Wednesday, February 28, 2007

From Spring Back To Winter

I woke up this morning to a skiff of snow though it’s warming up now and the snow is mostly melted. It’s interesting how much brighter it is even though it’s overcast when there’s something besides grass and mud to reflect the light. No wonder people in colder places don’t suffer as much from SAD as we do here. They at least have more natural light even if it’s too cold and icy to want to venture out in it. I have to admit we don’t have it as bad as Prince Rupert to the north of us. They get even more overcast days and rain there than we do. It’s the price we pay for our moderate ocean-influenced weather. Not that it’s been all that moderate this season! I’ve lost several of my plants that usually winter over just fine, including my potted geraniums and 2 of my potted heucheras that I brought up on the back porch for protection. Instead they got coated in a thick layer of ice during the storms and now they’re toast. Sigh. I should have put them in the greenhouse instead where they would have been safe. I never had a greenhouse before this past year so I’m just getting used to what it will protect and what it won’t. Experimentation is the name of the game over the next few years. That reminds me. I have to start some of my seeds very soon. I’m hesitating because the coleus are still down under my grow lights and they still have both white fly and aphids. But they’re alive! And it’s been darn hard work keeping them that way, I’ll tell you.

Meanwhile I’ve been getting somewhere on the Pomatomus socks. It makes a difference with the better needles and some concentration! I just might finish these within the next couple of days. But don’t hold your breath, eh? The Ocean socks are getting their heel flaps and the Cherry Leaf yarn is balled and ready to go as soon as the Pomatomi are done. I’m holding fast still. Yep.

I just heard from Jane Stafford, old friend and the dealer who ordered me my Victoria spinning wheel. She said that Louet is sending out a wee bit more padding for the lazy kate, which when put in the pack the way its supposed to be the bobbins can get damaged. Mine came with dings in them, one of which needed sandpaper to smooth enough to make me happy. She said the company will send me two new bobbins as well to replace them. I don’t actually mind the dings much since they coordinate nicely with the big one on the top of Tori’s upright anyway. (That one is totally my fault. Erp.) But it will be nice to have extra bobbins that I don’t have to pay over twenty bucks each for.

That reminds me that I haven’t done any spinning at all lately. I’ve got so many projects for which I already have the yarn that I don’t want to spin more without something in mind for it. I would like to spin up some of the lovely moorit merino I’ve got for another shawl (yet to be determined) but I want to do the Cherry Leaf first. If I have too many projects going at once I feel like it takes forever to finish anything. Something always ends up languishing on the back burner. UFOs R Us.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

There's Light In The Sky

There’s also frost on the garden. In my neck of the woods, if it’s cloudy it’s usually warmer than if it’s clear. This morning I woke up to clear skies for the first day in quite awhile. Well it probably wasn’t that long but it felt like ages! Anyway these herbs and purple sprouting broccoli are not endangered in any way. They’ve withstood all the storms, snow, rain and wind we’ve had this past winter quite nicely. It’s easy-peasy from here on into summer. At least for the plants. They’ve already lost their frosting as I typed this.

Today I bit the old proverbial bullet and got out the Pomatomus socks from the Mystery Machine lunch…er, knitting box. At least I still had the row number I was on marked on the chart. It actually helped that I was still in mid-row on one sock and at the end of the chart ready to begin again on the second. Not sure that I did the transition between one row repeat and the next correctly but you won’t be able to see it from a galloping horse, so I don’t really care. I just want to get these guys done and off the needles asap because there are other things clamouring to get done. And speaking of needles, I celebrated finally working on these by going to my LYS and buying a double set of the new Clover Takumi 5” bamboo dpns in 2.25 mm (US size 1). Because my Boye aluminums in this size were already occupied in another project, I was previously limping along with a combination of Brittany wood 5” dpns and 7” Clover Takumis in a set of 4 plus an extra one made from a bamboo skewer. I had mixed them up to avoid differences in gauge due to all the needles not being the same length or material or tip shape or even precisely the same diameter. Not exactly conducive to happy knitting. No wonder I’ve been avoiding this project for so long.

Meanwhile I’m winding the cherry-dyed cash-merino yarn into a ball. This is creeping slowly towards starting the Cherry Leaf shawl, while not actually starting it yet. Heh. Sure. I can control my knitting fingers. Right.

And of course I’ve been knitting on the latest plain socks, the pretty Ocean ones, and I’m almost up to the heel flaps on both. Yes, I can knit quite quickly when I don’t have to look at it much! Other knitters have “stockinette hell” but I have relaxation knitting. Though don’t get me wrong, I loves me the fancy stitches. I love the results and I even enjoy the doing of them. But I like reading so much that it’s hard to give that up while my eyes are occupied on stitches instead of on words on a page or screen. And listening to books being read aloud, the radio, podcasts, whatever just isn’t quite as satisfying. Maybe it’s because I’m hard of hearing? Or maybe it’s because my mind wanders more when listening than when reading? I do know I’m more visual than aural even though my eyes are just about as bad as my ears. That’s why there are eyeglasses and hearing aids for people like me. Thank you, thank you, thank you!! I’m not actually blind and deaf but without those aids I’d be certifiably disabled. Bump into things. Miss the number on a bus. Not hear an alarm. Be unaware of an oncoming car until it was dangerously close. Really! All those things have happened to me at one time or another. I could tell you stories. But I'll spare you the details.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Yet Another Sockish FO

These were the socks I started for my MIL but decided that I didn’t like them for her. I finished them mostly because they were occupying my needles! After their little trip through the Violent Sea, they look much better, at least to me. This is the 5th pair of socks I’ve finished so far in 2007. If I keep this up, I’ll beat my last year’s record of 19 pairs!

Regia 6-Ply Socks

Begun: February 5, 2006
Completed: February 25, 2006

Yarn: 2 balls Regia 6-ply Jacquard Color, 75% wool/25% polyamide, 125 m = 50 g, colour 5180, roses & blues stripes and grey/white spots. I had very little left so 3 balls would be needed for larger socks in this yarn. Dyed in weak solution of Lanaset violet dye, low-water immersion method with microwave. I didn’t measure so not sure of exact amount used. Note that the dark rose shade was not very colourfast and ran somewhat into the white areas when I got the socks wet.

Needles: 2.25 mm Boye coated aluminum dpns

Pattern: My Standard socks on 60 sts.

Comments: These are much nicer after their sojourn in the Violent dyebath! It toned them down but added a spark of brightness at the same time.

Meanwhile I’m liking how the blues/greens socks are coming out. I’m calling them the Ocean Socks. I must be in the mood for more subtle colour shifts like these and the purple Nana Socks. I’m kind of off the self-striping colours at the moment.

Another short post. T-Man is off work today and the Ninja and family are coming over this afternoon. I haven’t seen them in almost a month so it’ll be nice to visit. Hopefully they’re all over their colds and flu. Even the baby Stargazer got sick, poor thing. He’s not even 2 months old yet. Bet he’s grown though! The kids gave their parents a whole 7 hours sleep last night so everyone should be in a good mood today. Must remember to keep my mouth shut on the “parental curse” comments, hey? You know, the “I hope your kids do to you what you did to us” revenge for all the worry and sleepless nights they gave us? Lips. Zipped. Truly I love my kids and their spouses and their kids and don’t wish anything bad to happen to them ever. Only the best always.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

There Is No Sun In Sunday

It’s raining yet again and I’m cooking a ham for dinner. It’s honking huge for 2 people but if I have to freeze some of the leftovers for later, so be it. We both love a proper cooked ham as opposed to that pre-packaged stuff. Yum! It smells good. Just waiting for the internal temp to get up high enough to consider it done.

