Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween!

The Toad Witch is welcoming you at the front door into my House of Horrors. She once was a real witch but she had a slight accident whilst trying to turn someone into a toad and it backfired upon herself. Instant karma? Accompanying her are her two pumpkin buddies, Jackie and O’Lantern. Meanwhile the spiders are hard at work all around them. Unfortunately we aren’t quite ready for the evening’s frivolities and frights because we don’t have our pumpkin or our goodies to hand out yet. Running a little behind I’d say.

My hands are a suitably weird shade of orange because I spent the morning mordanting wool and smashing my madder roots with a hammer. There are bits of root everywhere even though I tried to contain the mess. I finally got wise too late and put on my vinyl gloves but not before my nails turned quite a lovely shade of red-orange especially around the cuticles. I first tried to use my mini food processor on the roots but chunks would get stuck on the blades and all it was doing was whizzing them around without affecting the size of the bits. So I started chopping them as fine as possible with the pruning shears and then hammering the pieces on a board. That worked much better.

I managed to process about a pound of soaking wet roots (maybe a couple of cups worth) before my patience and my body gave out. I still have at least the same again or maybe even a bit more yet to do. Later.

After I pooped out on the chopping and hammering, I added warm water, a generous pinch of soda ash and a couple of crushed calcium supplement tablets to the small bucket. Our water is very soft and madder likes it hard so I was trying to compensate. There is a lot of good colour coming out so I plan to soak it at least overnight before doing anything else.

Meanwhile I put half a pound of crossbred wool sliver in alum mordant (20 g) and brought it up to a simmer, left it for an hour or so, and then removed it from the bath into a bucket to cool. I added another 10 g of alum to the pot and repeated the procedure with another half-pound of the same wool. I was only going to do one batch but decided that I’d better do two because I know there will be lots of colour left in the bath after the first batch. If I get orange-pinks I can always overdye some of it for more colours. Yes, we have options! I’d probably have thrown in a 3rd batch to mordant but I ran out of this particular sliver. I could get more, but I’d rather use what I have for now. I have lots more sliver but I think it’s Borderdale, Corriedale and maybe some Perendale. All the “dales.” Heh. The reason I chose the Crossbred is that it’s very clean and not too soft so it doesn’t felt very easily. If I’m going to be messing around stirring and rinsing, I want something that won’t either fall apart or turn into Rasta locks on me. I do actually want to spin this stuff eventually.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Socktober The Latest

These little ones made up for the length of time it took to knit the Earl Grey Socks. They only took a few days.

Baby Socks

Begun: October 25, 2007
Completed: October 30, 2007

Yarn: DGB Confetti, 75% wool/25% nylon, 210 m = 50 g, colour 778, half a ball of leftovers.
Needles: Clover Takumi 5” dpns, 2 mm.

Pattern: Damselfly’s Basic Socks on 48 sts, cuffs 2/2 ribbed for 3”, foot 3” before toe, dec to 16 sts, dog-ear reduction.

Comments: These are still a bit too big for Stargazer. Yes I know he will grow. The foot is 5” long so will likely fit him sometime next year. I’m already starting on a smaller pair that just may fit him now with a little room left over instead of enough room to fit both feet in one sock at the same time!

It’s not my birthday until Friday but I’ve already been taken out to eat twice! Once on Sunday for dinner (Thai food, yummy) with my MIL (aka Nana) and today for sushi lunch (also yummy) with my birth mom. She also gave me a packet of vintage table linens and a jar of organic low-sugar blackberry jelly, plus I got a birthday card from each mom and a lovely email message from an old friend from Tennessee. I’m feeling quite spoiled. And full. Too bad I can’t have a birthday without actually getting any older.

The postman just brought me another gift, though it was one that I ordered for myself. Another packet of books from Chapters/Indigo. Yay! The most exciting book in this box was one I had heard great things about from Grumperina’s blog. She was blown away by the techniques in Lynne Barr’s Knitting New Scarves and she wasn’t kidding! These are mind-bending shapes to knit so the author chose the ubiquitous scarf as the vehicle to showcase them. Just as well. A scarf is kind of an oversized swatch with a purpose and people are far more likely to knit and wear a wild scarf than anything else. The artistic among us may choose to take the techniques further and create…what? Art for sure. Not so sure about anything practical. But you never can tell what will occur once you’ve understood the architecture behind these amazing knitted shapes. This book should be shelved near Cat Bordhi, Debbie New and maybe Teva Durham’s Loop-d-Loop books. It’s that innovative. Can’t wait to actually read it! Hope I can actually understand any of it. Maybe I just need to get out the needles and yarn and try something.

Now I need to spend some time and cover my latest books with my usual clear plastic protector film. I’ve been saving them up for a couple of months and there’s getting to be a noticeable pile. They are much more subtle when spread out among my many bookcases! The floor isn’t sagging too much under the weight yet. Emphasis on the yet. Hopefully the house will hold up until I run out of room on the shelves, which won't be long. Then I will have to do something. Or stop buying books. Noooo...

Monday, October 29, 2007

Mad & Madder

The “mad” part first: my baby socks are way too big for the baby! I don’t know what got into me but a sock on 48 sts is just honking huge for a one-year-old’s foot. I was seduced by the narrow ribbing into thinking they were smaller than they really are. Now that I’m past the gussets though I’m thinking if I continue they will be toddler socks instead. Unless I run out of yarn too soon, in which case I’ll frog them and start again on a more reasonable number of stitches, say 36. Stargazer needs more than one pair of socks anyway and he will grow into them eventually no matter what size they are. Then I’ll start on another pair that hopefully will fit him now rather than a year from now. At least little socks go quickly!

Next the “madder” part of today’s post. Not "more mad" but the dye plant, Rubia tinctorum. I got my original roots years ago from a friend since it doesn’t seem to start very easily by seed. As I mentioned in my last post, I decided that it was time to harvest them again after several years of ignoring them in their galvanized buckets. In case you were wondering, I never planted them in the garden because these things can get away from you, like mint. And they are really ugly and scratchy and sprawly plants. Not decorative or even scented, which at least mint is. In addition, I can get quite a nasty rash if I brush against madder with exposed tender skin. So they reside in big buckets with a wire cage over each to prevent them from drooping all over the ground (where they will root if I’m not careful). This is what one bucketful looked like after removing the cage and trimming all the dead branches off:

Then we tipped it out onto a tarp:

Right away there were some telltale signs of orange and some surprisingly big roots showing. T-Man helped me break up the root balls and we set aside some individual plantlets to put back in later:

The rest of the roots went into a bucket to be soaked and washed. The outer brown area scrapes off with a fingernail to show the beautiful deep orange beneath but it’s tedious in the extreme to do that to each root piece. They snap into smaller pieces quite easily while they are still fresh so now is the time to clean and grind them up rather than wait until they are hard. I haven’t finished that part yet though. Here are some that have the dirt washed off but not scrubbed really well or soaked yet:

And these ones are almost ready to be ground up. See the bright colour the residual water is already showing?

I’m hoping to get some wool dyed with this very soon before it all goes mouldy or something. I’m not sure how much I actually have but I thought it was quite a useful amount from my two buckets. Guess it thrives on neglect! With some research I found some very helpful information here and here on growing and harvesting madder plus a delightful story from the prologue to Brian Murphy’s book “The Root of Wild Madder.” For more botanical dyeing information, I just discovered that the Turkey Red Journal that I used to get by subscription has a new online (and free!) version. Only two issues there so far but more will come. Please respect their copyrights on text and images. Enjoy.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Moons & Comets & FOs - Oh My!

Jeepers! I haven’t posted since Wednesday! I have been busier than I thought. For starters, here’s my FO that I finished way back on Thursday but they didn’t dry from their celebratory bath until yesterday. Then I had to corner T-Man to model because the mini-cables don’t show up unless they are worn. I’m not totally happy with this project, possibly because I ran out of yarn so close to the end. No, knitting faster doesn’t work to stretch the yarn to the end of the toe, darn it. I’ve proved it now. I also had to fiddle around fixing too many errors on my part as I was working on these. Not as enjoyable as something that sails along smoothly. Anyway, here they are:

Earl Grey Socks

Begun: October 3, 2007
Completed: October 25, 2007

Yarn: Sisu, 80% wool/20% nylon, 160 m = 50 g, natural white, acid-dyed by me in a kind of denim-ish colourway.
Needles: Addi Natura bamboo dpns, 2 mm.
Pattern: Earl Grey Socks by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee (Yarn Harlot).

Comments: I followed the pattern nearly as written, though I used smaller needles than called for. T-Man’s feets are smaller than Joe’s! They are still on the large side but fit passably well. As a hint as to how much bigger they are than usual, I ran out of yarn 1” before the end of the toes so had to substitute with a slightly brighter and more variegated yarn. Not too different but definitely obvious. If I was doing these over, I would pay more attention to where the cables divide for the gusset. I would do it in the middle of the first pattern section where there are two cables side-by-side so they could split rather than splitting the central cable and fudging. I didn’t do that neat of a job. As usual even a slightly more complex pattern took longer to knit than the usual 2 weeks for plain socks.

