Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Month's End

It’s the last day of January today. Where did that month go? I swear it was just New Year’s the day before yesterday. I don’t think Einstein studied how time goes faster and faster as we get older. He should have! Somebody should study it — and find a way to fix it! I want it to slow down so I have more time to do all the things I want to do. Of course sleeping less than 10 hours a night might help. But I need my beauty sleep.

I joined the Knit Visualizer users group and got a nice email from the owner/programmer, Nancy. After I politely listed all the good and not-so-good things about the software, she was very responsive with some helpful suggestions. I even read all of the archived messages and learned a few tricks. I’m starting to feel much more comfortable with the software now and have ways to work around most of the limitations and quirks. I believe that this is the best program available for designing, modifying or proofing knitting stitch patterns. (Not that there are very many knit programs at all!) It isn’t meant for garment design, but could be used in a limited way for plotting the shaping of increases and decreases, perhaps as they relate to a pattern stitch or something similar. There are other programs available for garment design but they don’t really interest me. I’d rather do that part with my dressmaking skills, a tape measure and a calculator. It’s not like I plan to submit sweater designs for publication or anything where I need a multiple number of standard sizes.

On a different topic, I went through all my Knitter’s magazines (I have all 85 of them and that's the very first one: Fall 1984) looking for lace shawl patterns. There were quite a few but not as many as I had expected. I scanned in the ones I thought were interesting or that had good tutorials on construction. Of course I also found a few other things, including several articles on Latvian mittens to go with my collection of photos from the NATO conference. With the photos and the articles by Lizbeth Upitis, I have an almost infinite number of potential patterns to knit. Though I’m leaning towards using the techniques in socks instead.

While I was flipping pages I couldn’t help but notice a couple of interesting things. The page design and layout have improved mightily over 20-some years: more colour, better paper (it has yellowed up until the early 1990’s and after that it’s white), more interesting layouts, better photography. But the quality of the articles has definitely slipped, especially since Rick Mondragon took over from Nancy Thomas in Summer 2001. Did you know in the beginning they used to discuss spinning in every issue and how it relates to knitting? There were articles on knitting in history and in different countries and technical stuff like how to adjust sizes or design your own sweater. There weren’t as many patterns but many of them could still be comfortably worn today without looking out of place. There was a lot more “meat” — if not nearly as much “flash”. The photos are on lovely professional models now but you can’t see the whole garment as well. I don’t care if Alexis takes the pictures outside a mosque in Timbuktu or in a studio in front of a blank wall — I want to see the shape and colour and stitches, how it hangs (without pins or odd model angles) and how it fits a real person! I want it to be something that I would wear for more than one fashion season. Or I’m not going to waste my time knitting it. Particularly using my precious handspun yarn.

Sweater styles in Knitter’s have gone through some fascinating metamorphosis over the years. In the 1980’s they were mostly comfortably fitted: not too tight nor too loose but with a lot of drop-shoulders. The stitches and shapes weren’t usually too complicated. In the 1990’s sweaters got a lot more oversized but stitches got more interesting. Lots of colour patterning and texture stitches like cables. Yarns are still pretty basic. In the 2000’s things went haywire! There are cropped and shrunken styles and there are asymmetrical, deconstructed styles. There’s a blanket with sleeves. Not to mention yarns in exotic fibres, tapes, fuzzies and other novelties. Thick yarns and thin yarns and lots more variegated and handpainted yarns. More patterns for accessories such as socks, purses and hats. More patterns but somehow less that I would actually make and wear. Pretty pictures, but I miss the juicy technical stuff. Or maybe that’s just me?

I’ll be doing the same thing with my complete collection of Interweave Knits magazines next. They only go back to 1996, not 1984. Shouldn’t take me as long though I think it’s currently a far superior magazine. Or maybe I just like the styles better? Only the first Fall 1996 issue is yellowed so they must have changed paper to a better one right after that issue. More details later. I’m flipping pages.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

How Did I Do It?

I have two children only 16 months apart. I had them when I was 21 and 23 years old. (Yes I was a child bride.) I am now a lot older than that. (Hint: those kids are in their 30’s.) How on earth did I manage two little ones with no car and a husband who was working long hours? I’ve obviously forgotten how difficult it was and only remember the fun bits because yesterday afternoon was exhausting! But also a lot of fun. And the husband was home at the time so he could help babysit our two-year-old and one-month-old grandkids. I’d do it again in an instant. But not today please!

Good thing my Stargazer grandson is willing to take the bottle. His sister Sprout was definitely Not Interested as a baby and so it was difficult for anyone else to feed her until she was willing and able to take other things besides mommy. It was so neat to bottle-feed a baby again — it’s been a very long time since we’ve had the chance. Kept him from yelling so loud my hearing aids just about blew up too. That kid has lungs! It was also really fun to play two-year-old games of hide-and-seek and building tunnels with Mega-Bloks for the toy cars to run through. I love how little kids’ minds work. You can almost hear the gears going as they figure things out. So cute.

Meanwhile, their mom & dad had a great time at the movie (Letters from Iwo Jima). She fell asleep during the bombing! Guess feeding the ducks the day before was exhausting. Or maybe it’s being a new mom of two little ones and being woken up for middle-of-the-night feeds? Makes me tired just thinking about it. Been there; done that. That’s why we have grandchildren so we can have all the fun and then give them back to their parents. Works for me.

Speaking of that Ninja guy, I’m up to nearly the toe on one of his socks and just past the gusset on the other. They’re coming along. I also managed to use my new Knit Visualizer software to chart the decreases for the top of my Penelope Beret. I want the pattern (diagonal lace lines studded with beads) to flow into the decreases at the crown. If I decrease every row it will interfere with the lines so I’m going to try decreasing twice as often every other row. It should come out to the same shape. I hope. I’m dividing the crown into 12 wedges instead of 6 and leaving out one of the yarn-overs instead of doing an actual decrease stitch. Looks good on the chart. At least I hope this will work. Wish me luck. The worst that can happen is that I’ll have to frog the crown and start over. No biggie.

Every part of a beret or tam works with every other part to make the blocked size. So it’s really hard to judge how big to make any of those parts. Of course the part that goes around your head has to fit on not too tight or too loose but snugly comfortable. Then you increase in one row for the main part which actually gets folded in half when blocked. However it’s really a straight piece of knitting. How long is the question. Too long and the tam is floppy. Too short and it becomes a beanie instead of a tam. Lastly there’s the crown or “wheel” as Mary Rowe calls it in her helpful book “Knitted Tams”. That’s where you decrease to form the flat part. If this part is wider, then the straight section needs to be shorter to compensate or again you get a large tam. I don’t like huge floppy tams. I have very little hair so they look totally silly on me. Smaller is better but I still want it to look like a tam. Sorry, beret. Whatever. We used the terms interchangeably when I had to wear a felted woolen one for the first 9 years of school. This is Canada. We’re bilingual. Heh. Wonder what they call it in Cantonese?

Monday, January 29, 2007

More KV

Are you tired of this subject yet? Obviously I’m not! I figure you need to play and play some more with new software until it becomes comfortable and/or you’ve tested as many different aspects as you can. That’s the case with this program. And some things are starting to feel more “normal” now. Re-reading the manual after you’ve had some experience with the program is also a good idea. It clarifies things and reminds you of stuff you may have forgotten the first couple of times through. Yes, I actually read manuals. But you already knew I was a bit odd, didn’t you?

For starters, I finally understand what the Justification tools are for. Duh! Even though they look like the usual word processing tools for working with text, they are actually for working with the No Stitches. You can adjust them to the left, right or balanced as well as possible. That would have saved me from moving the stitches manually, if I’d have known what it meant.

I also found out from the manual that there’s a short-cut for switching between the Select and Paint modes by using the S key. Also some simple ways to fill in areas of stitches and hints for cutting and pasting — they were all in the manual but like I said, you can read the words but it all doesn’t become clear until you use it for awhile.

I’m feeling much happier about using this program now and I just joined the YahooGroup for it. It’s not a very talkative group which is good because I already have way too many things to read! It would be nice to ask questions of the developer and other users if I need to though. I’d like to keep informed of what’s coming up in version 2 which seems to be nearing beta.

In other news, Saturday’s prawns were fabulously delicious in garlic butter and some leftovers went in yesterdays paella. There are still a few left (out of nearly a kilo) and I think we already got our $20 worth! There aren’t any good fish markets in our neighbourhood anymore so Granville Island is where we must go more often. I loves me some seafood and there are several shops to choose from in the Public Market alone with others scattered around the island. You can even buy right off a fish boat in season. You get kind of spoiled living on the coast.