I finished the Regia 6-ply socks, photographed them in their ugly “before” state and then threw them in a 1/4 strength Violent dyebath. Sorry, that’s actually Lanaset’s violet dye that is so intense of a blue-violet that my friend K calls it “Vicious Violet” and I call it “Violent”. (I love it and she doesn’t!) Anyhoo, it toned them into looking much better. Photos tomorrow when they’re dry. They take awhile when the relative humidity is so high. I had exactly 6 yards of yarn left and I had to join in a new length for a couple of rows on one toe. That’s cutting it a bit close for comfort, I'd say.

So of course I started a new pair of socks! Remember the yellow Sisu that I dyed into greens and blues? This pair is for my teenaged niece who very sweetly asked me for a pair when I gifted her mom with that brightly sprightly coloured pair I finished back in January. Her colour pref was teal and this is close. I definitely like knitting with finer sock yarns than the 6-ply. That stuff is too harsh.

This is a short blog post today. If you want to be amused for hours go to Zefrank’s website and play with the interactive toys. Too. Much. Fun.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Getting Techie With Your Knitting

A new blog I just discovered, TECHknitting, is excellent for the finer points of knitting techniques. If you go right back to the beginning (Nov 2006) she will even define “knitting” for you. The illustrations are very clear and done in Adobe Illustrator. I like this quote too, “I don't advocate that every sweater you ever make ought to be in the same yarn as you used for the first one, but you will get an increasingly professional-looking result with each project for which you use the same yarn and needles.” I’m feeling like that about my sock knitting. I’ve certainly knit enough of the darn things.

And Marnie MacLean has a great tutorial for charting knitting with Excel. Even though she’s using a Mac it’s quite transferable to Windows. I didn’t use Excel but played with charting a free doily pattern using my Knit Visualizer program. I hope I got it correctly, but I need to wait for a day or so before I look at it again. I can’t see my own mistakes unless I have the perspective of time. KV works pretty well as long as I can type in the right stuff in the first place. Though for some reason Sl2 K1 P2SSO doesn’t parse so I have to add those symbols with the stitch paintbrush. This doily took some manipulating of each row to make the wedge shape of the chart come out right. Lots and lots of "No Stitches"! This is one of those patterns where you occasionally have to move the marker at the beginning of the repeat and start it in a slightly different place. It was quite a challenge! Unfortunately I’m not planning to knit this pattern but used it as an exercise in charting.

In crafty news, I’m almost at the toe of the Regia 6-ply socks but I’m running out of yarn. Maybe I should have made these for my MIL’s teeny feet instead of my more normal sized ones? Oh well, if I have to add something funky at the end of the toes, it won’t matter. I’m planning to overdye the darn things anyway because they are butt-ugly as they are. Notice I haven’t posted a photo of them yet? There is a reason.

I’m a mere breath away from winding my Cherry yarn into a ball to start the Cherry Leaf shawl. I’m trying not to start it yet until I at least finish the P-whatzit socks. But I need some spring colour around here! Even though the crocuses are out, it was snowing this morning. Didn’t stick at all but it makes for a rather dreary weekend. Well, that and housecleaning. Bleh.

What else? Oh yeah, for fun I got the spring issue of a magazine I hadn’t noticed before. Probably because they formerly had it hiding in the computer instead of the crafts section of the racks. Just what I need, eh? Another magazine to buy? Heh. This one is called Creative TECHniques (yes, there’s a theme in this ol’ blog post) and it has basically two kinds of articles referred to as “Make Stuff” and “Learn Stuff”. In this issue the Make Stuff includes decoupaging and rubber-stamping your computer’s mouse (too cool!) and the Learn Stuff includes how to get your old vinyl records into MP3 digital files. Oh yes, I want to do that. There are a lot of the type of crafts that include manipulating images in your computer. Photoshop is the program of choice here but that doesn’t mean it can’t be done with Paint Shop Pro or the like. Altered books, shrink jewelry and appliquéd pillows interspersed with articles on setting up a wireless home network and comparing digital cameras. Kind of “Martha Stewart meets Bill Gates”. Don’t know if I’ll buy every issue but I might check it out again. Do check out the mouse though:

Isn't it wonderful? Trying to figure out how to take the mouse that comes with my Wacom tablet apart. I need a screwdriver…

Friday, February 23, 2007

Design Programs

Geek Alert! Non-geeks may skip down to the FO below. I’ve got two programs installed today, one old and one new. I had an old version 4 of WeaveIt that came on floppy disks. (Yes, that old.) I no longer have a floppy drive on this computer. So after emailing programmer Sally Breckenridge about it, I ended up having to find somebody who could take it from the floppies and transfer the files to my computer in some way. Dear T-Man did it at work for me but first he tried to email them to me and his MS Exchange wiped out the .exe file. So he had to put them on work’s FTP server for me to download. Good thing he’s able to do that or I’d still be hunting down someone with both a floppy drive and a CD burner, surprisingly not a common combination anymore. I also downloaded the demo of version 5 just for interest sake but I’m not in the market to purchase another piece of weaving software when I’ve barely picked up a shuttle in 5 years. I almost always use PCW Silver instead anyway. I’ve been using this program since it was a DOS version on my first PC. Haven’t installed the demo of WeaveIt 5 yet.

My next issue was a beading design program. Like WeaveIt, I have a copy of Bead Pattern Designer on floppy disks. However I don’t like this program. It is quirky and unintuitive and hasn’t been updated in yonks. So I decided to go looking for something else to use for this purpose. I was first leaning towards Bead Creator though I was somewhat annoyed that you had to pay for shipping and wait until the disk arrived because they don’t have a way to download it. With my luck I’d have to pay duty and GST on top of it all. I had heard some good things about it and some kind of iffy things so I wasn’t leaping into something that could cost me $100 Canadian when all is said and done.

So the hunt was on for another program and I found BeadTool. Much cheaper, demo version that unlocks once you’ve paid up, intuitive, on-line manual and tutorials and I love the way it deals with bringing in a graphic file and making a bead pattern from it. You can drag the grid over the picture until you get it where you want it, choose how many bead colours to translate it into and “assimilate” it. Too cool. I might actually use this feature. It exports to a number of file formats and can print a word pattern as well as chart and a bead shopping list. This program is light-years ahead of my old Bead Pattern Designer and about 1/3 the price. Hmmm…I can see another software purchase in my near future. Does that mean I have to do some beadwork now too? Can’t I just play with the software instead?

Non-geeks can come back now. Finished Object show-and-tell time! See how nicely my new hat goes with my wristwarmers?

Penelope Beret

Begun: January 16, 2007
Completed: February 22, 2007

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, approx. 2.5 strands from hank.
Needles: Aero aluminum 2.25 mm 16” circular and set of 4 dpns.

Pattern: Based on my Penelope Wristlets, which in turn is based on Donna Druchunas’ Fish Trap Wrist Warmers in the book “Arctic Lace”. Beret shaping is based on the beret formulas in Ann Budd’s “The Knitter’s Handy Book of Patterns” . Worked out and charted using Knit Visualizer. I love working from a chart. Sorry that Blogger blurs it out too much to read.

Cast on 120 sts using long-tail method. Reverse so that purl side of knitting is out. Place marker at beg of round. Knit garter stitch in the round for 6 rows. Increase row: [k2, M1] 180 sts. Begin lace pattern (work chart 6 times). When at the crown decreases (R 41), place 11 more markers every 15 sts. Continue following chart, switching to dpns when knitting gets too small for circ. (Wasn’t necessary until R 61). When 6 sts remain (end of chart), knit 1 round. Then k2tog-tbl around again. 3 sts remaining. Work I-Cord on these stitches for ¾”. Break yarn. Thread needle and draw through last 3 sts. End yarns inside beret. Wet-block over 10” plate.