The minute the socks came off the needles I’ve cast on again for a pair of baby socks for my grandson in a vain attempt to use up some of my leftover sock yarns. He needs more socks since the ones he has spend mucho time in the laundry. Can’t believe the Stargazer will be one year old already at the end of December. He’s such a cutie-pie! (Says the doting granny...)

Yesterday, T-Man had a day off and the weather was a glorious and sunny fall day. So we went walkies and I bought some new clothes, staples that will help keep me warm for the next few months. At Mark’s Workwear I got 2 “girly” long-sleeved waffle-knit Henleys (one orange, one purple), 2 heavier ribbed cotton zip-front hoodies (one black, one bright green), one basic black turtleneck T, one pair of drawstring waist sweatpants, and 3 pairs of light socks (black, to wear under my handknit socks). Several other garments didn’t fit me as they were the usual too loose on the top and too tight on the hips. I’ve gained a bit of weight back and the belly is just too much! I’m going to get serious again to get more exercise. My poor elliptical trainer is lonely in the basement. At a different store (Reitman’s) I found a black fleece vest on sale and for a wonder, it fit. There were only 2 of them left in the store and the last one got snatched just as I was trying mine on. Serendipity. So now I have some layers to put on when I feel cold. I washed them all and I’m wearing black and orange — no surprise there given the time of year.

Then last evening I had two adventures. First, after dinner I went to the debut of Maiwa’s new film, In Search of Lost Colour. It was really interesting (as are all of their films) and at an hour and a half, even more information and unforgettable shots of dye plants and exotically dressed people messily preparing dyebaths with their bare hands and pulling out fabulous lengths of gorgeous cloth from improbable vats. They don’t have to convince me that nature gives us wonderful colours! I just wish I was better at applying them myself. I definitely need more practice anyway. I’m inspired now to dump out my pathetic madder plants from their galvanized buckets and see if I can get a few more roots to play with.

Anyway, adventure number two: T-Man met me after the film to drive me home, though actually he had to wait a half-hour because it was longer than I thought. To make up for his waiting we walked the short distance to the HR Macmillan Space Centre observatory which was open on such a clear night. The folks hanging out there were very accommodating and let us look while explaining what we were looking at through their personal telescopes. It might have been only one day past the full moon but the real excitement was a comet, P17 Holmes, that had everyone in a twitter. It’s a periodic comet that apparently has no tail and is currently heading away from us. Yesterday it suddenly increased in size and brightness so that you can see it with the naked eye! Nobody knows why it did that but it does have a history of fluctuating. Not this much though! We got to look at it through the big observatory telescope too and it looks like a big fuzzy ball with a bright centre. You might recall that I like comets a lot after I hooked Hale-Bopp into my headboard rug. Now I’ve seen another one that is so different again. Very exciting! It was quite an evening. Tonight is unfortunately cloudy so we won’t be using the binoculars to see what Holmes is up to now. But if you have a clear sky you can see it yourself. More info here on where to look.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Kick In The Pants

That’s what I needed yesterday. Yesterday was gorgeous, sunny and warm and I didn’t go anywhere! Today of course we’re back to rain, the presto-change-o of which may explain the migraine I’ve got that won’t go away with the usual ibuprofen. Maybe the beginnings of a headache was also why I managed to talk myself out of going to the lecture. I didn’t really want to go anyway and when we settled down in front of the TV with dinner (still with plenty of time to make the lecture) I just got way too comfy. And perhaps had a glass or two of home-vintage wine. So no lecture review. And a $15 ticket…pftt! Oddly enough I don’t feel at all guilty about it. And I still plan to go to the last event on Friday that I’ve already bought a ticket for: the debut of Maiwa’s most recent film. More anon.

So, what’s on the needles today? I’m trying to finish the Earl Grey Socks which have been lurking around too long. I’ve made one too many mistakes because I keep losing my row count and have to fix the cable twists. But now I’m getting very close to running out of yarn so I’m knitting quicker. Why do we do that? Does it help stretch the yarn further if you knit it quickly? Is it just the sick fascination of helplessly watching the yarn run out a few rows before the end? Anyway I’m not really concerned because I’ll just make the tips of the toes different if I have to. T-Man won’t care. He is the very definition of “easy-going”. Lucky for him since he’s married to me, eh?

I should be working on my guild’s Membership Booklet right now but my brain hurts. More tea. More meds. Urk.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Look! Up In The Sky!

What is that thing? That ball of bright light outside? And what happened to all the dripping water? Usually I think I’m quite alright with the rainy dark weather but that all changes when the sun finally comes out. I feel unaccountably energetic. I want to go out and play. Maybe rake leaves (except that makes my neck really sore). OK, I may actually have to vacuum today because I can finally see the dirt I’ve been ignoring for a week. Darn.

Meanwhile I have another FO! The Jacoby Gauntlets were just too quick to knit so I ended up finishing them before the socks that have been on the needles much longer. I still have just over half the yarn left (around 85 g) so they may become part of a pair of socks one day. Or something else.

Jacoby Gauntlets

Begun: October 17, 2007
Completed: October 23, 2007

Yarn: Spindle-spun, 3-ply, Corriedale wool at approx. 13 wpi/25º twist angle. Dye-painted with acid dyes. Finished mitts weigh 65 g.
Needles: 2mm Clover Takumi bamboo dpns.
Jacoby Gauntlets free pattern by Berroco

Comments: I modified the pattern a little by only casting on 56 sts instead of 60. Other than that I followed it as written. Finished length is 7” and 5” around the wrist below the thumb gusset with the ribs relaxed and not stretched.

I’m trying to stop myself from starting another project (Black Gloves) because I only have about half the yarn I need for them. Spinning comes first and I want to get going on these before it gets way too dark around here to see what I’m doing. Skinny black yarn and older eyes do not go together at all well. At least I have a couple of good lamps, some stationary near workstations and some that I can drag around, so that I can get light on whatever I need. Otherwise I’d be limited to working only on sunny days! Around here those are few and far between particularly in winter. The days are only light for about 8 hours or less too. Make yarn while the sun shines! Oh yeah. I’m supposed to be vacuuming aren’t I? Pfth!

I’ve got another of the Maiwa lectures to go to tonight. This one is by Karen Selk of Treenway. She is the Silk Queen and knows just about everything there is to know about it. I’ve attended lectures and workshops with Karen before and she always has interesting and thought-provoking things to say. I’ll tell you all about it later. On the other hand, I would have liked to have gone to my former student Kim Werker’s launch party of her new crochet book at Urban Yarns. Oh, well. Can’t do everything. Rumour has it they will be turning people away at the door anyway. It’s not a very big store and crochet is a growing trend. Kim is so happy about that, as well she should be! She is not an insignificant part of the reason why. Good for her!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Beginnings, Middles & (Hopefully) An End

I heard (but didn’t manage to see) a flock of Canada geese honking their way south today. We are mild enough around here to actually have a resident population but the majority leave for warmer and hopefully drier climes. I love watching them because it reminds me again about the turning of the seasons. Like the colourful leaves, they are a definite sign of changes in the air. And speaking of changes, the rain is slated to give us a bit of a break later today and tomorrow which would be nice. We ended up staying in and having a restful quiet weekend because it was positively snorkeling weather out there and neither T-Man nor I felt like venturing out in it even to go get groceries. Wimps. A little rain didn’t stop the heron which flew by just after the geese did. He wasn’t going south. Our herons don’t migrate. Like us they tough it out through the cold, soggy, dark winter. But unlike us, he doesn't have a nice warm dry house with electric lights and lots of stuff to amuse himself with.

I’ve finally started in again on the Hepburn Cardi. I got a few centimeters worth of sleeves done so far:

I didn’t wash the kinky frogged yarn, but just wound it back on the cones. If I had washed it, it would have not only taken out the waxing (this was knitting machine yarn) before I want but would have meant skeining all of the yarn, not just the used yarn, which was way too much work. Hopefully the kinks don’t mess with my tension too much. Since I’m not a very even knitter anyway, you probably won’t be able to tell. It will be interesting to see how far I get until I run out of the kinky stuff. I had knitted both sleeves to the decreases at the underarm where the sleeve cap begins. This time around I’m hoping to finish the whole sleeves and still have more left over. We’ll see how that goes. So far the charts I created have been a big help. Purple Post-It at the ready!

At the same time, I’ve been working on both the Earl Grey Socks (heading down the feet) and the Jacoby Gauntlets. The gauntlets, or more accurately fingerless mitts, are coming along fine:

However I’m not sure if there will be enough room in the thumb for another glove underneath. I guess we’ll see how that goes. They fit just right on bare hands. Though the main cuffs are on fewer stitches, I did the thumb gusset and opening as per the pattern but because they’re knitted on smaller needles they are a bit tighter than the original. I also plan to make the part above the thumb opening shorter than the pattern so I can bend my fingers more easily. My hands are very small so I always need to adjust patterns to fit me properly. I love having gloves that really fit and don’t have too-long fingers flopping around. Makes all the fiddling around knitting said fingers worthwhile.