Yesterday it was cold and cloudy but not raining so we went out to Reifel Bird Sanctuary with the Ninja, our daughter-in-law, the grandkids and Nana to feed the ducks. The woman who took our entry fee thought it was cute that 4 generations of our family were there together. My little granddaughter was a little intimidated at first as she got mobbed by a flock of quacking, shoving mallards but she soon got into it and was happily chucking pellets and seed at them. Her daddy tried to show her how to get the chickadees to come down and take peanuts from her hand but a bunch of other people all showed up to watch and frightened the birds away. We finally found a quieter spot but by then she decided that it was more fun to eat the peanuts herself! (They were “human” quality, not animal feed.) She jumped when a chickadee finally landed on her hand with sharp claws so it flew away. Besides about 5 or 6 kinds of ducks and 2 kinds of chickadees, we saw snow geese, bald eagles, hawks, downy woodpeckers, coots, towhees, redwings, and herons. After having our thermoses of tea and coffee and Nana’s cookies in the warming hut, we all headed home after a enjoyable day out.

Next adventure: babysitting both grandkids this afternoon so their parents can go see a movie. Whew!
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Saturday, January 27, 2007

Well, There You Go

With a bit more playing around, I’ve found a couple of little things that make me cranky about Knit Visualizer. I know the other day I said it was almost perfecto, but I’ve changed my mind. It’s a little more quirky than that. For one, the changes that you make when you edit the legend and text pattern in the Print or Export window aren’t permanent. If you close the Print window, the next time you go to print the same pattern, everything is back to the way the program generated it in the first place. Humph…your changes should be saved with the program, no? Yes. Your notes that accompany the file (Properties) are permanent unless you edit them in the Print window. Any changes there disappear like all the others. Note to Self: to hang on to anything permanently, put it in the Properties notes and save it with the chart.

Another thing is the reason why I felt the need to edit the pattern in the first place — it automatically includes the “no stitches” in the text. Why? Do I need to see:

R1 (RS): k4, (No Stitch) 6 times, k1, yo, k1, yo, k2, (No Stitch) 3 times

When I could just see:

R1 (RS): k5, yo, k1, yo, k2

I mean, how do you execute a (No Stitch) 3 times anyway? No Stitches should be completely ignored except as placeholders in the chart. After all, they don’t really exist. Luckily I pretty much ignore the written pattern anyway, unless I need some clarification of the chart. My new workaround is to open the Print window, edit the pattern, copy it and paste it into the Properties notes where it will remain as long as I remember to save the chart file! Then when I go to print the chart, I turn off the pattern option while keeping the notes. It shouldn’t be that complicated, should it? Or maybe my wants are just different from that envisioned by the programmer. We are trying to get away from the written text patterns after all. Otherwise why do we need the charts?

One last quibble is the default folder where KV wants to save my files. I prefer them in a folder in My Documents rather than in the Program Files/Knit Visualizer/Charts/folder. But it doesn’t remember my path the next time I start the program and automatically goes back to its own. I can’t find a way to change the default. Is there a way through Windows XP? Most programs ask if you want to save to the last folder you saved to even if you close the program and restart it, but not KV. [Edited to say that I was wrong. It does save to the last folder. Don't know why it didn't when I was testing it.] One thing it does do though, and the jury is still out on this, is automatically open the last saved file when you start the program. I think I would prefer that it started with a blank and waited for you to either open the file you want to work on or start a new one. Or give you the option to choose what happens when you start the program.

On my wish list, it might be nice to be able to have more than one chart open at a time for comparisons. You can get around that by starting a new KV at the same time as one is already running. It allows you to run more than one iteration of it.

Another wish is, although there is a way to put a border separating areas of your chart, it would be nice to have a way to designate the repeat and then view it repeated X number of times horizontally and/or vertically automatically. Then the pattern text should automatically designate the repeat in the instructions with brackets or whatever. Am I starting to ask for too much? However, weaving programs have this feature so it’s something I’m used to. Since it’s helpful to see more than one repeat in most instances you have to specify the width at the start or add the rows and columns individually later.

Enough of Knit Visualizer for the moment. We headed out in the gorgeous sunshine today for another one of our marathon walks. We went down to False Creek’s southern seawall:

And followed it along to Granville Island (under the bridge in the distance there) where we bought lunch and took it outside to the square by the water. Dodging the usual hungry bird population (seagulls, pigeons, starlings and one Canada goose) we gingerly sat on a bench in the sun and ate while a seagull stared me in the eye and dared me to drop something. Anything. Unfortunately (for him anyway) he flew away before a few bits or my taco salad fell off my plastic fork so an enterprising starling got it instead. Talk about your feathered rats! Oh yeah. The unfeathered and scaly-tailed variety live down there as well. Luckily most of the tourists never notice. It would kind of ruin the funky artsy/craftsy ambiance for them, I’m sure.

It was getting busier so we elbowed our way inside the market (here showing just one teeny tiny corner):

We bought white prawns for dinner tonight and double-smoked bacon for breakfast tomorrow. Yum! That plus a few veggies which included organic purple potatoes and a honking great yellow turnip for T-Man (who loves his tatties and neeps — must be his Scottish ancestry showing) ended up making for a rather heavy backpack to lug home uphill. We traded it back and forth between us as we headed home. Tomorrow it’s supposed to be still sunny so we’re going out to a bird sanctuary with the Ninja and family to feed the ducks. Gotta get out while the weather is good! Winter isn’t over yet, even though the witch hazel is out and my hazelnut tree is covered in catkins.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Never Enough Time

I don’t know where the days go but I sure have fun using them up! I downloaded the demo version of Knit Visualizer and installed it yesterday. Now I know what is disabled — the Save and Print functions. Makes sense if they want people to buy their software. Frustrate ’em no end and they will! I played with it quite a lot and today decided to bite. I just love immediate gratification! Pay by Paypal account, download the program, uninstall the demo, install the real thing and get right into it. 15 minutes tops from decision to function.

Now that I’ve had a chance to play with it and learn its quirks, I’m liking it lots. (Obviously!) I tried a rather complicated shaped edging from Martha Waterman (since that’s the book I was complaining that it didn’t have charts) with embossed leaves. This edging increases and decreases in width and has a bind-off section right before starting the repeat over again. Once you set up Knit Visualizer (hereafter known as KV) correctly for either flat or circular knitting, you don’t even have to think about reversing the wrong side row symbols. The program knows that in flat knitting you’re working a purl stitch on the wrong side but it looks like a knit stitch from the front and so on. The parsing of the typed-in row instructions went very well. Commas or spaces between the abbreviations are unnecessary so it makes typing easy. You have to occasionally change the author’s abbreviations to the more common version, such as Martha’s “dbl dcr” which I translated to “sl1 k2tog psso” and it was accepted. There is no symbol for cast-off or bind-off so I used a half-circle which is one of the colour symbols.

The only problem I really had was where the program automatically inserted the “no stitch” greyed areas. These are filling in the chart where the knitting bulges out and in as the edging increases and decreases in separate areas. Because the garter stitch heading is on the right, I wanted the blank areas split to maintain the leaf shape but the program inserted them on the right. It was relatively easy to go in and cut and paste rows over into their correct position but I wish there was a way to just drag the darn selections around! The finished chart doesn’t quite look like the actual knitted edging but it does give the general idea. Real knitted stitches bias and curve and no square representation can show that accurately. One thing I discovered is that there is an error in the pattern as written! It was obvious in the chart. Heh.

If you don’t want to use the parser, you can just go straight to the symbol selection and paint them into the chart anywhere you want. You can edit any chart, even one that was created with the parser, in order to refine or change your results. Copy, cut and paste all work handily to move things around. There’s even a Mirror function to flip a selection around horizontally or vertically. There is a large selection of chart symbols, including a rather extensive list of cables. The parser is not very good at rendering complex cables so you may need these to chart them instead.

There are several things you can do with your charts when they’re done. In the Chart Properties you can fill in the title, pattern source (so you can give credit where credit is due!) and any notes you like. When you go to print out your chart you can include a number of things if you want, such as title, notes, legend and instructions (not as you typed them in but as the parser renders them from the chart – too cool). You can edit much of the text, except for items in bold face, in the Print window. Very handy! If your chart and accompanying text takes up more than one page, it will tile onto as many as necessary. You can also adjust the scale in the Print Preview window which might enable you to save paper. As long as you don’t make it too small to read properly!

You can export the chart, including the extras that you want, as a PNG file. I thought that was an odd choice for a file format since PNGs aren’t as common as JPEGs but even though it could be a larger file, it’s “lossless”. Since KV works only in black and white (no colour, yet) it’s not a memory hog. Paint Shop Pro or other graphics editing programs can handle PNGs ok. You can also copy your chart to the Clipboard to be pasted into another file such as Word. Saved charts have the extension .KCT.

