Thursday, May 31, 2007

Material Madness

So I got bored of recalcitrant knitting and started hauling out fabrics from boxes and drawers today. Whoa! What a job! This is only a small portion of what I have lurking around here:

That’s mostly the best stuff too, with pieces large enough to actually make something wearable. I amused myself for awhile by measuring each piece and noting down what there was on a post-it that went on the folded fabric and also on a list that may eventually become an Excel sheet. At least that’s the plan. Unfortunately I get distracted all too easily and I ended up hunting through issues of Burda magazine for a blouse pattern I’d seen that was just begging to be made out of something in the pile.

Speaking of patterns, I haven’t been buying any regular patterns from the major brands lately. Have you seen how major boring they are? How many versions of a t-shirt or plain skirt or wrap-front blouse does one need? Not everybody is a beginner at sewing! Where are the more complex garments with interesting shaping and stitch details? Apart from a few super-expensive Vogue Designer patterns, there isn’t much out there. On the other hand, I probably don’t need any new patterns since I have a ton of them already. I have my favourites that I use over and over and some basics that I can use to create new designs. But right now I need to fit me a closer-fitting blouse with darts or princess seams. I don’t have anything like that in my collection except for in the Burda magazines. Of course by the time I get around to it, the styles will be back to loose-fitting again! Besides there’s only just so much close-fitting this old body can stand. How about semi-close?

So have you ever sewn something using Burda magazine? It’s not for the faint-of-heart that’s for sure! For instance, here’s one of the pattern sheets:

Visual spaghetti! You have to look up your pattern in the centre newsprint pages of the magazine, check to see which pattern sheet it’s on and in which colour, and then trace off your size onto tissue. There are no seam allowances included so you have to add those, along with any important markings. Sometimes things like buttonholes are only given for the smallest size and you have to redraw them for your size. And occasionally there are a few rectangular-shaped pieces that are only given by measurements and no pattern to trace. The sewing instructions are cryptic at best so it pays to have quite a bit of experience in how to assemble garment pieces. All that said though, it’s a bargain at $11.50 CDN (up from $8.90 a year ago) for dozens of patterns. Even if you only sew one or two garments from each they are still quite reasonable. And the advantage is the cutting-edge European style that you don’t get in North America. I’m currently tracing out a blouse from an issue from last summer and it looks very now to me. I even found a few things I’d still make from 10 years ago. But then I’m currently wearing a jumper that I made sometime in the ‘80’s so what do I know?

Back to what actually got me started on this odyssey is the fact that I desire a pair of those cropped pants everyone is wearing right now. (Are they capris or are those the even-shorter ones?) I tried on a pair in a clothing store in some crinkly nylon/cotton fabric with elastic drawstrings and nifty plastic stoppers everywhere but they didn’t fit me properly. The crotch depth was too short and I was so disappointed. So I used my favourite elastic-waist pants and drafted a shorter, narrower leg. I’ve got a few ideas on design details, but I can’t decide whether I want funky cargo pockets or more normal ones. Maybe I need to make more than one pair, eh? I found a couple of fabrics that might work but the one I really wanted is just a few inches too shortttttttt…oh wait! I just had an eureka moment! If I put facings on the cuffs I can get it to fit. Hah! Later. I’m off to try it out.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Ya Wins Some, Ya Loses Some

I’ve been having one of those days today. You know the one where you try to run a bunch of errands and some of them work out and some of them don’t. And then you forget something important like depositing a cheque in your account. It’ll have to wait for another time. I did get my hair cut, which was the original reason for going out today. My scalp is healed enough now that even my hairdresser’s sharp comb didn’t hurt. At least the weather is spectacular for the second-last day of May. Sunny and warm and everyone is in shorts and sandals.

One of the things that didn’t work out today:

Can you see the oops? Took me awhile to notice. I was knitting on these last night while watching TV. Shows you how much attention I was paying apart from turning the heels. It was glaringly obvious this morning but not until after I had both socks out together. I missed one of the pattern repeats! The short one is frogged back and I’m working on catching it up to the heel. Again.

I also tried to work for awhile on the Fern Lace Scarf. But it too has it in for me and after frogging and fixing several mistakes, I gave it up for the moment. It’s this long so far and giving me a hard time all the way:

While I was out I bought some more big Ziploc bags for the stash. The fabric stash this time. I’ve just started in on the next phase of my organization/purge/inventory and it ain’t pretty. When I get it all out I’ll show you. Hope you don’t have a weak stomach! Har-har.

Short post today since there’s too much to do and not enough time to do it in. But I’ll leave you with this composite photo from my front garden this morning.

Notice how my colourful poppies are blooming right within spitting distance of next door’s lumber pile? They might be somewhat flattened but they’re still gorgeous. Be thankful I spared you the outhouse shot. It was just behind me. Pardon me while I go close the window. The cigarette smoke is blowing right in and my throat is getting sore. Several months more of this building stuff, huh? Oh boy.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

I've Been Tagged!

By Michele for the 7 Random Things About Me meme. But now I can’t remember her blog’s name to link to her. Sorry about that. If you’re reading this, girl, remind this swiftly aging granny! Maybe I’m just tired after babysitting the grandkidlets yesterday. Whew!

Anyway here are the rules: "Each person tagged gives 7 random facts about themselves. Those tagged need to write in their blogs 7 facts, as well as the rules of the game. You need to tag 7 others and list their names on your blog. You have to leave those you plan on tagging a note in their comments so they know that they have been tagged and to read your blog."

I'm just posting the rules as writ even if I have no intention of actually following them. I'm such a rebel.

The random facts:

1. I love to eat fried beef liver but I try not to offend anyone else with my cravings. T-Man is not fond of it so I usually cook it for my lunch when he’s at work. With onions or without, doesn’t matter. Yum! I do not understand why others think that liking liver is weird. Yes, I know where it comes from.

2. I’ve never lived by myself. I went straight from my parents’ house to my first tiny apartment as a new bride. I’ve never lived in any other city either. I’ve only moved a few times in my life and I still live in the same neighbourhood that I grew up in. Last time we moved was over 28 years ago and there are no moving plans in our near future, even if our house is now worth something close to a million bucks.

3. I have a fascination for nature. Whenever I travel I like to know the names of the plants and wildlife that I come across and we even bring reference books with us in the old VW van for me to look them up. If I can’t find it there, I bring home pressed leaves, lichen samples, drawings and photos to research later. When I was a little girl it drove me nuts when people didn’t know what something was called when I asked. I wasn’t asking for the Latin name — even the common one would do.

4. The farthest away from home I’ve ever been is Ohio (for the HGA Convergence 2000 in Cincinnati, in case you were wondering). I didn’t know a lot of the plants there at all and none of the locals I asked knew much more. Unfortunately there wasn’t room in my luggage for any reference books. I saw my first fireflies and Japanese beetles but I didn’t see a cardinal. I was so disappointed! I mean, they named their baseball team the Cardinals so you’d think they would be a common sight, wouldn’t you? I only found stuffed ones, printed ones, ones on t-shirts, etc. None of those were the feathered kind. I wore out my red crayons colouring pictures of them as a child but we don't have cardinals in the west. Or fireflies or Japanese beetles (yet) either.

5. I’ve never had a cup of coffee and a cigarette in my life. I actually hate the smell as well as the taste of coffee and we won’t even talk about how I feel about cigarettes. Eeww, peww, pfht… However, I drink enough tea in a day to float a battleship as my late daddy would say. And in my callow youth I was known to occasionally smoke a substance that now I would rather spin instead. It was the ‘60’s after all. Haven’t touched it since though. Except for its fibrous relative of course.

6. Summer is not my favourite season. I don’t like to be too hot. Or too cold either for that matter but it’s easier to warm up than it is to cool down. I enjoy the sunshine but don’t like to be out in it unless it’s cool enough to need to wear a sweater. I especially hate when it’s warm at night because I can’t sleep well without the weight of a lot of heavy blankets on me. For that reason, early fall is my favourite time of year followed by late spring. Luckily I live where being too hot and sunny usually is not an issue. Too cold and rainy is much more common. All year around.

7. My most un-favourite colour is pink, followed closely by beige and tan. Not that I never use those colours, but I prefer them as accents in a complex colourway rather than alone. All the breast cancer charities in the world cannot convince me that pink is a colour to be desired. Magenta maybe. Fuchsia, peach, raspberry…OK. But baby, Barbie, Pepto-Bismal, cool, pale, wishy-washy pinks. Uh-uh. I’m SO not very girlie.

OK that’s it! It was hard to come up with stuff about me you likely haven't already read. Now do I tag others? I’m not good at that. And trying to find 7 people who haven’t already been tagged is nigh on impossible. If you haven’t done this one yet, go to it and say it’s my fault.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Old Or Older

Today we have a digression from craftiness. I was just wasting some time reading a discussion on one of the Yahoogroups that I belong to. The gist of it was an older fellow who objected to the acronyms that many people use in emails, such as LOL and NAYY. He wanted everything spelled out and he didn’t want to go look anything up or spend a few moments learning the more common ones. His excuse was that he was too old to be bothered. Ahem! One should never be too old to learn new things. If you are afraid of the new then you need to work on that because it will make you become old before you are really are. To stay young you need to stay flexible and in touch, expand your mind with new ideas, keep a sense of humour and fight inertia. You can’t help the passing of years but you don’t have to become a fossil.

