Thursday, November 30, 2006

Can't Wresist

I still have a bunch of UFOs of course but every time I finish something I feel like I now have a license to start another. I had some of the black/fall coloured handspun fingering weight yarn left from the NSGS cardi and I had seen a set of wrist warmers in the Arctic Lace book that I wanted to try called Fish Trap. Heaven knows it’s been cold enough around here to need wrist warmers (or warmers of any description actually)! Of course I also wanted to add beads to it which was just the complication that boggled my little tiny brain. My big mistake was starting on this last night when I was tired and trying to watch TV at the same time. Hah. I frogged it once last night and then twice more this morning until I had a “doh!” moment. Now it’s coming out ok.

Let’s back up a bit. I had these beads in a lovely transparent bronze AB (aurora borealis, an iridescent bead finish) size 6°. I bought a hank of them when I was at Shipwreck Beads on my September vacation and they just happened to work nicely with the yarn. I had a bit of a problem getting them on the yarn until I remembered a trick I had read about recently. One thing I love about Czech beads — they come threaded in hanks. You glue the end of the thread from one strand of the hank alongside about 2 inches of the yarn. Moosh the glue in well, shape so it looks like a single thread and let dry. Now you can slide the beads over the join onto the yarn. This way the beads don't have to go over a doubled yarn or a knot.

The next problem I had was starting off by casting on with a long-tail cast-on like I usually use. The directions said knit 6 rows of garter stitch in the round which of course is knit one row, purl one row. Unfortunately the long-tail cast-on is also equivalent to a knit row so if you start in the round with a knit row you get 2 knit rows together, aka plain knit, not garter. It looked wrong. Frogged that and started again with the purl row first. Much better and the 6 rows end with a knit row which is a good foundation for the first row of lace pattern.

That’s where another problem showed up. The Fish Trap pattern is a simple diagonal of eyelets and since I wanted to put beads in, I attempted to add them in the middle of the solid area. Of course that wasn’t going to be symmetrical because there’s 4 stitches there. OK I can live with that. I used the bead technique where you bring up a bead, yarn forward, slip the next stitch purlwise, yarn back. The bead sits on the strand of yarn in front of the slipped stitch. On the next row you just knit it normally. Otherwise you can’t make the bead stay on the front unless you put it between 2 purl stitches and I didn’t really want the purl bumps. The technique I used looked the way I wanted it to. One thing worked right!

But then I had yet another problem. I was putting the beads in every 3rd pattern round. Actually I was only knitting pattern rounds. And it wasn’t looking right. Did I make a mistake in following the chart? When knitting lace on dpns, it’s a bit tricky when you have to work a k2tog-tbl across 2 needles or do a yarn over right at the end or beginning of a needle. Nope, I got the pattern right. Except I forgot one thing: the plain round in between pattern rounds. The chart just shows the pattern rounds and the only clue the plain rounds are missing is the numbering up the right side: 1, 3, 5, 7, etc. The even numbered rounds are the plain ones. Oops. Back to the frog pond.

By this time, the yarn was starting to look a little fuzzy. As was my brain. Hey, maybe if I do the beads on every other plain round. Then I wouldn’t have to juggle pattern and beads at the same time! Novel notion, eh? It works. I could have put beads on every plain round to make them line up closer together, but I kind of wanted them scattered more. This is partially for weight reasons and partially because I didn’t want too much sparkle. These will be practical items for wearing while sitting at the computer. The only thing I’m a bit disappointed with is the lace doesn’t really show up much. It doesn't help that I can’t block them heavily because they wouldn’t fit me if I did. I have very skinny wrists and I already dropped down a needle size to 2.25 mm as it is. Besides, I didn’t really want them too airy. I want warm! I do like this yarn knitted. I've only seen it crocheted before.

Here’s how far I’ve gotten so far. There is no daylight to take this in and I had to manipulate the camera with my left hand so it’s a bit off. Looks like I’m wearing a porcupine, doesn't it?

To end off, here is the lovely sunset this evening. The snow is melting. Wahhh! Although we got another few inches last night (which I had to shovel) the temp rose a lot today. But it didn’t rain much at all so that’s a good thing. Even saw the sun for a bit. I still have a thick sheet of ice on my top deck (the one with the semi-frozen water garden on it). It’s stuck solid so I can’t shovel it off and I don’t dare try to break it up because I don’t want to damage the plastic liner. Even my back door mat is embedded in the ice! We’ll just have to wait until it melts and use the basement door instead. And watch out for falling icicles!

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

NSGS Sweater

A Finished Object! Here is the full pattern, even though you won’t be likely to ever make one and it probably doesn’t fit anyway! It’s a little bit “shorthand” — though between the schematics and the text it should be understandable for a reasonably experienced knitter/crocheter.

Not-So-Granny-Square Cardigan

Begun: November 11, 2006
Completed: November 29, 2006

Yarn: My own handspun. Rust was recycled from my Star-Brocade Vest (1986), red overdyed to dark rust, 2-ply worsted weight Romney wool, 3½ skeins. Dried Grass was spun from dye-painted roving, probably Perendale, 2-ply sport weight, ¼ skein. Black/Fall was spun with one strand commercial-dyed black (anonymous) wool and one strand dye-painted roving, possibly Polwarth, 2-ply fingering weight, ¾ skein.
Needles/Hook: Denise size 7, Boye hook size F/5/3.75mm.
Gauge: knit with Rust yarn 4, stitches and 6 rows to the inch. Finished crochet square was 4.75”.
Buttons: 6 - ¾” wooden buttons recycled from something else. Large holes allowed sewing on with yarn.

Pattern: My own based partially on a jacket (#15) in Knit It! magazine, Fall 2006. Crochet square was based partially on a pattern in 200 Crochet Blocks by Jan Eaton, #73 Catherine Wheel. Cardigan is cropped with 3/4 length sleeves. Finished chest size is 37”.

Crochet 12 squares using
pattern diagram. Note that each row begins on a different side of the square. Crochet over loose ends to secure. Also secure centre loop by sewing. Block pinned overnight.

The squares are then joined with whipstitch through back loops only into pairs for sleeves and fronts. Join last 2 pairs into set of 4 for back. Begin knitting, following schematics.

Sleeves: Pick up st along crochet squares. Knit in stockinette st, inc 1 st each side every 4th row. (I used lifted-twisted M1, left and right versions.) Continue until 56 st then knit even until knitted section is 7” long. Dec for underarm: BO 4/2/1 every other row X10/every row X8 = 10 st rem. BO.

Fronts: Pick up st along crochet squares as for sleeves. Knit even for 6 ¼” then dec for underarm. BO 4/2/1/1 = 30 st. Knit even until 5” from underarm, then BO for neckline. BO 5/4/2/1/1/1 = 16 st. Knit even until armhole is 7” tall. Work short rows, leaving 5/5/6. BO.

Back: Pick up along crochet squares and continue as for fronts. BO for underarms = 60 st. Knit even until armhole is 7”. Shape shoulders with short rows following diagram. BO across.

Collar: Sew shoulder seams. With wrong side facing, pick up as for diagram. Knit st st for 2 ½”. Next RS row: k1, ssk, k across, k2tog, k1, turn. P1, p2tog, p across, p2tog tbl, p1, BO.

Finishing: Sew sleeves into armholes. Sew side and sleeve seams using rust yarn for knitting and black/fall yarn for crochet, sewing the knit part with a mattress st and crochet with the same whipstitch tbl as for connecting squares. Bury all ends.