What would I like to see that isn’t in this program already? Not much. As I mentioned before, dragging a selection around might be handy. Maybe a few more symbols. There are so many different sets in use in different publications! Though the Legend really helps because you can re-define the exact meaning of a symbol. I did that with the symbol “M” which the program defines as a lifted increase. I made it into a “k in the front and back of the same stitch”. Colour might be nice for those who don’t have Pattern Maker Pro like I do. I prefer PM for colour charting especially because it has the ability to make proportional graphs (avoiding the distortions caused by knit stitches not being square) and it also can make a chart from a photograph or other graphic file. I think it will be a long time before KV can do anything close to that, if ever. However, this program is pretty close to perfecto as is.

Here’s the Leaf edging chart without all the accompanying text or I'd have to scale it down and you wouldn't be able to read it. I’ve given you all the clues to the symbols already except for the left-slanting decrease which is a “k2tog tbl” or you could use an SSK. You can work it from the chart now if you cast on 8 stitches and purl one row before starting:

I'm really very fond of leaves.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007


I was having trouble stuffing the Ninja’s Birthday socks in my little sock lunchbox. Since there’s an extra ball of wool which I’ll need to complete these, the box was much more stuffed than usual. I thought to myself, “Self, be careful with those 10 expensive skinny bamboo needles and make sure they don’t get squashed in the lid”. Unfortunately, Self wasn’t listening very well and I opened the box this morning to a busted needle tip. Wahhh…

Not to be thwarted by my own stupidity, I got out several different grits of sandpaper and proceeded to sand down the slightly shorter needle into a new tip. Polished it off with waxed paper. Haven’t noticed the difference so far. Whew. Disaster averted.

Since it’s gloriously sunny at the moment, I took advantage of the light to take a photo of the Sister-In-Law socks. Behold, a Finished Object:

Sister-In-Law’s Socks

Begun: January 7, 2007
Completed: January 22, 2007

Yarn: Fortissima Colori Socka Color, 75% virgin wool, 25% polyamide, 420 m = 100g, colour 2402 (blue/turquoise/magenta/red/orange/yellow rainbow, short lengths).
Needles: Addi Natura bamboo dpns, 2 mm.

Comments: My standard plain socks on 64 sts, 2/2 rib, top-down, 6.5” before heel-flap, 6.75” before toe decreases. Hope she likes them! They’re very colourful.

The Ninja had a really nice birthday party last night at his mother-in-law’s. It’s always wonderful to get all my kids together in one place. They were discussing their childhood while passing the new baby around and reminiscing about how lucky they were to have such great lives. Awwww!!! Makes me feel warm and fuzzy all over! My daughter did say that she remembers some silly family sayings and jokes and when she mentions any of them to other people, they look at her strangely. She doesn’t know what is in the common culture and what is unique to our immediate family. For instance, our version of “This Little Piggy Went to Market” is backwards, with the biggest piggy last. That’s so he can tickle with a deep-voiced “WEE-WEE-WEE” as he heavily tromps up “home”! Gee, everybody should do it our way. LOL!! We also have another game, initiated by T-Man, called Pillow and Blanket. You need two kids to play it, one acting as your pillow and the other as your blanket. They used to think it was hysterically fun. OK, you hadda be there.

Anyway he likes his socks already, only halfway done as they are. He forgives me for running late as always. Well almost always. It’s not my sis-in-law’s birthday until August. I’m either very late for the last one or very early for this coming one. I think my mother-in-law will be next again even though she just got a pair at Christmas. Her birthday is in a couple of weeks and she loved her custom-fit sockies so much that she was boasting to her seniors' bowling buddies about how wonderful they are. With her teeny little feet she can never get the right size commercial socks. Adults are too big and children’s are too wide.

I’m off to Beginner Spinning Class Number 3: Fibre Prep this evening. Wish me luck. I have to haul Tori the spinning wheel and a whole collection of wool combs, hand cards, and other tools plus some washed locks for combing. Good thing it’s only a 3 and a half block commute to the shop.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Murk and Rainy

There’s no snow left around here now thanks to the heaps o’rain we’ve been getting over the last two days. Makes me glad I don’t have to go anywhere on foot even if I do have a new (brown!) umbrella after leaving my red one at my friend’s the other day. I thought it wise to buy a new one anyway even though I will get the old one back anon. Never hurts to have an extra in this rain forest.

So instead of doing all the things I should be doing (apart from 4 loads of laundry, remaking the bed, cleaning the bathroom, washing dishes and cooking) I’ve been following my cursor around the Internet. First I read on Habetrot’s website that the Latvian mitts that had been knitted for the delegates at the NATO summit last November were now available as a downloadable file here. However do be aware that it’s a honking great 200 mb file that you’d better not try to get unless you have a fast connection and lots of memory available! With my cable modem it took about 20 minutes. Then, because it’s in an unfamiliar .rar compacted format, you need a program to unpack it which is available here. (It’s just a trial version but it works. Just download the right one for your system and install.) After all this putzing around, I have a lovely bunch of JPEGs of Latvian mittens, so clear that you can count the stitches. If you’d rather not go that route, you can visit the mitts individually from the NATO site. I wanted them all! It makes a great screen saver, btw. Can you imagine knitting something like 4,500 pairs of mittens just for a bunch of politicians who probably didn’t appreciate either the workmanship or the significance of this gift? Latvian knitters, holding needles high I salute you! Or wonder about your sanity…

Next on the agenda I have computer program lust. Specifically Knit Visualizer, a program that not only produces charts for knitting but can produce them from written knit instructions that you type in. With this baby I could easily chart all those stitch patterns that I was complaining about last week. One drawback is that the current version doesn’t work with colour patterns but for that I will go back to Pattern Maker Pro. The only thing stopping me is that it’s US$135 which is a pretty hefty chunka change. I’ll have to think about it. Meanwhile I could download the trial version. I don’t know if or how it’s disabled — the website doesn’t say. The smart and talented Fleegle has a very positive overview on her blog and Knitty reviews it here. There’s even a YahooGroup for users. I want.

I’ve been knitting away on the Ninja’s birthday socks but I’m not even down to the heel turns yet. That’s actually farther than I thought I’d be. These are pretty big socks, bigger even than his dad, T-Man’s. Lotsa knitting in ’em. Which leaves me free to do lotsa reading at the same time!

I did finish my Sis-in-law’s socks but it’s been so dark today that I didn’t photograph them yet. I was hoping for enough light so that I didn’t have to use the flash which distorts the colours on these something awful. She asked for bright and she’s getting it! Think sky blue/turquoise/magenta/red/orange/yellow rainbow in little short bursts of only a few stitches each. It pools but attractively so. I did buy this yarn for me originally but I think she’ll like it much better than I do. Hopefully tomorrow I can get some light around here.

We’re heading over to his mother-in-law’s for the Ninja’s birthday party dinner tonight. Guess I should make him a card, huh? That’s the least I can do since I’m not finished the socks yet! I’m looking forward to seeing how big my grandson has gotten since I saw him last a few weeks ago. And I’m looking forward to playing with his big sister. My granddaughter is learning how to talk more finally and it’s so cute when she calls me Granny! Her other grandmother is Grandma plus T’s mom is Nana (or more correctly Grand-Nana) so she should be able to keep us all straight. T is Grandpa but there’s her mom’s dad who is also Grandpa. My kids had two grandpas when they were small so they called them “Big Grandpa” and “Little Grandpa” to differentiate. They had 3 grandmothers too plus a great-grandmother so they gave each an added name to tell them apart, except for Nana who's always Nana. My adopted mom was referred to as Hockey-Mom! To her face she was Grandma, but she loved hockey so much that she and my aunt had season’s tickets every year well into their 80’s. I guess I chose Granny for a number of reasons including just to be a bit different from the family norm. T’s Granny passed away when I was about 18 and she was the only other Granny in the family that I knew.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

I Love My Boots

After several busy days which included walking in slushy puddles up the wazzoo, I’m here today to sing the praises of Australian-made Blundstone boots. I've probably mentioned this before but I adore my Blunnies! I know they’re expensive but they’re worth it. I now own 3 pair, the oldest of which has been turned out to pasture as gardening boots because they are so split in both uppers and soles that they leak badly. I’ve decided they aren’t worth getting resoled and reglued yet again. They’re still really comfortable however and I’ve been known to wear them anyway when it’s dry and I don’t mind looking a bit grubby. I can’t complain though. I got somewhere around a decade of wear out of them. This first pair is the Original style.

