Monday, March 31, 2008

Earth Hour

We participated on Saturday night, if you could call it that when all our lights were out but we were still watching a DVD on T-Man’s computer! It had to go back to Blockbuster the next day so we had to finish watching “I Am Legend” which was pretty good as these things go if you don’t look too carefully for the holes in the plot. But then I love Will Smith. He so reminds me of my son, though he is a lot more athletic than The Ninja! (Ninjas apparently don’t move unless they absolutely have to.) But cute, silly and a good dad are all traits they both share. Will also shares a birthday with T-Man. Your trivia for the day.

It was a gorgeous day yesterday if still somewhat cold in the shade. I went along to our Ravelry meet-up and had a lovely time visiting as usual. We had a new member show up this time with some of her wares, Kirsten of Yummy Yarn. She has some very pretty handspun yarns and hand-dyed rovings in Corriedale and Blue-Faced Leicester. After the meet we walked up to Three Bags Full because Kirsten was bringing in some of her wool to the shop and I was still looking for something for the Unmentionables. I finally found some lovely soft Sublime organic cotton DK in a pale rose pink that struck me as a much better choice for underwear than superwash wool.

I’ll use the 8 balls of Smart on something else for Princess KiKi, perhaps a cardigan sweater. So far I’ve knit about half of one leg of the bloomers and it’s coming out pretty close to gauge.

I decided to make the largest size (5/6) even though the intended recipient isn’t even 4 yet. The waistband eyelets can carry elastic and/or a tie so if it’s a bit big it can be cinched in until she grows into them. I hope she’ll want to get as much wear out of these for as long as possible because the yarn was pretty expensive at 7 balls for $7.99 each. Not a throwaway garment this one. The cotton isn’t bad to knit with because it’s a very soft construction: 3 Z-twist singles plied S and then 4 of those S-plied again to make the final yarn. Not only is the cotton organic but the dye method is reported to be low-impact though not naturally dyed. The colours are very soft and muted so not much dye is used. Generally I’m liking this yarn a lot so far. Haven’t tried washing it yet though the label says “machine wash, dry flat, reshape whilst wet”. Yes it really says whilst. British, you know. Spun in Germany for Sirdar.

I also got another skein of Louet Gems superfine/fingering merino. But I needed to take it back and trade since I really needed pure white and I got cream. I want it to dye with another skein I have left and they don’t match. I don’t care which it is but I need two skeins the same if I want to make something like socks. That’ll teach me to check first. Or not. I needed to take some guild bookmarks over anyway and it was another lovely day for a walk. Happily Sivia was in the shop and we had a lovely chat while she stocked shelves with lovely hand-dyed yarns.

Now I had better get something useful done for the rest of the day!

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Rhubarb Roots

I gave myself a blister on the base of my right forefinger attempting to chop up my bucket full of rhubarb roots.

Cutting them is like cutting tough root vegetables, harder than carrots and more like old brown turnips or parsnips. I did about 1/3 of the bucket a couple of days ago and then a bit more each day since with a Band-Aid on my blister. I’ve put what I chopped so far to dry on newspaper and it seems to be drying ok without moulding.

The colour dims a bit from orange to gold as it dries. I hope to use some of it right away for dyeing as I get down into the bottom of the bucket. It’s a good thing I finally started in on them too because when I looked they were already sprouting stems and leaves after a week in the basement! I removed as many sprouts as I could from the rest and put the bucket in the cold room under the front stairs to slow it down. It’s nearly as cold as the refrigerator in there especially during the last week or so. I’ll have to chop up the rest slowly and carefully because my neck is getting sore along with my blistered finger. Plus I need my knife sharpened again.

Interestingly if you google for rhubarb as a dye you get information on using it for hair dye rather than wool or other fibres. I guess people are looking for a more non-toxic and non-chemical means to colour their hair so they’re going back to some of the old ways. The root is not full of oxalic acid like the leaves are so it’s not poisonous. I’ve been wearing disposable gloves while I work with it though or my fingers would be quite yellow by now! Apparently the anthraquinones that give the more russet tones are more prevalent in summer but I have spring roots so that’s what I’m going to use. Also the medicinal variety of rhubarb has more of the dye chemicals in it than the culinary species but I think there is still quite a lot of dye in these very old roots. We’ll see, hey?

I’ve turned the heels on the Sea ‘n’ Sky Socks and finished one gusset. I even worked for awhile this morning on the Hepburn Cardi while I was reading the newspaper. I was feeling a bit tired and lazing around in bed all morning with T-Man was very nice. We did end up walking to the magazine store yesterday even though it was still really cold out and of course it sprinkled on us on the way home. Today we went to get cat food and rent a movie and this time it hailed on us on the way home. It’s supposed to clear up and get warmer during the week but I’m not sure I believe the weather report any more!

Friday, March 28, 2008

Mailman Came!

Yesterday afternoon I got two new Japanese knitting books from Marsha at the Needle Arts Book Shop. She carries a really excellent collection of these treasures which aren’t easily available from other sources. I got Clear & Simple Knitting Symbols and Knitting Patterns 300 Lace. The first book is going to be very helpful with reading the symbols in the other Japanese books I have. Even if you are a very experienced knitter, the Japanese use some innovative stitch combinations that I haven’t seen before which necessitates new and unfamiliar symbols. Each symbol has a clear set of illustrations showing how to do the stitch. You don’t need to be able to read Japanese to follow them. Some of these illustrations are also included in my other Japanese knitting books but this is a more comprehensive list. There are increases and decreases, bobbles and wraps, drop and slip stitches, cables and other traveling stitches, and all manner of inspiration.

The second book is yet another of the stitch pattern collections that I so love. These are shown as all-over patterns and some are familiar and some have little tweaks or combinations that make them look quite fresh and new. They mostly aren’t as complex as the ones in Knitting Patterns Book 250, the one that I got last time. There are other books in this series also, including 1000 Knitting Patterns Book that actually has about 300 crochet patterns as well. That one is nearly $80 so I’m holding off on it. Indefinitely.

Also from Marsha I got another set of Addi Lace 24” circular needles. Her prices are very reasonable if you’re looking for Canadian mail-order vendor, although it isn’t immediately obvious that she sells them. (Here’s the direct link.) She recently got in the new larger sizes up to 5.5mm so I ordered a 4.5mm. As I’ve mentioned before I’m really fond of these needles and not just for lace. The slim points are my favourite style and a definite improvement over the blunter points of the Turbos which I don’t like at all. For larger needle sizes or when I need shorter or longer cables I use my Denise set which also have good points even though they’re plastic. Every knitter to her/his own, eh?

