Friday, August 31, 2007

The Last of August

Yesterday was lovely and warm but today I’m reminded what a crummy month August has mostly been. It’s dark and cloudy but with only the barest sprinkle of rain and not uncomfortably cool so I’m not going to complain too loudly. They’re still working on siding the garage next door so the noise level is somewhat irritating. I can’t sit outside anyway because whenever I walk out the door it starts raining. If I stay in it’s fine. Go figure.

So here’s the skein from yesterday:

Merino/silk/angora. Luscious! Though it definitely smells like silk when wet. Not a pleasant scent unfortunately, at least to me. Silk is up there with wet dog and cat box in my Naturally Stinky List. I’d much rather smell freshly shorn sheep fleece or an indigo vat than wet silk. Surprisingly most people don’t even know that silk has a definite identifiable smell. Guess they never wash their silks, huh?

For fun (and to avoid my housework) I’m going to give you a review of a book I got recently. “Whadda surprise,” I can hear you say to yourself. “She got yet another book. Just where the heck is she putting them all?” Well, pretty soon I’m going to have to get more choosy or I’m just going to have to stash some more books in the attic. There’s space now that I got rid of all those fantasy/sci-fi pocketbooks! But I digress. (That’s one of T-Man’s favourite sayings.) The book is:

Mastering Beadwork: A Comprehensive Guide to Off-loom Techniques by Carol Huber Cypher and published by good old Interweave. First off, this book is one of those great hard wrap-around cover over coil binding that are just so practical for working from because it lies flat and is still identifiable on the shelf. The only problem I can see is that perhaps over time the pages might bend at the coil or tear loose if you are hard on your books. Carol is an inventive beadworker with a very personal style and colour sense. She’s also a whiz at explaining things very clearly which is helpful because looking through the book there aren’t really a huge number of diagrams. What there is, however, is a huge number of ideas with little boxes marked “Try this” everywhere. Attractive but relatively quick projects illustrate the techniques so you can jump in right away. This book is both a reference and an inspiration.

Carol covers a lot of territory in here: peyote stitch, Dutch spiral, netting, spiral rope, right-angle weaves (both single and double needle versions), triangle weave, square stitch, daisy chain, ladder stitch, herringbone stitch, brick stitch, African polygon, African helix, South African scallop and bead crochet. If a stitch is really unfamiliar to you and you need a lot of hand-holding and step-by-step instructions, there may not be enough information for you to learn it easily, particularly bead crochet which is quite different from the other “needle” weaves. (For that I’d get Ann Benson’s Beaded Crochet interactive DVD book. Most people really need to see it done to get it. Even me!) However, if you are somewhat conversant with bead stitches and want to add to your repertoire or see what else you can do with something you already know, this is an excellent place to look. It goes nicely on the shelf with Carol Wilcox Wells’ two indispensable bead stitch books. I really like this book. And yes, I have met books that I haven’t liked. I try not to buy those ones.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

7 Down & 2 To Go

I finished the 7th yarn in my shawl collection today: white 50% merino/30% silk/20% angora. I don’t have a photo yet because it’s still outside drying after my Torture Treatment. It’s only a small 96 yd/15 g skein but I have another few yards that I’d sampled several months ago if I run out early. It was spun on a spindle but is basically the same as the stuff I just spun up on Tori. Two more yarns to go, both blue. I have to say I’ve been enjoying spinning up these.

I don’t know if I mentioned that when I started spinning in earnest for this project, I tried spinning the Ashland Bay combed merino on Klaas, my Louet S-90 instead of Tori, the Louet Victoria. I’d forgotten how strong the draw-in is on Klaas! In order to avoid having the fine-spun yarn pulled out of my hands, I had to zigzag the yarn across several hooks to cause enough friction to slow it down. Klaas is bobbin-driven/flyer-braked. This wheel is great for more normal-sized yarns but for very fine ones that need more twist, he’s just too strong even with the brake tension off entirely. It makes my hands tired holding it back. When I switched back to Tori, things were much better. She is flyer-driven/bobbin-braked (aka Scotch tension) and it’s much easier to get almost no draw-in if necessary. I’m still waiting for the advent of a lace flyer that has been promised eventually. A higher ratio and smaller orifice would be helpful and would round out my wheel collection perfectly.

Well, I had a lovely day yesterday at my friend’s house with a total of 9 weavers, old and new. It was actually quite hot and sunny and we didn’t spend much time out on the back deck broiling our brains but repaired to the cool living room to chat. I was thinking of a word I heard recently used for the online knitting/blogging/podcasting community — a “subculture”. I think the weavers and spinners that were there, several of whom are not even computer owners far less online, must be a subculture of a subculture! But we all get along famously and have a great deal to talk about and mull over and share. As everyone wandered off home, the last 2 of us ended out in the hostess’s garage weaving studio for a demonstration of the computer-driven loom with fly shuttle and air-assisted lift. For the newest weaver there, it was quite an eye-opening experience and, heart in mouth, she got a chance to weave for a few moments on the monster! Fun stuff. And I got to take home a lovely rejected almost-scarf length, rescuing it from the scrap drawer. My friend has a way with colour and texture in weaving that I just can’t emulate. And she sells her scarves, shawls and jackets in high-end shops so you know she’s prolific as well as good. This piece wasn’t up to her high sales standards but it sure is pretty:

Soft rayon chenille and some cotton and novelties in the warp with a mercerised cotton weft, woven in a 2/2 twill that is threaded with the occasional reverse in direction. I might make something out of it eventually or just finish it off as a scarf. T-Man admired it for himself but it needs the fringes twisted and some loose ends worked in. Maybe I’ll do that since he rarely covets something like this and he likes scarves short and wide whereas I like mine just the opposite, long and skinny. OK, I’ve officially added it to The Queue.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Another Day; Another Yarn

This will be just a short post today. I’ve got a potluck lunch invitation and I’m not going to miss a chance to spend some time with old friends from my weaving guild. I still have to make my contribution to the food and it’s going to have to include some of the only thing that’s really doing well in my garden this year: beans. I’m thinking cold with a spicy Thai-sesame dressing. Yum.

Meanwhile, I finished the next colour in my shawl spinning. This one is not quite as soft as the others but as it’s only going to be a small accent, I think it will be ok. Surprisingly it’s quite a bit lighter in weight than the combed merino at 136 yards and 20 g. I had dyed some lengths of Perendale sliver in leftover Lanaset (Telana) dyestock and this is one of the colours I got:

Yes, deep orange. If you read yesterday’s post you know that’s part of my favourite colour palette! Think marigolds which are blooming profusely in my garden right now along with the volunteer coreopsis and lobelia which popped up when I didn’t have time to plant seeds. I’ve only got a short while to spin some more today before I have to go catch the bus. Or will I knit? Decisions. Decisions.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Colour Sense

I do love colours! They whisper to me about wonderful things. I can wax poetic over a seaside sunset, a fresh box of crayons, fall-tinged shrubbery or sample cards in the paint store. I don’t really have a colour that I despise although there are a few that I prefer in smaller amounts that are mingling well with others that I like better. This includes white and most pastels. I like my colours deep and rich and a little askew, somewhat off the pure hue and into tones and tertiaries. But that’s just me. I know folks who only like blues and purples and hate my favourite rusts and oranges. I know someone who hates green in any form, including the natural greens of plants. She even avoids watering her lawn so it turns brown! There are lots of people who avoid yellow like the plague because they think it doesn’t look good on them. Or grey and brown because they find them depressing. Interestingly almost everyone likes blue which accounts for the lasting popularity of indigo-dyed denim.

Did you know that English has the most words for colours of any language? We don’t use them all because some of them are obscure or somewhat imprecise and a lot of them have other meanings besides describing colour. Can you picture puce? How about taupe? Fawn? Celadon? The exact shade called Prussian blue? Or that one from the old crayon box: flesh? (Never matched my flesh nor anyone else's that I know of.) I was for years confused about vermillion. I thought it was green, not red. Don’t ask me where I got that idea. In the ancient world and in some other cultures, there are few words for colours. Black and white were first named, then red, then yellow or green, and lastly blue. That doesn’t mean that folks couldn’t see all the many colours around them, just that they didn’t think they needed to be named. I find that fascinating. I also read recently that there are a few women (always females) who not only have the normal three types of colour-perceiving cones in their eyes, but also a fourth type that is sensitive to yellow. This gives them more differentiations between yellow and green but they have difficulty describing what they can see that is so different from the rest of us. There are no words for it. There are also some people (mostly male) who cannot see certain colours at all. One of my son’s friends is so profoundly colourblind that he must infer colours from other details or from memorizing other people’s statements. (Bananas are yellow because everyone says they are.) I always wonder exactly what the world looks like to him. I’m sure it’s not like black and white film. Certain patterns that we don’t even notice give him serious headaches.