The next pair I’ve had for a couple of years. I bought them because the first pair were scraped up and repaired and I needed some nicer boots for “dress-up” wear. Yes, I dress up and wear what are essentially work boots. High heels and my feet are not on speaking terms! Heck, dress shoes of any sort and my feet are not on speaking terms. This time I got the Wedge Sole style, still in black. Though they say they fit wider, I found them firmer on my feet than the original ones. They took a little longer to wear in, maybe 2 blocks as opposed to immediately! Did I mention that I walked home from the store each time I bought boots? It’s about 4 or 5 kilometers. Easy-peasy. Try that in heels.

So this time I fell hard for the Chunk 2 in brown. I love the kick toe and the brown is so dark it’s almost black but the elastic gore is a nice medium brown. I’ve been wearing a lot of brown lately and decided that since almost every other pair of shoes/sandals I own are black, it might be a nice change. (I have to say I was momentarily tempted by the Eh! boot with the red gores and maple leaf. Only in available here in Canada. But I controlled myself.) These ones were just as comfy as my last 2 pair when I put them on. I walked home in them as usual. Next day I walked downtown and back in them. I was having some pain on my left shin where the boot hit after so many kilometers of walking but it wasn’t at all bad until the next time I wore them. Ouch! It’s like I have a bruise in the bone there (only on one leg, go figure) and it just hits that spot. Not the Wedgies though. Just the Chunk 2’s. I’m hoping they will soften up or my leg will get used to it eventually. Meanwhile I’ve been wearing them with a foam pad in my sock and only for short walks. The Wedgies are the Blunnies of choice for longer walks, at least until this problem goes away.

Anyhow, my Blunnies kept my feet warm and dry in all the slush and glop even though it came right up practically to the pull tabs! And T-Man was wearing his Chisel Toes for the same reason. We hates wet feets. We loves our Blunnies.

One of the places I went in the last few days was my friend Kirsten’s for lunch and a spinning lesson for her and her daughter who was visiting from Toronto. K had gotten a bunch of spindles given to her which included a Navajo spindle and several small bead whorl spindles, plus the usual heavy old “boat anchor” types. One interesting little spindle was of a type I’d never seen before. (Notice K's lovely handwoven mat she made.)

It has a little “bobbin” that turns only one way on the base, due to wooden wedges underneath that function like a ratchet. It has a wire guide to both hold the yarn away from the bobbin and to help guide it on.

Instead of a hook, the top has a hollow with a hole in the side where the yarn goes in and comes out through the top, very much like the orifice in a regular spinning wheel. We discovered that you need a threading hook to get the yarn started through the “orifice” too, just as in a spinning wheel.

A neat trick to wind on was to roll the bobbin on your leg while holding on to the spindle and allowing the yarn to be guided onto the bobbin. We have no idea if that was how the maker intended it to be used, but it worked quite well. I left K’s daughter spinning away on this little spindle. I'm still curious to find out where it is from and who made it!

In other crafty news, I’m done the Sis-IL Socks except for grafting the toes and blocking. I’ve cast on for both of the Ninja’s Birthday Socks and am part way down the leg on one of them. Today is his birthday — Number 33! Happy birthday, my baby boy! Unfortunately he had to work today so we’ll be celebrating on Tuesday at his mother-in-law’s. I still won’t be finished the socks but at least he’ll be able to see what they will become.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Charts VS Words

I just read a message from someone who said they didn’t buy the Victorian Lace Today book because they couldn’t read charts. There are no wordy line-by-line lace patterns in this book so you have to learn to read the charted patterns if you want to knit the shawls. However, there’s a whole section on how to do this, along with a lot of other great info on how shawls and scarves are designed and executed. Why not consider this a really good excuse to learn how to read charts? Besides this book there are a whole bunch of tutorials out there to help you. It’s so much easier than working through a bunch of confusing words. I’ve even gone to the effort myself of charting patterns that don’t have them! It all becomes so clear and you can see exactly where you are at a glance. If you make a mistake you can see it much better in relationship to the stitches around it so that it’s easier to fix. What’s not to like about charts?

While perusing my library of lace books, I discovered that I had the early version of Martha Watermann’s Traditional Knitted Lace Shawls from 1993 and published by the now-defunct Dos Tejedoras Fiber Arts Publications. It doesn’t include any charts unlike the re-issued version from Interweave. If I want to knit anything out of this book, I’ll have to either chart it myself or go buy the newer revised version. Pooh. However this is a good lesson in how the world of lace knitting is evolving.

Another lesson was a class I took with local lace knitter Lynn Russell in March of 2005. The sample pattern we worked on was in a rather archaic shorthand word form, so first I put it into my own shorthand and then charted it out. It was then that I realized that her pattern’s centre was really off. Kind of a random asymmetrical section out of a larger shawl. And I didn’t like it one bit! So I redesigned the centre with some trees from Sharon Miller’s Heirloom Knitting and finished it off as a little square neck scarf. It was a great exercise and I was happy with my piece in the end but I was ticked off in a way. You’d think she would have noticed that the centre part of this little piece looked like a stoned spider had made it? (Have you seen the hilarious YouTube spiders video? Sorry I don’t have a link.) She actually knitted it up and had it as a sample in the class. It looked impressive to those of us who hadn’t knitted with such fine yarn (J&S cobweb) and in such a complex pattern. I noticed it was asymmetrical right away but I didn’t notice that it was not really a pleasing pattern until I charted it out. It certainly convinced me that charts are definitely the way to go. Besides I rather like the challenge of turning words into pictures. I guess I share that trait with VLT author Jane Sowerby though I haven’t tried to translate those really archaic patterns yet. Not sure I’m up to that yet!

Here’s a section of that mini-shawl after I dyed it. I’m not much for white lace so I couldn’t help myself! It was knitted from the outside in. First the edging was knit lengthwise, the ends grafted together, stitches picked up from the edge on a circular needle, and then knit decreasing towards the centre. Kind of backwards to the way I would do it but hey, it worked.

So what am I up to today? I’m almost down to the toes on the SIL Socks. The end is nigh! I’m an inch and a half into the Penelope Beret and it seems to be working fine so far. I won’t really be able to tell if I got the shape and size I want until I’m done though. Berets look weird until they’re blocked. I’m a fan of small firm berets, not big floppy ones. Must be left over from having to wear one for 9 years of Catholic school in my youth. The religion didn’t stick but the fondness for berets, black tights and pleated wool tunics did. Heh. So did the fear of nuns.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007


Definition: The attempt to brighten up an otherwise boring grey-and-white day with colour!

Here’s the first effort —the Ninja’s sock yarn from Sunday’s session with the leftovers:

Not bright enough, hey? Well next we have dyed the Corriedale roving:

Much better! And lastly the Cherry Leaf merino/cashmere yarn from yesterday:

I was going to dye some more today but I need a break. Three days in a row is kind of my limit of concentration. The leftover dye will keep for awhile so there’s no real hurry here. Instead I’ve been knitting on the SIL socks and starting my Penelope Beret. I’m hoping it will work the way I envisage so I won’t have to frog (thus keeping up with the Penelope theme) but first I’m threading on a bunch of beads. I’m using the method where I glue on the thread to the end of the yarn, let it dry, then slide the beads over across the “bridge”. I have no idea how many I will need so I may have to cut the yarn and add more somewhere before the end. The more beads there are, the more abraded my handspun wool gets. Besides it’s difficult and tedious to have to slide too many beads down constantly as I knit. I only had one hank of these 6° seed beads to start with and, unless I want to order more from Shipwreck, this is it. It only took about 1.5 strands for the wrist warmers though so I should have plenty with 7.5 strands left (out of 9).

It was snowing a little last night and this morning but right now it looks like it’s going to change to drizzly rain. Ick. It’s above freezing and the sky has gone from white to grey — always a bad sign.

Monday, January 15, 2007

I'm Dyeing - Day 3

There’s still lots of dye left in the buckets so today I decided to dye more of the merino/cashmere for another shawl. I’m not going to start knitting it yet (if I can control myself!) but I’ve decided to do the Cherry Leaf Shoulder Shawl from Victorian Lace Today. So of course I dyed the yarn (all 984 yards that was left in the skein) in cherry colours: greens and a little touch of red to signify the cherries. Or the leaves as they start to turn in fall. Whatever, anyway it reminds me of the cherry trees I grew up with in my backyard.

I did a combination of dipping and pouring to get the dye on the skein. When I was done messing around, I wrapped it up in plastic wrap and nuked it for the 3 – 5 minute sessions with a rest in between each to cool a bit. Worked really well and I got the wool that was dyed on the weekend all rolled up and bagged while I was waiting for the Cherry Leaf yarn to set. It’s hanging on the line right now and hopefully will end up a slightly lighter shade when dry.

I’m not quite sure what I want to dye next. I could go on for another week at this rate! Maybe I’ll hunt out some more sliver/roving/whatchacallit. I know there’s lots around in the stash somewhere. It’s kind of fun to see what colours I’m going to get although they are somewhat lighter (due to the more diluted state) than I usually prefer. There seems to be lots of dyeing power left still however. I just can’t bring myself to waste it.

