Sunday, December 31, 2006

He's Here!

My new grandson was born at 11:20pm on Friday, December 29th at home on the living room floor. He came on his due date (unusual!) and now shares a birthday with my brother. He was 8lb. 2oz. - a whole pound bigger than his sister was, though to be fair she was a week and a half early. The birth went quite quickly and well up until the very end when the baby decided he wanted to come out face-up so mom ended up with some tearing and stitches. However, she looks relaxed and happy and my son looks tired and equally happy! They say this is it for babies for them. It'll be up to my daughter and future-son-in-law to give us more grandkids!

Though there was a great resemblance in their ultra-sound pictures, my grandson now looks less like his sister did as a newborn. He has a handsome dimple in his chin instead of her little elfin pointed one. He's quite solid and by all reports came out yelling lustily. He has lots and lots of black hair and baby blue-violet eyes. Fingers, toes and other parts all accounted for. As proud grandparents we think he is totally adorable! We got to hold him yesterday when he was only 14 hours old.

Love the slightly worried crinkle and the hand on the brow. Thinking deep thoughts there. Either that or concern because I just pulled his hat off!

I was going to post my finished Swallowtail Shawl which is done and currently blocking but I don’t really have time right now. So it will be the first Finished Object posted in 2007. I was also trying to finish the Forest Socks for T-Man which would be Pair Number 20 for 2006 but I’m not quite up to the toes on them yet. Oh well. There’s always next year. Still 19 pairs is one every 2.7 weeks. Not too shabby, eh? And I’m one of the slowest knitters on the planet. Just persistent.

Hope everyone has a Happy New Year!!! We won't be staying up since my eyes begin to droop around 8:30 pm and it's all downhill from there. If we're lucky we can get soundly to sleep before the firecrackers, banging of pots and freighters honking in the harbour at midnight and perhaps we won't be woken up.

Friday, December 29, 2006

All Nupped Out

Yep, I’m done with each and every one of the 208 nupps in the Swallowtail Shawl! Yippee! Towards the end they were getting easier and quicker to accomplish, a fact that may have to do with my loosening up the stitches to just the right tension so the needle didn’t have to fidget around so much in order to pick them up. I am now halfway into the swallowtail border. I may even get this finished today or tomorrow at the latest. Wow! A land-speed record!

Meanwhile, I thought you might like to see what the “extra-needle nupping technique” looks like. This here blog has been awfully light on photos lately.

First we get the skinny needle into the nupp stitches by whatever means necessary:

Then yarn around the needle and pull it through all 5 stitches purlwise:

Lastly we transfer the new stitch from the skinny needle over to the circular without twisting it:

Hopefully I’ll have a Finished Object to show tomorrow. But for now, since we’re heading to the finish line on this year, I thought I’d do my crafty version of the best and worst of 2006.

Best book: Donna Druchuna’s “Arctic Lace” because it’s so much more than a knitting pattern book. It’s a window into another culture, a lace knitting and design tutorial and a great read. Runner-up: Mason-Dixon Knitting by Kay & Ann, another fun read as well as practical projects and tips.

Best new tool: Tori, my new Louet S-95 Victoria spinning wheel. She’s just a fun little wheel that’s very easy to spin on. Runner-up: my Pfaff Cover/Style serger. It cost even more than Tori. It works.

Best discovery: podcasts. Well, I actually started listening to them late last year but this year has seen a plethora of new ones giving me many choices to amuse my mind while my hands are busy working. Runner-up: blog feeds, thanks to IE 7 making it easier than ever to access them. I don’t have to waste time checking my favourite blogs only to find they haven’t been updated.

Best shopping experience: Shipwreck Beads in Lacey (near Olympia) WA. Biggest. Bead store. Anywhere. But they still didn’t have everything I wanted! My wants are just too big for any one store. Runner-up: Helping my local yarn shop with their inventory. I uncovered many hidden treasures.

Most annoying sales ploy: Pink. For breast cancer. Is it just me or is it not good to make money off people’s wish to help where only a tiny percentage, if any at all, goes to the charity? Am I supposed to think that the business is somehow better and more deserving of my patronage because of their “charitable” gesture? Also note: There are other noble and deserving causes and other colours besides pink. Please.

Most incomprehensible purchase (by others): The competition for hand-dyed sock yarns in shops, at craft fairs and online. Sorry. Not that I want to put enterprising boutique dyers out of business, but I’m not one of their contestants…er, customers. You can dye your own, people! It’s not hard and a whole lot cheaper. Even if you buy your white or natural yarn by the 50 g ball at full retail it’s still gonna be less than half the price. Runner-up: Light-up knitting needles and crochet hooks. Why would you want to knit in the dark and would those who might be sharing the dark with you mind the lights flashing around? Do they really allow you to see your work or are they just a gimmick? Second runner-up: Glass drop-spindles. Self-explanatory.

I personally find this odd/weird/creepy: The Church of Craft. Maybe it’s my ex-Catholic sensibilities but getting together to craft shouldn’t be considered a “religious experience”, should it? Why aren’t meet-ups and craft guilds enough for these people? Runner-up: “What-were-they-thinking” vintage fashions type of humour, like Stitchy McYarnpants. Maybe it’s just my strange sense of humour or maybe it’s because I was actually around when many of those patterns were published (and yes some of it is definitely ugly), but I rarely find the accompanying text amusing. The Christmas one is kinda funny though.

Most insufferable phrase: “Not Your Granny’s [fill in the blank]”. If they think that any content that follows that title is going to be automatically perceived as ultra-hip, anybody can see they’re trying Way Too Hard. I AM a granny. And I might have been interested, but they’ve turned me right off. Runner-up: “Not Your Mama’s [fill in the blank]”. Yeah, I’m one of those too. And ditto.

Interesting trends noted: finer yarns, lace, updated crochet, more challenging designs, slightly looser but well-fitting clothing, non-bulky layering, recycling (think fulled or unraveled sweaters, re-cut and recombined garments, repurposed jewelry components), more people making more things.

I’m looking forward to seeing what’s up for 2007. Meanwhile we’re awaiting my grandson whose due date is today. No word yet!

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Oh Nupps!

Well I read all the warnings about those darned nupps in the Swallowtail Shawl but I just thought the complaints were from relatively inexperienced knitters. Wrongo! They are tricksy — very tricksy. And there are no “resting” rows. It’s all exciting all the time.

Nupps, to the uninitiated, are little nubs or mini-bobbles often seen in lace of Estonian origin. They are accomplished with a k1,yo,k1,yo,k1 into the same stitch on the right-side row and a p5tog on the next wrong-side row. Lots more info here. The initial creation row is relatively easy but purling the little darlings together is a killer! And it’s even further complicated by the regular yo’s on each side of the nupp stitch in this pattern which tend to obscure and confusticate matters. Out of the many suggestions, I’m trying using a separate thin pointy metal needle to pick up the stitches and then work the purl. I’m using one of my 2mm aluminum sock needles. Then I slip the completed stitch onto my circular and carry on. I’ve gotten pretty good at knitting while holding the extra needle in my right hand, kind of like I do absentmindedly sometimes with my Wacom tablet’s pen when knitting while reading the computer. Yes, I knit Continental where my left hand is doing all the hard work of tensioning the yarn leaving my right hand less encumbered so it’s not as awkward as it sounds. However this nupp stuff takes mucho dexterity and concentration. It’s all in the attitude: you can fight a little nuppy war or you can think of them as a challenge to your knitterly diplomacy skills. It’s all about the journey not the finish line. Worth it all in my opinion. I wouldn’t leave them out or the lilies-of-the-valley won’t have any flowers! Then what would they be? Just valleys? I’d show you how far I’ve gotten but the lace (as always) just looks like a boring pile of orangish string on the needles and doesn’t show its true beauty until blocked.