I need to get on to my latest volunteer weavers’ guild job. I promised to do the Membership Booklet this time. Unfortunately I have to start completely from scratch since the last person has a Mac and used software I don’t own. At least I have the majority of the files I need, assuming I can get them to play nicely. Remind me again why I said yes?

Saturday, October 20, 2007

FO: Boteh Scarf

The poor thing finally finished drying from its blocking. It’s so damp around here that it took 2 days! And I finally got enough light to photograph it. So without further ado, I bring you:

Boteh Scarf

Begun: October 10, 2007
Completed: October 18, 2007

Yarn: Sisu fingering/sock yarn, 80% wool/20% nylon, 160 m = 50 g, 2 balls white, handpainted by me with acid dyes.
Hook: 4 mm Clover Soft Touch

Pattern: Boteh Scarf from Interweave Crochet, Spring 2007. Designed by Kathy Merrick.

Comments: There was one small error in the written instructions but by following the diagram I didn’t even notice. (Correction is on Interweave’s website errata page.) I worked a swatch first and then pulled it out and began again with 2 fewer stitches. This made the scarf a bit narrower and 2 less dtr stitches were needed between motifs. I also did 18 instead of 16 repeats to make it slightly longer. The finished scarf is 4” across the base of the motif and 76” long. I had only 10 g of yarn left when I was finished so it was quite close. No possibility of more yarn! I did appreciate that the uneven colouring on the yarn didn’t affect the scarf at all. It’s barely noticeable even. What looked bad in a pair of socks (causing me to frog my Jaywalkers), looked just fine in this application. I gave the finished scarf a hard blocking with pins but of course it still rolls up somewhat in wearing. Reminds me of seaweed!

Silk (aka Sheila) asked in the Comments about Knit Visualizer. I’ve been using it to re-chart my Hepburn Cardi so that they are larger and clearer than the original charts in Lace Style. It’s time-consuming of course but I love this kind of thing! I think I’ve blogged about this program before, but in the interest of getting the word out I’m happy to do it again. KV is available for both Mac & XP/Vista and there is a free demo and full PDF manual to download to try it out. The full program is US$135 which isn’t out of sight for this kind of specialized tool. Nancy, the programmer, is very responsive and is promising a large upgrade (colour! customizable symbols!) coming. She has a YahooGroup that isn’t busy but she pays close attention to questions asked there.

I already have a program (Pattern Maker Pro) that can create charts from photographs or can be used with colours or symbols. What do I like about KV that PM can’t do? You can enter written patterns and have it automatically generate a chart or vice versa. This “parser” isn’t perfect but it’s pretty cool! I actually heard about one knitter who hates charts so she uses it to convert a pattern back into words. First she has to enter the chart though so she must really be dedicated to following written pattern directions. Personally I prefer to go the other way. Of course you can also fill in the chart with your stitch symbols manually, copy, paste, delete, add and subtract rows and columns, and print out whatever combination of chart, pattern, notes etc. that you want. You can convert your chart to a graphic (.png file format) so that you can bring it up in a graphics/photo program for further editing or paste it into a word processing file.

The symbol selection is fairly comprehensive in KV and includes lots of cables, increases and decreases. What it doesn’t do is colour, though it has a set of symbols that can be used to designate whatever colour you assign to each of them. So if you do a lot of intarsia or fairisle this isn’t a good choice for those types of patterns. It is wonderful for lace and cables though, which is what the Hepburn Cardi consists of. I used KV to plot the increases up the sleeves so I didn’t have to figure out on the fly how to deal with the pattern at the edges as the piece widens. You can do the same with armholes, necklines and sleeve heads if you know what row of the pattern to begin on. Since I don’t yet, I just plotted a general sleeve head and will add the pattern stitches when I get to that point in the knitting. Am I being anal? Probably. But it’s fun!

When you get your pattern looking the way you want, you can designate repeats or mark off a section with borders. The program automatically numbers your rows and columns for you, changing as you add or delete. If you’re working in the round you can have the numbers to the right or alternating right and left if you’re working back and forth. You can save your source and notes with your pattern. A “glitch” in the program allows you to do some editing on the Print page but it doesn’t save so it’s only good for one printout. I’ve found it handy when using a symbol for something other than what the program has in the Legend. You can change the definition temporarily. You can also edit the written pattern but it doesn’t make sense to do a lot when it doesn’t remain. That was the biggest complaint I had but you soon learn to work within the limitations.

The manual is quite comprehensive and has lots of illustrations. Bottom line is I’m finding Knit Visualizer really handy. I’m not adverse to written instructions, being kind of a word person, but I find I can keep my place better and see what’s going on overall with a chart. You can just glance at it instead of trying to figure out what each written instruction lines up with and why you’re 2 stitches out at the end of the row. It’s also easier to design your own patterns with a chart. You can cut and paste motifs and move them around and then figure out how to knit the results. Try that with knitting abbreviations, I double-dare ya!

Friday, October 19, 2007

It Figures!

After I lost one of the sock needles from the Earl Grey Socks, I finally broke down and made a new one with a bamboo skewer. Later T-Man came upstairs with the missing needle! Apparently it was in the middle of the dining room floor where I should have tripped over it. Of course it’s been as dark as the inside of your eyeballs around here lately with all the rain. But I looked everywhere and couldn’t find it for several days before I broke down and made a substitute. I knew that would bring it out of the woodwork and it did. So now I have a spare.

It also figures that when I swatched with the correct size circular needle (3.75 mm) for the Hepburn Cardi, I got…the right gauge. I still can’t remember why I thought the smaller one was going to work. The larger needle doesn’t add much to the width but definitely increases the row gauge to something resembling the pattern requirements. Why is that? It’s also significantly easier to knit all the cables and lace. I’m not sure I like the resulting fabric quite as much though. It doesn’t have the same heft and bounce. It’s more drapey and limp. But chances of me finishing the thing sometime this winter are greatly improved. I’m also working on re-charting the pattern in Knit Visualizer because frankly the one in the book sucks. I like a good clear chart to follow for something this complex. It is possible to memorise it eventually but it still helps to have a visual check. Besides I like charting.

Yesterday’s monsoon prevented me from going out but luckily we did miss the tail end of Typhoon LingLing when she petered out before she got here. Yes, I am sugar-spun and afraid of melting. Why do you ask? Anyway, we need some groceries and the free weekly newspapers so I plan to pester T with a ride so we can stock up. As far as I can see the weather plans to monsoon on and off for the next few days anyhow. Why go out walking when I can be warm and dry in the MINI Cooper? And she carries lots more groceries than I can.

Oh glorious sounds! I can hear the garbage truck for the first time in 3 months! Yay! Looks like he’s having trouble compacting all the garbage he’s had to pick up though. Some is dropping out in the alley. Now he’s up on top jumping on it! Yikes! Whew. He climbed down safely. Glad I’m not his mama. Or his wife. Pee-ew! Hope he had a nice summer vacation on the picket line and got a great tan. Now he’s making up for lost time. Neener-neener! The garbage is still stuck. Hope he picked up mine first. I can’t tell from here.

I should be vacuuming but it’s too dark to see the dirt. So back to charting Hepburn instead.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Finished Or Un-

I had a blast reading everyone’s responses to Knitting Daily’s UFO poll. (You do get KD, don’t you? Link is in my sidebar.) Obviously UnFinished Objects are a touchy subject with some people. Feelings of guilt or pride or apologies abound! Does it matter how many you have? Really? To whom and why? Apart from taking up space and maybe needles that you might need for another project, they just sit there. Are they screaming at you for completion? Are they imminently in danger of tripping you or self-combusting? No? I say, “Relax!”

What makes a project into a UFO anyway? I think there are several “flavours” of UFO. First there are the ones that are currently in play. They’re going along OK but you need to switch around for reasons varying from “too simple and boring” to “too complex for TV” to “too painful on the hands for long stretches” to “too heavy to carry around.” Having a few projects to choose from is crucial otherwise much less knitting will get done over all. However in my opinion the most common kind of UFO is the project that did something bad. It needs to sit in a corner in Time Out to figure out what it did wrong and learn how to change its ways and behave. And for you to figure those things out too and come to terms with what must be done. Sometimes it just takes a fresh perspective to carry on and sometimes the thing needs a good push into the frog pond. I believe you should have a time limit for the UFOs to hang around before they get frogged. If it hasn’t worked in a few months or a year, it’s likely not going to look any better a few years or decades down the road. Been there; done that. Frog now and release that yarn! You’ll feel so much better, trust me. When it’s back in its yarnish state it moves off the UFO list and into Stash. From there it can go into the Queue again to become something else that makes you much happier. It’s like going yarn shopping without costing you any more money. I promise you won’t regret it.

On the other hand, I don’t believe that the Stash should have a time limit. Some yarns just need marinating to find out what they want to become. I also consider yarns (and fibres too, of course) to have purposes outside of the obvious one. Besides making stuff out of them, they can be considered art if you leave some out decoratively arranged in baskets or bowls. They can also be house insulation if stored in the right places. Your fibre stash is a great investment in case of heating fuel shortages or the Australian drought causes a wool shortage (which it actually is currently). You’ll be prepared if you can’t get to your LYS very often because of high gas prices. Or, heaven forefend, you run out of yarn money because the kids need feeding (as well as hats and mitts) and the mortgage needs to be paid. If global warming turns out to be wrong and it’s really global cooling you’ll be well-stocked to keep your loved ones toasty. And if all hell breaks loose, you can actually sell or trade some (not your favourites though) to another desperate knitter who wasn’t as prepared as you. Hopefully, things will never get that bad.