Later on yesterday T-Man and I went for a walk along the water heading west from the Vancouver Museum. The seawall, or a rough trail version of it, extends almost all the way around the shoreline of the city but we only did a short portion of the southwestern end of it. Then we spent several hours in the museum, first in the Vancouver History section (where we really got a nostalgic kick out of the 1960’s part — yes, we met in 1968!) and then the Contemporary Craft exhibit, which was very good. T-man was a little disappointed that although there were a number of wood pieces, none were turned apart from the seat on one chair. There were plenty of textile pieces though in just about every technique and most by someone I know personally. Also glass, ceramics and a very little bit of metal. We finished up the evening with dinner at our favourite Thai restaurant. A lovely evening for sure.

While we’re on the art-craft subject, here’s another take on the old “Art vs. Craft” debate. Ragged Cloth Café looks like an interesting site to peruse, doesn’t it?

Well this morning we had a surprise when it started to snow on the cherry blossoms:

Not that the weather man hadn’t predicted it, but they were the biggest flakes I’ve ever seen — they would have covered my palm if they didn’t melt first! They stuck on the ground a little but after an hour or two we’re back to rain and the snow is all melted away. It’s still pretty darned cold out there though. Glad I filled the empty bird feeder yesterday.

Thursday, March 27, 2008


I’m very glad we didn’t go for a walk yesterday after T-Man got home from work. It had been sunny but big dark clouds were starting to appear. We made a cup of tea and then decided to skip the walk. Good thing. It began to hail and then rain and then threw in some thunder and lightning just for kicks. Saved by our laziness?

I’ve been feeling rather tired and a bit out of sorts. (I love that oh-so-British phrase.) Maybe it’s the aftermath of the Party Stress — though it went so well I needn’t have stressed at all. Maybe it’s just the ever-changing weather making my head hurt. All I want to do is sit and knit and read. Unfortunately there are other things that need doing.

Speaking of reading, I forgot to mention yesterday that I finished reading the last book, “The Amber Spyglass”, in Philip Pullman’s series His Dark Materials. Satisfying ending but a bit sad too. The whole story was brilliant though and I really enjoyed it. Certainly gives Tolkien some excellent competition in the fantasy-with-wider-implications field. It’s definitely way beyond Harry Potter. However I can see how they couldn’t really make a movie out of the rest of the story. They would have to simplify it down too much and perhaps the basic themes wouldn’t appeal to a large enough segment of the movie-going public. I’m not going to tell you any more about it. See for yourself — just go read it and see what you think.

The Sea ‘n’ Sky Socks are up to the heels now. I’ve had to fix a boo-boo or two that developed as I was knitting along without paying it much attention. I was able to repair it without frogging back and just using a crochet hook instead which was fortuitous. It really pays off to learn how to read your stitches! I’m kind of impatient to finish these for some reason. Maybe because I want to start KiKi’s Unmentionables when I should be finishing the Hepburn Cardi.

Later this afternoon when T-Man gets home from work we plan to go to the Vancouver Museum to see this show before it ends. I know some of the craft artists involved so it will be good to see what they’re up to. I missed the fashion show though and also missed the spinning and weaving demo which was the day after FibreFest, both of which I could have participated in if I’d wanted to. Told you I was feeling lazy. Though maybe if it’s not raining we can go for a walk along the seawall after the museum visit. Just to clear my head a bit and maybe get back into the sorts that I’m out of?

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Adventures in Babysitting

I had a delightful if somewhat exhausting day with my son’s family yesterday. After the adults went off to run errands, the grandkids and I went out to the park. It started raining a bit but we persevered and it didn’t amount to much so we didn’t get very wet. (Singing "Rain, Rain, Go Away" actually works!) After making birthday cakes in the pea gravel and having a slide or two, it was getting rather cold so we went to Birkeland Bros. Wool. I wanted to get some yarn to make the Emma’s Unmentionables from the Spring issue of Knitty for KiKi. The pattern yarn was a cotton/acrylic blend but all I could find that seemed remotely suitable was Smart superwash wool which is the same stuff I used for the Peapod sweater and hat for Stargazer.

Unfortunately I don’t like the way it pills with a lot of washing and drying but I’m not going to quibble with something that she won’t be wearing that long anyway. They had the perfect pink and she definitely approved the colour. I paid for it while she was winding the industrial-sized ball-winder and Stargazer was taking down the signs listing upcoming classes from the door. Reminded me of the olden days when I’d take their daddy and auntie shopping and they’d both be getting into trouble in opposite directions! Fun. Pearl was very accommodating though and let KiKi use the stores rubber stamp to make a picture to take home.

So now I’m trying to hold off starting the Unmentionables right away. I have 3 other projects on the go and that blanket on the loom still to finish. There’s no real hurry for them anyhow. I plan to make the largest size so they might be a bit big right now anyway. However they are a lot of nice plain knitting so I may not be able to control myself. I know some knitters get bored with plain knitting but I can read at the same time which I can’t do with more complex knitting. So plain actually gets done faster.

I was feeling really good yesterday and did more than 20 minutes on the elliptical trainer but today my throat is a bit sore again. I’m hoping it’s just a temporary aberration and that I’m not coming down with anything again. Unfortunately there’s a new flu bug going around and I certainly want to avoid it at all costs! Think positive, Damselfly.

Off to do the huge pile of dishes from yesterday. I made them stay and help us eat some of the Easter leftovers. They were happy to help eat but of course not wash dishes after.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Where Are We Going

Uh-oh. Damselfly is musing again. What is it with me these days? Maybe it was the large dose of family I just got. Maybe just the certain age that I’m at. All this is heading towards a discussion about aging.

My next sister down on the list — I’d call her Blondie but she’d kill me, so we’ll refer to her as Dee — was also, like me, given up for adoption into another family as an infant. The agency that our birth mother used to find us tracked her down a week or so before they found me nearly 18 years ago. Even though we grew up in different cities and situations, we still have a lot in common. She is now having similar problems to what I had a few years ago, namely an aging adoptive parent and siblings that can’t or won’t deal with the situation in a responsible way. The siblings live near their dad and she doesn’t but nevertheless she has ended up having to move him out of his home and into a new assisted living facility near her. This is a big step for everyone and not an easy one either. In my case, after my adopted mom passed away I have no relationship at all now with either of my adopted sisters and no mementos of my childhood that I didn’t already have in my possession. I wish her a better outcome than I had.

But what is it that splits families apart in situations like this? Is there a total denial on some peoples’ part that aging and dying are going to happen no matter what? You might as well make the best of it, because your life is terminal. You can’t get out of this alive! Decisions need to be made and plans carried out and everyone in the family needs to support this or it makes it so much harder than it needs to be. I’ve seen so many wrong choices made because people were not being realistic about the future, both in the short and the long term, for themselves or for their relatives. Or they just pretend it’s not happening and make no decisions at all until circumstances thrust themselves in their face. And that’s never a good time to make the right choices. These days too a lot depends on the medical system and on your own finances. Often you have to get on a wait list and it could be years before your name comes up. Makes even more sense to plan ahead. And don’t forget Plans B & C if Plan A isn’t feasible. You need some flexibility as well.