Edging: On sleeve hems, join black/fall yarn at beginning of a square. (Sc 3, 3-ch picot) around, join into circle. On body, begin at right front bottom and join yarn, work sc up right front, around collar (working only into back loops of bind-off), and down left front. Continue across bottom with sc 3/picot. Switch back to plain sc and working in back loops only, continue up right front, working ch 2 button loops (sk 2 ch) as follows: work first buttonhole in centre of crochet square, sc 9, work second buttonhole at bottom edge of knitting, sc 9, work next 3 buttonholes with 9 scs between up to the 6th one at neck edge. Continue sc tbl all the way around to bottom left hem. Break off. Rejoin at bottom right and continuing to work tbl, sc up front. Switch to sc 3/picot through both loops around collar. Switch back to sc tbl and work down left front. Break off. Bury ends.

Using black/fall yarn, stitch buttons in place with an X stitch. Go through holes a second time and double-wrap a shank, then knot in back. A tiny dot of FrayChek will prevent the knot coming undone.

Block sweater (especially collar) well and leave overnight to dry. DONE!

In other news, we got a lot more snow before it stopped, about a foot worth, and then we went into the deep freeze for a couple of days. T-Man worked from home for Monday and Tuesday, but today he braved the roads to go in to work. He’s lucky he has the kind of job where he can stay home if necessary and still get it done remotely. I also babysat my little granddaughter and we had fun playing in her first real snow. We made a teensy snowman and then threw a snowball at daddy when they returned from the dentist to collect her! They got home with no mishaps but I’m sure I’ve got a few more grey hairs worrying about them driving in the ice and snow. I’m sure it took twice as long as the usual half-hour. Nobody knows how to drive in the snow in this city and they don’t have enough salting and sanding trucks for all the streets. Everywhere there’s lots of ice though it’s supposed to warm up and rain tonight. ICK! That’s going to make a big mess for sure. I'm not going to be standing under those honking icicles!

Sunday, November 26, 2006


I was wrong. Those teensy snow flakes got much bigger and they stuck! So now we have several inches of the stuff out there. It’s really pretty and I think it’s a lot nicer than tonnes of rain. Yeah, so I don’t have to drive in it and T-Man did the shoveling. I’d still like it but I'm sure those who live where snow is normal think I'm batty! It’s slightly soggy though so I don’t imagine it’ll be around too long. Better look quick! That’s the front yard and the walnut tree in the back yard. Somehow it’s a lot brighter around here now that everything is white instead of mud. I didn’t have to leave the lights on all day.

Back to the NSGS sweater and the crocheted squares. You could make a nice afghan out of this square though I think I would use a larger hook if I made it all out of the rusty red yarn. That would make it more flexible and drapey. But then the squares would be much bigger also! The 3 yarns I used are somewhat different grists: the rusty red is knitting worsted weight, the dried grass coloured one is a little finer (sport weight?) and the black/fall coloured one is fingering weight. But they seem to mesh just fine together. I thought about this pattern as I was drafting it and realized that I’m totally envious of designers who can grade patterns into different sizes. There is no easy way to do that with this one. You would have to make the squares slightly different sizes which would change the look. I don’t think different hooks would be enough to size it up or down. Good thing I’m not submitting this to a magazine, huh?

Anyway, here’s the square and its pattern diagram. I worked really hard on that diagram in Adobe Illustrator. I think I did really well considering it’s not a program I use very often. Or very well. I tend to use the simpler functions and add to my repertoire when necessary.

Notice that the rounds begin in different places each time. Since you’re changing colour anyway you might as well stagger the beginnings to make them less visible. It does block out to mostly square. Don’t know about what would happen if you weren’t using something as forgiving and malleable as wool though. So now I’m 3/4 of the way up the back which is the last piece of the sweater. Next I sew all the seams and add the collar and edgings with button loops. I still have to find some appropriate buttons but I don’t know how many I need yet. I have to space them correctly first. Did you know that dressmaking rules say that one button should be right in the middle of your bust so that area doesn’t pop open. One needs to be at the top at the neckline and one at the bottom then space the rest out evenly from there. I wonder how many designers think of that when they make up a cardigan sweater or button-front vest pattern.

Saturday, November 25, 2006


Isn’t that a wonderful word, coined — as far as I can tell — by Franklin of The Panopticon)? Otherwise known as XSmas (you can work that out!) is not my favourite time of year. Apparently the Silly Season went into high gear yesterday, the day after the US Thanksgiving, when everybody goes out and shops ’til they drop. Yuck. I’m really trying not to be too Scrooge or Grinch-like, but it’s all just Too Much and it was making me seriously crazy. So I decided a number of years ago to pare my celebrations right down. I don’t do presents, except sometimes for the little ones if I feel like it. Sometimes I get around to sending out cards, sometimes not. The family has gotten used to it now, I think. I try not to feel guilty and if someone gives me a present, I thank them very much but don’t feel like I need to reciprocate. I’m sorry if shops threaten to go out of business or craft sales poop out because I don’t do my bit to keep the wheels of free enterprise going. I really can’t stand shopping for other people. Go buy yourself something nice and thank me for not having to figure out what I want/need this year. I’ve already got it, thanks much.

My biggest problem is trying to blot out all the zillions of sales ads, tacky decorations and incessant carols. It’s really hard not to let it all get to me. I actually have to work at putting it into better perspective. I know there are a lot of people who love all this stuff, but I’m not one of them. No, I didn’t have an unhappy childhood! However I don’t remember things being quite this ridiculous when I was a child. No decorations going up before Halloween. No interminable buy-buy-buy from all sides. I still love the lights and tasteful decorations (even some not-so-tasteful ones). We have a real tree. I love the family get-togethers and the cooking and the eating and drinking and being merry. It’s so important in the darkest time of the year to have something to work towards, look forward to and celebrate. But the gods of commerce have gotten hold of this season and are trying to kill it for me.

Still another thing I hate about this time of year is the plethora of charities that want your money. Constantly. Phone calls and flyers and advertisements. Sorry but I pick one thing to donate money to and it has to be something that is personal and relevant to me and that doesn’t waste anything on bureaucracy. No fat-cat management, no mail-outs, no annoying soliciting. This year it’s going to be the care home that my mom spent her last few years in. They are lovely caring people and I know they will use the money for something useful to benefit the residents.

I’m not a Christian or religious in any way, so that part of it is lost on me. I prefer to celebrate Winter Solstice (despite it also having religious overtones) because it is a real event. Scientifically proven. Inarguable. The earth rotates around the sun. It’s all good!

I know I’m not the only one who feels like this. There are a number of different approaches to avoiding/reducing/chilling this season down to something resembling sanity. There is a lot of baggage attached to Christmas though, so it’s hard to forge a new path. It takes guts and determination and humour. I hope I’ve got enough to last me another whole month. I’m working on it. Anyway, here in the Land Of Incessant Rain it actually snowed a teeny bit today. Leetle teensy flakes that didn’t settle. Suddenly I feel Winter-ish.

Friday, November 24, 2006


I have Two fronts for my NSGS cardi now. Next I start the back which is the last piece. I have tonnes of the rusty red yarn left. Did I tell you that it’s really vintage stuff: circa 1987! It once was a very oversized pullover vest with embossed (purl) snowflakes that I wore cross-country skiing a lot. It was also bright neon red. So I frogged the whole thing and overdyed the yarn to mellow the colour down. There obviously was lots of yarn in that sweater because I ended up with 5 skeins plus some short ends. I’m only just starting number 3 skein which should be enough to do the back. This is a closely fitted sweater with just enough room under it for a t-shirt. No idea what I’ll do with the last Two skeins but they may become slipper socks. My feet are cold. Or maybe I’ll make a beret. I need a new hat as well. Slipper socks first though.