On the other hand, skills like spelling and grammar truly are going downhill fast. In this era of texting each other on a cell phone with two fingers and a teeny set of buttons, you want to say as much as you can in as few letters as possible. I have to admit I don’t have a cell phone. But I do know how to touch-type properly thanks to my adopted mom’s passing on that one of her secretarial skills. (She however neglected to teach me the Pitman Shorthand that she always used to write her Christmas lists and anything else she didn’t want us to be able to read!) I never took typing in school because I was on the academic track and chose art or cooking classes when there was an elective available. I was always pretty good at spelling though spell-checking on the computer has made me lazy in that regard. As you might have guessed I really enjoy writing — but not with pencil and paper!

I consider keyboarding abilities really important these days. How many jobs are there now that don’t include some inputting into a computer? Not to mention leisure activities. My children both took typing in school and they are old enough for it to have been in the very early days of personal computers. My daughter can type so fast that I can’t imagine how she can even think that quickly. The keyboard is just an extension of her brain! Her skills began as a young teenager when she had typed conversations with 6 people at once on the old BBS systems (pre-Internet) and then were honed even more when she worked at a tele-answering service where she had to type messages in as fast as people spoke them. I’m a lot slower and not as accurate as I could be. But at least I can fix my errors on the fly. Not like the old days when I learned on a manual typewriter. Wite-Out was my friend.

I’m not the kind of person who fights innovation and invention. As a matter of fact, I’m counting on medicine to come up with a really good hip replacement for when mine gives out! And I love my hearing aids and my glasses with progressive lenses. I like that things are less formal now, people are more tolerant of differences and women have more options than when I was a child. What I don’t like though are the bad attitudes of a lot of people these days. Rudeness, inconsideration and self-entitlement do not make for a civil society. But I’m heading for a rant and I’ll stop there. My grandkids are coming over shortly and I get to babysit while their parents go see the new Spiderman movie. No fair! I haven’t seen it yet myself!

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Wooly Wash

Yes, I’m still at it! I changed my mind and decided to keep one fleece that I almost chucked out. It had been foisted…er, I mean “gifted” to me quite some time back and I had never looked at it. Just stuffed it in a corner in the basement. After dumping it out on the deck I found a card stating that it came from New Zealand and was a Romney-cross. It’s mostly very light grey with a few darker locks (kinda like T-Man’s hair!) and a fairly open crimp but extremely long at 7 inches or so. Lots of sand came out in the washing machine. No, I didn’t wreck it! I used the machine just to soak and spin out water, no agitation, no felting, no clogging. The next load of towels will clean it right up. (Here’s one description that’s pretty close to how I do it.) You can’t do that in one of the new-fangled front loaders! Anyway, the fleece is all washed now and drying on the deck:

It’s kinda purty! Now that all the grease and dirt is out of it, it’s actually quite a nice fleece and softer than it first appeared. I can always get rid of it later if I change my mind again. I still have 2 different baby Corriedale fleeces separated in locks to wash yet. One needs re-washing because it’s very sticky and the other is still greasy. I’m kind of tired of washing wool right now though so it’s going to have to wait for my next burst of energy. It’s much more time-consuming to keep the lock formation intact and I need to experiment somewhat to see which method works better for these fleeces. I don’t want to either mess up the locks or have the stickiness come back to haunt me again.

While I was washing fleeces, I discovered to my disappointment that the dark brown one labeled “Baby Corriedale” has some areas with an enormous amount of kemp. Those are chalky white hairs that are coarse and brittle. Obviously not desirable in a fleece and usually selected against by the breeder. These ones show up closest to the shorn end of the locks. The rest of the wool is not very soft either and varies quite a bit in texture, length and colour over the amount that I have. I’m trying to figure out why I didn’t see this before and why I bought this poor-quality stuff? Actually it wasn’t just me — I shared half of it with a friend who never mentioned what she did with her half. Now I know why! There really isn’t all that much of it though so hopefully I can figure out what to use it for. Besides compost. Surprisingly the grey Romney-cross one is actually softer and silkier. Makes me even happier that I didn’t chuck it out.

I’m planning to create a notebook with each of my spinning fibres having its own page to keep notes on usage and a sample of the fibre. That way I can keep better track and I’ll know at a glance how much I have still available of each item. Even after I use it up, there’ll be a sample so I can feel it and check for quality and desirability against any future purchases. Sealing the samples inside Ziplocs might be a good idea too since my old notebook got visited by m*ths! (They especially love angora. Ask me how I know.) I also foolishly tried to staple in greasy fleece samples. Duh! Icky brown grease stains on the note pages. Not pretty. Smelly too. I’m older and wiser now. Older anyway. Of course if I was going to do this, while I actually had the stuff out and easily available might have been a good time for taking said samples, hey? Proves I’m obviously not wiser.

Not much else to report. I’m almost at the heels on both Tulip Socks. Haven’t cast on yet for the Plain Black Socks for my son-in-law. Got two whole repeats on the Fern Lace Scarf after having to frog an inch or so due to a glitch that I couldn’t figure out how to fix any other way. It’s not quite as easy to work on without concentrating as the tulip pattern which, although longer, is quite intuitive. In fact I haven’t looked at the pattern since the first repeat which is why I’m so far along on the socks.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Found My Floor

It took me 3 days but I finally got most of that frightening pile of fluff rounded up and shoved back in the attic. I can even move around in there (on my knees!) but we’ll see if I can locate anything without having to shift a bunch of stuff around first. The plastic bins worked well for most of it but the roof in there slants from 1.4 metres down to nothing so you can’t stack things up very high. My Excel inventory is almost finished updating and I just have to wash or re-wash some still dirty or sticky fleece. I already washed 4 different lots of fine fleece today and hope that I’ve solved the problem with it going sticky again a few weeks down the road. This time I used part Dawn dish detergent and a dash of Tide-Free laundry detergent, heated the mess even hotter on the dye stove, rinsed adding a half-cup of my previously-used acid water (as a vinegar substitute) from the bucket to neutralize the detergent, and re-rinsed a couple more times in as hot a water as I could stand. Looks good now but it’s hard to tell right away if I got it clean enough. There’s a dark rich brown baby Corriedale, some white Corriedale, some Columbia left over from a Sheep-to-Shawl in 1993 (!), and some short but very white and soft baby Corrie that was obviously wearing a coat when it grew this fleece. So lovely and fluffy. There’s quite a bit more white baby Corrie which has been sorted into neat locks for wool combing but I need to wash them in such a way as to preserve the formation. And get out all the stickiness! It’s certainly considerably harder to clean when it’s been sitting around for oh, say, 10 or 15 years or so. Amazing how long you can put something off, hey?

I really didn’t manage to purge much, but I’m sure you aren’t surprised to hear that. I did get rid of some matted and coarse fleece that had been gifted to me. But that still leaves an awful lot of fibre in that there attic! Enough to keep me spinning for at least as long as it took to amass this collection in the first place. It’s obvious that I haven’t been spinning much in the last few years but that didn’t stop me from continuing to add to the stash anyway. It’s also interesting that my tastes and objectives have changed somewhat over the decades. I’m into more of the finer fibres, more blends, more colours, more exotics like cashmere, possum and bamboo. And less into coarse hairy poor-quality wool. Of course I could always weave another rug with it! Ah, the infinite possibilities. Meanwhile my house smells like sheep which I find rather pleasant but my hands smell like the inside of rubber gloves. Yuck. It makes my throat itch.

Just a short post today — pardon me while I go wash my hands again. Go check out the new online spinning magazine Spindle and Wheel. First issue is up.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

When Wooly Dinosaurs Roamed

There’s an interesting Spinning Meme going around the blogs but there’s no point in me posting my version. Since I’ve been spinning for more than 30 years (yikes!) I’ve pretty much bolded everything on the list. The only things left are ones I’m truly not interested in or haven’t had at least a taste of in a class or something. No boast. Just decades of obsession…er, experience.

It’s interesting to me though how many of the items on the list weren’t available when I first began lo those many years ago. My first experience with spinning was a clunky plywood bottom-whorl drop spindle (aka boat anchor) and some icky dried up greasy carded fleece. It’s a wonder I still spin! And it’s all T-Man’s fault. He bought the kit for me. It even included a couple of pages of instructions. Heh.

Luckily I stuck with it and even got some hand cards to help prepare the raw fleece which was all I was able to get. A year later the finances were at a stage where I could buy a wheel (the Sleeping Beauty that I recently gifted my daughter) and my spinning really took off. I was still making thick singles and 2-plys most of the time but they weren’t as lumpy bumpy or as thick as in the beginning. Remember this was the ‘70’s — funky and natural was in. After the wheel I got a drum carder which was much easier on my hands. I also learned to dye wool in my canning pot after I got tired of natural sheep colours. It wasn’t that hard because I had learned how to dye with Procion MX for tie-dye and batik in high school. Little did I know I could have used the same dyes only with heat and vinegar on the wool! We live and learn.