All this colour chat is making me want to get working on my Icelandic Shawl. Here’s the next yarn I spun up for it:

Yeah, I know. Not much colour here! This one is quite different — some 60% wool/40% Canadian blue fox blend that I got a long time ago from Folknits in Whitehorse (back when Wendy Chambers still had the store with the moose on top). Apparently these rare fibres are from arctic foxes raised for their fur but please don’t ask me how they are harvested. Maybe they are shed in the warm season from animals that weren’t harvested for pelts. I’d like to hope no foxes were harmed to obtain this stuff but can’t be sure. I’ve had the roving so long that it was starting to felt a bit in the bag. I spun it as I do most fine yarns: kind of semi-worsted in a short forward draw. There was a wee hint of scurf in big flakes that were easy to remove as I went. I treated the spun and plied yarn (about 120 yards and 20g) to Judith Mackenzie McCuin’s torture finishing in hot and cold water with quite a lot of agitation and a beating on the counter to felt it slightly and bring up the nap. I’m hoping this treatment will keep it from felting up more than the other yarns in the shawl. The resulting yarn is a pretty pale blue-grey and somewhat but not too fuzzy. I have never seen any more of this stuff anywhere so I consider it kind of a treasure. There was 100 g originally so there’s still enough left for something else. On to spinning the next yarn for this project. If you know me well enough, you won’t wonder why it’s orange! Three more to go after that. Whew. It’s been taking me at least a day or two to complete each yarn.

Addendum: While babbling about online magazines yesterday, I forgot to mention the Crochet Insider. Still the July issue up but it’s a good one. Lots of interviews with well-known artists. All the old stuff still available in archives. Go. Read. Ogle. Have fun.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Autumn in the Morning; Summer in the Afternoon

The weather has cleared up quite a lot and apart from a little rain Saturday and more overnight into Sunday, it’s been very nice. It’s still very cool in the mornings though. My bedroom was 13 Celsius this morning which makes it hard to get out from the warm covers and a bit chilly getting dressed! (Nothing like an ice-cold bra to wake you up.) It warms up outside after noon to the low-20’s which is quite acceptable and the actual house temperature is not as cold as my bedroom. We aren’t planning on turning on the furnace for awhile yet unless we have to. I’m hoping this carries on into October. But I’m not holding my breath — just enjoying it while I can.

In other news, I’ve sadly deleted the Spindlicity button from my sidebar. There hasn’t been a new post since last winter so I figure the editor, Janel Laidman has other yarn to spin. There hasn’t even been a notice posted to the Yahoogroup since April. If she does get another issue up, I’ll restore the button. Otherwise I’m wasting people’s time with a link to a very old issue. On the other hand, there is a Lughnasadh issue of Anti-Craft if you haven’t seen it. (Their goth-y sense of humour cracks me up!) Also an August issue of MagKnits that was new to me. It’s still the older summer issues of all the rest of the online magazines. New ones should be coming up soon. Including one that’s not yet on my sidebar: Spindle and Wheel. Allena has done 2 issues so far and promises the next one soon. It’s full of great tutorials and has new extras weekly (or thereabouts). Do check it out if you haven’t seen it yet. I’m not sure if past articles remain because I can’t find any archives. Read it while it’s hot!

While I’m waxing poetic about online magazines, how about the podcasts that keep me working when otherwise I would either be bored or quit to go read something instead? My favourites (in no particular order depending on my mood) are Cast On, CraftSanity, Lime & Violet, Sticks & String, KnitWit, CraftLit, WeaveCast and Craftcast but there are lots more. I especially like interviews, essays and books read to me. Sometimes I even like the music, particularly the humourous songs, though it can distract from the point of the discussion so I don’t really miss it when there is no music included. Some podcasts are more serious and some (like Lime & Violet) are hilariously silly. All are a great entertainment when my hands and eyes are busy but my brain is not fully engaged. I’ve mentioned before that I don’t have an iPod so I use my Palm T/X. If I work near my computer I could listen directly from iTunes through my speakers (but that’s not usually as satisfactory because of my hearing problems — it’s just as easy to wear earphones as hearing aids). You don’t even need iTunes if you have some other software on your computer that can play MP3 files. All the podcasts have links on their websites to download the shows directly. Subscribing through iTunes just makes it easier. If you haven’t tried podcasts yet, what’s stoppin’ ya?

So what have I been doing while listening to podcasts? Spinning some more for the Icelandic Shawl. Here’s the Ashland Bay merino colourway Mojave:

Pretty huh? It reminds me of the red rocks in Utah that I so love and though I’ve never seen the Mojave Desert in eastern California, the photos don’t show much in the way of red rocks. Personally I’d call the merino's colourway Capitol Reef instead, but I guess that doesn’t have the same cachet! Now I’m on to spinning the next colour and am aiming for 9 in total.

While we were out walking yesterday, I found an issue of Wild Fibers magazine for the first time in Chapters. I’ve always wanted to read this magazine but hadn’t had a chance to see a copy yet. I was not going to pay US $40 for a 4-issue subscription to Canada when the price for a US address is $28. That is totally out of line with exchange/mailing costs. I paid CDN$8.95 for the issue which is the printed cover price! And somewhat more reasonable I think. I always believed that you should be rewarded for your subscription by it being at least slightly cheaper than cover price. Obviously not in this case. I do hope the store continues to get this magazine in because it’s really quite gorgeous. Kind of the National Geographic for fibre-philes! The photos and articles are very high quality, not how-to’s but stories about the animals, people and lands that provide us with fibres and fibre tools. I’m kinda sorry now that I didn’t get in on the beginning when the mag started publishing in 2004. However US dollars were a lot more expensive for us Canadians then and I stick with my stubborn refusal to subscribe even now. I’ll be looking out for the next issue anyway on our usual magazine runs. Just what I need, more weight for my groaning bookshelves! But you know I can’t help myself.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Perfect? Maybe Not

Well it must be another weekend coming up because they are predicting that our lovely warm (not hot) and sunny weather is coming to an end for the next few days. What is it with this continuous bad timing? T-Man is on-call this weekend so we are stuck at home in case he needs to get to his computer. We were planning to do some work on the area from our side gate (we’re on a corner lot) to our back deck. It turns into a slippery muddy mess in winter so we’re replacing the bricks and grass with a combination of pre-fab concrete blocks and fake cobblestones using a mould and hand-mixed concrete. Any cloud cover will be welcome but rain needs to hold off until we’re done. I’m not holding my breath.

Speaking of decks, we’ve had another visit from the masked marauder judging by the muddy footprints on the deck. How that raccoon gets so muddy when it’s been dry weather for days I don’t know but he sure likes my water garden on the upper deck. Oh wait! I know. The watering hose in the garden is leaking and I bet he’s been playing in the mud around there. And then tracking it up to wash his paws in the water garden. The footprints are huge, about half the size of my hand, so I’d hate to run into him by accident. Since he comes before dawn it’s unlikely, but dawn is getting later every day and we get up earlier than that now. Who needs to go out of the city for wildlife, eh?

And speaking of wildlife, the latest news about the city strike is that some protesters dumped a bunch of garbage on the mayor’s doorstep, an upscale downtown condominium, early this morning. (Around the same time as the raccoon’s visit! Obviously he didn’t do it.) They’re calling it “Sam’s Strike” because they blame the mayor for not doing something about the ongoing labour disruption. It’s pretty sad seeing the public swimming pools growing green algae and the park flowers shriveling up from lack of water. Community centres and libraries closed. Even Stanley Park’s Nine O’clock Gun is silenced because they ran out of charges. Meanwhile I haven’t yet filled my second garbage can though the recycling box in the basement is getting really heaped. Helps to have a compost pile and to shop with a backpack and cloth bags. I’d have even less garbage if we hadn’t done some housecleaning in the attic, held a large birthday party and babysat the grandkids several times. Those disposable diapers fill up the can quickly! Even so most of my garbage is non-recyclable plastic packaging and meat bones which I can’t compost because of the rats. Who, by the way, are having a gay old time in the city’s unsecured garbage! Surprisingly though, the city is not a whole lot dirtier than usual – at least anywhere I’ve been. Some folks are packing their stuff over to other municipalities and paying to dump and there are a number of private disposal companies who are benefiting bigtime. Seems the city’s unions are kind of doing themselves a disfavour by going on strike as more public work gets privatized out from under them.

Rant over. Told you yesterday not to get me started! Where was I? Oh yeah. More spinning. This is the black Shetland combed top I finished up yesterday.

You can actually see the little white hairs in the black wool. I have about 243 yards/50g in this skein. I had some trouble spinning this stuff at first. It was sticky and my yarn was coming out thick and thin. I tried stripping it down into smaller strips and pre-drafting (which was just as sticky to do) but that didn’t help. Until I got the bright idea to try the other end of the strips. Duh. This stuff is like the cotton sliver I’ve spun in the past. It has a “nap” where one end drafts easily and the other goes jerk-jerk-jerk. After that light bulb moment it was a breeze to finish. I probably don’t need nearly this much yarn but I’d rather err on the side of way too much than not enough. And it was so pleasant sitting out on the deck with Tori the wheel, my Palm T/X with earphones for podcasts to listen to and a cup of tea. I plan to do the same thing again today only with a different fibre.

This morning I indulged in some knitting on my Hepburn Cardi which I haven’t touched in awhile. I got another inch or so done on both sleeves. I have nearly 10 inches done now. At this rate I might have the sweater done by next summer, maybe? Too many things are calling for my attention right now as summer (and the good light) winds down. I also got a few inches of the Crosshatch Socks done last night while watching Dr Who. Unfortunately I have to look at what I’m doing quite a lot which makes it difficult to see the action onscreen. That means I don’t have anything plain on the needles at the moment. I hesitate to start something else though because that will divide my time up even further than it is already. Things seem to take a heck of a lot longer to complete when you only work on them a tiny bit at a time. And there is a deadline of sorts for the Crosshatch Socks and another one not much later for the next pair which I haven’t even started yet.