Comments: This beret looked all distorted and teensy when I finished the knitting but it blocked out beautifully. I don’t like too large of a beret, more the size of my old school tam and it’s that exactly. I was trying to make the crown decreases work with the lace pattern though I think it’s a bit more indistinguishable than I thought it would be. It looks just fine however. I’m very happy with my adaptation. Still have a ball of this handspun left. Though I’m kind of tired of knitting this lace pattern, at least for now.

What else? Carrying on with the Regia 6-ply socks just because they’re on the needles. They are pretty ugly so I just might overdye them when I’ve finished knitting. And starting to look seriously at my long-ignored Pomatomus socks. Poor little things. They’ve been hogging my Mystery Machine Lunchbox for way way too long. Time to finish so I can get on to other things and not feel them looking at me sadly. I actually like the pattern a lot. I just somehow consider socks as something to do while reading and I must concentrate on these things. No reading. So what is it with Cookie and her twisted stitches? I want to do her Monkey Socks with my new Trekking Pro Natura wool/bamboo yarn, but not with the twisted rib. It seems like it should be tighter but it’s not as elastic as regular rib. I’m going to unvent a rib that segues into the Monkey pattern instead. Here’s hoping that they won’t become yet another Pomatomus (unfinished) or Jaywalker (frogged and never re-started) sock project.

I’m loving all the comments I’ve been getting lately! I might not reply but I read and contemplate every one. Thanks, Faithful Readers!

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

That Certain Age

I think it happens to most of us. We kind of hit a spot in our lives (usually later rather than sooner) where we stop and reassess. Where have we been and where are we going? And most importantly, how much time do we still have left to get there? I remember when I was young and life stretched on forever. Now that I’m past the half-century mark, it doesn’t go so far anymore. And I’m starting to realize that my ability to do just as I please is becoming more limited as well. Although I have the will, I don’t have the stamina that I used to have though I’m still pretty fit. I have different needs and desires now. I don’t put up with negative stuff like I used to. I’m still really patient, at least most of the time, but I’m not going to be seated near the kitchen door when there’s a seat near the window.

There are advantages to being this age. You can use it for an excuse, as in “No, I can’t come over and help you move the furniture. I would like to be able to move my body later.” And “Yes, we must leave this deadly dull event early because we must be in bed by 9pm.” Who cares whether I’m wearing 20-year-old sweat pants and I have bed-head. Nobody really notices me much on the street. And if they do, they probably think I’m just a bit eccentric. Well, actually I am and I like it that way. You ain’t seen nothing yet. Wait until I really get old!

This brings up some new thoughts in my head. What to keep and what to pitch out? What am I really realistically going to be able to do with all the stuff in my stash? No, don’t panic. I’m not having a garage sale anytime soon or hiring one of those big disposal bins! I’m just starting to try to put it all in better perspective. Be a wee bit more focused. I’ll let you know if it’s working or if I peter out like usual.

In crafty news, I spent about 3/4 of an hour yesterday trying to fix an error in the beret about 5 or 6 rows down where I’d caught an extra stitch in my k2tog-tbl effectively making it a k3tog-tbl and my pattern repeat one stitch short. Don’t ask me why I didn’t notice it until I was trying to place a bead in the correct stitch. It took a sock needle and a crochet hook to get it all picked up again. But ya can’t see where I fixed it so I guess I done good. I’m waffling on how long to make the body of the beret. This will affect the width of the hat when blocked flat so it’s kind of a critical measurement. It also has to start on the correct row of the pattern for the crown to come out right as I’ve charted it. This is like watching a 3-part miniseries: I can’t wait to find out what happens next. And whether the ending goes the way I’d imagined.

Well, my Dye Day for this Saturday is now cancelled. Why do I always think that 5 people can all make it to the same place at the same time? First they get excited. Then they say they can come. Then they say “Oops! Sorry.” That may just be the last time I even try to schedule this. I’m getting too frustrated. On the other hand, that leaves another day free! Probably fabric shopping for the wedding garb. We haven’t done that yet. First I need to make the patterns. Since I don’t have to prepare for the workshop, I’ve got time now.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

They Call Me Mellow Yellow

Anybody remember that old Donovan song? Or am I showing my age as usual? Anyway I’ve mellowed the yellow Sisu wool/nylon fingering yarn that I got from my LYS so much that it’s not yellow anymore. See, Pearl? (I know you’ll be reading this!)

It’s perfectly easy to dye over a light colour like yellow as long as you take into consideration that the under-colour will influence what you dye over it. I went for greens/blues and I think the results are quite nice. I’ll be using this to make a pair of socks for my niece. Thanks, hon’. Anything else you want me to try overdyeing?

The darker the colour you’re trying to overdye, the deeper you need to dye it to influence the colour. I’ve dyed deep red to brown and even black, though the black had a warmish tinge due to the underlying red dye. I used a cool blueish-black to compensate. After a certain point the yarn won’t take up any more dye because all the dye “sites” are used up and there’s nowhere else for more dye molecules to stick. That’s why it’s better to start with a lighter colour to overdye. If it’s light enough, it will barely influence your final results at all, almost as if you started with white or natural.

Speaking of natural, I enjoy dyeing over the natural greys and browns. It makes lovely muted colours that are among my favourites. Another overdye trick is to take a bunch of yarns that don’t play well together colourwise and overdye them all with one dye colour. Instant cooperation. Rug h**kers do this all the time using onion skins over an odd assortment of recycled wool fabrics to mellow them and give them an antique look. They also “marry” colours by putting many swatches in a pot of hot water and soap and simmering until the dye runs out and then re-fixing the dye by adding vinegar. Essentially the technique is similar to a regular overdye except that you don’t add any more dye, just move around what you have already. This only works with certain types of dyes that are not washfast supermilling dyes. The ones I use at home won’t cooperate with marrying — they stubbornly remain single! If I’ve done my job right, once the dye goes in, it stays.

In other crafty news, today I’m back knitting on my beaded beret. I put it on hold for awhile while I worked on birthday socks but I really think I should finish it while there’s still time to wear it. I’ve certainly gotten a lot of wear out of the original wrist warmers and I don’t want them to look all worn out when I’m done the matching hat. Besides, I want to see what the crown decreases are going to look like. It’s an experiment.

I finally got my wire knitting swap in the post today. It's due at the swap mistress's on March 1st but I didn't go out yesterday in the pouring rain. Today I was smart and went out while it was still somewhat sunny. It’s clouding over again and more rain is predicted. Oh, and I picked some overwintered mizuna (Brassica juncea var. japonica) out of my garden today for supper’s salad. The stuff in the greenhouse got all eaten off by slugs and bugs but outside in the garden it survived snow and rain and frost and is now putting out tasty new leaves and sprouts. Yum. While I was out there, the cats wandered out the door and set a Stellar’s jay in the shrubbery squawking at them. Gosh was it loud! And agitated. The cats were pretty oblivious (Ms. Polly is pretty deaf anyway) and just nibbled a little new grass before wanting back in the house. What a pair of delicate old ladies!

Monday, February 19, 2007

Sudden Thought

It just occurred to me that as a truly eclectic — nay, positively wanton crafter/artist/messer-about-with-materials-type-person, that I don’t have any extras. Like say if I was a quilter like the delicioso Mrs. Mel who admits to having a closet bursting with wonderful quilts or my friend Ania who makes a gazillion lovely lampwork beads and other beady creations or dear John who builds so many wonderful looms and other weaving and spinning tools (and he doesn’t weave), what do you do with the extras? The ones you make because you can’t help it, you just have to make them? The multiple things that won’t fit in your house any more because you’ve made so many that they’re oozing out the doors? I don’t have that problem because I am always running behind. Even though I’m always making something, I need more of the things that I make. I need them for me, my family, my home, birthday gifts, you-name-it, but I’m never overwhelmed/satiated/backed-into-a-corner-of-the-living-room by my creations. Maybe I work too slow?

