Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Last Of A Very Weird April

It was a near-record cold month for us here in Lotus Land. No wonder my garden is so far behind. I haven’t even planted much of anything in it yet. The peas, which I did finally plant, are just starting to come up. We did have a lovely arugula salad last night from the seeds T-Man planted in the greenhouse early on in the season. And we ate the first asparagus too. I just love eating veggies so fresh they don’t know they’re dead yet! That’s the whole reason why we slave over the dirt in our back yard. It can’t possibly be for reasons of saving money because by the time they’re ripe, each tomato must cost about $10 worth of seed, soil, amendments, fertilizer, and time under the grow lights – not to mention the amortization on the cost of the greenhouse we need to protect the darn things from late blight. And I’m not counting all the personal work we put in planting, transplanting, digging, amending, fertilizing, watering and opening and closing greenhouse vents. It’s all worth it however when you get to chow down on something yummy that came from less than 20 feet away. Take that, 100 Mile Diet!

I was going to photograph and show off the Unmentionables today but the darn things are still wet! After 24 hours I finally took them off the towel they were blocking on and hung them up on the basement clothesline using lots of pins to support the weight. Hopefully the air circulation on all sides will help. I also haven’t finished the tie yet. Still waiting on the elastic’s dye job and the Fray Stop to dry on the braid. So I guess it’s not a proper FO yet.

I’m heading out later to exchange the last 2 extra balls of Sublime yarn for something else. I was totally surprised that the Unmentionables took only 4.5 balls instead of the 7 recommended in the pattern. Even if the Sublime’s yardage was a bit more per 50g it should have at least gone into the 6th ball. I thought my gauge was pretty close too so I’m baffled. Ours is not to reason why — only to take advantage of the extra yarn. Heh.

In Hepburn Cardi news, I’m nearly up to the neckline decreases on the fronts. I’ve been working on it while watching TV in the evening after dinner. It’s actually quite a pleasant knit but sooooooo sllllloooooowwww. Oh well. It’s not a race, is it? I hope not anyhow. I usually lose races rather badly.

I’ve been digging in the fabric stash today for something to make my “sari” inspired bag out of. This is the Spectrum Study Group Project that has to be done by the June weavers guild meeting and our Spectrum get-together to work on it is tomorrow. Nothing like leaving it to the last minute, eh? I’m only going to make a small wrist bag that I can put a ball of yarn in as I move around and knit. It will be better than my usual “stuff it in a pocket” and will hopefully save me from having to deal with Yarn Barf! Unfortunately I don’t have any actual sari fabric and I’m too lazy to take the bus to the Punjabi Market today. Besides I only need a small piece, not a 6 yard sari length. There must be something suitable to evoke India in the vast Damselfly Fabric Collection somewhere. I can help it along some with embellishments anyway. Off on the hunt. If you don’t hear from me after a reasonable time has passed, please send out a search party. I may have gotten lost in the stash.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

All Hail

And more rain. Last evening while heading out to pick my first asparagus of the year, I narrowly missed being deluged on. There was a big black cloud over my head and a few drops of rain as I headed back to the house. I just got inside when the heavens opened. Every day I gain new respect for local farmers and the difficulties in getting crops to grow in our mild but wet and occasionally unpredictable weather. It seems impossible to consistently produce anything but moss and mildew around here! Today is nice so far so I guess I shouldn’t complain too loudly.

I have to tell you the further story of the baby goslings I showed you last Thursday. Yesterday the parent geese decided to move the whole family of 8 babies to a new home. They all took off walking through a series of parking lots, across a very busy multilane street and partway across the technical institute’s campus to another pond — 3/4’s of a kilometer in total. I measured it on Google Earth! Someone (or several someones) in T-Man’s workplace took photos of the whole procession but unfortunately I don’t have permission to show you how cute the little guys were especially when trying to get over some steep curbs. All the cars stopped, students were taking cell phone pics, mommy and daddy goose herded carefully and everyone arrived safely. Whew! I wonder if they’ll stay there or go back or even go somewhere else entirely. There’s a much larger lake a couple of kilometers away so they may be heading in that direction. Doncha love how nature still happens even in the middle of the big city?

Well I’ve finished knitting the Unmentionables and they have been washed and are currently blocking on a towel. Washing instructions for Sublime say machine washable but dry flat and reshape whilst wet so that’s pretty much what I did, substituting hand wash (because I didn’t want to fill the washer for one garment) but I did machine spin to get out the excess water. I’m now braiding ties for them on my marudai using a 16-strand braid called Keiruko No Himo. I plan to attach the tie ends to the elastic so that it can be tightened and tied in place but she can still get out of the bloomers by herself by pulling them down. She’s having enough trouble with toilet training without me making it more difficult! This will also allow her to grow and still fit into her Unmentionables for another couple of years by loosening off the ties. I’m using 3/8” swimsuit elastic since it has a mostly cotton content with rubber for stretch and will hold up to a lot of washing. I’m debating on whether to dye it pink and see if I can get it close to the same colour or just to leave it ecru. I might try the dye later this afternoon and see what happens. I can still replace it with undyed if it doesn’t work. Wonder if the rubber minds the salt and soda for Procion MX dye?

I decided to use the rest of the cotton on part of a secret project. You won’t hear more until I can talk about it. Mum’s the word around here for now. OK, quit trying to guess, you guys!

Monday, April 28, 2008

Damp Day

I really shouldn’t have complained about the weather because after an extra-lovely Saturday we’re now back to rain. At least it’s warmer than it has been! We took advantage of the nice day though and went for a very long walk downtown over the Granville Street bridge and home again over the Cambie Bridge. T-Man wanted some jeans that were on sale at Sears and since he never buys clothes if he can help it, we zipped in and did a quick purchase of 2 pairs and then ran out again. I hate it that you can’t get into a department store without going through the “stinkies” section with all the perfumes and cosmetics. I can taste it afterwards even when I hold my breath or when I can’t hold my breath any longer, breathe through my mouth. Bleh.

There weren’t any new magazines available so we didn’t buy anything else except lunch (sushi!) and two 2GB SD cards for my camera and his Palm. They were only $40 for the pair which is so much cheaper than the last single 1GB that I bought for $50! That’s 1/5th the cost per GB. Prices keep coming down as equipment needs more memory. SD cards are pretty little so you have to be careful not to lose them somewhere! That would be a tragedy especially if it was full of photos or something. I have a little case that holds one card but even it is pretty small.

Yesterday we went to the garden shop and bought a few little things, like sea soil and potting soil and a couple of wicker trellis screens for the clematis. I also got some more seed starter mix because, yes, I need to start some more seeds. Several of the ones I did already are not doing well because of the cold weather even though their pots were in the greenhouse. I need to start over with broccoli and lettuce and some other things.

Then I went Raveling and we had quite a group! There were 9 of us plus baby boy and we took up one whole corner of the back room. Very fun chatting and show-and-telling. It’s a very eclectic and amiable bunch. Pleases me no end to admit that most of us met first online. (Though there are a couple of my old spinning students represented too.) If we get much larger we’ll have to rent a hall or something! Actually, depending on whether there’s students studying or not, there’s usually plenty of room for a good-sized gathering in The Grind’s back room. The drawback is that it’s somewhat dark and stuffy with no windows back there. We’ve started planning for a field trip to Richmond’s little village of Steveston to check out Wool & Wicker’s new expanded shop. At least now more than 4 of us may be able to fit in at the same time. Fish & chips may also be on the agenda. Can’t hardly wait until June.

So after the Ravelry meet-up we did our usual pilgrimage to Three Bags Full. A skein of Louet’s Euroflax linen jumped into my hand and wouldn’t go back on the shelf. I had to buy it or be accused of stealing. Heh. The colour is called Gypsy Bronze and although there is no brown in it, it optically blends to brown from a little distance. There’s one ply each of gold, red and 2 dark greys: one slightly greenish and one purplish. This photo is fairly accurate:

I want to make a skinny lace scarf out of it. It will go nicely with my Hepburn Cardi which is now past the armhole decreases on the fronts and heading for the neckline decreases. These are the last pieces to complete and then it’s on to blocking, assembly and borders to pick up and knit — the finishing process. This uses all my dressmaking skills to get the seams smooth and as invisible as possible. A good job makes a garment look professional so it’s worth doing right. So many knitters get stuck at this stage because they don’t like to sew. And that’s probably why seamless sweaters are so popular when there’s no making up to do. I would have done the back and fronts in one large piece myself but that would be too many stitches on my circular needle and too heavy for me to manage easily. This lace and cables pattern is quite dense and complex which may be the reason it has taken me since last July to get this far! I knit very slowly. The only reason I get so much done is persistence not speed.

