Saturday, December 29, 2007

FO & A Birthday (or several)

I’m still feeling up and down with this flu. One minute not so bad and next coughing up green…nah, you don’t want to hear my whining and whingeing. Too boring, even for me to type. Today we have yet another pair of socks finished! This is Pair Number 21 for the year (if you could the Purple Elephant Slippers, which really are knit like socks but larger). Nearly one pair every two weeks — a personal best. Doesn’t matter if several were small because the really big ones balanced them out.

EvenMorePink Socks

For: Granddaughter KiKi
Begun: December 20, 2007
Completed: December 28, 2007

Yarn: Sisu, 80% wool/20% nylon, 160 m = 50 g, colour 1001, dyed with acid dye in tiny amounts of 3 shades of red.
Needles: Clover Takumi 5” dpns, 2 mm.
Pattern: Modified Basic Socks on 56 sts, cuffs 2/2 ribbed for 3”, heel stitch flap, foot 4.75” before toe, dec to 6 sts each needle, dog-ear reduction. Completed socks are 6.25” long.

Comments: I didn’t do the ruffle this time because I just wanted to get going on the socks. Should have read what I did last time and reduced the toe another 2 rounds however. They would have been a smidgen longer then. Oh well, these should fit for another couple of years unless she puts on a really big growth spurt. Knitting stretches.

We also have my grandson Stargazer’s First Birthday today!!!! Yay!!!! Plus it’s also my brother The Sergeant-Major’s and my friend Cathie’s birthday as well. Very popular day it seems. Hippo Birdies Two Ewes! Hippo Birdies Two Ewes! (Be very grateful you can’t hear me sing. I can barely talk without squeaking! Or coughing.) Unfortunately I’m not going to see them today but will on New Year’s Day at my sister’s house. You know, it’s lucky so far I haven’t left a trail of folks with the flu in my wake so I keep getting invited to family gatherings. For some reason they want me, germs and all. Go figure! I’m not much of a party animal though I do try to be sociable while popping Advils and sniffling into tissues. I just hope they don’t end up regretting being kind to the sick Damselfly. Just remember — S’not My Fault!

Friday, December 28, 2007

You Know You Have The Flu When…

Your best friends are Kleenex, Olbas oil, Advil, hot tea and every warm shawl you’ve ever knit. However, I am feeling somewhat better today. Which is just as well since my manservant…er, husband had to work today so I have to get my own tea. At least I think the fever is staying down which was a big part of my discomfort. Thankful for small mercies I am.

Anyway, you don’t want to hear about my trials and tribulations. The good news is I’ve finished the EvenMorePink Socks but I need to dye some yarn before I can start on my next sock project for The Ninja. Unfortunately the dye studio seems to be too far away downstairs and too cold and I still have to wind the balls into dye skeins which makes my head hurt. Maybe tomorrow. Then they have to dry before I can wind them back into balls to knit with. Meanwhile I’m going to start yet another project, a pair of gloves for T-Man’s auntie who will be turning 90 in February. I have some Meilenweit Colortweed sock yarn:

that hopefully she might like and sock yarn makes great gloves. Hope she doesn’t mind if these are fraternal twins though since this yarn is impossible to match up because the colour sequences aren’t consistent. All the more fun in gloves when the fingers are each different from the others! Yeah, I know I need a pair of gloves myself but I do need a gift for her and gloves are faster than socks, though a bit more fiddly. It’ll be good practice since I haven’t made a pair of true gloves for ages. I’m using Marnie MacLean’s “Hooray For Me” fingerless gloves because they fit very well and all I need to modify is lengthening the fingers to the tips. (For Auntie, who has normal-sized hands, that would be somewhat longer than mine.) They’re already sized for sock yarn. Perfecto.

It must be a feeling of achievement to get to turn 90 years old, doncha think? Her older sister already got to that milestone a couple of years ago. These are the last 2 surviving sisters of T-Man’s late father, who was the baby of the family, both widows and neither had any children. They have maybe 5 out of 6 cylinders functioning but regrettably they forgot to leave their childhood differences behind and don’t get along well enough to live together. Interestingly they both regret it but don’t seem to be able to compromise. So each is in their own home (the younger in a small house and the elder in an apartment) with some support networks in place, unfortunately not nearly what I would consider adequate. But it’s their life, yes? Nobody can live it for them. Remind me to get some serious life plans in place before I hit 90, won’t you?

Thursday, December 27, 2007

All I Got For Christmas

Was the flu. Again. For the second year in a row, I got to sniffle and sneeze and feel awful all over everyone while trying to maintain some kind of holiday cheer. If my nephew’s potential in-law family weren’t such nice folks, they should have turned me away at the door before I spread the plague all over them. Is this some kind of cosmic punishment for my Scroogette attitude? Is it my inimitable version of “a lump of coal”? Did I offend someone that I don’t even believe in? I most certainly hope that I haven’t spread the Flu Joy around at least. But we probably won’t know for a couple of days. I spent yesterday in bed pretty much all day but today I’m back to feeling somewhat as if I’ll live. Hopefully it will go away quickly and I’ll be back to my usual self soon. I’m tired of being chosen as a parable on what-not-to-do for the holidays.

So I wasn’t entirely truthful about the presents. I did get a copy of the “Ratatouille” DVD and a gift certificate for my favourite bookstore from my children. I also got a couple of great photos taken by relatives at Milady Daughter’s wedding last April. And I got several cards featuring handwoven pieces by my guild friends. Now we have more get-togethers to go to (one tomorrow and two on New Year’s Day) so I hope I feel somewhat more functional by then. And mustn’t forget the Ravelry Meet-Up on Sunday too.

In crafty news, I’m on the toe decreases on the EvenMorePink Socks so they will be done very soon. I’d be finished by now but didn’t much feel like knitting yesterday. A sure sign of how crappy I felt, eh? Plus I got a new request from my baby-brother-in-law for birthday socks. He’s never had a pair yet because he never indicated that he wanted them! He professes a fondness for dark purples which should be fun to dye. His birthday is only a few days after The Ninja’s though so we’ll have to see if I can get them done on time or not. I also promised to give Bro’s nearly-17-year-old daughter some knitting help. She’s just learning to knit because of a friend’s encouragement, but is struggling somewhat. I remember what that was like: involuntary yarn-overs and mysterious increases and decreases in stitch counts. Sweet Niece knits English (throwing) so far so I might see if I can convince her to go over to the Dark Side to Continental (picking) since she doesn’t have a lot of habit to undo yet. You know I would have taught her ages ago but until now she’s had no interest. Too busy with sports (soccer) and school (French Immersion). Now is my chance. Mwaaa-ha-haaaa!

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Sweater Ornament

This little sweater is going to my nephew for his and his fiancée’s first Christmas tree together.

Begun: December 21, 2007
Completed: December 25, 2007

Yarn: approximately worsted weight vintage handspun in dark red and teal green.
Needles: Clover bamboo dpns in 3.75mm.

Pattern: “Minutia” free pattern from Berroco, sweater #7.

Comments: Not hard to knit but many joins and ends to work in after completion. Cute though! I mostly used the dpns as straight needles except for the collar. I made the wire hanger with Artistic Wire’s 18 gauge red-coated copper wire, 12” length. I used my Wacketdown (2 nylon slabs) to stiffen and flatten the hanger after forming. The finished sweater is about 4” long.