The second swatch for the Serrano sweater is much better than the first one. I think I’ve got pretty close to the exact gauge with 3.25 mm Addi Turbo circs. That surprises me because I’m a pretty loose knitter so often go down in needle size, not up. Whatever it takes! I’ve been reading over Cosmic Pluto’s (aka Laura Chau) pattern and although complex, I think it’s fairly clear. The truth will tell when I get there! I’m trying to stop myself from going any farther right now though because I want to finish the Pomatomus socks and work out my beret to match the Penelope Wristwarmers that I forgot about. (Not the wristwarmers — I’m wearing them as I type.) I need the beret asap and I need to finish the darn Po-whatsits since they’ve been sitting around for half a year. I also need to start a pair of Ninja’s Birthday Socks right after I finish the SIL Socks. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Too much knitting, not enough beading or weaving or spinning or...

The sun was out in the cold this morning but it’s starting to cloud over now. I guess I should get out and get some groceries before the predicted snow mucks up the streets again. What an interesting winter we’re having. Too interesting.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

I'm Dyeing

Don’t panic! It’s only the colourful kind of dyeing. See? My Spectrum study group spent yesterday in my dye studio turning 2 lbs of white merino sliver into pretty colours. Except for one that was supposed to be brown and turned out yucky yellowish-maroonish-something. I tried to fix it today but I don’t think I was very successful. I also attempted to use up some of the leftover dye on some Corriedale sliver but there’s still lots of dye left. I’m debating whether to throw it out or try to use it up.

The technique we used is kind of a hybrid of my usual dye-painting and low-water immersion. First we wound the sliver into “nests” of about 5 yards each and set them to soak in my acid buckets (90ml of 56% acetic acid to 4 liters of warm water). We mixed up little .5% dyebaths for each colour: approximately 1.5 tsps Lanaset (Telana) dye in 1 liter of water. We were kind of shooting for bright rainbow colours mostly judged by eyeball. Into each dyebath we put a squeezed-out sliver and let it sit while we went for lunch. After lunch, each sliver length was gently squeezed out again and arranged on plastic wrap and wrapped up into a package. Each package went into the steamer for 20 or so minutes of steaming. Some of the packets we nuked in the craft microwave for 3 – 5 minute sessions with a rest period between each session. Unfortunately it takes too long to do all of them that way since only 2 packets fit in the nuker at a time.

The first packets in the steamer weren’t quite steamed long enough because a bit more of the dye washed out than we would have preferred but they are interestingly light and dark variegated. We didn’t have time to let them cool down very much before rinsing. After a really gentle rinse, they went into the washing machine for a quick spin out (no agitation/no water spray). This last helps them to dry quickly and not drip all over the floor!

I did the same thing today with the leftover dyes and my Corriedale sliver which is a bit more coarse and the sliver is narrower than the merino. While I was at it I dyed 3 skeins of medium grey sock yarn in shades of dark purply-blue for my son’s birthday socks. I’m tired of dyeing now, so the rest of the dye will have to wait until I decide what to do with it. It will keep for awhile, weeks even, unless it starts to mould. You can still scoop the mould off and use it anyway. It does lose some strength over time though.

We are planning to do some felting with our colourful merino wool. At next month’s meeting we’ll try to make some beads and other jewelry components which we’ll assemble at another meeting after that. We hope to add glass beads to make something wearable. The book we’ve been using for inspiration is Carol Huber Cypher’s Hand Felted Jewelry and Beads. I’m sure we’ll come up with out own versions as we get into it. It’s a pretty creative bunch!

Meanwhile, I’m up to the feet on my SIL Socks. I’ve knitted swatch number two for the Serrano lace sweater, but I haven’t had a chance to measure and block it yet. The Addi Turbo needles do help with the splitting problem but this cabled yarn still needs some careful attending to. That shouldn’t be a problem because I can’t knit lace without looking like I can plain knitting. However if this isn’t close to the right gauge, I’m going to have to re-engineer Cosmic Pluto's very complex pattern to fit the gauge I do get. I’m running out of options if I’m going to use this particular yarn.

We’re still in the deep-freeze around here as evidenced by my water garden and it’s lovely ice sculpture that it created all by itself:

It’s supposed to warm up slightly (still below freezing) and snow some more. I was liking the sunshine even if it does show all the dust in the house and the dirty windows. But the furnace is going constantly trying to heat this old house up to 20 degrees Celsius and that gets expensive on the natural gas. The house temp goes down to 16 at night but the furnace still has to work hard to keep it there. The unfamiliar sound of it along with the creaking and crunching of the wood expanding and contracting while I’m trying to sleep keeps waking me up. Even snuggled way down in my layers of blankets and pillows with no hearing aids on, I can still hear it.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Let There Be Light

I’ve discovered the drawback to having the sun come out — you can see the dirt that was hidden in the dark days! But I’m not complaining. Even if it is freezing. All the folks with SAD will be turning off their lamps for the real thing. Rumour has it that big light in the sky will be around for the next couple of days which means that the snow won’t be gone any time soon.

Well, I must have spurred things on when I mentioned a couple of posts ago that For The Love Of Yarn would be coming out with a new issue soon because it’s here. An issue with patterns for baby and including an article by a grandmother on knitting for the grandkids. How too late! I particularly like the kimono pattern but doubt that I’ll get around to making it for the latest one. Maybe next time (if there is a next time). Cute photos abound!

In other news, I’ve been swatching for Cosmic Pluto’s sweater from Knitty called Serrano. I can’t get gauge. (Ooh, never thought I’d be saying those words.) Of course I’m not using the called-for yarn. I’m trying to knit from the stash and this yarn is some ancient but lovely and expensive NZ merino 4-ply crepe spun, originally intended for machine knitting. I can get stitch gauge but not anywhere near row gauge which in this pattern is important. Trying again with larger needles, this time using one of my rare (total 4) Addi Turbo circs in 3.25mm. I don’t usually prefer Addis because to me they are too slippery and too blunt but in this case the bluntness helps me not to split this very splitty yarn. No idea if I’m getting closer to the right gauge yet. I’m going to wash and block the swatch before I judge. Then I'm going to try again by starting a sleeve.

I found a KAL for this sweater (last post some time last November) but it isn’t very helpful. A number of knitters had trouble with the pattern because it’s rather complex with lace and shaping happening at the same time. Not to mention hems and vented cuffs. Lots of action. Some complaints were made about the pattern not being clear enough but I think it’s mostly that the knitter’s skills aren’t equal to the “piquant” level. Or they didn’t read the directions and actually understand what they meant. Of course my own level of skill will tell when I get going on it myself. Assuming I can ever get gauge. Some pattern modification may be necessary in which case I’ll be really understanding it by then.

Gotta go muck out the basement dye studio area for tomorrow’s Spectrum dye session. Quick while there’s still enough light left to see the dirt.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Crunch Crunch

It feels like we’re living in the freezer today. There’s a couple of inches of snow and the side streets have a layer of ice on them that crunches (loudly!) when cars drive by. I woke up at 5am feeling cold and then didn’t get back to sleep after T-Man went to work. Now I’m wearing my long-johns (pink!) and my fleece layers and my Fish Trap beaded wrist warmers and feeling somewhat more toasty. Still tired though. I didn’t get to bed until late last evening after my spinning class.

We earned a sushi dinner last evening paid for by my boss, Cara, after T put together a new Ashford Traveler kit wheel to bring the current total up to 6. It was great to get all the wheels in better spinning condition as well. Surprisingly all my new students made it in the snow and we had a great class with everybody making continuous yarn by the end of the first lesson.

Now on to today’s real subject, a rant that I’m sure others have sounded off on: knitting magazine photographs. You can probably add sewn or handwoven garments in there too. I’m talking about showing a garment on a model. You want to see how it fits, how it hangs and drapes — or not. You don’t need to see lovely floral or architectural backgrounds. You don’t need to see poses with accessories, bicycles, pets or what-have-you. You don’t even need to see the model’s head! You just need to see the garment, the whole garment, on a body. Preferably a “normal” body, not a tall skinny model (unless you’re actually shaped like a tall, skinny model). You want to see the front closure, the hems, the shoulders, cuffs and neckline. You don’t want them to “cheat” and pin out extra fullness, disguise a too-low neckline with a scarf, angle the body in some odd pose or cross their arms. The reason is because you want to see what the darn thing really looks like so you don’t spend months and dollars knitting something that’s going to look really ugly on you! Even if you have all the details it’s still easy enough to get it wrong. It shouldn’t be harder than it already is to choose something that will fit and flatter and give the effect that you wanted. Otherwise what’s the point?