The Queue doesn’t have a time limit either, but it does need to be reviewed on a regular basis. Did you change your mind? Find another pattern you like better? Use the stashed yarn for something else and need to reconsider what to use for this project? Wait too long and the kid grew too big for the item you’d planned? Decide to change the order because you want to start this one right now which pushes other things back? This is the type of thing that Ravelry helps so well with. I’m finding that it’s almost too easy to post items to my Ravelry Queue and then move them up to my Projects as fast as I can get going on them. Then they look so lonely without photos so I need to add them and so on. It’s so encouraging. Or maybe I just like to find out who else is working on that project too and see how they’re doing with it!

So. One thing to remove from the UFO list: I’ve completed my crocheted Boteh Scarf in a flurry of activity early this morning. It really didn’t take long at all once my hands remembered how to crochet. Here it is blocking with pins:

Just thought it might benefit from a true wet blocking session even though it’s superwash/nylon sock yarn. Doncha love the shapes? I’ll get a better photo when it’s dry and give all the scoop on in a later post. Maybe there will be enough light around here without supplemental lights being necessary. That big light in the sky sure is hiding its face today and clouds are crying another day of pouring rain. Bleh.

Meanwhile, back at the knitting, I’m cruising down the feet on the Earl Grey Socks. I’m not super happy about the way the baby cables happened at the heel and side of the gusset. One person on Ravelry did a better job of it but mine actually look more like Yarn Harlot’s except for a little extra twisting I did at the gusset. I decided that was kind of stupid since you can’t see it anyway and further down the foot I dropped 3 stitches down on each cable and picked them up without the extra side twists. Liking it better now. These are taking a longer time to complete than I thought they would because they aren’t really very easy to do while watching TV.

So for TV knitting, as I mentioned yesterday I’ve started on the free Berroco pattern, Jacoby. These are gauntlets knitted in sock yarn but I’m using a 3ply sport yarn that I completely spun with spindles. I started socks with the undyed yarn a long time ago and frogged them. Then I dyepainted the yarn in one of my Dye Day sessions. So now they are becoming long ribbed fingerless mitts instead of socks. So far I’m liking how they’re turning out even though they are quite thick. My modification of 56 stitches around seems to be a good size. This is how far I got while watching Heroes and Inspector Lynley last night:

Sorry it’s not terribly exciting. Yet. I’m working on it. Meanwhile I’m not working on either the woven Circus Blanket (which I needed last night because I was cold) or the Hepburn Cardi (which I need right now because I am cold).

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Home Is Where The Rain Is

It was rather nice to not have to go anywhere last evening for a change. I made pizza (with a “crust” made of steamed slices of zucchini and eggplant) and we caught up with a bit of recorded TV. It’s a dark and rainy day today, at least so far. This time of year, and all the way through until next spring come to think of it, the sunny days are few and far between. That’s not to say that it rains all the time but one low pressure band after another sweeps in off the north Pacific with insignificant gaps between most of them. The days are getting much shorter too but we still have more than a month to go to where it’s getting dark at 3pm and not light again until 8am. Although some people suffer a lot during the winter, it doesn’t bother me much unless I have to go somewhere farther than a few blocks without someone giving me a ride. It’s amazing how fast you can get wet to the skin even while wearing Gore-Tex and using an umbrella. It’s also amazing how cold you can get out there when it’s not even anywhere near freezing. We’re not quite at the “winter” stage yet, but it’s getting increasingly unpleasant at times out there. Luckily there’s still lots of pretty leaves to take the edge off the darkness. We should still have some nice days to get outside but you never know. Hopefully we can avoid those awful storms we had last year that knocked down so many trees and did so much damage.

Have I mentioned that the civic strike is almost over, except for the library workers who haven’t settled yet? They are allowing both our special garbage and yard waste cans (with garbage instead of yard waste) plus up to 6 plastic bags for the first while. No recycling, actual yard waste or leaf pick-up for a couple of weeks though. For the desperate to recycle they’ve set up a collection area in a parking lot but we’ll hold out until regular pick-up resumes. We only have maybe 3 bags plus the 2 bins so we’re doing OK. We don’t create a lot of waste and we have a big compost so we’re better off than some folks. Our regular pick-up day is Friday so they haven’t come by here yet. It will be nice to get rid of the stuff we’ve been collecting since last July!

They’re slowly getting community centres and such back into full programs. The inside workers went back to work last week so they’ve already started to deal with the backlog of such things as permits. A new house just started to be built across the alley from me the minute they got their building permits through. It’s going to be a “skinny” house on a half-width lot situated between two large Edwardian houses that are divided into suites. A neighbour tried to get a negative campaign going on this one but it obviously didn’t work. There are only a few of these narrow detached houses in the city but they are actually quite attractive. There’s another one 2 blocks from here. I’d certainly rather live in one of those than in an apartment. There needs to be more density in the city and this is a rather painless way to get it. We may even build a “coach house” on our wider corner lot one day. We aren’t zoned for that yet though.

Enough about my neighbourhood, what about my crafty stuff? It’s too dark for photos today. Still plugging away on the Earl Grey Socks. They’ve become my Blog Reading Project. I’ve crocheted 15 repeats on the Boteh Scarf. After I get to 16 then I’ll decide how many more to go before I consider it long enough. I’m thinking now maybe 18? I cast on for the Jacoby Gauntlets though I’m really only using it as a basic shape. I’ve reduced the number of stitches to 56 from 60 because my handspun yarn is thicker than sock/fingering, more like sport yarn. I’m also using 2mm needles but they feel a bit small. I don’t want these to become too wide though so I will persevere. I do want to be able to wear these by themselves or over a pair of gloves for extra warmth.

Speaking of the gloves, I can’t knit them yet until I spin more of the black wool that I used in the Icelandic Lace Shawl. I have 30 g left and need probably at least that much more again. I’ll probably spin 50 g just to be on the safe side. I’ve been wearing either fingerless gloves or those cheap stretchy acrylic ones from the dollar store when my hands get cold. The only pair of handspun ones I have were made in 1987 and are somewhat felted from cross-country skiing with them. Past time for a new pair methinks. And maybe another pair after that. No, I don’t wear mitts and no, I don’t mind knitting fingers. At least my hand-knit gloves fit me, unlike any commercial ones besides the stretchy ones.

What else? Oh yeah. The Hepburn Cardi is still in Time-Out. It seems I’d rather do housework than swatch some more and start over again. Not a good sign. I really need another sweater.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Crochet Her

I’ve been plugging away at my Boteh Scarf with the help of my Kitty Assistant, Ms. Julie. (Think she’s trying to learn how to do it herself?) I’ve now joined in the second ball of hand-dyed sock yarn at motif 13. The piece is nearly 1.5 metres long with only 2 motifs to go according to the pattern. But because I started by reducing the size of each motif a little, I think I’ll go to 20 repeats instead of 16. I like my scarves long and skinny. Still haven’t decided if I’ll do the final row of hdc’s around the whole scarf but it might need it to stop the thing curling up into a tube. The end of this ball of yarn is much lighter in tone than the rest of the ball which might look “planned” around the scarf. Or not. I guess I’ll just have to test it. One thing for sure, it’s too easy to frog crochet! Ask me how I know.

Although I’ve been crocheting since I was a child there are a few new wrinkles that I’ve had to get used to. The rows begin with ch 2 and hdc into the first stitch at the base of the chain. When you get to the end of the row, you hdc in the last st but not into the start ch from the row below. This actually looks very nice but is different from how I used to do it. I would skip the first st below the turning chain and the last st would be into the top of the previous row’s turning chain. The disadvantage of this method is that there is a bit of a gap that shows between the turning chain and the st next to it. The new method looks much tighter and smoother. I guess you can teach an old dog new tricks!

I still am not as comfortable with hdc as I’d like. I keep catching the hook in the second loop on the hook before I pull through the last loop. It helps if I grab the stitch from below with my left forefinger and thumb so I have something firm to pull against as I complete the stitch. My dtr stitches are getting much neater and tighter. They were loose at the top at first and still are a little but better than they were. The first part of the stitch is naturally tighter but there is more slack toward the last “yo, pull through 2 loops on hook”. I tend to want to wrap the hook loosely 3 times instead of tight which works better to eliminate the slack.

Even with all the mistakes I’ve made on this scarf, I’m remembering what I like about crochet. Nearly immediate gratification! It’s going quite quickly and I’m getting an amazing amount of fabric compared to the socks that I usually knit out of this yarn. Who says crochet uses more yarn? Not necessarily so.