Oh, and Happy Eighth Birthday, Blogger! You’ve become a big part of my life. Thanks for my 2+ years of memories. Keep on blogging!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Thursday Thoughts

No, this post isn’t just going to be all boring Damselfly Musings (though there might be a little in here somewhere towards the end) but I also have some more stuff to show. It’s so nice that there’s actually sun outside so I can photograph things with natural light. I’m taking advantage while I can.

First up we have some spinning. This is the Exotic Wood colourway of Ashland Bay’s combed merino. It’s about 40g spun it into a fairly fine 2-ply — around 173 yards total. I’d tell you what that works out to in yards per pound except that’s too much math. Nearly 2000 ypp, I think. It’s a little thinner than sock yarn so I’d call it laceweight. Pretty huh?

This is a closeup so it’s larger than reality. I have several more colours to spin up still. These are for the Icelandic Shawl from Knitting Daily. It’s turning out to be very “deep woods with a glimpse of lakeshore” in feel. I’m liking it so far.

Next we have the Crosshatch Socks for DIL’s birthday. I’m enjoying the texture but you can’t really see the holes much unless it’s stretched out on the leg. This is one of those “true lace” patterns with something going on in every row. No plain rows. It’s pretty simple however. Here’s the chart:

The original pattern is in More Sensational Socks by Charlene Schurch but I made this one in my Knit Visualizer program so I could have a large reference copy in my Sock-Box, held inside the lid by magnets. (Unfortunately I keep losing my magnet strips. They aren’t very strong. Better than Post-Its though.) I do like the way the subtle colour graduations don’t detract from the lace pattern:

I was trying to find out what colourway this one is (blues/purples/greens) but I don’t have the label. I think it’s Meilenweit Mega Boots Stretch #704. I like this stuff because it’s soft, slightly stretchy, very thin, and you don’t have to worry about making matching socks because you can’t match it even if you try! However a pair of socks costs nearly $20 including tax so it’s not exactly cheap. But so what? Neither T-Man nor I have been able to wear out a pair of these socks yet. And the way the colours are variegated and plied, I can’t even imitate them with dyeing my own. Not like all the handpainted yarns out there which are lovely, but nothing I can’t do myself.

With all that stuff out of the way, on to the musing or rather a rant (which you can skip if you want). I’m getting just a little more than annoyed by some folks’ rudeness and impatience. I’m usually pretty easygoing and tolerant but I saw someone almost get run over while crossing the street by a woman in an SUV with a cell phone to her ear who obviously didn’t want to slow down even for the few seconds for the pedestrian to pass in front of her. She actually yelled epithets at her (an older woman with her arms loaded down with grocery bags) when the pedestrian could have already been across the street safely if the driver had only lifted her foot from the gas for a few seconds instead of accelerating. Unbelievable. Every time I see something like this (and I’ve seen far too much of it lately) I want to take the perpetrator and sit them down, massage their shoulders, tell them to close their eyes and relax. Recite a mantra. Maybe take up spinning or knitting. Get more restful sleep. Start earlier so they aren’t in such a hurry. Turn their cell phone off. All they’re really doing is shortening their lives — and possibly someone else’s if they run them over. A permanent state of stress creates serious health problems that we don’t need. Learn techniques to avoid it. Chillax. Live longer.

When I was a girl…gee, I sound like an old granny. Oh wait! I AM an old granny! Well, maybe not old — but a granny nonetheless. Where was I? Oh yeah. When I was a girl lo those many years ago, pedestrians had the right of way. Cars had to stop for them. What a concept! It was the law and they could have been given a ticket if they didn’t stop. As far as I know, the law hasn’t been changed. Just nobody enforces it any more so drivers think that they, in their metal-reinforced world-polluting behemoths, have sole rights to the road. And they are always in a tearing hurry to get somewhere. Sad really. They should walk more. Smell the flowers. And the garbage. (Whoops. We’re at the end of Week 4 of the city workers’ strike. Don’t get me started on that one.) Slowing down is better for your body (exercise) and your mental health (time to think). Try it. You’ll like it. Can you tell I don’t have a driver’s license? Personal choice made a very long time ago and only occasionally regretted since.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Presenting: Another FO

Actually finishing something cheers me up immensely! I keep thinking I never get anything done but obviously that’s an illusion on my part. This project didn’t exactly turn out perfectly but it will do until I can improve upon the design. At least my feet are warm.

My Purple Elephant Slipper-Socks

Begun: July 20, 2007
Completed: August 22, 2007

Yarn: Briggs & Little Heritage, 100% wool, 215 yds = 4 oz (113g) skein, purple tweed colour, used double throughout. 2 skeins (less than 2 oz left over).
Accent yarn: Paton’s ChaCha, 100% nylon novelty, 77 yds = 50g, colour “Jazz” (purple, turquoise, olive, brown). Part ball.
Needles: Crystal Palace bamboo dpns, US 11/8mm.
Pattern: Family of Slippers by Chris de Longpré from Knitting at KNoon Designs, size adult. Free pattern online.

Modifications and Comments:
It took me a while to get used to knitting what essentially is a sock using broom handles…er, size 8mm dpns. See the difference from my usual 2mm sock needles?

I started with the 44 sts the pattern called for but that was much too large and I had trouble getting the specified gauge. Went down to 40 sts but really should have gone much narrower, perhaps 36 or even 32 sts. I guess I should have swatched but I wasn’t sure how much yarn it would take and whether I had enough. They were really huge but I was still holding out hope they would eventually fit:

It took 4 runs through the longest wash cycle to felt the finished slipper-socks and because they were still too big, I ran them through the dryer for 20 or 30 minutes on hot. Didn’t help. They’re the right length but too wide. So I got out my marudai and did a kumihimo braid for ties:

I used kumihimo instead of i-cord because it’s much less stretchy. This is Maru Yotsu (Round of Four) and such a simple 4-strand braid that you could do it on a piece of cardboard or one of those foamy disks, either square or round if you don’t have a marudai. I used 2 strands of the wool per bobbin. When the cord was braided I washed it and fulled it a little by hand in the sink. After everything was dry, I poked holes in the slippers using my big dpns, creating an inch-deep tuck on either side of the instep. Then I threaded the ties through before making little tassels on either end of them. Now they stay on but I think they still need some thick felt innersoles for comfort. They do rather look like adult-sized booties!

So now that I’ve finished a project, I started another pair of socks. Going back to normal-sized sock needles feels a bit weird! This one is the Crosshatch Lace socks for my DIL’s birthday in a few weeks. I may or may not get them done on time. We’ll see. I’ve got about an inch of one cuff so far. But all I want to do today is go back out on the sunny deck and spin some more — like I did yesterday. It was very relaxing. While I’m waiting for it to warm up out there, I think I’ll clean my computer desk. Navy blue shows the dust and lint really badly. Not to mention the food crumbs and tea drips. Yuck.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Topsy-Turvy Day

Since T-Man swapped shifts with a coworker today, it’s been a little odd around Damselfly’s Pond. We woke up late (7 am!) and carried on as if it was a weekend (lazed around some). I made tea and coffee and flax-crepes with yoghurt and peaches, blueberries, and blackberries for breakfast. Then I dove into the housework with T somewhat underfoot and at a loss as to why I thought he was in the way. I got the dishes done and bathroom sanitized, then vacuumed, dusted and damp-mopped the main floor. I even made the bed for once. He commented that I was just trying to impress him by pretending that I do this kind of whirlwind cleaning every day. Of course not! However I’d left it too long this time and the dust bunnies were spawning grandchildren. Don’t stop me when I’m on a housekeeping binge!

He tried to leave for work at 11:30 am (after I fed him lunch) but the MINI-Cooper wouldn’t start so he had to drive the van instead. Don’t know what’s wrong with poor Velvet. Hope it’s nothing serious. Once he was off, I figured that I’d done enough hard work so I finished the last toe on my Purple Elephant Slippers and popped them in the washing machine to full. After about 4 wash cycles, they still weren’t small enough but were looking pretty done — no stitch definition left anyway. I let them run through the spin, rinsed in cold water and spun out as much water as possible. Then I put them in the dryer on hot. Horrors! However they didn’t get any smaller! The length is right but the width is much too sloppy. I should have gone down considerably more than the 4 stitches I subtracted. I’m determined to salvage them anyway with a tie at the ankle. More on this, with before and after photos, tomorrow when I’ve had a chance to ponder the situation and attempt a fix. I’ve taken notes and the next pair (not likely until these wear out first) will be correct. Or at least a better fit if not perfect. This technique is so hard to predict what the results will be. Though I might have gotten closer if I had bothered to swatch. Heh.

