Tuesday, July 31, 2007

We Survived

The party for son-in-law’s 30th birthday went really well. Unfortunately not everybody who had been invited was able to come at the last minute but it was a pleasant gathering of family and friends. The barbequed turkey was really yummy, though we had some difficulty at first when it was obviously too big for the rotisserie. It worked fine on the grill with a drip pan underneath and careful watching by T-Man, spray bottle in hand in case of flare-ups. Took about 4 hours but the turkey was all cooked before the first guests arrived so visiting could be first priority. It was hot enough on the deck that cold turkey (and ham and seed buns, plus 2 potluck pasta salads, chips and several dips) was just as satisfying. A good time was had by all and I got many kind comments on the Boring Black Socks which the birthday guy loved as much as I hoped he would. It was also great to see my baby sister and her two young boys before they head back home to Mexico for the opening of school in August.

If you’ve been wondering what I’ve been up to since then, I finished reading the new Harry Potter after I bargained my daughter out of her new copy. She said she wanted to read all her old Harry Potters over again before reading the last one so she leant it to me for a week or so. And she took all those fantasy/sci-fi books of mine to look through. Yippee! If I’m lucky I won’t see them again! HP #7 was a great read and quite satisfied me as the end of the series. There’s one major hole that I noticed (and perhaps a couple of loose ends) but I’m not going to discuss it since I don’t want to spoil anything for anyone who hasn’t read it yet. Wonder what JK Rowling will write next. Hopefully it will be as good as HP so I have an excuse to read it along with the children she’s supposed to be writing for. A good story is a good story and I don’t think it matters whether it’s aimed at kids or adults. Either that or I just have a child-like mind? Keeps me young. Speaking of Harry Potter — it’s his birthday today! And I never thought I was that big of a geek.

Moving right along. Yesterday, T-Man had a day off work so we worked for awhile in the garden. The tomatoes in the greenhouse are getting larger but some have dropped off due to mildew. I think it was dampness left over from all the rain we had so I’m trying to keep the door and vents open as much as possible to dry things out some. If it’s not one problem, it’s another. Sigh.

Oh, crafty stuff! You want some fibery content! Right. I’m turning the heels on T-Man’s latest pair of socks. I’ve got about 3 inches of the sleeves on the Hepburn Cardi. And I’ve started a new weaving project, one that I’ve had in mind for about 10 years or so: a new blanket for our bed. I may have mentioned before that I bought about 50 skeins of vintage Condon’s 2-ply Medium and Briggs & Little 2-ply (now called “Heritage”) from my friend Sandra who bought them from another weaver who had them for who knows how long. I already have a handwoven blanket on my bed in similar but slightly lighter weight yarns (Condon’s 2-ply Fine and Quebecoise II) but in mid-winter we need two blankets to stay warm enough with the window slightly open. Since my other commercial blankets are very elderly (like 30 or more years old!) and need to be retired, I figured now was as good a time as any to get on this project.

These yarns are all various colours and nothing really coordinates that well, so I pulled out the natural greys (3 different ones, 8 skeins and 1 kilo total) and over-dyed them with black Lanaset dyes. I only used a 2% depth of shade so they’re a little charcoal (especially the lightest grey) rather than deep black but that’s fine. I decided not to waste the dye trying to get a deeper shade and maybe not exhausting the bath all the way. My dyepot only holds 4 skeins at a time so I did them in two batches. Luckily it was cooler in my basement dye studio but it still felt pretty warm while I was rinsing skeins over a hot sink. And it’s quite toasty outside right now where they’re currently drying on the railing:

Now I have to reassess the colour combination and see if I need to overdye anything else to make it work better. I need 35 skeins total so it’s going to take a goodly chunk of the stash. Not that it really matters what colours the blanket is — it will mostly lurk under my coverlet anyway. I’m not putting any nice covers on the top of the bed until my old cats go to kitty heaven. Between the cat hair and the extra claws catching, they make quite a mess of their favourite daytime snooze spot. And we won’t even discuss the upholstery. Not that they are scratchers so much, but they don’t have total control of retracting all their claws. Ms Polly particularly has claws that curl under and are wonderful fun to trim, let me tell you! Luckily I don’t need to trim her daughter Julie’s claws because that would just be not feasible. She’s much less amenable than her mom and there are 24 of them. Yikes!

Oops. Wandered away from crafts again. Where was I? Oh yeah, the blanket. I’ve tentatively decided on an 8-shaft pinwheel twill:

Ignore the colours. I just used them to sort out the draft. The wee bit of plain weave at the top and bottom is to give me something to hem stitch into and the 2 plain weave ends on either side are there so I don’t need to use a floating selvedge. The 8-thread pattern repeat is simple to thread and just as easy to treadle. The only problem I’m having with it is that it really doesn’t show it’s to the fullest unless it has the colour contrast. Which means threading and weaving in 8-end stripes throughout. The stripes are just long enough (an inch) so that you can’t just loop it from one area to the next. And just short enough so that it’s not worth beginning and ending each one off either. It would build up too much with all those tucked-back ends. The only other solution I know of is to catch the yarn not being used along the selvedge which is a lot more work. There’s an 11-yard warp to weave! I need 3 widths stitched together to cover my bed the way I like and that’s a lot of fiddling with selvedges. One thing I’ve done before is to attach the shuttle not in use to the beater so that the weft automatically wraps it. I’ll have to photograph that solution if I decide go that route.

Another idea would be to make more random stripes and not worry about the colour-and-weave effect. Or to use a different twill, maybe just a simple 2/2 that changes direction at each colour change. I plan to full this fairly well after weaving for warmth so that will mute any pattern anyway. Hmmm…maybe I’m talking myself out of the pinwheel twill?

Friday, July 27, 2007

Last Minute Prep

We’re not so much Martha Stewart types at our house. We don’t mind impromptu gatherings, family dinners or even hosting Christmas dinner. But we rarely throw parties because, frankly, it’s a heck of a lot of work! I’d much rather party at somebody else’s house but sometimes you’ve just got to offer to hold an event or feel like you’re not doing your share of the entertaining. So we’re having a party tomorrow for our new son-in-law’s 30th birthday. For about 20 people. We have a fairly small house and only one bathroom but we do have a large room-sized deck and extra grassy area beside it. That works really well if the weather holds. So far the report is a mix of sun and cloud and a high of 23 C. which is just about perfect. We’re going to try to barbeque a turkey. It’s been lurking in the big freezer since New Year’s so it really needs to be eaten and since it’s about 6 kilos, we need a crowd to help! I’m also baking the birthday cake: deep dark chocolate with chocolate frosting. Special request of the birthday boy. Do wish us luck, hey? We’ll need it!

Meanwhile, I spent this morning (when I could have been cleaning the house some more, but who cares) knitting on my Hepburn Cardi. Am I the only one who starts on the sleeves instead of the back? Why start on the largest piece when you can start on the smallest? I also work on both sleeves simultaneously on the same circular needle. That way the increases and decreases are done on the same rows and they automatically match. I usually do the same with the fronts, just working the decreases on the opposite sides. If I position them left and right as they would be when assembled into the sweater, I can immediately tell if it’s going to work properly and fit correctly. The back piece comes last instead of first as pattern-writing convention would have it. I’d go all the way and put it together with the fronts to eliminate the side seams but the whole thing would be too big for my needle’s cable. 245 stitches is a lot! And no, I’m not going to go buy another 2 sets (3mm for the rib and 3.25 for the main body) with longer cables. These are truly great needles but they are pricey! This is where the Denise needles shine. You can make the cables as long as you like with the connectors. However they don’t come in sizes smaller than 3.75mm. And I do like working with the brass Addi Lace needles. Just not enough to buy ones in sizes I already own but with longer cables.

There is an inherent danger in working the sweater in this order. I could run out of yarn while knitting on the largest piece, the back, where it’s much harder to fudge things without major frogging. I’m pretty sure I have enough yarn, but it’s hard to tell for absolute sure until I finish. There is no way of finding more since this stuff is ancient. (Even the store I bought it at no longer exists!) So I’m going by the yardage specified in the pattern and as we all know, that information is not necessarily accurate. I have about 1-1/2 lbs of yarn that measures about 1500 ypp on the McMorran yarn balance. So that’s around 2,250 yards give or take. The pattern calls for 8 – 220 yard/100g skeins which equals 1760 yards. So the math tells me I have enough. But I don’t trust numbers. I’m going on faith. Brave, eh? So far it took me most of the morning to get one 12-row pattern repeat past the ribbing. Am I a slow knitter or what? There's not even enough to show off yet.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

What's Next

First of all, thanks so much for all the kind comments I’ve received. It’s wonderful to know that someone is actually out there reading my scratchings and feeling compelled to add their thoughts and cheers. I appreciate each and every one, even if I don’t always reply to you directly. You are precious, m’dears!