Then there’s the offspring. I think some people are just plain forgetting to grow up. A bunch of Peter Pans wanting to stay children forever. With all the perks of adults of course but none of the responsibilities. They retain the selfishness of a small child with the grown-up ability to serve their own wants. In the process they never learn that to be Adult means to take into account the needs of those around them, especially those who can’t do things for themselves such as little children and the elderly. It isn’t always about you, ya know! If you want your rights as a human being you’ve gotta pay your dues too.

Interestingly, I’ve discovered that you can still retain a lot of your playfulness and humour and enthusiasm and still act like an adult when necessary. Growing up doesn’t mean having to act all sober-sided and dull. It just means doing what you need to do when you need to do it. The rest of the time is yours to fill with whatever makes you happy. I actually had a few wonderful last years with my adopted mom. She couldn’t remember my name anymore but she knew she was loved. I remember telling her that she looked after me when I was a baby, so now it was my turn to look after her. She thought it was really funny, picturing herself as a 93-year-old baby — which she pretty much was at that point. Humour will get you through to the end, I think. Or nearly there anyway. Love will get you the rest of the way.

Alright already. Enough serious stuff. What else is up? I’m midway on the last book of “His Dark Materials” trilogy. Can hardly put it down! What an amazing writer Philip Pullman is. Expressive language, wonderful complete characters, fascinating environments and riveting action all rolled up with moral and philosophical questions that give you lots to think about. T-Man is still on the first book so I have to behave myself and not let loose any spoilers for him. It’s really hard.

I’ve finished one leg of the Sea ‘n’ Sky Socks and am working on the other. I was a little disappointed in the pattern at first but it’s looking much nicer now that there’s a lot more of it. It’s easy to memorise and not hard to work so it’s coming along faster than I expected. I’m always a lot slower on the fancy socks than I am on the plain ones! I haven’t touched the Hepburn Cardi recently but I was too busy and it got back-burnered again, poor thing. Maybe tonight while I’m watching TV.

What else? Oh yeah, I finally planted my tomato seeds and some more marigolds since not many came up. Old commercial seeds and some saved seeds that may not have been as ripe as they should be when I collected them. But I have lots of them so I’ll just keep planting until enough come up. I need to do some serious transplanting into larger pots but I may be babysitting the grandkids later today so I’m holding off until tomorrow. Not too much can go in the garden yet anyway. It’s been very cool outside and today is cloudy with rain expected this evening. I wonder if we’ll get a chance to go play at the park or not?

Later: We did!

Monday, March 24, 2008

The Big Easter Party

Thanks to everyone’s help and cooperation, particularly my brother-in-law and his dear wife, we had a great time and it all went really well! Just like I knew it would. Ahem.

Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately, depending on your point of view) we were short about 6 people so it wasn’t quite as tight a fit as it might have been. Still it was lovely to have so many family members together and there was lots of laughter and chatter. My Mexican nephews were teaching us all “nice to meet you” and “Happy Easter” in Spanish countered with the French equivalents from my 2 Québécoise sisters-in-law. My ears (all of them including the bunny ears) got a workout. There was way too much food since people brought appies and stuff with them even though they weren’t asked to do so. I won’t have to cook all week! Except maybe meat because most of a 16 lb turkey and half a ham disappeared along with an amazing amount of ice cream cake and my sister’s crumble. Yum! My house is nearly back in order except for a few things that need to be put away still and the vacuum run around to get the crumbs off the floor.

Back in crafty mode, I had a chance to show my niece the beginnings of her new socks:

She was very pleased with the colours and the pattern stitch. Now I just have to finish them. She never did get her knitting lesson that I promised. It was going to be during spring break which didn’t happen. We’re holding out hope for the summer though. She really does want to learn but they’re always so busy at seventeen. Trying to capture them is like rolling jello uphill.

So now real life resumes. But I’m taking a bit of a break today. You understand.

Questions to Ponder:

Is using vintage fabrics and refashioning used clothing better or worse for the environment that purchasing new organic cotton clothing? Is locally grown “nearly-organic” (perhaps non-certified but still grown with minimal chemicals) produce better or worse for the environment than certified organic from thousands of miles away? Is it better to buy new “green” products or continue to use your old non-compliant products while they last? Can anyone thread the maze of truths, half-truths and downright lies in the media on all sides of these issues and come to some meaningful conclusions regarding the correct path to follow?

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Happy Eater...Oops, I mean Easter!

Or at least I hope it is. I’m sitting here with the turkey in the oven, everything else done that could be done and just resting before the onslaught. My poor mother-in-law, Nana, can’t come because she has a very bad cold. One less body — but she will be missed today. I made up a teensy Easter basket for each grandchild:

Just toys inside, no candies. And filled two more plastic eggs with chocolate eggs for the nephews. I got some colouring books and crayons and stickers to keep them occupied for a little while. I put out eggs and decorated the Easter branch according to my birth mom’s firm instructions:

The house is waiting and T-Man is reading The Golden Compass (now that I’ve finished it) while relaxing before heading out to pick up the Aunties:

Doesn’t look nearly big enough for 35 people, does it? Nope. I’ll try to get a photo or two when we’re full up. The sun is peeping out every now and then after raining all night. I’m still not sure if we have enough of everything or what — but you can only do what you can only do. Right? Meanwhile I’m also trying to relax. Please tell that to my stomach, will ya?

Friday, March 21, 2008

Damselfly Freaks Out

Well it’s about freaking time! The ridiculous brokerage fees that UPS and Fedex have been charging to bring packages across the border from the US to Canada are finally going to be tested in court. Read the press release here. I have been one of those who was ripped off with the extra fees that were undisclosed ahead of time, neither to me nor to my seller who had no clue when she suggested UPS. The cost was $40 above and beyond taxes and duties on an item with a $150 value which is just nuts. And she sent me six of these items — we did a group buy — and because they were too large to consolidate they had to be packaged individually. Each box was charged the $40 extra even though they were all addressed to me and were all part of the same order! Yikes! My first thought was to refuse the shipment but I really wanted the item in question plus I was making a snap decision for 5 others as well with no time to consult them and I didn’t want the return costs to all go back down on the seller who was innocent in this. Needless to say the other people involved were as unhappy as I was but UPS brushed us off by saying this was standard policy to use a customs broker to bring goods across the border. But regular mail (US Postal Service and Canada Post) doesn’t do this! On my end there’s a flat $5 fee to collect any taxes and duty owing which is fair. Not being one of those “burr in the shoe” type people I didn’t pursue it further but you can bet I never tried getting anything sent UPS across the border again. Nosiree-bob! Hope they win both cases. More power to ’em.