After my adventures with the Purple Elephants, I relaxed on the deck with my spinning. The sun finally came out and it was very nice out there with my earphones in listening to podcasts while I treadled away on the yarn for my Icelandic Shawl. I got the Exotic Wood colourway of merino from Ashland Bay all plied and now have 40 g of it at about 173 yards total. It’s lovely and soft. Next I’m spinning up some black Shetland for the same project though it’s not quite as soft as the merino that I have so far. The pattern calls for 9 different natural colours of wool but I don’t know how many I’ll end up with when I'm done. And they aren’t all natural, though some are. So far I have natural moorit (light brown like coffee with cream), Exotic Wood (a blend of dyed colours mainly browns, reds and greens and no long listed on Ashland Bay’s website), natural white and natural black. I’ve also got some of Ashland Bay’s Mohave (reds with black and brown) and Baltic (blues with greens) that might work. We’ll see what else when I get that far. Meanwhile it was a very pleasant afternoon. I’m really happy that summer decided to come back for a few days anyway.

To complete my topsy-turvy day, I had dinner all by myself. T should be home in a half-hour or so, just before it’s time to get ready for bed. He starts at a more normal 6:30 am tomorrow.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Harry Kept Me Up Late

While we’re in the midst of Harry Potter Fever (having just read the last book and seen the second-last movie), we broke down and bought the first 2 movies on sale the other day. We saw them originally in the theatre and that was a long time ago. The actors have all grown! Forgot how long the movies are and the Chamber of Secrets kept us up an hour after our usual bedtime last night. It was good to watch them again though. I’d like to get the other 2 that are out on DVD as well. Haven’t found a cheap copy with all the extras in it yet though so I’m holding out. We rarely buy movies because we usually only watch things once. We were joking that the only ones we buy are kid’s movies like Wallace & Grommit and Ice Age. But Lord of the Rings, the Firefly series (and Serenity movie) and the whole Blackadder series aren’t kid stuff! (I still can’t bring myself to watch Serenity again — too sad. Sniff!) Otherwise we rent or borrow DVDs from our kids who have extensive collections. Even my granddaughter can work the remote control herself now and of course has her own movies. Wonder if her little brother will develop different tastes?

I’ve got about a metre woven on the blanket, henceforth known as the Circus Blanket because changing colours so often feels like a 3-ring circus. Not a lot of weaving, I know but I can only work on it for short intervals. It’s a long reach across and my neck doesn’t like it too much. The only deadline is my own desire for another warm blanket so I can take my time if I want. As long as I don’t get too cold waiting. Heh! Thanks for the kind comments on it. I’m liking it better the more I weave. Hope I don’t run out of yarn though. The last section may be mostly black! I need to use that more often.

Thanks to Gail for the hint that the Tofutsies yarn might be splitty. I can see that happening because the plies don’t cling together as much as if they were all wool. Two plies are wool, one is soysilk and one is cotton blended with chitin. The colour I’ve got is 788 on this page (scroll down). However the image on my computer is a lot darker than the yarn appears in the ball. I’ll have to knit it up to see what it really looks like. And that won’t be for awhile yet. I have other projects in front of this one in The Queue.

While we were grocery shopping yesterday, in the book section I found another book that I had to have. Surprise-surprise! Who needs to eat anyway? This one is “Creative Embellishments: For Paper, Jewelry, Fabric, and More” by Sherrill Kahn. I actually met Sherrill a long time ago when she first began her Impress Me stamp company, though I’ve never taken a class with her and I tend to cut my own rubber stamps. She has a very definite style and colour palette, kind of “southwest-ish” but more intense. I already own her first book “Creating With Paint” and have been contemplating her second one “Creative Stamping” but this one jumped into my shopping cart of it’s own volition! Some hints of the contents: beads made with plastic sheet protectors or fun foam and a heat gun, yarn-wrapped chenille stems, tyvek, laminating, stamping, stenciling, angelina fibres, embossed metal and more. As she says in her introduction, she wanted to include every technique she’s ever learned but that wasn’t possible. Can’t say she didn’t try though! Lots of fun ideas here. For a small taste, check out her Projects section on the website for some of the things Sherrill does with paints and stamps.

What else? The weather is crappy again. That's why there's no photos today. Too dark. Cool and somewhat rainy on and off. I’m giving up summer as a lost cause. At least I can sleep comfortably at night. But it’s too much to be wearing socks and a fleece vest in August! Oh, and I found out what is happening to the very bottom of the siding on the house next door: more wood but in horizontal strips instead of the shingles on the upper areas. They finished quite a bit of it today. To show you how bad the weather is, they had the radial-arm saw inside the basement to keep it out of the wet.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Retail Therapy

I woke up with a migraine today that no amount of Advil will kill, so I decided to go for a walk before the predicted weekend rain sets in. It’s warm but not hot, with a refreshing breeze and alternating sun and cloud which is pretty much my favourite type of weather. I started by heading up to Three Bags Full (my “other” LYS) to see Wilfred the Moose installed in his latest venue. He was missing one antler because it wouldn’t quite fit in the window space — it’s a very small shop — but he was already intriguing passersby. It wasn’t obvious that his other antler was shed since I didn’t even notice until Francesca pointed it out! While I was there, I missed buying the last copy of Cat Bordhi’s new book on knitting socks. It was bought right out from under my nose! But I was assured that more copies would be in shortly and I left my email addy to be notified when it was. At least I got to flip through the pages of somebody else’s copy. Sniff! If only I was a half-hour earlier. However I did succumb to a ball of Tofutsies, the sock yarn with superwash wool, cotton, soysilk and a smidge of chitin from crab and shrimp shells. The latter (pronounced KITE-in, not CHIT-in) is supposed to make the socks naturally antibacterial which is somewhat doubtful but it does feel nice and soft. The colourway is sand-and-sea (turquoise, green, tan, yellow) and I may make my MIL a pair out of this. It reminds me of the Oregon Coast which she loves as much as I do. The crab and shrimp shells certainly add authenticity!

I continued up Main Street to Ruby Dog’s Art House, a fantastic supply for bookmaking, altered books, scrapbooking, ATCs, paper arts etc. Yes, Ruby the dog was there and I got to pat her elderly yellow lab head. This treasure trove has everything from old wooden type to glass slides and a whole lot you wouldn’t even think of. Some is bulk purchase and some is individually priced. I bought 4 pieces of book board offcuts (8.5 x 17.5”), 2 large rolls of bias rayon strips (black and brown), and a package of 5 brightly coloured small loose-leaf paper clip rings (the kind you bind pages together) and the whole thing cost me $4.43. Don’t ask me what exactly I’m going to do with them. Yet. I think the bias tape would be great knit on huge needles though.

Crossing Main St. and heading back down toward my house, I checked out a new grocery store that just opened. Didn’t buy anything but noticed that it has lots of organics which were well-labeled as such. It’s the kind of neighbourhood that would be concerned about organic products though I’ve noticed that even the mainstream grocery chains are getting into it in a much bigger way than previously. A good trend, I’d say. I don’t always buy organic but often will. I also choose local rather than imported if I can. Just makes sense.

Continuing on down Main, I couldn’t pass by my most-LYS, Birkeland Bros Wool, without getting sucked in through the door. (Hi, Pearl!) I decided to buy some of the merino/tussah silk top to join the merino/tencel I bought earlier this week. My Spectrum study group wants to use them for felting where the non-merino part adds bubbly texture to the felt. I need to test both of these blends and see which works better. But not today. I did manage to stay out of all the other shops on Main St. There are antique shops, cafes, funky dress shops, second-hand record shops, art galleries and a whole lot more. It’s just one of the reasons why I love my ’hood.

Meanwhile, back on the loom, I got the rest of it threaded, treadles tied up and warp wound on yesterday. ’Splain to me though why the first section of the warp is a good six inches shorter than the other 3? I wound them on the same warping board under pretty much the same tension. At least I thought I did. It’s perplexing! I even went so far as to unwind the warp off the loom and rewind it back on, just to make sure that I hadn’t screwed something up. Nope. Still the same amount short. See?

(Note that my kitty assistant Ms. Polly is snoozing on the job back there behind the loom.) Luckily I have some extra warp to absorb the error. I just chopped the rest of it off to match the first section. Feels like a big waste of yarn though. In spite of having trouble remembering how to throw the shuttle all the way across the loom (boat shuttle becomes submarine), I got about 20 inches woven so far. Only 340 inches more to go. It doesn’t look too bad at all — at least to me:

But pardon me if I don’t weave any more on it today. It isn’t very restful for my migraine-affected eyeballs. I think I’ll go spin since I don’t have brains enough to knit on anything complex. I’d probably have to frog and do it all over again tomorrow.

In other news, there’s been a bandit on my back deck who insists on knocking my water garden’s spout into the drink. The evidence is here:

Can you see little toes like miniature human hands? Don’t those look like raccoon footprints? This guy is starting to become pesky. Now you know why I don’t let my cats out early in the morning or late in the evening. Too much wildlife around here. In the middle of Canada's third largest city.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Why Knot?

I was thinking (I’m sure you heard the rusty gears grinding!) about why I don’t do more crochet as opposed to knitting. Crochet is much faster, easier, thicker, more durable and more versatile. However it’s also stiffer, holier, lumpier, less drape, uses more yarn, takes more concentration (for me anyway) and is harder on my hands and wrists. Most of the available patterns are, in a word, horrible. I just checked out the photos from the Crochet Guild of America’s 2007 fashion show and most of them would be a lead contender on What Not To Wear! Eeeww… No wonder most crocheters stick with afghans and totebags. It’s also a lot harder to write up patterns for crochet and the symbols for charting are not yet universal. I’ve tried a bit of freeform crochet but, like tapestry, you have to make constant decisions on what yarn, stitch and direction to use next and I don’t enjoy that much. It can look very hodge-podge and I end up regretting a move I made way back that can’t now be changed very easily.