Now that I’ve cleared a spot in The Queue, I decided to look over the stockpiles…er, list of items I would like to make. I generally have to Revue The Queue every so often just to roust out the rejects, bad ideas, changes of mind and other no-goes and see what’s left. For some reason there’s always lots left. However, this time I re-routed one of the projects that’s been waiting awhile into something different. I’d already swatched for the Serrano Sweater by Laura Chau that was in Knitty but hadn’t yet started it. I realized one of the reasons I hadn’t started it is because I’m not really a fan of turned-up hems in knitting. They always look a little stretched out — at least when I do them. Laura’s are pretty nice. Plus I just wasn’t feeling the love for the hook & eye fastening. I’m not even sure where to find this stuff (though good old Dressew downtown should have it) or whether or not I could match my brown wool well enough to make me happy.

So I decided to go for the Katherine Hepburn cardigan from Lace Style instead.

Kathy Zimmerman’s sweater jumped out at me right away with its sweet combination of lace and cables and for its retro fit. I have a weakness for cardigans because you can wear them buttoned, partly-buttoned or unbuttoned all the way to adjust for various temperature fluctuations. Also they seem to flatter my pear-shaped body better than some other garment silhouettes, especially when partially unbuttoned from the bottom. And I love 3/4 length sleeves because I don’t have to turn them up several inches on my short arms or recalculate the pattern for a sleeve length that will fit me. So yesterday I started swatching my vintage brown wool (100% New Zealand wool, around 1500 ypp, cable-plied, on a cone, made for machine knitting, and maybe 20 years old!). As usual, I had to go down 2 needle sizes to get gauge. Do I really knit that loosely or does everyone else knit with intense stress? It looked much better anyway on the finer needles (Addi Lace circs, 3.25mm):

It was well worth knitting a sample to get used to the pattern. It consists of narrow 2/2 cables (twisting in opposite directions on opposing sides of the sweater) alternating with a simple little ribbed arrowhead lace. The 4-row cable and the 6-row lace patterns take 12 rows to meet up again, so the chart looks a bit more complex than it really is. The ribbing is worked on smaller needles and is the same cables but without the lace so it transitions nicely into the body pattern. However, I’ve already seen where I will modify the pattern. The selvedge stitches are supposed to be knit on both sides. Uh-uh. Nope. That just makes a bumpy garter edge that is hard to seam or pick up stitches on. I’m going to knit plain old stockinette on the selvedge stitches. The other change is the lovely sharp points on my Addi circs mean that I can do the 2/2 cable without using a cable needle. Velly Nice. And somewhat faster. I tend to misplace cable needles like crazy anyway. However, toothpicks do make an acceptable substitute.

I’ve got to finish posting this so I can GET AWAY from my study. I’m being driven slowly mad by the drilling, hammering and other nasty noises coming from next door. Don’t get me wrong — I want them to finish. Soon. But not at the cost of my sanity. At least I managed to nab William the Contractor this morning and got him to order the workmen to clear the lumber and other junk off my garden. It was damaging more of my plants. Sigh. I think I’ve been extremely patient but when he complained about all the thefts and the water leak and all, I told him that I’d actually seen some of it happening but was unsure if it was legitimate or not. He suggested that I ask them if they know the contractor’s name! Pulleeeeze!!! An older woman confronting thieves to ask them who they work for? What does he think, I’m Arnold S. in drag? I’m all for being a good neighbour and if I think it’s worth their time I’ll call the police, but I’m not putting myself in possible harm’s way for his building materials. That he doesn’t lock up well enough. Or at all, mostly. This is a high theft area. We’ve lost enough stuff that we put it away or expect it to walk. As I’ve described before, I’ve gotten rid of all kinds of things by just putting them out in the alley behind my house. He needs to get a clue.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

There WAS An End

An end to the scarf-formerly-known-as-the-scarf-that-never-ends, that is! Yay! Now I can consider a new project out of the gazillions in The Queue. I sweated my fingers off yesterday in an attempt to finish the darn thing because it was just hanging on too long. Thanks to Lime & Violet’s podcasts, I managed to stick with it. Here’s the scoop:

Fern Leaf Scarf

Begun: May 22, 2007
Completed: July 25, 2007

Yarn: Cashmerino from Birkeland Bros Wool, dye-painted by me, leftovers from the Cherry Leaf Shawl. I would have had a better idea of how much if I had weighed the scarf before I put beads on it!
Needles: Skacel Addi Lace circular, 3.5mm, 24”.
Beads: 4 different leaves in spring green, 2 with AB coating on one side and 2 without. Little drops in muted orange.
Thread: Nymo nylon beading thread in grayed green.
Beading needle.

Pattern: Modified from the Frost Flowers chart in Lavish Lace by Carol Rasmussen Noble and Cheryl Potter and scaled down to one repeat with herringbone edging. Note there is an errata for the chart in the book at Martingale’s webpage.

CO 28 sts. Row 1: sl1 wyif, yb, k1, yo, k2tog, k2, k3tog, k1, yo, k1, yo, k3, yo, k1, yo, k4, sl1 k2tog psso, k3, yo, k2tog, k1. Row 2: sl1 wyif, yb, k1, yo, k2tog, k21, yo, k2tog, k1. Continue following chart. Repeat until scarf is long enough or you run out of yarn. I managed to end on Row 2 which made a nice balance. Last row: bind off.

Comments: Yes I realize I could have made this scarf more symmetrical if I knit 2 pieces and grafted in the middle or better yet, begun in the middle and knit to the ends. But I like the asymmetry, the results of just starting at one end and knitting to the other better. I had some issues with following the pattern. Because the yarnovers were separated from their corresponding decreases and the whole thing is asymmetrical, it made it more difficult to keep track of where I was even after I had the pattern memorized. I particularly had trouble remembering whether I was on a forward (lace) row or a return (almost-plain) row. Until I got the bright idea to add a stitch marker at the beginning between the slipped and second stitch. Doh!

I probably could have squeezed in another repeat of the pattern since I had several yards left but I think it is quite long enough at over 2 metres! It wraps several times around my neck just the way I like a narrow scarf to hang. I had trouble finding enough foam insulation bits to block it on. It was like a jigsaw puzzle when I was done. I blocked it to 5” wide but it came down to 4-1/2” when dry. Do you like it better on the pink?

Or the blue insulation?

I don’t think it goes well with either but it does look neat all stretched out.

No, I didn’t have blocking wires nor did I hunt down some weed-whacker line to thread through the edges. I just used a gazillion pins. Note my furry assistant, Ms. Polly Manytoes, inspecting the progress. And the glass of wine — that helped too. It dried really quickly now that the Big Light In The Sky is back for a return engagement of summer.

Later I decided to add beads at the ends because the thing just craved them. I found 4 different leaves and the muted orange drops that looked just right on the curvy ends. I stitched them on with Nymo bead thread so hopefully they will stay on. I hope they aren’t too heavy for the lightweight lace yarn. So far so good.

The Finished Object:

Now to wait until it gets cool enough to wear it.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

How To

…have a shower while they’re working on the house next door. My bathroom window which faces toward them is only half pebbled glass and the top half is clear. They are putting on the tar paper before siding the house. They are balancing on scaffolding. First, check to see if anyone is in my window’s line of sight. Nope. Quickly disrobe and leap into the shower. Have a long hot shower so the window gets really steamed up. Leap out, dry quickly and dress before the steam evaporates. Modesty is retained. Whew! Now they’re at my eye level as I work in my study. I can practically reach out and touch them (if the bug screen wasn’t in the way). It’s kind of disconcerting even though they mostly have their back to my window. This kind of thing has been happening at intervals all along in the construction. Things should be better once they get the siding on and finish up the outside.

Speaking of said house next door, we finally did tell them last evening about how we called the police the other night. They were well aware of the missing pipe and the water spurting out all over. Good thing they hadn’t got to the drywall stage yet or it could have been very expensive. His underling got sensible and we now have the cell phone number of William the Contractor. Just in case we need to call him if something drastic is going on. And yes, they’re putting siding on over a very wet house interior. At least the weather is warming up and the sun is coming out. Maybe the 2 inches of water in the basement will dry before everything goes mouldy.

Back to crafty-land. I finally wound my skeins of the moorit whatever-it-is. (Merino? Shetland?) All washed and hung outside in the increasing sunshine to dry.

I counted as I wound and I have about 200 g and 1100 yards after washing. That represents an awful lot of spinning time! It bloomed a bit in the wash and it seems to be pretty balanced although it’s not terrifically even. Should make a very nice shawl anyhow. I only used about half the bag of sliver too so there’s at least one more project in there. If I ever finish the Fern Leaf Scarf-that-never-ends.

