Thursday, August 28, 2008

No, I'm Not Gone Yet

Your intrepid Damselfly has been busy fluttering around. Painting the garage, staining the front railings, cleaning up the garden, packing for our trip (only 2 more sleeps!), and buying myself a new toy. Yup. I got this:

Her name is Bluet (a common name of several types of damselflies) and she’s a teeny-tiny laptop computer, no bigger than an average hardcover book and weighing just a little over a kilo. It all started when my friend got a similar one awhile back. Then I saw an ad in a big box store flyer and the price was not much more than what I paid for my Palm T/X. I could so totally see using it on our holiday uploading my photos through the card reader, making notes, maybe even posting a blog or two if I can find free WIFI somewhere. Also if I install my knitting software I could even get some designing done. However it wasn’t going to be so easy.

Warning — rant ahead! I am so annoyed with big box stores who advertise a product and then don’t have any of them in stock. They covered their a$$ by adding “limited supply” but having none at all except the demo model is just a bit too limited IMHO. They were not very helpful either. “Maybe we’ll be getting some in next week so check back then” just isn’t good enough. So I got on my trusty desktop and hunted down another local source. Not only did they have it, they had a better model with a bigger battery pack that lasts a reasonable 6+ hours for only $30 more. It’s an Acer and runs my familiar Windows XP and has a small but functional keyboard, 1GB RAM, 120GB hard-drive, 3 USB ports, Ethernet port, 2 card slots (one SD and one multi), but no CD/DVD drive. This might look like a toy but it’s a real computer. I lurve her!

Of course now there’s the fun of trying to get everything set up the way I like in the short time before we hit the road. Good thing T-Man is a techie-type because we already have a wireless network in our house. That and the several SD cards I’ve got for the Palm and camera are the only way to bring files onto her, apart from downloading new stuff off the Internet. Much fussing, a repurposed Ethernet cable, and we’re nearly there. I have what I need for the moment anyway. And I got her a present: a mouse. I hate the touchpad! I’m so awkward. Now I’m trying to learn how to type on a 89%-sized keyboard. How am I doing? This post was completely typed, the photo was edited and the whole thing posted from Bluet. Cool.

Meanwhile I’ve finished the Purple Passion Socks so I don’t have to drag them along with us. I may or may not have time to blog them before I go. I have several other projects to knit on while we’re travelling including two pairs of plain-knit socks that I can do on the road. At least I mostly don’t have to look at plain knitting so I won’t get car-sick or miss any attractive scenery. The lace knitting will have to wait for camp because I’ve tried it before and determined that make too many mistakes as my needle bumps out of position just as I’m about to work a decrease and I look up to see the sights and lose track of where I am. I’ll bring a spindle or two, nostie and mini skein winder too just in case I get an urge to spin. I’m not dragging Tori the Louet wheel with me though she might pout at being left behind. I feel more of an urge to knit rather than accomplish a lot of spinning. Spindles are just fine for occasional indulgence and take up a lot less space even than little Tori in her pack. My crafts take up one tote bag this time! (So far anyway. I can’t speak for after the shopping I’m planning!) We also need space for books to read and clothes for every eventuality because who knows what the weather will be like. It’s going to be so nice not to have any worries except making sure we’ve got enough groceries and meandering down the road to the next campsite and setting up. I’m sure there will be some long walks included there. And we’re taking our recently-rather-unused bicycles along so I guess I shouldn’t expect to sit around all the time. A change is as good as a rest, as me auld mum used to say. And we both sure need some time that doesn’t include a paintbrush or a vacuum cleaner.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Let’s Paws For A Moment

In memory of my late lamented lady-cats, I just donated to the SPCA’s “Paws for a Cause” walk sponsoring my sister Dorothy, nephew Evan and their dog Cody. My sis is the SPCA for the Queen Charlotte Islands (Haida Gwaii) and does a tremendous job with minimal resources. I know the money will go right where it’s needed and not one penny of it will be wasted. I’ve never used my blog to solicit funds before but if you want to help her reach her modest goal of $1000, go here. TIA!

I’m nearly up to the toes on the Purple Passion Socks and they’re going quite quickly for a change now that the weather is cooler. And wetter. I keep waiting for the front railing to dry out enough to stain but every time it’s nearly ready, it starts to rain again. So I’m relaxing just a bit which gives me more time to knit. And read. And vacuum the basement, sort out my travelling projects, print out instructions, wash the dishes, cook…OK, so I didn’t relax hardly at all.

Well the sun is finally coming out so I’d best get into my painting gear. T-Man wants to get started on the garage when he gets home from work. It didn’t get nearly as wet as the railing (which, if it stays dry, I can do tomorrow) because of the big trees around it so it should be ok to start to put the undercoat on now. I was going to start hauling everything out of the last attic space but T suggested I wait until next week. It might clash a little with my holiday packing though. And I still have to make a travel journal because my old one is full. Too much to do; not enough time to do it all in. No matter how hard I try. Luckily I can completely ignore that last attic for as long as I like because it ain’t going anywhere until I get around to it. Plus even the door to it is hidden in the dark behind the closet. As out of sight as anything can be in my house. Heh.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Move It Or Lose It

This morning I absentmindedly left a little of my cereal cream in the bottom of my bowl the way I used to share my breakfast with the cats. I suddenly noticed what I’d done, drank it up and laughed at myself. Old habits sure die hard, eh? A toast to you, my furry dears. And no, I’m not planning on getting another pet of any sort any time soon. Just in case you were wondering. If I’d wanted to, I could have had Auntie90’s cat if she hadn’t been quickly and unceremoniously taken to the animal shelter. Hopefully she’ll find a happy new home. Meanwhile everyone is trying to avoid telling Auntie anything except that her cat is being taken care of. Just like Auntie herself.