Even recent books by Lily Chin (Couture Crochet Workshop) and Doris Chan (Amazing Crochet Lace) haven’t inspired me to get out the hooks. I also have a number of books with lovely pattern stitches, granny squares and motifs. Still not happening. There are a few items in Interweave Crochet that might have possibilities, but the one I like best (Boteh Scarf, Spring 2007) is Another Scarf and I have too many already. I’ll hold out hope for the next issue. Since my Not So Granny Square sweater from last year (which was only partly crochet), I just haven’t felt the crochet love. Luckily I have enough other things to keep me busy.

For instance, after frogging the Purple Elephant Slipper-Sock yesterday, I’m back up to where I was when I yanked out the needles. It’s looking much better and I’m being more careful to knit with an even tension. It’s the right size around now. Whew. And I’m finally getting used to using dpns that feel like broom handles instead of the tiny matchsticks that I usually knit socks with. Too bad I only have one set so I can’t knit on both socks alternately like I usually do.

On my main project, I need to tie up the treadles on my loom before winding the 11 yard warp on for the Blanket. Gertrude (yes, that’s her name) is a countermarche loom which means that I have to tie up both the shafts that rise and the shafts that sink for each treadle. And it’s much easier to do when there’s no warp in the way. In case none of this makes sense to you, I warp from front to back: through the reed, through the heddles, tie to the back apron rod, and wind on. Then tie the warp to the front apron rod, check for errors, repair if necessary and start weaving. I don’t even use a packing weft in the beginning, just weave a few picks, beat them straight and carry on. In this case I will be hemstitching on the loom each end of each of the 3 pieces that will be assembled for the blanket. I think I’ll need a cardboard template to keep my beat even so that each piece will have the same number of stripes and hopefully come out the same length so they will match up. This is fussy stuff and means that the weaving won’t go as fast as if I just wove merrily along without changing colours or measuring constantly. Oh well. I could have been more haphazard but this seems to be what the wool wants to become. I’m just going with the flow. We’ll see what how ends up, hey? Meanwhile, I’d best get back “unda da loom.”

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Hurrying Up To Slow Down

I wish the marketing people would stop making time go too fast. It’s all their fault, you know, for making you always feel like you’re running behind. They have Christmas decorations up before Halloween, spring fashions out when it’s still deepest winter and bathing suits and lawn chairs are not to be found in August because all the back-t0-school stuff is out. I’m starting to really resent being hustled like that. I’m trying to go slower, not faster. I’m digging my feet in. If a holiday goes by me without me having all the appropriate decorations up or presents bought, so be it. There’s always next year. Or not. It’s all a marketing ploy anyway.

Along with that attempt to slow things down some, I’ve given my notice at the LYS. I don’t really want to teach any more. It’s just not turning my crank like it used to but instead making me feel anxious and drained. When a class is cancelled I’m relieved. Not a good sign. Maybe I just need a break. Or maybe it’s a more permanent trend. Whatever, I’m sure there’s somebody else out there who can teach spinning. After all, it’s only beginner level. Not like they’re counting twist and measuring grist and telling the difference between crepe yarn and cabled yarn or anything. They just want to make continuous yarn that doesn’t look like the cat got at it. Patience is the most important attribute in an instructor. And for some reason I’m fresh out of it lately. For teaching anyway.

Today I’ve got the loom threaded for the blanket:

Surprisingly it looks better on the loom than it did on the warping board. It remains to be seen what it will look like when crossed with the multicoloured weft. There’s still time for the Dog’s Breakfast Effect to kick in. I suppose I could have overdyed more of the colours to coordinate better but it just seemed like a waste of time and dye. I want this thing woven and on my bed before it gets colder at nights. It’s already been pretty cool at night though it doesn’t have that fall tang in the air yet. Thank goodness. I’m not quite ready to kiss summer goodbye yet. Even though I love late summer and early fall best out of the whole year.

I got another ball of Mega Boots Stretch in blues/purples/olive yesterday at the LYS to start on my DIL’s birthday socks. I think she was hinting that she’d like a bit of lacey texture instead of just plain so I’m going to try the Crosshatch Lace pattern from Charlene Schurch’s More Sensational Knitted Socks book. Unfortunately that will render these socks “unknittable whilst reading”, along with every other project I’ve got going at the moment. Except for the Purple Elephant Slipper-Socks (new name for old project) which are like huge plain socks except with a fuzzy novelty yarn knit into the plain rolled cuff instead of ribbing. The pattern is a free one called Family of Slippers by Chris de Longpré from Knitting At KNoon Designs. Even though I was almost at the toe of the first slipper, I started frogging the whole thing back because I’m dead certain that they won’t shrink down enough in the felting. I’d rather knit it all over again and not full it quite as much than have it come out too large. You can’t frog it when it’s already felted! I’m only getting 12 sts to 4” instead of the pattern gauge of 13 sts and it’s a good inch and a half wider than it should be. The gauge I got is usual for me with this size needles (8mm, US 11) and doubled Briggs & Little Heritage or other 2-ply light worsted weight wool and it’s also common for most other similar patterns. Instead of going down in needle size I’m going to reduce the pattern by 4 stitches for a total of 40. That should make it slightly less elephantine. I hope. It’s the process that counts right? Though I would like wearable slippers when I’m done processing!

In other news, the Serbians are still putting cedar shingle siding on the house next door. I’m pretty tired of the sound of the compressor and the nail gun, not to mention the radial arm saw. Sigh. However, I’d rather they finished sooner than later and they are nearly done. Too bad it’s too warm to shut the windows today. Oh wait. I didn’t mean that! I want it to be summer as long as it can. Guess I just need to go back into the studio with my Palm T/X and listen to some more podcasts while working on the blanket. I have to wind the warp onto the loom yet before I can commence weaving.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Finally Socks

Here’s the stats on my last pair of socks for T-Man:


Begun: July 15, 2007
Completed: August 9, 2007

Yarn: Meileweit Mega Boots Stretch Softcolor, 70% wool, 20% polyamide, 7% Elité, 100g = 400m, colour 502.
Needles: Addi Natura bamboo dpns, 2mm

Pattern: My usual top-down plain socks on 68 sts, cuff 24 rounds of 2/2 rib, 9” total before heel flap, 8-1/4” foot before toe decreases.

Comments: This yarn was originally for a pair for me but I decided that T-Man needed socks more than I did. I have more than a dozen pairs! He likes these ones a lot. It took longer than my usual 2 weeks to knit these because I was distracted by so many other projects. I really only started the socks just to have something plain and portable on the needles since everything else is either complex or non-portable or both.

BTW, if you were concerned about the toy trains my granddaughter got for her birthday, I checked and only one set is Thomas, but NOT any of the ones that have been recalled for lead content. Most of the train parts she got are a different brand that is compatible and have no lead issues. So we are safe. She doesn’t chew on her trains anyway. But her baby brother might. I think it’s great that she is a girly-girl who loves her princesses and purses and shoes but also trucks and cars and mechanical things. She loves to play in sand and gravel and especially water and doesn’t care about getting dirty. I’m glad she can have it all without feeling like she’s wrong in some way. Personally I can’t wait until she’s old enough to teach her fibre crafts like knitting and braiding. Not long now, I think.

What else? Just carrying on with my other projects and trying desperately not to start any new ones. I’ve been knitting on the elephant-sized slipper-socks that I’m hoping will felt down enough to fit me. My gauge is a bit loose as usual but these are only about 1/2” larger than they should be. I’m finding working on such a large scale is hard on my hands so it’s going slowly. The woven blanket warp is wound but not on the loom yet. Haven’t gotten any further with the Hepburn sleeves yet but I plan to spend some time this afternoon on it. I also need to get out and water the garden before it gets too hot out there. It’s been cool in the mornings (my bedroom was 15 C this morning) but warms up a lot towards late afternoon. Nice to see the sunshine even if this is only temporary and due to go back to rain later this week just in time for the weekend. Bleh. The weather is totally back-asswards. What global warming? I need to knit sweaters for my chilly tomatoes.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Felt Like Fun

On Saturday my Spectrum Study Group came over and we played with some more felting out on my deck. We had a lovely potluck lunch which T-Man got to enjoy also, plus copious pots of tea. Gotta keep the whistles wet when talking a million miles a minute! Donna and Cathie worked on their felted bead necklaces. Masami, Kirsten and Jo Anne did some nuno felting on silk scarves. It was interesting the way the silk bubbles and ruffles if you leave large areas free of wool. I made some more knitted and fulled leaves (different from the ones from the last meeting) and another small acorn. Hopefully something to use them on will suggest itself eventually. I have a few ideas but they will have to wait until a few things in The Queue get finished first.

