Saturday, May 31, 2008

Smells Like Dead Fish

No, not you — it’s me. I’ve been out in the garden today wrestling more of my seedlings into the soil. It’s a lovely day, not too warm, with some sun and high cloud. To keep all my transplants from wilting I filled the watering can numerous times with fish fertilizer diluted with water. Hence the stinkiness. It takes mucho washing to get it off. I even did a sink full of dishes but my hands still smell. Ewww…Anyway the plants like it even if I don’t.

I finally got my woad seedlings in their bed. Here’s one:

They’re probably teensier than they should be at this point but they have been growing very nicely in pots until their bed was finally ready. I was only going to plant half a dozen but since I had a whole dozen plants, I shoved them all in. Hope they aren’t too close together but I imagine I’ll lose a few because they are in kind of a vulnerable spot on the outside edge of our front garden beside the boulevard where folks walk along the grass with kids and dogs. It gets lots of sun there though especially in the morning. Really sunny spots are kind of rare in our yard so I hope they appreciate the fact that they are displacing the perennials that could have been there instead! BTW there’s a great UK website on woad here.

I’ve been rather quiet for the past few days because I’ve been very busy. Can’t mention most of it but yesterday I went to one of my LYSs and fell in love with a African handmade basket:

They got a new shipment in recently from The Baba Tree Basket Company and these are “fairly traded” so the weavers get a truly fair share of the profits. I’ve wanted one of these for ages but didn’t find exactly the right one before. It’s about 40 cm (15”) across and has a strong leather-covered handle so I can use it for shopping or to hold a large WIP or for carrying craft supplies. It has a natural tilt that I find quite charming.

I was going to post the details on Stargazer’s Socks that match his pullover sweater, but I haven’t quite got it written up yet. So, since T-Man has gone off to our nephew’s stag party, I should get some more work done on the Big Secret Project. The finished Smaller Secret Project will be given to his fiancée tomorrow at the wedding shower so I’ll be able to blog about it after that. I’m such a teaser, hey? In my defense I know they read this blog so Mum’s The Word! But first, I can still smell dead fish. Maybe I need a shower myself? The wet kind. With plenty of soap.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

I'm A Little Verklempt

Walk around feeling like a leaf.
Know you could tumble any second.
Then decide what to do with your time.

From the poem The Art of Disappearing by Naomi Shihab Nye*

I would like to personally thank each and every one of you who sent me condolences and expressions of sympathy on losing both my elderly cats in such a short time. However, Blogger doesn’t make it easy to respond individually to my comments. You will have to suffice with knowing that I truly appreciate your messages and it makes me feel warm that I have so many readers who care about me and mine. Some of you I know in person and some are friends made online and some are my Secret Readers who never post a comment but I know you’re out there. My traffic reports tell me so! Big Hugs to you all. May your threads never tangle.

Meanwhile, I managed to get the last pick of the Circus Blanket thrown yesterday just as the kids drove up in the car. Babysitting the grandchildren made me realize how much important stuff I still have in my life. We had a great time! We went to the park to play for awhile, the Princess played with Play-Doh, we all played with our mini soccer ball on the deck and then we picked the asparagus and over-wintered broccoli and watered the tomatoes. Here’s Princess In Pink ordering everyone to line up:

Notice how she’s always out of focus? Too busy to catch. And Stargazer manning the cash register:

Those gorgeous blue eyes can definitely pierce the sky — or at least this granny’s heart! Best of all when T-Man and their parents got back The Ninja took us all out for sushi. Poor sushi restaurant! They were very busy and we left them with sticky rice and fish roe all over the floor thanks to Stargazer’s eating habits! Tipped big to hopefully make up for some of the mess.

I was surprised to have made it right to the end of the blanket warp without running out of all the colours or changing the pattern from the stripes. It turned out to be a fabulous stash-buster. Check out the major-sized dust bunnies under there!