I’m partway through the lace edging on the last ruffle of the Unmentionables. Nearly there! A comment was made by a friend about the sense in knitting such a time-consuming (and expensive) item for a little girl who may not even wear it. I hear ya. All I can say is that I’m a doting grandmother. What else are we for except to spoil our grandkids? I’m pretty sure she’ll love it though. After all it’s peeeennnnkkkk! And all princesses need their bloomers on under their elegant skirts, no? Otherwise it would be difficult to run around and play outdoors and be warm and comfortable! They work on their own for warmer weather too. Much more girly than shorts. She might need some convincing to leave off the skirt though. That’s the garment du jour and other clothing items are just tolerated under or over.

I wanted to show the carpet replacement that happened on Friday. When I think about how long the old one lasted, I’m pretty impressed. The new one is only guaranteed for 10 years but we lived with the old one for nearly 30 and it wasn’t new when we moved in. I always thought we would replace it sooner but never got around to it. Just another example of my “use it until it’s absolutely unsightly or completely broken” philosophy! Apart from vacuuming, I don’t think I did anything else to it all those years except scrub off the occasional stain. Out with the old:

And in with the new:

This carpet is very thick in comparison and is good quality polyester. It really muffles the sounds of walking up and down. But it felt awkwardly poofy and bouncy for awhile until I started to get used to it underfoot. It’s already been slept on by Ms Julie cat who has decided she likes how soft and warm the spot at the top of the landing is. As long as she keeps her 24 claws sheathed she can indulge herself all she wants. I really like the soft green Willow Tree colour which blends better with our décor, such as it is. Totally worth the nearly $900 it cost, a good chunk of that for the Turkish guys’ labour. Another thing checked off the “House List”. Next up is the bathroom. Mould isn’t such a nice colour for ceilings.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Live And Learn

Big Sigh! I was somewhat optimistic about how much yarn I had left for the Unmentionables yesterday. I ran out just at the end of the ruffle and before the lace edging. I will have to break into the second-last ball but that still means I have one left to return to my LYS. And I plan to use up some of the partial ball left to make a kumihimo braid for the tie. That, along with elastic, should help hold these things up. I hope. If not she’s got several pairs of her mom’s handmade suspenders to do the job! Meanwhile I think my scale is very inaccurate because I swear that yarn weighed at least half the ball. I probably need a new scale. This kitchen scale is about 30 years old and rusty from all the dye salt, soda ash, raw fleece and such that I’ve weighed on it over the years. I bet a digital one wouldn’t have lasted so long though!

We got the new rug on the stairs put in this morning. It took the 2 Turkish guys 3 hours total to do it. (Turkish. Rugs. Don’t they go together naturally?) It’s not like it’s that complex of a staircase but it’s narrow and there’s not much room to maneuver at the bottom. It looks pretty good and I really like the colour but I’m not 100% happy with the way they did the edge that shows on the bottom half of the stairs. It maybe needs another tack or staple to push it in against the riser because there’s a gap at the top of each one. Dust collector! However I didn’t notice before I signed off on it so my bad. T-Man can fix it himself if it’s that big of a problem. It would only take a few minutes. The rug is nice and thick and cushy so it’s taking a bit of getting used to after that ancient one. I’ve been vacuuming up little fuzzy green rug bits all afternoon and I think it’s spitting them out when I’m not looking.

While the Turkish guys were busy I couldn’t get upstairs to my computer and studio so I amused myself by doing a bunch of housework and then knitting for awhile on the Hepburn Cardi which was the only thing left downstairs. I was wondering why I’m so tired now but I realized that I ended up vacuuming the whole house, which I try never to do all in one day because it’s hard on my neck. Guess I couldn’t help myself! It’s those little fuzzy green bits’ fault. Anyway I’m too tired to edit photos so you’ll get the before and afters later. T’s barbequing hot Italian sausages for dinner so I’d better go make something to go with them.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

One-Legged Or Many-Legged

I finally pushed myself to finish the ruffle on one leg of the Unmentionables today:

Whew! That was a lot of fiddly knitting. For some reason the method I used (following the pattern) seemed awkward to me and the needles kept slipping out of the work. Even the bamboo needles were somewhat escapist! However it looks quite passable. I have just enough (I hope) of the ball left to finish the other leg’s ruffle. Then I will have 2 balls extra which I will take back to the store and possibly trade for something else. I’ve just about had it with knitting with cotton, organic or no. It’s not really been a pleasant experience for me especially trying to join or sew in the ends securely yet invisibly. I’m not at all sure they’re going to stay through washing and drying! We shall see.

So of course I haven’t accomplished anything else of note. A few more rows on the Hepburn Cardi last night while watching TV and a few more on the A-Maizing socks this morning while reading my email. Not terribly exciting, I’ll admit.

We have the carpet guy coming to install our new soft green carpet on our main stairs tomorrow morning. I’m looking forward to saying goodbye to the old ratty gold stuff that I’ve been looking at for nearly 30 years! I will take before and after photos just for memory’s sake.

Speaking of photos, I’ll leave you with a sweet pic taken by T-Man’s colleague Peter White, posted here with his permission. (No, not any of the Peter Whites you might have heard of! My, what a popular name.) There was a Canada goose couple who built a nest right outside a large window at T's workplace where everyone could watch the goings-on. These are the cute results!

And there’s a pond close by where they can learn to swim. Now you know that Spring is really here. Regardless of the odd weather we’ve been having.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008


That’s what the weather has been for sure. Yesterday was so sunny and warm (after the frost melted!) that it was shirtsleeves for everyone. Today we’re back to cloudy with a threat of rain and somewhat cooler but there was no frost. I’m dizzy. Though that just might be the migraine probably brought on by the barometer’s speed fluctuations. BTW yesterday’s frost was a record cold temperature for that date.

I spent yesterday afternoon taking the grandkids to the park to play. We had a great time! It’s so much fun to get down to little kid level and play pretend. Later when their parents returned from a much-needed movie date and T-Man got home from work, we all went to our favourite local sushi restaurant for dinner. Believe it or not, Princess Fussy loves ebi and salmon nigiri and especially masago (fish roe). Go figure. Her brother Stargazer at 16 months likes California roll, except the avocado which he hands you when he’s eaten the rest of the piece. Cute! Luckily his grandpa is a big avocado lover. Now that we’ve had a nice baby fix, we’ll be good for a couple of weeks. Heh. Meanwhile my shoulders need to recuperate from lifting cuddly but increasingly heavy weights.

Since I’ve finished the hearts and they’re all ready to be mailed, here’s the FO scoop:

8 Hearts

Begun: April 8, 2008
Completed: April 23, 2008

Yarn: Vippela Raanulanka, 100% wool singles, 400 yds per 100g skein, vintage weaving yarn from my stash, used only a few yards for each heart.
Needles: pair of 2.75 mm bamboo knitting needles, from set of double-pointeds
Stuffing: brown fine wool fleece, washed and teased.
Beads: size 11 Czech seed beads, red AB silver-lined. Small gold-coated glass hearts.
Thread: Nymo size D beading thread, coated with Thread Heaven.
Needles: two size 12 beading needles.

Pattern: Heartfelt by Norah Gaughan for Berroco. Free pattern online.

Comments: My version of the Heartfelt pattern came out much smaller because of the thinner yarn and needles. I stuffed the knitted hearts quite full with fleece which shrank somewhat along with the knitting wool when fulled. I did it by hand using an old washboard and hot soapy water. The beadwork was my own design that came to me when I was half asleep in the middle of the night! I found the best way to work it was to attach the heart bead, thread on 2.5” of beads for the spiral and take a stitch at the top of the stuffed heart, then thread 5” of beads for the loop (go through twice to reinforce), and finally thread 2.5” of beads for the second spiral and secure the second heart bead. Then I went back with the second needle and thread and couched the spiral line of beads down from the top to the heart on both sides, holding it in place with my left thumb as I stitched. I buried the tails in the felt under the gold heart.