But that’s not really what I was freaking out about. Our little Easter Dinner has blown up all out of proportion to how many will actually fit in our house! We have ever-expanding extended family and nearly all live locally. So I starting by inviting the usual suspects a couple of weeks ago – and they asked if they could invite more – and several who live much farther away just happen to be in town this weekend – and so on – until we now have around 36 people. Give or take. I have a small house and one bathroom and no dishwasher. The most we’ve ever had before was just over 20 and it was most definitely crowded. We’re talking nearly twice that number coming on Sunday. This could prove an interesting puzzle. Like how many clowns can you get in a tiny little car. Or how many angels can fit on the head of a pin. Or my house will explode! But I really couldn’t turn anyone away, now could I??? This is FAMILY! So I didn’t sleep well last night because I’m trying to think of enough different dishes to make to feed them and which can be cold and prepared tomorrow instead of Sunday. We have a ham. We have a turkey. We have 10lbs of spuds. (Probably not enough but it’s all I can fit in my biggest pot.) We have 2 large Dairy Queen ice cream cakes. (One chocolate and one with the bluebird of happiness on it.) We have paper plates and plastic spoons and paper napkins. (Hang the environment for one day.) We have lots of toilet paper. We don’t have nearly enough chairs but where would we put them if we did? People will be standing like straws in a box! But I’m not panicking. Nope. This will work out. Won’t it? Please? Would it be pushing it to wish for nice weather so some could escape outside?

Today we cleaned the house and went for a refreshing walk. If you don’t hear from me until Monday or Tuesday, you’ll know why. I moved to Australia. Meanwhile, have a Happy Easter! And wish me luck to survive this experience. If I ever come up with such a hare-brained scheme again, smack me with a wet wool skein. Remind me that this family needs to rent a hall if we want to get us all together! I don’t think anyone’s house is big enough anymore. Unfortunately I’m not related to anyone who lives in a mansion.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

It's Officially Spring!

A couple of things I’ve forgotten to mention in past messages:

The rhubarb we left out in the alley in pots got happily adopted by someone. My rhubarb roots on the other hand, are still in a bucket. Hope they don’t either dry out or mould before I can get to them. Oh, and the ones we replanted are doing ok thankfully. They have larger leaves and some new ones peeping up.

Somebody actually bought the super-expensive house next door. The For Sale sign has been gone for awhile and some inspector was checking things out. There are still plenty of things undone, such as repainting the front porch and stairs and finishing the fence and gate. Maybe moving the trees that are parked under the power lines and too close to our yard for comfort? Nah, nobody will notice them until they get big enough to be a problem. And then they’ll prune the poor things within an inch of their lives and they’ll look horrible. We want to know what’s happening with the back fence between our properties before I plant the section closest to it. Don’t want stuff all tromped upon but the dough-heads the builder hires. Time is getting urgent or I’ll be planting somewhere else in the garden.

Speaking of gardening, I got some woad seeds from my friend Chris of Joybilee Farm.

I hope I’ll be able to find somewhere to put several of these rather large plants. At least they’re prettier than my madder! This article on cultivation is by her teenaged daughter Sarah who has done a lot of experimenting with woad. I hope she will complete the planned article series soon. Meanwhile she’s taking her knowledge to the national science fair. You go, girl! I need to send Chris a thank-you gift and I know exactly what it will be. But I have to make it first.

Have I mentioned before that I’ve charted out the shaping for the Hepburn Cardi in pattern? Just so I don’t make any major blunders. I’m not good at winging my knitting when trying to carry on a complex cables-and-lace pattern while doing things like “BO 4 st eor twice and at the same time dec 1 st at neck edge every 5 rows 3 times and then every 6 rows 8 times.” I made that up, but you get the picture. It’s even worse when you have to pick the specific number for your size out of the middle of lists like “2 (2, 3, 3, 5, 7)”. Yes, I’ve used highlighter pen to single out my size out of the blur. But the words “at the same time” get me every time. So I use Knit Visualizer (I’m loving the new version 2!) and chart out each section. Sometimes I have to wait until I get there so I know which row of the stitch pattern to start the inc/dec/BO — but that’s ok. Knit/chart/knit/chart is much easier than knit/frog/knit/frog. Yes, I’m a bit anal like that. I have one last chart to do for the front neck area. I have to wait until I get there, but meanwhile I just have to knit as established for 15”. Easy-peasy. For this part I don’t even need the chart I made. At least until I get to the underarms where I use the same chart I already made for the back.

Well, I’m off to my weavers’ guild meeting this morning. Thank heavens for sock knitting to take the edge off the executive meeting. Happily I have to leave it early for my Library Volunteer job. I like that one. Play with books and magazines and chat with everyone who comes in. Best guild job I’ve ever had.

Happy Spring Equinox!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Spring Is Coming On Apace

At least it is here, but YMMV. It was so nice out yesterday afternoon! Made up for the day before for sure. I did a bunch of errands including taking T-Man’s Blundstone chisel-toe boots in to get resoled. I just about had a heart attack — it’s going to cost nearly $100 because they need complete new soles and heels including an underlay which has to be stitched on. Otherwise the sole just falls off because it won’t stay glued. Tito, my shoe repair guy, does a good job and it’s still cheaper by almost half than buying a new pair. Should give them another 2 or 3 years of wear unless the uppers start to fall apart. Reduce and reuse, right?

Unfortunately T thinks that his boots shouldn’t have worn the soles out the way they did because though he’s had them for nearly a decade, he didn’t wear them all that much compared to his walking shoes. There were whole flaps of rubber loose in the centre which is odd. I can guarantee they will be much better now. But for the price of the darn things you’d think they would have lasted longer. My earliest and most comfortable pair of regular Blunnies are now gardening boots because both soles and uppers are too cracked to be repaired. My second pair of wedge soles (which they are discontinuing) are holding up well. And my brown chunk soles are too new (only a year and a half) to tell. They took some time to break in because the tighter ankles gave me bruises at first but now they’re fine. The other 2 styles were instantly comfortable and when I finally need to buy a new pair (not for years yet!) I’ll probably get the originals again. Stylish aren’t I? I wish they had a pedometer built in because I never walk anywhere without one or the other pair of Blunnies on. I’d love to know how far that was.

I also bought a bunch of fruits and veggies at my favourite produce market for the huge family Easter dinner I’m planning for Sunday. There’s 8 or 10 more people coming than we’ve ever had before. It snowballed because we just have too much family (is that really possible?) but there is no turning anyone away. Even if we do only have one bathroom. Nearly 30 people if everyone can make it! Yipes! It’ll be fun! I always said I didn’t mind cooking for a crowd — as long as I don’t have to buy anyone a present. I’m not good with that. I had a few little things for the grandkids but now that my young nephews from Mexico are coming, I need to come up with something for them too. Nothing big just Easter-ish. Hmmm…I see a trip to the local loonie-toonie store in my future. I always try to keep the candy down to a dull roar for kids.