Speaking of socks, I finished T-Man’s Socka Socks. Two socks to be precise (gotta keep the theme going). I like this colour of yarn. It’s kind of pearly though it looks somewhat bluer in the photo. That’s pair number 5 for the T. Usual pattern, usual 2mm needles. Plain but serviceable. You know how I love to knit plain socks while reading. Which is why I have yet to finish my Pomatomus Socks. Here’s the Socka Socks:

I was going to write more, but T dragged me kicking and screaming (not!) out for a walk quick while it wasn’t raining. There was actually some sun for awhile. We went to our usual Chapters book store then to Steeps for tea. We finally saw the mountains that we haven’t seen for days come out of the clouds, with an icing of snow and the sun shining directly on them. No camera with me. Sniff! By the time we got home it was supper time and dark. The moon was occasionally visible as a thin sliver between clouds. That was pretty too but no photo. So here is the sky from last night’s sunset instead.

That’s next door’s scary old pear tree on the left there. It is so big and so creaky that I’m always afraid it’s going to come down on our house. So far it has managed to stay upright even in all the wind we’ve had lately. Whew! Who knows what will happen to it when they get the permits to develop the house next door which currently is unoccupied and partially stripped. We shall see.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Not So Blah!

Now I know why I was feeling a bit off on Tuesday. I ended up with a full day migraine yesterday. So I just knit and read and now I’ve finished the left front of my NSGS sweater. That’s a total of 2 sleeves and one front and I still have a full 3 skeins left. My skeins are big so that’s lots. Plus I grafted the toes on T-Man’s Socka Socks and they’re all washed and blocked. Unfortunately I can’t take a picture because currently it’s dumping rain and so dark I need all the lights on in the house. My flash totally changes the colours in the socks so I’m going to wait until it dries up enough to take a photo outside. Whenever that might be.

We’re still boiling water. I refuse to buy bottled water because those guys are just making a killing on this. If you can’t drink your own city’s tap water, you are in deep doo-doo. Maybe now they’ll upgrade the water processing (more ozonation please, I’m sensitive to chlorine) and admit that they should never have logged in the watershed. Even if they aren’t doing it at the moment. Whatever were they thinking, the fools! Apparently they found one measly E. coli bacterium in one sample yesterday (which they think was tester contamination) so now they are sampling more and still not lifting the advisory. I can see a marked difference in the water this morning where it looks much clearer, but who knows after this new downpour. We’ll see.

Some good news is I heard from my dear friend and alternative pusher…er, supplier, Jane Stafford, that my new Louet Victoria wheel is on it’s way! Yippee!! I’m trying to justify yet another spinning wheel by insisting it’s the first new wheel I’ve bought since 1992. Does that work, d’ya think? Or do I need an excuse at all? While I’m waiting, I realized there is very little information about the Victoria out there. I’m having trouble even linking to a page but here’s a PDF. Also try here on the Dutch website, choose English (unless you can read Dutch or German!) and then there should be 4 article links in red with some info on her development. Jan’s granddaughter is sure cute and I think it’s appropriate that they finally have a name instead of a number for their latest wheel. I had to give my S-90 his name “Klaas” because he got tired of just being a number, poor thing! I think I’ll call the new one “Tori” for short. After all, everybody who has one will have Victoria, so she has to be different. Now I can hardly wait. Did I mention she’s made of oak? Klaas is beech with black painted details (there was no choice) but this time I could choose. I have lots of oak furniture in my house and I love it, so oak she is.

Now I’m sure you’re wondering why I decided to buy a brand-spanking newly-designed spinning wheel sight unseen. Even though always I tell my students to try before they buy, I…ahem, never follow my own advice. Never ever have I actually spun on any of my wheels before they became mine. There are several reasons for that: the first one was a kit and had to be assembled (by us) before it could be spun on and at the time I didn’t even know how to spin. The second one (Klaas) had to be ordered just like Tori and there were no demo models to try. I even had to pay for him before they would order! (No, that wasn’t Jane. That shop has gone out of business a long time ago.) The Twins (cottage-style wheels) were gifted to me, one by a very elderly lady in a tiny apartment who has since passed away and the other by a friend of a friend. They both realized they would never use them and just wanted them gone to a good home. I figured I could sell one of them, but I haven’t. The little antique parlor wheel that sits in my parlor, I mean living room was another gift from a stranger who was moving to Ontario. It’s non-functional with missing parts but it’s sure a pretty little thing with bone turnings and dangly doo-dahs. Lastly, there just are no Victorias around yet. They are too new having only been prototyped this summer and ready for sale just now. Why did I choose to get one? Ummm…I’m not really sure. I’m not really a fan of double treadles, but this light little wheel folds, has her own backpack, has a good selection of ratios and has a sliding hook. The first prototype had a smaller wheel but I like the look of the bigger one better and it gives a higher set of ratios than the first version. They also plan to make a high-speed set for ratios over 1:20 which I will likely get. But still, if portable was the criterium why did I get a Victoria instead of an Ashford Joy? Because I like the way Louets treadle so easily? Because Klaas wanted a baby sister? Because I’m not a huge Ashford fan even though I teach almost exclusively with them? Dunno really. I absitively posolutely hated Louet’s last new wheel the S-45. It’s butt-ugly and I didn’t like the spread your feet have to do to reach the treadles. I suppose it’s versatile but it just didn’t speak to me. I guess it’s kind of the same reason I got the S-90 instead of a Lendrum. It wanted to be mine! Or something. More on this when she comes.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006


I’ve got nothing exciting to talk about today. I spent most of the day with my scanner and printer. I was looking through magazines and scanning articles with lampwork beadmaking instructions and then printing them out for T-Man. I was also making a birthday card for my birth-mom and printing out more current pictures of my kids and grandkid to share with her. While I was at it, I printed out some photos that my mother-in-law requested and of course made her copies of the kids too. Whew! I’ve almost depleted my colour ink cartridge now. Luckily I always try to have spares available. You never know when you’re going to run out of ink. Unfortunately, unlike some bloggers I’m reluctant to share too many pictures of my family. I think they should have some privacy. Just my thoughts — others may have a different feeling about it. So you’re not going to see what I was printing out but they were great pictures. And no, I didn’t take these ones.

The weather remains so changeable it’s almost funny. I went out in the bright sun only to have the clouds move back in before I’d walked 3 blocks. It saved the rain until I got back home though. That was nice. We’ve had every variation on sun, wind and rain in the last few days. And we’re still boiling drinking water! When will it end?

My buddy Susan says in her comment that she got 100% on the grammar test too! Yup, we definitely must be old-school, m’dear. These days they spell with single letters as much as possible and no capitalization. u r not kpng up!! I know I’m not. Oh and they’ve invented a new word: “texting” to cover what they type each other on their cell phones. Supposedly spelling, grammar and punctuation don’t count as long as everybody understands what you’re trying to say. What? Didn’t all those rules come about so everyone could understand you? My cell phone (which I haven’t used for months) doesn’t have texting. Or a camera. Or Bluetooth. Even it is too old. Sigh. It really belongs to my DIL who didn’t want it. Neither do I but it has a year to go on the contract. I haven’t found a way to give it back. Maybe stop paying the bill? Now if I could get a cell phone with my Palm, that would work for me. I use my Palm T/X every day but I only use the cell phone for emergencies. I hate phoning people but sometimes it comes in very handy. Like when you’re stranded and need a ride home.

Working on the toes on the Socka Socks. Still blocking crochet squares and hope to have the diagram soon. Maybe tomorrow. Who needs to vacuum the house anyway? I’d rather fuss with little symbols in Adobe Illustrator. That’s way more fun. Really! I think I’m becoming allergic to housework. Too bad I don’t have the money to hire a cleaning lady. That would inspire me to clean! T-Man’s almost-90-year-old aunt has a cleaning lady and his aunt cleans up before she comes. She says she doesn’t want the girl to see how messy her house was! That just cracks me up — but I’d probably do the same thing. Ewww…who spilt the juice under the chair and where did all those clumps of hair come from on the bed? Cats. Wasn’t me!