Speaking of which scarf, if I’d quit making mistakes and paid more attention to what I was doing, I’d probably have finished the darn thing by now. I’ve ripped out more rows than I’ve knit it seems. It’s just a little too complex to knit mindlessly and a little too simple to really concentrate on. I’m about 3/4’s done and I’d show you but it’s too boring. Time to get it off the needles and move on.

Have you seen the new special issue of Interweave Felt? It’s right up my Spectrum Study Group’s alley since this is our Year of Felt. It includes several different kinds: fulled knitting, nuno, needle felting, wet felting, recycling and even beading on felt. Though not everything appeals to me, there are some interesting ideas that might be worth following up on. For instance knitting with strips of unspun roving and then fulling to make a denser fabric. Skips out the spinning step! But I’m not sure how durable the mittens will be that are made using this technique. I’d like to see the kid’s ones after a winter of snowballs. I’d be willing to bet they’d full more on the palms and perhaps pill some. Of course I’ll have to try it to find out! And there’s not usually a lot of snow around here to test it on. Which is probably why I like gloves, fingerless gloves, or wristwarmers better than mitts. Which might be a possibility.

I haven’t been accomplishing as much crafty goodness as I’d like lately. I’m still trying to get the rest of the junk we pulled out of the attic sorted and outta my face. T-Man is slowly going through old receipts etc. and shredding the ones we don’t need to keep. I’ve still got several boxes of memorabilia to sort through. It’s hard! Do I keep every 25 year old drawing my kids did on scrap paper? Every Mother’s Day card? I’m not really that sentimental and the kids are even less so. But part of me won’t just pitch it all out. At least until they’ve had a chance to look at it and take a walk down memory lane. Yeah, I could start making memory/scrap books with it but I know I won’t. I never finish stuff like that. I even found my wedding scrap book, totally incomplete. And my daughter’s baby book with hardly anything written in it. I’m so bad at that! I just chuck everything in a box labeled “Memories” and hide it in the attic for decades instead.

I’ve got to tell about how we got rid of the dirty old broken toys that had been lurking in the attic. We put them out in the back alley just like the fish tanks and they disappeared within two hours! Even with a garbage strike on, the binners are still out in force. I kind of feel bad about where the discards might be going to end up when they find out what crummy shape it all was in. Bad Damselfly. Transferring responsibility to someone else. But it’s out of my life now. I’ll get over the guilt.

I'll leave you with a photo of my disocactus flowers. They don't happen every year and only last a couple of days so I like to enjoy them while I can. Each one is nearly as big as my hand!

Monday, July 23, 2007

Developing Mould

Rumour has it that the incessant rain is going to let up later today. Couldn’t prove it by me. I’ve been feeling permanently damp for days. My towels don’t dry. My clothes are damp when I put them on, even the fresh ones from the drawer. My books are wrinkling. See?

Since I’m showing you that book, Myrna Stahman’s Shawls & Scarves, I might as well review it since I’ve been remiss on my book reviews lately. This book is self-published through the author’s Rocking Chair Press and was first available in 2000. My new copy is 3rd printing from 2004 so hopefully any errors are corrected. I have to mention that I got it from the Needle Arts Book Shop in Ontario. It wasn’t listed on Chapters/Indigo probably because of distribution problems from such a small press. Amazon.ca has it listed as $173.69 used! What’s with that? I paid $35.85 for it new. Heh.

Myrna covers two quite different types of knitted warmers in this book: Faroese-shaped shawls and seamen’s scarves. These shawls are not traditionally Faroese because instead of knitting from the bottom up they are made neck down. The advantage of them is a unique angel wing shape that sits very comfortably on the shoulders and there is no long point in the middle of the back aiming at a personal spot that some would rather ignore. Once the techniques for shaping are understood, the designs plug in various simple to somewhat more elaborate lace patterns to the basic template. Most of the shawls are more dense and warmer rather than light and lacey and none are of the ethereal lace-knitting challenge variety. This book focuses more on the practical aspects of keeping you and your loved ones warm.

Each shawl in the book has a scarf using the same lace pattern and there are many more designs for scarves included. They are of a unique shape that Myrna has studied and worked with intensively. The “seamen’s” style consists of flat ends with the neck area in ribbing and the plain version (with matching cap) was originally designed for charity knitting for the Seamen’s Church Institute’s “Christmas At Sea” program. It’s a practical style which will sit nicely on or under a coat and can be made to suit both men and women. Myrna developed the way to knit the more fancy ends so that both were oriented correctly when worn. For her, designing and knitting them was like eating potato chips!

As I mentioned, this isn’t the book for you if you’re an experienced lace knitter who wants a challenge or who is looking for patterns for truly drop-dead-gorgeous lace shawls and scarves. However the designs here are still quite lovely and are well suited for the more beginner to intermediate lace knitter. They’d be perfect in handspun and/or subtle hand-painted yarns though none are shown in colour (except on the cover) because the book is only printed in grayscale. The strengths of this book are in the first chapters on hints and techniques. Everything from planning sizing and swatching yarns to reading charts is covered. There’s even a chapter on customizing the shape or the weight of yarn and one on fixing mistakes. And of course all of the knitting techniques you’ll need are there with lots of hand-drawn illustrations. The appendices include a crude map of where the Faroe Islands are located and a sample record sheet for the scarves and shawls. I think Myrna tried to include everything you’d need for successful knitting and very nearly succeeded.

Speaking of lovely shawls, have you seen the Icelandic one that Knitting Daily is reprinting from an old Piecework? It’s gorgeous! Check out this version that Sarah made quite some time ago from the original pattern. Doesn’t that make you want to dig through the stash or get out the spinning wheel and dyepot? Wish I didn’t have so many things in front of this in The Queue. Which brings me to the Crafty Report: almost up to the heel turns in T-Man’s latest socks. No progress on anything else.

BTW they showed up finally next door and are fixing the leak. Hope they don’t have any permits to wait for because the city outside workers are on strike with the inside workers shortly to follow. No garbage pickup, no gardening or mowing at the parks, no daycare or community centre programmes, city animal shelters closed, no street work or repair, etc. etc. It’s going to be a long wet…er, hot summer. I don’t really blame the unions who are feeling snubbed because the city isn’t even opening any discussion with them. They just turned their backs and skedaddled from the building. Somebody has to call chicken first and it might as well be the city since the unions have the moral high ground here (or so they claim). Talk already, darn it! Without negotiation it’s not going to end anytime soon. And I have more stuff to chuck out!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Way Too Exciting

We got woken up last night by someone knocking around in the half-finished house next door. At 3am it definitely wasn’t a workman! So we called the cops but whoever it was zipped off just before they got there. Did I mention it was pouring rain? Four soggy policemen and one damp dog. I kinda felt sorry for them. They checked things out and saw the open back door and muddy footprints where the guy had jumped off the unfinished back porch. But they didn't catch him, darn it. Today the front door is still open and there’s a flood happening inside where a piece of copper pipe was ripped out and the water is flowing through and out the basement door. Probably filling up the whole basement as well. And we can’t contact the builder! He never left a phone number with us or our neighbour on the other side so if the water causes big problems, too bad. Unfortunately the open door is an invitation to every thief to just waltz on in and steal more pipe. Apparently they get money for it to pay for their next drug fix. Lovely. William the Contractor is going to wish he had sprung for a protective temporary fence around the property now, I betcha. And I’m getting tired of trying to figure out if I should call the police or not every time somebody shows up and starts removing building materials. I might just start minding my own business. Sure was hard to get back to sleep after that excitement.

Dotty has suggested in the comments that I take my excess books to a used bookstore. Good idea except that I don’t drive and so would need someone to pick them up or to bring me and the books to the store. White Dwarf is a great little independent bookstore but it’s too far away from me to easily access. However there’s a secondhand book shop quite close to me which is a possibility but they don’t specialize in fantasy/sci-fi. They do give either money or credit which is good. Although I can walk there, I still can’t carry all the books at once so I’d have to do it in increments. There’s also another shop somewhat farther away that has quite a good secondhand fantasy/sci-fi collection but I don’t know what their policies are. I'd have to go find out since their website seems to be non-functional right now.

As for other methods, I’m just too darn lazy to go through all the hassle of selling online. Though I just looked at Craigslist and there’s a set of 7 of the Andre Norton books (that I’m keeping) for sale for $200! Who knew old sci-fi books from the 1960’s could be worth that kind of money? Or maybe it’s only wishful thinking on the part of the seller. Hard to tell. Meanwhile, I still have to let my kids go through the stash first before I unload it. They get first dibs. All the books I want to keep are now inventoried and put away. Whew! That was a big job that took me a whole week to finish up.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Where's Noah When You Need Him?