There wasn’t much in the way of fibres other than sheep to play with back then. I spun some dog hair for a few people. (I drew the line at poodle! It’s coarse hair not wool.) I found myself collecting dirty camel fibres off the fence at the zoo. I went to the local (now sadly defunct) sheep fair and bought bags of lovely fresh fleece. Which of course needed washing, teasing and carding. Roving, sliver, top — huh? All I knew was rolags and batts which I made myself. Commercial dyed, painted, blends — nope. Soy silk, bamboo, Angelina — uh-uh. Wool combs, hackles, fancy little spindles — no way. My newbie spinners today have it so easy! It’s like being at a huge banquet as opposed to grinding your own wheat. Enjoy. I do. Even though sometimes I like to wash, tease, card, comb, blend, etc. myself. It’s about having options. Otherwise we’d just go to Wally World and buy a sweater. And that wouldn’t be nearly as much fun.

However, I just hauled out my entire spinning stash from the attic and NOW I’M FRIGHTENED!!! It’s the Fluff That Ate Vancouver! I’m not kidding. See?

Doesn’t it scare you that it takes 2 photos to fit it in? And there’s more you can’t see underneath and behind that stuff? Note that it all came out of that little hobbit doorway in the back of the second photo. And it has to go back in again somehow. After I re-inventory, re-label, try to purge some stuff that I know I’ll never use and re-pack what’s left. I’m so grateful that I didn’t find any m*ths in there anyhow. I do love the new gigantic Ziploc bags for m*th prevention and general corralling of wayward baggies but they don’t stack. They avalanche. So how many more Rubbermaid bins do you suppose I need to contain this lot? I just went out with T-Man and the VW van and bought 4 honking big ones and 4 smaller ones but I seriously doubt that’s enough. Pardon me while I go clear the dust out of my throat.

Erm…is it true that some people are able to spin up everything they have and then have to go buy more? That they don’t have bags of fibre they’ve stored since 1985? I now have officially reached SABLE (Stash Accumulation Beyond Life Expectancy) and until at least a goodly portion of this becomes yarn, I’m on a no-fibre diet. Unless I “accidentally” find some Shetland wool at the ANWG conference in Alberta in June that is. Because believe it or not I actually don’t have any Shetland at all. Don’t look at me like that! I do know what I’ve got here, ya know. Just not how much of it there really is. Keep your fingers crossed that I don’t find any Shetland in Red Deer or it’ll be the fibrous equivalent of the straw that broke the camels back. I’ll be in constant danger of being smothered in an avalanche of spinning fibres as soon as I open the blue hobbit door. If it helps any, I’m taking two workshop/seminars on spinning at the conference: one on spinning for controlled striped yarn and the other on creative recycling for handspinners. Maybe it’ll encourage more usage. One can only hope.

It all makes great insulation in my attic anyway. That’s my excuse and I’m stickin’ to it.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

You Say Tomato

I was reading through Judith’s spinning book again preparatory to taking it to class tonight. I did find one or two little niggles that I don’t quite agree with including the admonition “You must dye skeins on a rod over the pot.” Ummm…why? If the yarn is particularly tangly (silk, fine highly twisted wool) or there are many skeins, I will sometimes loop them into a loose plastic coated wire (like clothesline wire) and hook it over the edge just so I can find the ends of the skeins and keep them in order. But they are all submersed into the dye bath. The only time I would loop skeins over a rod is if I want one half of the yarn to either be lighter or to later go into another colour. I wonder if that sentence was meant as is or if it was an editing thing?

I truly disclose the fact that saying “you must” to me is like waving a red cape in front of a bull! I take it as a challenge to prove it either wrong or limited. There are many ways to arrive at the same solution. There might be a good reason to do it the way that is stated but there also might be many other reasons to do it another way. Or several other ways. Looping your skeins on a rod over your pot necessitates much rotating to get an even dye. It also makes more opportunities for accidents such as the rod falling into the pot and splashing dye all over or for the ends of a too-long rod melting (plastic) or singeing (wood) over the heat source. Added complications that you really don’t need unless there is some compelling reason for the rod. And then you had better be extra careful.

I do appreciate Judith’s comments on “Why Ply?” A plied yarn is not only stronger than a single but is also more durable and smooth and is less likely to pill. It’s also bigger and lighter after plying than the two singles held together unplied. Excess energy that distorts your knitting can’t lurk in a plied yarn because it’s been neutralized. I always ply at least two singles together. Sometimes I do a Navajo ply which is like a finger-crocheted chain with twist applied. Oddly Judith doesn’t consider this a plied yarn but a chained single that is twisted together. Sounds like a simple semantics exercise on the meaning of the word “ply”. She also says it cannot level the twist. Why is that? I’ve never noticed that tendency and the little linked loop spots and the fact that one of the “plies” is lying in the opposite direction don’t give me any problems. It behaves so darn close to a regular 3-ply that I can’t tell the difference without close-up observation. Maybe it’s because I like to stretch my chains out as far as possible before allowing the twist in? Or is it just a case of differing opinions?

One reason you might opt not to ply a yarn is if you are using it for weaving, particularly in the weft. In many cases it’s a waste of the spinner’s time to ply yarn when a single is just as good. There are some interesting effects you can get with an overtwisted single or even singles with opposing twists. Experience is key here — sample, sample, sample.

And speaking of overtwisted singles, knitters can get some interesting effects as well utilizing the energy inherent in this type of yarn. Stitches can pop and twist in surprising ways. More sampling!

On the sock front, I have 2 repeats of the Tulip pattern on one sock and one on the other. It’s surprisingly intuitive, even with 20 rows. It’s a bit tight on 64 stitches (4 repeats) even though that’s my usual number for plain stockinette socks for me. I disregarded the original pattern’s use of 2.5mm needles on the leg and only switching down to 2mm for the foot thinking that I’ve got fairly skinny calves anyway plus I knit looser than many people. I can get them on ok and it does show off the pattern well:

However for more normal calves or if I was to do them again, I’d go with the bigger needles and/or a slightly heavier yarn than the Mega Boots Stretch. This type of pattern where the increases are separated from the decreases causes stitches to bias which always makes them less elastic. And there’s some rib action too with the purls around the tulips causing them to stand out. The pattern calls for only 2 1/2 pattern repeats before starting the heel flap but I plan to do 3 1/2 instead. I like my sock legs long enough to show above my Blunnie boots. I’m quite enjoying this knitting even if it’s not quite mindless. I did get some reading done without too many knitting corrections.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007


I was so happy to finish the skinny Ribby Socks for T-Man yesterday. They lasted a very long time on the needles. Not as long as my poor frogged Jaywalkers but darned long enough. They look totally ridiculous off the foot but since he isn’t around to model them at the moment, this will have to do:

T-Man’s Ribby Socks

Begun: March 7, 2007
Completed: May 21, 2007

Yarn: Trekking XXL (75% superwash wool, 25% nylon) in subtle olive greens, browns, and even a bit of pink and blue (colour 90), 1 ball (100g/420m).
Needles: Clover Takumi bamboo 5” dpns in size 2mm.
Pattern: Mine, the one linked in my sidebar, with a longer leg and longer foot.

Comments: For some reason I can’t resist the yarns with 4 gently variegating plies. It’s impossible to make matching socks but they are so beautiful they counteract my need for symmetry. There are a number of little blips in the knitting but I’m not going to look too closely when they’re on his feet in his shoes under his jeans.

So now that this set of needles was empty I had to fill them up again. And not with the plain pair of socks for SIL either. These are for me (like I need another pair!) in Mega Boots Stretch Softcolor yarn in shades of dark red. I’m using a tulip pattern that I found in an older issue of INKnitters. For some unknown reason, they published it under the name of Leaf Lace Socks, which they definitely aren’t and they were even shown in bright red as a clue to the pattern’s meaning. The pattern stitch, “Tulpen”(tulip) from a German book, was in words so I used my trusty Knit Visualizer to chart it. I’m always looking for patterns that look right upside down since that’s the way they turn when I knit socks from the cuff down. Here’s the chart if you’re interested:

I’m currently still on the ribbing and haven’t gotten to the tulips yet. And as if that wasn’t enough, I decided to cast on for a narrow lace scarf from the leftover yarn from the Cherry Leaf Shawl. I’m using a stitch pattern called Fern Lace with a row of faggoting on either side. The much wider version was in the book Lavish Lace but there was a mistake in the pattern so I checked on the publisher’s website for the corrections. I’m not messing about with provisional cast-on and knitting from the centre out to make the scarf hang symmetrically. I’m just starting at one end and knitting until either it’s long enough or I run out of yarn whichever comes first. There’s about an inch worth of this so far and it’s making an interesting scalloped bottom edge:

So what happened to my weaving you ask? Don’t ask. I got things cleaned up and tidied away and then didn’t touch it. I got carried away knitting and reading blogs instead. I’m so far behind on what’s happening with everyone. The observant will note that neither of the new knitting projects is the kind I can work on and read at the same time. However, I do need to buy some yarn tomorrow (when I go to my LYS to teach the last spinning class) for SIL’s birthday socks. They will be my plain pair so I can read while knitting. Meanwhile I can read while I’m working on the cuffs on the Tulip Socks.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Musings & Amusings

I amused myself this morning (while I was supposed to be cleaning the studio/study rooms!) with perusing the Timmel sewing SWAP for 2007 contest. The photos and notes were really interesting and the resulting wardrobes suit real women and their lives. Obviously while I was busily sewing medieval tunics other people were making clothes they can wear every day! Whadda concept, eh? Also nice to see a number of garments that coordinate well without becoming the dreaded “matchy-matchy”. Patterns used came from many sources: from self-drafted to big-name pattern companies to small independents to Burda magazine to vintage patterns. And one garment had to be reversible just for fun. Some participants also blogged about their sewing or have a photo site for even more details when you follow the links. Very inspiring.