You could use this decoration all year, but it’s especially festive for Valentine’s Day or Christmas. Just watch out for moths if you store it away in between! I usually send my wool items for an occasional “Arctic vacation” in the deep freeze which seems to keep the bad guys at bay.

I’m going to concentrate on the Unmentionables and try to get that completed asap. Plus I’ve been plugging away at the Hepburn cardi while TV watching in the evenings and am nearly up to the armhole decreases on the fronts. These are the last big pieces to finish with only the front and neck bands to go after blocking and sewing the main pieces together. Then I can get on to the Red Fields Shawl. I like to have no more than 3 knitting projects started at once but if you’re counting, I’m still at 4. There is no deadline on the A-Maizing socks. They’re just my almost-mindless knitting. Which is about where my head is at today.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Happy Earth Day!

There was frost last night. Yipes! That’s very late for us. We usually don’t have much more than a light frost after mid-March. Now I’m not feeling so bad about being late with planting my garden! It’s lovely and sunny right now though with a gorgeous robin-egg blue sky.

What am I doing for Earth Day? The usual stuff: composting, gardening, walking, not buying anything, and trying to figure out what to do with all of the non-recyclable plastic that takes up 90% of my trash. Packaging. Over-packaging in most cases. I consistently use cloth shopping bags and my backpack and I still have heaps of plastic to throw out. It’s convenient and helps produce stay fresher and last longer but I wish there was something I could do to reduce the amount in my bin. I do use a lot of plastic containers in my fridge to keep food fresh and they last much longer than plastic bags. Years even. But how do I bring home produce without the bags to protect them or keep them together. And how do I convince manufacturers that they don’t need to put everything in that hard plastic clamshell stuff that slices you into ribbons when you try to open it. It should at least be recyclable in the city’s blue boxes. And what’s with the organic soups being in tetra packs that aren’t recyclable, at least locally? How about glass containers then? They cost more but they could be reused like I do with the pasta sauce jars. My milk comes from a local dairy who still uses glass bottles! In future I’m going to be avoiding over-packaged goods as much as possible. My eco-rant for the day.

I’m nearly finished the 8 Hearts swap project. I have the notes printed out and 2.5 hearts left to bead. Then I have to figure out how to package them up for mailing in the most economical way. They’re kind of puffy so it’s going to be fun putting them in an envelope! At least they aren’t fragile.

I’m possibly going to be babysitting the grandkids today (yay!) so this will be a quickie post.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Snowing Again!

But luckily not right over my house. However it snowed some in Delta and Richmond a wee bit south of me here in Vancouver this morning. Sheesh! Our Friday night/Saturday morning snow was the latest ever recorded in this area. So that makes today’s snow even later still. Global warming, schmobal warming. It’s just crazy weather.

I finished one of the 8 Hearts so far:

The pattern is the same on the other side so it can be used as an ornament. I think it turned out fine even though it took a bit longer to complete than I’d hoped. I’ll probably get faster as I go. The second swirl was already easier than the first one. BTW, sorry if anyone from my CW Beads & Interlacements study group reads this blog and feels like I’ve spoiled it for them. Let me know in the comments if that’s the case and I’ll be quiet for next time until after the swap is completed.

We went back to the landscaping rock place yesterday and bought yet more stones for the garden pathways. After piecing in some of the old marble slabs (and breaking a few to fit) that we had scrounged a couple of years ago, we’ve nearly covered all the paths with stepping stones:

I’m liking the look so far but it will be much better once more things are planted and start to grow. We’re hoping this will do several things: warm the soil a bit with heat given off by sun-warmed rocks, be a better alternative to our chipped wood mulch which was just attracting our current garden nemeses, the sow bugs and pill bugs, and prevent mud from getting churned up in the pathways. We’re transplanting some of the Irish moss from where it doesn’t belong to in between the stones in hopes that it will be happy there and proliferate. It shouldn’t get walked on as much as it used to anyhow. It’s kind of like a child’s game to try to stay on the stepping stones!

Notice the flattened bluebells from the snow around the galvanized buckets holding my madder plants. Those are Spanish bluebells (aka wood hyacinth) and are a major weed in my garden! A pretty one though so we only remove them from places where they are a real problem. They will grow and increase pretty much anywhere, light or shaded and are finished and gone by summer. (You can see why they are a pest in the UK where they are overtaking the native common bluebell.) We’re really mean to them and pull out the rotting leaves which are havens for slugs and snails and sow bugs. Doesn’t seem to slow them down any. Notice these ones aren’t flowering yet. That’s how late the season is here because they should be in full flower by now. Most of them are blue but we have seen the occasional white or pink ones show up. Hardy to Zone 4.

Speaking of the bugs, we finally found some information in a gardening magazine where a local gardener was complaining about the same problem we’ve been having. She can’t grow zucchinis and other similar things either! And for the same reason: the sow bugs and pill bugs eat them. They ring the plant’s stem, knocking it down whereupon they eat all the rest of the plant. If for some reason the plant survives being nearly ringed, it never recovers enough to produce much of anything. It’s nice to be validated! Every time we’ve attempted to discuss this problem with garden shops and even master gardeners, they look at us like we have radishes growing out of our ears. “Sow bugs don’t eat live plants, only decaying wood etc.” “There aren’t that many of them and they aren’t a problem.” Wanna bet? We can go out and kill hundreds a day and still have them waltzing all over the plants, chowing down on their favourites. We can no longer grow cucumbers, squash, zucchini, or eggplants (they adore eggplants). Tomato stems are fairly safe though they’ll munch on the leaves if they’re touching the ground. We can’t grow lettuce from seed planted in the garden, only from transplants so they must like the really baby ones best. They don’t do too much damage to peas or beans or broccoli. Our biggest pest used to be slugs but these guys have beaten them out and won the prize. I’m still going to try zucchinis and pattypan squashes this year. I’m going to plant them in pots on the deck until they’re huge before I have to put them in the garden. Maybe after they’ve gotten thicker skins they’ll survive. Maybe.

Today I need to do some transplanting and repotting and plant some more seeds indoors. I think I’m going to have to try to plant the woad in pots and transplant it even though it doesn’t like doing that. The garden where it will go isn’t ready yet but I don’t want to wait too long to get it going. We have a long growing season here (well, usually!) but it’s very slow because we don’t have the hot sun and warm nights that other places have. Things can take 2 or 3 times the stated growing times to maturity on the seed packets. It’s our marine air for which I really am grateful — even though I complain a lot! I would about die in places like southern Texas, California or Florida for instance. I don’t do well in too much heat, whether dry or moist. And I hate air conditioning because it’s always too big of a contrast to the outdoor temperature. You freeze when you walk into a big store or mall and then when you go back outside, the heat hits you in the face like a slap upside the head. Though right about now we could use a little warmth around here and I wouldn’t complain one bit. It’s nice and sunny right now. But that could change in an instant.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Enough Already

“Life is pleasant. Death is peaceful. It's the transition that's troublesome.” - Isaac Asimov (1920 - 1992)
Global warming? What global warming? Not only did we have a spectacular hailstorm last evening complete with thunder and lightning, we woke up to an inch of snow this morning. See?

It was wet and heavy and knocked several large branches off one tree and beat another whole tree right down blocking the street just past our house.

It was fun watching cars drive up and come to a halt right in front of its pretty pink blossoms, slowly realizing they couldn’t go around it and backing up to go down the alley instead. While we were out walking later on we saw several more large branches broken on trees laden with spring flowers. Their beauty was their downfall as the flowers caught the heavy snow until it couldn’t hold the weight. The city came and cleared the pink plum away, poor thing. Hope they replace it with something nice.

During our walk we enjoyed the sun on the snow on our mountains. Every tree was outlined. Here’s a view of The Hole that hopefully will be filled in soon looking north on Cambie Street at 10th Ave.