I’m thinking I need to build an ark. It is raining so hard that I’m grateful that I have no need to go anywhere today. Here’s the view of the unfinished house next door through my study window:

It has no eaves troughs yet so the noise of dripping is pretty loud, like being next to a waterfall! Guess I could always “borrow” some of that wood for my ark, hey? Though I’d like some foam insulation to help it float better. No time to locate all the animal pairs so I guess they’re on their own. My old kitties don’t count since they’re too old to reproduce! But I’d bring them anyway. Hopefully I won’t need to start hammering though. Don’t think I’d trust any ark made by me.

After T-Man got home from work yesterday we decided to go for a walk right then. The sun was actually out for awhile and it was quite nice. It sprinkled on us a bit on the way home but not too badly. Good thing we went for that walk because we’re certainly stuck inside today unless we put on full rain gear. As a goal to head for, we went our usual route to the book and magazine shops. Wait. You’re going to laugh — I bought more fantasy books! Here I am trying to get rid of them and what do I do first thing? Buy more. Of course I knew which ones I was still missing after inventorying the remainder. And it was “buy 3 pocketbooks and get the 4th free” day at Chapter’s. How could I resist? I bought 8 (really quickly) and T bought 4 (taking ages to choose) for a total of $94.38 including GST. Not bad actually. About $7.87 each for books that mostly have a cover price of $10.99. With our membership card as well, we saved over $40 on the total! (Notice how I attempt to justify my purchases.) You could spend that much going to a movie and you certainly get more hours of entertainment from a book. The only drawback was that we had to carry them home on our backs. The round trip is 7.9 kilometres. Good thing they were only paperbacks.

A funny thing that happened today was an insistent knock on the door from the postman. He often knocks when he has something that won’t fit through our mail slot so he knows I’m usually home. But this time he was concerned because he posted a letter through the slot and it wasn’t ours! He retrieved it quickly from me and whirled off in his yellow slicker mumbling that there wasn’t any mail for us today. He did look somewhat embarrassed about his mistake. At least I didn’t have to go out later to post it to the right house myself. In the rain.

No crafts report today. I’m still bagging up the rest of the books that I’m disposing of. It’s quite a job. I’m keeping all my Anne McCaffrey’s and my Andre Norton’s (she passed away in 2005 at 93). I have almost everything both of these masters ever wrote, not to mention the books that were co-authored or authored by others in their “worlds.” I’m also keeping my Barbara Hambly’s even if she does tend to torture her very original protagonists too much. (Poor people!) Plus there are a few of the newer writers that I’m keeping: Robin Hobb and Elizabeth Haydon being among my favourites. Almost everything else is going bye-bye. More room in the attic and no, I’m not planning on filling the available space with replacements! I’m going to try to keep these books moving out as I read them. Just so I don’t get into the same situation of having huge piles of books that I’ll never look at again. It’s just too absurd. Wanna come get 'em? You can have 'em all!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Timing Is Everything

Anyone who’s been reading my scratchings here for awhile knows that I’ve been cleaning and reorganising my junk. Now that I’m almost finished and have a new bunch of trash and recycling to get rid of, the city’s outside workers (including garbage pickup) are threatening to go on strike. Lovely. They always time this action for the summer when the smell of the garbage heaps tends to hustle up the negotiations. Nice for picketing also when you can get a tan instead of frostbite. Though today it’s still raining.

Speaking of rain, we got soaked yesterday when we went to the farmer’s market and it started to dump on us. Of course we forgot umbrellas but it was worth the soaking to pick up fresh apricots, cherries and raspberries. Don’t need the blueberries because we have our own bushes but they were plentiful too. Also got zucchinis (yellow, green and round) and some big onions because I can’t grow them for whatever reason. Cheerfully ignored the breads, chocolates, dips and pickles but picked up some spiced pepper blend which I love. At least the rain was warm. Today it’s quite a bit cooler and my house is starting to feel cold and damp. I’ve been closing the windows for the first time in two months. I’m wearing socks and a long-sleeved t-shirt. Everything is watered now! It can stop! But they’re predicting another system coming in tomorrow.

We rented a really cute movie last evening called “Driving Lessons” starring Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley in Harry Potter), Julie Walters and Laura Linney. It was a great story and really well acted. Rupert didn’t even talk much for the first part of the movie but he has a great expressive face. With a horrible controlling mother like Laura he needed a summer job working for Julie’s elderly actress to learn how to fight out of his shell. In real life, Rupert was younger than the character he was playing and couldn’t legally drive so they had to film on private roads! If you haven’t seen it yet, go rent it.

Sorry no crafts report today — I haven’t done anything new. I have 2 half-legs on T-Man’s latest pair of socks. I wanted to wind my lace yarn into skeins for washing but I can’t get my skein winder out of its closet because there are piles of books in front of the door. Go figure. Must get those sorted out asap. I can barely get in through the door. BTW the covers are all curling from the damp. Bad sign.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

A Little Light Reading

These are most of the fantasy/sci-fi books that I pulled out of the attic. Yes, I’ve read them all! And there’s more that I haven’t read yet still waiting in the wings. I buys ’em when I sees ’em because you never know if they’ll still be available a year from now when you want to finish a series. Some folks like mysteries, some like political thrillers, some even like romances, but I’ve always loved fantasy and science-fiction for my escape reading pleasure. Harry Potter for grownups. (OK, I read him too. Who doesn’t?) However they do add up over the years and I’m never quite sure what to do with them when I’m done. Sometimes I like to read them over again. But mostly once is enough unless it was so long ago that I’ve forgotten the story. Recently I haven’t been reading them very quickly because I’ve found other things to occupy me such as blogs and podcasts. It’s all definitely put a dent into my actual hold-in-the-hand book-reading time. Who knew the real world — OK, the cyber-world — would become more interesting to me than the fantasy one?

In between stacking books in author’s piles, I’ve been spinning and plying up a storm on my moorit merino. At least I think it’s merino. It’s definitely moorit. This is the result:

Around 200 grams of 2-ply laceweight yarn. It’s not terribly even in grist or twist and it’s rather more textured than I expected, but it’s pretty fine (finer than commercial sock yarn) and hopefully will bloom and relax a bit when I skein and wash it. I blame some of the unevenness on the fact that it was spun in many different circumstances including my VW van, campsites from here to Alberta and back, my back deck and the living room over a period of nearly 2 months. Plus it isn’t the best quality stuff and is full of prickly chaff and nepps but the price reflected that at less than $13 per lb. I’m quite happy with the results and plan to make yet another shawl with it. Maybe I’ll design one myself unless I fall in love with somebody else’s first.

It smells all fresh and woodsy outside today. It’s been raining but not steadily, though it looks like it’s socked in pretty well now. It was like camping this morning when my clothes were decidedly damp after sitting all night on the trunk under the wide open window in our bedroom. At least sleeping is more pleasant when you are shoving blankets off because you’re too hot and then pulling them up again in the middle of the night when it cools down. I can live with a bit of humidity to enjoy the much more livable 18 C. I’m not a desert flower. The weather report calls for unsettled weather for the foreseeable future so it looks like summer is on vacation for now.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Why So Sad?

Today the clouds are weeping. It seems so odd because we haven’t seen rain like this for quite awhile. Welcome that it saves me from standing for ages out there watering and the parched soil where I missed finally gets some too. It’s finally raining hard enough to penetrate through the canopy of leaves on my trees. Now hopefully it won’t keep raining for the next 2 weeks straight. I was going to go get a few groceries today but it can wait. At least it’s not too hot nor too cool and it’s rather pleasant for a change. The clouds might be sad but I’m not.

I promised the Boring Black Socks today and in the interests of continuing the documentation of my FOs here we are:

Son-in-Law’s Boring Black Birthday Socks

Begun: June 11, 2007 (I think! We were on holiday at the time and I didn’t record the exact date when I cast on.)
Completed: July 14, 2007

Yarn: Sandnesgarn Sisu, 80% wool/20% nylon, 50g = 160 m, 2 balls colour 1099 black.
Needles: Addi Natura bamboo, 2mm dpns.

Comments: Plain cuff down socks on 72 sts, 8” before heel flap, Eye of Partridge heel, 8” before toe decreases. Here’s a heel detail:

These took awhile to knit due to many interruptions with all the cleaning and sorting and excess heat etc. that’s been going on around Damselfly’s Pond. Hard to see the stitches without good light too. I had about 3 or 4 metres left of each ball. Cutting it pretty close, I’d say!