Later I got about 6 centimeters knitted on the Hepburn Cardi fronts while sitting in the sun on my deck. Nearly got sunburned! Today we’re back to clouds and showers. Typical weather for this time of year. You never know what to wear from minute to minute: a raincoat or short sleeves or a fleece jacket with gloves and a hat. It will be spring equinox tonight at 10.49 PDT. Even though it looks pretty nice out there — when you can see between the raindrops.

Today I started the Sea ‘n’ Sky Socks for my 17-year-old niece. I’m a bit late for her January birthday but she doesn’t mind. She’s very appreciative of the one pair she already has so she gets a second pair. The Synesthesia Socks pattern is working out fine so far. I need to have a bit more sock and some light for a photograph however. Right now it’s dumping rain and rather dark out. I try never to use flash for my photos because it just shifts and washes out the colour and flattens everything out. Real daylight is much better but it helps if there is some. Sheesh.

I’m leaving the Red Fields Shawl alone at the moment. Just as well. We’ll see how long that lasts. Back to writing shopping lists and looking sadly at my pet dust bunnies under the furniture. How much should I clean when it’s only going to get completely messed up again with a house full of company?

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

One More Piece of the Puzzle

I finally finished the back of the Hepburn Cardi. Yay! Now I’m quickly casting on for the fronts. I worked the shoulders as short rows instead of binding them off in stair steps. Now they’re on holders from my Denise needle set. So easy to get on and off with the needle tips and I can use them to do a 3-needle bind-off when I get the fronts done. I bound off the neck edge in pattern because if you just pick up live stitches the neck can stretch out. The bind-off edge gives it some stability. This yarn and the lace and cable pattern together are very sproingy and stretchy so stability is a very good thing to have. And the 3-needle bind-off on the shoulders works the same way to provide some stability so the shoulders don’t droop. When I first started knitting sweaters I thought it was very cool to graft the straight shoulders that were very popular then on live stitches so that there was no seam. Silly me. They were already drop shoulders and they ended up somewhere down around my elbow by the time they were finished stretching out! I already have short arms and the sleeves were long enough for a gorilla. Just because you can do all those elegant techniques means that you need to be able to choose the right one for the circumstance. Amen.

I’m also winding the Sea ‘n’ Sky yarn up into balls so I can start on the socks for my niece that I promised her back in January. Teal greens are her favourite colour so I hope she likes this lighter version. I plan to use the Synesthesia Socks pattern by Sarah Fama. It’s the right number of stitches and doesn’t seem to be complicated enough to stop me from working on it fairly obliviously. The yarn is pretty plain so it kind of needs a bit of stitch excitement. I’m kind of tired of plain socks but I like knitting them. Here I’m attempting to find a compromise. More anon.

OK, I’ve taken up too much time today messing around. I was carrying on this debate on a spinning group I’m on and it became very time-consuming. I need to go out to get some fresh air before this sunshine disappears again.

Questions To Ponder

Why are there so many beginner craft books and so few advanced ones? Do too many people get stuck at beginner levels or quit entirely? What makes the rest of us want to learn more? I know we want to encourage the newbies. I’m just a bit annoyed that the really brain-bending books usually go out of print much too quickly due to lack of interest while the “how to do a knit stitch” and “wool comes from sheep” books are legion. I’m sure publishers don’t want to take a chance on advanced stuff in case they don’t sell enough copies. And they’re probably right if the audience for the advanced level is so much smaller. Have I just argued myself around in a circle?

Monday, March 17, 2008

Where Did Spring Go?

I should have known that I was enjoying the spring weather too much. Today is very cold and rainy and yukky. A good day to stay in and get stuff done indoors. I spent a goodly part of the morning sorting out all my recently collected knitting and crochet patterns and reorganising my “Inspirations” binder. I was reminded how many things I want to make Some Day. Not enough lifetime left to do it all in but that’s just fine. It’s the anticipation that counts. Besides, my grandmother lived to be another 40 years older than I am so you never know. At least I won’t be bored.

I stopped swatching and actually started on the Red Fields Shawl aka Zetor Scarf. I found out that Zetor is a brand of red tractors made in Czech Republic. Since I’m part Czech on my grandmother’s side and the pattern could be said to resemble planted rows (use your imagination, will ya), it works for me! I was surprised while checking out everyone’s versions on Ravelry how much the look of this pattern differs depending on how dense or lacy the knitting is. Mine is definitely lacy:

I forgot to mention yesterday that I also dyed a bunch of sock yarns:

Still trying to use up some old dye stock. The paler colours are weaker dyestocks of Lanaset (aka Telana) dye and the rusty red is made with stronger acid dyestocks. The yarns are ones I haven’t dyed before: the ocean blue-greens I named “Sea ‘n’ Sky” was a natural white On Your Toes (wool/nylon/aloe), the light blue with speckles was over KnitPicks Bare tweed (wool/nylon), and the rusty red that I’m calling “Persimmon” was a single skein of Louet Gems machine washable merino super fine/fingering.

I used what I call the “kneading” method to get near-solid colours. This works fine with the superwash sock yarn but I wouldn’t try it with anything that will felt. I soaked the yarn skeins in acid water (90ml of 56% acetic in 4 litres water) for 10 minutes. Then I poured some of the dye stock in a small plastic pail, enough to be absorbed by the yarn. After squeezing out the acid water leaving the skein damp, I quickly plopped it in the dye and wearing rubber gloves pushed and squooshed it around. Then I pulled the yarn out and added a bit more dye of a slightly different colour and repeated the kneading. When I was satisfied with the colours, I squeezed out any excess moisture (usually with not much colour left in it, except for the acid yellow that’s been giving me a hard time recently) and wrapped it in plastic wrap. The packages went into a heatproof dish for two 5 minute runs through the craft microwave with a 10 minute rest period between. After they cooled, I rinsed them and ran them through a few minutes of the spin cycle on my washing machine and then hung to dry. With the damp weather it’s been taking longer than usual to dry.

Oh, I don’t have to be Irish to wish you a Happy St. Paddy’s Day! Even if I am wearing red instead of green today…

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Nick Of Time

Just started raining. We were out working in the garden again for awhile today. Dug out my poor old rhubarb that hasn’t been divided in nearly 30 years. Oops. The heavy roots were knocking over the retaining wall beside them which now leans at a precarious slant. Hope it survives since we only put three little teeny plants back. They look kind of pathetic:

So we may or may not get any rhubarb at all this year. However, one plant division is going to T-Man’s mom and we left 2 potted up out in the alley for whoever wants them. The rest of the roots I collected up for dye:

It’s nearly a big bucket full so I’m hoping for some good colour. I’ve never used it before but according to Jenny Dean it’s decent yellow even without a mordant and coral-pink with an alkaline modifier. Should be interesting if I can get it chopped up without killing my hands. It’s quite soft right now but there’s a lot of it. I remember how hard the madder was to get into small enough bits.