Somewhere in that mess will be an underground station for the Canada Line. You can also see the semi-truncated Cambie Bridge (cars can only drive on half of it at the moment), the intense building going on everywhere, and the downtown skyline with Grouse Mountain behind. The mountains look so serene above the crazy ant-like goings-on down below.

It started out cold but warmed up quite a bit in the sun. We were shedding and unzipping layers as we went. There’s only a tiny bit of snow left anywhere now as it disappeared almost as mysteriously as it came leaving flattened spring flowers in its wake. Hopefully that’s the last of it we can expect now until next winter? Please?

In crafty news, I’ve chosen the beads for the 8 Hearts but haven’t started stitching yet. I also got a few more repeats of the lace edging done on the Unmentionables. Couldn’t stand to listen to it yelling at me anymore. Heh. And there’s a wee bit more than an inch of both A-Maizing Socks now too. Moving right along.

Friday, April 18, 2008

A Weekend Cometh

“In spite of illness, in spite even of the archenemy sorrow, one can remain alive long past the usual date of disintegration if one is unafraid of change, insatiable in intellectual curiosity, interested in big things, and happy in small ways.” - Edith Wharton (1862 - 1937)

I had an appointment with my doctor this morning. The poor guy has seen way too much of me in the last few months! This time it’s because I have a case of thrush. No, not a bird in the hand — a yeast in the mouth. It’s not the first time I’ve had it but it probably has been going on for awhile before it really started to hurt when I eat and drink. It’s like I’ve used too much pepper on everything and it still tastes bad. The clincher is the big white patch on my tongue. Ewwww…TMI, huh? I’ve changed my toothbrush and I’m going back on the most strict part of my low-carb diet with no wine (sniff!), eating lots of yoghurt and acidophilus capsules, plus the prescription medicine. He even gave me an option for refills if I need it. It’s way past what I can hope to cure with just diet alone. We agree that it may even be causing my Cough That Never Leaves. Man, I know he’s a handsome younger guy but we’ve got to stop meeting all the time in his office! Folks are going to get suspicious about our relationship.

On top of the infection, I’m pretty tired today too. I didn’t get in until nearly 10:30 last night, which doesn’t sound late except that it’s the equivalent of an hour and a half past my bedtime. The guild meeting was great though. I unloaded my guild website committee job on our lovely website designer. Yay! I only took it in the first place because nobody else was available at the time. Now I can write and submit some book reviews and the like for publication because I won’t feel so frustrated with the mechanics of the thing rather than the content. Weight off my shoulders for sure.

The program speaker was really interesting also. Bettina Matzkuhn (who doesn’t have a personal website but her work can be found here and here) is a local fibre artist and writer who’s work deals with narrative through imagery, much of it in a serial format. Her latest works use maps in fascinating ways to explore finding oneself and one’s direction in life. Her talk was very personal and she had great stories to tell about the pieces she was showing us on screen and on the table. Worth staying up late for!

Now I’m running far behind with everything around here today but I’m trying not to care. I’m stuffing the 8 Hearts so I can full them so they can dry. It takes a couple of days to really dry the wool all the way through. If I can put them out in the sun this afternoon to speed things up before the weather is supposed to get very cold with even a slight chance of snow flurries. What happened to last weekend’s summer-like weather, I ask you? Nothing like a 20 degree Celsius drop in such a short time. Spring. Ya gotta love it! Well, it’s better than winter. At least it’s a lot brighter.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

And New Errors Created

“Life isn't fair. It's just fairer than death, that's all.” - William Goldman, The Princess Bride
Apparently I can’t count to 5. I thought I had all the 8 Hearts knitted yesterday and could go on to stuffing them preparatory to fulling the lot today. Unfortunately I managed to make 3 of them smaller than they should be by leaving out 2 rows of the centre section. Pitooey. Now I have to keep knitting for awhile longer. It might help if I actually paid attention to what I was knitting. Maybe.

While I was screwing up my hearts, I was also screwing up my guild’s website. I somehow managed to break the file uploading feature on it a couple of months ago and our admin couldn’t fix it. Finally my friend, neighbour, fellow Raveler and Computer Wiz Extraordinaire Lauren had time to check it out. She fixed it within 5 minutes so I cheerfully went home and uploaded another file to test. All was fine. Then yesterday I started to upload another file and poof! Messed it all up again. A whimpering email to Lauren and she fixed it yet again. At least now we know what the problem is so hopefully we can do something about it. Meanwhile I’m not touching it! I think I have whatever is the opposite to the Midas Touch with that website. (Leaden Touch?) I did warn the guild I know just enough to be dangerous. You can bet we’ll be discussing this at the executive meeting this evening.

So back to the 8 Hearts for a moment. I’ve decided how to bead it now. It came to me when I was going back to sleep last night after getting up for a potty break. Amazing how the best ideas come when you’re almost asleep but not quite! It entails stringing and some 2-needle couching and hopefully will go relatively quickly when I get to it. I still have 2.5 hearts left to re-knit. And I’ve been very good and not even touched any other knitting. Even though the Unmentionables are yelling at me, the Hepburn Cardi is whining in its basket and the Maizy socks that I started (when I shouldn’t have) are patiently waiting to come with me to the meeting tonight. They know they’re the only portable project at the moment so they’re the obvious choice for travel knitting.

BTW I need a name for those socks. How about the A-Maizing Socks? The pattern I started with (and sized down slightly) is the Ridges & Ribs Socks by Dave of Criminyjickets. I’m liking how it looks:

Though there’s only an inch of one sock so far since I’m not allowed to work on it until the hearts are done. Or redone. It’s not a hard pattern and I like the firm twisted single rib that keeps a multicoloured yarn from being boring. It’s formed by a double-yarn-over knit st that then has one loop dropped and the remaining elongated st slipped as if to knit for 3 rows which twists it nicely. The Maizy yarn is a bit squeaky and splitty to knit with but the resulting texture is soft and stretchy. It’s going ok as long as I pay a bit of attention so that I don’t miss a ply with my needle and remember to slip k-wise which is hard for some reason. Some people have said they don’t like corn fibre because of the alleged plastic-y feel (which to me feels more like scrooped silk) but I don’t find it objectionable. Then again I can’t dye it with anything I have available to me so I’d better like the colour the way it is. No do-overs there.

I’ll leave you with a photo of my most not-favourite wild animal visitor:

Don’t be fooled by that cute face and fuzzy tail! This is one of the Evil Rodents who give me no end of grief. Notice how he/she is under my bird feeder eating the dropped seeds that might otherwise have gone to the sparrows or juncos. One has even managed to climb that slippery metal pole and leave bite marks in my plastic feeder too. We coated the pole with hot pepper sauce which foiled them for awhile until it rained and washed it off. Luckily most of the squirrels can’t or won’t climb the pole. Just my walnut and hazelnut trees (where they eat all the nuts), my house (where they tried to make a nest under the eves), my garage (easier access to the walnut tree), — you see where this is going. Anybody got a way to sue squirrels for ruined outdoor Christmas lights? They thought they were eating my rhododendron buds but got a bit of a surprise. Didn’t stop them from making mincemeat out of the lights first though. Slow learners? Too bad they were LCD lights and the current wasn’t enough to zap them! Grumble. Grumble.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Error Correction

“The happiest of people don't necessarily have the best of everything they just make the most of everything that comes along their way.” - Unknown

Right off the top I need to admit to an oops! Somehow I managed to unlink all the podcast links I had on yesterday’s post. I’ve fixed them now so you can check again! Sorry about that. Not much use without the links, was it?

Still knitting hearts (just finished #6) while trying very hard not to knit on anything else until they’re done. Boy, that’s hard! I want to work on the Unmentionables. Erg. Why does this happen to me every time I get involved in a swap. I have this total aversion to making more than one of anything. The only reason I even finish a pair of socks or gloves is my trick of working on them alternately. If I did them one after the other I would definitely suffer from Second Sock Syndrome. So I’m using a variation of my Alternating Trick on the hearts: knitting until I get bored, stuffing until I get bored, knitting some more, stuffing some more etc. I won’t full them until they’re all ready to go because it’s much easier to do them all at once. Then there will be some tough slogging with the beading. I haven’t even chosen which beads to use yet! That will be the fun part, rummaging through the bead stash.