Just like the Icarus Shawl from the summer IK, I’m trying to analyze why the Swallowtail Shawl has so appealed to so many knitters/bloggers. I think it’s because it’s not too big, has several different but not too difficult lace areas and is well charted. Even for relatively beginner lace knitters it’s not intimidating. (Nupps aside!) I chose it more because I like the practical shape and size (a larger shawl wouldn’t get much use by me) and the intriguing challenge of the nupps, which I’d never tried before. I loved it the minute I saw it in the magazine. It immediately went into my project queue and quickly pushed its way up to the front of the line! That doesn’t happen around here often. Usually it takes so long to get to something that I forget why I wanted to do it.

We won't discuss how I'm feeling today. Maybe if I ignore The Bug it'll go away? One can only hope. It's cramping my style.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Boxing Day

And I’m avoiding the huge sales that are on this week like crazy. Hope everyone who celebrates had a great day yesterday! We had a lovely turkey dinner with the family at my daughter and soon-to-be son-in-law’s. I was so glad that dinner was not at our house this year because I was feeling like wet Kleenex. Just hoping nobody else catches it. I've had it since Wednesday though so I should be less contagious by now. There was no way I was going to miss the party! It was a lot of fun. Nice to hand the responsibilities down to the next generation, hey?

My daughter’s soon-to-be in-laws came over from Victoria and they were a big help. Step-dad was a big help in the kitchen along with my sis-in-law so I didn't feel too bad that I wasn't up to much assistance. I played a little with my granddaughter but mostly let my teenaged niece and nephew have all the fun with her. My 13-year-old nephew is wonderful with little ones! My daughter-in-law is feeling very rotund (or is that fecund!) and was hoping that the baby would have been born by now. His due date is this Friday but he may become a New Year's baby if he doesn't hustle! My son is getting quite excited about the impending birth. He's such a good dad! Her mom was also able to come which is great. Since she's on her own (long divorced from DIL’s dad), she's become a definite part of the family. And NOT just because she makes a mean marinated mushroom dish that we always make her bring! She’s also the artist who painted the persimmons for my kitchen.

Another nephew and his wife dropped by with their two little ones before heading over to her parents' for dinner. My birth mom, sister and her son, T's 2 elderly aunties, his mom, 2 brothers and their spouses — I think there were 22 people for the turkey dinner! And that's just immediate family. And by no means all of them either. I don’t think any of us has a house big enough for the whole gang at once!

My sister loved her fuzzy shawl and agreed that it looks like water. I’ll be making another one for my baby sister later. I gave my daughter-in-law the Peapod sweater and hat for the new baby. She and my son both loved them. My mother-in-law loved her socks too. And they fit perfectly. Of course! (I’m so good.) I promised to put my sister-in-law on the sock list because she loves the idea of handknit socks and has never had any. Her feet are the same size as mine and she loves bright colours so this should be easy. I only knit for those who appreciate it! Otherwise, why waste my time?

Today we spent a quiet day trying to get over The Bug. I needed some air so we went for a short walk to the store for necessities. The drawback to having somebody else cook the turkey — no leftovers! The 3 blocks there and back were plenty for us both. It’s not raining right now though so the rule here is get outside while you can for it might be pouring later. Even though it’s not what you might call bright, it’s brighter outside than indoors. Even with the Christmas lights on.

I’m up to the long stretch of the foot on the Forest Socks and have one more repeat of the centre bud section before starting the lily-of-the-valley section on my Swallowtail Shawl. Nothing much to bother photographing yet. It’s a perfect time to knit while it’s quiet and I’m not up for much else.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

More Than Six Weird Things About Me

Since I’m lousy at tagging people, I’ll do like a couple of other bloggers and let anybody who wants to accept this meme do it themselves. It would be nice if they leave me a comment to say they did, though. I got this one from Sue of Snail Spirals.

------------------------THE RULES: Each player of this game starts with the 6 weird things about you. People who get tagged need to write a blog of their own 6 weird things as well as state this rule clearly. In the end, you need to choose 6 people to be tagged and list their names. Don't forget to leave a comment that says you are tagged in their comments and tell them to read your blog.-----------------------

1. I don’t drive. Never had a license except a learner’s once in 1973. It lapsed and I never learned how.

2. I hate coffee. Hate the smell and the taste. In my whole life I’ve never had a cup of coffee. Or a cigarette either, for that matter.

3. I sleep in nothing but a t-shirt. A big old ratty t-shirt, one that has been demoted from wearing in public. I only own one nightgown and that was a gift. From my mom. T-Man gives me t-shirts!

4. I don’t wear jeans, not ever. Haven’t owned a pair since the early ‘70’s. They are too uncomfortable.

5. I love sci-fi/fantasy and rarely ever read any other kind of novel. My favourite authors are Robin Hobb and Elizabeth Haydon and I own almost every book ever published by Andre Norton, Anne McCaffrey and Mercedes Lackey.

6. I hate phoning anybody but I’m happy to talk if they phone me first. I prefer to email instead of phone. I’ve even been known to answer phone messages with an email.

Hah! Six is way too easy. I could go to 20 given a few minutes to think. Does that mean I’m really really weird? How about these?

I’ve been married for 35 years but I don’t wear my wedding ring. T wears his.

I hate putting my head under water but I like to swim (not well), float and play in the water.

I like Brussels sprouts raw with dip, not cooked.

I’m not a big fan of Christmas. I hate the hype, the bad carols (not the good music) and the stress. I do it my way (lots of love, lights and food, no presents or cards) and I’m happier for it. It’s hard with all the pressure, even from family members, but I persist because otherwise I go crazy. And this time of year is all about peace and joy and contentment and love, right? All the best of the season for what ever holiday you celebrate and however you celebrate it!

Saturday, December 23, 2006


After blowing my nose and washing my hands (lots!) I managed to make the almost-organic short bread dough log which is currently chilling so I can cut and bake it. Tomorrow or maybe even Christmas morning I’ll make the butter tarts. It’s almost an hour’s drive to my daughter and her fiancé’s place in the ’burbs but we don’t have to pick up T’s elderly aunties until the afternoon so I will have time. I do so hope I don’t give this bug to anybody. If that’s all they get from me this Christmas they won’t be thinking nice thoughts about me!

You probably haven’t noticed her disappearance from my sidebar’s projects listings, but Angel-Thing finally decided that she didn’t want beads because she didn’t want to cover up her lovely make-up job. Took her months to figure that out, the grumpy thing. So I’ve deleted her from the projects and hung her on the tree. Nice to cross yet another thing off my list and thereby leaving room to start something new without guilt. But who does guilt anyway? We just starts ’em when we wants ’em!

