proof plastic thingy that needs a special tool to open, I still managed to buy an empty box where a program should have been. It was a singularly compulsive buy, since I hadn’t planned on upgrading right that minute but you know how it is sometimes. T-Man bought a few things there and I guess I just had to have something for me. Being already in the store, I skipped my usual process of checking out the software online for price, latest version number, and whether it could just be downloaded and went home with an empty box. Doh. Turns out that 1) it’s not the latest version and 2) I could have downloaded the latest upgrade for $20 cheaper, even with the hefty rebate offer on the box. Of course there was no returning it once it was opened (store policy) so I had no choice but to see if I could get a replacement. I woke up this morning (super-early too) with a migraine and forlornly walked the kilometer and a half back to the store. Why are they more friendly when you’re trying to buy something than when you have a problem with something? Oh sorry, rhetorical question. After waiting in a slow line for assistance, they did find another copy (I would have taken a bet that that my dud was the last one) and opened it to show me the contents were actually there. Me and my headache wandered back home though I haven’t installed it yet. I’m almost afraid to. It had better be better than the ancient version it’s about to replace. Or else. Cause I’m not going to upgrade it again soon. Note To Self: In future, buy software online from the company that created it preferably after checking every aspect carefully and if possible downloading and testing the trial version first.

On the positive side of the technical scene at Damselfly’s pond, I now have a new flat-panel 19” monitor and a lot more real estate on my desk and on my screen. The Gargoyle is already happily ensconced on it in his usual spot. I was previously using my daughter’s old 17” CRT monitor but this one is much nicer! However I’m sure I wouldn’t have replaced the old one right now (since it still works) but I lucked out. Before we went on holiday, T bought himself a new HP Media Centre PC after his old Mac laptop bit the dust and this monitor was part of the package. When we got back we decided we needed an even bigger monitor on his computer so we can watch recorded TV from our bed. And then of course we needed new speakers to go with it. It feels awfully decadent to relax on a pile of pillows eating supper, cats tucked up against our legs, and watch the new TV season in comfort. The old TV in the living room is getting lonely, though it does come in handy to record (on vintage VCR tapes) occasionally when 2 good programs happen at the same time. We haven’t gotten around to watching anything we’ve taped yet. It’s too cushy in bed — even with the risk of crumbs in the sheets!

Back to the negative, though fibre-y instead of electronic. I was trying to finish T-Man’s dark grey socks and ran out of yarn on both of them about a centimeter short of the end of the toe. I only needed about a meter more to finish! Argh. Guess I made them a smidge, like a row or two, longer on the leg than I have before with this yarn. Unlike most sock yarns that have 210 m, it only has 160 m per 50 g ball so it’s a wee bit thicker. Luckily, I had another ball that I was saving for something else so I could test out my joining methods and finish the socks. They still need blocking and photographing, though they’re just plain boring dark grey socks. No thrills, no chills, no frills.

I’m not going to start another pair of socks immediately this time. I’m determined to finish my Pomatomus socks that have been languishing untouched for so long. I even dragged them all over in the van during our holiday, but never even opened the Scooby-Doo lunchbox except to take out the scissors. These socks take too much concentration for casual knitting. The kind I like to do while reading. Did I mention that T-Man bought me a cool book-clamp-holder-thingy that holds the pages open for me at Powell’s book store in Portland? It doesn’t hold the book upright but I usually can find somewhere to prop it so I can see the pages. I’ll have to show you in a photo sometime. I looked all over town before we left for something like this with no luck. It’s not perfect, but it helps.

Just for more craft content, here’s a pic of one of the 3 pairs of chain maille earrings that T made for me on our holiday. He bought some base-metal rings from Shipwreck so he could play with them and learn some techniques. These are kind of dark gunmetal and although a bit heavy, I like them. I need to photograph the triangle earrings and bracelet set in copper and gunmetal that he made last. They’re very nice.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Colour Inspirations

Here's a smokey sunset picture from T-Man's camera. It was taken from our campsite in Farewell Bend, OR. There were forest fires burning in a number of places nearby and all the smoke in the air made the air hazy and sunsets and sunrises spectacular. In our next campsite at Bruneau Dunes in Idaho, the sun went down as a huge red ball and disappeared behind the smoke before it went behind the mountains. That night even the full moon was bright orange. Even scary things like forest fires have a place in nature however. It's only us humans that try to stop them from happening when they impinge on our possessions, whether that's our homes, farms, or whatever.