I also finished knitting my gloves:

My Charcoal Gloves

aka Gloves with Berried Cuffs

Begun: March 6, 2008

Completed: March 16, 2008

Yarn: DGB Confetti sock yarn, 75% superwash wool/25% nylon, colour 9030 (charcoal), lot 105, 50g = 210m, 1 ball

Needles: Clover Takumi bamboo dpns, 2 mm

Hook: Susan Bates aluminum, 2 mm

Pattern: My own pattern, based on Marnie MacLean’s Hooray For Me fingerless gloves with fingers from Ann Budd’s The Knitter’s Handy Book of Patterns. Baby finger lowering adjustment was originally from an article in Spin-Off by Rita Buchanan. Fancy cuff pattern from Knitting Patterns Book 250, pattern 235, p. 116.

Comments: The only way to get a pair of gloves to fit my dinky hands, besides the dollar store stretchies, is to knit them for myself. These ones will be very handy though a little late for this season. I can also wear my fingerless mitts or wrist warmers over them for extra warmth.

I had some problems with the pattern chart for the cuff when I accidentally transposed the knits and purls. Not my fault — the chart in the book only showed a vertical dash for knit sts and the purls were blank. I accidentally read the vertical dashes as horizontal ones and assumed the blank ones were knits since that’s the more common convention. I was knitting in the Dr’s office when I had an epiphany on why it wasn’t looking right and switched knits for purls and vice versa. I subsequently re-drafted the chart in Knit Visualizer so I wouldn’t screw up the second cuff. Here’s the corrected version:

The next part of the fun was what I call the Japanese nupp or berry in the centre of the cuff motif. According to the pictures in the book (which of course has no English in it) this is accomplished with a crochet hook. It’s similar to an Estonian nupp but it’s worked into a column of purl stitches and completed in a single row. It also has an extra step that pops it out more from the background.

Japanese “Nupp”

With a similar-sized crochet hook to your needle size, go into the stitch as if to knit. Draw through a loop, yo hook, go into the st and draw a loop through, yo hook, draw a loop through st, yo and pull it through all sts on hook. Then insert your hook into the st in the row below (under the purl bar and through the st), draw up a loop and pull through the st on the hook. Transfer the rem st to the right-hand needle. And there you go. As with regular nupps it helps if you make your sts and yo’s loose enough to easily pull the crochet hook through them all. But it’s much easier to do it with a crochet hook than trying to purl all the sts together on the next row. Of course you can make fatter nupps by increasing the number of sts on your hook before pulling the last loop through.

To upsize these gloves to more normal women’s hands, just up the needle size one or two increments. If the wrists are thin, keep the 2 mm needles for that part and switch to 2.25 or 2.5 mm for the hand and fingers. Knit the fingers to the correct length for the recipient, usually another 2 rows longer for most people. It might take a bit more than one ball of yarn for larger sizes. It’s pretty close to call.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Now Is It The Ides?

Yep, finally. Not one of Julius Caesar’s better days, huh? Apparently according to good old Wikipedia, in the Roman calendar, the term ides was used for the 15th day of the months of March, May, July, and October, and the 13th day of the other 8 months. Thanks to Shakespeare’s play, March got to be the only one most people know about. This here blog is just a font of useless information, isn’t it?

Which brings me (in a roundabout way) to comments. I know I don’t actually get a lot of comments on this here blog. Some of you are shy. I can appreciate that. I don’t comment a huge amount on other people’s blogs either. But I want to explain (again) why I don’t email each and every one of my commenters personally to thank them for their input. Blogger in its wisdom (or lack thereof) makes it hard to do that. Often a comment will come to me with an “anonymous” name attached or even if it does have a name, it doesn’t give me an easy way to reply to you. Sometimes if there’s a question I’ll answer it in a subsequent comment. Pay attention to those and you’ll maybe want to click on the check box where it will email you any follow-up comments. Otherwise you might miss my answer because I can’t get back to you more directly. I might remember to answer in a subsequent blog post but you really can’t count on that. But you know I love it when you comment. Even inanities and me-tos. I’m like that. I appreciate you, my select group of readers. Although you all know I’m totally writing all this down for myself. Right? Heh.

Today we went back out to the stone supply place and bought another bunch of rocks. We skipped the red ones, even though we both really like them, because they are too porous and tend to flake in layers. Not good for our wet climate. We got more of the gold/rust ones instead, some large and some smaller ones. After plopping them down on the garden paths roughly where we thought they should go we realized that we need nearly as many again as we got on the first two trips to get a reasonable coverage. So far it’s cost over $150! Could become our weekly outing at this rate. Does spread the cost over time though which I suppose is a good thing. My hands are sore again and I haven’t even planted any of them yet.

Actually my hands are mostly sore from digging holes all over the soil between the rocks I planted last week and planting creeping thyme between them. It actually looks very good so far and there’s lots of room for the thyme to spread further. The soil is really hard and compacted there, not surprising since it’s been a pathway for years. I’m not good at using a trowel for long both because of my disk problems in my neck and arthritis in my fingers. Pathetic really. Makes a good excuse to quit before I hurt anything else!

The Gloves have one more finger each. Two more each to go. Unfortunately I stopped controlling myself and started swatching some bright red mohair laceweight yarn that wandered over from somebody else’s stash years ago. No it’s not the Laminaria shawl but another one called Zetor Scarf. I can’t help it. It’s perfect for this yarn and I love that I can adjust the size because it’s knitting from the centre of the neck outward like Evelyn A. Clark’s triangle shawls. No, I want something much more spectacular for Laminaria. In seaweedy colours too, not fire-engine red. BTW this yarn has no labels or other identifying features. All I know is that it has 2 plies and holds a blocking like a hot-damn. Not too soft but I don’t have a problem with being oversensitive. Besides I often wear shawls with turtlenecks or over outerwear. I shouldn’t have started anything new. My Hepburn Cardi is whimpering on its needles and I need to knit more socks too. Bad Damselfly. Of course I might find out that I need the very needles that Hepburn is currently wearing so that may become a moot point.

Gloves, right.

Here’s some total frivolity for you:

74%How Addicted to Blogging Are You?

Or maybe this one?

What Louisa Means

You are relaxed, chill, and very likely to go with the flow.

You are light hearted and accepting. You don't get worked up easily.

Well adjusted and incredibly happy, many people wonder what your secret to life is.

You are well rounded, with a complete perspective on life.

You are solid and dependable. You are loyal, and people can count on you.

At times, you can be a bit too serious. You tend to put too much pressure on yourself.

You are a very lucky person. Things just always seem to go your way.

And because you're so lucky, you don't really have a lot of worries. You just hope for the best in life.

You're sometimes a little guilty of being greedy. Spread your luck around a little to people who need it.

You tend to be pretty tightly wound. It's easy to get you excited... which can be a good or bad thing.