We’re heading out shortly to pick up T’s Aunties to take them to Christmas dinner at my nephew’s future MIL’s. If I can stop sniffling and sneezing long enough to go, that is. I sure don’t want to give this cold to anyone but at the same time, I don’t want to sit home by myself with the cats and eat leftovers. Decisions. Decisions.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Happy *SNIFF!!* Holidays!

Yep, you guessed it. Damselfly has a code in da nobe! Boo-hoo! I kind of felt it coming a wee bit on Thursday but I was hoping it was my imagination combined with the dust we managed to kick up while housecleaning on Saturday. However, yesterday I was wiping my nose occasionally — alternating with both grandkids’ noses — and today it’s an actual full-blown cold. I’m betting I picked it up from the kids when I babysat them on Tuesday. The timing is about right, if you include the part where I was fighting it before it got its hooks in me. Hope I didn’t give it to anyone else last evening at our family Solstice/Christmas lasagna-fest. Not a good time to feel like Dreck The Halls instead of Deck The Halls.

We had a great time last evening at The Ninja’s house, playing with the grandkids and visiting with both our kids and their spouses plus Nana. We opened a few gifts since we would all be in separate places Christmas Day. Milady Daughter got her little niece the best gift ever: a “trunk” filled with 3 different princess dresses plus accessories including shoes, jewelry, a white lace fan and of course a crown. They fit Ms. KiKi perfectly and she teetered around on her “heels” trying on each of her gowns in turn. This one is the favourite:

Notice the Pink Froth Socks that I made her recently worn elegantly with the shoes. The fan was a big hit too but she didn’t much like the crown which is supposed to be kept on with a thin silver elastic that she found uncomfortable. So she went with the black hair-band with roses instead. I’m sure Milady herself would have adored getting such an elaborate set of costumes when she was 3, but she had to make do with lace curtains and tinfoil crowns, along with Nana’s old high heels which just about fit her then! Now she makes her own gowns, so she was really thrilled to find these available for Princess Next Generation. BTW, note T-Man (aka Grampa) and Stargazer mixing it up in the background.

The butter tarts I made were a much-enjoyed desert and I wished I had put walnuts in all of them instead of just a few, not knowing how yummy they would taste. They disappeared instantly! Oh, and Stargazer’s Christmas Stocking went over well with the most important critic, his mom. Each of the family’s stockings is quite different from the others so there is no doubting which belongs to whom. Family harmony in action.

While we were visiting, I worked on the EvenMorePink Socks, which KiKi liked immediately even before she knew they were for her. “They’re pink!” But I didn’t finish them yet. I’m still on the gussets so she’ll have to get them next time I see her on New Year’s Day.

After we got home last night, we were admiring the lovely full moon decorating the branches of our walnut tree. Both T-Man and I got out the cameras (and I got the tripod) and tried photographing it. This is my best effort. Can you see the colourful ring around the moon?

Saturday, December 22, 2007

A Seasonal FO

Yeah, I bet you thought old Scroogette here was never going to do anything with a Christmas theme. Ha-ha! Fooled ya! Showing you the back (in order to protect the innocent) I present the completed:

Stargazer’s Christmas Stocking

Made: December 21, 2007

Fabric: dark red and teal green upholstery velvet bolt end scraps, purchased for really cheap at Dressew.
Notions: 7 silver-coloured jingle bells, white merino wool, felting needle, 3” piece of white grosgrain ribbon, matching red & green thread.

Pattern: Hand-drawn stocking with elf toe. Cuff made in 4 pieces (front, back, under-front & under-back).

Comments: Fabric was very heavy, hard to cut and press, and it left little bits of velvet fuzz on everything! I used a size 100 needle in the sewing machine and had no trouble going through the layers. I didn’t even try to use the serger on such thick and heavy stuff and instead used the sewing machine to overcast the raw edges. I worked the needle-felted name on the front cuff piece before stitching it together. I like the fuzzy letters and it holds up better than I would have thought. I used the grosgrain ribbon for a hanging loop and stitched it in when sewing on the cuff. I sewed the bells on each point by hand. The stocking came out very heavy but I think it looks fine and will last pretty much forever — or at least until a better one comes along!

Of course you can’t see the name that I needlefelted into the front, but trust me it looks soft and fuzzy and cute. The big request from Daddy Ninja was the bells. Hope these are enough jingle for him. I now need a really good massage for my tired shoulders from arm-wrestling this project to completion. Now I know why I put it off until the very last minute. It was hard work!

I know everybody will be participating in varying degrees of insanity in the next few days but I will continue posting as often as possible. Since I’m not hosting anything here in Damselfly’s Pond, I should have lots of time on my hands — unless T-Man (who’s home for 6 days straight, works one day and then gets a couple more days off) can find things to keep me busy. He already pulled the bed completely apart to flip the mattress and vacuum, prompting me to do 4 loads of laundry so I can change the bed. Which of course meant that I had to vacuum all the kitty litter off the basement floor around the laundry and while I was at it, vacuum most of the rest of the basement. Then he vacuumed the rest of the main floor, prompting me to dust and damp mop the floors. Then we went out and picked up a turkey, even though we’re not cooking for family, because they were on sale. Whew!!! I like him being home with me but sometimes I need him to go to work so I can have a rest. Heh!

I hope everyone has the best time with family and friends over the holidays. May your life be full of all the peace and joy and happiness you can stand! Thanks especially for the lovely comments and wishes from my readers. It’s so nice to know you’re out there and I’m not just mumbling into my hat.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Happy Solstice!

Or at least it will be at 10:08pm PST tonight. (Adjust for your own time zone if necessary here.) The sun is the farthest away from us here in the northern hemisphere. Solstice is Latin for “sun stoppage” because it seems to be at the same (low!) height at noon for several days before and after this time. Don’t forget to wish the sun a Happy Return! We usually light a few candles to encourage it. Traditional bonfires are a little iffy when it’s usually raining and the fire department kind of frowns on that kind of thing. We could have a fire in our woodstove insert instead but it needs a new chimney liner and we haven’t had any luck finding someone who will do it. Don’t think we’ll be going to the lantern festival if the weather isn’t good either. So candles it is.

So here’s my latest FO:

On Your Toes Socks
for T-Man

Begun: November 19, 2007
Completed: December 19, 2oo7

Yarn: Kertzer (SRK) On Your Toes 4ply sock yarn with Aloe Vera, 75% superwash wool/25% nylon, 100g = 390 yds, shade ON222002 (brown heather), dyelot 117. Made in Turkey.
Needles: Addi Natura bamboo dpns, size 2mm.

Pattern: Damselfly’s Basic Sock Pattern on 68 sts, 8” before heel flap, 8.25” before toe decreases, decreased to 6 sts each needle (24 total), dog ear reduction.

Comments: This is nice yarn though I’m not sure the aloe made much difference in the knitting of it. It’s less splitty than my usual Sisu. He now has a dozen pair which should keep him for awhile so I can concentrate on other family members who want more socks.

Such as the EvenMorePink Socks for my granddaughter:

They’re quite a bit farther along than this right now. I was knitting on them during the guild meeting last night. Which was quite a hoot as we played that nasty version of one chooses a gift from the pile and then take a name from the basket who can pick a new gift or take one that’s already been unwrapped etc. Some folks are too nice to take anything away from another and some gifts were hot, passing around several hands before they stopped. I chose an unknown gift and ended up with an amusing set of handknit dishcloths wrapped like a bikini with SOS pads forming the boobs! Of course nobody took them from me so I will gift them to my DIL as a hostess gift at Sunday’s Solstice/Christmas dinner at their house. I don’t use dishcloths, preferring a cellulose sponge and a Dobie scrubber which both get nuked in the microwave often to de-germify. They both last several months in the kitchen before they get demoted to bathroom cleaning or basement sink use where they last even longer before I finally chuck them out.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Good, The Bad & The Ugly 2007

Continuing on yesterday’s reflective mood, we have a small inventory. I seem to be unable to stop myself from listing things.