Speaking of socks, I’ve turned the heels on the Earl Grey Socks and am cruising down the gussets. I opted to keep half of the twisted stitch pattern going down the sides of the foot which slows me down a little. I have to keep track of the rows instead of blindly going around and around. They’re coming along. I’ve gone and lost one of my needles but because I knit on them alternately I can use the spare from the other pair to carry on. I have no idea where these things get to but since they just look like oversized toothpicks (at more than $2 apiece and you can only buy them 5 at a time!) they have a disconcerting tendency to either break or disappear on a regular basis. Later I plan to get out my trusty bamboo skewers and create a substitute. You can buy a couple of dozen skewers for the same price as one actual needle is worth. They just take some time to cut to the right length, point and sand smooth. They aren’t quite as durable as the “real” needles but they work just fine. So tell me why do I bother buying the real thing?

I haven’t gotten re-started on the Hepburn Cardi yet. I’ve put it in Time-Out for making me disappointed (even if it was my own fault). However I need to get back to it because it’s cold enough around here to want to wear a sweater! We keep our house temperature down except first thing in the morning and in the early evening. Even if it wasn’t helping to keep the greenhouse gas emissions down, at the price of natural gas it’s worth it. As Brenda Dayne of the Cast On podcast always says “If you’re cold, put on a sweater. That’s what they’re for.”

Well, I went to the demo with Richard Ashford last evening and it was pretty much as I expected. It was geared toward beginning spinners and weavers so I didn’t learn anything new. He even drafted me into helping! They have a couple of new products that were nice to see: a set of 5 graduated spindles in a holder and stands for the regular Knitter’s Loom and the new wider Knitter’s Loom. My only complaint is that the spindles come all together and you can’t just buy the ones you want. There are finally some really little spindles which they never had before so I feel they need to make these available individually as well. The Knitter’s Loom (apart from the stupid name) is a quite good little 12” folding rigid heddle loom and the new 20” version is even more versatile. You could weave everything from placemats to clothing fabrics on the wider loom which is helpful because I’m sure just weaving scarves gets old really fast. You would have to piece to get a useful width for much else. They also have finer dent reeds available because 7.5 dents per inch is pretty coarse for anything but novelty yarns and blanket weights. These looms don’t have the attachment available for double heddle weaving though — for that you’d have to go with their regular rigid heddle looms, which are similar but don’t fold. If it was me, the loom that I would get would be the 16-shaft table loom plus stand. It’s much more expensive and less portable but you could weave virtually anything on its 24”. I like the overhead beater too. My Woolhouse Carolyn has one as does my big loom. However, as an entry level loom to bring knitters over to the Dark Side, the Knitter’s Loom works very well. There is a surprising amount that can be done on a rigid heddle loom.

Which brings me to the books. It’s not out yet, but Ashford is publishing a book on making clothing on the Knitter’s Loom. They already have one on the rigid heddle loom and a booklet for the Knitter’s Loom. I do think that since not only Ashford but Schacht and Kromski (and others) also have very nice affordable rigid heddle looms available that there should be a more in-depth book. Interweave has “Hands On Rigid Heddle Weaving” and there is a video with Betty Linn Davenport, but unfortunately her wonderful book “Textures and Patterns for the Rigid Heddle Loom” is OOP. For some reason people quickly lose interest in this type of loom and either go on to shaft loom weaving or give up weaving altogether. I myself own a teeny little handmade rigid heddle loom but it was made for weaving wire jewelry, though of course you could weave yarn on it as well. I haven’t used it for, ahem…ages.

Monday, October 15, 2007


For the moment anyway. I was really busy all weekend so didn’t get a chance to even turn on the computer. Highly unusual! The weather was gorgeous, sunny and relatively warm so that may have had something to do with it. In order: I went to the Barber lecture Friday evening, to Spectrum Dye Study Group on Saturday, on a long walk on Sunday and then to another of the Maiwa lectures, this time with Jane Callender, a stitched shibori artist. Today I’m relaxing even though the laundry and vacuuming need doing. They aren’t going anywhere (except increasing in numbers of undies and dust bunnies) so they can wait. Tonight I go to another lecture, not a Maiwa one but at my LYS, with Richard Ashford of Ashford Wheels & Looms. It was my former boss’s idea that I come and she waived the $20 fee for me so even though I’m tired, I’m going anyway. At least the commute is only 3-1/2 blocks. Better than having to buttonhole T-Man into picking me up or begging a ride from someone going my way.

So first off, how was the Elizabeth Barber lecture? It was really thought-provoking, just as I thought it would be. Some of the mummies that Dr. Barber studied in Urumchi, China, were 5,ooo years old and yet were wearing large fringed wraps woven from handspun wool and felted wool caps with finely woven grain baskets to hand. You could see the stitches and the headers where the warp was set up for the warp-weighted loom. You could see the yarn variations attempted to decorate the cloth. One young girl’s wrap had 3 different natural colours of wool. A later mummy of a man (who just looked like he was asleep and not millennia old) had a wool shirt and pants in a handsome deep maroon with contrasting piping and a tubular braided belt. A baby had a cap of blue wool (and possibly cashmere) which was so brightly dyed it could have come out of yesterday’s synthetic dyebath. His wrap was secured with a twisted blue and red wool rope and he had a horn cup and sheep’s teat bottle nearby. Later people still had multicoloured plaid fabrics that would make any Scotsman proud. The effect of these bodies wasn’t at all horrible but absolutely fascinating. Dr. Barber explained much of the prehistory of the area and the conjectures about where these Caucasian people came from and how they ended up settling in one of the driest places on earth. Too much for me to explain here. Read her book. Better yet, read all her books. You’ll probably feel as I do that people haven’t really advanced as people, just our technology has. Are we better off — or not?

On Saturday at Spectrum we had an extended show-and-tell with our last meeting’s felting, mostly scarves. By then it was lunchtime so we had our usual fabulous potluck which included pumpkin soup, veggie stew baked in a small pumpkin, quinoa salad, carrot and daikon radish slaw with pumpkin seeds, and a delicious apple and pecan cake with vanilla ice-cream for dessert. It was definitely a harvest/Halloween meal with orange being the dominant colour! We chatted so long at the dining table and out in the hostess’s weaving studio that we never did get around to actually doing any felting. When I got home I took my felting needle and created some fall leaves on my crochet hook roll that I’d made awhile back. It looks much better now. See?

I did have a bad scare though while I was working at the table outside on my top deck. I felt something land on the top of my head. Since I was sitting underneath a planter that has some quickly-deteriorating impatiens, I just thought it was a flower or leaf from that. I grabbed it in my hand and then noticed that it was a wasp! Yikes! Here I was home alone (T was at a woodturning demo) and I almost got stung. Last time that happened I ended up in hospital with anaphylactic shock and I’d hate to repeat the event. Unfortunately my epi-pen is outdated, though probably still good (emphasis on the “probably”). I’d hate to have to use it and find out otherwise. They are so expensive that I was hoping to wait to replace it until late next spring. Not too many wasps around in winter after all. Luckily I had grabbed the thing fairly gently and although I startled, I didn’t squeeze it but let it go. It landed on my shirt front where I leapt up and shook it off over the railing. Whew! Disaster averted. I’m not sure how long I would have had to figure out whether or not to call an ambulance or a taxi if it got me. T was certainly too far away to get home quickly. Last time it took nearly an hour before it got critical but who knows with subsequent stings. I’d rather not find out. Surprisingly, until this happened I’d gone back to being pretty relaxed around wasps. Remains to be seen if I stay that way or if there’s some residual post-traumatic stress again.

The weather yesterday was still pretty nice so we went for one of our usual walks. We finally got our photos taken for our passports. My photo is really awful! But I don’t photograph well at the best of times anyhow. The authorities don’t care as long as it looks like me, right? I’ve given up being vain about my looks. Who is that old lady in the mirror when I still feel young inside? As long as the passport satisfies those idiots who made them mandatory in order to travel outside of Canada. Maybe I won’t even use it. Or maybe when we get our passports we’ll take a quick trip to San Francisco or something. Just to try them out, you know. See if they’re worth all the hassle and expense.

Last evening’s lecture featured Jane Callender’s indigo-dyed nui shibori which is just to “dye” for. I totally love the precise and beautiful geometric designs that she achieves with her stitching. Almost as fascinating was her story about her family and her discovery of her chosen medium. Though she now lives in the UK, Jane was born in Malaysia and spent her childhood on a rubber plantation. Her parents’ families were associated with such far-flung countries as Egypt and India. Old British Empire stuff. Although the lecture wasn’t as thought-provoking as Dr. Barber’s was, it was still wonderful to see several of the pieces shown in her slides up close and personal. My favourite one called “Trellis” is here and another lovely one called “Dandelion” is here. I didn’t bring my wallet with me so I was unable to purchase any of her small introductory kits (pricey) or her indigo-dyed bone beads. Awww…

It’s raining again now so I’m glad we got out in the nice weekend weather. Fortunately I bought a new umbrella so it doesn’t bother me. We’re right at the high colour mark for the autumn leaves though and the rain kind of spoils the enjoyment. You can’t kick them as easily when they’re wet! Here’s what some of them looked like yesterday:

I have no idea what kind of street trees these are but isn’t that pink just glorious? Oh, and I haven’t been on Ravelry since Friday.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Still Slightly Raveled

I guess it’s true that new members of Ravelry don’t tend to blog as much as they used to. I’m only a little behind though, so don’t hold it against me. I’ve also cut down some on the YahooGroups I belong to now that I have Ravelry’s groups to play in. It’s really easy to join them, not like the rigmarole you have to go through to join a YahooGroup, and you can check them out and read messages without even joining first. As you can guess I’ve been lurking around a lot.