I really need the inspiration myself. After spending some time in Sears, the Bay and the malls in the last while, I’ve come to realize a number of things including the fact that I have no idea what commercial size I am. I know my measurements but that doesn’t help. I know that sometimes I fit into an M and sometimes an L but does that make me a 12 or a 16 or what? Guess I need to take a bunch of clothes into the dressing room and find out! Also my top half is at least one size smaller than my bottom half so if the top fits the bottom is too tight and if the bottom fits the top is baggy. I’m a pear. I was a pear when I was 98 lbs and 18 years old and I’m a somewhat more rounded pear today. I’m also on the short side at 5' 3-1/2" but if I buy Petite pants they shrink up too short and if I buy Regular they’re too long. And what’s with elastic-waisted pants? I know I’ve complained about this before but can’t they make them out of something else besides polyester? What’s wrong with cotton or linen or ramie or tencel or wool or something breathable that doesn’t make me feel like I’m wearing plastic wrap and doesn’t cause me to sweat profusely? Not to mention they make me look like an old lady. I know I’m a grandmother but not the kind you might imagine from 20 years ago. And I’m not old yet. And I'm sure even older women don't want to wear scratchy uncomfortable plastic-fibre pants any more than I do.

Clothes for women of a “certain age” need to fit closely but not too closely. They need to skim over the lumpy bits while accentuating the positives. To follow rather than lead. They do not need to reveal too much or to bind anywhere or to bag in the wrong places. You know there’s a problem when even the young, tall and thin don’t look good in some of the clothes out there! So darn it, if I can’t find what I want I’ll just have to make it. I have patterns that I like. I have the skills. I have all the equipment. I even have some fabrics. I just have to do it. But first I have to get over the last sewing marathon. That was just Too Much and I can’t face my sewing machine quite yet. Soon though.

While I’m waiting for my sewing mojo to return, I’ve still got several yards of warp left on my table loom and a bunch of ideas I want to try on it. As soon as I finally get around to cleaning up this space enough so I can find things, I can get to it. I’m also finally nearing the end on the Ribby Socks for T-Man. These poor things got back-burnered while I was sewing and knitting a moose legwarmer and weaving samples. I’m hoping to get them finished today or tomorrow and then go on to a pair for my new son-in-law who’s birthday is next in line. He liked his socks last year and by all accounts wears them regularly. The only criterion is boring dark colours like black or dark grey. No patterns, no fun dye effects. Mr. Excitement wants plain and I aim to please. And soon, very soon, I’m going to cast on for something lacy even if it’s just a scarf. My lovely new Addi lace needles are itchy for something to do.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Bumpless In Vancouver

I had a lovely day out yesterday at my weavers guild meeting. It’s always great to visit with friends old and new who understand one’s obsessions with fibre. We had a slide lecture by a very interesting woman, Barbara Tyner, who is an art instructor with a special focus on art history and Native American art. The subject was “From Spider Woman’s Loom – Weaving the Navajo World: Transformation, Innovation, Tradition” and although she is not a weaver herself, her anthropological viewpoint on Navajo weaving was very informative. I have read quite a bit about the rugs and some of the history, but she had spent quite a bit of time on the Navajo Reservation and had a deep understanding of how the creation of the rugs fits into the people’s lives. I learned more than I expected to. And of course there were a number of rugs from one of our guild member’s personal collection to fondle.

Today I toddled off again to my dear doctor to have him remove the largest of the cysts off my head. This is an ongoing thing — I grow ’em and he harvests ’em — though it often takes many years to grow them up to be the optimum size for easy removal. It turns out that it’s a family affliction that I inherited from the maternal grandfather (whom I never knew) and have generously passed down to both my children. Thanks, Grampa! Did you know that the old word for a sebaceous cyst is a “wen”? Happily the darn things are always benign. My doc actually enjoys the chance to do a bit of surgery every now and again and I wore a hat on the way home so that I wouldn’t gross anyone out while I was doing a few shopping errands. The only somewhat painful parts are the numbing needle and when the pillow touches it the first few nights as it heals, but really no worse than having a tooth filled. So far now that it’s thawed out I can barely feel it though I took an Advil just in case. I go back in a week to get the stitches out. Unfortunately I can’t wash my hair for a few days now. Eew.

You might be interested in a new book (surprise! surprise!) that I got yesterday:

Teach Yourself VISUALLY Handspinning by Judith MacKenzie McCuin. In a way, I don’t really need this book — I really got it to show my spinning students. However Judith is an old friend and teacher and this is her first book, though she has written for magazines and has a video, and I wanted to encourage her to do more! The Teach Yourself VISUALLY series of books is especially great for those who need to see what to do instead of talk about it. They are full of pictures and not so many words to intimidate. This book covers just about everything you need to know not only to get started in spinning but to get quite a ways past the beginner level. It covers wheels and spindles, combs and carders, fibres and blending, plain and fancy yarns, dyeing and tips for using your handspun yarns for both knitting and weaving. In the appendix there’s even a cute example of a spinning journal page and a record page for you to copy. This is my new favourite book to recommend to spinning newbies. And boy, if you saw the kind of dry instructions that were the only thing available back in The Olden Days, with vague details and only occasional sketches for illustrations, you would appreciate how great this book is too. I’m amazed I ever learned how to spin considering I never had an instructor or knew any other spinners for the first 4 years! All my bad habits are my own. I try not to pass them on.

Well, things have chilled out for the next week or so and I plan to relax a bit and try to organise my priorities for the next few weeks. I have a bunch of stuff strewn all over my studio and study as the detritus from a number of days of packing and unpacking tools and supplies for classes and rushing in and out. I need to take some time to sort them out and put them away. I still want to finish weaving more samples on my table loom while the ideas are fresh in my head from this week’s woven shibori workshop. I’ll be heading to Alberta for the Association of Northwest Weavers Guilds conference in Red Deer and we leave June 9th so that doesn’t give me much time.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Workshop Wonders

Yes, I’ve been uncharacteristically quiet, haven’t I? I had a very busy last two days with a wonderful teacher, Catharine Ellis. She is wonderful, generous and giving and I really enjoyed getting back to weaving with the extra kick of finishing techniques such as fulling/felting, dyeing, devoré, resists, and steaming. My brain is full! Even though I only accomplished 4 dinky little samples I learned a lot:

Backing up a bit, my loom was threaded in a 12-shaft extended twill with 20/2 wool (not merino, a significant fact as I later learned). I used a wide sett of 12 ends per inch for the first 2 samples. The blue and white one was first. I wove it using the same wool for the plain weave ground and used a slick yellow 2-ply in some unknown fibre (probably polyester) for the pattern wefts using the middle draft in this post. I drew up the pattern threads really tightly and then fulled the sample on my antique scrub board. I thought I’d over-fulled it but I hadn’t! While it was still tied I added it to the blue acid dyepot we had going in the classroom. Opening it as the ties were being removed was like opening a present. It was fuzzy from the fulling so had to be peeled apart carefully but inside the blue package were the open areas I was hoping for.

The second sample is the plain white one. This one is kind of the opposite of the first sample because the drawn-up ridges are resisted (not fulled) and the interior areas are fulled instead. There are many more steps to put it through to get this effect however. I wove it in “blocks” using two opposite pattern lifts repeated to form rectangular areas. When it was drawn up, I painted it with a sodium alginate (seaweed thickener) resist. Then it was carefully opened up and the resist dried. When it was dry it was dipped for a few minutes in a 10% solution of alum (the same stuff used as a mordant for natural dyeing) which caused the resist to harden remarkably so it could withstand the fulling process. After the fulling the sample went into a bath with metaphos (sodium hexametaphosphate, a chemical most often used in water softening) for an hour to soften the resist so it could be washed out.

Here I have to mention that using a wool type other than merino meant that I had to work a lot harder to get the fabric to full. The effect is also hairier than the merino’s softer but denser fuzz. Others in the workshop had used merino so I could definitely see the difference. Nevertheless it did work as I intended if not quite so dramatically. Note to self: get some 18/2 merino wool yarn or finer.

The loom was re-sleyed to 24 epi before I wove the second two samples. The first of these (light grey) used an “organic” pattern similar to the third draft I posted previously but not as regular due to it being late in the day! You can see the combination of zigzags and larger straight sections. I used a very fine grey “crepe” over-twisted yarn and 6 picks of plain weave between pattern threads. After it was drawn up it was simply dropped into very hot water for about 10 minutes and then dried before the ties were removed. Later I wet the lower section so I could see how permanent the pleats are. The fabric opened up a bit but not a huge amount. I like the slightly relaxed area even better. This sample is actually one of the most exciting to me because it’s so easy to accomplish.

The last sample is the little red/white/blue one. This was woven using EcoSpun (recycled polyester) yarn and a zig-zag pattern. I ironed paper that had been painted with disperse dyes on it before drawing it up and then added another hit of disperse on the ridges after it was drawn up. Then it went into a steamer pot for half an hour to set the pleats permanently. Note that the disperse dyes also stained the wool somewhat though they are specifically for polyester. I washed this sample but they didn't wash out. Also if you stretch it out you can see white dashes where the pattern threads were when the first layer of disperse was applied. After they were pulled out they left the tiny white voids in the dye. Interesting, hey?