So today I must finish the vacuuming that I’ve been putting off for weeks. The count of dead flies on the livingroom windowsill is mounting. It’s starting to gross me out! And because it keeps raining every time I want to go outdoors (it’s fine while I’m inside, blue sky patches even) I can’t work in the garden so I have no more excuses. The rain is a nice change and is saving me from standing around watering the garden, but I was hoping to get the front railing stained to match the back deck. T-Man pressure-washed it off for me last evening but since then it’s been wet. We should have done it days ago when it was still dry out. Darn.

T-Man too is frustrated by the rain and the fact that he’s had to spend so much time at Auntie’s with his mom finishing up the sorting and packing. He wants to paint the garage now that he’s got it all scraped and sanded and preferably finished before we go away. Who knows if the weather will be cooperative when we get back since we’ll be into Fall by then. This has been a very busy year at Chez Damselfly. And we didn’t get even half of what we wanted to done. There’s still fixing the falling-over back fence, painting the bathroom, cleaning out the cold room and under the basement stairs and painting the rest of the basement floor under there. Later. All these things have waited for years and can continue to wait for a few more if necessary.

I’m actually quite pleased at my stamina anyway. For a man with a pretty sedentary job, T has always been able to become a Weekend Warrior and work hard when he’s home with no ill effects except a few slightly stiff muscles. But I’ve had a number of physical problems over the years with my wrists and neck so I’ve been limited in how much I can accomplish without consequences. It seems that now I’ve got much of my strength back and haven’t been too uncomfortable at all even though I’ve been pacing T with the work. This is so gratifying! I might look like somebody’s granny but I’m more fit than many my age. Just don’t expect me to take up extreme sports or anything. I do have my limitations.

Speaking of which, have you noticed how some people will pay for a gym membership but also pay to have their yard work done? What’s up with that? My across-the-street neighbours are like that. She has some kind of fitness classes at her house but they have a service mow their small lawn. You can’t even get by the back yard because the public sidewalk is overgrown with their shrubs and trees that never get pruned. Squelchy wild plums all over the ground and falling on your head as you pass. Ick. They’ve been there for a number of years but I still have no idea what her husband does. Not much apparently. I guess because they’re renting they don’t feel that upkeep is their problem. My neighbours three doors down are the same though their shrubbery is more under control. I could understand if they were older or infirm but they aren’t. They’re relatively young and have children. What kind of example are they setting for them? I learned to enjoy gardening by helping my father as a young child. He paid me 10 cents an hour to weed! To this day I can’t see gladiolas, dahlias or sweet peas without thinking of him. Curiously I don’t have any of those in my own garden. My priorities are different.

My other across-the-street neighbour whom I’ve known for nearly 30 years also has a gardening service. She’s a widow in her 60’s and used to get her son, in his late 20’s and still living with her, to mow. He decided that he’d rather pay the cost himself for someone else to do it. His excuse was that he has more money than time available. So we’re starting to feel like the neighbourhood weirdoes, out there working in the yard all the time. Gratifyingly we do get many comments on how nice things look but we really do it because we enjoy it. After all, we too could hire a service if we wanted! But we don’t. Besides, mowing the lawn is the least of it. You can’t get someone to manage your veggie garden without it costing way more than the veggies are worth. And what about my dye plants? Who would pick the blueberries? Oh, right. Other people don’t have those things anyhow unless they like gardening. They just have lawn and low-maintenance shrubs and trees. What lost potential!

A 2005 report from Statistics Canada, Physical Activity Among Canadians: The Current Situation:
Relatively few young adults site gardening as an activity compared with other groups. Participation in gardening gradually increases during middle age and is most popular among 45 to 64 year old adults, where it then decreases somewhat among older adults.
Some stats from the National Gardening Association (US):
Fewer than half of all households did their own lawn care last year, and even fewer have a flower garden (36%) or a vegetable garden (22%).
Counter this with:
A research project in Australia, entitled “The Congruent Garden: an Investigation into the Role of the Domestic Garden in Satisfying Fundamental Human Needs,” interviewed gardeners on the values of gardening in their everyday lives. The researcher, Mike Steven, established that gardens have the potential to satisfy nine basic human needs (subsistence, protection, affection, understanding, participation, leisure, creation, identity, freedom) across four existential states (being, having, doing and interacting.)
— Mike Steven, Lecturer in Landscape Studies, University of Western Sydney, Australia
So ‘splain to me why more folks aren’t enjoying their own yards? My kids are finally putting some of what we taught them into good use now that they own their own yards. Even my 80-year-old mother-in-law gardens, though she wisely has a service cut her lawn and prune her larger trees. Her flowers are lovely and give her a lot of satisfaction. She does complain about the weeds — don’t we all! I’ll leave you with my veggie garden after the rains:

Yesterday I picked a freezer bag full of blueberries, 2 bags of blackberries, and a 3-liter bucket full of summer squash, beans, broccoli, tomatoes, basil and even a few peas still. (Though the vines are really toast, see them on the right top there?) Yummy!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

It’s Late And It’s Raining

This is going to be (relatively) short and without pictures. I was busy all day sorting out the junk…er, treasures that I brought home from Auntie90’s house and integrating them into my household. That’s a euphemism for hiding the lot somewhere around the house so we don’t trip over any of it. I finally finished washing and ironing all the old textiles, not just Auntie’s but some that I inherited decades ago from my cousin’s grandmother, plus stuff I got from my neighbour (since passed away) from his late aunt who collected them from estate sales as a hobby, and some that my birth mom and sister had bought from folks who collected them from estate sales to resell yet again. Whew! I figured it wouldn’t hurt to launder them all and repair a few holes, iron, fold and put them away all fresh. Done. Except for the sheets that I need to dye and cut into squares for my rag quilt. It’s going to have to be after I get back now. I’m running out of time before we leave on the 30th.