As I mentioned yesterday, I’ve already cast on for the next pair for T-Man. My Fern Leaf Scarf is about a metre long now. I figure that’s a little over halfway through the ball of yarn. I plan to knit until I run out of this, the leftovers from the Cherry Leaf Shawl. I’ve been spinning up the slightly trashy moorit merino into textured laceweight yarn and just finished the second bobbin of singles. Now I get to ply! Yay! It’s more relaxing when you don’t have to continually pick out bits of prickly plant matter and can just cruise.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Go Ahead & Leaf

I never seem to get around to blogging on weekends. Must be T-Man’s influence — he keeps me busy so I don’t get as much time to play on the computer. Particularly if the weather is good or we have some errands to run. In this case it wasn’t totally his fault though. On Saturday I went to my Spectrum study group. In keeping with our year’s theme of felt, we were each working on something different out on Sandra’s cosy patio:

That’s Chisako and Donna making felted beads, Masami making nuno felt on an old silk scarf and Sandra needlefelting her nuno scarf to better attach some novelty yarn. I was behind the camera but missing are Kirsten and Jo Anne (away on holidays) and Cathie (otherwise occupied). We had a lovely time while trying to keep out of the direct sun! My project, as I mentioned last post, was to knit a leaf from Nicky Epstein’s Knitting Never Felt Better. I tried the Autumn Leaf in 2 moderately variegated handspun 2ply yarns knit on my Denise circulars in US size 8. It took almost as long to embroider the veins in stem stitch as it took to knit the leaf and not much time at all to felt. This is the first one after felting and the second one before so you can see how much they changed. I used soapy water and bubble wrap to felt them by hand and had to keep rotating the leaf’s direction. First it would go long and skinny and then short and fat according to orientation! Eventually it got fairly tight and that was where I quit and rinsed out the soap. The finished size is about 4” long.

When I got home I decided to try the acorn from the same book using the same yarn as the leaf veins for the nut and some brown Corriedale 2ply for the cap. The directions say to stuff lightly with fiberfill as you stitch up the seam but how light is light? The darn thing was huge! See?

And the fiberfill showed badly through the stitches. It’s hard to felt a 3-dimensional shape on bubble wrap. Likely the washing machine method would work much better and I may still throw these things in later. I finally got it felted down far enough to fill in the holes but some of the fiberfill bearded out and had to be snipped off. The acorn is still really big! Over 2” long not including the stem. So I decided to miniaturize the pattern somewhat and tried again. I also changed to the cap colour one row earlier. This time I stuffed it a little firmer but with brown wool which I figured would felt somewhat along with the acorn. It worked much better and this acorn is only 1-1/2” tall, close to life-size. Here’s a comparison shot:

Not quite sure how (or if) I’m going to use these little darlings in an actual project but it was an interesting learning experience! At least these leaves look more like oak leaves where the ones that Nicky shows with the acorns look more like ivy or grape leaves. Yes it matters. To me anyway.

What else is new? I’ve finished the Boring Black Socks (I’ll show you later) and cast-on for a pair for T-Man in Mega Boots Stretch. He still needs more socks at least until his drawer is full and he has enough to wear in between laundry days. Besides I always need some plain socks to knit on when my mind is elsewhere.

We also pulled all the stuff out from the last attic. Yikes! That was the one that hasn’t been thoroughly gone through for a very long time. I am truly amazed at how many fantasy/sci-fi books I’ve got stashed. And yes these are the ones I’ve already read. What to do with the ones I don’t want? It has to be quick and easy because I’m not going to post them to Craigslist or Freecycle or anything. Too much trouble. And first my daughter has to check for ones she doesn’t have. We started putting things like old fish tanks and accompanying paraphernalia out in the back alley a few at a time. They disappeared in record time so I guess the binners were out in force yesterday. I put some hideous acrylic granny square afghans out today and they disappeared within the hour. Amazing how that happens. Now I have to wait for both kids to go through their old books and toys. We didn’t keep many and they’re mostly pretty thrashed. There’s a whole box of Lego though and some vintage Transformers which the man-child will want. And a few things that can be cleaned up for the grandkids. Nothing has all the parts though. Remarkable what one hangs onto and what disappears without a trace, isn’t it?

Friday, July 13, 2007

Ah Cooler!

Happy Friday the 13th! It’s quite a bit less toasty here today, thank goodness. I was about to roast my eyeballs and we even slept with no covers for most of the last few nights. Or jammies either — at least the old t-shirts we wear instead of “real” jammies. But today is quite pleasant and just a bit overcast. I’m especially happy because I’ve had a lot of things I wanted to accomplish today and it’s hard to do that when the least exertion makes you feel like fainting from heat stroke.

I got the majority of the closet stuff sorted out but I still need to do some ironing and it’s not quite cool enough for that except first thing in the morning. A few things got thrown out but most got sorted and replaced or re-located to one or the other of the attic spaces. I can finally move around in there and find what I’m looking for. What a pleasure! Makes all the work in the heat worthwhile. One more attic space to go now that we can get at the door to it in the back of the closet. Wish I didn’t have the feeling that I’m going to have to start all over again from the beginning once I get to the end.

Speaking of end, I’m almost finished the Boring Black Socks with just a bit of toe left to go. It’s been too hot to hold the needles so not much got done on them recently. Nor any other knitting either. A friend even remarked yesterday that she had never seen me without some knitting in hand before! Hmmm…bad sign. But I’m hoping to finish up the BBSocks today because… well, I’m bored of them. Heh. And they will be done before the recipient’s birthday for once. How novel!

I have to mention the lecture I went to last evening. It was the art-stitching duo from England known as Double Trouble, aka Jan Beaney and Jean Littlejohn, captured on their way to an Alaskan cruise where they’ll be teaching a group of fellow cruisers. Yes, I know I don’t do much in the embroidery vein but they were very interesting and also amusing. (Loves me the dry British sense of humour.) I’m really quite impressed with their self-publishing record which they insist keeps them experimenting and learning just to put the books together. So far they’ve done eighteen 28-page books on embroidery techniques and numbers 19 and 20 are just about to be released. They originally did a couple of larger books with Batsford (which was bought out) and one of these “Stitch Magic” is going for over $100 in the Canadian “used and new” market but only around US$35 in the States. If you order from Britain it’s only about $26 but postage is much higher from there. Both the US and British prices are reasonable for a book that’s virtually out of print (for the second time). Why is it so pricey in Canada? Is there a mad run on this book, excellent though I’m sure it is? Is somebody holding all the remaining copies hostage? Will fanatical stitchers pay that much for a single book? Inquiring minds want to know. Luckily I feel no need to own this book. Whew! BTW it would cost about $350-400 to buy the complete set of Double Trouble books, which are actually more like magazines in size, from Quilting Arts which is probably their best North American distributor. QA also has the Stitch Magic book for US$26.95 assuming they still actually have a copy left. Saner heads must prevail somewhere.

Anywho, I enjoyed the slides but I was very happy they had brought along a bunch of examples of their work because there is so much more detail in person. If you could get close to them, that is. The audience must have consisted of big fans of Double Trouble because you could barely get anywhere near the stage where the pieces were arranged. I kind of glanced at the ones I could see through the throng because T-Man was waiting for me so I didn’t have time to hang around until the crowd thinned. One thing I got out of the lecture was the reiteration of that idea of working on a theme or following a series until you can get into the real depths of the subject matter and work through the issues of technique and presentation. I do need to work on that in myself. They were big believers in having a sketchbook/journal system going and where I would take a photo, they would spend time sketching and painting. I’m lousy at that and get much too impatient with myself and my lack of skill. Of course if I spent some time practicing I might get better at it. I’m not convinced yet though. I need a better reason than “you must”. I’d rather spend time manipulating the images I’ve photographed on my computer. And writing blog posts. Hmm…guess I don’t want to do the work one needs to do to be a real artist. Like that’s a revelation!

Gotta go throw the next load of laundry in. Amazing how many clothes you can go through when it’s hot out. They might be smaller clothes and you might wear less of them at a time but they get stinky much faster! Tomorrow is Spectrum Study Group day and we’re continuing our Year of Felting. I don’t feel like making either wet or dry felt so I thought I would bring my new Nicky Epstein book along for show & tell. Then I can try knitting some of the leaf patterns from it in handspun to see how they are worked and if I have time I can try hand-felting them. More anon. As if you could stop me!

Thursday, July 12, 2007


The title means “good eye” and refers to a meditational tool developed by Shambhala Buddhists, joy and awareness in things from a truly close-up perspective. Not being inclined to any religious persuasion myself, I do think miksang is a wonderful tool for art and creativity. The digital camera makes it so easy. No expenses except the camera itself and perhaps prints if you’re so inclined. A built in macro function (the little flower icon setting) is available on virtually every digicam on the market. Get close, point and shoot at lots of things, go to your computer and run them as a slide-show. You’ll be amazed at what you see! And how many ideas pop up for ways to use the colours and shapes. There’s a Flickr group dedicated to this or more info on the Miksang website.