Pay no attention to the crappy selvedges and uneven beating but did you notice that I forgot to put the warp over the knee beam? Duh! Shows you how little I weave these days that I could forget what that great big chunk of dust-collecting wood is for, hey? If I’d noticed earlier I could have lifted it off, slipped it under the warp and put it back in it’s place. But I didn’t notice until...just this minute while looking at the photo. There’s yet more fuzz on the floor under the treadles to be vacuumed up but first I have to cut the cloth off the loom. Still the blanket story isn’t done because I’m not going to finish putting it together yet. There’s a Secret Project to be done first and it bugs me that I can’t blog about it! Yet. I’m saving up photos and stuff for later next month when I can safely post the details. So that doesn’t leave me much to say meanwhile! I know — anyone who knows me knows that I never run out of things to discuss. I’m sure I’ll think of something. In the meantime, I have work to do.

* If you haven’t discovered Naomi Shihab Nye’s poetry yet, I completely recommend it. I don’t even much like most poetry, but hers somehow speaks to me in a way I feel I can understand. It’s “accessible” as one reviewer put it and the fact she also writes for children helps. She is part American and part Palestinian and as a compulsive traveler a big focus is on peace between the world’s peoples. Try it; you’ll like it.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Following Day

I’m feeling decidedly strange today. I slept badly last night — I was too hot, my hip hurt, my back hurt, my skin felt itchy, I had many odd dreams. Not sick exactly, just uncomfortable. Perhaps it’s the stress left from yesterday’s trip to the vet. Did I mention that we upset one poor lady who was waiting for her cat to get some treatment? I unfortunately mumbled something about losing two cats in just over two weeks and she immediately wanted to know what happened. She ended up asking for a tissue to wipe her eyes, both in sympathy for what we were going through and in worry for her own cat. Oops. I didn’t mean to put it on her like that. But she asked. At least she didn’t have to pay $113 and have no cat to show for it.

So this morning I’m trying to see the positive sides of being catless. I don’t have to vacuum the crunchies and kitty litter off the basement floor several times a week. We can leave the bedroom door open at night when it’s too warm without having “let-me-join-you-in your-nice-warm-bed” meows coming from the basement door. I don’t have to pull a sheet up every day to protect the bedding from cat hair. The shredded upholstery on the living room and kitchen chairs can now be safely replaced. I can repair the claw pulls on the handwoven rugs and they will stay repaired. We can finally buy a new rug for the dining room without fear that it will become a scratching pad. We can go on vacation whenever we like without having to find someone to feed the beasties. There are upsides to this situation. But it’s going to take awhile to get used to the idea and to get out of our former habits. As T-Man calls it, The New Normal. Meanwhile I miss the old fuzzbutts.

I may have to babysit the grandkids later today so I’m going to try to get some more weaving done on the Circus Blanket. The end of the warp still hasn’t come over the back beam so there’s maybe a yard left. I’m running out of many of the colours of weft yarns so I’ll be reduced to weaving black, dark green and red at the end. If the resulting fabric is too long, I may be able to cut a small lap throw out of the most bizarre section. We’ll see. Meanwhile, while I have warp I will attempt to weave it up. No use wasting anything just in case I didn’t measure correctly. I’d rather have too much fabric than too little. Though it looks like an amazing amount woven so far, I lost complete track of the length somewhere back a couple of yards. I’d take a photo of the plump cloth beam but it’s too dark today to get a good shot.

Instead I’ve been knitting on the Stargazer Socks for something mindless and portable. Hmmm…maybe we should unvent a new acronym: MAPP = Mindless And Portable Project. One should always have at least one of those about. One never knows when one might be too brain-dead for anything more complex and the desire to go sit on the deck and knit becomes too strong to ignore. Too bad it’s sprinkling with rain right now. Oh yeah. Weaving first. Right.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Following In Her Daughter's Big Footsteps

Ms Polly Manytoes

I guess she didn’t want to live without Julie, huh? In the last two weeks since her daughter died, Polly has been going downhill very quickly. We just left her at our vet’s for the final time. She wasn’t eating or drinking and there wasn’t really much he could do except perhaps prolong her life for a short while. Why? She lived a long and happy life with us. No need to force her to stay.