Auntie’s remaining stuff has been assessed and the good stuff will be packed and off to auction. Next the remains will be disposed of and her house sold. She’s remarkably cheerful about all this. I think it’s actually a huge weight off her mind. She’s one of those people who is haunted by their possessions. Unlike me who has nightmares about something bad happening to it all or having to try to pack it all up and take it with me somewhere. What is most important? So far to me, all of it. Or at least, most of it. I still haven’t resorted through it all yet again. I’m sure there’s still a lot to dispose of before we’ve honed it down to the good stuff. However for Auntie it was a burden and a mess she was unable to clean up. That’s why she feels released now because it’s being dealt with. Hope she doesn’t suddenly ask for anything else that’s gone! We have a box of her photos here and they are fascinating: T-Man’s great-grandmother who died when she was only 48. (No cause given.) Pictures of Auntie and her two sisters when they were young. T’s dad, their baby brother when he was indeed a baby. For that matter, T’s granny when she was a baby. Auntie90 and her late husband when they were courting. Lots of people we can’t identify. Please, ALWAYS write the date and who’s in the photo on the back! Just sayin’…

Not that I was always that careful myself. Of course you know where you were and who that is. 40 or 50 years later, not so much. Other people looking at the photo — ????

No knitting today. Just cleaning and picking garden produce before the rain set in. One freezer bag of blueberries (and some for the fridge) plus two bags of blackberries. Even outside the fence I found lots that others had missed. Guess they don’t know the trick where you grab an unripe berry and use it as a handle to pull up the branch so you can pick the yummy ones hiding underneath. All the best berries are hiding where you can’t get them without delicate maneuvering to avoid getting caught on the prickles. I’ve been picking blackberries since I was a girl and I’ve had a lot of experience. There also was beans, summer squash, tomatoes, basil and even a few peas that still survive against all odds. We had zucchini and beans (baked in mushroom soup with curry) and chopped tomatoes with onions, garlic, peppers, basil and asiago cheese to go with barbequed pork chops. Yum.

Ooops, T’s gone to bed so I’d better get my rump in there too. I should have beat him to it since I didn’t sleep well last night and was up before the crack of dawn but I’m surprisingly wakeful. Guess it’s nighty-night! In spite of myself.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Colours Courtesy Of Mother Nature

I recently received my copy of the huge and heavy and extremely technical book Natural Dyes: Sources, Tradition, Technology and Science by Dr. Dominique Cardon, French specialist in historical textiles. This is the most up-to-date and exhaustive information on natural dyes and has recently been reissued in very good English translation by the author herself. This is definitely not something you can just browse through quickly. It needs to be absorbed slowly in small doses or your brain will explode. This makes a good case for owning your own copy instead of borrowing from a library, which is what I did at first and then quickly realized there was too much to read even with the two months my guild allows. There is fascinating historical information, the scientific analyses of dye constituents, world-wide plants and their common names in several languages and lots more. This book is an incredible resource for the curious botanical dyer or anyone interested in how folks coloured their textiles before the invention of synthetic dyes.

If you are going to purchase a copy ($170/£85.00 list price) I’d advise trying to track one down now before they are unavailable except for used. It’s going to become a classic! My source, Chapters/Indigo in Canada still lists it available today. I paid $122.27 with my membership card and free shipping. Amazon, both US and CDN versions, has it only from other sellers and there are some good deals but it’s already going up in price.

Another great place for natural dye information is the Turkey Red Journal. I used to subscribe to this years ago but publication got a bit spotty so I didn’t renew. Issues of the journal are now being published twice a year online and there are 3 available so far. I’d link to it for you, but apparently they want me to ask permission first and I don’t have time to futz around with the editor’s tight copyright restrictions. The URL is exactly what you think it should be (with the www and the .com parts included) or just google it. The current issue has a review of the Cardon’s book in which the reviewer noted that the genus of eucalyptus is missing from which many lovely colours can be obtained. Even when you think she’s covered everything...

I’m slowly trying to finish the Purple Passion Socks for La Violette (my dear French-Canadian sister-in-law). It doesn’t really matter now though because I probably won’t be seeing her until October after we get back from vacation. I’ve seen her 3 times in the last couple of weeks but it’s been too hot and I’ve been too busy to knit on them. She did see them in progress though and approves.

Nothing else fibery has happened apart from washing, drying and ironing a whole lotta linens: tablecloths, runners, a couple of doilies, a gajillion napkins, hankies, tea towels and other odds and ends, plus my handwoven blankets and the overshot coverlet which were hung outdoors and smell wonderful and fresh. I love feeling the old fabrics: heavy and light cottons, linen jacquard, delicate embroidered linen voile, pure cotton homespun. And I enjoy looking at the techniques used: cross-stitch, embroidery stitches, filet lace, Battenberg lace, crocheted motifs and combinations. My collection actually gets used and I try to cycle around through things so they get washed often enough so stains don’t set. Some pieces are already “antiqued” with some small holes or shredding hems (that I try to mend but don’t always get around to) and occasional small stains. Really badly stained items are destined for dyeing. If I make the colours wild and variable enough you won’t be able to see the stains! If I know where the piece comes from, I always think of the person when I use it. Otherwise I just enjoy the fruits of someone’s hard work and skill and appreciate them taking the time to create these fancy items whether for themselves to use or for others as gifts or for sale. Chances are they are long gone now while their textiles live on at my house.

Friday, August 15, 2008


I might be the only person around who isn’t the least bit interested in the Olympics. (Can I even type that word without getting dinged for copyright infringement?) And it’s not just because last I noticed Canada doesn’t have even one single medal. Here in Vancouver, the host city for the next winter version of this international money-grab…er, sports contest, I’m already Olympicked out. I and my children and probably my children’s children will be paying for the sports venues that none of us will ever use. We’ve been stuck in crazy traffic while they upgrade the streets everywhere and build another Skytrain line (mostly underground so Sewer-Rat line would be more appropriate) while we still won’t have enough public transit and there’s still too many cars on the bumpy roads. If this is only a fraction of what those poor Beijing-ers had to endure, then I’m totally sympathetic. The only way regular folks (there or here) will be able see the events will be on TV like the rest of the world because tickets are extremely expensive and limited. Not that I’m interested in watching a bunch of overachievers (who aren’t on enhancement drugs, uh-uh, nope) skate/ski/run/throw/twirl .00002 seconds faster or prettier than the next guy. I’d rather watch raindrops fall or flowers grow. They can do it faster or prettier too. And I get to judge. And award the gold medals too.