First, the Good for this year:

1. My grandson Stargazer, who will be turning one year old at the end of December. He is invariably cheerful (well almost), cuddly and cute and will eat virtually anything. What’s not to love?

2. My granddaughter KiKi, who finally learned how to talk clearly enough so that I can understand her with or without my hearing aids on. (Needs some work on the toilet training though.) Can’t wait to introduce the Fibre Habit to her! Soon.

3. Married off my last child to the perfect man for her. She is so happy and we love him as well. (Note that we didn’t lose a daughter and a son when they got married — we gained a son and a daughter. So now we have 4 wonderful children, plus 2 grandkids. So far.)

4. Ravelry. The most fun party you can have with fellow fibre fanatics without having to get dressed or go anywhere. Also a great incentive to start and complete projects and document them.

5. Crafty discovery of note: Addi Lace circulars. Pricey but positively worth it. They blow Turbos right out of the water for all circular knitting, not just lace. They have points! They come in smaller sizes than the Denise set goes too.

6. Got all 4 of my attic storage spaces cleaned out and sorted and inventoried. Woo-hoo!

Next, the Bad:

1. My birth mom went from super-healthy older woman with tons of energy and spit to terminally ill with a cancerous tumour over her liver that they can’t remove. She’s still sassy though and fighting as hard as she can. Just came back from Mexico visiting my baby sister and her family but now has to go for more chemo. Phooey.

2. The 10 pounds I’ve gained back this year because I fell a little ways off the Low Carb wagon. Just a little! (Plus maybe some dark chocolate and the occasional slice of seedy wholegrain bread. Perhaps a few corn chips?) And although I’ve walked a lot, apparently I need more exercise than that to compensate for falling a little ways off my diet. Besides my elliptical trainer is lonely. If only I didn’t feel so unsafe on it because of the current case of the Wobblies. Erg.

3. The Return of the Wobblies (aka my labyrinthitis). I was hoping I’d seen the last of it last winter. I’m hoping it’s not decided to become a chronic problem. It’s hard to get more exercise when you fall off the elliptical trainer or trip over the bumps and dips in the sidewalk.

4. Said dips in the sidewalk which have been exacerbated by the Big Dig on nearby Cambie Street. They might have filled a goodly chunk of it in now but they haven’t paved properly yet or re-widened the sidewalk to its pre-dig width. T-Man tore a hole in his leather jacket just the other day by catching it on a parking meter with a honking screw sticking out of it. There was barely enough room to walk around it. The best you can say is that things are improving some for the shops on the affected streets.

5. You can order anything you like off the Internet from a whole bunch of wonderful helpful friendly vendors, but then you have to wait…and wait…and wait…for the post office to get around to delivering it. Currently my lace kit for my Victoria wheel is in transit to my supplier who then still has to mail it to me. And so on.

6. There’s still the studio and the basement to sort through. And all my yarn to inventory. No, it never ends. But then I don’t want an end to my stashes, now do I? Not unless I can shop to fill them up again.

And the Ugly:

1. My photo in my new passport. Yuck-a-roonies! No smiles, no glasses, hold your head just so, no glints off the forehead. Oh well. At least I’m now a Real Canadian Citizen Person and can travel places that are Not Canada. Not sure if I want to though.

2. However I have to go get a new British Columbia Identification Card because my old one has been kaput for years. Nobody told me that it was not acceptable until I went to apply for the passport. Luckily I still had enough acceptable ID for the passport office and now I can use the passport as part of my ID to replace the old BC ID. Weird circle there, no? I am what I am!

3. The weather this time of year. It’s been windy and alternating rain, sleet, and snow with the occasional ray of sun just to prove we aren’t living at the bottom of a well. Those who get snow for winter should be happy. At least they don’t have to look at mud puddles for 6 months. In the constant dark they’re even easier to fall into than usual.

4. My hair. It’s sticking out all over and is too long. For me anyway. I’m heading out in a few minutes to go get it cut. I’d like to look my best for the coming holiday parties. Well, the best I can for a swiftly aging woman anyhoo. I’ll be partying tonight with my weavers guild and I’m looking forward to it!

Tomorrow I’ll give you the scoop on the completed OYT Socks and the new Even More Pink Socks that I started last night.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Looking Backwards & Forwards

Today I’m in a reflective mood. Must be the dark and dreary weather: dumping rain with a dash of sleet mixed in. Or maybe it’s just the end of the current year and anticipating the beginning of the new one. I’m looking back in my Accomplishments book (which is very fat this year) to see what I actually did. It all becomes a blur over time which is why I keep records. There’s a big fat section where I documented the many tunics and other costume accessories that I made for my Milady Daughter’s wedding in April. There are 20 pairs of socks (including my Purple Elephant slipper socks and the OYT Socks for T-Man that I just finished) — a new record I think. There are two lace shawls (including one in handspun), 2 simpler shawls and a couple of scarves. And lots more. So obviously I didn’t sit around twiddling my thumbs!

So what’s up for next year? I’d like to work from the stash(es) more and buy less. We’ll see how long I can hold to that. As with most knitters, sock yarn doesn’t count! My sock yarn stash is actually quite small if you don’t count the leftover bits, which I plan to find a way to use up. And there are lots of folks on my Sock-Gifting List so I will for sure need more yarn for them. Also I plan to continue the sorting and inventorying that I started this year. I still have to go through my yarns, both knitting and weaving, and get them in some sort of list on Excel. My fibres and books, magazines & notebooks are already done and it’s easy to keep them up-to-date now. I also need to update my hook & needles list which I started a long time ago but haven’t kept up. I never use straight needles any more, only dpns and circs, so I’m wondering whether or not I should hold onto them. Though it’s not like they’re taking up much space or anything. They live in a big wooden box on a bookshelf. Quite awhile ago I started an inventory of my equipment (with photos) which I never completed so I’d like to get that done. Yes, I know I have an awful lot of stuff! But it’s not like I got it all at once. It took decades of dedicated accumulating and amassing and stockpiling.

Further to Monday’s post, I’ve done a bit more research on “green” textiles and the best advice seems to be to buy less and use it for as long as possible. To do that you have to purchase good quality that will last and to not care about following the latest fashions which change constantly. Either go with classic styles or develop your own style that is somewhat outside of fashion trends. Mine is “comfort-casual” with the consistent addition of something handmade, be that socks or a sweater, a shawl or fingerless mitts. (Or these days, all of the above plus thermal underwear.) Luckily I rarely have a need to dress up and no need at all for business attire. (Shudder!) That makes it easy to wear the same piece until it wears out. Then I have a little funeral for it as I consign it to the garbage bin. Ashes to ashes; dust to dust. Or something like that.

Did you know that a lot of clothing these days is only made to last One Season? That’s 3 months max! It looks shabby after being washed only once or twice. Shrinks and pills and seams pop. Holey crap. Manufacturers (in China, Sri Lanka or some other quickly-getting-more-polluted third-world country) don’t care. They just want you to buy it. So don’t. Insist on better quality and don’t be afraid to pay more for it (up to a certain point at least). Do the math. If it lasts a long time then it’s worth the extra money. Oops! How did that soapbox get under my feet again? I’ll jump off now.