Monday, November 20, 2006

The Sun Is Out/No It Isn't

Well it was out for a couple of minutes between storms. But we’re still on a boil water advisory. Apparently “advisory” means that they haven’t found any bad bacteria or anything in our water but it looks really murky so telling us to boil it makes everyone feel better about it. On the other hand, if they said “order” then the tests would have some positive results and we’d be actually boiling the water for safety. There have been big runs on the stores for bottled water, but since I don’t actually trust bottled water to be any better than tap water with a little filtering, I’ve opted to boil my own. I mostly only drink tea anyway so my water is almost always boiled before I drink it. The water I use for brushing my teeth and taking my supplements has been boiled (twice in my auto-off kettle) and filtered through my Brita. I’m a little more relaxed about washing fruit and veggies where I use tap water and then finish off with a last rinse in boiled water. The dishes are washed in plain old hot tap water and dish soap. I’m not going to go through all the trouble of rinsing in boiled water and I don’t have a dishwasher. A little of the bad bacteria is good for you. Keeps your immune system functioning. I wonder how many people aren’t even bothering with boiled or bottled water anyhow?

We had enough sun yesterday afternoon to go for a walk. T-Man got a bunch more leaves raked up while I swept off the decks (yet again) and the front steps. There are way too many for our leaf cans so we went to get more paper leaf bags from the store. The bags break down and compost with the leaves at the city’s yard waste facility. Although the city will take away as many containers of leaves as we can put out, sometimes it takes a few weeks for them to get around to our house. There’s quite a stack out in the alley at the moment and they aren’t supposed to come until Friday. At least this is better than leaving all the leaves in heaps in the streets, blocking the gutters and making big mushy messes to walk over while trying to cross the street or get out of the car. Apparently there is a law against it that a lot of people ignore! Could this be clearer? Maybe they need to actually start handing out fines? It’s not that much more trouble to bag the leaves up or put them in your garden waste container for pick-up. The city sells it back to gardeners, municipal parks boards and commercial landscapers. I like that it all doesn’t go into landfill anymore. We don’t have enough room to compost all of our own leaves in our own yard and really don’t like the walnut leaves anyway. They’re pretty acidic and work really well to prevent things from growing rather than the reverse. It’s not as much of a problem in a huge mix of compost.

In the Crafty News Department, I’m starting to sew the crochet squares together for the fronts and back of my Not-So-Granny-Square cardigan. I’m working the fronts and back as separate sections. I could have done this all in one piece but since I have a seam down my sleeve, it follows the line better to have one down my side as well. I think it supports the weight of the squares better too so the hem doesn’t stretch out, but that’s only a theory. Unlike a lot of people I don’t mind sewing seams. I use the mattress stitch and work carefully from the front. You can barely see the seam when I’m done. And I graft shoulder seams like this and sleeves kind of like this. Yes it takes some time to do, but if you’re going to make a nice sweater it’s definitely worth it to finish it properly. Otherwise learn to knit everything in the round or relax and go buy your sweater from Walmart or something.

Oh, I forgot to mention how I sew the crochet squares together. In this case I want them to lie as flat as possible and the stitching not to be obvious so I’m overcasting (aka whip stitch) them through the back loops only, matching stitches as exactly as possible. The overcast stitches show a little but since they’re in the same yarn as the last row of my square they just look like part of the work. See?

Or not see! It’s not as fast as crocheting them together but it’s much flatter and more invisible. Then I pick up the stitches for the knitted part from the edge of the crochet, just the way I do it for the side of the flaps on my socks. I thought that would make a much neater transition than sewing them together and I think it works the way I envisioned. Here it is from the front and the back:

It’s going to make it a wee bit tricky when I sew the side seams though because I’m going to have to use separate yarns and separate techniques to complete the whole seam. I’m hoping it works! We’ll soon see, eh? I’d like to get this done so I can wear it.

I’m almost at the toe of T’s Socka Socks and I haven’t even showed them to you yet. I took this at the mossy base of my walnut tree quickly before it started raining yet again. I tried putting the sock on the deck but it blended in too much on the wet wood! The things I will try to get a half-decent photo for my blog.

Friday, November 17, 2006

More Of The R-Word

And I don’t care that it’s raining anymore! So there. My cold room in the basement has an inch of water in it so the moisture has finally soaked into my house. Hope it drowns some of the scary spiders that have been living in there for the past year or so. I’m too scared to go in to vacuum and I’m NOT normally scared of spiders. They are oversized, over-achieving, intelligent and probably irradiated/mutated/evil spiders. No relation to my much-missed Queenie or the ever-growing Queenie Jr. and her “sister” (in the bathroom) Princess. Those are my friends.

I had to go out to get my latest book that was attempted to be delivered while I was out yesterday at my weavers’ guild meeting. All I got instead was a notice. I hate when I have to go fetch a postal delivery. They always leave it at a pharmacy about a kilometer away and of course it was raining. (How novel.) Not to mention the fact that I had to wait until this afternoon before it would be available. 24 hours, people. Is that fair? Couldn’t the postie just pop it under my mat by the front door like they often do? Nobody is going to steal a book on quilting. Unless they’re a quilter. And no I’m not one. Not really.

So why am I buying a quilting book, you ask? Well, this particular book is called “Free Expressions” and it’s by Robbie Joy Eklow (aka The Goddess of the Last Minute from Quilting Arts magazine). I want desperately to learn how to do free motion embroidery and Robbie, bless her heart, does it the way I like and explains it very clearly and with feeling. This is actually a really nicely produced book, especially if you like bright colours and bold figures, which are her style. Even if you don’t there is good information on every page. I will learn. And then I will use it to make Art Quilts and Art Couture. Yeah, that’s the plan. We'll see.

I forgot to show you what my newly dyed curtains look like. Forgive the fact that I had to use a flash. It’s so dark I have to turn on the light at midday to prevent bumping into the furniture. And the curtains, though bright and sunny in colour, actually cut back on what outside light there is. Also forgive the fat cat butt in the middle of the photo. Ms Polly was having a look out the window at the bird feeder. It’s wishful thinking on her part. She can barely get up on the table far less hope to actually catch a bird. So the curtains don’t match the turmeric-coloured walls, there’s lots of that orange in the persimmon paintings on the wall to the left just out of the shot. I would have preferred the colour to be a bit darker but I wasn’t sure how well the fabric would dye. I wove it with cottolin (cotton/linen yarn) in the warp and cotton/rayon slub yarn in the weft. The cottolin was already dyed in pastel stripes but it was very faded in the areas in front of the window and less so on the hems. Also I never weighed the cloth or measured the dye properly but just made up stock by the teaspoon method (about 1 tsp dye powder to 1 cup water) and poured it on. If you’re gonna be haphazard then you gets haphazard results! T-Man likes it ok and it’s all orange to me. Good enough until that stupid drafty louvered window gets replaced with something bigger and better. Then I’ll have to make new curtains anyhow. Can’t hardly wait!

So I haven’t done a quiz for awhile on this here blog. So I tried this one:

Your Language Arts Grade: 100%

Way to go! You know not to trust the MS Grammar Check and you know "no" from "know." Now, go forth and spread the good word (or at least, the proper use of apostrophes).

Are You Gooder at Grammar?
Make a Quiz

Apparently, although I’m sure you’ll find mistakes in my writing on a regular basis, I know something about grammar! And I care about it too. I like to think when I break the rules, I do it because I want to. Heh.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Storms and Squares

Somebody please shut off that darned faucet in the sky! Pretty please? It so wet and windy out there that I’m stuck in the house, not wanting to venture out even in my rain gear. Remember the puddle photos from last Friday? Not even for a free lunch will I leave the comforts of home today! Here’s the furthest I got, just within my open back door long enough to show you my overflowing water garden. (Too bad it isn’t a video so you can see the effects of the wind.)