I’m reminded of this subject by the issue of Knitter’s I got in the mail yesterday. I had a chance to go through it this morning while I was waiting under the covers for the house to warm up. There are altogether too many of the faults I mention. There’s one spread with both models crossing their arms. There’s one where they never show the hems or cuffs. There’s a man’s sweater with a shirt collar covering over most of the neckline. There’s a model with her hands on her hips holding in the sides of a jacket. There’s a vest where you never see the full front, just a tiny inset picture of the closure. Shouldn’t this all ring some kind of alarm bells in your mind? If it doesn’t look quite right on a pretty model, is it going to look any better on me? Who are we kidding?

I have to admit though that Knitter’s does get some things right. Each pattern has a very obvious side column for each pattern with a ton of useful information: level of difficulty, expected fit (ease) and dimensions, gauge, yarn weight and amounts of each one used, type of needles recommended (straight, circ, dpn), extra notions (buttons, zip) and the size and number of them, and any additional tools needed (holders, stitch markers etc.). Plus they have schematics. I love schematics. You can see the shapes you’re aiming for and their dimensions and choose whether or not to adjust them. I always adjust the sleeve length because my arms are a couple of inches shorter than most people’s. The actual yarns that are used for the model garment are detailed in a separate block of text, usually right over the photo which can make it hard to read. But at least it gives more of an impression that you can choose something else. You don’t have to use the exact yarn specified.

Another thing they get right is the Knitter’s Paintbox on the website. You can see and create your own colour scheme for the garment. It’s really fun to play with (especially if you were fond of colouring books as a child) even if you weren’t planning to make the item in question. It’s a colour coordination lesson when dealing with multicoloured garments. It also gets away from the “must make it exactly like the picture” mindset that supposedly afflicts 80% of knitters. Too bad it’s not available for every pattern. You need the Java plug-in to make it work. And you can print out your results. Though I guess the drawback comes if you can’t get your yarn in those colours. Another reason to dye your own.

Well, the sun is out and it’s looking rather arctic out there. At least I’ll be able to see the dirt and dust bunnies I’ll be vacuuming up today.
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Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Amusments Too

Glad I nipped out yesterday morning and got my hair cut and a few groceries while the getting was good. It was really windy again in the afternoon with lashings of rain and yes, we have some snow today! Not much but enough to bring on the winter wonderland feeling. I have to teach a Beginner Spinning class tonight (assuming my students can make it in) so T and I will slog over to the shop later today to do some wheel maintenance. The poor things are really suffering from alternately being used and abused and neglected. They need a little TLC. That’s not “tender loving care”; it’s T and L Care! Even better.

Today I got bored with all the Yahoo lists I’m on and decided to join one for lace knitters. As usual when I join a group, I go in and read some of the past messages to get a feel for what’s going on. Right away I found a reference to a video podcast I’d forgotten about called Lets Knit2gether. I watched the episode on Stitches East which included a great interview with the Jane Sowerby, author of the Victorian Lace Today book I posted about recently. Nice thing about video is you can see the person speaking and in this case a portion of the fashion show featuring Jane’s shawls. A fast internet connection is demanded however.

Meanwhile I’ve been knitting on my SIL socks. I’m already up to the heel turns on both of them. Just shows you that my hands can work on plain socks on autopilot while my brain does other things! The yarn is Fortissima Socka Colori in a bright rainbow colourway. The colour repeats are very short (1 – 1.5”) and they pool just a little with a nice effect. This gives me ideas for further dye-painting my own yarn colours.

I also finally received my winter issue of Knitter’s magazine. I was beginning to think it had gone the way of the fall issues, aka lost in space. I had to email and ask for a replacement for that one, but I got it very quickly after that. This issue is a bit better than the last one, being on colour techniques, but there’s still not much in there that I would knit as is. I haven’t read all of it yet. I’m saving it for tomorrow morning with my tea. That’s before I get my arse in gear to vacuum the main floor. My Spectrum dye and surface design study group are coming over on Saturday so I have to make the joint a bit more presentable. Friday is reserved for vacuuming the basement where the dye studio is. It’s carpeted in kitty litter that the Old Ladies tracked all over. Kind of crunchy under the feet. Yuck. We’re going to be dyeing merino sliver in rainbow colours for our Year of Felting Exploration using Lanaset/Telana dyes. That reminds me. I have to update the instruction sheet and print out copies for all. Plus make a big pot of soup for the potluck lunch. Maybe I’ll use some of the leeks that are still in the garden. If they’re still edible that is.

So ’splain to me why my hairdresser cuts off all the dark hair and leaves the grey? It’s happening more and more every time I go in. I didn’t notice how she did it, but the results are increasingly obvious. Sheesh. You’d think I was somebody’s granny or something. Oh yeah. I am.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007


There’s a couple of interesting webzines you might like to take a look at. Links are in my sidebar. MagKnits has a new issue up. I love the freeform leafy collar! No plans to make it but it’s gorgeous. Fiber Femmes has a Jan/Feb 2007 issue up with some great articles including two reviews of the Louet Victoria wheel. We won’t discuss the pattern for a fuzzy steering wheel cover, okay? The voting has been tallied for the Favorite Fiber Fellow and it’s the wonderful Michael Cook, aka Oakenking. Go see his HGTV appearance video on his blog. His tabletweaving is amazing not to mention the silkworms. (Shhh…don’t tell anyone I voted for him!)

I’ve chosen to delete the link to Spun Magazine since despite information to the contrary, it hasn’t been updated for the better part of a year. I’m considering it defunct. A few others (The AntiCraft, For the Love of Yarn) haven’t had a new issue recently, but they should soon. A relatively new webzine (and one that I don’t have a sidebar link for but I think I’ve mentioned before) is the Crochet Insider. The crocheting/knitting celebrity interviews are really thought-provoking and in-depth. Right now they are soliciting your grandmother’s crochet for a future issue. How refreshing! Such a change from the “not-your-grandma’s” stuff. For another link to keep you busy for awhile, try The Yarn Museum. It’s full of lovely and interesting and arty handspun yarns. If you have some you’ve made that you’re proud of, take a picture and submit it. Don’t miss the section with finished objects from the yarns. Sometimes they actually get made into something good!

I also got a few paper magazines this weekend while I was walking my feet off. (I even have a bruise on my shin from my new Blundstone boots!) There’s both of the good bead mags out with new issues: Bead & Button and Beadwork. These are fat and juicy issues, but what gives with all the Swarovski crystal stuff? I’m sorry but I don’t like those scratchy things much. Not to mention the price of them! Obviously they’re really popular in spite of my opinions on the matter. I do like the way B&B has alternative pieces that the editors make while testing the directions and not always using the exact same components. Nice to see various options and colour combinations in the same pattern that completely changes the results. I also broke down and bought my first issue of Piecework in quite some time. It was all on knitting and was very interesting as a last hurrah for Nancy Bush who’s taking a break. I can hardly wait until she publishes her upcoming book on Estonian lace!

What else? Oh yeah, Cloth Paper Scissors which I like for the in-depth how-to stuff. I read it even if I never get around to doing it! The Interweave Press juggernaut has just swallowed up CPS and Quilting Arts to join the also recently acquired Lapidary Journal and all its other pubs (Art Jewelry, Step-by-Step Beads etc.). That only leaves a few of the better craft mags un-Interweave-d. At least they plan to leave all of the editorial and other staff in place so there shouldn’t be any major changes. At least not right away. What’s next for Interweave? Taunton (Threads), XRX (Knitter’s), Stampington (Art Doll Quarterly, Somerset Studio)…

Why play with all this great time-wasting stuff, you might ask? Because we are heading into yet another one of our lovely winter storms. They’re predicting more rain, wind and, possibly sometime tonight or tomorrow, snow. I’m in hibernation mode here.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Some Rearranging

Getting a new keyboard on Saturday sparked a whole flurry of fresh activity. We spent a chunk of yesterday reorganising the wires and equipment under my computer desk. Talk about a cable jungle! Yikes! There was a whole herd of dust bunnies hiding in that jungle too. They were wild and vicious! We finally got rid of my old Pentium II that I’d been saving just in case there was still something on there that I needed. If I haven’t looked at it in a year, I can pretty much guarantee I don’t need it. The hard drives were safely wiped before we take it to recycle. My current Pentium 4 will be 2 years old in April I discovered. Even older than I thought, though the letters still shouldn’t have worn off the keyboard yet. We also got a new wireless hub (on sale at less than half price!) and it has the nifty effect of not only connecting both of our computers to the cable modem but also allowing our Palm T/Xs to access the Internet from anywhere in the house and even outside on the deck. This is of limited use because the Palm screen is really small and websites have to be adapted to it but it might come in handy sometime. When I’m lazing around in bed and want to check the weather for instance. Or I could read my email on the deck in summer when it’s too hot up here. Yes, the connection is password protected. We don’t want everybody in the neighbourhood to access our network! We also removed a bunch of stuff I no longer need, like my old Palm cradle (broken) and shortened the phone’s wire (no need to have one that reaches into the next room). It’s still a jungle under there but you don’t need a map to find your way out. The dust bunnies are continuing to breed though.