Even the opening ceremonies at the Beijing Olympics had some parts faked with CGI. How do I know the sports aren’t also? I just can’t bring myself to care who wins. The whole point is pulling in money which mainly goes to a few while costing everyone else their peace and sanity and a whole load of personal cash to support the spectacle. Plus I’m truly unhappy with the Chinese government’s performance both internally and internationally. However that’s not why I’m not watching the TV avidly or even participating in the knitters version, Ravelympics. It’s mostly because as I get older, I get even less interested in competition of any kind. So what if somebody can do something better than someone else. Big deal. If you really want a challenge, why not do better things for the world. Something useful, kind, innovative, caring, helpful, sharing. Save lives, clean up the environment, cure Alzheimer’s or cancer, find a way to treat the mentally ill and drug addicted or whatever. Knit a blanket or a hat for someone who needs one. Or even clean out your aged auntie’s basement. Running around a track fast doesn’t accomplish any of those things. It’s just air displacement.

OK, my flameproof suit is on. Fire away! This likely won’t be the last of my complaining about this subject. We still have a year and a half until February 2010. I’ll need to stock up on projects and groceries to keep me peacefully in the house for those particular weeks. Though I could rent out my house for an alleged $5000 per week or at least that’s what somebody is asking for their house for 2010. Must be much nicer than mine. Maybe even has more than one bathroom…

And if you haven’t seen it yet, check out this fabulously funny post on the Olympics from the wonderful Mason-Dixon Knitting.

Meanwhile I’m starting to get over the sniffles. I’ve used only cotton hankies instead of Kleenex and feel very green about it. And speaking of green things, the woad is growing back something like 3 inches per day! If I had time I could do another blue dye session before we go away on holiday. But I probably won’t. Maybe when I get back because I should be able to harvest until October, though it supposedly doesn’t have quite as much blue in it by then. You’re supposed to be able to get several harvests from the plants from late June to early October, with the first and last being lighter and as many as 3 in-between ones giving the most colour.

Also green is T-Man working from home today to save a bit of gas and commuting time:

Doesn’t he look like he’s working really hard? Love the bare feet and comfy position in his big leather chair. Don’t think he gets to do it that way at the office, hey? Actually he works even harder at home and barely takes a break for the full 8 hours. He’s really lucky he has the type of job where he can telecommute sometimes. My job on those days is to keep him supplied with food and drink at his desk. And later to vacuum up the crumbs. Somehow I think I get the better part of that deal.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

I Haz Code In Da Noz

Of course it was inevitable. I’ve been pushing myself too far and I knew something was going to give. I woke up yesterday morning with a sore throat and by last evening I was sniffling. Even though I was sick a lot last winter I never had an actual cold. Haven’t really had one for a couple of years. Just the Dizzies (3 or 4 times – I’ve lost count), the flu (twice!), and The Cough That Never Ends (and still hasn’t). Although I do feel somewhat yucky, I’m “as-if-ing” and pretending that I’m just fine. That sounds so like my dear departed grandmother. She was always “Fine. Just fine!” No matter what. However unlike her I tend to whine about how crappy I feel anyway.

So in my “as-if” state, yesterday I managed to get more blue wool from the rest of my woad:

Yippee! This was a little more successful than last time and I got a deeper blue on half as much wool. The proportions were 16 times the woad leaves to the weight of the fibre instead of 8 times like last week. I did everything else (I thought) exactly as last time but the vat had quite a bit more colour in it and it behaved and smelled a lot more like an indigo vat. Perhaps the second bunch of woad picked a week later had developed more blue in it? Or maybe I extracted it better? Who knows. I’m very happy with this:

The photo shows the latest blue at the top with last week’s paler and more turquoise batch below. The little skein was the merino/silk handspun that was only the palest blue in the final dip last week but I did a few successive dips this time with part of the skein out of the vat. It’s now several shades, still robin’s egg blue rather than indigo. It’s interesting that only in concentrated form do you get the more true indigo blue but the nearly exhausted vat gives more greenish shades. You don’t see that colour with “real” indigo no matter how pale. Woad has a different composition of dyes.

That was a really fun experiment and now I’ve gotten red (OK, orange), yellow, blue and brown from my own plants, though none of them were particularly intense shades. My own fault for trying to dye too much fibre with too little plant material! I have new and improved respect for those who dyed cloth before the advent of synthetics. Not to mention those who grew the dye plants and extracted the dyes. And while we’re at it, those who grew, processed, spun and wove the cloth. Over the years I’ve done most of those things but I keep forgetting that the general public is much more ignorant of where their cloth comes from than I am. Could explain why I keep things forever and don’t pay much attention to quickly-changing and ever-disposable fashion. You would want things to last as long as possible if you had to create them all the hard way from scratch, that’s for sure.

Today my “as-if-ing” has me cleaning out the linen cupboard and washing blankets and linens, including some of Auntie90’s stuff that I brought home. I will need to assess whether or not to overdye some things that are stained or repair a few holes. And I will have some nice clean cloth handkerchiefs for my sniffles. Little did I know I’d need them so soon! I don’t have a clothesline so T-Man has tied me up a rope line from the walnut tree to the upper deck rail so I can hang out my handwoven blankies to dry and they’ll be fresh and ready to go back on the bed for cool fall nights. (Not yet!) After it dries I’m going to pack away my old handwoven overshot coverlet. I’ve had it on the bed for years and years and it’s got so many pulls in it from the cats’ claws that I can’t repair them all. I can’t bear to throw it out though because it’s got hand-dyed handspun pattern weft and I and 3 of my weaving buddies made it together on a huge loom in 1992 so it’s kind of special. It also gave me the worst case of tendinitis in my wrists for at least 10 years afterwards so you might think I’d be more willing to give it up! Not yet. Yeah, probably my kids will be complaining about me like poor old Auntie keeping everything. Heh!