Instead I’ve been listening to more podcasts and working on my Not-So-Granny-Square sweater (hereafter referred to as the NSGSC to save typing). I now have two sleeves. I only had to frog the top part of the first one once to get the shaping right. Here’s the second one blocking on my ironing board:

My vintage handspun wool is none too soft but it definitely benefits from a good steaming. I’ve been crocheting more squares for the body. Before blocking they look rather like rippled potato chips:

But as you can see in the sleeve photo, they do relax and behave themselves much better when subjected to a lot of heat and moisture. I hope to diagram the square and post the pattern before I’m finished with this sweater. It has become completely my own design even though I started with a few details from other places. There’s pretty much nothing left of the original patterns except the first 3 rows of the crochet squares and some of the body proportions. I’m one of those people who is an “adapter” — not a “creator”. I don’t suddenly have an inspiration out of the blue and then render it in my chosen medium. It’s more that I see something I like and tweak it into something I like even better. Sometimes I don’t change it much at all and sometimes you can’t tell what was the original model. Or I’ll put together parts of more than one model to get what I want. Ooh, Frankenstein’s Monster Crafts! They live!

Er...ahem. Changing the subject, I was informed by email that I have yet another one of my book order coming in the mail. That's 4 out of 5. How can they offer me free shipping (on orders over $39) when they mail them one at a time in lovely sturdy corrugated cardboard mailers? It must cost them bigtime. But ours is not to reason why, it’s just to get my lovely books which my local stores refuse to stock. Even if they do have it in, it saves me big dollars to order a book by mail. Though the stores are just branches of the main large company, I save my members discount plus very often another big discount on top of that. I can even return them easily if I’m not happy. Either books have one honking big markup when they get into the local store or somebody is losing money here. Probably the publishers and/or authors. Properly, I shouldn’t order from a big box store. But I just want my books! If I can’t buy it locally (and I usually buys 'em where I finds 'em), I’m gonna order it by mail from the cheapest source. However one day I’ll have to quit buying or get rid of some books I already own — before the floor collapses or I run out of shelf space. We're getting pretty close on the latter.

Monday, November 13, 2006

On Monday We Dyed

My friend Jo came over today and we played with Procion MX dye. She had a bunch of little skeins of cottons and rayons and she wanted to see how the colours appeared on them. Jo is new to dyeing but she’s having a great time and I have the very functional dye studio that she doesn’t have. So she brought cookies and I made tea and after that we got down to business. She made me do something too so since I’ve been procrastinating overdyeing my faded handwoven kitchen curtains for about a year now, I decided to go for it. I soaked them a bit to get them wet, smooshed them into a bucket with a bit more water and started pouring yellow, orange, and red-brown dye all over them. After leaving them for 15 minutes I poured soda ash solution over and smooshed a bit. Then I tucked them in with a blanket to keep warm. Now that they’re rinsed and drying on the clothesline they look like orange sherbet threw up all over them! I actually like it even though it’s nowhere near an even dye job. Not even Unevenly Even. OK, orange is my favourite colour and they do go with my Persimmon Paintings that are nearby where they are to hang. And they’re much better than the faded pastel stripes they used to be. Hopefully if it ever gets light enough around here (before spring or before I forget, whichever comes first) I’ll get a photo. Oh and I figured out a great way to keep several small containers or one large one of dye warm so it works properly. I used this electric heat mat that goes with my little mini greenhouse for starting plant seeds. It's waterproof and keeps a constant temperature of around 35 degrees celcius. Jo’s little skeins turned out lovely shades of blackberry and blueberry and raspberry. I swear, all our work was full of yummy fruitiness today. Must be because it was dark and mostly rainy and very late fall-ish. We’re just perverse like that.

Speaking of dyeing, I got another of my one-at-a-time book order in the mail yesterday. Canada Post delivers on Sundays! Who knew? This one is a doozy: Holly Brackmann’s “The Surface Designer’s Handbook” published by Interweave Press. Yes, they used their great spiral binding with a solid outside spine. It lies flat for reference when your hands are busy but you can still read the title on the bookshelf. It also doesn’t need plastic covering because it’s already sturdily covered. Inside there are lovely inspiring pictures and lots of information on dyes, thickeners, discharge, devoré, shibori, indigo vats, monoprinting and a bunch more. All the recipes you need in one place and easy to look up. It’s great for both the beginner and the experienced and the information is very current and very clearly and simply presented. No cutesy projects. No pseudo-science. Just the facts, ma’am. It’s going to be my “go-to” resource when I forget the proportions or need to know whether I need a particular dye chemical. I probably could find all this information in my notes but now I don’t have to hunt for it. I love it!

Next I’ve been working on my crochet/knit Not-So-Granny-Square Cardigan. As usual I’m working first on a sleeve, just in case something is horribly wrong with my design and I have to frog. There’s not so much knitting in the sleeve as shown by the fact that I’m almost done in one day. One day in which I was also dyeing and entertaining my friend Jo! Well we did work on our projects while the dye was batching, me knitting and she rug hooking. I’m such a slow knitter and I usually knit either large projects or ones with lots of teeny stitches (like socks) so I’m not used to something that has such quick gratification. I could get used to this! So far I’m liking the sleeve though I’m a little bit worried about having enough of the main yarn for the sweater. It was handspun many years ago and recycled from another oversized sleeveless sweater then overdyed to rusty red so I have no way to make more that matches. I plan to use a second yarn, one that’s used in the crochet squares, to work the edgings and button loops. I may need it for the little collar that I was planning too. It’s going to be a surprise! To me. Not to worry — this kind of thing is good for one’s creativity.

Meanwhile, I’m turning the heels on T-Man’s Socka Socks. Hope to have an in-progress picture of both projects tomorrow. Right now it’s almost bedtime. Dark. More rain coming. Brain shutting down. G’night.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Lazing Around

What a relaxing Saturday! We stayed in bed until after noon and read, eating flax crepes (that I made) for breakfast and ham sandwiches (that T made) for lunch. Finally got up and did a few things like: he finally got the wiring finished for his lathe and I vacuumed the basement. Fun stuff! OK, stuff one has to get around to occasionally. Then late this afternoon there was this:

A rainbow. Isn’t it beautiful? This is looking east. I love my neighbour-across-the-street’s sour cherry tree in full golden glory too. She didn’t know the rainbow was there because I saw her wondering what I was up to with the camera in my studio window! When I went downstairs to tell T-Man (who was of course working on his new lathe) it had disappeared. Ephemeral beauty. Plant it in your memory while you can, yeah? Or take a picture if you want it to last!

I spent the afternoon making swatches with my handspun yarn. Some was new (virgin!) and some was recycled and redyed. I want to make a cardigan sweater that combines crochet and knitting, since I love both techniques. I used 3 colours of handspun, one the colour of grasses in early autumn (gold/reddish), one that combines a black strand with a fall leaf-coloured strand (gold/red/orange) and my main colour dark rusty-red which I recycled from a bright red oversized sweater vest and overdyed to tone it down. I played with a “granny” square until I got the right size using the book “200 Crochet Blocks for blankets, throws, and afghans” by Jan Eaton, pattern #73 Catherine Wheel. I stopped after the third round and added another 2 rows of my own devising. I’m learning how to depict the pattern in symbols using these. I’ll post it here when I’ve got it perfected. Meanwhile I’m still swatching. I think I’ve figured out how to attach my knitting to my crochet. Yay! Only 11 more granny squares to go for a total of 8 for the hem and 2 each for the cuffs on the ¾ sleeves.

Meanwhile I’m up to the heels on T’s Socka Socks. More later. It’s my bedtime. Yawn!