I suppose if you make too much stuff then you have to sell some of it. Then you have to make more because now you have customers who want it. Then you have to put the prices up because you can’t afford to keep making and selling the stuff in the casual way you were before. You have to take inventory and do the books and pay taxes and hire staff and travel to craft fairs. Overhead. Storage. Supplies. Postage stamps. Yikes! And I get bored before weaving the second placemat. I always state that I sell my expertise (or even give it away for free) but I don’t sell my work.

Speaking of my work — now for a couple of Finished Objects!

First we have my mother-in-law’s birthday socks. These were done a couple of days ago, but I finally got them washed and blocked.

Nana Socks

Begun: February 6, 2007
Completed: February 16, 2007
Yarn: Sandnesgarn’s Sisu, 80% wool/20% nylon, 50 g = 160 m, hand-dyed in purples over white.
Needles: new Clover Takumi 5” bamboo dpns
Pattern: Damselfly’s Plain Socks on 64 sts, 6” before heel flap, 6.25” before toe decreases.
Comments: Teensy! She gets them tomorrow and I know she'll love them.

Then we have the fuzzy shawl for my sister. This makes one each for all three of them.

Fuzzy Sister Shawl

Begun: February 16, 2006
Completed: February 19, 2006
Yarn: Sandesgarn Chili, furry/bumpy/sparkly novelty, 100% polyamide, 50 g = 65 m, colour 8857 (greens, white & yellow), 2 balls. Sandesgarn Smart, 100% wool DK, 50 g = 100 m, colour 4658 (purples and a little green), 1.5 balls.
Needles: Denise size 13 circular.
Fibermania’s Shawl
Comments: Slightly belated birthday present. Well I couldn’t NOT make a shawl for the last of my sisters, now could I? We now have a complete set. Wouldn’t it be weird if we all wore them at the same time? This one got me thinking of spring!

Spring is kind of hard to contemplate today after it rained buckets and the basement is leaking again. Yesterday was another story however. The sun was out so we decided to go for a walk on Richmond’s South Dyke along the Fraser River and into Steveston, an historic fishing port and Tourist Mecca on such a nice day. We parked the car what turned out to be a leetle too far away, about 5.5 kilometres from town. The walk west was cool and windy with whitecaps on the river. No, I forgot my camera, darn it! You’ll have to use your imagination. Think tug boats, barges, seagulls, fish boats, and ducks in every available puddle. Once in Steveston we went to our favourite fish and chip shop (Dave’s) for late lunch. Then to the yarn shop (of course!) Wool & Wicker where I bought some Trekking XXL sock yarn for him and some Trekking Pro Natura (wool/bamboo) for me.

Ya don’t think I could actually enter a yarn shop and not buy something, do ya? Then the long long walk back to the car. The wind had died down and the air was warmer, but man-o-man that felt like a million kilometers by the time we got back! I’d say it was about maybe 2.5 or 3 km longer than we would have preferred but by the time you’re halfway, you’ve got no choice but to continue on. After all, Velvet the MINI Cooper can’t come and find you by herself! We made it though with no bad after-effects except that I had to take an Advil to sleep last night with my hip hurting. I have a bit of arthritis in it and it lets me know when I’ve overdone it. Today it’s fine.

Have to tell the funniest thing we saw on the way home. A family with a cute little girl holding a pig-shaped balloon and smiling hugely! Nobody could help smiling back, she was so adorable. After all, it was Lunar New Year yesterday and it’s now the auspicious Year of the Pig. Happy New Year! Gung Hei Fat Choi! (Which actually translates from the Cantonese to "Congratulations and be prosperous".) Everybody has been saying that around here, even we Round Eyes. After all, who can resist another holiday to celebrate, eh? Oink!

Friday, February 16, 2007

Starts & Finishes

Thought you might like to see what the MIL Birthday Socks (aka Nana-socks) look like next to the Ninja’s Birthday Socks (which he still doesn’t have because I haven’t seen him since I finished them).

Notice the Nana-socks are half the size of the Ninja-socks. I should make her twice as many pairs to compensate, now shouldn’t I? The photo was taken before I washed and blocked the Nana-socks and they are now drying, so the FO write-up will happen later.

Of course I’ve already started another project, one that I mentioned in passing before but wasn’t going to start yet. This is the last of the three fuzzy Sister-shawls and I’m definitely liking the colours on this one. Very spring-like. I’ll be finished probably today or tomorrow so I’ll show it off when it’s done. It’s a quick knit for sure — big needles and doubled yarns. Then the next question: shall I mail it or should I wait until she comes down for my daughter’s wedding in April? Maybe I’ll email her and ask her what she prefers. Without giving it all away of course.

As soon as the shawl is done I want to start another TV/bus/meeting/reading plain pair of socks. My 16-year-old niece is next on the Sock List I think, unless T-Man complains that he doesn’t have enough yet. Stop! I just remembered the Regia 6-ply socks. Guess I’ll finish them first. In fact I have several other projects waiting to be finished. Guess I should go check the stack of project boxes. Have I mentioned that each of my projects, both started and ones that have materials and pattern or idea ready to go are stored in a stack of boxes? They’re the ones that the organic baby salad greens come in. The labels come off easily if you pour hot water on the other side of the plastic and slowly peel them off. leaving lovely clear plastic. There are two sizes: about 5.5” X 7” and 6” X 10.5” and they stack nicely. We mostly have the smaller ones because it’s hard for 2 people to eat all of a big one before it goes off and anyway I can’t always find the big ones available. They won’t last forever, being relatively flimsy, but they work fine for now. Better than throwing them in the trash. Only the bottoms are recyclable here (1-PETE); the lids have no number on them so they aren’t acceptable except as landfill.

I’m still feeling under the weather. Don’t know what the bug is or why the migraine must accompany it but I wish it would blow away! Not eating isn’t a great way to lose weight though I’ve already lost a pound or two which I will quickly regain the minute I’m feeling better. I’m trying to eat small meals often but it’s hard when I’m not hungry and don’t feel like cooking at all. Very unlike my normal self! Meanwhile I’m living on constant cups of weak tea. Oh wait — that’s normal. Come to think of it, I need a fresh pot.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Almost Floating

It’s been raining so hard around here that we’re almost floating. It slowed down a wee bit today but it’s dark enough to need lights on all over the house. I’ve been feeling poorly for the last two days with a tummy bug of some sort. Today it’s a bit better but I’ve got a migraine as well. Yuck. Not recommended on a weavers’ guild meeting night, but I’m going anyway. I have rides both ways so I won’t drown.

Apart from stomach cramps, I had a lovely Valentine surprise from T-Man yesterday. He bought me some yummy dark chocolate truffles. Unfortunately there was some kind of mix-up and instead of getting the mint and Amaretto ones he wanted, they are Bailey’s and some kind of orange liqueur. Perhaps they got switched with someone else’s order when they were being gift wrapped? I’m sure it was insane in the chocolate shop when he bought them the day before Valentine’s Day. As coffee is not one of my favourite flavours I’m a bit disappointed, but I intend to share them with him anyway and he definitely likes coffee. The chocolate is super yummy so even the Bailey’s ones don’t taste that bad! Of course I ate one. You didn’t think a mere tummy ache would keep me from chocolate, did you?

So what’s happening in Damselfly’s pond? The stacks of disks mentioned in the last post are still all over the floor but the piles are neater. Sorta. I found out the Zip drive is SCSI so you probably don’t want it anyway, especially if you don’t have a SCSI card (which I do anyhow for my ancient but still serviceable scanner). Can you say "sssslllllooooowwww"?