I also charted out the heart pattern, though it was difficult with such an odd shape. I had to make the second “lobe” separately because it wouldn’t fit in place. It does look like the real thing somewhat though, doncha think?

I find I can follow the chart, weird as it is, easier than the written words because I don’t lose my place so easily. Somehow I can see at a glance where I am rather than trying to remember what line of the written pattern I’m on. Carrying on.

The weather is cloudy and cold today. I want Saturday’s weather back again! It was so nice and warm. Sigh. What a teaser, eh?

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Podcasts And More

“I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day”. - Elwyn Brooks White

Yep, I totally agree with that quote from the author of Charlotte’s Web and Stuart Little. I suffer the exact same problem. The solution is to try to fit both in somehow. We can but try to enjoy ourselves while creating the world we would like to live in.

So I was a naughty damselfly yesterday. You realize I need more sock yarn like I need another pair of thumbs. Nevertheless I succumbed to a couple of balls of Crystal Palace Yarns “Maizy” which is 82% corn fibre and 18% elastic nylon. I’ve never seen it before! It has a really interesting texture and the colours were short one-inch blips of rust, tan, sage and dark teal. Could I resist a new-to-me sock experience? I think not! I’m already casting on. Not sure who these are for yet.

I originally went to Birkeland Bros. to get a new set of 4mm bamboo dpns. I was trying to knit the lace edging on the ruffle of the Unmentionables and by the third time the heavy aluminum needle slid out of all the stitches I got cranky. It’s a very fiddly process even with the light and somewhat more sticky bamboo but it’s infinitely less crazy-making. And worth the price of 2 balls of sock yarn as well as the needles.

I now have 5 of the requisite 8 hearts knitted but only the first one has been fulled. I’m giving myself a week to get them completed and in the mail. I have a guild meeting on Thursday but it’s an evening one so I still have the day available. I’m on library duty again this time! I love that job. Not the least of which is that it gets me out of the executive meeting early. Playing with books and magazines and chatting is good too.

Oh right. I promised to talk about podcasts. They are sometimes the only thing that gets me through the boring housework stuff or anything else where I can’t knit at the same time! First the disclaimers. My favourites are ones that have interesting commentary, interviews or stories and not necessarily about knitting. I sometimes get bored with the “what’s on my needles” and the “ooh, yummy yarns” and also have trouble following anything too technical when I can’t see what they’re talking about. The voices have to be enthusiastic, not a monotone. Being somewhat hard of hearing, I’m more visual than audio oriented so it has to be fun enough to keep my attention or my mind wanders. I also have a very odd sense of humour and I don’t always find the same things funny as you might. And vice versa. These things are very personal and what turns someone’s crank doesn’t necessarily work for another. Don’t forget that sometimes old podcasts fade away and new ones begin so check the listings often.

In alphabetical order, my current top faves are Cast On with Brenda Dayne, CraftLit with Heather Ordover (books read by chapters), Craftsanity with Jennifer Ackerman-Haywood (interviews with many different craftspeople), Knit Picks’ Podcast with Kelley Petkun, limenviolet (very fun but can be raunchy), Socks In The City with Carrie Barraco (just started listening to this one), Stash and Burn with Jenny and Nicole, Sticks & String with David Reidy from Australia, and WeaveCast with Syne Mitchell (not knitting of course). There are others too but if you’re new to podcasts this will keep you busy listening for quite awhile! There’s also Let’s Knit2gether with Cat which is a video podcast rather than just audio. Download episodes of all these individually or better, subscribe through iTunes. If you don’t like it, just unsubscribe! Easy peasy.

Question To Ponder

Why are so many knit-related podcasts created by Texans? Is it something in the water there? Do they just have a lot to say? On the other hand, I don’t think any that I’ve listed are Texan due to one of my favourites having podfaded. Yes, that’s a word.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Belated Post

“Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone.”

Pablo Picasso

Further thoughts on Friday’s topics brought me to the fact that a lot of the shabby-chic stuff in the house is just waiting for the demise of the furry felines that share the house with us. And catch their many claws in the furniture, toss the contents of the kitchen table on the floor, scratch the carpet on the bottom steps, track kitty litter and cat crunchies everywhere, sleep on our bed and shed black, white and tabby hairs all over everything. (There’s a colour to show up on any item.) I’m sure we human family members are not free of stain when it comes to clean and tidy either. However, we will do our share to clean up the mess that we create unlike our home’s furry inhabitants. We do love the old dears but sometimes they are just pains in the you-know-what. In reprisal, I’m sure they’re going to live forever or at least until T-Man retires and we have to be careful of our finances and so can’t spare any money to replace all the worn out stuff.

Guess it isn’t really a good idea to wait until “someday” to do “something”, is it? Because then you’re wishing your life away and what if that old someday never comes? Surprising how you can put it off for as long as possible anyhow. On that note, we walked down to the new local Home Depot on Friday and ordered an estimate on new carpeting for the main staircase. That rug was old when we moved in 29 years ago! The colour we picked is a soft green called “Willow Tree”. I have a teeny sample piece and I think it will be perfect. Certainly better than the old gold original. We’ll have to keep an eye on the cats, Julie in particular, after the rug is installed. My biggest fear is that it’ll just make everything around it — floor, dining room rug, wrought iron railing, wall paint and all — look even worse than usual so that we’ll be forced to do something about it. Sooner rather than later. Maybe that’s a good thing?

We were talking about putting things off, right? Which reminds me — I hope you all went on over to MagKnits on a regular basis and got some of the lovely free patterns printed out from it because now it’s toast. As in completely gonzo. No archives even. Wave goodbye to its banner in my sidebar. Sniff! Is it true that Ravelry killed it? There was quite the discussion over there! Or was MagKnits killed by a case of Sour Grapes Syndrome? Find out more of the down-and-dirty speculations here. If you can stand it.

Some folks were working on or had queued patterns that they didn’t have archived themselves. At least I’ve always saved a copy of any patterns I immediately liked to my own computer. This includes the infamous Jaywalker socks which I never finished and frogged. (Others have made gazillions of them, making it the most popular pattern ever on MagKnits.) The only one I have in my Ravelry Queue is the Rainbow Socks but luckily I have a copy in Word format. Some people have managed to locate the patterns they need on the Wayback Machine. Unfortunately it has nothing newer than the Aug ’07 issue and all the pictures including charts are unavailable. However, ownership of all patterns have reverted back to the designers which means they will possibly show up somewhere else. Eventually. Gee, would a week or two of warning have killed her? It certainly would have left a better impression. But what do I know. I’m staying on the sidelines on this one. And out of the mud.

So we finally had some very warm spring weather. Just two days. Mustn’t be greedy, eh? But at least it was on a weekend for a change. T-Man and I decided to run away from home on Saturday. We were going to go camping somewhere for the whole weekend but didn’t trust the weather as far as we can kick those clouds. Besides the packing and prep are so much easier when it’s only a day trip. (Am I getting lazy in my old age? No! Don’t answer that!) We wanted to walk on the Pitt River dike but since there’s a ton of destruction/construction going on around the bridge we couldn’t figure out where to park. So we went bumping along a side road through the blueberry and cranberry farms and found a spot to park near the Alouette River part of the dike system. It was gorgeous! See?

We only walked a portion of it, about 10 km round trip, but we both got a little bit sunburned. I had a hat on which helped somewhat but I guess we’re just not used to that bright light in the sky after so much clouds and rain. Yesterday we spent some time puttering in the garden and I finally got my peas planted. Now I have to put nets up to protect them from the birds who take bites out of the leaves as they come up. That’s what I get for having a bird feeder, hey? Ingrates!

I also made it to the Ravelry meet-up yesterday and had a lovely time visiting with everyone. We were 6 this time, a respectable number. Knitting for a couple of hours with friends makes a nice break from digging weeds and planting stones in my pathways. (No, I’m not expecting the stones to grow.) Oh, and Marina hon’, I haven’t forgotten your question on podcasts. I’ll do an in-depth about that tomorrow for you, OK?