So what else have I been doing? Photographing my yarns and projects and uploading the pictures to my Flickr site so I can illustrate my projects and yarn stash. That’s a time-consuming process it turns out, even if I only show a tiny fraction of my real stash. I’ve also been queuing up my projects for the winter. I need gloves for starters. Ones with fingers in them! But first I have to spin more of that black yarn that I used for the Icelandic Lace Shawl. And then I want yet another pair of handwarmers to wear over top of the gloves for extra warmth. More on that anon.

Otherwise I’ve gotten 4 repeats done on the Boteh Scarf so far and the pattern is memorized. I don’t need the chart at all which makes this the most portable project I’ve got at the moment. I’m working on the heel flaps on the Earl Grey Socks. Haven’t restarted the Hepburn Cardi yet though.

The weather has been quite reasonable so yesterday we went out and did some work in the garden. Most of the beds are cleared, weeded and planted with winter rye now. I got the garlic planted for next spring. Just like flower bulbs but more edible! We put the Silly Goose garden ornament inside the now mostly-cleared out greenhouse for safekeeping until next door gets the fencing and landscaping completed. We can’t even consider what to do on the fence line between the properties until we see what they’re going to do first.

Later today I need to get my felting stuff together for Spectrum Study Group tomorrow. As usual I’m bucking the group’s trends and will be doing some needle-felting. I need another pumpkin ornament (I already have two) and my felted crochet hook case needs some decoration because it’s completely boring. I’m thinking a leaf theme — this time of year always makes me think about leaves. Wonder why? But I don’t want to use the knitted leaves that I’ve made and felted. I have another idea for them. I want to needle felt kind of freeform this time.

Which brings me to the new issue of Interweave Knits Holiday Gifts magazine. This one is much better than last year’s! At least the contents are all new instead of rehashed from other issues. There are several items I might make. I love the fairisle December Lights Tam on the cover with it’s bright colours, the mohair Sugarplum Shrug, at least 2 of the 4 pairs of socks, and the Qiviuk scarf (the tam that goes with it would need to be sized down somewhat). There’s a nice little ascot and a cute floppy teddy too plus more. The article on felting (both wet and needle) includes a really handsome messenger bag by Leigh Radford. Actually I think that’s what has inspired me to decorate my crochet hook roll.

Tonight I’m going to a Maiwa Textile Symposium lecture with Elizabeth Wayland Barber, the author of “Women’s Work: The First 20,000 Years” and “The Mummies of Urumchi”, both really interesting books. There’s an interview with her here that makes fascinating reading. I’m looking forward to it but as usual I have trouble staying awake in the evenings. Plus I have a migraine today which is compounding the problem. But this is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to hear her speak and I have a ticket already. T-Man is going to drive me and we can have dinner out first.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007


I must not have enough things on the needles because I’ve been having a return of startitis again. I’ll tell you what I’ve been up to in a minute but first — I’m so sad that I had to frog the nearly completed BOTH SLEEVES on my Katharine Hepburn Cardigan! Boo-hoo! Sniff! It just wasn’t coming out to anywhere near the right gauge, especially row gauge where it’s way off at 4 extra rows per 4 inches. Although I might be able to fudge by knitting more rows it’s using up a lot more yarn and I’m not sure I have enough to do that. Or enough patience! It’s really old yarn too and has been marinating and aging nicely in my stash for so long that the shop I bought it from no longer exists. I think the NZ yarn company still does but they don’t make that yarn anymore. It’s a 4-ply crepe yarn in about a sport weight, waxed and on a cone for machine knitting. It’s lovely stuff and I have 1-1/2 of the 500g cones. On the McMorran yarn balance it comes out to about 1500 yds per lb or 1650 yards per cone. The pattern calls for 1800 yards and I think that’s just cutting it too close. So ziiiiipppp…and back to the swatching.

Even though I washed the first swatch and blocked it, it really wasn’t at the correct gauge. Now that I’ve re-measured again the stitch gauge is actually off nearly as much as the rows. I don’t know what I was thinking when I carried on regardless. A case of mad startitis? That rush of getting a new project on the needles? I actually lied to myself about how it will “block out correctly” later? Sigh. All that knitting that I’ll have to do over again. But I tell myself that if it doesn’t fit when it’s done then that’s a lot more knitting and assembling to pull out than 2 not-quite-completed sleeves. No wonder the whole project has been in time-out for a couple of months! I had to come to terms with my mistake and get up the courage to frog the whole thing and start again. Here I go.

Speaking of startitis, I’ve also started crocheting the Boteh Scarf from Interweave Crochet’s Spring 2007 issue. I’m using some sock yarn that formerly was the beginning of the Jaywalker socks but got frogged. It was dyed in the ball and there is a lot of uneven colour distribution through each of the two balls and the balls don’t match well either. See?

For this project I don’t care. I started by just swatching for the scarf because I was planning to narrow the pattern somewhat since I like skinny scarves. It took me a little while (and a couple of froggings) to get comfortable with crochet again and to understand the pattern. Not that it’s particularly hard or anything but I haven’t done much crochet recently. There is a lot of hdc (half-double crochet stitch) and that’s not one I’ve used a lot in the past though it seems to be very popular right now. There is also dtr (double-treble crochet stitch) with 3 wraps around the hook. Mine are very sloppy! The Sisu yarn is quite splitty, worse even for crochet than it is for knitting. I even changed hooks a couple of times until I found one that felt more comfortable. I frogged it one last time and started again for real on less stitches. It's much nicer this way, at least to me. I quite like how the fall colours are turning out with this yarn. Much better than the ill-fated Jaywalkers anyhow.

I really like crochet but the reasons why I don’t do more of it are many. I have to concentrate more so I can’t do anything else at the same time. Even listening to podcasts can throw me off. It uses more hand motions and my neck gets tired quickly so I can’t do it for as long at a time. And don’t tell anyone, but I actually like a knitted fabric better than crocheted. Crochet is really good for some things particularly 3-dimensional items that need to hold their shape. It is definitely faster to complete the same amount of area than with knitting. I can design crochet patterns fairly easily. But it just doesn’t turn my crank quite the same way as knitting does. Go figure.

I’m up to the heel turns on T-Man’s Earl Grey Socks. That means they’re almost half done. I like that I can mostly knit them without paying much attention except at the two little traveling stitch areas on either side. And best of all, T likes them just fine even though there was a glitch in the dyeing and the yarn has “freckles” of darkest navy on it in various places. This photo is from yesterday. I’m farther along now.

What else? The city’s civic strike still drags on. The “inside” workers have voted to accept the latest contract offer and go back to work but the “outside” workers (including parks and garbage pick-up) and the library workers didn’t get enough yes votes. Apparently 58% isn’t enough — they needed 66%! 3 months without seeing a garbage truck is a bit much. Surprisingly most of the city doesn’t look too much worse than usual. The management personnel have been picking up the street and park bins at least and a lot of people have been taking their garbage to other municipalities’ transfer stations and waiting in long lineups to pay to have their stuff dumped. Some folks who live in apartments etc. have private bin service. Good thing we don’t create a lot of garbage ourselves and have a compost box and space to store recycling. We’re holding out so far. Though it’s getting old really fast. Other stuff like closed community centres and pools and weeds in the parks don’t affect us. And parking meters are deemed an essential service! Not city-run daycares or seniors programs however. Sorry. Rant over.

Monday, October 08, 2007

I've Been Raveled!

Finally after waiting 2 months in line I got my invitation to join Ravelry! Right after I got myself registered, I already had a message that my friend Gail (hi, Gail!) in Surrey wanted me as a friend. What a lovely welcome to be noticed right away! I also found several of my former students and a discussion thread where my spinning class was complimented. Heh! I think I’m going to feel right at home here. I’ve only just started to enter my projects and I’m not even going to try to include all my stash, books, needles and hooks. I’ll just start with the relevant ones. Plus I need to spend more time uploading photos to my Flickr site so that they will link properly with my Ravelry notebook. Lots of work ahead!

So far what I like is how a project links to everyone else who has done or is currently doing that pattern, at least for popular patterns. You can see what yarn and needles they are using, how they liked the pattern, whether there are corrections, what modifications they’ve made and see the finished article. Sometimes the designer will even comment on your results which is a nice incentive to finish. I also like the ability to start a queue of future projects. Even though I have both a physical and a mental queue already, it’s nice to have it committed in public. Might be a stronger commitment will get done quicker? Whatever helps to move things along.