You have a lot of enthusiasm, but it fades rather quickly. You don't stick with any one thing for very long.

You have the drive to accomplish a lot in a short amount of time. Your biggest problem is making sure you finish the projects you start.

You are the total package - suave, sexy, smart, and strong.

You have the whole world under your spell, and you can influence almost everyone you know.

You don't always resist your urges to crush the weak. Just remember, they don't have as much going for them as you do.

You are usually the best at everything ... you strive for perfection.

You are confident, authoritative, and aggressive.

You have the classic "Type A" personality.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Seal of Good Housekeeping

While the weather was cloudy yesterday afternoon but the expected rain hadn’t started yet, T-Man and I went for one of our usual long walks. Spring is definitely springing here, but in deference to our poor eastern folks and their ongoing winter, I’ll spare you the details. If it makes you feel any better, it’s cooled down some and raining on and off so I’m not able to get back into the garden. I need to finish my gloves because there’s still time to wear them.

Speaking of which, here’s a progress photo:

There’s 3 separate holding threads: one on the thumb stitches, one on the baby finger stitches and one left on the ring finger stitches. The other one looks just the same because I match up the finger lengths before I complete the decreases for the finger tips. This ensures that they are as much alike as possible. I think you can clearly see where the baby finger begins lower down than the rest of the fingers. That fits me much better than putting them all on the same level. I would have finished these things by now but I keep distracting myself with other stuff. Such as YouTube videos.

Here’s a video of woolcombing Pt1 of 4, follow the links for the rest. If I went through all those steps I’d never get around to combing anything. I skip the heating the tines, which only get cool again about the time you get the comb loaded with wool. And it’s hard on the wooden part of the comb which can discolour and warp. Your tines can actually come loose and fall out. I also skip the oil/water spray and only use a light water spritz if the weather is very dry and static builds up. If you’re really having trouble, just add a little hair conditioner in the water. The oil (notice she doesn’t mention what kind) can go rancid and sticky if you don’t wash it out very soon. It can be hard to wash out properly too.

Here’s a video of bunny grooming Pt1 of 6. Makes me miss my English angora bunnies — but not enough to get more of them.

This one shows you Navajo plying. Apart from creating the first loop differently, this is pretty much how I Navajo ply. This girl is too funny! Check out her other videos.

And this shows how to weave on a little 2” hand-loom. There is a neat trick to warping these little darlings so that you have minimum needle-weaving to do. Somebody needs to do a whole book on what to do with them after you’ve made a couple of hundred.

I’ve also been reading Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy, the first book of which they made into the movie The Golden Compass. (Warning: heavy Flash graphics & sound at that link. Or try this one instead.) The Wikipedia entry has lots of good info too. I was surprised that this story was marketed to young adults since it’s really more adult in tone and concepts. That doesn’t mean to slag smart young folks though! I would have loved it myself when I was young (if it had been written then) and of course do now. A strong and intelligent female protagonist like Lyra is always appreciated, not to mention her nasty but beautiful nemesis, Mrs. Coulter. However if you’re particularly religious, be aware that it has a very humanist or even atheist slant. (Right up my alley!) Unhappily I’ve heard rumours that the movie didn’t do well enough for them to consider filming the rest of the story. Darn. I’m halfway through the second book. Can’t put it down.

Since I’ve been lazing around this week not accomplishing much to speak of (besides reading and knitting glove fingers), I got into house-proud mode today. After cleaning the bathroom, stripping the bed, vacuuming the basement, sorting the laundry and sending the first 2 loads through (one more to go), I’ve yet to make the bed up again. And I haven’t done the dishes yet either. Do I have to return my Martha S badge now?

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Knitty Review and More

After avidly reading the Spring issue, I really think Amy over there at Knitty has hit exactly what I want in a knitting magazine. Plenty of wonderful patterns for different things with style (but not too over-the-top) that are well written and with lots of construction details and photos. Really in-depth articles on design and techniques and crafty philosophy. Reviews of books, tools, yarns and fibres that are positive yet don’t seem to be just advertising in a thin disguise. And we spinners are included and encouraged with articles and patterns geared for us. Best of all it’s free and I don’t have to go to the store to buy each issue nor do I have to store it on my burgeoning bookshelves. That’s not to say I don’t print out my most favourite patterns or keep a copy pasted into a Word file on my hard drive. You know. Just in case it should disappear before I get around to knitting it. Yes, I realize that the Knitty archives are easy to search. Errors can be fixed as they are discovered so a pattern is always as correct as possible.

In Interweave Knits, my favourite print magazine for knitting, Eunny has gotten right most of the same features that I like about Knitty. However, there are space constrictions on paper. Articles and patterns can’t go into such wonderful detail and the charts are necessarily smaller than older eyes might like. They also have to hire models, set up photo shoots, convert files and lay out pages for print. Knitty just uses the models and photography of the author/designer which, while sometimes a little lacking in professional quality, are still very adequate. At least there are usually more different views than one or two per pattern.

Which brings me to one of my pet peeves. Why do the magazines bother with setting up such elaborate photo shoots, often in distant special or exotic locations, when all we knitters really want to see is The Garment? Save some money! Give us the garment in a simple pose with a fairly neutral backdrop and appropriate accessories. Use a “normal”-sized model and don’t block the garment details with hair or other impediments. Don’t artificially pin back extra width, turn up hems and sleeves, or have them pull down the hem or pull in the front opening while posing. Instead choose a better model who actually wears the sample garment the way it was meant to fit. We want to see what it really looks like before we invest our time and money knitting the thing! Or at the very least to judge whether it needs to be adjusted for our own body. Yeah, I know I’m fighting a losing battle with the art directors and photographers here. Maybe even with some of the readers who enjoy seeing garments posed next to an antique fireplace or on a scenic beach or whatever. Personally though, that’s not what I’m looking at. You could even chop off the poor model’s head and I wouldn’t even notice. It totally makes me appreciate Knitting Daily's in-depth fitting articles and photo galleries. When you think Sandi works for the same magazine!

It’s the same with sewing patterns. I often buy Burda magazine (even though I haven’t done much sewing in the past few years). I look at the garment sketch first so I can see the lines and the seam details. And then I go to the page with the model wearing it to see what fabrics they used and how they put the outfit together. They’ve been getting so artsy in the photography lately that I can’t even tell what I’m looking at sometimes. The model is very close to the camera or too far back. There’s lots of props and background and awkward posing. The fabrics are busy prints or too dark to see the details. Argh.

So what are your favourite patterns from the new Knitty? Mine are the Yosemite short-sleeved sweater and the Laminaria shawl. Though I also would love to make the little Emma’s Unmentionables for my granddaughter. And the Marjorie sweater for me. And try out the new techniques in the sock patterns. Why do I like the Yosemite sweater so much? Because that shape, perhaps with a smidge less negative ease (one size larger than recommended), looks fairly good on me. I already have a couple of commercial cotton t-shirts with a similar line. And wouldn’t it just be yummy in something with silk or bamboo or tencel blended in rather than the cotton? Yeah, I know. Finish the Hepburn Cardi already!