Here are some of Catharine's exciting samples that she shared with us:
Here are some of the happy weavers:

L to R that’s Rene, Betty, Jean and Marianna even though you can barely see some of them. (And I'm sure they're happy about that. Heh.) And here’s Catharine working in the dye area:

When not lecturing and answering questions, she kept very busy mixing pastes and solutions and checking the steamer and dyepot. And, although I don’t have a photo of him, I have to put in a good word for our guild’s workshop organiser, Rob, who tried to simultaneously take the class and make sure we had coffee and hot water for tea plus look after Catharine and her husband. He was somehow even in charge of renting the lecture hall. He did an exemplary job. Clap! Clap!

So now I still have lots of warp left on my loom and lots of things I can try still. Some of the techniques that others in the class experimented with were devoré on a silk warp with cotton-covered polyester weft (the cotton burns out leaving the silk and a very thin polyester cloth in the holes) and using wool as the pattern weft on a cotton warp/weft then fulled and the wool left in to create bubbles in the cloth. Another experiment was fine gunma (sericin silk) woven, drawn up and then the sericin removed in simmering water that included a little soda ash. After dyeing the crisp sericin silk dyed much darker than the softer de-gummed areas. As you can imagine it was very stimulating and exciting and my brain is full. I can foresee more warps and more samples in my future.

To ice the cake, last evening I walked over to Heritage Hall for Catharine’s slide lecture. The audience included local weavers and fibre artists plus some of the college-level textile students. I wore one of my two tops with woven shibori but it was a very warm evening and I was sweltering in the hall. It was worth it though when my shirt was complimented by Catharine herself! She was very supportive and, even though she herself specializes deeply in her chosen work, was encouraging in her comments about my scattered interests and the fact that I have no formal education in any of them. I love her.

Several members of the class plus some new faces are working again today and tomorrow with Catharine to explore Taiten, a rare Japanese woven shibori technique. The structure is just plain weave including the tie ends in the warp only or warp and weft. They’ll be experimenting with applying natural dyes and discharge to their samples which they already had woven before class began. I would have loved to take that class too but sometimes you have to know when enough is enough!

Building notes: The plumbers are working in and around the house next door now. The musical choice is rap/hip-hop. Ick. Bet you can guess that they’re mostly white guys. And we won’t discuss what the city guys did to my poppies yesterday when they hooked up the sewer and water. After I told them to be careful I had to leave for my class. William the Conqueror…er, Contractor insists that they will make everything look good again. Yeah, sure. Believe it when I see it.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Fibrefest Fun

I’ll get to my blogiversary prizes in a sec but first I want to talk about my experiences at Fibrefest yesterday. Although it was quiet, too quiet really, I had a good time meeting and greeting all my friends and acquaintances and checking out all the booths. Bought a few items:

That’s a new Houndesign with a lauro preto spindle and the whorl in bocote wood. Golden brown bocote (Cordia elaeagnoides) from Mexico has a definite dark stripe pattern while lauro preto (Nectandra mollis) is a South American wood characterized by its very dark chocolate/brown coloring with a pronounced darker figuring. It’s smaller than my last year’s spindle with the padauk whorl but it’s noticeably heavier. I also got a couple of books from Homespun Haven (Armstrong, BC). But my big score was a gorgeous two-row blending hackle from Andrew Forsyth that includes a tine cover and decorative purpleheart wood end caps. He even threw in the handmade clamps free. He usually charges extra for these or folks just use commercially available clamps. There was an article in the last Spin-Off on using a hackle and it made me want one badly. While I was trying to write a cheque for him, Andrew and T-Man got into a great wood/tool discussion since they both belong to the Greater Vancouver Woodturners Guild. I was happy that his wife Susan was busily teaching a class when I came by the booth so he was filling in. Now of course I’m excited to try my new hackle out but have two busy days ahead of me at the weaving workshop so it’ll have to wait until Wednesday. The last item you see is a little fat quarter of piggy-pink wool flannel for rug hooking that was gifted to me by my neighbour in the next booth named Susan, who does lovely sashiko embroidery and blanket-stitches flannel into cushion covers and the like. She doesn’t like this colour much and I don’t either but of course I can always dye it.

I also spent time in Birkeland Bros booth yapping and teaching spinning to anyone who was interested in trying. There was at least 5 people that made their first yarn there and a young girl who could already spin some who brought a bag of her angora bunny’s fur to spin up into a small ball. After the fest was over we packed up everything in the booth which of course took up more space to take home than it did bringing it. Luckily we had the van for the overflow! There was some discussion about the fact that vendor folks didn’t do as well as last year especially on the Saturday. It was lovely and sunny out and also the day before Mother’s Day so that could have had something to do with it. I also think it isn’t well enough publicized. Unfortunately the same weekend is already booked for next year so there’s no debate to be had.

OK, now we can talk about the Blogiversary Prizes. I want to mention that all of this stuff came out of my stash — except the chocolate. That was bought specially. Susan got:

Bethany Barry’s book on bead crochet (a duplicate, natch)
two Gaywool all-in-one dyes in spring colours of lavender and primrose, plus instructions
a skein and a partial of handpainted cotton chenille from Ewe To You
a small packet of T-Man’s lampworked beads
a beaded tassel that I made way back when I first got back into beadwork
a pair of lace bobbins with a history, spangled by me
a packet of unbleached soy silk (natural butter colour, dyes great with the acid dyes)
a packet of dyepainted (by me) Perendale roving
an organic Dagoba lavender chocolate bar (sounds odd but it’s totally yummy)

And Gail got:

Diane Fitzgerald & Helen Banes’ book on woven fibre jewelry (also a dupe)
a complete kit for a beaded knitted pendant bag (including my booklet, knitting needles, wire needle, thread, seed and embellishment beads)
a large ball of sock yarn
a handmade notebook (not by me)
a beaded bookmark (yes, by me)
a packet of unbleached soy silk (natural butter colour)
a packet of dyed wool from Aurelia Wool & Weaving
an organic Dagoba roseberry (raspberry & rosehips) chocolate bar

These are all packaged in a recycled cardboard box (gotta do my bit for the environment, eh?) and wrapped in my handmade paste paper that can also be reused in several ways. Do I know how to gift ’em or what? I know they really enjoyed their prizes and hope everybody will enter again next year when I guess I’ll have to have 3 prizes?

Oh yeah…Happy Mother’s Day to me and all you other mothers out there! My kids are away so I wasn’t expecting to hear from them (though I did get an email from the honeymooners) and I’ve already called my one remaining mother and T still has to call his. The rest of the day is for me. We went for a walk and bought a few t-shirts and some new magazines. Then we went to Earl's Restaurant for a decadent late lunch. I had a grilled chicken breast on a salad of spinach with strawberries and blackberries and toasted almonds. Yum. That’s my idea of a great Mother’s Day. Peace, quiet and I get to buy my own presents! Tomorrow and the next day will be super-busy ones so don’t expect another post until Wednesday. I almost didn't get this up today.

Friday, May 11, 2007

To The Rescue

My doctor only heard me say hi to him and he immediately knew I needed his help to get over this bug. The-Flu-That-Never-Ends now has Dragon-Slayer Antibiotics to contend with as well as being doused with Corticosteroid Nasal Spray. This one/two punch should get it out of me permanently this time. I hope. Time for my immune system to buck up and do it’s job!

The Moose Legwarmer is now completed and currently drying on my sunny deck — where I should be too instead of up here in front of the computer. It’s so nice and sunny and warm out there. However, it’s also noisy due to the backhoe that’s digging a big trench in to the house next door for the new drains. There’s a bunch of city engineer guys hanging around moving signs and generally doing not much and getting paid for it. My poor flowers that were between my house and next door are now under several feet of dirt and I had to get the guy who was digging to unbury my dryer vent so I could do a load of laundry. Sigh. He claims the houses are too close together and he couldn’t help it. He says they will fix everything up nice when they’re done, but they will lie to keep us from complaining. They’ll clear off the dirt and build a fence and we’ll be left with bare dirt where daylilies and Peruvian lilies once grew among the ferns. It’ll take years (and money) to get it back to looking nice again. T-Man is even more steamed than I am since he did all the work out there. Right now he’s working on the “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” philosophy and is running our noisy chipper/shredder to deal with all his laurel prunings.

OK the legwarmer is dry enough for its photo-shoot so here it is:

A Moose Legwarmer

Begun: May 1, 2007
Completed: May 11, 2007

Yarns: a random bunch of ancient and merely old handspun hand-dyed yarns plus a couple of balls of commercial yarn that played well with the handspun.
Needles: Aero aluminum dpns, sizes 5 mm, 4.5 mm, and 4 mm.
Completed Size: 16” around at the top and 12” around at the bottom, not including ribbing. 35” long after blocking which should take up somewhat when it actually gets on the leg.

Comments: I revised my original plan of knitting a sock when I couldn’t figure out how to make the foot. I also ran out of time and wrists. I began at the top with 80 stitches on the largest needles and tapered down to smaller and then smallest needles around the halfway point. I also decreased 4 stitches randomly in one area and then later 4 again to end up with 72 stitches for the last half of the legwarmer. There’s some k2/p2 ribbing on each end. It got rather heavy and hard to turn toward the end. I used up quite a bit of yarn but there’s still wee little balls of leftovers. I barely repeated any of the colours down the whole length but they all seem to coordinate quite well. In the photo you can see my foot for size reference.