Oh, I nearly forgot. Meet my cute little friend:

He unfortunately had a leetle teeny accident and is no longer with us. Sayonara, darlin’. Japanese snails do not belong in my garden. I am Godzilla when it comes to pests.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Lawd, What A Weekend

What have I been doing since last I had time to blog? Friday afternoon I spent wrapping Princess Pink’s birthday present and making her a personal 8-page card. Then Saturday T-Man took his mom and me to see Auntie90 who is still in the hospital while she waits for a more permanent spot in a care facility. She’s able to get up and about a bit on a walker now, so she has some mobility back, at least to get to the washroom on her own. She was cheerful and chatty but looked quite frail. Nana said she certainly looked a lot better than she did when she was admitted last month. Which speaks volumes because I can still see a big difference from just a few months ago.

After our slightly prolonged visit (Auntie didn’t want us to leave after the half hour we’d planned) we headed over to Snow White and The Ninja’s house for Princess Pink’s 4th birthday party. Unfortunately a number of family members couldn’t make it so it was a smaller gathering than Stargazer’s 1-1/2-year party in June and there weren’t any other kids there except her little brother. The weather wasn’t as nice either so we were indoors while it alternated sun and rain and sometimes both together. Princess had a great time anyway playing with the adults until the gifts were opened. Then she wanted to go play with her new toys in her room and I had to convince her to at least come down for the cake. This kid is sociable up to a point and then she wants her personal time alone. As I was explaining to her that everyone wanted to sing to her and then she could blow out the candles she said, “OK! I get it already.” She sounded like a jaded teenager instead of a 4-year-old. (I’m trying to decide whether to be amused or frightened for 10 years from now. Yikes.) She came with me though and looked quite impressed with the cake that her other grandmother had baked for her. Oh and I nearly forgot, the tam and cardi that I made her looked really cute and fit perfectly but still with some growing space:

Note her dad put it on her and I didn’t have time to rearrange for a more professional shot because she was eager to get to the next gift. Another successful project! She won’t get much wear out of it until the fall but that’s fine. Of course the outfit didn’t hold a candle to the two Mariposa Barbies (with wings!), unicorn and Polly Pockets toys she also received. But that’s ok. I make her things because I want to. Otherwise I’d just buy her more Polly Pockets which she adores. Unfortunately they keep losing body parts. Or whole bodies.

Yesterday a 7-person contingent of family spent 8 hours sorting and packing Auntie90’s basement. Oh. My. Goodness. Clothes, clothes, more clothes, old dishes, figurines, a rifle (and ammo!), Christmas decorations, exercise equipment, more face cream (you could have filled the bathtub with the face cream), an accordion (sadly in extreme disrepair or T-Man would have coveted it), outboard motor and more. Much more. Inspires me to go through my stuff again and cull out some more. Of course since I brought several bags of “treasures” home from Auntie’s, I’ve actually increased my personal stash instead of the reverse. I couldn’t help myself! Most of her stuff is going to charity anyway. There’s not much of any real worth. And we got rid of bags and boxes of garbage and recycling. You can actually walk around in her basement now. (We won’t mention how I managed to clog up the toilet. It’s very temperamental.) We are expecting that the house will be torn down when it’s sold. It’s on a huge lot and there is much building of townhouses and duplexes going on around it. A teeny little old house that needs extensive renovation is toast in that kind of environment when you can make a huge profit by building as much as the laws will allow on the land. The sale will help keep Auntie in comfort anyway which is all the family wants. None of us are developers or contractors.

Today I’m really tired. T and I both slept badly last night after our exertions and stresses of yesterday. That was the second weekend in a row that was taken up with family obligations with an extra-busy week in the middle and we are missing our usual long walk together and time to decompress. Hopefully we can go walkies after he gets home from work this afternoon. It’s a perfect day, sunny with a few clouds and not too hot. And I don’t have to water the garden today after the rain either. Though I could weed some but instead I think I’ll try to clear up some of the stuff I brought home from Auntie’s which is piled everywhere in my studio. Even though I should vacuum the main floor which hasn’t been done for weeks. Literally. Ick. I already have yellow fingers from picking the day’s production of coreopsis flowers and also some more lavender to dry. T is still teasing me about picking all his flowers. Not like HE planted the coreopsis! I planted the originals in past years and they mostly planted themselves this time. Besides I left some to look at. I’ll pick those tomorrow instead. Heh.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Dancing With Shiva

We had a lovely time yesterday, colouring with crayons like little kids. However the “crayons” were Shiva Paintstiks's_new2.htm which are oil based and somewhat messier to use than wax crayons. But they are much fun and permanent even on fabric. We used stencils, torn paper, carved wooden and rubber stamps (wood works better), along with toothbrushes and stencil brushes and lots and lots of paper towels. The iridescent colours are particularly gorgeous and you can get some very interesting effects that you can’t get with dye or fabric paint. Here’s some examples:

Jo Anne has taught students these techniques so she had some pieces already freemotion stitched with batting and backing. Some of the fabrics used were already dyed, stamped or painted and then further embellished with the Paintstiks. So many ideas! This one is Cathie’s and on paper that was already printed with gold dots:

Masami decided to wear her piece and it almost became part of her blouse:

The woodblock stamp she used is one of mine that I’ve had for nearly 40 years. Donna was experimenting with a number of these blocks:

And Kirsten (who can now read my blog because she finally has highspeed Internet access – Hi, Kirsten!) played with rubbing plates as well as stamps and other items:

This is the only one I did that I kind of like:

For some reason, I always think everyone else’s pieces are much nicer than my own. I don’t do well in a group setting. It’s much easier for me to actually produce good work when I’m all by myself. Though I learn from what others are doing, I don’t usually make anything spectacular in a class. Except maybe by accident! I do love these ladies though so the social aspect is the big thing. And the food of course!