In crafty news, the MIL Birthday Socks are almost done. One toe’s decreases to go and then the grafting and blocking. They’ll be ready for T-Man’s weekly visit with his mom next Tuesday. There are obviously lots of other things in the queue so I’m not sure what’s going on the sock needles next. Gotta have my TV/bus/meeting knitting. Oops, that reminds me. I’d better figure it out asap so I have something to knit on this evening.

A headache didn’t stop me from making one of those nifty row-counter bracelets to keep track of my knitting. Using the basic instructions here, I raided the bead stash for components. Some of the things that I thought would work near the ends needed rejecting when I found out how thick the black SoftFlex bead wire was when doubled. Four times through demanded a large hole. It just barely fit in the #2 sterling silver crimp beads as it was. I got to use my agate teddy bear that has been in the stash for years, some of my round stone (jasper?) beads and some stone-like (but glass, painted?) cubes. And some silver-coloured (but not sterling beads) plus a little dragonfly to keep teddy company. I also decided that this project was worthy of the nifty ss clasp I got at Shipwreck last time I was there. One end has a ball that goes in the cage on the other side and then the bail clamps down over it. It’s easy to do up with one hand — always a consideration with a bracelet. I did have one bit of trouble with the stopper bead circle. It uses stretchy cord so the beads will pop through it. Thinking that 5 beads wasn’t big enough around, I did it with 6. Unfortunately, the cube beads slipped right through it too easily so I had to cut it apart and do it again with 5 beads. I wasted a ss crimp tube too which aren’t exactly a dime-a-dozen. At least it works properly now. Took me about an hour to make, but that includes screw-ups. (Migraine, ok?) My modification was in step 7 where she says to put the third crimp bead 5.5” from the second one. I put it only 4.75” along both for my small wrists and also because my ending beads plus clasp came out longer. I also wrapped the stretchy cord and extra twice around the circle for security. It’s not necessary to use such expensive components as I did but I had ’em so I used ’em. You could quickly make many of these assembly-line-fashion for all your knitting buddies. Make matching stitch markers for a really useful but pretty gift. My bracelet just happens to match my favourite stitch markers without conscious planning on my part.

To use the bracelet, it’s kind of like an abacus. For each count you slide a small bead through the stopper toward the charm/big bead/fancy end. They go up to 9 and when you get to 10, you slide the small beads back and bring up a large bead. This counter goes to 100 (all beads back) which should be enough for most things. In the photo, it’s set for row 1.

Yes, I know the teddy looks like he’s wearing earmuffs. Unfortunately the crimp beads were small enough that the teddy slid over them without those beads there. They also had to have large-enough holes to accommodate the 4 thicknesses of wire. Maybe they’re earphones and he’s listening to some great music? Here’s a close-up of the cool clasp:

Now I have to knit something bracelet-worthy. And the sun is coming out! If I could get rid of the headache/stomachache thing, life would be perfect. Almost.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

So I've Been Busy

If you’ve been wondering where the heck I’ve been for the last few days, I’ve been otherwise occupied. Saturday was Spectrum day so we made felt. We started with a puff of our dyed merino wool and wrapped it in more wool to make a ball. This got dipped in hot soapy water and then gently rolled either on bubble wrap or between our hands, working harder as the ball felted more until we had felt beads of varying sizes. I decided to make oblong beads by wrapping the wool around a skewer, popping it off and then felting as for the round beads. I didn’t like the pointy ends so I chopped them off with my scissors and felted it some more. When my hands got tired of that motion I made a wool “sandwich” on my bubble wrap, covered it in a layer of veiling and rubbed it until it started to stick together. Then I rolled the whole package around a piece of pipe insulation (the grey foam stuff) and secured with rubber bands. This was easier to roll back and forth with my forearms and gave my hands a rest. I got a small square of thin felt from which I cut leaf shapes and further felted them by rubbing on my bubble wrap. The pieces I’ve made will be the components in a necklace that we’ll work on next month. Sorry I don’t have any photos yet. I did bring my camera but my hands were too soapy to touch it!

Sunday T-Man and I went for the usual long walk. It was sprinkling rain but that didn’t deter us. We looked at portable hard drives (T-Man’s idea!) and found one on sale for $70 off. That with a $15 card brought the price down to $120 including taxes which isn’t bad for 250 GB. It’s not made by any company we’ve heard of but it works great and includes the back-up software which is very easy to use. It took 5.5 hours to copy the contents of my C drive over but now I feel much safer.

Of course, getting anything new for the computer means re-evaluating and reorganizing everything. Yes, I’m compulsive that way. I’ve decided to phase out my Zip drive since I don’t use it and it’s much too small capacity and too slow. Getting rid of it means more room on my desk and 2 electrical plugs free because the power supply blocks an extra one. Anybody want over 40 Zip100 disks with or without plastic cases? You can have ’em for postage. Come to think of it, you can even have the Zip drive if you want. No driver disks but if you have WinXP it should run ok with Plug and Play and drivers are available on the Iomega website if you need ’em. They want US$80 for the drive and US$90 for a 10-pack of disks!

So of course now I’m going through and sorting all our photos and taking them off the Zip disks we used to transfer them between our computers. Big Job! I’m also backing up to CD a bunch of small program files that I’ve got. Some used to come on floppy disks but I don’t have a floppy drive any more and some are purchased or free downloads that I’ve collected. These include DB-Bead for tubular bead crochet, PCW for weaving design, Turnstyler and Guntram’s Tabletweaving Thingy for tablet weaving design, Braid Runner and Cybraid for kumihimo design and GraphPaper for every different kind of graph paper you can imagine and then some. Some of these programs are no longer available so I can’t include a link and poor old Braid Runner has to run in Win98 mode. Plus I’ve just discovered there are some pretty good free online graph paper generators like this one. Most of my design programs are highly specific and not much use if you aren’t interested in that particular craft.

In FO news, I completed all 8 of my Knitted Beaded Wire Necklaces for the Complex Weavers swap. It wasn’t that bad as long as I was careful not to overdo it. I did it in assembly-line style: I crocheted all the cords first, then threaded all the beads onto the wire with a bright distinguishing bead between the repeats (so I’d know where to stop) and lastly I knit the wire and completed each necklace. Now I have to finish my write-up to accompany them.

I’m almost to the toes on my MIL’s Birthday Socks. I haven’t had much time to knit but this part is smooth sailing. As long as I don’t trip over the stacks of disks, whether zippy or floppy or cd/dvd-ish, that I left all over the floor.

Friday, February 09, 2007


My wish for shorter dpns has finally been granted by Clover! After I broke that Clover Takumi needle a few weeks ago, I thought I had fixed it ok but it split again, darn it. T-Man says he’s going to glue it and it disappeared into the basement wood studio never to be seen again by mortals. So I used this as an excuse (heh!) to buy another 2 sets of my favourite 2 mm size bamboos. However this time I found the new little 5” ones and they actually had 2 sets in the store! These will be wonderful for smaller socks (like mine) and especially for glove fingers. If you’ve ever tried to knit dinky little glove fingers with 7” needles you will appreciate that shorter is better. Unfortunately the 4” ones that I’ve seen for this purpose are really too short for anything else and so don’t justify their expense, at least to me. The 5” ones are a good compromise length. I’m knitting the MIL’s birthday socks off onto them right now and there’s no danger of the stitches falling off the ends. I held them up to my Brittanys and they were only a smidge longer. I already broke several of the wood 2 mm and 2.25 mm Brittany needles so I wasn’t very happy with them, at least in the smallest sizes that I use. Bamboo is much more durable. As long as you don’t pinch it in a metal box lid, that is! The points were starting to give out on my old double set of Clover Takumis anyway. I’ll still use them though at least until they really get bad. Then we’ll see how long I can go without buying yet another set of 7” bamboo needles. Does the old one look slightly used to you?