Funny thing though — I’ve been doing this in some way for most of my life without knowing what to call it. My myopic vision may have contributed to this fascination for the nearby! Even as a small child I’d look at a section of pattern where the bathroom curtain shadow fell on the wall or run around with a magnifying glass or a paper tube peering at flowers and bugs and anything else that caught my eye. In school I remember cutting out a square hole in a piece of cardboard and moving it over images in magazines to see the shapes that resulted. More recently I’ve played with photos by cropping and using some of my photo-editing tools on them. Breaking the obvious down to more mysterious elements. Making you really look at things instead of glancing over them and intuiting the details. Changing your perspective. It’s good for you.

I got the original info on the concept of miksang from this — one of Robert Genn’s newsletters. If you’re not signed up for his free twice-a-week service, you’re missing out on some good stuff. Even if you aren’t a painter there’s a lot of thoughtful information that any creative person could use, plus some insights into the creative mind. And I really love Robert’s paintings though I can’t afford any! Maybe because he’s local to me that his natural scenes are often very familiar but with distinctive colour edges which really appeals to me.

One artist (and friend) who often uses the up-close-and-personal or the odd angle in her work is my son’s mother-in-law, Judith Fairwood. On her page you’ll see some of what I mean though many of her more macro paintings are not pictured here. Note the persimmons — those 6 paintings were our commission and reside in my kitchen! And the “Geometry of Reeds” is another one I covet and have seriously considered purchasing. The only thing holding me back is that it’s very large and we don’t have enough available wall space for it. Maybe I need to reconsider clearing something out? BTW the little girl in “Two Cakes” is my DIL and mother of my two grandkids! I love that pouty look of concentration on her face as she places the Smarties just so. (See the two boxes in the painting. This is Canada. Those are not M&Ms!) She still gets that expression. Heh.

Back to miksang. Here’s mine for the day:

My blueberries are ripening! I had some along with fresh raspberries from the outdoor market and plain yogurt all mixed with granola for breakfast this morning. Yum. Contemplating blueberries and eating them too.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Melting Into Goo

It’s the hottest day of the year so far (heading for 35 C. today) and what do I decide to do? Paint the inside of the freaking closet! I think my brain melted before the rest of me caught up. After I got all the stuff out of said closet yesterday, I noticed that it hadn’t had a coat of paint in donkey’s years. So we found the leftover half of the big can of light yellow kitchen paint and this morning at 5:30am I started painting. In my underwear. Seriously weird mind-picture that, eh? I actually started out wearing my “painting pants” but quickly removed them as the sweat poured down. (Who’s going to see me anyway? Even T-Man is at work.) I’ve just finished 2 coats and an extra one on the attic door plus touch-ups to a few spots and there’s only a centimeter of paint left in the can. It’s not a great job but it’s the inside of a space that’s usually so full of stuff nobody can see the paint anyway. The space is a yard deep and the full 12 foot length of my study and includes a sewer vent pipe, a heavy metal hanging rod and a brick chimney to paint around. The only good thing was that I didn’t need a ladder to paint the ceiling because it slants from arms reach to below my chin. I also didn’t paint the inside front wall because it’s covered in pine strips. I would obviously have run out of paint if I’d tried. (We won’t even consider how much more energy that would have taken.) The one advantage is that the paint sure dries fast when it’s around 27 C. in here! Yes, I have my fan on and facing directly at me. It’s the only thing that kept me going. Well, that and several huge cups of tea.

The rest of my day is going to be taken up with attempting to keep cool. But first I wanted to review another book. This one is Nicky Epstein’s Knitting Never Felt Better:

It’s a great book if you love ideas and techniques rather than just patterns. Most of Nicky’s books are like that. A bunch of inspirational swatches and a few patterns for completed items using her favourites out of the bunch. This book not only shows you what the knitted swatches look like both before and after felting but she also covers the lesser known technique of felted shibori in some depth. This version of shibori isn’t “tie-dye” but is “tie-felt” — where the objects were tied in doesn’t full along with the rest of the fabric but instead pokes out in wonderful textural bubbles and blisters. Of course that’s not to say that you couldn’t add dyeing in there as well but Nicky is apparently either not a dyer or is keeping the book’s focus on just the knitting and fulling part. She also adds embellishments (fulled flowers and leaves etc.), cords and fringes, cut shapes, and even life-sized fruits and veggies. Unfortunately a cute horse and bunny made from recycled sweaters call for purchasing a Vogue pattern to sew them. I think that’s cheating, Ms. Author. Either make your own patterns and include them (which she did with other things here) or don’t show them at all. Vogue patterns are pricey (I’m not paying the equivalent of half the price of the book) and it’d probably go out of print just about the time you might want to make one of these stuffies. It’s bad enough that you can’t find old wool sweaters in our local second-hand shops. I think synthetics are much more popular here where it doesn’t get ridiculously cold, just wet. Of course real wool keeps you warmer when wet but for some reason everyone wants something you can just heave in the washer and dryer. Too bad! Either that or someone is getting first dibs on the good wool stuff. I can’t find anything suitable for rug hooking either.

But I digress. Nicky also gives hints on the fulling/felting process and what specific yarns look like before and after. Although I’m not about to knit and felt a zucchini, I think the strength of this book is in the diversity of patterns that you can see after they’re fulled. This includes textures, colour knitting (mosaic, fairisle, argyles etc.), lace, bobbles and cables. Things you may not have thought to try but that work really well with neat effects. This is another one to add to my ever-burgeoning collection of Nicky Epstein inspiration/solution/design books. I don’t always like exactly what she’s done but I can totally see using some of her prolific ideas in my work. I already have in the past.

Nicky’s next book that’s coming out is the sequel to Knitted Flowers, called Crocheted Flowers. Just goes to show that crochet is beginning to catch up to its more popular sibling, knitting. I know there are the “just/only/absolutely one or the other” folks out there, but I like both crafts for different reasons. Some of the really well-known designers are versed in both too like Lily Chin, Annie Modesitt and Leigh Radford. And of course you can combine techniques into one project. I find it funny when the “one craft” types flip if they see a crocheted sleeves on a knitted sweater or a crocheted edging joining knit blocks together into an afghan. It’s all yarn, people! If you can do one, you can very likely learn to do the other. Consider it good for your health to constantly learn new things so you’ll stave off Alzheimer’s later. It’s also good to use different muscles and movements to prevent repetitive stress problems. Or whatever. Besides it’s fun.

OK I’m outta here. The paint smell isn’t strong but it’s annoying and it’s heading for 30 C. up here. Me and Tori the Wheel need to find a cooler spot so I can spin some. Not outside — it's much hotter out there! Maybe in the living room? It's on the north-east side of the house and has a comfy chair.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Sunny Daze

It’s been somewhat quiet around Damselfly’s Pond the last few days. The sun is out and it’s very warm. I don’t have a lot to show for my time spent. The Mosaic Tour on Saturday was quite the hoof (over 7 kilometres) and we never did see all of the stones. We got hungry first! The last few we missed are within a few blocks of our house though so we’ve probably seen most of them anyway. It was quite amusing that we started out with a large group and were down to 3 people at the end! Though more joined us for the picnic which didn’t end up being a BBQ at all. It was enjoyable though we were really tired, not so much from the walk which we do all the time, but because we had already spent the day gardening and housekeeping pretty intensively. And we did more of that on Sunday too.

Yesterday I slept in (until 7!) and didn’t even manage to get completely dressed all day. I read some and knitted some and got all my new books covered. I always put adhesive-backed clear plastic on all my books to protect them as well as my name and the year plus a hand-cut rubber stamp inside the front cover to personalize my collection. They also get entered along with all my magazines, notebooks etc. into my database which is up to over 2500 items now. It represents quite an investment and I like to take good care of it all. Most of it is irreplaceable.

I’ve started pulling out the stuff from the large closet in front of the last attic door. It gets too hot up here and I have to quit well before noon so it’s going to take awhile to finish. My big fan/swamp cooler is my friend. No, I don’t want the gorgeous weather to go away! Even if I do have to water plants every day. It’s so nice to have real summer for a change.

Now that there’s more room in the attic that I recently finished cleaning, some of this closet stuff is going in there. Like my teaching marudais for kumihimo (aka stools with holes cut in the seat). I’d like to be able to hang the seasonal clothing properly and actually get into the attic behind and there’s just too much stuff in the way. Cleaning and organising is such a slow process but it does feel good as each section is completed. Three down and one to go.