So I was busy with the grandkids yesterday while their parents went to the dentist for a teeth cleaning. We had fun! KiKi played with Play-Doh and the Fun Factory extruder making worms and “cheese please”. Stargazer and I played with the Duplo Lego and little Fisher-Price people left over from when his daddy was small. He’s just learned to clap his hands and it’s so adorable! Yeah, I know — doting granny. I really do enjoy my time with them. They won’t be small for long.

I’d show you the finished socks but they’re currently drying after their warm soapy bath. I did like knitting with the On Your Toes wool but couldn’t really tell if the added aloe vera did anything useful. It’s not as splitty as my usual Sisu anyway so that’s a plus. I’m looking forward to trying the KnitPicks Bare yarn that I got but that’s not going to be until I knit a few more pairs of socks that are already in the queue. Speaking of math, I figure I’d have a lot more sweaters if I stopped knitting so many socks. There’s almost the same amount of knitting in a large pair of socks as there is in a small sweater. But then my family members who are the happy recipients of most of my pairs would pout. Can’t have that, can we? That’s gifting on my terms as opposed to the marketplace’s anyway. My story and I’m sticking to it.

For some eyecandy I thought I’d show off the 4 skeins of madder-dyed wool handspun:

That’s 325 g and 845 yards approximately of 2-ply yarn. The photo is really close to true colour, on my monitor at least. Bet you can see the difference in shade between the rose-coloured wool to the left and the more orange wool to the right. My own fault entirely and I’ll be doing some tricky maneuvering to deal with the difference. On to some marigold-dyed wool next, just for a change of scene.

Monday, December 17, 2007

A Bit O’ This ’N’ That

When I showed the furoshiki-wrapped potluck dishes in a previous post, I forgot to give a bit more information on just what those wrapping cloths are. They should be much more popular given that they are much nicer and more eco-friendly than plastic bags for carrying. Plus they give fibre artists a perfect excuse to create fancy squares of fabric. There are informative articles here and here and a series of diagrams of the more popular wraps here (for the PDF the link is in the upper right corner of the page). Check out the version for carrying 2 bottles of wine! Handy for your next party invitation but don’t forget to retrieve your furoshiki unless it’s part of the gift. You could always wrap up the empties again to take home. What? You don’t refill wine bottles from the carboy in the basement winecellar? Then I hope you return your bottles for recycling at least.

Speaking of eco-friendly, I’m getting a bit annoyed with the labels “green” and “eco-friendly” because it ain’t necessarily so. Everything we do just living has an impact one way or the other on this planet. We can’t help it. The trick is to keep some kind of a balance but obviously that’s not happening. There are too many people wanting too much stuff above and beyond what we need to be comfortable. As one of those who has too much (but not nearly as much as some people!) I’ve been trying to do my bit, small and insignificant as it may seem, to help redress the balance. One thing I am most militant about is shopping bags. I cannot stand watching someone exit the supermarket with a dozen doubled plastic bags in their cart! I get annoyed when the cashier automatically starts shoving my purchases in a plastic bag before I can say “I’ll pack that in my own bag.” I know they are on autopilot but even in the supposedly greener shops that sell organic foods and natural remedies, they’re just as bad at supplying plastic bags. They even want to put my meat products in more layers of plastic and a rubber band around the eggs! Sometimes they give me a whopping 3 to 5 cents back for each plastic bag I don’t use but that’s not much of an incentive. Why don’t they encourage folks more overtly to use reusable cloth bags?

Rather than just ban plastic bags altogether I think consumers need to take the initiative. And I don’t believe we should substitute paper or plant-starch-based bags for the plastic ones either. They aren’t really any better for the environment. You absolutely have to get into the habit of bringing your own bags with you rather than relying on the store to provide them each time you shop. Cloth bags make so much more sense and are reusable for a very long time. I’ve been using one particular cloth bag for 10 years. It’s washable and advertises my favourite bookstore that unfortunately folded years ago. I had to tie knots in the handles so it doesn’t drag on the ground. (Apparently those who design these things are 7 feet tall with short arms.) The bag lives ready to spring into action in my backpack which also carries lots of stuff. I put the heavy stuff in the pack so I don’t have to carry the weight in my hands. When the pack gets too full, the lightest stuff goes in the cloth bag. When the cloth bag gets full, I go home. Works for me! We just got a spiffy new reusable bag as a gift from our local supermarket though I’m not too happy about it being made from plastic rather than cloth. Hopefully they will be recyclable when they are worn out. T-Man always forgets to bring a bag for the rare occasions when he shops on the way home from work so this one will live in the MINI Cooper. Funnily enough we still have some plastic bags to line the kitchen garbage no matter how hard I try to avoid them.

Back to things crafty, I’ve finished spinning the darkest rose madder wool. It made 4 skeins and about 800 yards in total but as I feared it’s about half and half of two slightly different shades. Rats. I should have kept the two separate instead of trying to ply one with the other, not realizing that I had much less of one which left the rest to be plied to itself. That might be confusing. To recap, I have 2 skeins of a more orange madder plied with a rose madder and 2 skeins of the rose madder plied with itself. If I’d kept them separate I would have had 3 skeins of rose and 1 skein of orange instead. It would have been easier to place the smaller amount in a different area than the main part of the sweater. I’m not going to try un-plying 400 yards though so I’ll just have to make it work.

In anticipation of spinning a different colour from my backyard-dyed wool, I’ve been splitting the sliver (also called “stripping” it) and pre-drafting a bit to loosen up the compacted and even a bit matted wool. See the difference?

The original marigold-dyed sliver is in front and the prepared nests from a similar length of sliver are in back. Spinning Spider Jenny has a great description with photos of how to do this here (scroll down to the end of the post) and Erica has one here. It’s more work but I love handling the wool and cute colourful little the nests awaiting their turn at the spinning wheel are really pleasing to me. It sure makes a big difference in how pleasant it is to spin and the results are smoother.

I’ve been slowly knitting up the back of my Hepburn Cardi heading toward the underarm decreases. It’s going quite well and I now only occasionally glance at the pattern while I’m working so it can be TV knitting. Until I get to something tricky again anyway. I’m at the toe decreases on one OYT sock and almost there on the other one so they will be completed soon. I’m trying to decide if I can fit a quick second pair of Pink Socks in for my granddaughter before I start her daddy The Ninja’s birthday socks. He has the biggest feet of everyone I knit for so it takes somewhat longer than my usual average of 2 weeks for a pair. I have 5 weeks if I plan to gift him on time so it seems feasible to squeeze in another small pair.

I’ve heard that Meg Swansen says True Knitters are those who have to knit every day. Yup. Or at least play with fibres in some way. How about you?

Friday, December 14, 2007

Why Is It...

…that I'm such an idiot! I deleted most of the original post.

I was going to have quite a different and more crafty discussion today, but there ya go. There’s always another blog post. Thanks for hanging in there, if you got this far. Just for your reward, here’s Stargazer, who just can’t help being cute:

Thursday, December 13, 2007

What’s Darker Than The Inside Of Your Eyeballs?

Daylight! It’s so dark here only a week or so before the shortest day of the year that I have to have lights on in my kitchen at noon just to see what I’m doing as I make lunch. (Don’t think I’d enjoy a finger sandwich somehow.) A few minutes ago it was raining but right now it’s turned to snow. Can’t you tell I was planning to go out today and get a haircut and some groceries? Not happening. So call me a wuss — but I’m a warm, dry wuss with a cup of hot tea and my spinning. Maybe I’ll get a start on the stocking I’m supposed to be making for the grandson. I don’t know why I’ve been avoiding sewing lately. I did manage to vacuum all the dirt out of the sewing machine after replacing the zipper on T-Man’s leaf blower/vacuum thing. It’s all ready to purr. The stocking has to be done by the 23rd so I’d better get on it soon. She says blithely, as she continues to knit and read instead.