Note to Clover: You don’t need to press the size etc. into the needle so hard! It becomes a rough spot that catches and a potential weak spot in the needle. The sizes on the Addi Naturas are much less punched-in and you can still read them but not feel them so much. Other than that, these 5-inchers are perfect. Wonder how long they’ll take to develop the usual curve?

Now that I’ve got the needles and the yarn (some 3-ply spindle-spun Corriedale that started out to be socks and then got frogged and dye-painted), I’ve found the pattern. It’s Marnie MacLean’s Lake Park Gloves and she has written up a wonderful comprehensive pattern. Again. I loved her Hooray for Me fingerless gloves and get compliments whenever I wear them. The Lake Parks are also like the HFM’s in that they are fingerless. But I need gloves with fingers in them so I’ll just knit that last little bit at the top of the fingers. Once you are that close to the tips it’s just a bit more work to finish them off particularly when fingers are as short as mine are. This project is currently on hold for awhile though until I’ve finished a few more pressing items. I’ll probably end up knitting them in July or something when I actually need them Right Now!

While I was at my LYS yesterday I also got some more yarn for yet another one of my Sister Shawls. I mean, I can’t make a shawl for 2 of my sisters and forget the third one, who’s birthday was last Sunday. Of course my baby sis still doesn’t have her shawl yet even though it’s finished because nobody has gone to Mexico recently and she hasn’t come up. Maybe this summer when of course she won’t actually need her shawl. (I see a theme!) I can’t mail it to her. Mail doesn’t seem to get to its destination when it comes from “America” — which includes Canada. I mean, there might be something good in the envelope/package that a poor Mexican could use much better than the gringo it was meant for. So we wait for whoever is coming or going next to bring or take whatever needs to get passed on and do it in person. Meanwhile, the original sister in question (yes, I might have too many sisters to keep track of easily, ok?) the one with the recent birthday (as opposed to the other two who were born in December along with our brother) is shawlless and it only occurred to me yesterday in the yarn shop. So I got a couple of the usual yarns in colours that hopefully go together. Don’t have time to knit it right now even though it only takes about a day and a half. Then I have the option of mailing it (she lives in Haida Gwaii, aka Queen Charlotte Islands where mail does actually get to its recipient, most of the time) or waiting until she and her family come for my daughter’s wedding in April. That takes the pressure off the deadline, which may or may not be a good thing. Deadlines get things finished.

I also bought some more wool for my upcoming Dye Day. I do have trouble controlling myself in that store once I start purchasing! I looked at the ball winder, which I desperately need since my old one is self-destructing, but I didn’t buy it then. I bought it today instead! I’ve been debating on this awhile — all because of a flimsy plastic handle. My old one (made by Brother which no longer exists although Lacis shows one suspiciously identical on their website) has a metal handle but I gave my daughter one of the new ones (ubiquitous, made by Royal) and she managed to break it. Do note however that it might have helped if it wasn’t on the floor and she hadn’t stepped on it. Just could be that was a contributing factor? Anyhow, now that I’ve got it home and compared the two side-by-side, I notice some things that I actually like better on the new one: a larger ball capacity and a better clamp. Now as long as I can avoid breaking the handle, we’ll be set for another 30 years. Sure.

In my own defense, I just had go back to the store today anyway because I managed to forget The One Thing I really went there for yesterday, felting needles. And I need them for tomorrow’s Spectrum meeting where we’ll be felting for jewelry. Oughta be fun, hey?

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Wire We Here

I’m a member of Complex Weavers and even though I haven’t actually woven much of anything for a number of years, I haven’t given up my membership. I currently belong to 2 study groups within CW: Kumihimo on the Marudai and Beads & Interlacements. Both of these groups have 2 swaps per year, though one of the B&I swaps is “virtual”. This keeps me making at least 2 braids and a couple of bead projects each year with a deadline. Deadlines are good. They make me finish stuff, at least most of the time. The B&I swap with real samples is due in Virginia, USA March 1 and since there is no real theme this time, I thought I’d play with wire. I recently got Annie Modesitt’s book Twist and Loop but nothing in there looked simple enough to make 9 of them. While I was recently magazine-trolling for lace patterns, I also found a couple of wire knit patterns also by Annie in the Summer 2003 issue of Interweave Knits. Then the experimenting began.

First off, the patterns all called for 26 gauge Artistic wire. I have 30g, 28g, 24g, 22g, but no 26g. I did have some 26g in Rock Haus wire but only in a very dark purple that pretty much looks black. OK, this will be experimental at best. So I picked the hardest pattern with little scallops. It also called for 2 colours of wire but the only one that went with the purple was a 24g copper. Can’t be that much different, hey? And ribbon yarn. I have balls of Copper Penny left from my Little Squares sweater. Needles size 5 mm. There’s a couple of vintage aluminums from a broken set of dpns. Seed beads size 6°. Some gold-washed amethyst transparents kind of work with the theme. Pricey but I only need a few. Good to go.

Luckily I was smart enough not to try knitting the whole necklace pattern which starts with 97 stitches! I cut it down to 3 repeats, which still was enough to just about kill my hands! Ever tried working a k3tog with wire? How about ripping back several stitches because you made a mistake? Easier in anything you can think of, even the most clingy mohair, than in wire! The 24g? MUCH harder to knit with than 26g, especially when you have to wind it in two wraps around the piece of knitting every few stitches and then knit the wraps together with the next stitch. Binding off with both wire and ribbon yarn? A piece o’cake NOT. What was Annie thinking? What was I thinking to try this pattern? You were supposed to chain the ends of the ribbon but I hadn’t left myself enough so I just left it as ribbon. One more or even better, one LESS repeat would have looked more balanced. And the colours I chose aren’t really all that great together. See?

There is no earthly way I’m making 8 more of these! Not even the full size model. Though the wire fabric is interesting and surprisingly stiff. Back to the drawing board. Pick an easier pattern and better colours. I love the brown Artistic wire but only have it in 28g. Fine. Might be easier on the hands. Blue is the colour I’ve been wearing with brown lately so the beads are 8° blue silver-lined (didn’t have blue 6’s) and 6°bronze silver-lined, both Czech seed beads from Shipwreck. The yarn is Noro’s Daria Multi, a rayon-wrapped cotton cord that I bought at Diva Yarns in Port Townsend, WA on our vacation. Very pricey for only a few meters! But this is the perfect use for it. The Delicate Necklace pattern only has 2 rows, one of long-tail cast-on with beads and one plain knit. Then you don’t bind off with the yarn but thread it through the last row of knit stitches. Much easier and I could crochet the whole neck cord first before drawing it through the wire. After slightly stretching and shaping the knitting, it’s is held in place on the cord by wrapping the tails on each end. You “block” wire knitting with your hands since the regular method obviously wouldn’t work. I skipped the clasp instructions and opted for simply tying it on. This piece was much more successful colour-wise:

And it’s not that difficult to do more copies. I can kind of “mass-produce” the parts and then assemble. And this post will pretty much suffice for the write-up I’ve got to supply with the pieces. As long as my body holds out, I should be able to finish the swap with time to spare. Whew!

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Is It Just Me...