In other news, there are teeny tomatoes in my greenhouse and flowers on some of the cucumbers. We have a mutant lettuce in the greenhouse too with leaves the size of dinner plates. Just one is a salad! It was starting to bolt from the heat so I picked the whole top section leaving the bottom to grow some more if it wants to. There are more little lettuces outside. The herbs, beans, broccoli and leeks are growing ok but we don’t have much else this year. I started some basil, cilantro and winter broccoli in the basement but I’ll keep them under lights until I run out of head room. They always stop growing the minute I put them outside. Though maybe because it’s so warm they’ll be ok, but then by the time they’re ready it could be back to the dreary weather we had in May and June. Ya never knows for sure.

I’ll leave you with this from my garden:

Did you know that purple potatoes had such pretty purple flowers?

Saturday, July 07, 2007


I love this word coined by Sandi Wisehart, editor of Knitting Daily. It definitely seems nicer than having “crafty-ADD” or something equally psychological-sounding. Sandi gives the impression that she has nearly as many different things going as I do and I’ve been enjoying this new free online addition to Interweave Press. Beading Daily is coming soon too and you can sign up for the emailed newsletter now.

Hey, Sharon honey, if you think the dolls in the book I reviewed yesterday are too weird for you, what do about inside-out teddy bears? Kent Rogowski has used them as art works and their photos are in his book. Click on Images for more of them. I somehow like the one on the cover (yeah, I know – what does that say about me?) but the rest are downright eerie! There’s an interview with Kent if you’d like to get a bit more insight into his motivations for treating the poor teddies in this drastic way. Don’t forget to check out the comments on the book site too. Very interesting!

Anyway, I have another book review that hopefully you’ll like better: More Sensational Knitted Socks by Charlene Schurch. This is a welcome follow-up to her first book, Sensational Knitted Socks, and I think if you had only these two books available, you could knit a different pair of socks from them every week for the rest of your natural life and never run out of combinations to try. This book expands on the information in the first one and Charlene gives you more options to create personalized socks for virtually any-sized feet and knit with dpns or circs, toe-up or cuff-down, heel flap or short-row and variations, plus a number of different toes. I like her colour-coded charts that make it easier to follow just the instructions you need, though I probably would scan them and mark up the copy to make sure I didn’t miss anything or read the wrong choice of numbers. The sample socks are attractive and sprinkled throughout the book with details on how they were achieved so you can copy them if you don’t want to come up with your own. You don’t need the first book to use the second one since some of the information is repeated, but none of the stitch patterns are the same.

I don’t know if anyone has discussed this at length, but you could very easily use these stitches to make wonderful wristwarmers, gloves and fingerless gloves — and even hats. They are small patterns already charted to be worked in the round so why not? Some would also look great in self-striping or painted yarns, especially the stranded and mosaic stitches. So now all my extremities are warming up! Oh wait…that was the summer sun. Though today we’ve had quite a bit of high cloud that’s keeping the temp pretty reasonable.

Remember way back to April when we took part in the second neighbourhood Mosaic Project? Today is the Grand Tour, finishing up with a BBQ for the participants. I’m bringing a 3-bean salad as my contribution and our lighthouse mosaic stepping stone will be officially on the books with the title of “Cape Manitoba.” (There’s a joke there, but I’m not explaining it to ya!) It’s really fun to walk around and come across these circles all over the place on publicly-owned verges by people’s homes. The symbolism is very personal to the makers so it’s a challenge to figure out sometimes! That’s why the tour will be informative as we get to explain where our inspiration came from. Maps to each stone with their titles will be distributed and my copy will join the one I kept from last year when we made “Darth Dragonfly.” It’s been a welcome chance to get to know some of our neighbours a little better and to work together to bring a little artsy-craftsy feel to our streets.

Friday, July 06, 2007


The gallery opening at the Silk Weaving Studio last evening was very nice. We were a leetle too warmish by the time we walked down there in the hot sun though. It’s a pretty tiny studio with lots of people schmoozing and even though it’s right next to the water and both doors were wide open, it was warmish inside as well. The weaving was worth it anyway. I was joking that it was a test to see if we could tell which pieces were Chisako’s and which were Kate’s! They blended together very well. Chisako tends to use mainly very fine silks with a few other yarns such as bamboo and wool/stainless steel (really!). Kate’s yarns are a little heavier but she gets amazing deep textures with bubbles and shirring. Some wool yarns help to create the textures when they full and shrink and the silks don’t. Kate also makes more clothing items where Chisako tends to let the cloth be itself as scarves and wraps.

After we’d had our fill of chatting, drinking wine, smelling the silks, ogling the lovely textiles and admiring the baby silk worms, we were still hungry so we headed to a little Granville Island café. We shared a half-litre of organic wine and ate yummy crab and avocado sandwiches outside in the quite shade of Railspur Alley as the sun lowered. Very romantic! I guess T-Man and I finally got our 36th anniversary dinner only 2 days late. We were too busy on Tuesday to celebrate.

Switching topics, I received a box of books that I ordered so look forward to some book reviews in the near future. As a matter of fact, I’ll start with one that I’ve managed to pretty much read through already: Art Doll Adventures by Lisa Li Hertzi. Li has a style of work that I totally love, not cute at all but kind of funky and not all the creatures are human-like. The book is subtitled “Exploring Projects and Processes through Cultural Traditions” which doesn’t really give you more of a handle on what to expect. Think African mask, petroglyphs and ancient goddesses. Or see her website which isn’t very extensive because it’s currently under construction. The author is also a graphic designer and it shows in her book which has more than just her dolls in it. She includes ATCs (Artist Trading Cards) and journals as well as other artists’ interpretations of her patterns. There are hints and tips on creating your own personal doll that doesn’t resemble hers at all and also “adventurer’s” options for each which may include PaperClay or modeling compound and paint. She even lists creative exercises on how to make art out of the patterns themselves! Instructions range from very detailed to vague suggestions so you can choose your comfort level. As icing on the cake, Li is also a very talented writer and she gives some interesting background on the cultures, ancient and more modern, that she presents. It also helps make her instructions fun to read as well as hopefully easy to follow. As you can probably tell, I enjoyed this book quite a lot. Whether I actually make something out of it anytime soon is another question. But then that's true of any of my books and magazines.

I’ll be heading out in a short while to have lunch with Darling Daughter. I finally get to give her the fibre prezzies that I got her at the conference as a thank-you for looking after cats, house and garden while we were away. There’s a bag of camel/wool called Caramel Swirl and some yummy bamboo that I almost kept for myself, even though I bought two 150g bags of it so I’d have one for me and one for her. I finally came to my senses and realized that I don’t really need both of them! (Besides, if necessary I can contact the vendor and order more. Heh.) I also came across her old Christmas stocking which I have to admit is pretty darned ugly but I’ll ask her if she wants it back. I quickly made it out of cheap felt when she was only a few months old so just use your imagination. To give you a better hint, my son’s equally ugly stocking was rejected by his dear wife as terminally tacky. It’s ok. I’m not heartbroken about it. Much. I’m sure DIL has plenty of time with 2 small children to make a better one. Oh wait…that’s the same reason why mine were so quick-and-dirty! Mothers of small children don’t have any spare time. Snort!

I shouldn't be so snarky, should I, when I have a whole sinkful of dishes left from yesterday and dinner the day before to do. I don't have any excuses except that I was concentrating on getting my studio back and then we went out and didn't get back until after our usual bedtime last night. Off to do them before the dirt becomes permanent.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Spick & Span

Well I finally did it! It’s eleventy-thousand degrees up here (you could cook eggs on my forehead) but I stuck with the cleaning and finished up getting all the stuff that was left back in the attic. It’s less than half of what it used to be so, even though I didn’t get ruthless enough, it’s much better than it was. I can even get inside the space myself now. See?

Notice Ms. Polly is back inspecting to make sure I got it all put back correctly. Labels and everything. I spent quite a bit of time making lids for all those square white boxes out of some sheets of corrugated cardboard that I found in there. I used a rectangular one as a pattern and just squared it off. I learned how to make storage boxes from my birth mom who used to get tons of cardboard from her former workplace and couldn’t let it go to waste. I think the lid I traced was one of hers. (She also makes very fancy boxes as well as utilitarian ones.) All you need is a ruler (preferably metal), a pencil and a box knife. Oh and something safe to cut on — I used my big table with the plastic cutting mats on it. Actually the square boxes are ones that I’ve had for over 30 years and originally held Kodak developer from T-Man’s former workplace. You can see the label on the unpainted one in front there. Obviously Mother isn’t the only one who can’t let good cardboard go to waste! I’ve been using them for craft supply storage for 3 decades. Yikes! I ran out of cardboard though before I ran out of boxes needing lids but that’s ok. I also ran out of arms and shoulder and neck just about at the same time. It’s hard for me to press down while cutting especially something that takes a lot of pressure to get through. I have to be careful because that’s exactly how I pinched the nerve in my neck before and I don’t want a repeat of that painful experience. Besides, I only afford to lose the feeling in just so many fingers. One is more than plenty.