Tomorrow is the Abbotsford Fibrefest. Well, it’s on today too but I’m only going tomorrow. I have Susan & Gail’s Second Blogiversary prizes for them, so now all we have to do is manage to find each other! I’ll let you in on what I gave them on Sunday after they have had a chance to see it first. BTW I just found that my favourite spindle people have a new website! I love my Houndesign Dervish spindle in padauk (lovely orange wood) and until T-Man can make me one that I like better, I’m sticking with it. They have a booth at Fibrefest again this year and who knows? Maybe another spindle will follow me home. Looking forward to shopping, schmoozing and spinning with my peeps tomorrow. Have to remember to take my antibiotic with me.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

I Give Up!

After feeling worse again, I finally broke down and made an appointment with my doctor for tomorrow morning. I was trying with all my might to heal without the help of further antibiotics but I took one look at my red lumpy throat this morning and caved. I’m getting really sick of being sick! And I’ve gained about 5 lbs from lazing about too. I was sorry that I had to renege on my offer to help my LYS set up their booth at Fibrefest today because it’s no fun fetching and carrying when you can’t breathe for coughing. I had enough trouble trying not to hack all over my spinning class again last evening. Phooey.

Cynthia had a great suggestion in yesterday’s comments for a way to make the foot on the Moose thing. Thanks, hon’! However, I’m really trying to avoid knitting on this too much more. I’ll let those who are “decorating” Wilfred figure out how to work this legwarmer in with the overall design. They still have several weeks to get him ready for transport to Alberta. I’m pleading flu-bugs-on-the-brain! Meanwhile I’m almost done. Final photo will be posted when I finish and block it.

Yesterday in the mail I got a book. Quit laughing — you know I can never resist books. This one I ordered from the Needle Arts Book Shop in Toronto, ON. It’s a self-published book so it’s not on the radar of big book sellers like my usual Chapters/Indigo Books. Even though books are more expensive this way (no big discount, no free postage), buying it from Marsha is a much more personalized experience. She wraps your order in paper with a ribbon bow. She includes a vintage poem about the needle on her invoice. She includes a book plate for you to put your name on your book. And she has free bonus presents like:

A set of 3 different sizes of rubber o-ring stitch markers. That is service! Oh, you want to know what book I got? This one:

“The Knitter’s Guide to Stitch Design” by Annie Maloney from Belleville, ON. Velly Technical. I love it! Annie crams a ton of information in a spiral-bound, black & white, desktop published, 100-and-some pages. There is no white space left blank. Any bare spot is covered with lines so you can add your own notes! There are little nuggets hiding in the plethora of text too, like how to knit a number of different cords and a neat little mini-bobble-thing she calls an Irish Knot. It’s kinda halfway between a nupp and a bobble and is shown to advantage in some of her 150 original stitch patterns (including both charts and text versions). The best thing about this book though is hints and tips on how to design your own stitch patterns. I wouldn’t say anything is exactly “new” in the sense that it’s completely different from anything you’ve ever seen before in knitting. There are of course limitations in the very nature of knitting that prevents the “totally new” from being possible. However there are mutations, adaptations, rearrangements, etc. that can be experimented with and it’s a lot more fun and challenging than just going to your “Barbara Walkers” and picking out a stitch pattern. Really creative and experienced knitters can have a ball coming up with just the right design to use in a garment or whatever.

In this book Annie explores several types of patterns: knit/purl textures, lace, cables, and fair isle. This isn’t by any means all the possibilities (slip-stitch/mosaic being one of my favourites although it uses more complex designing parameters so I understand why it was left out) but it’s enough to whet your appetite. This book isn’t for the visual learner though because aside from the charts and photos of the stitch patterns, there is very little besides a few cute illustrations by the author. The text is dense but, to my mind at least, clear. But then I’m geeky that way. Annie has five books in her series, including this the latest, all available through Marsha’s online shop. They are fairly pricey but not really if you consider they are self-published and appeal to a fairly limited audience so she won’t be selling many thousands of copies.

So while I was at it, I also bought this pattern:

Fiddlesticks Knitting’s Paisley Long Shawl by Dorothy Siemens. This was also pricey but what a lovely design! I bought it mostly to see how those paisleys are made and the charts confirmed that it’s “lace on every row” aka you have to pay attention on the even-numbered return rows as well. Dorothy’s patterns are very well put together and printed on quality paper and placed in a page protector. There are lots of detailed instructions so that even if you’re fairly new to this type of lace knitting, it’s not hard to follow the pattern charts. Not sure if I’ll make this as-written or whether I’ll reduce it to a narrower scarf and sans fringe. Might even use the paisleys for a triangular shawl instead since I’m not fond of rectangular stoles (aka I would never wear it!). We shall see. First there are other things to work on. Like the Moose Legwarmer which I’ve promised shall be completed today!

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Ready To Weave

My loom is all warped and ready for my Catharine Ellis shibori workshop that starts on Monday:

I wove in a header using the warp yarn to spread the warp bundles out and make sure the threading was correct. I hemstitched the end so that when it was cut off it wouldn’t immediately unravel. It only takes a few minutes to do and it makes much more stable samples. Some people use glue which is icky and stiff or masking tape which loses it’s hold eventually and leaves a residue. Or they just hope the fabric will hold together until they can machine stitch. Or they don’t do anything at all to their edges. I earned quite a reputation in past workshops for my obsessive hemstitching!

We aren’t going to be weaving in a round-robin situation this time so I get to weave on my own loom the whole time. Yay! I love my Woolhouse Carolyn 12-shaft loom on her stand. The levers are right out front, I have a beater that’s hung from above and it’s just so comfortable to work on her rather than somebody else’s loom. She is kinda big and heavy to transport though, even though she folds up:

I can just barely lift her myself and can’t carry her too far. But there will be help to get everything into the weaving room at the arts centre.

You know, I would have gotten a 16-shaft loom but at the time (1990), John was only just starting to make looms with more than 8 shafts. A friend just recently sold her 24-shaft Woolhouse Margaret loom and boy, was I tempted to buy it but I controlled myself. Just barely. With the amount of weaving I don’t do, it would be silly. I already have a 4-shaft Rasmussen table loom, the 12-shaft Carolyn and an 8-shaft Woolhouse Gertrude countermarch floor loom. Plus a teeny little rigid heddle loom for wire weaving. How many looms does one need? No! Don’t answer that question!

In knitting news, the Moose Stocking, which has hereby been renamed the Moose Legwarmer since I can’t figure out how to make the foot, is 26” long this morning. I’m planning to go to about 34” total which means I’m getting there. I think it’s kind of pretty but then I would like the colours since I dyed most of them myself! I’m thinking I should use that little slip stitch blip thing on another project. I like how it blends the stripes a bit more. I’m not too fond of regular stripes especially horizontal ones. Not for body image reasons but I just don’t like the stark division between colours. I like my colours more subtle and blended.

So what’s next you ask? Darned if I know! I have some UFOs lurking around including T-Man’s ribby socks that are really almost up to the toes so shouldn’t take long to finish. I also have the big Stash & Equipment Sort & Purge that I should get to soon before it becomes its usual summer oven up here on the top floor. I’m not up to dealing with an excess of dust yet however so that’s going to have to wait somewhat longer. I have my better days and my not-so-better days. Yesterday I was feeling almost human but today I’m back a step again. And there’s Beginner Spinning class tonight. The subject will be plying, which includes 2-plies, 3-plies, Navajo ply (for the adventurous and brave), and a few novelty plies just to hint at the possibilities. This is only a four 2-hour set of lessons a week apart so it’s hard to get too detailed in that time. Really all I try to do is get them making a passable continuous yarn. Most will go on to plying up a storm and a few will learn Navajo plying. Next week I demonstrate fibre preparation for them but at this stage they are usually happy to just buy prepared sliver and don’t want to be bothered even learning how to use hand cards. The last lesson is to answer any questions that have come up, learn parts of the wheel and fine-tuning, solve any problems that still occur, learn spindle spinning if desired and generally tease them with how much there still is to learn about spinning.

Speaking of which, I just learned a new term today — gorilla yarn. It seems that it means a yarn composed of a mixture of different fibres and is a common term in Australian spinning circles. I hadn’t heard of it before. We mostly just call that a blend though I guess if it was a blend of leftovers and such someone would come up with a good term. Personally I like “art yarn” though that can be even more complex with additions of beads, charms, cloth strips, lace, etc. “Gorilla” is not a lovely word for a complex blend. Got any good name ideas for this type of yarn?

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Woven Shibori

The table from Ikea is turning out to be a bigger PITA than we thought. It was completely disassembled and also unfinished. You need to oil the wood every year which I totally understand, having owned a sailboat with teak trim. But you’d think for $89 plus taxes that you could have it assembled and at least oiled for the first year. It doesn’t take up hardly any more space in a box that way. But then I guess it would cost twice as much. Oh well. T-Man already put it together yesterday and I get to slather some ancient teak oil (left over from said sailboat) on it later today.