Another thing I hung on the tree was my little mini-mitts because I never got to go to my guild’s Christmas party to exchange it with somebody else’s decoration. Boo-hoo. Maybe I’ll save them for next year? Maybe I’ll take them to my daughter’s and hang them on her tree.

Want to see what we found on our bedroom windowsill?

A queen wasp! Looking for a winter home. She was too close for comfort — right over the head of my bed. I’m very allergic to wasp stings and don’t fancy spending 3 hours in the hospital anytime soon. T put her outdoors and I hope she stays there! We have no idea how she got in here in the first place. We didn’t hear her flying around. If you happened to notice in the photo the holes in the side of the house next door, it has been sold, gutted and then left abandoned until the new owners get the proper permits. I miss my neighbour who passed away a couple of years ago around this time. He was a good neighbour for 25 years and now we are waiting to see how they will be renovating his house and how it will impact us. Not looking forward to the building noise and mess. Meanwhile it just sits there semi-derelict.

Back to knitting on the shawl. Every repeat helps it to grow!

Friday, December 22, 2006

Germ Of An Idea

Or maybe it’s just a brain full of germs? I’m sitting here feeling really sorry for myself today because I have a “code in da dose” and I feel rotten! I have been disgustingly healthy for a long time (apart from occasional migraines) so I’m definitely not happy about being sick during the holidays. Plus I’m so afraid my new grandson will be born (due in one week!) while I’m still sick and I’ll have to stand far away wearing a face mask and surgical gloves. Phooey. I want to hold him! If I had gotten sick a couple of weeks ago it wouldn’t be such a big deal because I’d be all better by now. Timing is everything, eh?

Meanwhile I’m just sitting around knitting and reading and thinking bad thoughts about cold germs. Good thing I don’t shop for Christmas presents and it’s not my turn to cook the turkey or I’d be forcing myself out in the cold and crazy city with all the other last-minute types. They can get themselves all stressed out without me. All I have to do is make some organic shortbread (promised my birth mom) and some butter tarts (promised T-Man) to bring to my daughter’s place on Monday as my contribution. I bought the tart shells since I’m totally pastry challenged and the rest is a cinch. I used to make tons of fancy cookies but now that I eat low-carb I don’t want the leftovers around because I will eat them and then regret it when I get a tummy ache and insomnia after. Nothing like being on a diet that reminds you physically when you screw up. I can eat a little bit of sweet or floury things once in awhile but that’s it.

So while I’ve been sitting around feeling sorry for myself, I’ve been surfing. Have you seen how many great online magazines there are, with new ones appearing all the time? One that I was reading yesterday is the Crochet Insider. (Don’t forget to see the one back issue in the archives too.) Some interesting food for thought in the interviews with some well-known designers and authors, including opinions that conflict with each other, and relevant if you crochet or knit or hopefully both. I loved the conversation with my friend Kim Werker, editor of Crochet Me (see my sidebar for link) and author of 2 books on crochet for beginners. When she talks about taking a beginner crochet class herself where she totally clicked with it — that was my class! By the second lesson she was hooking away like she’d been doing it for years and years and the rest is history. She ended up making kind of a career out of it! Pretty impressive, not of my teaching skills, but of her own innate ability to get it. I’m so proud of her.

Another on-line magazine on a whole other subject is CQMagOnline. Crazy quilting is a branch of art quilting combined with embroidery, beadwork and other embellishments. There are some good how-to’s, interviews, and reviews. Don’t forget to check out the extensive archives too — it goes back 2 years. Some of this stuff is a bit (OK, a LOT!) too sweet for my taste but the techniques are adaptable to other types of art quilting, surface design and jewelry making. And it’s a good example of a magazine that I wouldn’t buy if it was printed on paper, but I did enjoy reading it online. I could pick and choose those articles that appealed to me and leave the rest.

I’ve just turned the heels on both of the Forest Socks. I can’t get a good photo in what passes for daylight around here. I have to wait a bit until I feel well enough to go outside and it isn’t raining. Otherwise these dark green socks just look, well, dark. But really they have a whole range of subtle colours in them. Yet another reason why I love dyeing my own yarns! OK enough of the whining and whingeing. I’m going to turn on a good podcast and knit some on my Swallowtail shawl.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

The Big Bang

Before I mention the bang, I’ll start with a whimper. T-Man managed despite my best efforts to share his icky bug with me. I’m going to miss my guild’s Christmas party tonight because I have a sore throat and sniffly nose. Darn. Hope it goes away by Monday. Or even sooner. Plus we’re anxiously waiting an event around here that’s much more exciting than Christmas, the eminent birth of my first grandson! His due date is a week tomorrow but you never know. His big sister was a week early and his dad was 7 weeks early (not recommended if you don’t want baby to spend a month in an incubator). His mom is just hoping for soonest, though I’m sure she doesn’t want to miss the big family dinner. Meanwhile the kid’s on his own time schedule, not ours.

In crafty news I have another FO to report, another quickie one that was begun yesterday and completed today. Here it is blocking (all except the ties which were too long to fit on my board):

Fuzzy Shawl

Begun: December 20, 2006
Completed: December 21, 2006

Yarn: Sandesgarn Chili, furry/bumpy/sparkly novelty, 100% polyamide, 50 g = 65 m, colour 6647 (oceanic blues/greens), 2 balls. Sandesgarn Smart, 100% wool DK, 50 g = 100 m, colour 6545 (blue-green), a little over 1 ball.
Needles: Denise size 13 circular.
Fibermania’s Shawl

Comments: The novelty yarn really looks like water, right down to the clear sparkly bits that resemble water droplets. It’s not quite as soft as the original one I made for myself using Moda Dea Kickx but the colour effect is lovely. Hope she likes it! Yes, I made another fuzzy thing even though these novelty yarns are supposedly “out”. This little shawl’s size, shape and warmth are wonderful when you need a little extra coziness around your shoulders. Ask me how I know.

Next we have the now dry merino/cashmere yarn that I dyed yesterday. Doesn’t it look like the photos of the wonderful red-orange Utah rocks that I posted after my holiday in September? Well that was the plan anyhow.

I somehow got the skein turned around on my skein winder/unwinder so that it was very tedious to get into a ball but I managed without breaking it or throwing a tantrum. So far I’ve knit just one more repeat on the Swallowtail pattern than my first shawlie sample from yesterday, but I’m liking it a lot. Nice when something you plan turns out the way you planned it, eh? Doesn’t happen often.

The bang of the title was one big clap of thunder that made me jump! I had only caught the lightning that preceded it out of the corner of my eye and was pondering what it was when…BAM! Right over my head. And that was it. Lots of dumping rain before and after but no more thunder and lightning. We also missed the storm last night and this morning that traveled all around but never hit here. I was beginning to think this winter was going to be just one storm after another with nary a respite — but we respited in spite.

Happy Winter Solstice! For us here, it’s this afternoon at 4:22 pm PST. Welcome back, Sun!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Just You Wait

I’ve put the Penelope Beret on hold for the moment (I have a migraine today so thinking is painful) and decided to start yet a new project instead. Well truthfully I started it yesterday (pre-migraine) — the Swallowtail Shawl from Interweave Knits Fall 2006 issue. It’s quite popular and there’s actually a blog for the knitalong for this pattern. It called to me the minute I saw it because it’s a small wearable size, not a difficult pattern, and there’s a chance I might actually finish it sometime in the next decade. I also have a huge skein of super-soft merino/cashmere laceweight yarn in the stash just begging to be a shawl.