Now we let our masterpieces (hic!) rest for a couple of days and then give them a good ironing and they are then permanent. Good thing they aren’t permanent right away because I got a big smear on my jumper right across the bust. I washed it quickly in Synthrapol when I got home and it came right out. BTW the title refers to the Hindu god Shiva as the Lord of the Dance. (I really think he came before Michael Flatley!) Shiva is also the Transformer or Destroyer, depending on the aspect. Hope we don’t see that last one. Close your third eye.

I won’t be here for the next meeting in September so I hope they will do something I don’t care about!

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Have You Seen…

…the new online knitting magazine called the Twist Collective? What do you think about charging individually for the patterns? As I’m sure others are, I’m totally of two minds on this one: it’s great to see designers getting paid properly for their work but personally I’m much less likely to knit one of these patterns because of the fuss in ordering and downloading and paying for it. One pattern is nearly as much as an entire issue of Interweave Knits so I had better really want it first. I may not ever knit anything from my issues of IK but at least I can see the schematics and everything right there which makes it easier to decide if it’s worth my time to bother with a project. At least the TW’s general articles are freely accessible and the magazine itself is totally beautifully designed and interactive in a way that print can’t compete with. (I love the pattern details that pop up when you point at the photos.) It won’t replace Knitty in my heart but I hope it does well for Kate and all the contributors.

Have you seen a crochet hook like this?

It has a hook on each end. I got one of these when I bought a friend’s old stash of regular Tunisian crochet hooks, the ones that look like a straight knitting needle with a crochet hook instead of a point. So of course I had to go online to find out how to use the thing. Very interesting. Apparently it goes by several names, some trademarked and some not: crochetnit, Crochet on the Double, cro-hook, crochet-knit. They also come in several variations including ones with the hooks going in the same direction (like mine), opposite to each other, even connected by a cable like a cable needle only with hooks, made of metal or plastic, and with or without end caps. I even saw some beautiful turned wooden ones here (scroll down) and here. There’s a dishcloth pattern here that will give you the basics with a practice piece that is useful. Another more complex one is here. (Kim has other free patterns available too.) And some different stitch patterns using the cro-hook are here. There are even some video instructions here. (Check out both the Crochenit and the Crochet on the Double sections in the right column.) There’s also this (click on the sample link showing how to do the basic st) and a nifty way to do very wide pieces such as bedspreads here both by the queen of this technique, Mary Middleton. She also has free patterns as well as a gazillion booklets. Whew! See what happens when I follow my curiosity?

Yeah, I know some of that stuff is pretty reminiscent of church bazaar stuff, but use some imagination and nice yarns. It has possibilities.

Off to Spectrum to play with Shiva Paintsticks. I have snap peas from the garden in Japanese ginger dressing with sesame seeds for my potluck dish. Later, Gator!

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

More Harvest

My lavender and coreopsis are doing well this year, so my harvest-fest continues. I already picked one bouquet of lavender which dried nicely and is now in a little sachet in my sock drawer. Today I snipped another bunch. I love the smell of lavender and unlike most other scents I’m not sensitive to it. I also like a little in my tea and in chocolate. Yum.

The annual coreopsis has nicely become a weed in my garden after a few years of planting it from seeds that I started under my basement lights. I even have a variety called “Seashells” because the petals are tubular. They pop up amid the others and are probably madly hybridizing with them. The flowers are quite variable anyway and some have a large deep burgundy centre and some are completely yellow. I’m trying to save up enough dried flowers for a reasonably-sized dyebath, but so far I haven’t even filled a sandwich-sized Ziploc baggie. T-Man was a bit annoyed with me for denuding this entire patch but there were lots of buds so in a few days it will look this nice again. And then I’ll pick them again! Heh. What does he think gardens are for anyhow? Just looking at?

We’re in a mini-heat-wave at the moment and I need to spend a lot of time watering everything by hand. Talk about teeee-deeeee-ous! I gave my poor woad some fish fertilizer and a good soaking to get it going again. I’m too busy until next week so I hope the rest holds until I have time to try another batch of dye from the rest of it the patch. That was big fun yesterday and I’d hate to waste the remaining dye potential in the plants.

Tomorrow is Spectrum Study Group and we’re doing Shiva Paint Sticks on fabric. I need to hunt down some dark-coloured fabrics and some “textures” to rub over, plus a few more supplies. Hopefully I’ll have something to show afterwards. We’ve only played with these oil-paints-in-a-crayon once before and the possibilities are endless.

In knitting knews, I’m slowly plugging away on the Purple Passion Socks. Unfortunately I’ll be seeing my sis-in-law, La Violette, on Sunday when we have another work party at Auntie90’s house, but her birthday socks won’t be ready yet unless I get more time to work on them than I can foresee. Her birthday is past already so I’m running a bit late. That’s normal. I have to tear myself away from the Bronze Ribbon Scarf, which is about 40 cm (nearly 16”) long and I’m enjoying the knitting even with linen yarn. The pointy Addi Lace needles make the decreases comfortable to do. I have lots of this Euroflax yarn (2 skeins) so I’m going to make this scarf as long as I can. I love to wrap scarves several times around my neck.

Off to water before it gets too hot. I need a shower but I’ll wait and get it after my feet and legs get all muddy from the hose!