Right now I’m threading my table loom with the warp for my shibori workshop next week. I got the warp all wound yesterday — despite a gazillion distractions, all of my own making. I’m threading it in a 3-step 12-shaft extended twill which I hope will give me some scope for interesting shibori effects. The twill is threaded: 1/2/3, 2/3/4, 3/4/5, 4/5/6, 5/6/7, 6/7/8, 7/8/9, 8/9/10, 9/10/11, 10/11/12, 11/12/1, 12/1/2 and repeat. If you weave it as a normal twill structure as drawn in (aka “following the way it was threaded”), you get a fuzzy diagonal line:

Of course I just used one possible tie-up out of gazillions of choices. But you get the idea. When weaving for shibori, the main structure is plain weave. A supplementary weft of stronger thread is woven in using various patterns to become the ties that we’ll use to draw up the fabric into pleats. There are so many options it’s hard to choose a few for sampling, but here’s an example using a different twill tie-up:

I coloured the ties green so you can see them (though they’d probably be white to prevent any colour from rubbing off where you don’t want it) and I’ve changed the purple wefts to match the undyed warp. Of course you don’t have to use the ties in straight twill order:

You can mess about as much as you like! I’ve changed the tie-up yet again to show how there are many different ways to weave this structure. The cool thing about using a table loom is that you don’t have to get down under the loom to re-tie any time you want to change which shafts to lift. And you don’t always have to use the same weft that is in your warp. You can get some interesting effects with different weft such as overtwisted or elastic threads, using cotton on a wool warp or using polyester on a cotton warp. The real fun is in what you do with it next.

After you’ve woven the fabric and pulled up and knotted the ties, you’re still only halfway to your shibori. And as usual there are many choices for finishing. With the wool warp that I’m using, I can full it as well as dye it. If I use a cotton weft, I can dye the wool and not the cotton using dyes specifically for protein and then dye the cotton and not the wool with a dye that works better on cellulose. You can paint thickened dye on one side of the pleats and a different colour on the other side. If you use polyester in the warp you can steam it to set the pleats permanently. Ah, so many options, so little time! I have no idea how many things we’ll be able to cover in the two-day workshop, but I’m looking forward to playing. Maybe a real project will come out of this eventually. Back to my threading…

Monday, May 07, 2007

Carrying On

I think I’m finally on the mend from this interminable bug but nowhere near tip-top yet. I decided not to go to the doctor anyway since all he would do is either tell me I’m getting better on my own or prescribe antibiotics which I don’t really want right now. However I feel like I’m missing this spring season and not getting out in the garden to enjoy it. I also need to sort out (again!) my attic storage spaces because we’re going to have to get our house totally re-roofed sometime before winter sets in again. If all that stuff is at risk of being exposed to the sky, I’d better make sure that it’s safe! That job is better done before the weather gets too hot. Small enclosed stuffy hot places are not fun to crawl around in. Unfortunately I don’t yet have the energy to tackle it.

This has been a fairly cool and often wet spring. I went back and checked my notes from last year and my tomatoes were just about hardened off and ready to go into the greenhouse by now. And my coleus were already outside and I had planted out a bunch of things that right now I wouldn’t trust to survive the relatively cold nights we’re still having. Even when it’s sunny (not today!) there’s been a really cool wind that keeps it from feeling like May.

Yesterday we went to Ikea (gasp!) and got a new table for the upper deck. The little metal one we’ve had for years is rusting and wobbly though we probably won’t throw it out, but just move it down to the lower deck instead. It’s too small for two to eat dinner comfortably on, though it’s fine for tea or drinks. We’ve been looking for a new table for ages but hadn’t found the right one. This one…
…is called Äpplarö and is made from oiled acacia wood. It’s a gate leg style that folds up very narrow (a good thing for our small upper deck) yet unfolds out halfway for tea or fully for dining al fresco. The top is slatted for the rain to go through. I plan to make it a nice tablecloth to use up some of my surface design cloth samples with clip-on beaded weights in the corners. I also got a 3-pack of 7” cork circles to use under my teapot instead of the usual potholders which are all nicely tea-dyed now. Plus some small frames to hold family photos. I’d like to get them all off my dresser and onto the wall so I can dust easier.

Speaking of stuff you can’t dust easily, one of the bloggers I read referred to it as “shelf shit” which completely cracked me up. I have a big problem with knick-knacks, tchotchkes, do-dads, rocks, shells and stuffies collecting up on every available shelf and tabletop in my house. Yes I know I should purge at least some of them. Last time we painted the trim in the living room, I did get rid of a bunch that didn’t have any emotional attachment but there’s still too many left. I’m not sure what to do with the rest. Who/what gets to stay? How do I decide? Do I really care enough about dusting to get rid of anything at all?

Today I’m starting to wind the warp for my Catharine Ellis shibori class next week. I need 180 ends of 5 yards long. I’m using 20/2 wool which is fairly fine and I’m going to sett it at 12 ends per inch which is half the usual sett for balanced plain weave with that yarn. That wide sett will give the yarns space to shrink and full when the time comes to finish the cloth and we will be changing the sett during class as well. Catharine gave us several threadings to choose from and since I have 12 shafts I’m going to extend a 3-step advancing twill to use all 12. We’ll be testing out different weft yarns and different dyeing and finishing techniques. I’m looking forward to having an excuse to play with all these things though I never get as much done in a class situation as I would like. The social aspect is great fun because weaving is usually such a lonely occupation.

And lastly, to Sharon’s comment about the medieval hat with the horns — I went with simple and earlier period is much easier to construct than later. There were so many choices and henins (as the cone hats are called) were pretty weird and wild. Hard to make and even harder to wear when you aren’t used to it. The veil and circlet was enough, trust me!

Thanks to my sister for this photo of T-Man and me in wedding garb — though it does look like there's a fish on my head and I left off the barbette. Aren't we adorable?

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Happy Second Blogiversary To Me!

Damselfly is Delighted! We have two official contest winners! Yay!!! They were chosen by T-Man from his medieval roll hat with his eyes closed. (I held the hat and prevented the slips from falling down the liripipe or out of the cockscomb but that’s all I did!) After he rooted around sufficiently long and hard, out came two slips. And the winners are:

Gail in Surrey
Susan in Powell River

Gail, I don’t have your snail mail or your email addy. Please send it in a private email to me. If you’re going to be at Fibrefest on Saturday, let me know and I’ll bring your prize with me. Also, Susan, aren’t you coming too? Will you be there Saturday as well? It would be wonderful if I could give you both your prizes in person and not have to mail them at all!

I’m going to keep you on tenterhooks for a short while as I try to figure out a prize package for each of you. One that reflects the type of things you like to do and mainly assembled out of my vast stash…er, stashes. I’ll photograph them but I’m going to be keeping the contents a secret until the winners have received their prizes. Only then will I share with you all. Neener-neener!

You all had some great crafty lists. Thanks so much for entering my very first contest. So you want to know what my list of crafts is? Shall I do it in a bulleted list or shall I just put commas between? Oh heck, the list is way more impressive!

  • knitting

  • spinning

  • dyeing & surface design

  • beadwork & wirework

  • felting

  • crochet

  • kumihimo

  • weaving

  • rug hooking

  • sewing

  • dollmaking

  • paper arts

  • Some of those overlap too, like beading on the dolls made from hand-dyed fabric and fulling (felting) my knitting and crochet done with handspun and hand-dyed yarns. There are even more that I’ve done in the past but haven’t in recent years, such as bobbin lace, macramé, pine needle baskets, temari (Japanese thread balls) and various other types of stitching and embroidery. But I think if I haven’t been interested in them for quite awhile then they don’t really count until I pick them up again. I will be exploring art quilting soon though. I am very taken with some of the work I’ve seen but I just haven’t sat down and really worked with the materials yet. So many crafts; so little time!

    Sometimes I wish I were better at limiting my interests so I could actually get really good at something. Wouldn’t it be cool to become the go-to person for some very specific craft? The one who has explored its every nuance and knows everything about it from the history onward? Not going to happen for me. Your Damselfly just can’t stick with one thing long enough to become like Peter Collingwood is for tabletweaving, ply-splitting and sprang; like Makiko Tada is for kumihimo; or like Carol Wilcox Wells is for beadwork. Ain’t gonna happen — especially if I haven’t published a book on the subject and don’t want to travel to teach it. I just want to play in my sandbox…er, studio and have fun.

    Here’s to Fun in the Studio and Another Happy Year of Blogging!

    Saturday, May 05, 2007

    More Sittin' Knittin'

    Still feeling decidedly under the weather. Even T-Man noticed that I was getting a bit pale around the gills while we were waiting at Home Despot for assistance in purchasing a garden shed that was on sale. He suggested that I might want to go wait in the van and I didn’t argue with him. Good thing I rested up because he needed me to help get the disassembled shed into our old VW van when the package wouldn’t fit no way no how. We ended up taking each piece out and tipping the largest one (the floor) diagonally in through the back hatch. Then the rest went under and over to get it all inside. Talk about your puzzles! It’s not going to be assembled today because he has to clear the space first. Maybe I’ll be up to helping him because I’ve always loved that kind of thing ever since I was a little girl helping my dad. I love putting things together.

    So now I’m sittin’ knittin’ on the darn Moose Stocking again. It’s 20 inches long and reduced to 12 inches around now so I just have to carry on for awhile longer and then try to figure out the foot. If I can. If not, Wilfred gets a legwarmer instead. No snarky comments on the somewhat variable quality of my handspun yarn in this project. Some of these yarns are leftovers from 20 years ago or more and they are quite embarrassing. I think I can spin better than that now. At least I hope I can! The colours are nice though and I’m using up bits that I wasn’t quite sure what to do with. In the past I’ve used some in fulled knitting which does tend to disguise the more novelty effects of the old stuff but that isn’t going to happen in this case. Hopefully a nice bath after I’m done and a bit of blocking will help even things out somewhat.