So I started swatching teeny tiny little shawlies just to test out the odd pattern beginning and the needles. As luck would have it, I own every size of needle known to womankind except the one I needed for this, a 3.5 mm 24” bamboo circular. I had an old Crystal Palace bamboo circular just the right size but one of the tips was damaged. Squashed flat. No idea how that happened. Maybe caught in the hinge of the huge old wooden box I used to keep them in? Nothing for it but to go buy a new needle. Awwww…the trials of living just 3.5 blocks from my LYS.

Of course while I was there I had to buy some yarn as well as the needles (BTW I got Clover Takumi 3.5 mm 24” circs). The yarn is for a fuzzy Fibermania’s Shawl for my sister’s belated birthday present. She liked the one I made for myself. I already had one ball of the novelty yarn Sandesgarn’s Chili in oceanic blues (this is what I made my beaded mermaid doll’s hair with) so I just needed one more ball and a couple of balls of Sandesgarn’s Smart (wool DK weight) to coordinate. This shawl is really quick to knit on 9 mm Denise needles. This sister will be getting it for Christmas — but it’s still a birthday present! Not my fault all of my siblings were born in winter. Mother blames it on Spring Fever. Speaking of that, it’s also my baby sis’s birthday today! I’m going to be knitting another fuzzy shawl. Since she lives in Mexico and I won’t be seeing her until summer maybe, there’s no hurry to finish. You can’t mail anything to her or it goes astray so we’re used to gift giving whenever. Of course if I’d made it ahead of time, Mother could have delivered it in person last month. But that means Thinking Ahead. Heh. But I digress.

Back to the Swallowtail Shawl. Here are the teeny tiny shawlie samples:

Yes, that’s a quarter (special 2005 Canadian veterans issue, Queen side down) for scale. The top sample is the one I did beginning with 3.25 mm Aero aluminums (too small, too slippery) and segueing into 3.25 mm Clover bamboos (too small) after the first repeat. Started again with Denise 3.75 mm (US size 5). Way too loose. Frogged. This is where I realized that 3.5 mm needles (which the pattern actually calls for) were correct and started again with the Addis since they were the only ones I had in the right size. Uh-uh. Too slippery, too short, and too blunt. Frogged again. The second smaller sample is done with my pristine new Clover Takumi bamboos in 3.5 mm. Perfecto. At least it’ll be big enough for a shoulder wrap instead of a handkerchief! Note too how much nicer the lace looks after I settled on which particular decreases I wanted to use. There may still be a glitch in that tricky beginning with the provisional crochet chain cast-on and the picking up in the garter bumps on the side of a weensy little piece of knitting. It’ll be pretty slick looking though when I get it exactly right. Fourth time lucky?

Too bad you can't feel this stuff. It's soooo soft with a little bit of halo from the cashmere. I wound the huge skein of yarn into a ball and found 2 knots in the yarn. Not bad for several thousand metres actually. I wound about 6oo yards back into a skein for dyeing. Well, you don’t think I’m going to make boring white lace, do ya? I went down to the dye studio and popped the skein into my acid bucket (I’ve been saving it after dye classes as long as it looks ok) and then mixed up some more dye stock since I was all out of most colours. While I was doing that, I decided to test some of my older dyes on a length of roving to see if they were still functional. They were but one old brick red of unknown provenance seems rather weak. However it’s a great colour so I used most of what I’d mixed plus some gold, scarlet, and a wee bit of turquoise just to tone things down. As this is going to be for lace I didn’t want too abrupt colour changes, just subtle shadings that won’t obscure the lace happening. I’m so pleased at the final results! It totally reminds me of Utah’s red rocks. I’ll take a photo tomorrow when it’s dry and before I wind it back into a ball.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

That Wasn't So Hard, Really

Gee, why didn’t I just buckle down and finish this darn thing months ago? It took me 2 years when it should only have taken 2 days. And I just finished it up in 2 hours! That’s off the loom, ends tied and around my neck. Now it’s unfortunately looking a little dated since novelty scarves are so last year. Or even the year before. But I don’t care — I’ve finished it and I want to wear it, darn it! At least it’s warm even if the loops want to catch on everything in sight. I’m staying well away from my cats. In case you’re at all interested despite the style faux pas, here’s the scoop:

Woven Boa

Started: circa 2 years ago, don’t remember the exact date and didn’t note it anywhere
Completed: December 18, 2006

Yarns: Many! Warp – fine 2-ply silk (maybe 30/2?) dyed rust red. Floating selvedges – polyester 2-ply thread (a little finer than the silk but a lot stronger). Core weft – acrylic 2-ply machine knitting yarn, dark orange. Novelty wefts (knitting yarns) – a) Idena Cotton Lux, 100% Egyptian cotton, orange. b) Lion Brand Incredible ribbon, 100% nylon, colour Copper Penny. c) Herwool Eros railroad, 100% nylon, colour 7159 moss greens, d) unknown boucle weaving yarn, possibly rayon, acid yellow/green. e) Funny eyelash, 100% polyester, colour 3525 orange.

Warp length: 2.5 yards, 8 ends.
Finished boa length: 75 inches

Pattern: Handwoven magazine, January 2005, Issue #123, p. 62.

Comments: The first warp I tried (I even forget what it was!) was not up to being so narrow on such a wide loom. It broke when I tightened the tension. I also had to try 2 or 3 different floating selvedges before I found one that wouldn’t untwist itself and break. Luckily with only 8 ends plus 2 selvedges, it only took a moment to wind new threads. The weaving is pretty inconsistent considering that I wove this in fits and starts over a long time. I’m not sure I even wove the same number of core picks between pattern picks, or even followed the treadling direction very accurately. As a matter of fact, I’m sure I didn’t! However, the loopy twisty thing is very forgiving. Just glad it’s FINALLY off the loom, leaving it ready for the next woven project, The Blankie.

Detail of the weave structure:

In other news, remember my Penelope Wristlets? I forgot to mention that I was emailing with the author of Arctic Knits, Donna Druchunas about the pattern and she very kindly included a copy of the photo on her blog and a link to my post! Wasn’t that sweet? She also made a lovely comment on my blog post so go look. Only in this day of Internet communications can people give each other such immediate and relevant feedback. So cool!

And speaking of the Penelopes, I’m attempting to make a beret using the same lace/beads pattern. I think I’ve figured out how to get to the crown and how I want to decrease, but I haven’t quite bent my brain around how or even whether I will carry on lace and/or beads there. Maybe I’ll just have to knit up to that point and experiment? First I have to thread the beads on the yarn and find out if I have an appropriately sized circular needle. This is too fine for my Denise set so I’m into the old Aero stash. I never get rid of knitting needles or crochet hooks. I even have my mom’s set of ugly grey plastic straights. Yeah, so I’m sentimental. And you never know when they might come in handy.

Meanwhile, I’ve started another pair of plain socks so I don’t go nuts while watching tv or reading email. These ones are in Sisu that once was 3 strands light grey/1 strand dark charcoal and now is a lovely blend of deep forest greens after I dye-painted them. T-Man is awaiting his 8th (I think?) pair of socks with happiness. So I don’t give Christmas presents — I give whenever I feel like it. So there.