Here’s some of what we accomplished:

Clockwise from top-left: my leaves and another acorn, a nuno felted silk scarf, another nuno felted silk crepe scarf, and a piece of merino and tencel felt. All the pieces are wet still so the colour is somewhat intensified. I love the bubbly texture of the felting on the silk fabrics. On the top-right scarf, the merino wool was arranged on both sides but in different areas so they didn’t overlap. On the bottom-right scarf the merino wool was arranged in diagonal lines but only on one side of the fabric. This makes the whole scarf, which was a normal rectangle, go off into a parallelogram with points on the ends. The merino/tencel blend fibre works up into a finely-textured felt sheet because the wool felts and the tencel doesn’t. Very fun. Other projects were several felt bead necklaces that incorporated other glass and plastic beads to great effect. I unfortunately didn’t get any photos of them.

Yesterday (Sunday) we went to my granddaughter’s 3rd birthday party in a local park. It included family and friends and was a very nice day, even though it had threatened rain once or twice. The weather was kind and the sun even came out for awhile. However I actually managed to forget my camera. And my hearing aids! Oh well. I managed. The birthday girl got lots of really nice presents including a bunch of her favourite Thomas the Tank Engine train sets with tracks and cars and other items. Even a collapsing bridge. Her parents set it all up on the living room floor for her after she went to bed last night and surprised her with it this morning to her great delight. Today I babysat her and her 7-month old brother and we played with one of her new toys, the Little Mermaid, which included a whole undersea and castle area. I had to quickly go look up the characters’ names on the web so I wouldn’t sound like such a dunce of a granny. It’s been a very long time since I’ve had small ones so I haven’t seen that movie in its entirety before and darned if I can remember Ariel’s fishy friend’s name! Flounder. Right. And she and I were both singing “Unda da sea” while dancing Sebastian the crab. It was fun. Disney is sure all-pervasive in kids’ lives, eh? Scary.

Now I’m tired and don’t have enough energy to post the finished and now safely photographed New T-Socks for you. Later, gators.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Is Summer Taking A Vacation?

I’m back to wearing fleece and handknit socks today and my house thermometer measures 18 C. — not really cold but you kind of expect it to be hot enough to fry an egg on the sidewalk in August. I want my summer back! So do my tomatoes and cucumbers. If you see Summer anywhere, send it here please?

I finished T-Man’s socks but they need to be blocked first before they’re ready for their close-up. I’ll have full specs on them when I post next. I’m now trying to decide if I have enough projects going already or if I should cast on another pair of socks just to have some on the needles. Apart from enough balls of white Sisu to knit a whole sweater, I’m running kinda low on sock yarn. Yeah, I know. Hard to believe. Maybe I’ll dye some of the white and start a pair for DIL. Her birthday is coming up in early September anyway. However that means that I can’t just cast on immediately. I hate not having a grab-and-go project to knit. I’m left with my rather NONportable Hepburn Cardi as the knitting project du jour.

One thing I did start quite awhile ago but still don’t even have up on my sidebar is a pair of slippers. They’re knitted just like socks only in doubled Briggs & Little Heritage 2ply wool on size 11 (8mm) dpns and then fulled. Yes, I had to go buy a set of dpns that honkin’ huge. Seems my collection doesn’t go up that far. I got bamboo Crystal Palace ones and they are quite nice. I do find them somewhat hard on the hands to knit with so I can only work in little spurts. Then the poor things got shoved to the back burner while other projects attracted my interest. I do need a new pair of slippers for winter though so I need to get them done eventually before it gets cold. Oh wait. It’s cold already.

Tomorrow my Spectrum Study Group comes over here and we’ll play with some more felting. I want to try knitting another leaf pattern and see how it looks. I modified another one of Nicky Epstein’s leaves to make a longer stem. This one is from her “Knitted Embellishments” book. There are lots of leaves in that one. BTW I got all excited at a whole page of leaves shown in Knit 1 magazine (a “younger, edgier” offshoot of Vogue Knitting) only to find when I got it home that the instructions weren’t there. They were just used to illustrate a bunch of new yarns in their “green” themed issue. Pooh. Turns out all the leaves are in the “Knitted Embellishments” book! So I actually had them all along. Since there is nothing else in that issue I would ever want to make it’s too bad I didn’t know that ahead of time. Or it could have said it somewhere in the magazine, eh?

Speaking of Vogue Knitting, have you seen the ginormous 25th anniversary Fall issue yet? It has 11 covers! One after the other, on cover stock, with a profile of the yarn company and/or the designer opposite each one. Impressive. A whole bunch of interesting articles here too, including conversations with old and new designers that were fascinating to read. And there are actually a few very attractive sweaters that I would make in this issue. Interestingly some patterns are only available on the web, including a Stitch Diva hairpin lace wrap. (That’s crochet, people! In THE knitting magazine!) And some are old patterns re-knit in new yarns and re-issued. That generally annoys me because it seems the lazy way and if I already have the old magazine or book (which I do more often than not), it’s redundant. I’ve already paid for the pattern once. Though I guess I should have some sympathy for those who are new to knitting or who don’t keep every back issue forever. And there are some who must see a design in new yarns or colours before it calls to them. I’ve always been able to imagine things in different colours or textures or with modifications from the original but apparently some don’t have that ability.

I usually find that the Fall issues of knitting magazines are my favourites. Maybe because Fall is my favourite season? However, I was a little disappointed with the new issue of Interweave Knits, the first issue with Eunny Jang at the helm. The cover sweater is lovely and innovative but still wearable and I do like the new revised format. The next few sentences were edited out because they were stupid! Of course there were socks in this issue. Lots, though 5 of the patterns are on the website and not in the magazine. There isn't any lace however. Maybe I should actually read the issue before I comment?

Lastly, I like to say thanks to Peg for the comment on Robert Genn! Robert lives in my neck of the woods and much of what he paints is quite familiar to me. I remember when I ran across a show he had awhile back and I totally fell in love with his work. (Unfortunately I can’t afford it!) Yet with his newsletters he’s quite an influence on a lot of artists around the world and much that he writes is quite relevant to us craftspeople as well. Also I do love reading the comments and thoughts of other artists. They sure have different perspectives!

Thursday, August 09, 2007

A Safe Place

You know what happens when you have something that you don’t want just anyone to find and you put it in A Safe Place? Yup! When you want it, you can’t find it! That’s what has happened to me recently. Before we went on our vacation in June, I backed up my computer on my portable hard drive. Then I unplugged its cables and stashed it somewhere safe. You know — just in case somebody breaks in and steals my computer. Again. (Yes, it has happened to me before. That’s why I was being so careful.) Unfortunately now I can’t find it. I’ve forgotten where I put it and I’ve looked absolutely everywhere I can think of. Therefore it’s gotta be somewhere I’m not thinking of. This ageing mind must be going…somewhere else. I wish it would go where my hard drive is hiding. I’m overdue for another back-up.

Meanwhile, I’m 3/4’s of the way through winding the warp for the blanket. Here’s one quarter:

The others look quite different. Since I could only get two 8-end stripes out of each ball and I only had one or two balls of most of the colours (except black), I just staggered the stripes in any order that pleased me. The warp stripes will be repeated 3 times across the blanket when I sew it up but the wefts will be more random. It may look like a dog’s breakfast when it’s done, but what can you expect with so many odd balls of yarn? At least it will keep me and T-Man warm this winter which is basically all I ask. I could finish the winding and start getting it on the loom if I’d just stick to what I was doing. But I seem to have a particularly acute case of Crafty ADD today. Besides winding wool, I spent some time reading on the computer and knitting on T-Man’s socks. They’re almost done. Reading a few more blogs and some email should do it.

I also spent some time spinning for the Icelandic Shawl. I shouldn’t even be starting on this yet but just can’t help myself. Several folks in the KAL have started knitting already! So far I have the moorit (light brown) and white merino wool that I’ve already spun up, a merino top called “Wood Smoke” (several browns and greys plus red, green and orange) and a black unknown top with a wee bit of light grey or white (hard to tell) that I found in the stash. I’m auditioning some denim-ish blues and a bit of orange in the mix but that only gives me 7 of the 9 colours the pattern calls for. I may either dye for the last 2 colours or just use the 7 that I already have. The largest amount of one colour that the pattern calls for, besides the main colour which will be the moorit, is only 140 yards which spins up quite quickly. What I need to do is go over the pattern and figure out in what order the colours are used. Then I can draw up a diagram to help me decide what goes where. This is a complex pattern so that might take me some concentration.

When T got home from work, we went on another of our famous walks. We found a couple of presents for my dear granddaughter who turned 3 today. I know I’m contributing to the objectification of women by catering to her love of all things “princess” but I can’t help it. She’s got a pretty strong sense of self so I’m hoping it won’t have a lasting harmful effect. Her party is on Sunday so I won’t see her until then to find out how she likes ’em. I need to make a birthday card now to go with the pressies.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Perpetual Self-Generated Studenthood

One of my favourite artists, Robert Genn says that the above state is the best way for an artist to thrive. I agree but then that is true about everyone, not just artists. You have to be continually learning, trying new things, asking questions, getting feedback, honing your skills and reaching for something beyond. It gets you moving forward so you avoid stagnation and boredom. It also keeps your mind sharp and flexible. All good stuff. I think he also suggests that you don’t have to keep taking classes. Just get your butt into the studio (or wherever) and do it. The greatest part of learning comes through the exploration you do in there.