Friday, November 10, 2006

A Day For Ducks

Quack! Quack! It rained all night and all today with monsoon proportions. I was invited by my Darling Daughter and her Fiancé out to a belated birthday lunch. I kept looking out the window hoping it would let up some before I had to leave but it didn’t. So I dressed in full head-to-toe Mountain Equipment Co-op GORE-TEX raingear, my waterproofed Blundstone boots, and an umbrella. I even put the contents of my purse into a plastic bag before reinserting it in the purse. I remembered my camera this time so you can see that my dorkiness was not unfounded:

Lakes and rivers abounded. Did you know that it can actually rain hard enough to go through an umbrella? Lunch, BTW, was yummy! We went to the Mongolie Grill where you first get a warm washcloth for your hands, then you go get a bowl, fill it up with yummy things (meat, fish, veggies, sauces etc.) and then get the bowl weighed. You have to guess how much it will be worth. If you get it right you get it free! I was only $0.27 off. Then they dump it out onto a big hot griddle and cook and flip until it’s done. You get a bowl of rice (brown or white), a plate of thin wraps, and soup with your plate of food and if you don’t like it, you chose it yourself! Mine was quite hot because I combined spicy chicken, garlic, curry & peanut sauces, shrimp, veggies, noodles, and pickled hot peppers! Yummy but my eyes were watering. Sure warmed me up after my walk in the rain though. But I hope I wasn’t hallucinating when I saw this in someone’s garden on my way home:

I think it sprung up like a mushroom? Or drilled up? LOL!! I just adore coming across this kind of thing. It’s such an interesting surprise — like a hot pepper on a cold wet day. Oh, and I get to go out again for dinner with T-Man and his mom. Thai food this time. I’m going to be so bad with all those carbs that I’ll have to be extra good for the next few days. Or I'll be sorry.

I also got a tour of Darling Daughter’s workplace. They just moved to a new building. I can walk there from my house but unfortunately for her, it’s an hour and a half commute each way on public transit. She gets a lot of reading, knitting and crochet done however!

No new crafty things to report today. I’m knitting on the legs of the latest Socka Socks for T. He likes them best plain so it’s an easy knit while I read. I got a bunch of new magazines yesterday including the winter Art Doll Quarterly, Belle Armoire, Bead & Button, and Interweave Knits. Some nice garments in the latter. I like cardigans with some fit and there are several in there I wouldn’t mind having. However, as one of the world’s slowest knitters I’ll have to pass. I already have enough projects in the queue to last me until 2009. Though I might be able to make the beret. I love berets (must be because I wore one to school for nine years as part of my Catholic school uniform) and this one is very simple and not too large. Would be nice in handspun multicolour. Just sayin’.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Peapods In The Fall

Another Finished Object! I’m on a roll, hey? This is for my impending grandson. The photo is a bit lighter than the true “mashed peas” colour. For some reason it wouldn’t adjust more true.

Begun: September 13, 2006
Completed: November 9, 2006

Yarn: Smart Superwash, 100% wool, 50 g = 100 m, colour 9544 (pea green), 3 balls
Needles: Size 5US/3.75 mm Denise circular, Crystal Palace bamboo dpns
Pattern: Sweater – Pea Pod Baby Set by Kate Gilbert, Interweave Knits, free
online pattern
Hat – my own adaptation.
With dpns, co 70 sts in purl. Work bottom rib pattern. Continue in st st, adding 2 sts to the first row for a total of 18 sts on each needle. (72 sts) Knit 15 rows then begin decreasing. K7, k2tog around. Knit 1 row plain. K6, k2tog around. Knit 1 row plain. Continue as established until there are 8 sts left. K2tog around. (4 sts) Knit i-cord for 1 inch. Cut yarn and thread in needle, draw through all stitches and bury end in i-cord.

The pattern calls for too much yarn. I bought 6 balls thinking that I’d make a larger size but I ended up making the smallest (3 month) size so baby could wear it this winter/spring. I only used 3 balls total. The graphs are awkward and the repeats should start in a different spot. The “at the same times” were too many! It would have been better to follow a completely graphed out pattern, but I started this on holiday and didn’t have my computer with me to work it out. I did use my Palm to keep count. When that wasn’t convenient, sometimes I used rocks and sometimes I used T-Man!

I shortened the sleeves by a couple of rows, thinking that baby sleeves are always too long. I also had a bit of a problem getting the stitches to look good that had to be skipped while picking up the neck for the collar. I fixed at least 3 of them by dropping down and “decreasing” them away with a crochet hook then picking back up to the row I was on. It doesn’t look too bad now. The buttons are a bit small but they were the right colour and I had them available. Hopefully they’ll stay buttoned and not pop out.

I decided that the hat was too lacy for a boy so I simplified it a bit just using the leaf rib and a more plain top part with a bit of a “stem”. I might use the rest of the yarn (one more ball!) to knit bootie-socks to match. Or not.

Geek alert! I thought I would mention how handy a program called Pcounter helped me to knit this sweater. It’s for Palm PDAs and is freeware. You can carry up to 16 different numbers with 2 available on screen at a time. All you do is tap the + on the screen with a fingernail (or a knitting needle!) to add an increment. It worked really well for me. There are other programs of this type for Palm, but this one is really simple and easy to use. With so many things to keep track of at the same time, I would have needed 2 regular knitting counters. And I had my Palm with me as I almost always do.

Don’t know what I’ll work on next. But not to worry, I’ll post about it!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Adult Ribby Socks

They finally dried from their washing/blocking, so without further ado, I present:

Style: Top-down, flap heel, wedge toe.
Yarn: Two 50g balls sock yarn (Confetti, Regia 4ply, Sisu etc.) For a longer foot with Sisu you might need more than 2 balls. (I used hand dyed Sisu for mine.)
Needles: 2mm dpns (set of 5) or whatever you need to get gauge.
Gauge: 8 sts per inch over stockinette. Sock is 8 3/4 inches long but quite stretchy. Will fit average woman’s foot. Foot can be knit longer for larger size.

Cast on 70 stitches. Arrange 15 on needle 1, 20 on each of needles 2 and 3, and 15 on needle 4. Join in tube and work knit 3, purl 2 rib for 7 inches 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 30 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 15 sl sts at the edges. End after the last purl row. Turn.

With RS facing begin heel cup:
Sl 1, k 16, ssk, k1, turn.
Sl 1, p 5, p2tog, p1, turn.
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.
Sl 1, p to gap, p2tog across gap, p 1, turn.
Continue as established until there are no sts left unworked. (18 sts on needle.)
Sl 1, k 8 (centre of needle).

Begin gusset:
With spare needle, knit across last 9 sts. and with same needle pick up and knit edge sts on flap, picking up 15 plus one extra stitch in corner of gusset. (25 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 15 sts from side of heel flap. Continue to knit across the last 9 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 15 sts each. Continue even as established until sock foot is 6 3/4 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. (Now needle 1 has 16 sts.) Continuing on needle 2, k 2, p2tog, k 3, p2, k3, p2tog, k3, p1. Shift last p st on needle 2 to needle 3. (Leaving 16 sts on needle 2.) On needle 3, p 1, k 3, p2tog, k3, p2, k3, p2tog, k2. Shift last 3 unworked sts to needle 4. (Leaving 16 st on needle 3.) On needle 4, k 1, p2tog, k to end. (All 4 needles now have 16 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 6 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. (10 sts on each needle.) Graft the remaining sts together with Kitchener stitch. Darn in ends. Wash socks, block, dry, and you’re done!