Monday, December 18, 2006


Today I have two FOs. The first was actually finished on Saturday and the second was begun and completed since then.

MIL Socks

Started: December 8, 2006
Completed: December 16, 2006

Yarn: Regia 6-ply Jacquard Color,75 % wool/25% polyamide, colour 5174, indigo-ish blues and a bit of grey.
Needles: 2.25 mm Boye aluminum dpns

Pattern: my Standard Socks with Estonian scalloped cuffs from a mitten pattern by Nancy Bush in Piecework (Jul/Aug 2006). Sock was worked on 60 sts, 6.5in to heel flap, 6.25in to toe decreases.

Cuff: CO 60 sts using long-tail cast-on. Purl one round, knit one round. Begin lace: round 1 – [SSK, k1, k1tbl, yo, k1, yo, k1tbl, k1, k2tog, p1] repeat. Round 2 – [k9, p1] repeat. Continue alternating rounds 1 and 2 twelve times (or desired cuff length). This naturally forms a scalloped edge.

Comments: As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a little disappointed at how the cuff pattern looks in the faux fairisle yarn. I will be trying this one again on something a little less contrast-y. This is the first pair I’ve made for my mother-in-law and they are a little thicker than my usual socks, being 6-ply instead of 4, so I hope they work out ok for her. She can always wear them for bed socks!

Next up we have storage for my crochet hooks.

Crochet Hook Roll

Begun: December 16, 2006
Completed: December 18, 2006

Yarn: Main colour – 2 strands of Condon’s 2-ply fine, hand-dyed forest green over grey (leftovers from Marigold & Feverfew blanket). Contrast colour – Navajo 3-ply DK-weight, handspun from dye-painted roving over dark grey. First spinning from Tori (new Victoria spinning wheel).
Hooks: MC – 7mm Aero. CC – 4.25mm T-Made in padauk wood.
Button: 7/8” vintage brass button

Size: Main piece, before felting – 10 inches wide by 24 inches long. After felting – 8.5 inches wide by 22.5 inches long. Cluster section – 2.25 inches wide by 22.5 inches long.

Pattern: Adaptation of “
Kluster” from Berroco. Mine is much larger and the gauge is different.

Using MC and larger hook, ch 27, dc in 3rd ch from hook, dc across. 25 st. ch 2, turn. Continue in dc until piece is long enough. Full in washing machine.

Cluster section:
Using CC and smaller hook, ch 10, dc in 3rd ch from hook, dc in next dc, sk 2 ch, 5 dcs in next ch, sk 2 ch, dc in last 2 dcs. Set-up row completed. Ch 3, turn, dc 1 in second dc, 5 dcs in centre dc of 5-cluster, dc in last 2 dcs. Repeat this row for length. Last row, work as usual but after 3rd dc in cluster, ch 6, 3 dc in same st, dc in last 2 dcs, end off.

Using needle and thread, stitch cluster section down centre of fulled body, leaving ch loop hanging out at the end. Insert hooks, roll up and sew button on underneath ch loop. Button up.

Comments: This thing is big enough to hold even my biggest wooden hook! And there’s still room for a few more. Keeps them all in order, separated, padded and accessible. Perfect! Now I should make one for my sock needles. It should be knitted instead of crocheted though, huh? Berroco has this pattern “
Kable” for straight knitting needles. Shouldn’t be too hard to adapt it to a long narrow roll.

Good news! One of my “twin” cottage spinning wheels just went to a new home! My friend Nadia, who was one of the students in my last spinning class, has purchased Frances leaving me with Lillian. There was no reason to have two identical wheels, especially now that Tori has moved in. How many spinning wheels does one really need anyway? Never mind — don’t answer that question! The money will defray only a little of Tori’s cost (actually not much more than the taxes!) but every little bit helps. Thanks and happy spinning, Nadia!

Friday, December 15, 2006

Stormy Weather

Whoo-eeee!!! That was Some Storm last night! It’s picking up again now too but not as bad as the 90-100 kph winds we had between 2 and 5 am. We hardly slept with the noise and concerns that the old pear tree next door was going to finally bite it. The yard is littered with twigs and branches but otherwise everything seems undamaged. However, the morning commute for everyone is seriously discombobulated what with a tree on the Skytrain track, power out at the Surrey stations, trolley bus lines down and the Lion’s Gate Bridge closed due to more trees on the causeway. Almost a quarter of a million households are without power but ours barely flickered! T-Man must have power at work though because he didn’t return home after leaving at 5:30am. Are we lucky or what?

I’ve lost count of the storms we’ve been having one after the other. Rain, wind, snow. There’s lots of damage to trees and structures that have been hit by falling trees and branches. We’ve been so lucky that nobody has been killed even though some cars have been hit while moving and nobody uses the four-way-stop procedure properly. I’m betting lots of people will take an extra day off work today. Meanwhile, I don’t have to go anywhere. Neener-neener! I’ll just stay warm and dry and un-windblown and play with Tori.

Speaking of which, I spun up one little skein on her yesterday and Navajo-plied it using the lazy-kate. The bobbins actually hold a fair amount. They’re bigger than the standard Ashford ones and bigger than my old Sleeping Beauty’s bobbins. Not bad for such a teeny wheel! A small squeak developed where the footman joins the right treadle but a little adjustment of the screw there seemed to solve it. This wheel doesn’t really seem to need any lubrication anywhere. Of course the sealed bearings are self-lubing but it’s pretty quiet overall. I did have a little trouble with the lazy-kate which doesn’t have any way to brake the bobbins. They continued to run when I didn’t want them to and allowed too much yarn to escape before I was ready for it. I may glue something under the bobbin rim on the fibreboard base to slow it down just a little, like a piece of fun fur or something. My friend Laura uses this technique to slow the bobbin in her shuttles and it just provides a bit of drag which is all you need. My S-90 doesn’t have this problem because the lazy-kate holds the bobbins upright which provides just enough drag. There is a bit of plastic that will work as a brake if you turn the bobbins with the flat side down or it misses the plastic if you turn them with the stepped side down. The latter is the way I use it because I don’t like too much drag or my arms get too tired or the yarn breaks.

I did one more modification so far as well — I put one of my little red Velcro dots on the end of the dowel that the brake is attached to so that I can park my yarn and it won’t untwist when I let go. I have one in the middle of the bobbin support just under the orifice on Klaas and use it all the time. There is nowhere to easily park your yarn on Tori because her orifice is in the middle of the air with no support on the front. Do other spinners have this problem? Where do you park your yarn when you leave it temporarily? Do you just wrap it around the orifice or something?

I’m almost at the toe on both of my MIL socks. I’m hoping to finish them today so I can check another thing off the never-ending list. Not sure what’s next but I’m sure something will jump up and say “My turn!” Maybe I should finish a few things? Nah. Start. More.