This lovely autumn time of year always gets me thinking about colour. Did you know that I see colours differently with my left or my right eye? Is this a common thing or just another sign that I’m totally weird? My right eye sees things with more of a green or grey cast and my left eye sees more of a pink cast. Both eyes together is somewhere in the middle. I’m sure it has something to do with the rods and cones and how many of whatever ones I’ve got functioning in each eye. I don’t know if it’s always been this way, but I noticed it many years ago.

One of the reasons that I love Fall so much (besides the usually fabulous weather) is the colours of nature that are revealed. They are all my favourites: rusts, oranges, reds, purples, browns, and golds set against the greens. Lots of tertiary mixes. Yum! I’ve always liked colours that were off the primaries and also deeply saturated. No “Barbie Pink” for this kid! When I was a little girl, my box of 64 Crayolas was an exciting treasure. And yes, I still have a big tin of Crayola crayons. Along with coloured pencils, pens, oil pastels, paints, dyes, stamp pads etc. Not to mention every colour of beads and threads I can get hold of! In Applied Design class in high school I learned how to dye fabrics (batik & tie-dye), so I started dyeing everything in sight including my socks and underwear. When I learned to spin my own yarn, I quickly also learned how to dye it any colour I wanted. It was so exhilarating to realize that I would never be restricted to the manufacturers’ ideas of “seasonal colours”. And I won’t have to pay the high prices charged (rightfully and necessarily) for others’ hand-painted yarns. How liberating!

Over the years I’ve bought a lot of white or natural yarns and fibres to dye myself. I’ve also bought a lot of black and some navy blues because those colours use more dye and are harder to get a good deep even penetration, so why bother trying. Sometimes I’ve bought light colours to overdye if they were a good deal. I particularly love dyeing over natural grey wools for a deep but slightly muted effect. I’ve also dyed fabrics for sewing clothing or household items and wool yardage for rug hooking, even cotton panties and t-shirts and sheets and pillowcases. Not much is left white around here! It’s too easy to throw it in a dyepot.

Meanwhile I’m truly enjoying watching Nature’s green things change into their Halloween costumes. Later I’ll get to admire the beautiful branches that were hiding under all those leaves. I’m glad I live where there are seasons, although they might be more subtle here than in some other places. As the view outdoors shifts from one season to the next, you get a new perspective. The light is different. Plants unfold and grow and wither away and come back again. You can see the spirals of nature happening right before your eyes. Yes spirals. Nature is not a circle because it never goes back to the exact same place and of course there are many spirals going up and down and in and out all at the same time. Kind of like an organic and complex version of those screen savers you probably have on your computer. Or the music visualizers. Right. I know. Weird.

On a completely different subject, here are some new webzines that I’ve recently discovered (or been told about! Hi, Rosemary!):

Crochet Insider has some great interviews, a gallery, and yarn reviews but no patterns. Lots to ponder though. Nice to see crochet coming out of the closet with such verve! It has many advantages, not the least of which is the ability to go off in all directions.

That Spinning Place has a sophisticated online magazine called “Spins & Needles” in PDF. This is a very polished product although there are only 2 issues so far. Note that the main link for the first issue didn’t work for me (link broken?) though the zipped version worked fine. Nice mix of spinning news and views with an Australian flavour. There’s at least one pattern in each issue.

And if you haven’t already — go see the Fall issues of the other online mags. Most of them are up now. Links in my sidebar. Knitty continues to outdo even the print magazines for great articles and patterns I want to knit. Crochet Me is catching up quickly with great content. Spindlicity and Fiber Femmes have lots for us to learn and ponder plus MagKnits and For The Love Of Yarn are up with some new patterns. (Don’t miss the latter’s gallery with shots of Roland the guinea pig’s new knitted shrug!) The AntiCraft is still showing the Lunasagh issue as yet. However, does anyone know what has happened to Spun Magazine or have they gone bust? I’m sure it’s a lot of work without much recompense to produce these things, so I can surely understand if Real Life gets in the way!