We had a lovely day yesterday, if somewhat exhausting! It was Thanksgiving Dinner for the Thundering Hordes at Damselfly’s pond when 20 relatives and near-relatives showed up to wolf down Wilbur the Ham. (Yes, we name our dinner. Doesn’t everyone?) The ages ranged from 91 to 9 months and covered 4 generations. Apparently a good time was had by all judging from the number of dishes to wash. No, Susan, they didn’t offer to do the dishes! But I fooled ’em and used paper plates to minimize the work I have to do today. It’s not too bad of a pile left really. However after spending 3 days cleaning up the pond now I need to vacuum all over again. I was picking up squished peas and muffin crumbs (courtesy of my grandkids) before they got embedded in the rugs. There’s no huge hurry to vacuum though. Dried food lifts up easier than damp. Heh. Today I’m relaxing while T-Man is at work. He never gets Canadian holidays off, only US ones. That’s what he gets for working for an American company! Not that he planned that — it was a Canadian company when he went to work for them but it got bought out but a very large US corporation. Big fish eating littler fish. At least he has a good job. For the moment. And they feed him pizza today! Isn’t that kind of them? But shouldn’t it be turkey?

Happy Thanksgiving to all my Canadian friends! I’m going back to Ravelry…

Friday, October 05, 2007

I'm In Stitches

I just got my Estonian lace knitting book “Pitsilised Koekirjad” in the mail from Martina in Germany. It only took 9 days from the date I ordered it so that’s not bad at all. This seems to be the only way to buy this book so it was great that I got such good service. My first impression is that although it’s a crummy printing and binding job and I can’t read a word of the text, it’s nevertheless a fabulous lace pattern resource! There are gazillions of potential shawls and such lurking in these pages. All I need is the symbol translation PDF courtesy of Shelda Eggers & Merike Saarnit and a lot of patience to work out the teensy little charts. I love that as well as the common English abbreviations, Merike included the literal translation of the stitch instructions. Yarn-overs are “air” stitches, knits are “rightway” stitches and purls are “inside out” stitches — so cute!

Why do I think that the book is badly made? Because the photo reproductions are poor and some are downright pixilized. Also the binding is the “perfect” glued type (like a paperback book) which is actually not-so-perfect. I can already hear the glue cracking when I open the book and a few times pressed into my scanner will likely loosen the pages. Some of the charts nearly go right into the gutter so you need to open the book fully to see the whole thing. Of course that prevents it from easily being comb-bound when it starts to fall apart. I’ll have to be careful.

But ooh, the patterns! They are soooo yummy! This is a stitch dictionary of surpassing stimulation. Some are almost familiar background stitches and some totally complex and new. There are nupps galore and the edgings are kindly charted showing a mitred corner. There are a few patterns worked from the centre out. There are some rather dated lace sweaters and a heap of lovely shawls shown in photos and perhaps partially charted out. A lot of the shawls have a fringed edge however which doesn’t appeal to me, though I’m sure it’s an ethnic style. There’s even a dress which could be the inspiration for a lovely wedding dress with charts for the shaping for skirt and sleeves. Not that I have any unmarried children left! This book was originally copyrighted in 1995 so the fashions have at least a partial excuse for looking circa 10 years earlier than that. I do love the pained expression on the face of one young man modeling sweaters that I’m sure are much too girly for him!

Knitting the Icelandic Lace Shawl gave me a taste of lace that wasn’t just the “holes on a plain ground” type. And knitting the Swallowtail Shawl gave me a taste of nupps and how their texture adds to the lace. Each shawl I’ve worked on has left me hungry for more complexity. I think this book will help me create a shawl pattern of my own as I try combining elements into a harmonious design. I also saw at least a couple of patterns that might work well for socks too. So many ideas — so little time. Sigh.

Meanwhile T-Man’s Earl Grey socks are coming along nicely. They’re more faded denim than grey but so what! I’m using the same number of stitches as Yarn Harlot’s pattern but smaller needles, my usual 2mm. I think her Joe’s feet are somewhat larger than T’s so this should reduce the size enough to fit. Most of the sock is plain but there are two little cable sections, one on each side of the foot. I started using stitch markers to remind me to pay attention to the cable areas because I was whizzing right over them without noticing. The extra fussiness of the stitch markers is offset by not having to fix mistakes! Another thing I did was to re-chart the pattern in Knit Visualizer. I like the symbols better because they’re bolder and easier to read at a glance than the ones that Stephanie used. I cut out my chart and used magnets to hold it inside the lid of my Scooby-Doo’s Mystery Machine lunchbox with another magnet to mark my place. Works for me!

I’m currently trying to clean up this messy house for the thundering hordes who are coming on Sunday for Thanksgiving Dinner. (Around 22 at last count. Yipes!) At least I’m feeling more energetic than I have been because T is still sick so he’s not much help. He’s home again today working via his computer and cell phone. He’s lucky he can do that and he remembered to bring home his phone earpiece and notebooks which are rather important to his job as a tech support specialist. Hard for me to vacuum around him without disturbing him though.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Some Sockee Goodness

I forgot to mention yesterday that I presented my daughter-in-law with her somewhat belated birthday Crosshatch Socks. (Only a month!) She loved the pattern on them and the colours. Whew! Not that I didn’t think they would be perfect but it’s nice to have your gift approved by the recipient. On that note, next we have my daughter’s socks. These weren’t supposed to be for her birthday because I had another pair in mind for that. However, after she dyed the yarn and asked me to knit them for her I put the original pair I was planning on the back burner for a short while. I’ll get to them eventually. They’re in The Queue. Meanwhile here’s the stats on the finished DDD Socks.

Darling-Daughter-Dyed Socks

Begun: September 5, 2007
Completed: October 3, 2007

Yarn: Sisu 80% superwash wool/20% polyamide, 160 m = 50 g, 2 balls of white, dyepainted with acid and Lanaset/Telana dyes by Darling Daughter herself.
Needles: Addi Natura bamboo 6” dpns, 2 mm.

Comments: Damselfly’s Standard Sock Pattern on 68 sts. 6” to heel flap, 7-3/4” to toe dec, with dog ear reduction. I really like how this yarn’s deep colours worked out. The red blips stacked in a pool of dark greens and blues. It reminds me of dark red fish swimming in a pond.

Next I’ve wound the balls and cast on for the Earl Grey Socks for T-Man. He still doesn’t have a dozen pairs of hand-knit socks, but I’m working on rectifying that. Haven’t gotten much past the ribbing yet though. Guess with him home from work with a bad cold, I felt sorry for him. Yesterday he stayed in bed all day. Today he’s working from home sitting in his comfy leather chair in front of his computer with his tissue box close to hand. He so rarely gets sick. Usually he just passes it straight on to me thereby avoiding having it himself. This time I got better and he got worse. Poor baby!

Speaking of babies, we had a lovely dinner out with Nana (T’s mom), our son, DIL and grandkids on Tuesday evening. It was The Ninja’s idea to treat his dad to a belated birthday dinner (only a week late) and luckily Nana & I got to get in on the action. We went to our favourite Thai restaurant but it is so sad! They are situated a mere 6 feet from The Hole where the underground transit system is being built and there were only 3 tables full in a place that usually has lineups out the door every evening. It’s been this way for nearly a year and so many businesses have folded along this stretch that it’s like a ghost town. That along with the construction/destruction makes it look like a street in Kandahar or Bagdad instead of Vancouver. Everyone says the governments (city and provincial) should be doing something more than advertising to help these people but don’t hold your breath. It’s not like they’re going to be inundated with customers when the line is finished because there is no nearby station! Meanwhile we do our little bit for the neighbourhood (we live 4 blocks from the restaurant) but we can’t support them all by ourselves. Did I mention that I’ve been living in this area almost my whole life? 50 years and counting.

The funny part was Nana just couldn’t help teasing the cute little Thai waiter with how we were all related. Four generations of the same family seemed hard for the poor guy to wrap his mind around. Especially since I was the one caring for the baby so he wouldn’t believe I was the grandmother, not the mom. Hee-hee! Little Stargazer was really well-behaved and ate tons of tofu, noodles, bean sprouts, toast with peanut sauce, rice and meat bits. Not bad for only 2 teeth! His sister, on the other hand, spent half the time under the table with her doll. She had some juice but didn’t eat much more than a few bits of mushrooms and red pepper, a couple of shrimp and a bite of rice. At least she wasn’t running around getting into trouble! We all had a lovely dinner and glass of wine and wobbled off home well satisfied. Too bad T-Man wasn’t feeling better though. He did play a bit with the kids but didn’t want to pass on any bugs. Next family do is Sunday’s Thanksgiving Dinner with the thundering hordes. Here! Yeeps! This coming Sunday!

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Shawl Done

I finished binding off the Icelandic Lace Shawl yesterday, gave it a nice warm soapy bath and spent about 2 hours pinning it out to my satisfaction. As usual it took a patchwork of foam insulation pieces to fit it on but I got it out to 66 inches wide and 29 inches long at the point. Which really wasn’t a point because the bottom edge wanted to be a smooth curve instead of a triangle. Works for me! I was super-annoyed though because all this time I thought I was knitting with my 3.75 mm Addi Lace circular but I was actually using the 3.5 mm. They had been swapped when I last put them in my storage binder and — guess what? The size that’s printed on the cord wears off! And quite quickly too. That’s how I found out my mistake when I measured with my needle gauge. OK, you’re waiting for the stats. Here they are.