In reading Robert’s Twice Weekly Letters, I’m developing an envy of the speed with which painters can produce their art. At least he makes it look fast in the videos! Though I know some artists spend a very long time perfecting a painting, it still just seems so much quicker than so many of the crafts that turn my own personal crank. I needs must be more content with the process than the product since the producing takes so much time that the product often feels kind of anticlimactic. I’m not interested in creating so many things that I would have to sell some or be overwhelmed. What does a painter do when their walls are full if they don’t plan to sell? So far I haven’t overrun myself with tea towels or socks. (Getting close on the latter though so I’ve taken to gifting them to special people!) Nearly each piece I make has a reason for it’s existence, even if that is just to learn something new. Hmmmm…seems like I’m back at the “studenthood” thing again.

I’ve thought a lot about why I must make things and I’ve come to the conclusion that I Just Do. It has nothing to do with selling, because I don’t sell my work. It has nothing to do with “making a statement” because socks and blankets don’t make much of a statement. (At least to most people!) It does however have something to do with living in the midst of my own “creations” and seeing and using them daily. Ultimately the urge…no, obsession to just make things is there in my head all the time. It almost hurts not to be working on something every day, whether it’s actually producing it or just thinking and writing about it. Planning the next projects, doing research on techniques and patterns, chatting online with other similarly obsessed, whatever. When I go on holiday I pack my craft supplies long before my clothes. If this was a job, don’t you think I would need a holiday from it? I’d rather take a holiday where I can craft all the time and all the other stuff like cooking and cleaning gets done for me. Just pop a cup of tea down beside me every so often, call me for meals and provide me with a comfy bed when I just can’t keep my eyes open any longer! Oh and a masseuse on call. A few friends to craft with would be nice too. Don't want much, eh?

I’m not saying that I’m not fickle in what I choose to spend time on. Today knitting, tomorrow weaving, the day after spinning or dyeing or kumihimo or beadwork or dollmaking or who-knows-what. If I actually stuck to one thing, do you think I might actually get good at it? I know I’d get bored for sure. Stephanie Pearl-McPhee (aka the Yarn Harlot, who obviously understands “fickle” crafting!) says that knitters think differently than other people because we are familiar with small things added one at a time that grow into something large and complete and beautiful. I like to think that applies equally to woven picks, little beads, crochet loops and other small elements of our crafts. I also like to think that because we understand intimately how things are interlinked and built one upon another and how if bad things happen to one part (dropped stitch, broken thread, sickness, pollution, hatred, war) it affects every other part of our project, our life and our world. Perhaps the way to fix some of these things will also be understood in the same way: unraveling back and doing it up right again.

Wow! That’s way more philosophical than I ever usually get. Guess I’m feeling introspective today. Maybe it’s because I get to look at this out my study window:

The Serbians! They’re working on the siding again today and I hope they finish this side soon. I closed my window just to keep out some of the racket but I still feel as if they are right in the room with me. It’s a bit disconcerting to say the least! They are very polite though and don’t look my way. At least when I’m looking at them.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Let There Be Light

It’s rather dark around here this morning. They’re predicting a mixed bag of clouds, sunny periods and a chance of rain. The sky is cloudy and we've already had a teeny sprinkle, just enough to get everything damp but not enough to really water things. Right now I’m waiting for enough light to see to wash the dishes. Turning on the light seems so winter, doncha think? It didn’t even feel like August yesterday evening when, even though it was sunny and should have been hotter than Hades, my daughter-in-law asked to borrow a sweater before we ate dinner on the deck. I ended up putting one of my heavy cotton tops on my granddaughter and wrapping her little brother in a blanket so they didn’t feel chilled either. Funny thing — we were all wearing summer clothes thinking it must be summer! Silly us.

I didn’t accomplish nearly as much yesterday as I wanted because, as you can probably figure from the above paragraph, we got to babysit the munchkins while their parents went to a movie. Luckily they timed it so T-Man was already home from work. It’s much more manageable to deal with the little ones in tandem. I was much younger when I had two even closer together in age than my grandkids and I wonder now how I managed when T was working 50 hours or more per week. You cope and I’m just out of practice. It was fun anyway and we even managed to produce dinner for everyone when they got back. However today I’m feeling in my neck and back (which never usually bothers me) the results of lugging a heavy baby around. But he’s sooo cute! Even if he didn’t want a bottle but his mom instead. They are just adorable kids, says their not-too-biased (much!) grandmother. Ms Kiki will turn 3 on Thursday and Mr O is 6 months old:

These photos just show you should never throw anything out unless it's completely thrashed. That cash register (she calls them "pennies") and that blanket are over 30 years old and belonged to my kids. Some of our other toys belonged to my niece and nephew and are only maybe 15 years old. All interesting and different from the toys at home. (For one thing, they don't talk or sing or play music like so many modern toys!) The best thing about being a grandparent is that you can play and fuss and spoil and then give them back when you’re tired. Almost makes it worthwhile having had the parent!

Oh joy. They’re working on the house next door again after a 3-day break. I shouldn’t complain when I want them to finish. Soon. They’re already a month behind schedule and nowhere near done. Oh well, it may drive me off the computer and into my studio so I can continue to wind the blanket warp I started yesterday.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Something To Crow About

Last evening after dinner on the upper deck, we watched the crows come in and land on our arborvitae and across the street on our neighbour’s huge birches and even huger firs. By the end there were dozens and dozens of them, all making a loud cacophony. As if that wasn’t enough, a friend of said neighbour (who was having a party on her deck) came out and started crowing at the crows! It was hilarious. I think he was trying to scare them away but it certainly had no effect. I’m one of those weird folks (you knew that, right?) who likes crows and finds them very intelligent and fascinating to watch. Though we often get up to a dozen at a time, this was fairly unusual to see them flock here in such numbers. Eventually as dusk fell they all flew off to Burnaby and their usual night roosting places. Of course they were back first thing this morning with our usual wake-up calls.

This morning I divided my blanket yarns into 3 piles: lights, darks, and mediums. Each pile is further divided in 2, half for warp and half for weft. Though the weft in a balanced weave like this one usually takes slightly less than half, I’m giving it a bit of fudge factor. However, it will be interesting to see if I can get the warp out of its half. If so, then I have enough yarn. If not, I may have to consider either adding the yarns I removed from the running or buying some more from my friend — if she’ll allow me to deplete her supply even farther. It’s amazing how much yarn a large blanket uses up!

Today is supposed to be a holiday in BC and it’s a lovely warm (but not too hot) summer day. However, T-Man has to work as usual so it doesn’t feel like one to me either. At least it’s quiet next door. I want to get some work done today so I’ll leave you with a photo collage of my garden colours. BTW, the coreopsis planted itself. Very handy but I’m trying to control myself from picking all the flowers for dye! And isn’t the texture of that coleus unusual? Just call this “practice with the macro feature on my camera”.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

A Very Full Day

Yesterday T-Man and I decided to go on one of our “walks”. These are actually marathons of our own making and this one was even longer than usual. But with some relaxing breaks which made it quite fun. We walked downtown, checked the book store (no new magazines), had lunch at the restaurant with the floating sushi boats, continued on down to English Bay, sat in the shade and watched the people, touched the water (because it was there), walked back up to the downtown centre, got tickets for the new Harry Potter movie, crossed the street and sat out on the sidewalk patio and had a drink (me: English-style cider, him: cream ale), people-watched some more, then went back into the movie complex, bought popcorn, saw the movie (excellent!), and ultimately walked all the way home. Are you tired yet? I’m tired just typing it! No idea how far we actually walked because T forgot the pedometer. More than 10 k though, I’m pretty sure. Of course we could have taken the bus home but we both found a second wind, enough to get us over the bridge and up the hill anyway. By the time we got that far it wasn’t worth the bus fare to go the rest of the way. Felt pretty good to get my boots off and put my feet up in the shade on our deck while we celebrated with a glass of wine.

“Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” was great but it was definitely the middle of the story. You needed to remember a lot of what came before and it helped to have read the book because details were either left out or shown but not explained. We both felt the editing was a bit too choppy in some places too. The feeling of the book was retained though and it had great special effects. It’s amazing how the Grimauld Place house looks exactly as I pictured it and I’m glad JK Rowling insisted on including Kreacher the house elf even though he doesn’t further the story. Yet. Ok, yes, I’m a geek. Not quite as geeky as some, but pretty bad. Remember I’ve always been a fantasy reader and would have been a huge fan of this series if it had come out when I was a child. So what if I’m somewhat older than that now? Heh!

So what else crafty have I done recently? Well, I wound all the blanket yarn into cakes:

I used to call them “balls” but “cakes” is definitely more descriptive. Unfortunately I had to finish winding the cakes indoors which was a definitely fuzz hazard, see?

That’s the area near my ball winder (cake winder?) when I was done and I had to get out the vacuum for the lint on the floor and all over the place. Now I need to start winding the warp from these. I’ll probably start that tomorrow. 11 yards and 324 ends should keep me busy for awhile. What else? I got this far on the Hepburn sleeves:

About up to my elbow maybe. It’s a fun challenge to knit, especially while increasing in the right places at the same time, but aren’t the cables and lace purty? It was definitely a good idea to work both sleeves at once or they would never have matched at all. Slow going though. I need to concentrate a lot on what I’m doing and there is much manipulation of stitches in every row. NO “resting” rows. I found out that I do “cabling without a cable needle” very differently than what has been written about in other blogs. I’ll have to do a photo tutorial on my methods in case somebody likes them better. They’re not particularly easy to manipulate but they work for me on these simple 2/2 front or back crossed cables. I helps that I have sharp points on my Addi Lace needles and I knit somewhat loosely.