Here’s one of the things I could start — right after I get the languishing boa off the loom. I bought this pile of yarn (50 skeins!) from my friend Sandra who bought it a number of years ago from someone else. This is Condon’s wool from an extinct Charlottetown, PEI, mill and some Briggs & Little wool from Nova Scotia. It makes great blankets, which is what I want for my bed, and also fulls beautifully for knitted hats, slippers and bags. I got to pick at random from her collection (she only held back the white) and though the colours are quite pleasant I can overdye if I need to. The blanket will be underneath so colour really isn’t critical. I already have 2…make that 3…handwoven blankets on my bed now. One is just a little throw that only fits over me, but T doesn’t need it. I’m on the windward side of the bed (nearest the usually open window) and he has his own internal heater. Sometimes our bedroom gets down to 10 degrees Celsius in the night! I like it that way if I have enough blankies on me.

T-Man managed to get the photos from the aquarium off his camera and into my computer. They aren’t very good (too low resolution) but they’re kind of arty! Especially after I messed with them some in Paint Shop Pro. Heh! Next time I’ll remember my own camera. Maybe.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Darkest Day

I know it’s not winter solstice yet, but I think somebody forgot to turn on that big light in the sky today. I have lights on all over the house just to see where I’m going so I don’t bump into things. Which means that photos have to be taken with the nasty flash turned on or adjusted in Paint Shop Pro. Sorry about that. And speaking of photos, I was hoping to have one or two showing the amazing colours we saw at the aquarium on Tuesday, but I forgot my camera and T-Man can’t figure out how to get the pics he took off his cell phone. He did it before but now he can’t remember what he did!

Excuse me. Doorbell.

Well, the day just got brighter! I just got my new spinning wheel, a Louet Victoria!!! She’s so cute. However, I did think I had ordered an oak version and this one is beech! But I'm NOT going to send her back because we've already bonded. She has spun her first wool yarn and she's MINE! That was pretty fast from the time she was mailed especially at this time of year.

I've already explored setting Tori up and packing and unpacking her. It's not at all difficult, especially since I'm used to folding up my S-90 and the Ashford Joy that I teach on in Birkeland Bros. I think it's a wee bit easier than the Joy to fold though more fiddly to get in the pack which is not as high a quality as Joy's optional one. On the other hand, it's included in the price. I do like that there are so many options for carrying the bag but they could have been a centimeter longer on one of the inner straps. It's very tight! I also would have preferred padding rather than the fibreboard on the bottom. It would rattle less and be more comfortable to backpack. I got the backpack straps out and tested her weight. Not unbearable for reasonable distances and should work fine to carry on the bus. The big outside pocket can hold a lot of other tools and fibres, though of course that will add to the weight and the bulk. I'm not overwhelmed with the lazy-kate but it's true that the fibreboard bottom does cut down on the weight factor and it's nice that it fits inside the pack. I'm a bit concerned that it may warp in the future though, so we'll see how that goes.

She spins very nicely even if I only use the right treadle. (I'm not a huge double-treadle fan so it's nice to have the option!) As with all Louets the sealed bearings are very smooth. There's a teeny bit of rattle with the bobbin, but that may settle in. Otherwise there were no squeaks right out of the box. I'm also not a huge fan of Scotch tension but it's a lot more adjustable than the bobbin-lead/flyer brake system of the older Louet wheels. I do like the slides instead of hooks - very adjustable. And there's no need for an orifice hook because the slot in the orifice is long and close to the end. Nice. She does have to be on a really even surface though or there's a bit of wobble when treadling. A small non-skid mat might help there.

Now I’d like to know about the high-speed flyer that Louet mentioned. Are they in development yet? Because I sure would like that option! Neither of my other 2 wheels have very high ratios and it would add to Tori's versatility. She might as well be all she can be, hey?

Here’s some photos including Klaas the S-90 bonding with his new baby sister:

And it just started torrentially raining out. No wonder it was so dark.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Mini Mitts Ornament

Started: December 9, 2006
Completed: December 10, 2006

Yarn: 2-ply handspun Corriedale in “Tamarillo” from
Aurelia Wool. (Leftovers from Little Squares Sweater.)
Needles: 2mm Addi Natura dpns

Pattern: from
Interweave Knits Gifts (special holiday issue) 2006.

Comments: I used the pattern pretty much as written though I used smaller needles. I changed the ribbing from k1/p1 to k2/p2 and I did the thumb on 3 dpns (instead of i-cord) before carrying on with the rest of the mitt. They turned out about 2 inches tall. I made 2 and attached them in a pair by twisting the cast-on tails together and stitching the ends into the opposite mitt. Cute!

I made these for my weavers guild’s Christmas Ornament Exchange that we have every year. It was a quickie project!

So what have I been up to since last Friday? On Saturday I went to my Spectrum surface design study group. That’s where I started knitting the mitts. We chatted and shared and ate a great potluck lunch. Then we planned our study focus for next year: felt. There are so many aspects of felt that we figured would interest all of us. Some spin, some knit, some weave, some sew, but one thing we all do is dye. So at our January meeting we will dye some easy-felting wool roving in preparation for the meeting after that where we will try making little wet-felted beads by hand. We may also dye some yarns so we can weave or knit them into something that can then be felted in the washing machine later on. Since my dye studio is the largest indoor one, we’ll be doing the initial dyeing here. T-Man will like that because he can participate in lunch!

Some other plans are to explore different “nuno” felting techniques using chiffon as an interlayer to allow lighter, more durable felt pieces and, for those of us who weave, playing with some weave structures that give an interesting bubbled or holey fabric when fulled. I had a flash of inspiration in a magazine which I glanced through but didn’t purchase where a “deconstructed” scarf was knitted with regular areas of dropped stitches and then fulled heavily. Extended eyelets could be used in a similar way. And there’s always crochet which easily creates holes in a solid fabric. I’m not sure if anyone in the group crochets except me though. I’ll have to find out!

I also want to get out my knitting machines and see if they still work. With them I can create large areas of fabric quickly that can then be further manipulated. One way is to tie washable items into the fabric, such as coins, corks, wood beads/balls or child’s blocks, and then full. The knitted (or even woven) fabric between the items becomes felted but where the items were tied in stays bubbled out. This has been referred to as a form of shibori which I suppose it is except that it is missing the dyeing part of tie-dye. But I tend to think of it as cloqué, which means “blistered”. However, surface designers often use this word for fabric that has been chemically treated to make the cellulose yarns in a mixed-fibre weave shrink which also creates a blistered fabric. Does it matter if it’s wool that is fulled or cellulose that is chemically shrunk — they are both shrinking differentially? One website that uses the latter term for what we call nuno or laminated felt is Silk Cloqué. Ah, fun with nomenclature.

One last area we can play with, perhaps in combination with some of the above techniques, is needle felting. The nice thing about it is that it’s a dry technique, suitable for sitting at a table and chatting rather than working hard and messy. It can be a surface addition or more 3-dimensional and free-standing. This list of study ideas will get edited and added to as we go along. Some of us will work on our own to facilitate showing the rest of the group how to do a given technique. And some will expand on what we’ve experimented with together to make more elaborate projects of our own. That’s the nice thing with this study group — no pressure to produce but lots of things to learn.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Magazine Woes

I recently got the Fall ’06 issue of Knitter’s magazine. How come so late, you may ask? Well, I’ve had problems with this magazine lately. For almost a year it hasn’t been available in any of my usual shops. So I finally broke down and got a subscription back in August. That was between issues so I waited. And waited. And waited. After I got back from my vacation in late September I emailed and was assured that the fall issue had just gone in the mail. So I waited some more. No signs. Finally towards the end of November, I emailed again. And waited. I got a reply saying I should of course have received the magazine by now, but since I hadn’t they would send another one out. And it finally arrived. I should be receiving the next issue soon, unless the same thing happens. Hope not.