What’s next? Besides a temporary rest from cleaning. There’s one more attic space but I need T to help with that one. It’s more family stuff than just mine. And it needs to be cooler up here before we tackle it. I definitely procrastinated this chore too late into summer. I suppose I could get started on the long closet that’s in front of the last attic space though since it’s all my stuff and I can stand up with the doors open and the fan on to do it. Hmmm…but not until next week. I need a break.

This will be a short post today. We’re heading out (as soon as T gets back from the dentist) to walk down to Granville Island for the opening of my friend Chisako’s exhibit at Diana Sanderson’s Silk Weaving Studio. Her colours are all botanical dyes and the weaving is exquisite. Her fellow exhibiter, Kate also uses botanical dyes for lovely colours that magically all coordinate. It’ll be a gorgeous summer evening for a walk along the Seawall at False Creek. Wearing a hat, sunglasses and lots of sunscreen of course. I’m totally looking forward to it.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007


Today is so warm and sunny that I finally believe that it’s really summer. I’m distracting myself while I wait for an appropriate time to go get a series of blood tests that my doc would like me to have. He gave me the form ages ago but I didn’t have time before we went on holiday so today is it. I’m drinking hot water trying to pretend that it’s tea and hoping I don’t faint from starvation before I can get to the lab. I don’t want to go too early because there’s always a line-up then. I think it’s harder to fast when you’re conscious. I woke up at my usual 6 am and am trying to wait until at least 9:30 am before I leave.

I had a weird glitch yesterday with my computer refusing to connect with the Internet for a number of hours. It eventually fixed itself. While I was waiting I amused myself by continuing to stick mini-photos in my travel journal and spent a number of hours writing up my notes for the Spin Your Own Stripes workshop that I took while I was in Red Deer. Yeah, I know that’s disgustingly anal of me but I like to have everything crafty that I do put into my Accomplishments binder. You never know when the information will come in handy years from now when I can’t remember exactly what I did. I even printed 2 copies of the notes and put the second copy in my class notebook so that it’s there too. Here’s a photo of the 2 wrist warmers I made out of some of my sample yarns:

Knit on 56 sts with 2mm needles, they're about 5.5" long before I ran out of yarn. Yeah, I know they don’t remotely match. So what? They’re soft and warm. Hard to imagine wearing them on a day like today however. It’s supposed to get very hot. I’d better get some more of my sorting/cleaning done before it heats up. Yesterday I managed to shovel 2 more large green garbage bags out of the mess that used to be my studio. That’s a total of 4 now and the pile still doesn’t seem to be getting much smaller. I’m starting to be quite ruthless which is all to the good. Unfortunately I can only work on it for an hour or so before I start looking dazedly at the heaps and the sorting comes to a halt. Perhaps it’s something in the dust? It doesn’t matter how long it takes as long as it gets done eventually. I need my studio floor back.

I’ll share with you my favourite distraction this morning. There’s a fabulous antique knitted lace exhibit on at the Lacis Museum in Berkeley, CA. If like me you can’t make it to the museum, the next best thing is to click on the Exhibit and see a slide show of the pieces. The shawls, scarves, stockings, caps, doilies and edgings are beautifully photographed with detail shots — 111 in total. On my high-speed cable modem it took about 15 minutes to view them all. Breathtaking!

If that’s not enough for you, click on the Previous Exhibits link and go to the Memories in Beads slide show. 173 photos of purses, bags, clothing and unattached bead-stitched canvas with details of some of the stitching and antique beads. Unfortunately neither slide show has captions but it sure is great eye candy! There are several other slide shows available on this website also. Get clicking!

I almost forgot — Happy Fourth of July to my US readers!

Monday, July 02, 2007

Digging Out

Why is it that the more I chuck out, the more there still remains? I’m up to 2-1/2 large green garbage bags of craptaceousness and it doesn’t look like I touched the pile. As a matter of fact I think it’s been reproducing when I wasn’t looking. And I’m finding it so hard to throw things out. I’m so dang sure I’m going to need exactly that piece of fabric right after the garbage truck leaves. Tell me again about how if it’s been in my stash for 20 years, chances are I’ll never-ever use it? “But it’s so pretty! And there’s almost a metre of it! And that pile of mini-scraps are all handwoven! So what if they’re too small to piece together!” It’s hard, I tell you. Very hard. But thanks, no, I don’t need help. I’ve got a stubborn streak in me a mile (sorry, 1.609 kilometres) wide. I WILL do this. And without the FlyLady too. (Her daily sink shining and getting dressed to the shoes even if you aren’t going anywhere is A Bit Much. And we won’t even discuss the Super Fling Boogie thing. I don’t work like that.)

I’ve come up with a good compromise for some things. I’ll put them in a labeled box with a note that if I don’t use them in one year from this date, they are absolutely/definitely/no excuses going in the trash. Think I’ll hold myself to that? No bets. All I can promise is that I’ll try to follow through.

Speaking of cleaning, T-Man cleaned the swamp out of our little water garden on the top deck and while it was off the deck, I started cleaning the goo out from under where it had been for about 2 years without moving. So of course that led to scrubbing the whole top deck because, heck, why stop halfway. I also finally got the 2 wall planters and one rail planter filled with annuals. This year I went for some new variety of impatiens instead of the usual geraniums. The flowers are oddly shaped and the colours are peachy-orangey. Hope the extra sun we now get because the pear tree is gone doesn’t hurt them too much. I also added some lobelia which I love. Peaches and purples are yummy together! I also got some more of my favourite coleus in several different varieties. I only had 4 left from the sad debacle of me trying to keep cuttings going over the winter with whitefly and aphids doing their level best to foil my every effort. And that was only because I snipped off some more tops from the infested ones and re-rooted them yet again. Luckily there’s always more at the plant shop. Heh. Sorry no photos because I’m too tired to get out the camera.

Where was I? Oh yeah, now the upper deck is looking quite spiffy and I moved the houseplants that needed to go outside. There’s new buds on my big disocactus so there will be more flowers this year. My little one (a rooting from the big one) had 2 flowers that finished while we were away in Alberta. There probably won’t be as many flowers as I had last year though. I didn’t exactly get the plant outside as early as usual because a) I wasn’t here and b) it was freakishly cold anyway so it was just as well.

More news about our old friend Wilfred the Wildfibre Moose: his presence has been requested for gigs all over town in the coming months! He will be at an arts centre, a yarn shop and a fibre arts gallery. Probably signing autographs and giving out weaving, spinning, felting and knitting advice as well as schmoozing with his adoring public. Congrats on your increasing popularity, big guy!

In other crafty news, I finally turned the heels on both Boring Black Socks so now it should be easy sailing. At least I can read and knit at the same time again. I get way more knitting done when I can get caught up on my reading.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Our Home & Native Land

Happy Canada Day to all of my Canadian buddies, comment posters and secret blog readers! It’s not really a holiday weekend around Damselfly’s pond because T-Man has to go to work tomorrow like normal. Bleh. Oh well, I should be happy that I had him all to myself for 2 whole weeks just a short while ago. However right now I’m looking forward to heading off to my son & DIL’s shortly for dinner with them and the grandkids. We’ll be sure to toast this great country we are so lucky to have been born in. I know I’ve never seen the eastern part (or even most of the middle part) of it, but what I have seen is pretty amazing. We aren’t known for expressing our patriotism the way some countries’ citizens are, but I’m very proud to be a Canadian. It’s not my fault we have a stone-cold, dead-eyed, Bush-loving Prime Minister. I didn’t vote for him. Unfortunately somebody did.

Sorry, slipped into politics there for a second. Back to your regularly scheduled crafty stuff. Or the cleaning and sorting of the crafty stuff, which is pretty much all I’ve been up to. I’ve dragged everything out of the attic space now but I still have to sort most of it before what’s left goes back in. This is some of what I have to go through:

And inside the now-empty attic is my lovely assistant, Ms. Polly:

She was underfoot while I was hauling stuff out around her and I was having a lovely time trying not to trip over her. Notice how she doesn’t mind the vacuum. She’s deaf as a post now and it no longer bothers her. I can even vacuum her! The vet says the deafness is probably caused by her chronic nasal congestion. Poor old lady. Although she has one eye shut in the photo for some reason, her eyes are ok. She’s pretty creaky going up and down stairs and she doesn’t jump very far any more but she’s actually doing pretty well for almost 20. That’s 96 years old if she was a human.

Now that I’ve got all that stuff out, I’m going to have to clean up the mess I’ve created. But not today. My back has had enough of bending over and my nasal passages have enough dust in them for the moment. There’s always tomorrow. All alone. With T at work. On a stat holiday. Again. Sigh.