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

We Have Blue

Well, a pale shade of robin’s egg blue which is at least something to be proud of. It looks really nice with my walnut brown. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Beginning at the beginning, I went out to the woad patch early this morning:

Wish my vegetables grew half this well! I snipped the leaves off half of them:

Six plants are now denuded. Washed them (no extra charge for the spiders, ants and slugs) and chopped them up into large-ish pieces:

At that point one of my stainless steel dye pots was heaping full with 2.2 kilos of leaves. Like a huge salad! But not terrifically tasty. I half-filled the other dye pot with about 8 liters of hot water and a liter of the acid water that I use for soaking wool prior to dye-painting. (I had it on hand and it needs to get used up.) I haven’t got any pH paper anymore so I have no idea what the actual pH of this was but I was hoping somewhere between 5 and 6. I put the pot on the dye stove and brought it up to a boil. Then I added the woad leaves a handful at a time, letting the pot come back to a simmer after each addition:

Woad soup. When it was all in the bath and the water was again just boiling, I took the pot off the stove and put it in the sink on a wooden trivet. My basement utility sink is plastic and I didn’t want to melt it! Then I filled the sink with cold water and threw in three 2-liter bottles of ice to cool the pot quickly. I changed the sink water again a bit later to cool it down some more. When it got to room temperature, I strained off the leaves and squeezed them out to get the last drops of liquid. (I could have used these again for a more conventional dyebath but I put it in the compost anyway. No time or energy to play more and tan or pinky-beige is all the colour you get anyway.) You can see how the huge potful of fresh leaves is now reduced to a much smaller amount after the simmer!

The liquid remaining was a deep reddish brown. Next I had to judge again without any pH paper and decided to add about 15 ml of soda ash to bring the pH up to hopefully somewhere between 9 and 10. Now I needed to aerate the bath to precipitate out the dye. I wasn’t about to kill my arms and shoulders so I used my trusty Mixmaster. It made a lot of bubbles so I think it worked ok:

The bubbles were yellowish and then green and blue and then back to greeny yellow. The changes were subtle and more than one colour was present at a time so it was harder to tell what was happening than I thought it might be. After mixing for maybe 15 minutes or so, I stopped and put the pot back on the heat to bring it slowly up to 50 C. Then I sprinkled on about 10 ml of thiox (thiourea dioxide aka colour run remover) to take the oxygen out of the bath that I’d just put in. Seems counterproductive, doesn’t it? I turned off the heat and put on the lid and let the pot sit for about 40 minutes or so. It was clear yellow with a slight green cast by then so I knew it was ready to be used. I had already soaked 250 g of crossbred wool sliver so in it went:

This first time I left it for about 20 minutes. I found the best way to remove it without adding a lot of air was to put my gloved hands in and squeeze the wool gently to the side of the pot and then lift it out and into a bucket in one quick motion. It was pretty uneven when it came out and there were patches of beautiful blue but only a couple of them on a much more pale turquoise colour. I rinsed the wool quickly in a bucket of clean water and then squeezed it out carefully and hung it up over my new stainless pan to drip and oxidize. The pot had darkened to blue-green so I figured I’d let too much air back into it. I warmed it up on the stove, sprinkled on a wee bit more thiox and left it for awhile to settle again. I redipped the wool twice more but only for about 10 minutes each time. The first time it got visibly darker and more even but the second time it didn’t get much darker at all:

By that point the bath was looking a very clear yellow so I didn’t think there was much colour left. I tried dyeing a tiny skein of silk and wool tied with cotton thread but after two dips it only came out the palest turquoise so I figured I’d used up everything in the pot.

The wool is a rather pale shade of blue but that could be because as usual I tried to dye more fibre than I should. Either that or the plants don’t have as much dye in them as I thought they should. It’s interesting that dyers eventually gave up using woad after indigo was easier to obtain because woad certainly isn’t particularly strong. But it does grow beautifully in our temperate climate which is a big plus and they aren’t bothered too much by bugs. Some good websites for information:

Sarah Dalziel’s extraction method. Since I was using her seeds, I thought I’d use her techniques too! That girl knows her woad stuff.

Tereshina’s similar method with lots of details.

Wild Color by Jenny Dean has a great chapter on dyeing with woad. Since I was going straight from extracting to dyeing without precipitating and drying the indigo in between, I pretty much used her method for that part of the procedure. And the neat thing is, I still have half the plants and hopefully the ones I stripped will grow back as well. So I can try this again. With less wool next time perhaps. As soon as I recuperate.

Monday, August 04, 2008

An FO And More

First the Finished Object, may I present one of the longest-running sock projects ever finally completed:

A-Maizing Socks

Begun: April 15, 2008
Completed: July 30, 2008
For: Me (because I’m not giving these away — they took too long to make!)

Yarn: Crystal Palace Yarns Maizy Print, 2 skeins = 408.0 yards (373.1m), Colour 1001 Night Shades (grey, rust, lt. brown, lt. blue-grey)
Needles: Clover Takumi 5” dpns, 2mm

Pattern: Ridges and Ribs by Criminy Jickets (Dave from Ottawa)
Mods: I reduced the pattern to 64 sts to fit my small foot. I’d go with the pattern’s 72 sts if you have a more normal-sized foot to fit.

Comments: I was obviously not having a pleasant time of the knitting considering how long these took me to finish. The yarn is very splitty which gave me trouble especially in the twisted slip stitches. Not sure how these will wear but they took a long time to dry after their bath. The fabric feels quite nice anyway and the lovely end result was worth the PITA knitting. I do love the elegant look of the ridge going down the side of the heel!

When I last managed to find time to post I was finishing up putting all the stuff back in the north-side attic spaces. All done! Looks good too. I bought two more shallow clear plastic bins so that I can put all my craft paper in that is currently littering a large 4-drawer dresser in my studio. I want to get them out of the way and out of the light that comes through the south skylight. It’s fading the colours out of some of the paper. Not good. It’s dark in the attic so the fact that the plastic bins are clear will not be a problem. I want to be able to see what’s in them so I don’t forget what I have! I hope to get to that little (heh!) project later this afternoon if possible.

I have to say though that I’m pretty darned tired of cleaning. It’s been almost a non-stop marathon for weeks now. On Saturday T-Man and his mom and I went to Auntie90’s house to do some work sorting her possessions. This is a huge job because apparently instead of throwing anything out, she put it in the basement. She particularly stashed things like pantyhose, scarves, face cream, clothes, purses, cleaning supplies, old patterns, fabric and costume jewelry. Her drawers and cupboards were stuffed with tea towels, doilies and a gazillion napkins, both cloth and paper. I tell you, if I had the energy I could make a mint on her “collectibles” on eBay — except that I have no idea what things are worth and none of the family (least of all me) can be bothered. So we sorted in bags labeled Discard or Salvage and left the best things for appraisal by an auction house. There isn’t much in the latter category except for some silver and china.