Friday, April 11, 2008

How Do You Decide…

…when to throw stuff out? How worn and shabby does it have to be before you think about replacing it? Are you one of those who buys a new set of towels the minute one starts to fray? Or do you use them until there are holes and the edges are all raggedy. Can you live with a little “lived-in” look or do you need to have everything fresh and perfect? Do you need to change your décor often to keep from being bored or to follow latest trends? When you do buy a new one, do you throw the old one out right away? Or hang on to it to use somewhere where its scruffiness won’t matter?

I think most of us in the richer countries are totally sold on the idea of buying new all the time. All the advertising we’re bombarded with every day says that we won’t be happy and everyone will look down on us if we don’t have the latest and greatest whatever! But do we really need to replace things as often? Is it OK to live with something that still functions even though it’s not picture perfect? Even more importantly, can we fight the urge to shop?

Personally I actually hate shopping. Not for books, magazines and craft supplies and maybe not even groceries — just everything else. I can never find what I want, in the colours and quality I like and the stores are too stifling and full of junk I never use. T-Man is even worse than I am, probably because he’s male. Shopping for clothes or household items is definitely not on his to-do list if he can possibly help it. However sometimes I need his assistance with a vehicle to get larger items home. So we both drag ourselves to the mall and kind of blitz-shop: get in and get out with as much at one time as possible so we don’t have to do it again anytime soon. Hence the reason I try to buy reasonable quality so it will perhaps last long enough so I don’t remember the pain of shopping for it.

Of course the big drawback to this method is that next time you need it, months or even years down the road, you can’t find anything that remotely resembles the first purchase. The popular colours have changed and don’t match mine. They stop manufacturing or importing that item. The quality has deteriorated and the price has inflated. You have to buy a whole set when you only want one part of it. Etc. Makes me wonder why I don’t buy 3 of them the first time around. But then if I did, it would be something that didn’t work the way it was supposed to.

OK, enough of the Damselfly Musings for today. What’s up on the needles? I’ve grafted the crotch on the Unmentionables and picked up one of the leg’s stitches to carry on with the ruffle.

That is what’s left of Ball 3 still. Amazing! Each ball of yarn goes much farther than you might expect. I think we’re into a “loaves and fishes” situation here! BTW, did you know that the words “crotch” and “crutch” come from the same root and that it’s the forked shape that they have in common? I’ve actually seen crutch used instead of crotch in an old sewing manual. Perhaps it was more polite? Fascinating, to me at least. But I digress.

I’ve only gotten one more heart started but not completed. I think, deadline or no, that I’m just slightly obsessed with the Unmentionables. Which of course have no immediate need to be completed. Too bad. I’m going with my heart and ignoring the knitted ones for the moment. Which likely means that I’ll be knitting and stuffing and fulling and beading up a storm in a couple of days to get them done. Fine.

Got the vacuuming done yesterday but T-Man discovered that the freezer on the bottom of our fridge has been running constantly. The vents were clogged with ice that shouldn’t have been there. So he thawed it all out and pulled out the fridge and vacuumed the even bigger and nastier dust creatures under it. Later we found that the drip pan had overflowed and leaked down into the basement. The fridge tried to pretend that the hot water heater had peed on the floor but we weren’t paying any attention to that old “not me” ploy. It made a good excuse for me to wash the floor by the cat box and food dish anyway. Now hopefully the fridge will behave itself. I’m doing laundry today so I’m watching the hot water heater to see if it’s planning any retaliation.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Moving Right Along

Well, Ye Olde Yarn Barf gave me a hard time when I got to it. It knotted and tangled and generally misbehaved. Just like…yarn barf. Or perhaps yarn bulimia, as Tammy suggested in the Comments. Not at all like expensive organic cotton should conduct itself at all. Hope it doesn’t happen with this next ball. Yes, I performed another join on this stuff. Urp! (I’m not sure I like joining cotton at all!) I’ve finished the waist on the Unmentionables and I’m only partway into my third ball out of 7! I think the pattern overestimates or there’s more used in the wide lace on the legs than it seems. I’m getting slightly smaller gauge than the 22 sts/30 rows. Mine is 22.5 sts/30 rows. But that’s just fine since it’s still somewhat too big for my granddaughter anyway. The Sublime organic cotton DK yarn has 120 yds per 50 g skein versus the pattern’s Valley Yarns Longmeadow at 117 yds per 50 g skein so that’s not the problem either. We shall see how many skeins it actually takes when I’m done, eh?

The pattern calls for grafting the crotch seam at the end but I’m getting tired of the extra weight of the stitch holders so I’m grafting it before I start on the lace edgings. Doesn’t matter one whit in the end anyway. Do you change the order of working patterns from what the directions specify? I do it all the time. I usually start a sweater with the sleeves instead of the back, for instance. I use the sleeves for a gauge swatch since they’re (usually) small, at least at the beginning if worked cuff upward. If it’s not working out I have more to frog than a swatch though especially if I do both sleeves at once, which I do for flat but not circular ones. However it’s better than if I started the back which is often the biggest piece. It’s not that I’m too lazy to swatch. I actually made 3 for the Hepburn Cardi and still ended up frogging most of both sleeves! I think they don’t tell you quite enough information sometimes.

Speaking of the Hepburn Cardi, I’m still plugging away on it. It’s become my TV knitting because I’ve got the pattern down to instinct by now. I’m nearly up to the armholes on the fronts, which of course I’m knitting at the same time on the same circular needle. When they’re done then it’s blocking, seaming and borders. When I say it like that, it sounds like it’s almost done! Not. Well, I still have more than 2 months before its one-year anniversary which is my goal date to finish.

And speaking of cardis, I’ve been hunting for something to knit The Princess KiKi to go with her Unmentionables out of the yarn that I didn’t use for them. It’s a bright pink Smart superwash wool in DK weight and I like the Eyelet Yoke Cardigan free pattern from Lion Brand. The pattern is by Sarah Hoadley (on Ravelry as sdhoadley) and is very cute. Hers is even in a similar colour! However the yarn called for is worsted weight (17 sts per 4 inches) and mine is 22 sts per 4 inches. I can’t use a larger size because it only goes up to a 4 which would fit her now as is. I think I need to resize it for the smaller gauge and slightly larger size that I need. Also I was wondering why the pattern was knit in separate flat pieces and then the fronts, sleeves and back are arranged on a circular needle and the yoke knit up to the neck. The sides and sleeve seams are stitched afterward. Apparently from comments on Ravelry if you knit the body and sleeves circular and then try to work them all together for the yoke it’s very tight to knit the first few rows when you join it up. So I can’t decide which way to go with that. It will take some thinking, methinks.

Meanwhile, I’ve charted the lace edging for the ruffles on the Unmentionables. For the first time I made a custom stitch in Knit Visualizer for “bind off”. The first font I used looked fine on the screen but didn’t print the same symbol as the one it should have. I changed to another font with a similar symbol set and it worked fine so I don’t know what’s up there. The JKnit font is the one that didn’t work properly but one called LaceKnit worked correctly. I’m going to need to play with this some more and if there are more problems I’ll ask Nancy, KV’s programmer, for suggestions on what might be going on. She is very good at support.

You know when it’s time to get out the vacuum when you start naming the dust bunnies and counting their offspring. I should vacuum them up before they start growing carrots in all the dirt around here.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Yarn Barf

A good name for this happenstance, no? Thanks for teaching it to me, Tammy. I never knew I’d have a use for the term quite so soon though. I’d show you the Unmentionables themselves but they’re not really very exciting at this point while Im heading up toward the waist. Knit, knit, knit. Better a Finished Object, yes?

Sea ‘n’ Sky Socks

Begun: March 19, 2008

Completed: April 8, 2008

Yarn: SRK On Your Toes 4ply sock yarn, 75% superwash/25% nylon with aloe, was white ON220904 and I dyed it myself with Telana and a wee smidge of acid dyes.

Needles: Clover Takumi 5” dpns, size 2mm

Pattern: Synesthesia Socks pattern by Sarah Fama, slight modifications as noted in comments.

Comments: I worked the pattern as called for except of course with smaller needles. I did 6 repeats before the heel flap. I also kept one stitch on either side of the sole in purl so that it continued the p2 between the patterned upper foot and the plain sole. I did the toe my usual way though hers is shaped a little more blunt by decreasing more quickly towards the end. In the first decrease row of the toes, I used the reverse decreases to the usual toe ones on the top of the foot (k2tog on the right and ssk on the left) just to follow through with the way the pattern was worked there. It looked much better than trying to immediately force the stitches the opposite way. The second and subsequent decrease rows were as normal.