Or do holier-than-thou folks get up your nose hairs too? I’m specifically talking (this time) about vegans. Puleeze — not even wearing wool? It’s not like shearing is any more traumatic for the sheep than having your hair cut. And yes, I’ve been present at a number of sheep shearings. Significantly less traumatic than trimming a three-year-old child’s hair! (Ask me how I know.) I mistakenly thought that vegans were such because they valued animals and their feelings and championed more humane treatment, but obviously I’ve got it wrong. They don’t think that domestic animals have any reason to exist! Don’t they know there are many animals with a long history of close human ties who would not be able to survive without their human caretakers/companions. Most modern sheep for instance. Does that mean they should not live at all? Just chuck them out in the cold and let them fend for themselves, hey? I have so many arguments against this, I can’t even begin! I would ask for the reasoning for this idea from one of those who profess to be vegan but I won’t for fear I’d just become incoherent. I’m not very patient with narrow points of view. (Must be a reaction to my Catholic school upbringing.) And if you actually know any vegans, do let me know if they have a pet or shave or eat gummi bears or secretly wear silk undies. (I used to know a professed vegetarian who thought that chicken broth from a powdered mix was ok because there “was no meat in it”.) Just how far do you take this kind of thinking anyway? And FYI, plants have feelings too. Why not give them a break as well? But then what can you ethically eat? Hmmmm…

Whew! Rant over. I hope. Don’t ask me what started it or I’d have to tell you. So let ’em wear plastic. More wool and silk and alpaca and qiviut and other yummy un-vegan things for me. And we won’t even mention what I had for dinner. It was good.

I must be cranky because it’s so darn dark and rainy around here. Warm-ish too so I guess I shouldn’t complain. There are flowers starting to show including snowdrops, witch hazel and other of the earliest bloomers. Spring is coming. Eventually.

After looking through all those magazines last week, I’ve got some opinions on what styles might look all right on me and what doesn’t. (OK, I always have opinions. I’m a Scorpio. I can’t help it.) I’ve always been short and pear-shaped with small sloping shoulders, medium-small bust, wider hips and a definite tummy. I have a small frame with short extremities and the upholstery all in the centre third. Now that I’m past middle age, it’s even more so. This makes it hard to wear surplice or wrapped styles (they gap between tummy and boobs), wide dolman or dropped sleeves (they bunch up under my arms), raglan sleeves (they make my shoulders look even smaller), low necklines (you don’t want to see), skirts (they ride up in front over my tummy), or empire lines (they make me look pregnant). Too tight is not good nor is too loose. Not too overly trendy or “young” not because I care what others think but because they’re usually not practical enough for my lifestyle.

What’s left? Styles that skim the body, have a proper shoulder slope, and not add bulk in the middle. I love jackets, cardigans and button or zip-front vests. I like the length to stop just past my waist (what there is of it) or go down past my behind, not stop in mid-butt. I like the shoulders to fit to my back width and necklines to come to the right spot. Many styles right now have long elegant bell cuffs but though they look great, they would drive me nuts. I routinely shorten sleeves by as much as 3 inches because my arms are short and three-quarter length sleeves are great because I don’t have to adjust them. I tend to wear stretchy pants or sweats (never jeans) and instead of skirts I prefer jumpers or dresses, though I wear them rarely even for dress-up occasions. There aren’t many dress-up occasions in my life anyway. I also love accessories: wristwarmers, gloves (not mitts), hats (wild!), scarves (long and narrow), and small triangular shawls.

All these likes and concerns tend to somewhat limit my choices if I was stuck with the patterns that are available. Luckily I have a long familiarity with dressmaking and pattern drafting so I can make garments that (mostly!) work for me. The problem is that fashions keep changing and don’t always coincide with my taste. I guess the advantage of being a “granny” is that I’m becoming more invisible so nobody expects me to look fashionable! Both a blessing and a curse, I’d say. Somebody should give fashion designers the heads-up that we baby-boomers are a large force with money and taste and would like something that suits us better than styles made for tall skinny 20-somethings. Oops. Ranting again. It’s just that kind of day. Back to knitting socks.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Quick-O Change-O

As I mentioned yesterday, I was knitting away on the next pair of socks when I decided that they weren’t what I wanted for my MIL’s birthday socks. I’ve got about 1/4 finished (both cuffs and partway down the legs) and I’ll probably finish them off later for myself. I found the combination of 6-ply yarn, metal needles and tight knitting are kind of hard on my hands. Plus these things are ugly and may need an overdye to be palatable. The yarn looked attractive in the ball but knitted up — not so much. Something hand-dyed would be better so yesterday I followed through on winding off 2 balls of natural white Sisu yarn into skeins and dyed them with some of the leftover Lanaset/Telana dyes that are still sitting down in my dye studio waiting to be used up. I got a lovely mid-violet with subtle rosy dashes. It’s a bit darker than I expected even though I didn’t soak the skeins in the dye but just squeezed them through purple, popped them into a casserole dish, sprinkled a little red and bright violet over top, flipped them over and repeated the red and violet sprinkles and then nuked the covered dish for 2 five-minute intervals. The water was totally clear so all the dye got into the fibre. After rinsing and spinning in the washing machine and hanging to dry overnight, I’ve wound them back into balls and cast on. Here we go again. Sorry it’s not light enough today for an accurate photo.

I think I’m going through a purple phase right now. The socks I just finished are purple-blue; this pair is redder purple; my current spinning is purple too with orange and bronze highlights. I’m currently wearing a red-purple long-sleeved t-shirt with a purple cotton cardigan over it. Hmmm…I see a theme. Maybe it’s the foggy weather? I’ve been listening to the ships in the harbour complaining about it.

Speaking of spinning, I finally took Tori out of her backpack and took a look. Almost 2 weeks ago I took her to my spinning class and when I got in my ride’s car afterward I dropped my pack out onto the curb. I’ve been afraid to look ever since. I guess Louet should have thought about putting at least a little padding in the pack because now poor Tori has a deep ding in the top of her upright. There is nothing between this part and the hard cement except a single layer of nylon fabric. Ouchie. I feel kind of like when you buy a new car and get the first dent or scratch on it. Life’s not perfect. I’ll get over it. Tori will get a little wood filler.

Further thoughts on file storage: In a comment from Silk (yes, I remember who you are!) she suggests a Zip drive to solve my backup problems. Well hon’, that used to work in the Old Days. I’ve had a 100 mb Zippy (that’s his name) for many years but now the disks don’t hold a fraction of what I need them to hold! Plus they are slowwwwwww and I only have just so many of the zip disks. They used to be around $13 EACH! Can you even get them anymore? A re-writable DVD which costs about a buck and a half holds 47 times as much and it takes 4 or 5 of them just to back up my critical stuff. You do the math. Guess I collect files like I collect books and magazines — too many! That’s why I want a portable hard drive that can be a complete copy of my computer’s hard drive, just in case. It’s really cheap insurance if you think about it.

Just for fun:

What Kind of Reader Are You?
Your Result: Dedicated Reader

You are always trying to find the time to get back to your book. You are convinced that the world would be a much better place if only everyone read more.

Obsessive-Compulsive Bookworm
Literate Good Citizen
Book Snob
Fad Reader
What Kind of Reader Are You?
Create Your Own Quiz

Why am I not surprised at this result? (Though they really should have included reading email and blogs in there!) What’s yours?

Monday, February 05, 2007

New Socks

Here’s my third pair of socks for 2007 finished! Hope the colours are somewhat close to what they really look like. It’s been raining here for several days.

The Ninja's New Socks

Begun: Dyeing – January 14, 2006. Knitting – January 17, 2006
Completed: February 4, 2oo6

Yarn: Sandnesgarn Sisu, 80% wool/20% nylon, 160 meters = 50 g, colour 1042 dark grey, dyed blues/purples. 2+ balls.
Needles: Clover Takumi bamboo dpns, 2 mm
Gauge: 9 sts = 1”

Details: My classic plain top-down, flap-heel socks on 72 sts. 9 inches total before heel flap, foot 8.5 inches before toe decreases. Honking huge!