I’m also well down the feet and heading for the toes on both of T’s latest pair of socks. Soon I need to go hunting in the stash for the fibres to spin for the Icelandic Shawl KAL. And I need to come up with a suitable present for my granddaughter’s third birthday. Her party is next Sunday. Never a dull moment around Damselfly’s pond, eh?

Friday, August 03, 2007


After skipping a day, the Serbs are back today working on the siding near my window. They’re shingling the whole house in cedar which is undercoated and will be painted over later. (Wonder what colour it will be?) It was interesting that they started by removing the last course of shingles. Perhaps it wasn’t correct somehow? Looked ok to me! Now they’ve replaced it and are continuing. The sound of the nail gun is pretty annoying but it’s interesting to watch the skill with which they work. Not everybody cares enough to do the best job they can.

It’s cloudy but warm today and they’re maybe predicting some rain which might save me from having to water the garden. I was awakened at 5 am by a woman yapping on a cell phone just outside my open window. There was liberal use of the “f” word. Can’t people get a more expressive vocabulary? Of course I didn’t get back to sleep even after the fireworks kept me up later than usual last night. (Sorry, that was the night before. Apparently I lost a day somewhere.) The hazards of living in a city and keeping your windows wide open! With the earlier-than-usual start to my day, I’ve fed T-Man breakfast before he headed to work, got the bed stripped, the first load of laundry in, showered, dressed, email read, some knitting done and it’s not even 9 am. I hope to get the rest of the blanket yarn wound into balls but I found I have to be careful not to overdo it. I’ve been having some shoulder pain which may be either knitting too much or winding too much. Whichever, it pays to pace myself better. Thank you, Susan, for your hints in the comments on how to deal with the colour changes in the weaving. I may just loop the yarns the inch to where they’re needed again and either snip them off after fulling or include them in the seam, whichever looks best and is stable.

So I was going to photograph the several inches of Hepburn Cardi sleeves for you but the light is not good at the moment. You’ll have to take a raincheck on it. Heh-heh! The noise coming through the window is pretty awful here at the computer right now so this will be another short and sadly picture-less post. I’m off to get as far away from this side of the house as possible.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Nearly Bedtime

But I just thought I’d zip in for a quick update. It was a hot day today full of appointments (hair, financial advisor) and grocery shopping. Not to mention watering the poor dry garden. I planned to post this morning but got pleasantly interrupted by an old friend and neighbour dropping by unexpectedly. She has asked me to again help jury the crafts for the Chrismas sale at Heritage Hall where she is the manager. Believe it or not the jury date is only the end of September. Not that far away. Yikes!

I just joined the KAL for the Icelandic Shawl pattern from Knitting Daily. I totally love it and I want to knit it in handspun yarn. So here’s yet another project for the month of August. The KAL doesn’t officially start until Labour Day so that gives me some time. Other participants are still awaiting their yarns to arrive from the suppliers, which helps. And I think there are a few spinners planning to knit theirs in handspun. I need to go stash diving.

Yep. Right after I finish winding all the blanket yarn into balls! I’m half finished but didn’t get any more accomplished today. I did get a few more rows done on the Hepburn Cardi sleeves but that’s about it. What I did do today though is knit several inches on T-Man’s socks while we were in the financial advisor’s office. It really helped me to concentrate on figures and concepts that are totally eye-glazing (at least for me) and I had something to show for the time spent besides a boggled brain. At least T understands most of what’s being decided, but I did dazzle them by sounding somewhat knowledgeable on the subject of recent market fluctuations and the decline in US funds. I do listen to the pundits on the radio nearly every day. Something got absorbed when I wasn’t looking! That’s actually quite scary. I’m supposed to be the numerically challenged one around here.

Well it’s 9pm and we didn’t get much sleep yesterday evening due to the fireworks festival that happens every summer. Must be nice for those who can get close enough to see it but for those of us who get an early start in the morning (T starts work at 6am) it’s a big pain. Between the whomps of the cannon fire and the airplanes and helicopters showing it off to the very well-heeled, it’s an hour of intense racket starting just after we go to bed. One more night (Saturday) for the finale and peace reigns again until next year. Whew.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

A New Month Already

So where did July go? I swear the days are like those flipping calendars in the old movies where they show time passing. Only it goes faster and faster as I get older. No fair! Whatever happened to those lazy summer days of my childhood that seemed to go on and on? I want them back. A smidge of my youth would be nice to get back too but I’ll settle for slower time. Don’t want much, do I?

Today I get to listen to the next batch of workmen next door putting on the soffits and siding. Along with the hammering and sawing, one of them is singing (badly) in Serbian. Yes, this is yet another in the International League of Nations that constitute the building trades around here. How do I know it’s Serbian? My neighbour on the other side asked because he too was curious about what language they were speaking. I knew it was Eastern European but couldn’t identify it either. At least the work is getting done which means there will be An End. Someday soon, I hope.

Meanwhile, the yarn I dyed yesterday dried in jig time on my sunny railing. I’m going to wind skeins into balls later today on my deck. No need to have all that wool fuzz and dust in the house when it’s a lovely summer day out there. I decided to overdye the 2 light yellow skeins a dark rust and while I was at it, 2 (out of 6) of the light orange ones as well. That will balance the colours better I think. I prefer deeper colours to lighter ones anyway. I used up more of the Lanaset dyestock that’s been lurking around my dye studio for months. Unfortunately I wasn’t sure of the dilution or the exact dye colours. (Not my fault! I didn’t mix them! Other members of my Spectrum group did.) So I started with fairly accurately measurements which gave me a soft light orange. Not what I wanted. Then I added the same dyes at half strength to the first time. Slightly darker orange. Still not right. I added a splash of purple. Better but not dark enough. Finally I threw in all the red dyestock that was left and now I’m happy, though it’s still lighter and more orange than I was aiming for. I like it anyway. The yellow skeins are brighter and lighter than the light orange ones. I think where I went wrong was not taking into enough consideration the “under-colour” which strongly affected the outcome. That’s why lots more red got me closer to my goal — though I think I could have added even more dye. Just don't ask me to reproduce my final results:

Back in the wool heap, I eliminated all the greyed violet, dusty denim, and soft dark blue out and now I’m left with my usual fall shades and black, plus a dash of bright periwinkle to spark it up. Hopefully this will be enough to weave the blanket. I’ll take a photo when it’s all balled up. I finally decided to go with the draft I posted yesterday but to make the stripes in warp and weft more random but still a multiple of 8 so they end in the correct place. That will give me a mostly textured effect with parts of the pinwheels showing up at the intersections. I like the little plain-weave diamonds alternating with the more puffy twill diamonds. It should make a nice warm blanket anyway which is the whole point of the exercise. Not to mention use up most of that wool stash.

In other crafty news, when I went to turn the heel on one of T-Man’s socks I discovered that I’d made a big mistake in the number of stitches that I had on my heel flap. So I frogged it back to the beginning of the heel flap and am currently knitting it back up. It’s all about the process not the product, right? I also want to spend a little time today working on the Hepburn Cardi since I haven’t touched it since I stopped in mid repeat when the Birthday Boy arrived on Saturday. As I said, the days go by much too quickly. How am I supposed to get anything done?

So anyhow, here’s another one of my book reviews. This time it’s Crochet Inspiration by Sasha Kagan. I really like this book which is a collection of 200 crochet fabrics, grannies and motifs, plus a number of patterns for accessories and a garment or two. It’s beautifully photographed, which is what you’d expect these days, and the directions are both written out and diagrammed in symbols. Standardized crochet symbols go a long way towards making an easier and more compact way to publish designs and they are much easier to follow for most people. I’d love to see symbols become as commonplace as they are in Japanese and some European publications. Maybe then crochet would become more popular than it is now and inspire better designs. In the meantime, there’s a lot of inspiration fodder in this book even though I don’t think there’s anything that’s really new or radical.

Sasha Kagan, who lives in Wales, isn’t particularly known as a crochet designer but she obviously is very familiar with the technique. Interestingly, because this book was published by Sixth & Spring (Vogue’s publishing arm) the directions use the US terminology with a conversion chart for the Brits and Aussie/NZ bunch. I wonder how the discrepancy began, where the North American version is one step behind the British? Our sl st is their sc, our sc is their dc etc. If you’re counting yarns laying over the hook and number of times you pull through, theirs makes more sense. Luckily, being Canadian I’m bilingual! I do need to check first which terminology is used though. Usually where the pattern is published is the first clue.

The patterns for complete items are quite nice and there’s a couple that I would be interested in working. I’m especially intrigued by the Squiggle Scarf probably because you can’t really see the details from the artsy photo. All the yarns recommended are of course Rowan yarns, since Sasha designs for them. Much substituting will ensue. And I have my usual annoyed reaction to the back flap photo of the author wearing a knitted sweater, instead of a crocheted one! What do the book designers think? We can’t tell knitting from crochet? Oh wait — maybe they can’t. It just seems to me that if you’re trying to push crochet, you should wear crochet. At least for that jacket photo, darn it. Am I the only one who feels this way?