So why do I want this magazine so badly, you ask? Don’t ask. Besides the fact that I have every single issue and hate to mess up a complete set, this one is pretty much a dud. I wanted to read about the Victorian Lace Today book by Jane Sowerby recently published by XRX (the publishers of Knitter’s), but the article was more about the photo shoot than the content. Nice pictures, boring article, but I’ll still buy the book. Also there’s no patterns in the mag that I would contemplate making without modifications. Serious mods at that. So I'm not contemplating making them. Contrast this with the last issue of Interweave Knits where there were at least 4 or 5 things that were of interest, plus lots of in-depth articles which are my favourite part of any of the magazines. And also contrast that with the new issue of Knitty just up which also has several great patterns that I love, including beaded socks by my friend Sivia Harding, plus some really great articles. And Knitty is free online. No subscriptions or trips to the book store necessary. Great for immediate gratification. And yes, of course good knitting patterns are dependant upon your individual taste. But I don't think my taste is that bad. Conclusion: Knitter’s needs to put more energy into the magazine because the majority of focus seems to be on the Stitches shows instead. (I could tell because I got an invitation to Stitches West weeks before I got my magazine.) And they really need to get a new editor. I’m beginning to see why my magazine shops have dropped this one. Unfortunately I have a two-year subscription! Argh. Remind me that I hate to break up a complete set?

In crafty news, I’ve started a pair of socks — what? You’re not surprised? This one is for my dear little mother-in-law who’s been watching me knit socks for ages without once asking for a pair herself. I’m using slightly thicker sock yarn: Regia 6-ply on 2.25 mm needles. It’s the usual printed faux-fairisle in blues and grey that I found in my stash. I don’t recall buying it but that’s not surprising! I wanted to try a slightly lacey cuff that I saw in an article by Nancy Bush in Piecework magazine. The design was from Estonia and the cuff was on a pair of stranded-patterned gloves. It’s a simple to memorize two-row pattern over 10 stitches that creates a scalloped edge, but I’m not sure I really like it in the printed yarn. I think it would be nicer in something more subtle. But I’m carrying on regardless. Mom has teeny little feet so these shouldn’t take too long to finish. One of the reasons I’m using this yarn for her is that for anyone with larger tootsies, I’d need another ball which I don’t have! Or I’d have to find a plain compatible yarn for heels and toes. Since I still have 2 balls in another colourway, I may have to do that. Though I can get a pair for myself out of this, barely.

Off to my Spectrum surface design group meeting tomorrow for some eating and yakking and show & tell and some serious planning for the coming year. I plan to work on my decoration for the guild's Christmas Exchange. A pair of teensy little mittens in handspun. I'll show you when they're done.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Penelope Wristlets

Yeah, I know I was calling them Fish Trap but they’ve changed their name!

Begun: November 29, 2006
Completed: December 7, 2006

Yarn: Black/Fall, handspun 2-ply, fingering weight, 1 ply black/1 ply handpainted fall colours.
Beads: size 6º Czech seed beads, transparent bronze AB

The above photo shows how I got the beads onto the yarn. I used white glue to meld the beads’ thread onto the yarn. After it dried it was easy to slide the beads over the join. It took about 1-1/2 strands of beads to complete the 2 wristlets.
Needles: Boye metal 2.25 mm dpns.


Cast on 45 sts, arranged on 4 needles (10,10,10,15). I used the long-tail cast-on so the next row starts with a purl round. Knit 6 rounds garter stitch (one row purl, one row knit) and then begin pattern from chart. I worked until I had 15 rows of beads. End with 6 rounds garter stitch beginning with knit row. Bind off in knit. Work in ends.

Comments: These began as the Fish Trap Wristwarmers from “Arctic Knits” by Donna Druchunas. I added beads to the pattern on alternate plain rows. Because I frogged everything so much, I renamed them after Penelope who had to unweave every night everything that she accomplished during the day. This felt exactly like that! I kept making stupid mistakes by not paying attention and even the end results have one wristlet a row longer than the other. I gave up worrying about it.

They are however nice and warm and work nicely with my Not-So-Granny-Square sweater to fill in the gap below the cropped sleeves for when it’s colder. I’m liking the fabric so much, I might make a tam to coordinate since I have one last full skein of this yarn left.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Wednesday Musings

After getting my last post up on Monday withOUT the help of my grandkid — though not without a struggle (she loves keyboards!) — I took most of yesterday off to relax. And knit. And spent 2 hours with our financial advisor. The latter was necessary to figure out what we’re doing with my little inheritance from my adopted mom. Our financial advisor is a very personable guy, but the facts and figures somehow make my brain fill up with cotton candy. Good thing T-Man is more immune and can actually follow what he tries to tell us. We’ve got it all sorted now and after he ran a computer scenario we are relieved to realize that if T was to lose his job as early as next year, we could survive at something above the poverty level. Good to know. His job is very specialized and fairly high-stress plus his company recently was purchased by Kodak so who knows what that giant corporation will subsequently do to his department. He has only been working there for 2 years so he is unlikely to advance any further. How many companies would take a chance promoting a grandfather with only a limited time left to retirement? And in a high-tech situation like his, the chance is more remote even with his rare combination of technical and people skills. He doesn’t have the computer science degrees — they didn’t exist when we were going to school! He does try to keep up with his training but it ain’t easy. Now we don’t have to worry quite so much.

In crafty news, I’ve finished one of the wristlets and am halfway done the second. Even this far into the knitting I’m still a bit confused as to what happens over the “jog” where the round begins. I actually went so far as to email Donna Druchunas since it’s her pattern to ask how she handles knitting diagonal lace in the round. She just moves her marker over whenever you need to k2tog-tbl. This means the first stitch of the round moves as you go on rendering the chart inaccurate. I tend to want that first stitch to stay in one place at the beginning of my first needle in spite of whatever lace moves happen to it, but I’m not sure if I’m being consistent or if I’m causing “glitches” to happen at the jog. It’s not really apparent though so I’m not going to stress over it. I tried looking up how more seasoned lace knitters handle something like this but it seems as if the situation doesn’t turn up often. Or maybe I’m just over-thinking it and it’s so obvious what to do that nobody mentions any special problems. The round’s beginning just moves over as Donna says. Other than resisting my attempts to order it into a neat square chart, it’s a very simple diagonal lace eyelet repeat. Looks very cool with beads too. Carrying on. More when I’m done. They are so warm and comfy that I want 2 of them to wear instead of only one!

I feel like the day is much longer today. T is working until 4pm and then going to see his mom so he won’t be home until almost dinner time. I got spoiled with him coming home at 2:30pm and there still being daylight left! On the other hand, getting him out of bed early is a lot harder when he starts later. After all, why get up before you have to, hey? I hope he remembers to ask his mom if she would like a pair of my handknit socks. I don’t knit them for people who don’t want them. They are precious and not to be discarded in a drawer never to see the inside of a shoe. I won’t even start this pair until I know for sure. They will be a quick knit though — she has the teensiest little feet! And she’s always cold.