Further crafty news:
I didn’t have a dye day with my friend today because she wasn’t feeling well. We’ve postponed until Monday. But I finished the Peapod Sweater and am madly working on the hat. I decided that I didn’t want the lace bit on the hat so after doing the leafy rib, I’m just knitting stockinette. I have to figure out where to start the decreases and I may do my own version with the i-cord knot at the top. Or if I can, maybe a curly bit like a pea tendril. Photos when I’m done, though they may have to wait if it starts raining again. Yesterday, just after I posted that it was raining it cleared up and stayed that way all day today. Perverse bloody weather! However, the clouds are moving in again with more ridiculous amounts of rain predicted by Friday. Fun. At least the house hasn’t sprung any leaks since T-Man cleaned out the eaves troughs. Some people have had a really bad time of it with flooding and leaks, fallen trees and dead salmon that were trying to spawn ending up in their yards. Just plant ’em I say. They’re great fertilizer! A new twist on the “if life gives you lemons, make lemonade” theme.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Guess The Weather

You’ve got it! More rain. Good thing I got to see that blue sky last night, huh? We’re breaking records and after it was so dry all summer and fall, it feels rather damp. I was right about my socks too — they’re still not anywhere near dry. No photos today. But I do have another book review. And I managed to zip out between the worst of the rain clouds to get some groceries so now I can stay home in dry comfort. Though I have some cleaning to do in the basement because a friend is coming over tomorrow for another dye day. She gets to do the traveling and I don’t have to go anywhere. Neener-neener.

Book Review Arctic Lace by Donna Druchunas

The Eskimo knitters of Oomingmak Musk Ox Producers Co-op create lovely handknit souvenirs of Alaska in fine qiviut yarns. Donna got hooked on their story as well as on lace knitting and combined the two into a very fine book, black and white printing notwithstanding. Fully half the book tells about the people (apparently Eskimo is still ok to use in Alaska while Inuit is proper in Canada), their villages, the reintroduction of musk ox to the state and the genesis of the co-op. It’s a fascinating story though I feel we’re only touching the surface because Donna didn’t want to pry which is culturally very rude. I can respect that. The women are required to knit only the lace pattern designated for their village or area and it is obviously a serious job for them, not a pastime. The extra money would be very welcome in a land where jobs, especially for women, are few and the distances one must travel to work are long. Knitting can be done while caring for home and family and they don't have to pay for the very expensive qiviut yarn, just $2 per year membership in the co-op.

The second half of the book contains beginner lessons on lace knitting which are very simple and clear. There are 3 practice swatches increasing in difficulty and fineness of needles and yarn. Then there are a number of patterns for accessories (lots of scarves, a couple of hats, wrist warmers, hand warmers, “nachaqs” or hoods, and a simple vest). All of the lace is charted and Donna goes into an explanation of designing your own. Even an experienced lace knitter can get something out of this. What I especially like about her designs are that they are inspired by ones found in Yu’pik and Inupiat clothing and utensils and are not the same as the co-op’s. There is no feeling of “cultural appropriation” here. She has made them her own and inspires us to find our own lace inspiration perhaps in unlikely places.

I think Donna’s combination of writing and knitting skills show to their best advantage in this book. She obviously wrote the book that she wanted to read! I hope more authors take this tack. How many loosely-themed pattern compilations do we really need? I’d be much happier with an in-depth look at the knitters, their environment and culture and examples of what makes their work special. Like this one. And I didn’t even miss coloured pictures.

In other crafty news, of course I started another pair of socks. This time they’re for T-Man because he’s really starting to like wearing nothing but handknit socks. (Oh wait. That doesn't sound right. He does wear clothes and shoes with his socks!) The things I will do for the guy who pays the bills and allows me to stay home and knit! The yarn is Fortissima Socka, colour 1084 which is 2 strands of natural grey, one strand of black and one strand of variegated red/yellow/turquoise. It’s quite subdued but with a bit of zing from the brighter colours. He likes it anyway. I’ve found I must have some simple knitting available at all times. Unlike most knitters who like a challenge or they get bored, I tend to put challenges aside for the simple stuff I can work on while reading. It’s becoming a bad habit that I will have to fight or I’ll never get to the more complex things that I want to knit. I have the skills. I just have to work on the patience part.

Monday, November 06, 2006

A Surprise!

I got a review of this here blog in the latest issue of Fiber Femmes! The article is here. Leslie said such nice things about me that I’m feeling all blushie and glowie indeed. How exciting! Damselfly is Delighted.

In other news, T-Man got his new lathe! Though he still has to finish rewiring for 220 volts to plug it in. This hunka-hunka-metal is a vision of lovely whiteness just raring to be covered in shavings! He promises me some new tools and the clasp I want for my sweater, just as soon as he can get some juice to make it twirl. Of course, I’ll believe it when I see it. Bowls are his usual production and recently they’ve been getting rather artistic — as in non-functional. But that’s ok. I’ll just wave a sock on the needles (in his size) at him and hope for the best.

I taught a private spinning lesson today to a woman who couldn’t wait until my next set of beginner level classes in the new year. She’s hoping that the intermediate lessons will be a go in a couple of weeks so she wanted to at least be able to make yarn to justify taking the class. I would prefer she was a little more experienced but I’m not certain we’ll get enough people for the class to fly anyway. For her part, she was making continuous yarn in the first few minutes and now just needs lots of practice. That’s pretty good! And yes, I did charge her $25 per hour for 2 hours. Ya don’t think I want to do this very often, do you? I has to be at least somewhat worth my while. I can purchase at least one new book and a couple of balls of yarn with this anyhoo.

While I was keeping tabs on her spinning, I managed to finish grafting the toes on my adult-sized Ribby Socks. They are drying from their washing and blocking so there’s no photo yet. I want to get them on my feet because frankly they look totally anorexic by themselves. But they fit very well and are somewhat warmer than my usual plain knit socks. More later when they’re dry. I'll include the whole pattern and make link to it in the sidebar.

If they ever dry that is. We’ve been having record rainfall with wind and relative warmth — a weather pattern we call the Pineapple Express or the Hawaiian Punch. It stopped raining for the moment and I took this pic out my studio window. The clouds are changing by the minute and the sun just set. Purty. I want this to remind me what blue sky looks like when the rain sets back in.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Rain Rain Go Away

OK. Alright. Enough already! My house is starting to leak. My water barrels are full to overflowing. There are lakes on the streets where the sewers have plugged with leaf clogs. I’m not going out because I don’t have any hip waders to wear! Full head-to-toe raingear and a golf-sized umbrella couldn’t keep you dry today. Listen rain: go to Australia where they need you desperately. Can’t you hear them all doing rain dances over there?

Ahem. Where was I? Oh yeah. Ofrenda came with me to my guild meeting last night. There are a number of dollmakers in the fibre arts guild (they have a study group dedicated to dolls) so she was well received. They found it hard to believe I made her in only one day. My neck and shoulders disagree — they need a massage!

I forgot to mention about her hands. I painted my birth year on the back of one hand and this year on the other. When I overlapped them and glued them together, I totally forgot about the dates on the back because I was looking at them from the front. It turns out that you can only see the 06 but that's ok. My birth year is still visible. Fluke! So I guess she did cooperate on some things. I decided last night just before I fell asleep that she needed to be hung on the wall. So today I sewed a split ring on the back of her neck and she’s happily hanging in my study. Now she’ll be safe from wear and tear (and grandkid fingers) but she’ll be able to observe the coming year until my next birthday. Here’s a back shot.

I got another single book of the ones I recently ordered from Chapters/Indigo today without any notice. They usually send me an email when they’re ready to ship. This one is “Arctic Lace” by Donna Druchunas. All the reviews I read said it was a beautiful book so I was surprised to see that it’s completely printed in black and white! I was expecting a full-colour production. I will discuss the content when I’ve had a chance to read it, but the subject is qiviut and the Oomingmak Musk Ox Producers Co-op of Alaska. Lace knitting and stories about the people of the north who work with this amazing fibre — this promises to be a fun read. Note that there are a couple of errata here.