The closer it gets to The Big Day the less I want to go anywhere near a store of any kind. Malls especially are to be avoided like the plague. Luckily I don’t drive because I sure wouldn’t want to go jousting with all those not-so-cheerful shoppers for the last parking space within 20 kilometers. Unfortunately when I walk, I still have to hunt for whatever it is I came for on the rearranged shelves in the festively over-decorated store and then stand in interminable lines to pay for it. Every year since I decided not to participate in the annual frenzy, I’m reminded just why I opted out. Not for Scrooge-ish or Grinchy reasons you realize, but just for my own personal well-being and sanity. If you don’t believe me, ask my husband. He’ll tell you how it was making me crazier every year before I wised up to the fact that I could just say no to Christmas giving. It definitely took a few extra years of feeling slightly (ok, maybe a lot) guilty until everybody got the message but the fact that this was the best decision for me is borne out by how serene I feel this year.

Note To Family And Friends: if you really feel inspired to get me a gift, instead please do one of two things. Either buy yourself something you really wanted or give to a deserving charity and think of me while you do it. That will make me happier than anything you could gift me with. Thank you for understanding.

Of course I’ve kept the parts of the holiday season that I really do enjoy — the cooking, baking, eating, drinking and visiting with loved ones. Lots of lights and some of the decorations, the ones I feel like putting up. Watching my favourite movies: Nightmare Before Christmas and the original Grinch cartoon. Maybe even the Alastair Sims version of A Christmas Carol. Giving a toast to the Return of the Sun. (There are few members of our family who are practicing Christians which tends to naturally limit the more religious observances.) The laughter and hugs and kisses. All the important stuff. I just leave out all the craziness, the stress, the anxiety, the disappointment and the January bills. Works for me.

Gee, and here I was trying to avoid my annual rant. Hope it was a little softer this year. Reflecting the happy and serene December 2007 Damselfly. Who is most definitely not going out in the rain/snow today. Even though she ought to. We have food and the haircut can wait.

What? You want some crafty content on this here blog? Oh alright. But I warn you it’s pretty boring. I’ve turned the heels on both OYT socks and finished the gussets and am now sweeping down the feet. I’ve got about 6 inches worth of the Hepburn Cardi’s back done. It’s a lot easier working on a straight piece than on something like the sleeves where you have to keep track of increases and decreases. I almost don’t need to look at the chart now that the pattern is becoming automatic. I still have to look at the stitches while I’m working but at least I can “watch” TV while I knit, glancing up every now and then to check on the action.

I have about 180 grams/435 yards of the first madder wool all spun and plied. I’m afraid that the remaining wool, which doesn’t quite match the first, is almost equal in amount. I need to decide how to make that work with my pattern, which already needs to be heavily revised. I won’t worry about it though until I’ve got more yarn spun up. I’ve been enjoying spinning what for me is rather thick yarn, around worsted weight, at just over 1000 yards per pound. I seem to have been getting finer and finer recently so it’s a challenge to go thicker again. BTW here’s a chart for standard yarn sizing. It might help when you’re trying to substitute yarns especially handspun for commercial yarns but I don’t think it has enough categories on it nor does it have enough information for each one. I was never much for the “wraps per inch” thing that spinners often use because I never can figure out how close to make the wraps and my results vary wildly every time I try it. Here’s a pretty good explanation though if you find it useful.

Warned you this would be boring. And technical too. Hmmm...the snow is beginning to stick! Which makes it a wee bit brighter in here. But not much.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

A Sockish FO

Pink Froth Socks

For 3-year-old granddaughter

Yarn: Sisu, 80% wool/20% nylon, 160 m = 50 g, colour 1001, dyed with acid dye
Needles: Clover Takumi 5” dpns, 2 mm.
Pattern: Modified Basic Socks on 52 sts, cuffs ruffled then 2/2 ribbed for 2”, heel flap is 2/2 ribbed & cont rib on top of foot, foot 4.5” before toe, dec to 5 sts each needle, dog-ear reduction. Completed socks are 6.25” long.

Ruffle Pattern:
CO twice the number of stitches needed for cuff. K 1 round, p 1 round, k 1 round, k2tog around, begin ribbing.

Comments: Socks are cute though the ribbing didn’t segue as nicely down the foot as I might have liked. I haven’t come up with any improvements though. As usual I could have gone a bit further on the foot before beginning toe decreases. Next pair will need to be on 56 sts and go 5” before toe decreases! I already have the yarn dyed.

Note that I tried yesterday to get a photo of her wearing the socks, but Little Miss Independence decided that it would be more fun for her to take a photo of me instead. She got my arm:

And then most of my face:

Very artsy photography for a 3-year-old methinks. Heh! I fruitlessly tried to show her how to look at the screen to see what was in the shot before she took it but she kept trying to squint through a non-existent viewfinder like it was an old film camera instead of a digital. I have no idea where she got that from since her parents also have a digital camera and I’m pretty sure they’ve had one since she was born. Interesting. At least with digital, you don’t have to concern yourself with wasting film on wild shots when a small child wants to harness her inner Annie Leibovitz. All she wants to see is the photo in the preview screen. After that her interest in it wanes and she’s content to let it go. It’ll be fun to work with her on learning how to take more deliberate photos, then actually edit and print them out.

Meanwhile, I’ve gotten to the gussets on the OYT Socks for T-Man and will be heading down the foot soon. I also got a hint of what The Ninja wants for his birthday socks which are my next project. I already have a grey ragg wool but I plan to overdye them and the request was for a soft burnt orange which will be automatically muted by the grey wool. I’m actually kind of surprised at his choice of something other than black, white, grey or red which are his usual colours. Must be mellowing in his old age of nearly-34. Akkkhhh!! My baby boy is turning 34! My own birthdays whip by with nary a ripple in my consciousness but my kids’ birthdays are a lot more traumatic to me. Why is that? I like them as adults with their own lives and interests and wouldn’t go back to their childhoods again even if I could. It’s more fun right now to spend the occasional special time with my offspring’s offspring instead of the 24/7 of parenthood. I truly enjoy being Granny. But I guess there’s still a whiff of the young mother I was lurking around in my brain.

Changing the subject completely (as I am wont to do), I’d like to share a couple of things that I’ve been amusing myself with lately as I work. One is Jane Thornley from Nova Scotia. If you love colour and texture, she is your knitter (and photographer)! Her website is lovely just to look at but do read it as well since she’s an excellent writer. She has links to her free patterns, just to get you started on her style of “free-range” knitting, and more elaborate patterns and a book to purchase in digital or paper format. Some kits are also available if you aren’t into foraging for fabulous yarns yourself. Jane also leads fibre excursions to inspiring places such as Tuscany and Morocco if you are so inclined. She even makes jewelry that coordinates with her knitting. I just love to ogle at everything on her site.