Remember that Auntie90 isn’t dead and gone yet! She is currently in hospital waiting for a place in a care home to come available. She still has most of her marbles too and apparently is having a great time with the nurses and enjoying all the attention. I think leaving her house was like a huge weight off her tiny little bird-like shoulders but unhappily said weight has been transferred onto poor Nana and other members of the immediate family. Auntie didn’t have children and her husband died a number of years ago, so we’re it unfortunately. Her older sister isn’t capable of helping, though Auntie92 still doing ok for now in her own apartment. Please don’t remind me that her turn will come soon enough.

Of course I didn’t let all that interesting stuff go to charity or the trash! I’m not nuts. (Well not much anyway.) I got to sort the linens and boy, was that fun! Sorta. With Nana’s permission, I had the pick of embroidered cloths and crocheted lace tablecloths, many of which were done either by Auntie or her mother-in-law (by-all-accounts a very formidable but talented woman). There were souvenir tea towels from Australia, Cape Breton and Hawaii which didn’t interest me. There was adult-ladies-sized Elmo jammies and t-shirts still with the tags on them which I did take because they actually fit me. There were only a few pieces of fabric that I might use and the rest, along with some very old threads, went into the trash. I could go on but my best score was…sheets. Vintage pure cotton sheets, either white or very pale pastels that I can dye for my rag quilt! Yay! Now I don’t have to buy any new fabric and my quilt will be totally special to sleep under because it contains sheets from both my mommy and T’s auntie.

Next step is to wash everything because they are all dusty and musty. And then we get to the dyeing which I will do in plastic buckets. Speaking of dyeing, I scored a large stainless steel washpan that apparently had been used for Auntie’s cats. Pretty classy catbox because it looks like one of those professional chafing dishes they use for buffets. Just needs a good scrubbing and it will fit across two of the burners on my dye stove for when I need to keep things more flat than I can in my dye pots. It will be good for scrunch-dyeing fabrics for instance or low-water immersion when I have too much for my microwave at once. Don’t really need it for the sheets because I plan to do “parfait” dyeing with Procion MX and a bucket or two will work just fine for that. No matter how anxious I am to get on with this quilt, I probably won’t even start the dyeing until later this week.

Because first I have to pick my woad! And extract the dye and attempt to dye with it. Tomorrow morning first thing is when I’m planning to start. I need to pick the leaves before the heat of the day. Yes, I’ll remember to take photos. Every step. Hope it works.

Friday, August 01, 2008

It's Raining, It's Pouring!

Not quite the intro to August that I had hoped for but the break from watering constantly is welcome anyway. I’m sure it cuts down on the forest fire hazard too. It’s supposed to clear up and get warmer again over the next few days anyway which will be good for the garden after the deep watering. I’m sure I’ll be complaining of the heat again instead of how cold I am! I even had to put yet another blanket on the bed last night. I’m currently wearing 2 pairs of socks, long pants, and a fleece hoodie over a long-sleeved t-shirt but my hands are still cold. Time to get off my arse and into the attics again. That ought to warm me up.

Yesterday afternoon T-Man and I fixed the insulation and put up plastic sheeting in the two connecting north-side attic spaces. It’s all clean and empty so now I just have to dust off the stashes and put them back in. It was an awful job in an awkward space with the battery-powered stapler acting up. Once T lost his balance and fell back pulling off the whole plastic sheet that we’d just started putting up. He had a little temper tantrum all to himself and then we started again. One more space to go. It’s been a lot of extra work but at least I had everything sorted and binned properly last year when I did my stash inventories. The attics were clean and organised to begin with so it’s not like I had to do that part of the job as well. That was at least a full week per attic as opposed to just a few hours. And then I can get on with things.

One thing I want to get on with is I want to make a rag quilt for our bed and use up some fabrics from the stash. Having all the boxes out gives me a good chance to dig through them for potential quilt materials. Since I need such a big quilt (at least 90” X 90”) I might have to augment the fabrics by buying some. I don’t really have a lot that actually coordinates and I want to use a lot of hand-dyed just because I can. What I did find was two old flannelette sheets that were my mom’s to use for batting and an old cotton sheet in cream that can be overdyed. These were good quality at the time and are probably 30 years old! They’ll need to be washed before I start using them though because they smell musty and dusty. The benefit of the rag quilt is the speed at which it can be sewn together. I have infinite patience for a lot of things, but quilting isn’t one of them. Especially anything as large as this. Besides I’d like to sleep under this quilt this winter — not 5 years from now.

The only other projects I’m working on right now are the Purple Passion Socks, which kind of got lost in the piles of boxes in my studio, and the new Bronze Ribbon Scarf that I just started:

This is the really popular Lace Ribbon Scarf by Veronik Avery that was in Knitty recently. I’m using Louet Euroflax fine/sport yarn in the colour Gypsy Bronze (2 plies grey, 1 ply dull red, one ply gold) and only 3 repeats of the pattern to make a narrower scarf. It’s still wider than my usual string-like scarves and hopefully will soften up and drape nicely after washing and drying. The pattern is quite easy to memorise and is very pretty in a geometric way. Me likey. But not the type of knitting I can do while reading. I also finished the A-Maizing Socks but I’ll post the details later.

Just in time for the beginning of the rains, T had to go clean out the downspouts and gutters that got clogged with stuff from the roofers. So did we get our new roof on at the right time or what? It was sunny and dry then but now the roof is getting a good testing out. No leaks. I would know because I’m right in under it shoveling stuff back in to the attic spaces. I can hear the rain pattering on the new shingles. Back to work.