In knitting news, I’m up to turning the heels on the adult-sized Ribby Socks. I’ll post the full pattern when they’re done, though it’s just an upsized version of the Kid’s Ribby Socks. Simple but effective. They’ll easily fit wide or narrow ankles and feet. The ribs are somewhat odd, k3/p2, and are nicely stretchy and puffy. I think they make the socks a bit warmer also. I may have to make more of these. Yes, I’m still ignoring the Pomatomus Socks and the Peapod Sweater. I’m hoping to get to the Peapod this afternoon. After all, I’m not going anywhere today. It’s raining cats, dogs, and pink and blue elephants out there! Yuck!

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Birthday Things

Well it took me darn near all day to get her finished, but my Birthday Doll is done. The photo isn't the greatest since it's too dark and rainy to take it outside in diffused light. Her name is Ofrenda, which means "offering" and she's holding a bunch of marigolds which are traditionally spread all over graves, alters, etc. on Dia de Muertos. On the inside, I began with a stick from my walnut tree and wound it with wool from my handspinning stash. As I was winding I included little snippets of paper with the names of all my family and friends who have passed on. At that point she was looking like a mummy, in keeping with the theme!

Over the wool are lengths of fabrics and some tinsel-type yarn for a bit of sparkle. Her face and hands are translucent polymer clay and hand-sculpted by me, then details were painted with acrylics. Her arms are rolls of fabric stitched on. Her hair is fuzzy novelty yarn and there's actually a tiara of transparent black leaves on her head (though you can barely see it in the photo). She has a necklace that includes a swirly bead made by T-Man. She's about 11" tall which is the largest I've made to date.

You wouldn't believe the trouble she gave me, starting with me causing smoke to come from my craft microwave when I "cooked" the stick a bit too much thinking to kill anything nasty. It smelled nice, like incense! LOL!! Then I broke her leg when I was trying to hold her steady to get her tiara on. Oops. It's a bit wiggly but not likely to come off. I'm glad she's done. Don't know about you, but I think she's kind of cute!

So I’m another year older. Am I a Crone yet? I think so! The hair's going greyer, the wrinkles are deeper, the flesh is saggier, the bones are creakier, and the energy level ain't quite what it used to be. Otherwise, I feel just like I did when I was 20! Age is only a number anyway.

We aren’t going out for dinner tonight but The Man ordered pizza. That’s his way of cooking dinner for me and I’m not about to turn it down! Then my friend is picking me up to go to a fibre arts guild meeting this evening. I’ll be taking Ofrenda and wearing my Little Squares sweater. We can go out to dinner tomorrow night when it’s not so rushed. I like taking my time if it’s a nice restaurant.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

The Day Of The Dead

It’s hard to feel sad on a beautiful sunny day like today. It’s cold though. There’s frost on the lawn and the roof next door that I can see from my window. I’m wearing my tights and a warm undershirt under my clothes. I don’t mind the cold if I can dress warmly enough. Or as Brenda Dayne says “If you’re cold, put on a sweater. That’s what they’re for.” Words to live by.

In contrast, today I’m remembering all my family and friends who have passed on. It’s important to me to keep them alive in my heart. I’ll spare you the litany (and pictures) but I think this is a celebration that should become more important in popular culture. We seem to think if we don’t talk about death that it won’t happen. It does anyway. Everything that is alive has to do the opposite. It’s just the way things are. And anyway, who would really want to live forever? Cleaning the toilet for the million-billionth time? Knitting the 6000th sock? How exciting would that be? Living longer (as long as I could stay healthy) would be ok. But I have no desire to live forever. Like the gorgeous coloured leaves that are falling off the trees, I too will be worm food one day. Might as well enjoy the ride! And hope that someone remembers me when I’m gone.

As I promised, here’s my Finished Object — the Little Squares Sweater:

(You’ll have to wait for the on-the-body shot. If I get around to it!)

Begun: May 23, 2006
Finished: October 31, 2006

Yarn: Main colour – my handspun, 2-ply, approx. fingering/sport weight, 14-16 wpi, maybe 1400 yards?, just under 500g (2/250g bags) of wool top from Aurelia in Tamarillo (black, dark green, khaki, red, burgundy). Contrast colour – Lion Brand Incredible variegated nylon ribbon yarn, col 208 Copper Penny, 110 yards per ball, 8 balls.
Needles: Denise circulars, US size 9 (main) and US size 7 (ribbing).
Gauge: 28 st + 16.5 rows = 4 inches
Crochet hook: US size H (5mm)

Pattern: Little Squares Sweater from “The Knitting Experience: Book 3: Color” by Sally Melville. I couldn’t get gauge even with larger needles so I used the instructions for the medium size but kept knitting to the correct length. I also reworked the pattern to shrink the sleeves considerably. (I have short arms.) It’s still oversized but not quite as oversized as Sally intended.

Notes: I like! It’s like wearing a blanket with sleeves! It took me for-frickin-ever to make this kimono-shaped sweater, including one whole day to sew it together. A fair portion of the singles yarn was spun on my drop spindle, the rest on my Louet wheel and plied on the wheel. I put a bit of extra twist into the yarn so it should be quite durable. Knit on oversized needles, it has a nice crunchy drape but it’s still quite heavy. The sleeves may seem ridiculously short but with the drop shoulder they fit perfectly. I was certainly right to downsize them. The collar could be a wee bit wider (an inch?) to sit better on the neck but that’s a minor quibble. Success!

Book ReviewSpin to Knit by Shannon Okey

In a way I wish this book had been written by someone who was a more accomplished spinner but on the other hand, that probably makes it that much more accessible for rank newbie spinners who are the intended audience. Get ’em hooked on knitting and then lead ’em over to the “dark side” of spinning their own yarns too. Well, if you were yarn manufacturers and retailers you’d think spinning your own was the dark side, wouldn’t you? If everybody could make their own Noro-type yarns (and out of nicer quality wool too) there would go all the profits! A sweater might only cost $20 to make (including dye) instead of $200. Hmmm…

Well, not to totally leave retailers out in the cold, several of the patterns include both handspun and commercial yarns. Can’t say I’m really taken by any of them however, except maybe the Wooly Mammoth tea cosy. I have a warm spot in my heart for wooly mammoths. And tea cosies. The Garter Scarf 2 and the Star Wristlets have potential if they were in all handspun. (I'm not against commercial yarns. My above-mentioned sweater is an example of when it's a good idea to use them because nobody can hand-spin ribbon yarn!) Maybe I’m just not impressed because her first handspun sweater looks just like my first handspun sweater — only I made mine 30 years ago. Guess I thought we’ve come at least a little ways since then? Maybe not. Maybe that’s a good thing if the Swedish Heart Sweater is any indication of modern innovation. The idea was great (I’m remembering learning how to make those hearts in paper) but would anybody look good in this? Really? Maybe that’s why the model has her back turned.

The spinning and related information is pretty comprehensive and I don’t have too much to debate with there. One or two little quibbles like the Andean plying working better with the cross on the palm side as I mentioned in a previous post. Shannon’s famous “dyeing in the dishwasher” method just leaves me wondering why. Maybe because I don’t have a dishwasher? Or because it just seems so inefficient. I found one new tool, the lazy kate for spindle cops, to be new to me. I wish there was more illustration of how it can be used before I go making myself one. The text and the photo don’t really jibe. I may have to test this one out for myself.

The part I really do like about this book is the friendly style. It’s like you’re at a meet-up and all your friends are giving you helpful hints. You are introduced to a bunch of interesting folks (including as I mentioned before, some of whom I know personally) and get a glimpse into their passions. I wish there was more of that in here. Spinning is a big subject, one which is hard to express in words. I feel that this book, along with the Twisted Sisters Sock Workbook (which is actually kind of a companion volume even though I’m sure it wasn’t planned that way), could help beginner spinners get over some of the learning hurdles. It reiterates a lot of what I’m trying to teach them but they’re often too stressed to hear. I’ll be recommending them both in my classes. But they’ll likely outgrow this book fairly quickly. Most of my students already spin better than the author.