Another thing I’ve been doing is listening to a lot of podcasts. I still haven’t caught up to date on most of them and when I get close I find yet another interesting one to subscribe to. Current favourites (besides the popular Cast On, Craftsanity, CraftLit, Weavecast and Lime & Violet) are Sticks & String, Yarnspinners Tales, Stash & Burn, Knit Picks and Craftcast. There’s even a video podcast Lets Knit2gether. Of course some are more professional than others and some may not turn your crank the way it does mine. Or vice versa. You might even have a fave that I’ve never tried. I’ve only recently discovered Stitch Stud & His Bride, which I didn’t try originally because of it’s rather dopey title but it’s really rather good. And Canadian. I’ve also learned a new word, “podfaded”, which means a podcast that has not been updated in quite some time. There are a number of those as well as ones that have been definitively ended by their host. I think it’s far more polite to tell the listeners if you aren’t planning to podcast any more but I can see how the wish to put out an episode is still strong enough not to close that door entirely. Oh, and when I get tired of crafty talk (as if!) there’s lots of Celtic and other folk music podcasts to listen to.

You don’t need an iPod to listen to podcasts, just a computer will do. Though if you have another portable device that can play MP3s then you can be more mobile. I use iTunes on the computer and Pocket Tunes on my Palm T/X and load my podcasts onto my SD card through a card reader slot on my computer and then just pop the card into the slot on my Palm. If you don’t want to subscribe through iTunes (though it makes it all awfully easy), you can just manually download the file from the podcast’s website onto your hard drive. Of course the video podcasts won’t play on my Palm so I watch them on the computer instead. The big advantage of audio podcasts is that your eyes and hands are free to work while your ears are engaged! I’ve been getting a lot of spinning done.

Which brings me to my madder-dyed yarn. I think I made a mistake in plying my slightly more orangey wool with my more rosy wool. The yarn looks and feels perfectly fine it’s just that I only have 2 skeins worth of this combination and almost 2 more skeins left of rose plied to rose. Neither one is quite enough on its own for the main colour of my planned sweater. Perhaps I’ll have to use the one with the smaller amount for the borders and the larger skeins for the main sections. I might also decrease the area of plain knitting by working more rows of the feather and fan lower section, bringing it up to just under the bust. In a pinch I can make a vest rather than a cardi but I think I’d rather have the sleeves than not. We’ll see when I’ve finished more spinning and plying and calculating.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Moving Right Along

I’ve been somewhat remiss in my posting of late, but I’m sure you don’t want to hear about all the mundane things in my life. As much as I don’t really want to write them. I’m probably boring enough at times already, eh? Besides I haven’t really accomplished that much, just plodding along and hoping the direction I’m heading in is forward and not back. Guess I shouldn’t be so introspective when the sun is shining so brightly! It’s just that time of year when things are winding up to a big climax and I deliberately leave myself out of much of the kafuffle.

However today I plan to make things a little more festive around here, even if the only ones to see it will be me and T-Man. He already put up our red and blue lights outside and the nifty red/blue shimmering ones that tease my eyes are on the back porch where I can see them from the kitchen. I will put up my Christmas tree — the one my birth mom made. It hangs on the wall in a frame with branches made from glued-on green glass (broken wine bottles!) and junk jewelry decorations. Real lights protrude through holes my brother drilled in the back and the cord hangs down so you can plug it in. It is so amazingly tacky that I love it! Mother made one for each of her kids but we do vary in how much we appreciate the effort. As you might imagine, kitsch is not everyone’s decorating style.

The other thing I did was to put my badass handspun handknitted teddy bear, Black Jack, in his Santa hat and fake beard. Then I put him in the basket on the front door so he can freeze his fuzz off! Heh! Meany, aren’t I? I threw in a few of the wooly pears and some greenery and pyracantha. (Complete with prickles — look out, Black Jack!) I’ll take a photo when I’ve got it just the way I want it. I’m not quite happy with the arrangement yet and it’s too darn cold out there today to hang out fussing around. I have to work on it in stages. I’m not sure I’ll get around to much more fancy stuff but we’ll see.

Yeah, I know my version of holiday decorating isn’t cute or pretty or even particularly traditional. So? I’m in a transitional phase regarding this particular season. I’m trying to ease out of the commercial and religious stuff and get down to the basics of lighting up the darkest days of the year and celebrating the return of the sun. Well, I know it doesn’t actually “return” but you know what I mean.

Changing the subject, my Spectrum Study Group met on Saturday and we had quite a productive day. One of our members took a class at the Maiwa Symposium back in October on making a Miao sewing kit. The Miao indigenous people of China do wonderful elaborate embroidery and they have an ingenious little booklet made from paper and cloth that holds their needles, threads and patterns. Here are some old ones in a couple of photos that she took in class:

The inside has many pockets folded from a special durable mulberry paper. We couldn’t get the same thing (apparently it would have been about $25 a sheet) but settled for a substitute at half the price. The outside is supposed to be the beautiful polished indigo cloth that the Miao use in their clothing. It’s very stiff and feels more like heavy paper than cloth. However, we all plan to use something different for each of our kits. I think I’ll use a piece of Chinese brocade in copper with gold and blue dragons. I already have a suitable kumihimo braid for the tie that matches very well. We only got as far as cutting out the variously-sized pieces of paper from our large sheet and to begin the folding which is similar to origami but also includes gluing. This is her prototype that we were to duplicate:

I may or may not get it finished on my own before the next meeting in January. You’ll be the first to know. Right after me! Oh, I forgot to show you the pot luck dishes many of us brought all wrapped in Japanese furoshiki. Festive, huh? We didn’t actually plan it that way on purpose. The green one is mine.

I got the Pink Froth Socks done this morning. They’re quite cute and I’m sure they’ll fit at least for awhile. I like to put lots of ribbing in kids socks because it stretches more than plain knitting. The socks are currently drying so no pics until tomorrow. Now I can go back to knitting on T’s OYT Socks. I have another pair of men’s socks to make my son The Ninja who’s birthday is in January. I already have the wool but I’m debating on whether or not to overdye the boring grey marl. Probably. I can’t help myself sometimes.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Sing A Rainbow

The weather improved and I was feeling up to walking on Wednesday which I’m sure did me good to get some exercise. I was only a little wobbly and didn’t hold on to T-Man much at all. We saw another partial rainbow over downtown, looking like it had been ripped off the earlier one and planted a few kilometers west. Sorry I didn’t get a pic. It was pretty but I’m not sure how many shoppers noticed it. We seemed to be the only ones standing on the corner of Broadway & Granville ogling in that direction anyhow. Everyone else was rushing around, some with big bags of Christmas shopping and some with cell phones clutched to their ears. Missing a special sight that doesn’t happen every day. Poor things.

Speaking of celestial phenomena, I’m hoping the comet Holmes is visible again now that it’s clear and the moonlight isn’t obscuring it. It might be too far away or faded too much to see with our puny little binoculars. I’ll let you know if we see it tonight or if it’s too late. I’m really surprised that I didn’t hear much about this comet in the media. If we hadn’t been in the right place at the right time (local small observatory on a clear night right after it blew up near the end of October!) we would never have known about it. I love my Universe! It’s just so amazing.

Still not finished the Pink Froth socks though I’m nearly up to the toes on them. I spent some time knitting on the back of the Hepburn Cardi that I cast on yesterday. It’s sure a lot easier than the sleeves! 147 stitches straight up to the underarm decreases. I always forget how large sleeves are in relationship to the other garment pieces. It seems like they should be smaller but they’re nearly the same size as a front half. Which means that I’m about 30% done. The sleeves weigh 125 g (nearly 4.5 oz) which means that I have plenty of yarn to finish. Whew! I started with a one pound cone and about a third of another one. It’s very “vintage” wool and I can’t get any more so I was sure hoping there was enough there. I’m definitely feeling more confident in my calculations now.