BTW, do you know how hard it is to photograph your own foot?

I managed to get 20 minutes on the elliptical trainer this morning. Yay! I’d been avoiding it with all the migraine nonsense of the last several days. Not fun shaking up an aching head. (Trust me on this one.) I wonder why exercise always makes me so hungry? I might get more fit but I’ll never lose any weight at this rate unless I can stay away from stuffing my face the minute I get off the trainer.

It finally stopped raining but the weather is still going to be changeable according to the weatherman. I’m waiting for it to warm up above 8 C. which it’s supposed to do by Saturday. I’ll be sure to yell it from the rooftops if we finally get some nice sunshine accompanied by actual warmth.

Question To Ponder

Why do websites/blogs so often have teensy little type that these aging eyes find so hard to see? I have to use the old Zoom (CTRL +) to get the words big enough to be read. Nothing should be smaller than 12 pt type, people! And dark on a very pale or white background too, if you please. Much as I love the colourful personal design factor (and use it myself occasionally), a dark background with light letters is just too difficult to bother with. I wear progressive lenses and there’s only a very small area in which I can see my monitor clearly! If you want me to read it, make it visible. I’m sure I’m not the only one with this problem.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

April Showers Just Get You Wet

Today is better for my head but not for poor T-Man who spent three hours (and lots of money) at the dentist. I think it’s a good thing to get all our old amalgam fillings replaced and crowns, caps or whatever done before we can’t afford it any more. His extended medical insurance is paying for some of it but apparently our dentists are expensive. But excellent. Sometimes you do get what you pay for. On the upside he gets a day off work!

In a fit of work myself now that I’m not feeling quite so crappy, I got the Sea ‘n’ Sky Socks done. They’re currently drying on the bathroom counter. I need to get an on-the-foot shot because the Synesthesia pattern behaves in a very interesting way and the socks tend to accordion fold up sideways when not being worn. I did remember to take a before-the-bath shot so you can see just how textured it was:

I also found some red wool, an old fine singles weaving yarn from the stash, and knitted up one of the hearts. I stuffed it with brown wool fleece and fulled it as much as I could on my washboard. Because I used finer wool and size 2.75 mm needles (instead of the 9US/5.5mm the pattern called for) it came out nearly half the size at about 2 inches tall. The wool stuffing shrinks somewhat, unlike polyester, and the dark colour doesn’t show through the stitches. You have to stuff fairly fat though or it gets lumpy inside when fulled. Here’s the before and after shots:

I want to add a beaded hanging loop and some scattered beads stitched over the surface front and back. And then make 7 more for the swap that I’m in. It only took about 45 minutes to knit and stuff the first one and once I’ve gotten the pattern down it will speed up some. I hope the beading goes as quickly. I need to complete one all the way before I continue in a more assembly-line fashion with the rest. But first I have to decide which beads to use!

After all that success, I also finished the second leg of the Unmentionables and attached them together so I can carry on up to the waist. Nice plain knitting for awhile with a few decrease rounds thrown in to keep me awake. This pattern keeps the lacy exciting parts for the end. They’re looking big for The Princess but not too huge. That gives her space to wear them for much longer than if I made them in a smaller size.

I forgot to mention the gift I made for Chris of Joybilee Farm for her donation of woad seeds that she sent me. I used 4 of T-Man’s little blue lampworked beads and made a set of 4 stitch markers, 3 smaller and one slightly larger to serve as the beginning of the row marker. The wire loops and spacers are sterling silver and the keeper loop is hammered copper. I always like to have a keeper to save me from fishing around for my markers. You can even “pin” them to your knitting or inside your knitting bag. I had to go to the postal outlet to mail the envelope because it was too thick with the bubble wrap to go regular letter mail and it had to be hand-cancelled. I took the photo quickly so it isn’t the best quality:

Have I made up yet for not having photos in the last three posts?

Monday, April 07, 2008

Rain Rain Go Away

And take my headache with you, if you please! Yes, it’s Day 3 of migraine hell. Though today is not quite so bad so far. It’s more like what I refer to as a “migraine hangover” where I feel tired and muzzy and a bit queasy but the head isn’t as painful as it was. I’m taking it easy today anyway. I keep feeling if I jiggle my head too much the drilling ache will return. Meanwhile don’t ask me anything complicated because I may not be able to string enough thoughts together to answer.

No photos again either. Sorry. Bad blogger Damselfly. It’s so dark I need supplemental light which is not good on my migrained eyeballs and you know how I hate using the flash on my camera anyway. And I’m sure not going outside because my camera doesn’t have a Gore-Tex raincoat to wear. I almost drowned just taking my little seedlings out to the greenhouse where they just might be staying now until I can plant them. It’s a bit warmer at night now and they’ve had nearly a week of the in-out-in shuffling. They can just suck it up and get used to being semi-outside now. Oh yeah, and the peas aren’t even planted yet though I had hoped to get them in this weekend. They’d need little tiny wetsuits to survive out there.

I’m up to the toes on the Sea ‘n’ Sky Socks so they should be done today or tomorrow at the latest. I’m done the second leg of the Unmentionables so now I can join them and start on the hip section. And I need to get really serious about the 8 Hearts Swap Project because I only have a week or two before they should be in the mail to the eastern US. As me auld great-uncle Tam used to say “Time’s a-wasting”!

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Migraine Day Two

OK, enough already. Can somebody stop whoever it is that’s trying to drill a hole through my head behind my eyes? Advil gel caps which usually work fine aren’t even touching this one. It must be the weather because I can’t think of another reason. Haven’t even had a glass of wine for two days. Sniff! The weather has been really changeable — sunny one minute, clouding over darkly and dumping rain and hail the next. We went for our usual walk and got too warm in the sunshine with our raincoats and woolies but later had to put them back on when it changed to cold hard rain with some hail mixed in on our way home. Good thing we both had umbrellas but my pant legs were dripping wet by the time we got in the door.

While we were at the magazine shop, I found a cute but rather expensive magazine (actually nearly a soft cover book) from UK knitting magazine Simply Knitting. It’s called “Irresistible Gifts To Knit” and the patterns are animals and other characters designed and knit by Alan Dart and they are simply too adorable! Usually without being sickly-sweet too or I wouldn’t like them so much. There’s a whole farm full of animals, gnomes, Noah’s Ark, Nativity, bunnies at the beach (this one had me laughing so hard tears came), a pirate, mermaid, momma chicken, Jack O’Lantern and more. They were already published in Simply Knitting but are now together in one “bookazine”. BTW these are not all soft and cuddly stuffies. Some of the animals use straws to stiffen the legs and pipe cleaners to help pose arms, trunks, snakes etc. Often the legs are glued and accessories and poses are stitched into place. So they are more like “art dolls” than toys and wouldn’t hold up to a lot of rough play from a small child. Some might be more amenable to adventures. I’m trying to decide who should be first on the needles! But not until I get something else off them.

Another special issue magazine I got was from Cloth Paper Scissors focusing on Studios. Now I know that I’m truly normal! I could so relate to these studios except that most of the artist/craftspersons didn’t have as many books or tools and supplies for as many different crafts as I do. Some of the spaces are truly inspirational though. Editor Patricia Bolton got a wonderful studio makeover out of the deal but I particularly loved Sara Lechner’s vast Austrian hay loft and the huge Florida studio of Mary Fisher, especially her wet studio’s lovely deep stainless sinks. (Envy. Though I guess I shouldn’t since I actually have a pretty functional dye studio myself.) They are all mixed media artists. I don’t think I mix my different crafts up enough. Something I need to work on maybe.