    Hey! We now have 10 entries in the Blogiversary Contest! Way to go, My Mostly Silent Readers! Brought you out of the woodwork, didn’t I? Bribery is a strong motivator. Heh. If you haven’t entered yet there’s still about 24 hours left before I get T-Man to pick the two winners. And don’t forget to send me a private message with your snail address. I’m still missing a couple which may have just not come through yet. I promise I won’t sell it to any credit card companies or anything. Your privacy is safe with me. It’s also fun seeing some of your blogs that I didn’t know about before. Thanks for including those addies.

    In other news, my rice paddies out front are drying up now thanks to T-Man’s calling the city and having their water engineer come out to crimp off the broken pipe next door. Should have done it days ago and then half my front yard wouldn’t have gotten so soggy. We kept thinking the contractor would do something since it was the backhoe he ordered that broke it in the first place but no. They will have to pay to get it hooked up again however. There’s a whole pipe and shut-off that has to be replaced on the city side before they even get to the private end of it. I’m wishing this was all finished but it’ll be months yet. Oh joy.

    Friday, May 04, 2007

    Contest Alert!

    I have my Second Blogiversary coming up on Sunday, May 6 and I’ve been wracking my brain (what’s left of it anyway) trying to figure out how to get my faithful readers involved. I hope you realize that this is the longest I’ve ever been able to maintain something like this. I was never any good at keeping a diary or even a holiday journal before. I’ve always like writing but I like to have more control over it than just scribbling a few thoughts on paper. Maybe it’s because I’m using a computer which is much more comfortable for me than writing things out longhand. I can edit and switch and move things around so everything is neat and organised the way I want it. I can add photos. If I really wanted to, I could even go back and edit my previous blog posts. (Or, heaven forefend, it could all go poof! in a flash of corrupted computer files over at Blogspot. Yes, I have a personal backup!) But how to celebrate this two whole wonderful years of blogging fun? I mean whining and misery noises? Complaints and kudos? Musings and commentaries? Ahem.

    Other bloggers have contests all the time so I think we need one here, don’t you? It won’t be a hard one. And I’ll have two prize packages, one for each year I’ve been blogging. All you have to do to enter is to tell me how many different crafts you like to do. Doesn’t matter if it’s only one or two or lots (like me). There are no extra points for numbers! List them out in a comment on this post, but also send me a private email with your snail mail address. You can find my email link if you don’t have it handy by clicking on my photo or the “View my complete profile” link in my sidebar over there on the left. Sometime late on Sunday afternoon (Pacific Daylight Time), I’ll put all your names in a hat (a handspun hand-knit one of course) and get T-Man to draw out two lucky winners. The chosen winners will each receive a prize package assembled by yours truly especially with their list of crafts in mind. I’ll let you know exactly what I’ve put together and photograph the contents before sending them out. But I won’t post it until the recipients get their prizes. Whaddya think? Sound good?

    Don’t forget to email me your snail mail address because if I don’t have it, I can’t send you anything! Appropriately you have two days to get your entry in. Good luck! And if you missed it this time, this contest may become an annual event. Keep reading my blather. You never know what I’ll come up with next. Even I don’t know until I sit down to type it out.

    Meanwhile, over at the Moose Stocking I have about 14 inches worth:

    The yarns are all old ones out of my stash of mostly handspun and hand-dyed leftovers from past projects. The stripe colours haven’t been repeated yet. Now that I’ve gone down two needle sizes to 4mm circs the knitting doesn’t proceed quite as quickly. But the stitches look better and the hand is more firm. I need to begin decreasing or this will be too baggy on poor Wilfred. The question is how to do it without it being too obvious.

    Thursday, May 03, 2007

    Sittin' Knittin'

    And not accomplishing much of anything else. But that’s just fine and dandy. I did manage to barely make it through my beginner spinning class last night. It helped that most of my newbies are pretty good and they all made continuous yarn by the end of the first lesson. That’s a good sign that everything will go well for the other 3 classes and we will have 7 new spinners at the end. I actually amazed myself at how professionally I gave the lesson for once! I also apologised for how lousy I sounded but assured them that I wasn’t catching. Then I went home and slept for around 10 hours straight.

    Today I’m not feeling any better. Maybe even a tad worse. I have nothing on my plate for the next 7 days (except knitting a moose sock and threading a table loom) so hopefully I can rest up and beat The Bug. However, if I’m not starting to feel considerably better by Monday, I’m making an appointment with my doctor. Enough is enough already! My immune system definitely needs a kick in the pants but I’m reluctant to take another round of antibiotics so soon after the last one only a month ago.

    Further on the leaking water main out front — it’s still leaking. We could plant rice in our garden out there but I don’t think it’s doing my poppies any favours. And the workmen are now walking through my hostas and Peruvian lilies to get to the side of the house because they can’t climb over the mountain of mud. Yuck. I’m kissing most of my garden near the property line goodbye this year. Otherwise I’ll go bananas trying to save it. There are more plants in the nursery to replace anything that doesn’t make it out alive. Might be a good excuse to redecorate. Yes, I’m a cockeyed optimist. Can’t you tell?

    As far as the knittin’ that I’ve been working on while sittin’, I’ve got about 12 inches worth of Moose Stocking now and I’ve switched down to finer needles. That brought it about 2 inches narrower but I still need to go down 4 more inches by decreasing before the ankle. I’m about 1/3 of the way there and somewhere soon I’ll have to switch back to dpns because the circumference will be less than I can accommodate on the 16” circ. Don’t ask me what I’m going to do for the heel and foot. I’ll decide when I get there! Certainly a regular sock foot won’t work. Wilfred had a round foot with a “dew claw” in back. Maybe I’ll skip the heel and just leave an opening for that dew claw (where a shortrow heel would be) and do a short foot and quickly decreased toe. Wish I had his actual leg to work with here. That would help considerably. I could go visit him, but I’m not going anywhere for the next while if I can help it.

    Wednesday, May 02, 2007

    Life In Colours

    Already they’ve plotted the fashion colours for Fall ’07 at Pantone and I really like this collection. The Spring ones are too washed out for my taste. However, I like these ones better. Look at all the oranges and it’s much more saturated. I think colour forecasting is pretty amusing. A bunch of folks make it up and then other folks pretend that it’s important. Meanwhile most people end up getting stuck with what’s in the stores and usually go for a very conservative palette: black, blue, white, cream, pink or red (if they dare) and occasionally other colours like purples, greens and (more rarely still) oranges. Yellow in any shade is right out of the question.

    Very few people of any colour in modern western society will wear yellow straight up because they think it makes them look sallow or jaundiced. That isn’t always true but seems to be an ingrained prejudice anyhow. Most people seem to be very shy about wearing bright colours or combinations. I think it’s partly tradition and partly the light in our northern clime that causes this. Look at people in warmer brighter places such as Central and South America, India, and Africa. Much more intense colour in both the light and the clothing. And of course darker skin sets off the depth of colour nicely. Here people seem to want to blend into the background more. I guess I can’t talk — today I’m wearing faded black pants and a dull green turtleneck sweater. Put me in the local forest and I would disappear!

    Today I’m continuing on the Moose Stocking. I’ve got about 6 inches so far. See?

    I’ve changed the needles yet again, this time to an old Aero 16” circular. It has the dreaded bend in the grey aluminum tips which I’m not fond of and the cable is one of the stiff variety that never seems to uncoil. But so far it appears to be more comfortable than either the Denise circ or the aluminum Aero dpns which were much too heavy and kept dropping out of the stitches onto the floor. I simply refuse to buy a set of bamboo dpns just for this one darn project. The pattern began with some k2p2 ribbing and is just random width stockinette stripes with a bit of a slip stitch thing going on at the changeover to mute the line a bit. The yarn is mostly handspun and hand-dyed leftovers from years of spinning and knitting. It’s about a DK to light worsted weight and the needles are 5mm. So far the circumference is nearly 18” and is stretchy enough to fit over his knee and up to his thigh. I think I will change to 4.5mm somewhere down past the knee to pull it in a bit. Don’t want it bagging around Wilfred’s ankle, now do we? I have no idea what I'm going to do when I get to the foot.

    Apart from the knitting, I’m taking it easy today because I have to teach a beginner spinning class this evening. I’m definitely not up to optimum health but there’s no substitute teacher so I’m dragging myself to class. I figure if I rest as much as possible I will have enough energy to see me through the first class which is always very difficult for everyone. I have to be helping each person get their wheel set up and get started and it’s not easy when I have seven (at last count) newbies. Hope this class is as on-the-ball as the last one. They were a dream to teach and everyone was making lovely yarn by the end of four 2-hour lessons.

    We will not speak of the House Next Door and the mess yesterday's backhoe has made of my garden. But they better get that leaking watermain fixed asap. Just sayin'.

    BTW the Beltaine issue of The AntiCraft is up (link in my sidebar) with lots of weird and wonderful new patterns. Lots of bags and purses this time. I love the shrunken head! Go see. But you must bring a sense of humour with you, preferably a warped one.