I’ve been spinning on the madder-dyed wool and I think I’ll have 4 skeins of it when I get done. That should be enough even if I’m going to do sleeves on this sweater instead of a vest. I’ll know more when I get a yardage count as I wind it into skeins for washing and setting the twist. The second batch of wool is much more matted than the first and I probably should re-card it but it’s not too bad if I just strip it into 4 sections and pre-draft. I have to pull it sideways first before it will pull lengthwise but at least it’s not a total loss. A bit “textured” however as I spin it up. No biggie. It looks more handspun than my usual yarn, which is hardly a crime. I’m not trying to win any blue ribbons anyway.

Tomorrow is Spectrum Day. (Hmm...that rainbow theme again.) This time we’re foregoing our continuing felting study for a paper session. We’ll be making a paper and cloth keeper for needles and thread and patterns based on a Miao Chinese design from a class one of us took at the Maiwa Symposium recently. It’s kind of an ingenious “book” using folded paper to make pockets to hold items and then it’s covered in fabric (traditionally, shiny dark indigo-dyed) and fastened with a braided tie. I actually don’t have much use for this item since I don’t do embroidery hardly ever, but it might be a nice gift for someone I know who does cross-stitch.

Meanwhile the sun shining in the windows reminds me how much cleaning I haven’t done around here lately. Oh well. “Clean enough to be healthy, messy enough to be comfortable.” That’s my motto. If you know anyone with a spotless house, they either have a maid or they need to get a life. Back to spinning instead.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Paddling Off Sleeve Island

Yep, I did it! I finished the Hepburn Cardi’s sleeves, both at the same time. It took me all morning and I shouldn’t have been so smug yesterday about having the whole thing charted out because I found a few errors of my own making. Happily I was able to adjust as I went and now the chart has been edited in retrospect. It doesn’t matter now, I know, but that doesn’t stop me from correcting my mistakes and printing out a good copy for my notes. I’m anal like that. These aren’t blocked yet since I plan to block all the sections at the same time. I think I’ll cast on for the back next.

The winter issue of Knitty is out today and boy, Amy better get more bandwidth because it’s really really slow with everybody all wanting to see it at once! That’s what you get for doing a good job and becoming popular, eh? So far I’m totally in love with Romi’s lace wimple with beads. And just about everything else. Though it’s kind of hard to see when you’re getting “page not found” errors from too many people trying to all look at the same time! I’ll leave it for awhile and go check back later. I’m starting to get annoyed that there are so many great patterns out there to make and not enough time in anyone’s life to do them all. Wahhhh!!!

BTW, I appreciate the comments on yesterday’s post. It’s nice that someone besides myself reads my tappings. I do think about these things a lot because, like many people these days, I like to minimize my consumption and waste. But I hope I didn’t sound too holier-than-thou because I haven’t even approached the level that I’d like to be at. I haven’t even finished getting rid of the junk that’s still lurking in the corners. (Though my attic spaces are clean!) Let me put it this way: I still haven’t found the portable hard drive with all my computer backups that I “hid” back in June before we went on holiday! If I can lose something the size of a large book in my own fairly small house, then I still have way too much stuff.

Changing the topic entirely, we had a lovely double rainbow yesterday afternoon when the sun peeked out of the rain for a moment or two:

It’s showering on and off right now even though it’s supposed to be sunny with cloudy periods. Typical winter weather around these parts. Any season’s weather, come to think of it. We have two seasons really — cold and wet or slightly-less-cold and wet. With occasional sunny periods thrown in just to remind us there is hope. Just so we don’t all jump off a bridge en masse.

Gee, and I was hoping for a nice day because I really have to get out and get a few groceries. I usually shop for fruits and veggies and dairy once or twice a week and then we do a larger shopping to a supermarket in the car once a month or so. The Wobblies have put me behind and the produce is down to a few limp celery sticks, half an apple and a jicama that needs to get eaten soon. (Hmmm…that sounds like the makings of a yummy slaw, doesn’t it? Just shows you how I can continue to eat out of the food stash for a good long time before things get really desperate!) Guess I’ll wait for T-Man to get home and then we’ll decide if we’re walking or driving. And it’s brightening up.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

No Snow

Yup, it’s all gone, every flake. Instead many places are flooding and there were some power outages in outlying areas yesterday. We have some water in the cold room under the front stairs but that’s kind of par for the course when it rains so hard in a short time. I’m glad I got a chance to at least go for a short walk in the snow before the Pineapple Express weather arrived.

Changing topics, this article that I read recently does make you think about clothing and textiles and how much and what quality you buy, doesn’t it? As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t tend to shop for clothing or even household linens until I’m desperate and everything is in shreds or so badly stained I can’t use it. I don’t enjoy the process, unlike a lot of people especially women. I’d rather go shopping in a yarn or fabric or bead or even a hardware store than a department store or dress shop. This is obvious in my house where no towel is less than 5 years old and some are as old as 15 or 20. When they’re too shredded for upstairs use (or I get tired of repairing them) they get demoted to the dye studio. I give very little to the salvage people — when I’m done with it, it’s probably best for compost! And no, I don’t really dress like a rag-picker. Apart from cat claw catches and grease stains (I refuse to wear an apron) I’m pretty easy on things. Plus I have a sewing machine and I know how to use it. I repair until it becomes useless. And as for following any current fashion or style, I really don’t care much. One of the big advantages of being a granny, in my opinion.

I was really enjoying reading an ongoing discussion on Ravelry about the ubiquitous stash question. Whether ’tis nobler to purchase supplies one project at a time or whether having an entire spare room dedicated to your hobby should make you feel guilty. Or smug. Or is a hedge against a future downturn in finances. My favourite quote is: “Any creative hobby needs materials. If having yarn to touch and compare at hand helps you with your creative process, that's not the same thing as materialism or consumerism.” For me it’s like having some hamburger in the freezer and a can of soup in the cupboard. (Yes, I “stash” food too.) I’m sure there’s a little bit of the fear of running out, a fibre drought, a tree falling on the yarn store going on here! The end of the world as we know it! OK, not the last thing. I hope. I don’t feel ashamed about it. I’m not hoarding or flaunting what I own or anything like that. I just like to purchase things when they are available and use them when I want. I have the space to store them and I’m not spending more than the household finances can afford. You also have to remember that I’ve had many decades to collect this stuff. I’m not a newbie knitter who just learned 6 months ago. I’ve been knitting for over 50 years! Half a century, people! (Ummm…that’s scary. It even scares me.) And I’ve been weaving, spinning and dyeing for over 30 years. That’s a lot of time to accumulate the necessities and the donated castoffs and the bargains and anything else that offers itself. I’ve even purchased portions of the stash of weavers and spinners who have passed on. They can rest easy because their stuff has a new home and they are remembered through the part of their stash that joined with mine.

Minimalism doesn’t appeal to me. But then neither does rampant consumerism, even for the DIY/indie/handmade stuff that’s hot in the knitting world right now. Just because someone else is buying something is not a good enough reason for me to buy it. I’m not much of a follower of trends. And of course I can spin or dye my own yarns and rovings so why should I pay a premium for someone else’s work. (More power to ’em though! I’m just not the right market for their products.) Unlike other collections, yarn and fibre can become something else. They are not like cars or comics or 50’s memorabilia because they have the potential to be made into something that has even more value than the materials it’s made from. On the other hand, you don’t necessarily need to make something out of your stash to justify it. Do collectors of action figures even take them out of the box? Or does that reduce the value?