So I’ve almost finished the translation of the more complex Japanese knitting symbols that I’ve been working on. I’m just waiting for help on one last one that I can’t figure out. It’s interesting that some stitches can be done more than one way as long as the results look the same in the end. I’ve been thinking and I’m not sure whether I should publish my translations here. However leave me a message or a comment if you are struggling with the Knitting Patterns Book 250 and can’t figure out p. 123.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Even More Random Friday

For those who weren’t able to guess, that was a raccoon who visited my water garden — again — and left his or her muddy footprints on my deck. Often they will knock the spout and The Auk (my lovely rusting metal bird) into the water but this time they left it alone. I used to have glass bubbles in there and water plants but they were too big of a temptation. Both for the raccoons and the grandkids! So I just have pretty rocks in the bottom now. The raccoons tend to come around early in the morning while it’s still dark, even earlier than I get up, so I rarely see them. They are not discouraged by the motion-sensor light on the garage either. Cheeky brats. No wonder they wear bandit masks.

I went along to my Spectrum Study Group yesterday. We had a lovely time solving Guild problems. working on small projects and deciding what we were going to do for the next few months. Our new Study Project that we came up with could be really interesting. Since we usually manage to avoid finishing anything and instead collect a heap of samples, this time we will actually insist on a completed product: make a bag or purse or tote using a particular word for inspiration. We each picked a book (there are a lot of them layered on Jo Anne’s coffee table!) and randomly selected a page and chose a word from the text there. Then we passed that word to the person on our right. I got “sari” from Cathie and passed on “landscape” to Masami. Some of the other words were “pandemonium” and “checkerboard” but I can’t remember the rest because I was already thinking about how to use “sari” and what I would make. I even spent some time this morning thinking about it while I should have been sleeping. I could use a small wrist bag that will hold a ball of yarn while I’m knitting. And I would like to use my Indian metal sequins and wooden block stamps from Maiwa on it. That’s as concrete as I’ve gotten so far.

Speaking of Maiwa, they have some excerpts from the last Symposium in podcast format. You can download them individually or subscribe in iTunes. I was present at two of the lectures (Elizabeth Barber and Jane Callender) but it’s lovely to hear some of it again. Jane’s is a video podcast too so you can see as well as hear. Her indigo shibori is breathtaking! And I got to see and touch some of it in person. Whee!

While the members of Spectrum were all working on various projects (beading a name tag, pasting another Miao sewing kit, knitting paper yarn into a scarf, needle felting etc.) Masami and I poured over The Scary Page of Symbols in my Knitting Patterns Book 250. These are the truly complex ones that aren’t diagrammed, just written instructions in Japanese. And my new Clear & Simple Knitting Symbols book doesn’t go quite that far since these are very specialized symbols that are rarely used, maybe only in this book? I don’t know for sure, but Masami can both knit and read Japanese so we puzzled many of them out together. It was excellent brain exercise, that’s for sure! I will try to write up what we discovered in more detail later in case there are others out there having trouble with this book who don’t have a dear, patient and most generous friend like Masami handy.

And speaking of study groups, I just realized that I need to have 8 pieces completed and sent off for a Complex Weavers Beads & Interlacements Study Group swap before the end of the month. The theme is “hearts” and I’ve decided to knit and felt hearts and apply beads to them after as a small ornament. I plan to use the Heartfelt pattern from Berroco because I thought it was cute with its little curly point. However I haven’t located any suitable yarn in the stash yet. Whether I will spin or dye or purchase or some combination of the above, I’d better get a move on if I want to meet the deadline.

Meanwhile I’ve almost finished the second leg of the Unmentionables. I had to join in a new ball of yarn which made me very nervous. It’s not like cotton will spit-splice like wool. And I was knitting circularly which means there are no side-seams to hide the join in. I had to separate the plies and twist them together. It’s fairly inconspicuous if not entirely invisible. I just hope it holds up to washing and wearing.

I also got a little farther on the feet of the Sea ‘n’ Sky Socks while at the Spectrum meeting. Though I did screw one sock up somewhat and had to switch to the other one until I could fix the mistake this morning when I was fresh. Luckily having two socks on the go at the same time means that I have options. I also got in some more on the fronts of the Hepburn Cardi while watching TV last evening. It seems that working on so many projects at once that none of them go very fast but at least there is some visible progress on each one.

It’s raining today so I can’t really take any good photos nor can I get out to plant my belated peas and onions. While I’m waiting for the weather to cooperate, I can peruse the Thr3fold Journals that I borrowed from Jo Anne so I can see if I need to get them for myself. These are inspirational surface design books each with accompanying CD which include videos as well as picture files and other information that complements the books. The authors are a British mother and daughter, Linda and Laura Kemshall, and a local Canadian quiltmaker, Catherine Nicholls. Jo Anne’s copies are personally autographed by Catherine!

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Random Wednesday

You know those people who have certain days for certain things on their blog? Well I’m not one of them because I just can’t be that organised. And then there’s the ones who can keep on topic. Not me. I’m all over the map with whatever interests me at the moment. I don’t even always have photos to get your attention. Nevertheless there must be a few of you who faithfully slog through my ramblings (flittings?), probably skipping merrily over the boring bits. You don’t comment much but I know you’re out there because I get a weekly traffic report from Sitemeter! Handy that.

So have you seen the photos on Flickr from Yarn Harlot’s Inexplicable Knitter Behaviour Toronto photo-scavenger hunt? Some of them are very good and some are amusing. I watched all of them as a slide show while starting on the second leg of the Unmentionables. Here’s the first leg and why I love the Denise needle set:

I just popped on a joining piece and another cable and slid the stitches on hold over. Then stuck stoppers on the ends and put the tips back on the original cable all ready to start the second leg. I put the crotch stitches on its own holder. Easy-peasy.

No other knitting has gotten done recently. I was too busy washing 4 loads of laundry, cooking a huge pot of soup, changing the bed sheets and chopping that darned rhubarb. I’m still not down to the bottom of the now-yellow-blotched bucket. (Rhubarb stains plastic. Who knew? You should see my vinyl gloves too. Makes me glad I'm wearing them.) It’s much more work than I expected though it’s easier to chop than the madder was. There seems to be more of it somehow even though it filled the same bucket. It might have helped if I hadn’t already chopped all the veggies and ham for the soup pot. My neck with it’s degenerative disks doesn’t allow too much pressing downward without lots of breaks in between sessions. I certainly don’t want to lose feeling in another finger (one is too many already) so I’m rather careful about this.

You’d think I’d be tempted to work on the Circus Blanket again with the lovely early morning sun shining on it. But no. Maybe later today.

The sun coming in does make me inordinately happy all the same. I mostly don’t mind the rain and I have to say the giant snowflakes and hail and thunder and lightning we’ve had recently were kind of exciting in their own way. But you can’t beat early spring sunshine for cheerfulness.

Question to Ponder:

Why does it creep me out to hear folks refer to their pet dog or cat as if they were a child? Saying “you’re just Momma’s baby girl” in a high squeaky voice to a dog is icky, people. And what’s worse is when they carry them around in snugglies and push them in strollers and let them sleep in their bed with them under the covers. Ewww. There are so many neglected and abused children in this world. Why are there more pampered pets than loved and cared for children? Is it because pets are always dependant on you and love you anyway, no matter what? Whereas children grow up and have their own lives and forget to call you unless they want something. But that’s the whole point of parenting, to help a human become an independent responsible adult. And then there’s all the folks in the world who don’t have adequate food when most of our pet animals are eating very well indeed.

Don’t get me wrong — I love animals. Even ones that other people don’t like, such as snakes and lizards and spiders and crows. And I’m not denigrating pets. I have had lots of them in my life (along with the kids). Everything from fish and a turtle to rats and angora rabbits and right now it’s the geriatric mom and daughter cats. And though they sleep on my bed in the daytime, they have their own bed at night downstairs with the door shut. I like my privacy and only share my bed with my spouse, thankyouverymuch. Pets are companions and entertainment but they’re not child-substitutes. Are they going to look after you when you’re old and infirm? Of course not. You’re going to look after them when they’re old. And I’d love to know what happens to all those plastic bags of crap in the landfill. At least they could use biodegradable bags. Now all you pet lovers are going to send me hate messages, aren’t you? Gwan, I can take it.

This animal is not a pet but a pest. Can you tell who visited my water garden again this morning? Across the deck:

And down the stairs. At least he (or she?) didn’t knock the spout and The Auk into the water this time. How come I never get to catch the sneaky critter in the act? Just the evidence after the fact.