Icelandic Lace Shawl

Blocking in progress:
As full out as I can get it:
Detail shot:

Begun: spinning – June 2007, knitting September 13, 2007
Completed: October 3, 2007

Yarn: 165 g total of 9 different handspun laceweight 2-ply yarns: Shetland (moorit, 55 g), Shetland (black, 25 g), Merino (Exotic Wood, 20 g), Merino (Mojave, 25 g), Merino (Baltic, 10 g), Merino/Silk/Angora (white, 5 g), Blue Fox/wool (natural blue-grey, 10 g), Coopworth (dyed orange, 10g), Coopworth (dyed blue, 5 g). Amounts are approximate after weighing what was left and subtracting from original ball. There are leftovers!
Needles: Addi Lace circulars, 3.5 mm (US 4) 24” length. (Intended to use a 3.75 mm but made an error!)
Pattern: Icelandic Lace Shawl, PDF free pattern from Knitting Daily.
Finished size: pinned to 66” wide by 29” tall. Dried to 64” wide by 27” tall.

Comments: This was a harder knit for me than it looked! I was unable to follow most of the charts which were non-standard and couldn’t re-chart to my own satisfaction. I had to copy the pattern and re-jig it to create a check-list version (which was helpful for a few members of the KAL too so it was worth it). Then I had to figure out where to put my colours in the sequence. Not sure I’m totally pleased with that but it’s done now. Reminds me of wood and water so it’s not as bad as I thought it might be.

I started with a temporary crocheted cast-on which worked very well. I also used stitch markers between every 20 stitches at least for the first while. Each new section was a new challenge to get set up correctly. That was a lot of stitches on the needle at the same time! Hard to count without the stitch markers’ help. At least then I only needed to count between each marker. I can count to 20 ok. 339 is a lot harder!

I used a Russian join to attach the next colour without having a lot of ends to deal with. It left the first few stitches a bit lumpy but it’s pretty invisible. I found the best method was to attach the new yarn first and leaving about a cm between the last st on the needle and the join. Then I tinked back about 6 stitches and completed the join including some spit-rubbing to seal the deal. The extra space left is for the shrinkage that happens and it mostly lined up correctly when the stitches were knit back to the edge.

I needed to pay attention to what was happening at all times. Knowing what stitches needed to be knit over what really helped to avoid mistakes. I soon gave up trying to do anything else while knitting on this. It’s a lot of stitches to take out if you make a mistake! I did have to drop down and repair a few times especially in the centre triangle area. I can’t tell if there’s any boo-boos that got away. Luckily the slightly lumpy and uneven yarn hides all.

I used a small 2.5 mm crochet hook for the loopy bind-off and only crocheted 6 chains instead of the 10 that the pattern said. I didn’t want it too loopy and I’m glad I did it that way. The difficult issue is that when the top edge is picked up and knitted, the crochet doesn’t extend to the ends. I fudge that by unpicking the beginning crochet loop (which looked wrong anyway) and reattaching it to the top corner. Then I used the tail that I’d left (instead of a Russian join) when I joined the orange at the top and crocheted a matching loop on that side. It worked well and links the orange all around the shawl.

After washing and pinning, the bottom edge took on a gentle curve while the centre section remained a triangle. It’s what I would consider a medium-sized warm shawl, not too lacy and not too huge.

I’ve also finished the DDD Socks but they need to dry so I can take a photo. Posting two FOs in one day would just be too much anyway! I have naked sock needles so next I’m casting on for some more T-Man socks. He’s home today with a cold (has to be pretty bad if he stays home from work!) so I’m feeling sorry for him. I have the denim-ish dyed Sisu from the same dye day as when Darling Daughter dyed the wool for her socks. I thought I’d use the Yarn Harlot’s Earl Grey Socks pattern. It’s mostly plain with just a little cable action on the sides. Notice how I’m going for slightly more challenging patterns than my Standard Plain Socks lately? Except for the DDD Socks because the yarn is doing all the work and anything fancy would just get lost. If the Earl Grey pattern turns out to need too much attention, I’ll just start some little socks for my grandkids and use up some of the leftovers that are kicking around. Gotta have a mindless pattern for those times when my brain is occupied but my hands are not.

Monday, October 01, 2007

The Calendar Flips

Here we are at the beginning of yet another month and I was just getting used to the last one. We just had several days of typical fall weather: rain, rain and more rain. Today it’s cloudy and cool. The leaves are finally turning now and I’m loving these few weeks before winter sets in in earnest. I’m feeling a wee bit more energetic after whatever that bug was but still am not getting in my usual walking. My foot still keeps giving me trouble on and off so I can’t even use the elliptical trainer when the weather is too lousy for walking. I’m starting to get fat and lazy and that is not a good thing. Sigh. I need to make more of an effort before my pear shape becomes an amorphous blob.

I actually had a pretty good time at the craft jurying yesterday. There were 3 of us on the team and we worked very well together without the UberJeweler’s presence. I think we chose a good selection and the sale will be very successful. This is the 11th year for it and the venue is a heritage building with lots of interesting details. The sad part is when you have to reject some very good work because of lack of space. There were of course way too many jewelry people which is by far the largest category. And what is it with the incredibly dull colours of some of the sewn items? Is it supposed to look retro and recycled? Bleh. The photography submissions made me feel like I’m not a bad photographer myself because I could have taken some of them. There was one standout in that category though so that was an easy choice. Woodturning, fused glass, cards, candies, bath & body soaps and lotions, hats, bags and dolls were some of the other submissions. One that all of us agreed on was a mosaic artist. She had a stepping stone, coasters and ornaments in a classy geometric style. They were well-finished and very nice and the only one of its kind there. Of course we had the usual hard decisions and there were some sad faces leaving after picking up their work. It went very smoothly though and nobody threw a hissy fit which just makes everyone feel bad.

From this experience I have some great insights into what makes a good presentation and helps us choose one person’s work over another’s. The work needs to have a cohesive style, not look like 5 different people did it (even if that’s true!). A nice presentation helps but it’s not as important in the jury process as it is on the sales table. It also needs to have a unique and individual style and not be too trite or derivative. (How many images of Kokopelli or inukshuks do we need to see? And somebody completely stole the Stupid Sock Creatures without even giving them her own twist! Did she think I wouldn’t know there’s a book that has patterns to follow? Heh.) The work needs to be well made and well finished but it still needs to have something of the hand left in it and not look like it was manufactured. Very importantly candles, soaps and lotions need to not be too stinky! (We were all bothered by one person’s candles and rejected her. If it gives you headaches in a very large room what will it do to you in your home? Ick.) Some people’s prices were very high in comparison to others and some were disturbingly low so price-point can be an issue. This craft sale is better quality than the church bazaar but mainly not at the level of “fine craft”. It tries to do a happy dance in between and showcase affordable, one-of-a-kind handmade items. Tables are only CDN $90 to rent once you get past We The Jury! This includes some advertising and a handful of fliers to pass out to your friends and family. Not a bad deal. If you’re nearby, Heritage Hall One-of-a-Kind Christmas Craft Fair, December 1 & 2.

Some categories that weren’t submitted makes me think that they might be something to consider for craftspeople. There was no weaving whatsoever. How about some scarves, placemats, potholders or baby bibs woven with modern style? Handmade books, folders or journals is another gap. One or two card people had a few small notebook-ish things but nothing larger. I would have liked to see some of the totes and bags people do some specifically for knitters and crocheters, project bags and especially needle holders/rolls. But that’s just me. At least this year there was a submission of nice quality knitted and fulled hats, bags and wristwarmers. And a felt-maker with garments as well, though nuno type scarves might be an area to fill. It’ll be interesting to see what shows up next year anyhow.

Sorry, still no photos but I’m on the crocheted loopy cast-off on my Icelandic Lace Shawl. That leaves the top border still to pick up and knit. I’m not sure I’m liking my colour order at all but I’m hoping that it will all come out in the wash, as me old mum used to say. Blocking can do the most amazing magic on a shriveled up blob of knitting. I’m not going to rip it out and do it over anyway.

I’m almost at the toe decreases on the DDD Socks so they’re nearly done. Next it’s a pair for T-Man. I’m trying to decide if I want them plain or fancier. If I go for fancier I may need to start another plain pair for someone else at the same time. You know I have to have something I can read while working on! Can’t let my needles stay bare for long either.

I nearly missed the September issue of MagKnits! Link is in my sidebar. There’s a shawl and cute socks and some nice sweaters! Plus a little purse that makes use of Sari Silk. Go check out the patterns. Note: Just a day late and a dollar short as usual. Right after I posted this, a new October issue popped up! The sock pattern this time is way cool among the other goodies. The older patterns are still available in the archives.

And have you seen Margie Deeb’s “Margie’s Muse” newsletters? She is a bead artist and colour specialist and has a couple of books out, writes for the beading magazines, has a podcast you can subscribe to and also this monthly newsletter. If you sign up for notification, you’ll get an email when a new one is out. They are short illustrated musings on colour and how we see and use it in our work. Even if you don’t bead you can still make use of the information in whatever your chosen craft.

Thanks for your kind comments on the socks, owl knits! Your spinning will improve. All you need to do is practice! Lots and lots of practice.