Pardon the logo I'm posting here. It's so I can make it into a link button for my sidebar.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Fall Daze

The weekend went by in a blur — as did yesterday! As you might have guessed I had a wonderful time (NOT!) at the dentist on Friday. Nothing like having your mouth stuck open for about 2 1/2 hours straight. Although my dentist and his assistant were as gentle as possible, I found myself tensing up and occasionally fighting to breathe for a second or two. I had the fillings replaced in 3 adjacent teeth and an onlay applied to the worst one. We are struggling to preserve my old crooked teeth for as long as possible and it can be quite a job. Luckily T’s extended dental is paying for some of it ’cause it ain’t cheap! My mouth is still a bit sore where the freezing went in and the teeth are somewhat sensitive, but all-in-all it wasn’t that painful. And now I have all good dental work with no mercury-amalgam left in my mouth.

We had our children, their spouses and our granddaughter plus my MIL over for dinner on Saturday. It was a lovely family gathering, kind of a pre-Thanksgiving (in anticipation of the real thing next weekend with even more family). Even though everybody lives fairly close, there are gaps when we’re all too busy to communicate so it’s nice to get caught up on their lives. Two-year-old granddaughter is finally putting some words to things. She definitely has her own timetable! Her dad was yakking up a storm much younger than she is, but she’ll get there eventually. Then you likely won’t be able to shut her up! She’s a cutie though and fun for this happy granny to play with. It’ll be interesting to see how she reacts when her baby brother is born around the end of the year.

On Sunday I helped jury potential participants in a craft show coming up in December. It was very interesting to clash tastes with the 3 other jurors! One is a silver/goldsmith and is quite strongly opinionated which made for some lively discussions. We had totally opposing views on the jewelry which was fun but ultimately she “won” her choices. No surprise there! I was actually surprised at the lack of high quality design or innovation in a lot of the submissions and although fabric was well-represented, there was very little surface design or knitting/crochet. It seems that my theory that when you do something for sale, compromises must be made to turn any kind of profit. Whether that compromise is in materials, complexity, or craftsmanship, you just can’t spend as much time or effort when you’re making a large quantity for sale. Heck, what would I have to sell my hand-knitted socks for to make any kind of profit? The materials cost between $10 and $16 and it takes me (slow knitter that I am) upwards of 20 hours to knit a pair. Even at minimum wage, who’s going to pay me say $175 for socks? Not to mention the fact that it would kill my hands if I had to make more than one or two pairs a month. So see, everybody who gets my socks for birthday presents, how much I love you?!! Ultimately though I think this year’s sale is going to be very successful and showcase a good mix of different types of crafts. Whenever I’ve gone, it’s always been very busy and exciting.

Yesterday I buckled down and got my kumihimo braid done for the swap that was due on ahem…last Saturday. I completely forgot all about it until I got home from our holiday so I’m a leetle behinders. Anyway, it’s almost ready to go in the mail. I just have to finish binding the braid ends and attaching them to the cardstock printout of the details. I was so happy that the theme was Thick and Thin this time because a) that’s one of my favourite types of braid to play with and b) it works up relatively fast. I wanted to keep it simple so chose Edo Yatsu, the hollow braid (actually a tubular plain weave), and did two elements with 3 strands of fat cotton chenille and the other 6 elements from one strand each of a rayon 2 ply weaving yarn and a copper metallic thread for a bit of sparkle in contrast to the fuzzy chenille. It made a zigzag braid that isn’t hollow but that’s heavy enough to be a handle for a small bag. Sorry the scan is a bit off on the colours, which are actually a teal green chenille and orange/copper. My old scanner is starting to pack it in but I’m loathe to replace it since it’s legal size and actually still works not too badly on flat items. I probably should have taken a photo of such a 3-D braid rather than try to scan it however. The diagram is standard for kumihimo on the marudai, the “round stand”. The setup diagram indicates the colour order when you begin. It takes several repeats of the 4 steps to get back to the original positions. This is a very comfortable braid to work and has a nice rhythm almost like knitting or crochet when you get familiar with it. OK, I need to finish getting this swap all ready to mail.