Next sock project is another pair for my mother-in-law. She liked the last pair I made her so much and it’s her birthday next Sunday. No, of course they won’t be done in time! I started a pair using my last 2 balls of Regia 6-ply which is what I used for her first pair. But I’m Not Liking these for her. I was just too lazy to dye some white Sizu. So these may be moth-balled until I have time to finish them for me or someone else who has smaller feet. Or until I need my aluminum 2.25 mm sock needles. Heading down to the dye studio shortly — right after I wind this yarn into skeins.

I still miraculously have ink in my printer cartridges, though the colour one is running out of yellow so it only works in streaks. I’ve been using it anyway for printing out the lace patterns I scanned from my knitting magazines so I can combine them in a book. Must be old-fashioned because I don’t like just having an electronic copy. I think I’ve lost all my files once too often over the years (through theft and hardware failure). And yes, I do back up! However it’s getting to the point where I need a portable hard drive to do it properly. I have way too many files. I want to have one system where I copy everything over and move the copy far away from my computer. At least the price of USB-connecting hard drives are down to a reasonable price. I need at least 200 GB and they’re around $150 or so. Believe me, if you lose all your important files, you would be willing to pay a lot more than that to have it back again!

As I was saying before I got technical on myself — I have all these papers kicking around my study in little heaps and piles. If I’m going to ever get around to vacuuming the dust dinosaurs up before they attack my legs and eat my cats, I need to file all the paper away. But first I have to print out a few more things. I really need to change the printer cartridges. Can I print and wind skeins at the same time?

Friday, February 02, 2007

A Few Technical Difficulties

That’s what I had yesterday here at Damselfly’s pond. I had some trouble with the Blogger interface and it ended up getting repeat-posted 3 times. Then I got a spam comment. That’s a first in almost 2 years! My comments are not moderated nor do I even use those stupid “type-the-letters/numbers” things that foil the more automated types of spammers. I can however delete any comment or post that I please, so that’s what I did. This is my blog and I can do what I want to! I am in control. Sorta.

So right around now (Feb 1 or 2 depending on who’s talking) it’s Groundhog Day, Imbolc, Candlemas, and St. Brigid’s (actually the Celtic goddess Bride in Christian disguise). Halfway between winter solstice and spring equinox and the full moon tonight as well. A pretty special time of the year even though we don’t get any stat holidays. Here in Canada Wiarton Willie didn’t see his shadow because it was snowing in his part of Ontario. I just found out that there are other groundhog predictors in Canada: Nova Scotia's Shubenacadie Sam, Balzac Billy in Alberta, and Manitoba Merv, north of Winnipeg. I don’t know about the western ones but Sam and Punxsutawney Phil didn’t see their shadows either so spring is definitely coming. Good thing there isn’t a groundhog here in Vancouver — he would have seen glorious frosty sunshine and we’d be in for more winter!

Further to all the magazine page-flipping I’ve been doing lately, here’s some clarification of the copyright issues with a Canadian slant from The Girl From Auntie. It makes it all pretty simple to understand. I guess I’m not being exactly legal if I copy pages from magazines that I own and keep the copies for my own reference. However, I’m not ripping anyone off either so I’m going to continue to do it. It may or may not come under “fair use” depending on your definition. I consider them “working copies” and, although they suggest you should destroy your working copies after you’ve finished using them, I’m just not finished yet. I prefer to keep my working copies for further reference. I doubt my fairly innocent little transgressions will bother anyone at all. If it does, I've certainly blabbed it now! BTW, The Girl From Auntie aka Jenna Wilson is also the designer of such gems as the Shedir Cap and Lasagna Scarf as well as the famous Rogue sweater and the incredibly elegant Eris Cardigan.

I’ve also discovered another online knitting/fibre crafts magazine called the Black Purl Magazine edited by L’Tanya Durante. It seems to have been around for awhile but there is no access to back issues yet, though that is promised in future as the site is redeveloped. However the patterns are available, as are back issues of the newsletter Essentia, which is actually a big tease since the links to older articles don’t work. Hopefully this will be fixed eventually. The current Winter 2007 issue has a reprint of an interview with Carol Ventura, tapestry crochet artist, and a pattern for beaded wrist warmers by the familiar Donna Druchunas. In the pattern archives there’s a nice scarf called Plain Vanilla, among other goodies. Go look and hope that the revisions to the site get done soon. You don’t have to be a crafter of colour to enjoy this magazine. Now I’m off to read her blog.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

More Magazines

Well, if you’ve been reading along you might know that I’ve been amusing myself with going through my magazines for lace patterns. At least that was the idea though I keep getting sidetracked. I’m halfway through my complete collection of Interweave Knits and I’ve found a few interesting things.

Interweave Knits has obviously not been around as long as Knitter’s and it definitely didn’t go through as many formatting changes. Even with ever-changing editors it keeps a pretty familiar style and content through the years. There are more sweaters and accessories in here that I would make and wear, but maybe that’s just my taste. Luckily we’re not all the same, hey? I do think there’s a better mix of technique vs. pattern vs. story in IK. Since I rarely use a pattern as is and I have an insatiable desire to know how to do things (rather than being one of EZ’s “blind followers”), I crave more than just pretty pictures and the same styles. What is not enough. I want to know when and why as well as how. I even want to know who is doing it.

Interestingly there isn’t as much in the way of lace scarves, stoles and shawls so far as I thought there might be. I did find the pattern by Sarah Swett called the Fairy Tale Scarf (Spring 2000) that I made a number of years ago in lace weight 2-ply handspun very dark brown (considered black) llama. I love the scarf but it refuses to block out and stay blocked! It sort of collapses when I wear it. Must be the limpness of the llama fibre or there’s too much twist in the yarn making it less cooperative. Something. It’s purty though a wee bit tickly from the bit of guard hair in the fibre. Luckily I'm not particularly sensitive to not-quite-as-soft-as-you-might-think yarn. This stuff is nice as any adult alpaca I’ve seen but cheaper and I got it from these guys. Yes I know it looks like a fly-tying supplier. Honest, they used to have lots of nicely processed llama fibre but they’ve retired to the Sunshine Coast (for the fishing of course) and are selling their animals. Wonder how much Angelina (Flash) comes in a package? And if the Jelly Cords are the same as the S’Getti String that I use for drive band material? And is that beads? Fly-tying stuff looks rather familiar even if it comes in super-teensy packages. Who knew?

In other news, I registered for the ANWG conference Wild Fibres this morning on the first day of registration online. It will be held at Red Deer College (Alberta) in June. I haven’t gone to one of these in quite awhile so I thought it would be fun to combine a camping holiday with the conference in the middle. It’s always nice when it’s in Canada and I don’t have to cross the border with my purchases. Of course I go to buy stuff! The seminars and fashion show and exhibits are fun but it’s the vendor floor I love best. As well as chatting with old friends and acquaintances and seeing what's new and interesting. I’ve been around too long for there to be much that excites me in the seminars so I had a difficult time choosing what I wanted. And the ones I did want all conflicted time-wise. Sigh. If I get bored, I’ll just skip out and go shopping. Heh. Next problem is to find camping close enough to the college for comfort. The only one I know of is a glorified parking lot without any shrubbery between sites about 2 miles away. However, it’s a lot closer than the nearest provincial park with campsites which is about 20 minutes away. Slightly cheaper too. Since there’s 2 of us, the camping cost is about half what it would be in the college residence and I do prefer to sleep in my own (van) bed. Decisions, decisions.

BTW, the Imbolc issue of The Anticraft is up (button in my sidebar). This is a small but intense issue. Don’t go there if you have an extra-sensitive nature! Of course, if you know anything about The Anticraft you knew that already. However if you’re cold it’ll warm your cheeks (all of them) instantly. Don't say I didn't warn you!