I was thinking about “regular” knitters. Those are the people who buy commercial yarns in the stipulated number of balls for their chosen pattern. If they have single balls left over I can understand the desire to unload these if they don’t work with anything else in the stash. As a spinner however, I often make too much yarn for a project on purpose because you can’t run to your LYS for more if you run out. The nice thing is that many of my handspun yarns are a similar size and coordinating colours and can be combined successfully in other projects. Besides, I worked hard to create those yarns so I’m not going to just pitch them out! As I matter of fact, I’m far more likely to finish something in handspun or to frog it and use the yarn for something else just because I have much more invested in it than a trip to the yarn shop. It might cost less in monetary terms, but there’s a part of my heart and a lot of my time (and often a part of a sheep or other animal too!) in every ball.

I’ve recently discovered that my knitting tension is much more uneven than I realized. When knitting handspun small differences in tension don’t show much but when you knit with smooth commercial yarns, those differences are far more obvious. It’s not so bad with most of my sock knitting because I’m using fine yarn and finer needles and my stitches are quite tight. But with heavier yarn in stockinette, I’m pretty sloppy! Just another reason why I’m never as pleased with items made with commercial yarns as I am with my handspun. I’ll have to work on correcting the problem.

So, where am I on my current WIPs? The Pink Froth Socks are past the heel turn on both. Though I’m a bit disappointed with the way I arranged the rib stitches. They don’t flow as elegantly as I would like but I’m not going to frog them. These are wanted asap. Besides a three-year-old is not going to notice my lapse of design considerations.

With the Rose Madder wool, I’ve decided that I’m going to spin up 2 more bobbins of the slightly more orange shade and ply it with the first 2 bobbins so I have 4 skeins of more-or-less one main colour. Then I’ll choose several of the other colours to contrast. I’m still leaning toward the Brushed Lace Cardigan in IK’s current Winter 2007 issue. But it’s going to need some redesigning to fit me properly and it may or may not end up with sleeves. Depends on how much yarn I have. The nice thing about having made my own yarn for over 30 years is that I’m pretty good at adjusting for the differences between millspun and handspun. Basically using a pattern as inspiration rather than gospel. Another time I’d like to discuss how I approach this and why it seems like I’m off on a different tangent than most knitters.

Lastly, I spent quite awhile yesterday charting the sleeve caps for my Hepburn Cardi. Yeah, I know I should just “read” my knitting and wing it as I follow the pattern. But this is a cables-and-lace pattern of some complexity and I prefer to be forewarned as to what is coming up. Besides, it makes a great excuse to use Knit Visualizer! Beginning with the correct row, I just copied and pasted the stitch pattern until it was an allover grid the width of the sleeve and then followed the decreases from the pattern while “erasing” the extraneous parts with “no stitches”. This left the sleeve cap shape with the pattern stitches inside and all I had to do was clean up the edge stitches. (You can’t knit a half of a 2-over-2 cable right at the selvedge, for instance.) Now I have a complete picture of what I’m to knit, stitch by stitch! Of course I have it fairly well memorised by now and only have to check where I am as I begin each row. After a couple of hours of knitting this morning, I’m part way up the caps on both sleeves and it’s looking very nice. The stitch count keeps decreasing so it’s a good incentive to keep going! I only quit when my Palm batteries needed charging before I can listen to more podcasts. It’s a good thing to work on quietly while I’m still feeling somewhat dizzy, though I am better than I was. Day 6 and counting…

Sunday, December 02, 2007

S'no More Fun

Remember my rhododendron from yesterday? Today it looks like this:

It kept snowing most of the night and all of today, though we’re supposed to be switching over to a warm low pressure system by tonight with lots of wind and rain in the forecast. I’m trying to enjoy the pretty white stuff while I can. We went out for a short walk (me hanging on to T-Man for dear life!) and came home wet and cold with my glasses all fogged up and snow-covered so I couldn’t see a thing. It was fun if a little uncomfortable. At least I can say I got out in the snow even if it was only for a short while. Bring on the rain, darn it.

I had a deadline for my Complex Weavers Beads & Interlacements study group yesterday. I had trouble seeing the computer to finish it so I managed to do that today. I just had to send in a PDF write-up with the theme of “Free For All” which made it kind of fun. I used my row counter bracelet and matching stitch markers from last February since that’s probably the last appropriate beading I’ve done around here. It’s kind of a fun project and doesn’t take very long if you have all the materials at hand. Good practice with the crimping pliers and making wire wrapped loops too:

I’ve been knitting on the Pink Froth Socks and I think they’re turning out quite cute. Even if I can almost taste the strawberry mousse that the colour reminds me of so strongly!

I think granddaughter KiKi will like them anyway which is the important thing. She had her dad call us on the phone this morning so she could tell us about playing in the snow. Too adorable. Her brother piped up too in the background. I think he already can say “hi” at not quite a year old. She wouldn’t let him talk to us though. The phone is for her use exclusively (at least that’s what she thinks) and she likes to chat at least once a week or so. I think it’s good for her speech since she has a bit of a problem communicating sometimes. Though she’s still only 3 years old so we’re not too concerned yet.

Continuing with the pink theme, I’ve been spinning up my madder-dyed wool and have almost 2 bobbins full of singles. I certainly didn’t dye all that much of any one colour though I was hoping there would be enough of the darkest madder rose to be the main colour of the sweater or vest I’m planning to make. We’ll see. I’m just spinning for the moment in approximately a sport weight yarn which should work for something. Even if I have to design it myself after I see how many balls I end up with. I would like to blend some of the colours for a second project so I don’t want to spin up everything in single-coloured yarns.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

S'no Fun

Well, it’s a little bit fun maybe. It’s been snowing itty bitty flakes all day and I’m watching it turn somewhat blizzard-ish at the moment. Unfortunately I can’t go out in it or I’d probably end up ass over teakettle as I stagger around. It’s not nearly deep enough for soft drifts to land in and it’s supposed to stop and turn to rain before Monday. Typical. We just get into Winter Wonderland territory and the next Tropical Punch weather system moves in to ruin the mood.

Yes, I’m still dizzy and to top it off, I also have a migraine. I’ve had altogether too many of those lately as well. Sorry. I’ll stop whining. For the moment. However I am feeling somewhat put-upon by the universe right now. I know, it could be worse.

Meanwhile I’m getting some knitting and spinning done. Not so much readin’ and writin’. Cruising up to the sleeve caps on the Hepburn Cardi and I’ve put the OYT Socks temporarily on hold as I knit on the Pink Socks for my granddaughter. I’ve added a ruffled cuff for an even more girly effect. I also need to make a Christmas Stocking for my grandson before it’s too late and he ends up with one of his dad’s Ninja Socks hanging over the mantel instead. Oh wait. They don’t have a mantel at their new house. Wonder where the stockings will be hung? I’m sure I’ll find out. Too bad but I don’t feel much like working at the sewing machine right now. Though I did end up replacing the zipper on the bag that belongs on T-Man’s leaf blower/vacuum so he can finish his yard cleanup. That was yesterday. Today he can’t work outside at all because the leaves are all either under the snow or frozen solid to each other. Or both. I still have to clean up all the dirt on my sewing machine and surrounding area even though he did clean out the bag as well as he could first. Yucko. Hope it didn’t get into the mechanism. I love my Pfaffy. She’s a vintage treasure.

There’s a lot of traffic right now at my birdfeeder. Here’s a junco taking his turn.