While we were into spending money, T-Man spoiled himself too by getting a new comfy leather executive computer chair. It replaces the one that’s more than 10 years old and has been reupholstered once and needs it again plus the gas lift is broken. And he also got a joystick so he can fly his airplane on MS Flight Simulator easier than having to use the mouse and keyboard. His old joystick was so far out of date he couldn’t even hook it up to his new computer. He looks so relaxed in his new chair with the joystick on his knee flying away — virtually. Safer than the real thing.

Meanwhile I still have to clean up a bunch of stuff on and around my desk. It’s amazing how things get disorganised so quickly even when there’s only one person using it. That’s my job for this afternoon while T heads for a doctor’s appointment after work. He’s recently been copying my sore neck and tingly fingers and I hope he hasn’t waited too long to get help for it. I’ve been trying to get him to make an appointment with my lovely torturer…er, physio for a couple of months now. She’s right across the way from the doc so he can head straight over there after and book a time. He may have to go get an x-ray too. We’ll see. It’s repetitive stress from work for sure since it was much better while we were away on vacation. How to fix it is the problem since he’s not likely to change jobs. He’s already tried to rearrange his chair/armrests/desk/keyboard into a more comfortable configuration but it’s not helping.

Before I forget, I have a Finished Object! This is yet another fuzzy shawl for yet another of my sisters. (And yes, she will get some use out of it even if she does live in Mexico!) It’s based on Melody Johnson’s pattern (as are they all) for a handy shoulder warmer. I used the same yarns as the last one in a different colourway. Here’s a pic of it blocking:

Baby Sister’s Fuzzy Shawl

Begun: January 5, 2007
Completed: January 8, 2007

Yarns: Sandesgarn Chili, furry/bumpy/sparkly novelty, 100% polyamide, 50 g = 65 m, colour 3167 (beige/brown/orange/navy), 2 balls. Sandesgarn Smart, 100% wool DK, 50 g = 100 m, colour 3161 (light tan), 1.5 balls.

Needles: Denise size 13 circular.

Pattern: Fibermania’s Shawl

Comments: This one might be a wee bit bigger than the last one I made, but then my baby sister is a wee bit taller than my second sister. It’s kind of a guesstimate thing anyway. I hope she likes the colours which are quite different (apart from the orange) to my usual palette. I’m not much on beiges and tans but this is quite attractive.

Saturday, January 06, 2007


We walked downtown today in one of our weekend marathon walks. I took this picture from the Cambie Street Bridge which has a nice wide sidewalk on the east side, even if we have to share it with bicycles. The line points to what used to be one of our local stadiums, BC Place. It had a nifty Teflon roof like a big white mattress held up by increased air pressure inside the building kind of like a balloon. Now it looks like a big flat pancake. It got a tear in it from yesterday’s windstorm (yes, storm again) and collapsed with the weight of all the rain. Oops. It’s acting like a funnel and pouring rainwater inside. What a mess! Sorry if anyone has any events scheduled there in the next while. It ain’t happening. Good thing the BC Lions already won the Grey Cup because they won't be playing here any time soon. In case you were wondering, that area of sand in the foreground was a beach volleyball area last summer. Now it's suffering from erosion. I think that area is scheduled to be built on soon. The white blob to the right of the pancake is our other stadium, the one the hockey team plays in. I actually don't like sports and neither does T-Man but they are hard to avoid.

Notice also all of the cranes still hard at work downtown. There are just as many on my side of False Creek. This place is hoppin’! Lots of people seem to want to live in the centre of town where the action is even if that means living in a high-rise. We’re also co-hosting the Winter Olympics in 2010 along with the village of Whistler and we need many venues for sports and for athletes to stay. Personally, I’m not much interested in the Olympics (though winter ones are better than summer) and the whole thing is a big expensive yawn. I hope my grandkids won’t be paying for this down the road — but I bet they will.

Meanwhile we just got our assessment which is so ridiculously high we’re almost millionaires — except for the fact that we have no desire to move and if we did sell, we still have to buy something else we can afford. Heh. I’m not living in the ’burbs like my kids. I’m a city girl who needs things within walking distance or reliable public transportation. Besides this house is our old age security blanket. Just in case. If we don’t need it, the kids will benefit after we’re gone.

I just got a new keyboard, a Microsoft ergonomic one with a subtly curved but not humped shape. No big wrist rest since I don’t really use one. A few helpful extra keys like Play/Pause and sound up/down/mute for my podcasts, plus back/forward keys for scrolling through websites. And a cute little calculator key above the numerical keypad. It took a few minutes to get used to it but I can already type faster on this thing. Did I complain in a past post about my HP keyboard? The letters are wearing off to a blank and it’s only a year and a half old! Weird. The HP one I had before that didn’t get that bad in 5 years! Cheap plastic junk. Anyway, this one is sexy black with white letters that I can actually see in low lighting and it has a spill-proof liner. Good for the cup of tea that is inevitably at my elbow. It feels really good to type on with a definite “click”. I like that. Yeah, it’s probably not very environmentally friendly or financially prudent to buy a new keyboard when the old one still works, but I’m a happy little Damselfly. You’ll like me when I’m happy. I can talk with my fingers!

Friday, January 05, 2007

Fiber Geek Questionnaire

This is from Fiber Femmes and I thought it was an interesting challenge to answer. Kind of like a meme.

1. Do you raise fiber, animals or plant, or are a fiber user only? If you raise animals/plants...what do you raise?

I used to have 4 angora rabbits but they’ve since gone to that big clover field in the sky. My cats are unfortunately not much good for fibre production. Not that they don’t produce fibre — just that it’s not good!

2. What's your favorite fiber & why? Which fiber do you like the least & why?

I don’t think I have a real favourite. I’ve spun pretty much anything remotely spinnable over the years, though medium-fine wool (Corriedale, Polwarth) is probably the most common fibre I work with. I can't spin silk mawata (hankies) or caps because pulling them out hurts my hands.

3. What's your worst habit relating to your fiber?

Spinning a regular yarn. I don’t experiment as much as I could so most of my yarns are plain old 2-ply sport weight wool. Boring but functional.

4. In what ways does your fiber habit make you a better person?

Gee, does it really? I’ve been working with it for so long that I don’t know who I would be without fibre in my life. A "chicken and the egg" thing.

5. How would your life be different if you had to give up fiber?

There is No Way that I would give up fibre. It would have to be pried out of my cold dead hands first. I've already worked my way through a couple of temporary handicaps. Where there's a will, there's a way.

6. What tools, yarns, books or gadgets can't you live without?

All of them. I’m particularly fond of my book collection, many of which are OOP and not replaceable.

7. What was your first fiber project?

Ummm...I don’t remember since it was about 50 years ago.

8. Do you have any fiber mentors? Who are they and why?

Judith MacKenzie McCuin, who knows more about fibres and spinning than anyone I’ve ever met (and I’ve met a few). She’s also very sweet and extremely generous with her knowledge. Paula Simmons, Mabel Ross and Jane Fournier also come to mind. I learned a lot just being a “scribe” while Jane judged submissions for the HGA's COE in Handspinning one year when our guild hosted it. I also learned that I will never submit for a COE myself and you can't make me!

9. Are you a member of any guilds? If so, which one(s)?

I belong to several guilds: the Greater Vancouver Weavers’ & Spinners’ Guild (21 years and counting), the Vancouver Guild of Fabric Arts, Complex Weavers and the Tablet Weavers’ International Studies & Techniques (TWIST).

10. What's the most exciting fiber project you've undertaken?

I don’t know if it’s considered a fibre project exactly, but I was on the steering committee for HGA’s Convergence 2002 that took place here in Vancouver that year and only the second time ever in Canada. I was in charge of the publications. With over 5 years of our hard work and after hosting about 3000 attendees, vendors and shoppers, I would consider that exciting!

11. How many people have you mentored? In which fiber arts?

I have absolutely no idea! I’ve been teaching on and off locally for 30 years so that must be a few, hey? I’ve taught weaving, spinning, dyeing, kumihimo, tablet weaving, beadwork, knitting and crochet. The folks at my LYS send people to me all the time with questions they can’t answer.

12. Do you consider fiber crafts to be functional or artistic?

Both. Though most of my stuff is functional, I’d like to hope there is some artistic merit there as well. But I don’t just make “art” for art’s sake. I enjoy what other people come up with though.