Since this blog has been pretty picture-deficient for the last few posts, here’s a lovely delicious and honkingly huge apple for you — Pacific Rose™.

They’re so big I can only eat them one half at a time! Originally named “Sciros” they’re a hybrid between a Gala and a Splendour apple and, although I’m not usually fond of sweet apples (my fave usually being Granny Smith), these are really good. I think these ones are grown in Washington State on license from New Zealand.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

A Fine Day

Talked long with my birth mom this morning. I was wondering why I hadn’t heard from her after a number of emails from me. Her cat (inappropriately called Angel) ate through one of the cords on her computer! I’m really bad at phoning but I admit it was worth hearing her voice. She does a yeoman job of attempting to keep up contact with email but it’s definitely not her thing. It’s not like she lives far enough away for a call to even be long distance! Bad Damselfly. Of course she knows my phone number too. Goes both ways, right?

I’m up to the fiddly fingers on my Charcoal Gloves. They fit like a dream so far. I’m trying to write out exactly what I did so I can do it again in future. In case I want another colour or some patterning or something. These are very plain except for the cuffs. They will be very good under my fingerless mitts or wrist warmers for extra heat or by themselves when it’s not so cold. Running a bit late for them here though. It seems to be Spring already. Shhhh…don’t tell anybody out east, hey? They get very envious. Of course that’s what they get for being the Centre of the Universe. The focus for all the snow. Heh. Bad Damselfly.

Because I’ve been knitting on my gloves I’ve been ignoring the Hepburn Cardi again. So close to the top of the back piece too. As soon as I’m done the gloves I’ll get back onto it. Just the fronts and borders to go after that. The sleeves are already done. It’s soon going to be time to wear a sweater outdoors. Besides, July is its one-year anniversary so I don’t want to still have it on the needles by then!

I finally got some more of my seeds planted under the lights yesterday: lettuce, arugula, broccoli raab, sunflowers, marigolds, and coreopsis (dye flowers!). The first seedlings are nearly ready to transplant into larger pots with real soil instead of starter mix. Then as soon as I’m sure it’s not going to freeze at night anymore, they can go out into the greenhouse. I’m already trucking the coleus back and forth because I don’t dare leave them out overnight yet. I’m just a bit nervous. Though it’s been close to freezing a few times, we actually haven’t had any frost lately. However coleus are very susceptible to cold and I don’t want to kill them after dragging their sorry selves through the winter!

I’ve been picking handfuls of mizuna sprouts from the greenhouse. The plants are nearly up to my knees now and are yummy for both salads and stir-fries. I’m surprised it’s not a more commonly available vegetable since it’s easy to grow, cut-and-come-again, makes it through our winters with a minimum of protection and is very mild and tasty. The slugs don’t like it quite as much as they like lettuce, at least in my garden. There’s a similar closely-related plant called mibuna that has rounded instead of pointy leaves and has a stronger flavour. Unfortunately it’s not nearly as winter-hardy and tends to bolt more quickly. There is some confusion as to both plants’ proper taxonomic name(s): either Brassica rapa var. nipposinica and/or var. japonica. I get my seeds from West Coast Seeds which is a local company so I know plants grown from their seed should do well here. They also have certified organic seeds and have an online shopping cart. Check out all the growing information available on the new website too. I’ve been using their seeds for decades with good success. If not, it wasn’t the seeds’ fault!

OK, you’re tired of gardening tips. Try these out for variety:

The new Knitty is available and also Magknits. Go check out the great patterns! There’s at least 4 or 5 things that I want to make. So many projects — so little time! Juliana Raskin-Schmitz, Germany. A great history of kumihimo with photos of all the “dais”. Karen Madigan, Australia. PDF facsimiles of a weaving newsletter from the mid-1990’s. Some interesting articles on many topics. Noreen Crone-Findlay’s cute Elspeth doll knitting pattern.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Creator or Maker

I’ve been pondering again. (Uh-oh.) I was wondering whether I’m a “creator” or just a “maker” and I’ve pretty much settled on the latter. Creating, to me anyway, implies that there must be some meaning attached to the thing you created, whatever it is. Something you make that Says Something, preferably Something Important. Art with a capital A. I went to art school way back in my extreme youth and I confess I didn’t understand a lot of what went on there. We were supposed to defend our work with big words holding lots of meaning. I had no clue. If I made something it was just because I was trying something out, playing with colours or shapes or techniques. Often I’d be copying things that I had seen and trying to apply them. I was more interested in the materials than in the message so my work was very lightweight and derivative. Sometimes I was pleased with it but when that happened I wasn’t sure how I did it. And you can be sure my instructors didn’t like it! It was then that I realized that I would never be a real Artist. I still had a burning need to make things — but not necessarily Art.

I dropped out of art school and I went back to making things with fibres. Yarns and threads and fabrics and dyes were not Art. Spinning and weaving and sewing and knitting and felting were not Art, at least according to my instructors back there in the late 1960’s. Nowadays I could very probably get an art degree with a specialty in fibre but not then when all the school staff was male and drawing, painting and sculpture were the only acceptable fine arts. Besides, I had no need to say anything with my work. I was happy just to get it made and hopefully used. Yes, I started making mostly useful things. Definitely not Art!

Of course I still make things. I absolutely must work on something every day. However I don’t make up my own designs, at least not very often. I don’t think I ever make anything exactly the way someone else did either. I consider myself a “tweaker”. I take something that somebody else has done and change a little bit here and another bit there, readjust the colours and assemble parts from many sources until I have what I want. For the most part I’m very pleased with my “making” both in the execution and the results. And that’s all that counts for me.

On the other hand, “meaning” to me is very individual. Eye of the beholder and all that. I’ve often disagreed with the standard accepted interpretation of symbols. I have my own symbolism but I’m often much too literal. I had a hard time in school when the teacher said that a poem had a certain meaning because it might have meant something completely different to me when I read it. Besides, how did she or anybody know exactly what the poet was thinking? Except the poet. I think that’s why I often need an artist’s statement to know what they were trying to say. Except that sometimes they get carried away with the Art Speak and then I’m back to not understanding their work again. Mostly I don’t really care what they’re saying. I’m interested in colour and line, less in content and context. Whew! I’m dizzy from going around in circles.

Say what you mean and mean what you say! Somebody else can do the “creating”.

So, after all that blather what have I been making? I’m halfway done my charcoal gloves. Which I didn’t put on the sidebar because Blogger was giving me a hard time yesterday. And not much else. I was taking a bit of a break after the busy days I’ve had recently. My thumb is still sore but improving. I need to do some more seed planting under the lights. Sometimes I don’t move very fast.