I also have to get going on a handmade decoration for our weavers’ guild gift exchange. I have changed my mind on this so often that I haven’t done anything yet! I think I’ve got it settled now but I won’t mention any more until after the meeting on the 21st. I’ll be working on it at our surface design group meeting on Saturday however, so a few members will know what I’m making. A hint: there’s knitting involved.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Another Dye Day

We had a really fun day yesterday in the dye studio. Three of the participants from my last beginner spinning class came to learn how to colour their own fibres and yarns. Unfortunately two more were unable to make it this time. Such a busy time of year but I didn’t want to reschedule! It was certainly a full day and we were all tuckered at the end.

We started with me talking about the synthetic dyes and the many ways there are to apply them. I gave them handouts with all the formulas so they can have the information without having to take notes. Then we went downstairs and washed some of the more greasy fibres. We also measured the water and acetic acid for the soak. After popping all our skeins and rovings into the acid water, we talked about safety concerns and I demonstrated the vapour mask. By now it was time for a lunch break. While eating lunch we talked some more and everyone had a chance to look through the available books on dyeing and colour.

After lunch we got down to business and started mixing up some dye stocks. I demonstrated painting one of the lengths of grey roving just to show how I do it and let them go to it. I nuked the first packet in the craft microwave but most of the rest of them went into the steamer pot. They kept me busy watching the pot, but because there were only 3 students I got a chance to dye some skeins too. This was nice because with such a small class I don’t really make much in the way of profit. At least I got something done for myself at the same time. I painted some handspun for gloves, some sock yarn for T-Man and overdyed some leftover bits of Confetti self-patterning yarn.

The most time-consuming part is washing out all the cups and spoons and buckets and pots and rinsing all the dyed fibres. There’s only room for one at the sink so everyone took turns. There were still one or two items left to finish up this morning, but most of it was done by 4pm. The rinsed fibres went into the washing machine for a final spin-out which helps it all dry much faster. Here’s the proud dyers (that’s me on the left) with their results:

Carolyn, Maria, and Nadia bedecked in their yarns and rovings:

Aren’t they cute?

Friday, December 01, 2006


As you can see the iceberg that has resided on my back deck the last few days is finally melting. Along with the remains of some monster icicles that added their drips to the berg. Note the poor lobelia in the pot to the left. It can't die back yet because it's completely ice-encased! We had sun this morning but warmer temperatures so my lovely snow is disappearing rather quickly. Waterproof high boots recommended to negotiate the lakes on the street corners. But they’d better have non-skid soles for the slush and ice that’s still around on the side streets. It’s pretty out there but kinda treacherous!

Since the garden outside is frozen under ice and snow, I’m enjoying my indoor plants instead. My jewel orchid is blooming in the bathroom and the Christmas cactuses are a bit early this year with lots of flowers. That’s the disocactus in front — the heavy Christmas cactus pot is actually preventing it from tipping over onto the floor from the weight of those long branches. Remember, it bloomed in the summer for the first time in years so now it’s taking a rest. Not pictured are the cuttings from the coleus which are surviving downstairs under my grow lights. They have both aphids and whitefly though which is annoying. I’m trying to eradicate them by hand but I’m barely able to stay ahead of their reproduction. How do they unerringly happen upon vulnerable plants? I can understand why folks once believed in “spontaneous life” when insects just appear as if out of the air.

Carrying on with knitting the wristlets though I might have to start something plain soon or go nuts without something to work on while reading! How am I ever going to get anything complex done if I can’t spend more than a couple of minutes on it? I must be the opposite of most knitters who need complex to keep their interest. I need plain to keep me knitting for any length of time because I don’t need to look at the work and my mind can wander safely without making mistakes. Not too many of them anyway. I guess I need to listen to more podcasts though I do find I miss parts of what’s being said because I stop paying attention. This habit is left over from when I used to have talk radio on all day and only listened to it when I felt like it. I turned it off when my hearing got so bad that the radio just became noise pollution because I couldn’t hear what was being said unless I was near the stereo speakers. (I also got tired of the commercials and the sports reporting but that’s another story.) When I read, I pay more attention to the words than when I listen. Apparently a lot of people are just the opposite. Contrary critter, aren’t I?

Book Review

I finally got the last of my recent book order from Chapters/Indigo. They came one at a time over a number of weeks so I’m sure they lost money on that one! However, I’m just about ready to order some more. I can’t get these specialty craft books in the local stores and it’s actually considerably cheaper by mail. Us bibliophiles must have our books by whatever means necessary! Anyway, this book is FREEformations by Jenny Dowde. Subtitled “Design and Projects in Knitting and Crochet”, this is the second book by Jenny who lives in Australia which seems to be a hotbed of freeform textile artists. This one carries on and fills in where her first book, Freeform Knitting and Crochet left off, but with a repetition of the chapter on colour. That annoyed me because I would have preferred more information or at least have it presented differently, rather than it being repeated piecemeal. This book is very pretty, being even more well laid out and colourful than the first one but I would have liked more diagrams. A couple of processes are just described in words where a picture would have been simpler to follow and eliminated any confusion. There are less projects than previously, but more techniques which I appreciate because having projects to follow is really in opposition to the idea of freeform. How to create the bits and pieces (called scrumbles) and how to put them together is more important to learn.

I feel Jenny tried to cover an awful lot of territory in both her books and somehow ended up skimming over the important parts one actually needs to know to get started with knitting and crocheting freeform. She talks about design principles with inspirations coming from many places including computer programs. Fun to play with! But with no real details of how to get from there to a finished freeform piece, I was left with many questions instead of answers. The subject of design could be a whole book (or series of books) on its own. There is a chapter on putting the pieces together using templates but I feel it also suffers from a lack of in-progress photos or diagrams. There’s only just so much one can convey in words without resorting to actually showing how something is done. The most step-by-step detail (although words again) is in the projects section which you could also use to create something completely different. Probably you are expected to do so!

The chapter titled “Looking Forward, Looking Back” was very interesting. Jenny discusses the forerunners of freeform knit and crochet and shows some examples of their work over time. I would however have loved to see more contemporary work of others besides the author herself. She is fixated on novelty yarns and deep eyelash in every piece is getting a little dated. There are a lot more (and some better) examples on her website (though some links were broken when I was there last). Quibbles aside, I actually like both of Jenny’s books especially when combined with Prudence Mapstone’s books, who is the other Australian freeform diva. I have her Freeform: Serendipitous Design Techniques for Knitting & Crochet and Never Too Many Handbags. All these books give you many shapes to work with to combine into your own pieces. Freeform techniques certainly encourage you to know how to both knit and crochet! Plus work with wire (jewelry) and mesh (handbags etc.), add some embroidery stitches and beads and generally go…freeform.

In other news, I didn’t want to forget that I need to give a shout-out to my new readers who wandered over after the article in Fiber Femmes. Hope you like what you see! (Special welcome to Linda who commented.) And also to my old faithfuls most of whom are quiet, but some I can count on for the occasional comment. (Sorry, Sharon, I have to wait until I have both a good day and a photographer for a shot of me in my sweater. A miracle convergence of events!) Nice to know I’m not writing this just for myself. Heh!