13. What, mainly, do you make? Do you keep, or give away, most of your projects?

Number One Item = Socks! I give away some of my projects (mostly socks now that my drawer is full) and very occasionally sell one or two things (if begged and pleaded with), but mostly the things I make stay at our house. I don’t think anyone else appreciates them as much as my husband and I do. He also does crafts with wood and glass. As he says “Wood is fibre too!” He sometimes makes tools for me and some of his lampwork beads go in my work.

14. Are fiber crafts an avocation or vocation for you?

Obsession. Totally. No question.

15. How many people are you committed to being a mentor for in 2007?

No idea, though I’m supposed to start a new beginner spinning class next week if there’s enough students signed up.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Forest Socks

Yep, they’re finished! Missed counting an even 20 Socks in 2006 but it’s not a race, right? 1 pair so far for 2007 instead!

Begun: December 19, 2006
Completed: January 3, 2007

Yarn: Sisu, 2 - 50g balls (160 m per ball), 80% wool/20% nylon, colour 1438 (3 strands light grey/1 strand dark charcoal), dye-painted greens/olives/browns/turquoise.
Needles: 2mm Clover Takumi dpns

Comments: My standard classic, top-down/flap heel sock. 68 sts, 8.5” to heel flap, 8.25” to toe dec. I loved the colours though quite a bit of yellow-green came out in the rinse. Not properly set in the microwave? Not enough acid left in my re-usable bucket of acid soak water? Apart from the pain of rinsing and re-rinsing to get out the bleeding dye, it didn’t seem to change the colours at all. At least not obviously to me. There was only about 10 yards each left at the end. Could have done another couple of rounds on the leg! But that might have been cutting it too close for comfort.

In other crafty news, I’m trying to decide what I want to start next. The Ninja needs another pair of birthday socks (this time without the tabi toes) but I want to dye the boring grey yarn something more interesting first. I got smart this time and got 3 balls of Sisu since 2 aren’t enough for his bigger-than-dad’s feet. I’ve also put one of my sisters-in-law on the sock list. Although her birthday isn’t until August, she looks so wistfully at other people’s socks that I told her she would get a pair of her own soon. I have just the yarn for her already in the stash. Maybe I’ll knit them first. I was getting really antsy last evening while watching TV without any plain knitting to do.

One of my New Year’s resolutions is to finish more UFOs, so I’m getting out the languishing Pomatomus socks. I think I stopped them for 2 reasons. One, I couldn’t work on them without looking and two, I’m afraid I’ve made a mistake in the transition between row repeats. I’m going to have to look at them again with fresh eyes and decide whether to frog and start over or not. It might be a good idea to start on them afresh anyway.

I’ll leave you today with a photo of the cutest little honey mandarin oranges that I found in the fruit and veggie market. They are so small that you can eat at least 4 at a time and they’re very sweet. For scale, my hand is very small for a woman, more like a 10-year-old’s, and I adore miniature things!

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Notice the Picassa2 logo - Blogger wouldn't let me post pictures today so I circumvented that by using Picassa instead. Pfffttthhh!!

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Shawl Gone

Well it was! Gone for almost a whole 24 hours! I thought it was MIA but it really went AWOL instead. Backing up, we went to the family New Year’s Day lasagna-fest at my MIL’s and of course all the coats, hats, purses, bags etc. ended up on her bed. She has a little house and it was filled with yakking family members (including the new baby!) so you can guess that it got rather warm in there. Even too warm for MIL who usually likes it tropical. So after all had a chance to admire the Swallowtail Shawl, it got relegated to the coat pile. I rolled it up and tucked it inside my fleece jacket so it wouldn’t go wandering. Long story short — we get halfway home and I suddenly miss my shawl! Got home and called the MIL and she couldn’t see it anywhere. Not under the bed or anywhere else. Check my pockets and my bag. Nope. Check ’em again. Still nope. Where on earth could it have gone? I was heartbroken. I’d only had it on for a couple of hours since it came off the blocking pins! Nobody called the next day to say it was attached to their clothing or fell into their purse or diaper bag. I was starting to accuse family members of purloining it (not to their faces of course!) and still it didn’t turn up. Later yesterday afternoon, T-Man started to call his relatives to check and, although his 90-year-old aunt said that if she’d seen it she would have taken it because she liked it (!), it was still missing. So I decided to have yet another hunt through my coat. It’s gotta be somewhere, right? I finally found it but left it in situ and took the coat to T who looked. And looked some more. And finally found it. Even though I had indicated it was there, he still took awhile to find it, tucked way down in my sleeve wadded into a little clingy lump that I hadn’t even felt! Sheesh. Now how do I punish that wayward shawl? By not wearing it for a week? Two weeks? BAD shawl!

Now that I’ve got that out of my system (amazing how much stress temporarily losing the darn thing produced), I promised to tell about the new book that I got with my Christmas gift card from Darling Daughter and her Sweetie. I’ve mentioned this before in a previous post: Victorian Lace Today by Jane Sowerby. It’s a really impressive book: coffee-table-sized, hardcover, lots of eye-candy photos from Alexis Xenakis of Ye Olde English buildings, manor houses, gardens and bric-a-brac. However, the content is more than just pretty pictures thanks to Jane! She became obsessed with the evolution of Victorian lace knitting and has been obsessively studying the pattern books of the day in order to extract the lace from them. According to her it was hard slogging through the overblown language and lack of abbreviations or charts or often even illustrations to find out how the lace was actually knitted. Some patterns were riddled with errors and inaccuracies which she tried to resolve by charting and swatching and in some cases concluding that some were actually not knittable as given. Jane also recounts the histories of the strong Victorian women who published these books and it all makes for fascinating reading.

Many of the patterns could be attempted by fairly beginner level knitters and really none of the patterns are extremely difficult. They are very tempting! Toward the end of the book, there’s a helpful chapter on how the shawls and scarves are designed and assembled and ways to change or re-assemble portions to create your own versions. It’s in no way as detailed as in some other lace knitting books but the information is complementary and illustrated with lots of examples. Another section I enjoyed was a list of the yarns grouped into sizes, including a number of other alternatives not used in the book that you might like to try. There were even a number of shawls made from lovely fine handspun yarns, I assume spun by Jane Sowerby herself. All the shawl and scarf patterns include the yardage used (hopefully reasonably accurate), which is something I complained that was missing in my comments on the Swallowtail Shawl. This will make it easy to substitute handspun for any of the patterns.

There is a 2-page errata sheet for this book here. Seems like no pattern book can escape mistakes, no matter how diligent the proofers! Besides the obvious ones, it usually takes a number of knitters trying to figure out how to follow the patterns to find the errors in them. I routinely check on the publisher’s website and in the blogs before starting a project from a book or magazine. You don’t want to be in the middle of something and find that there’s some glaring error you weren’t aware of staring at you.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Swallowtail Shawl

Here she is in all her glory! I only used about half of the 600 yards I dyed so I’ve got enough left to make something else in my “Bryce Canyon” colourway.

Begun: December 20, 2006
Completed: December 30, 2006

Yarn: 2-ply merino-cashmere laceweight, unknown manufacturer from Birkeland Bros. Wool. I only used a small portion of the huge 8 oz skein. Dye-painted in the skein and colour set in the craft microwave.
Needles: 3.5 mm Clover Takumi bamboo 24” circular.

Pattern: Swallowtail Shawl from Interweave Knits, Fall 2006, p. 72.
Finished size: 45” across the top edge (hypotenuse) which is slightly smaller than the 49” of the pattern instructions. This yarn may be slightly finer than the Misti Alpaca Lace called for.

Comments: I dyed more yarn than I needed because I knew I couldn’t reproduce it if I ran out before the end. I needn’t have been so worried because although the pattern called for one 437 yd ball, it didn’t use all of it. Too bad they don’t tell you that. Here it is unblocked:

The knitting went very well, except for taking a few tries to get comfy with the nupps. It was so much fun I had trouble putting it down! Hence the reason why it only took about a week and a half to finish. When I washed the shawl prior to blocking, there was a little dye washout but the last rinse was clear. No noticeable change in the colour however. I had a flash of inspiration and got out the fine wires that are used when casting on on my knitting machine. After threading them through the eyelets at the long edge it was an easy matter to line everything up and pin. I had to improvise a larger foam blocking board because my usual one wasn’t quite big enough and the extra piece was thinner. I propped it up on a pair of hardcover books from the nearby shelf and it was fine.

The blocked shawl is just what I envisioned. It just covers my shoulders and is very soft but keeps the blocked shape well. This just inspires me to make something else lacey! Good thing I got a new book. More about that tomorrow when I have more time. Right now I have to head over to my MIL’s for yet another traditional family get-together, this time with the new baby attending. Happy New Year!