Nineteen years ago we had just recently lost our cat Nicky to feline leukemia when T-Man’s mom mentioned that there was a cute young cat in her neighbourhood that she thought was a stray. Of course, next time we were over visiting mom, this tabby cat with huge feet showed up for a snack so T made a snap decision and we brought her home with us. We took her to our vet (the same kind man we left her with today) and he checked her out for health. He said we should keep her for a few weeks just to make sure she was fitting in to our family and then bring her back soon to have her spayed. We watched her putting on weight, thinking she was responding nicely to her new home, but we soon realized she was pregnant! She must have just got knocked up before we brought her home because even the vet never noticed anything that first time he saw her. Later she had her five kittens in the middle of our kitchen floor even though I had made her a nice comfy bed. Watching her give birth made me grateful that I only had one baby at a time!

Polly was such a love-sponge. Never got enough of it and went begging to anyone for more! We’ll really miss her always soliciting pats and having her snuggle on our laps. Her double “thumbs” made it easy to grab my hand between her paws which could be particularly awkward if that hand had a cup of tea in it. Her only other annoying trait was sitting on the stairs where you could trip over her and not moving out of the way. Aside from that, Polly was always gentle and never bit or scratched, just like Julie was. But unlike most other cats (including her own offspring) she didn’t like catnip (but loved honeysuckle) and didn’t like canned salmon or tuna or freshly cooked chicken or turkey. She would only eat her cat crunchies and the bit of cream in the bottom of my cereal bowl and perhaps the occasional kitty treat.

Losing both of our cats in just over two weeks has been pretty stressful on both of us. Still we remain adamant that they will be the last pets — at least for the foreseeable future. All I’ve got to say is that it’s a good thing I’m weaving a blanket. I’m definitely going to need the extra warmth this winter when I can’t pull up another cat.

Another Bunch Of FOs

I was amazed at how many tawashi I ended up getting out of those 2 balls of Japanese acrylic craft yarn. Seven in total! See the whole flock?

Of course tawashi are smaller than you might think. These aren’t full-sized washcloths. In acrylic they aren’t to be used on skin anyway! Other tawashi rules are no bleach and no boiling water or microwaving. Luckily the yarn is antibacterial but throwing them in with the regular laundry is the best way to keep them clean. Apparently many are never used but kept for display only. I can understand that. They’re cute! Anyway here’s the whole scoop:


Begun: May 20, 2008
Completed: May 23, 2008

Yarn: acrylic craft yarn, worsted weight 50g = 70m, 1 ball each 107 (orange) and 113 (green), gift from Masami brought from Yuzawaya in Tokyo.
Hooks: Linked-Rings and second Frilled – 4mm Clover Soft-Touch, Spiral and first Frilled – 5mm Boye aluminum.

Patterns: free online
Linked-Rings Tawashi (PDF)
Spiral Tawashi (PDF)
Frilled Tawashi (PDF)

Comments: I did the Linked-Rings nearly as diagrammed except that I did 2 complete separate rings, joined them together with the third chain and wove the fourth chain through before joining the circle and continuing. I left off the hanging chain on all but the one I’m giving Masami as a thank you.

The Spiral got easier for the second and third ones. Tips: Leave a long end at the beginning and the end for stitching up. Bring the second colour in front of the first and through the last stitch of the previous colour. Then bring the last colour yarn to the front and around the next colour again before working the turning chain. This twists the colours and locks them up the side so they don’t show later. Sew the diagonal tube together by going through the posts of the first and last rows instead of the loops. It looks very similar to the other rows that way. When gathering the edges, slip the needle under the first loop at the end of each ridge peak. This automatically picks up every other row and they slide together nicely in a pinwheel. I only used one length of yarn to gather both sides thus locking the centres together through the middle of the puff.

I accidentally used the 5mm hook for the first Frilled tawashi – it should have been a 4mm. The “handle” should have been firmer and it used quite a lot of yarn. I used up the last of the yarn on a modified version of the Frilled one: only 6 rounds at the top (started with green and changing to orange when I ran out) and then the first round of the skirt as written. The second round used (ch1, 1 dc) twice in each space instead of the 3 dcs. I only had about a meter of orange yarn left. Then I stuffed the "handle" with yarn ends and stitched around the hole and drew the yarn up to keep them in place. It works even better than the original as a keyboard duster! I especially like the solid handle.

I used one of the Spiral puffs for the dishes for several days now (instead of my usual Dobie scrubber) and it works amazingly well even on caked-on grunge. Good thing I have 3 though because they will need to be washed fairly often.

I read on somebody’s blog (sorry, I forget whose) that summer is more relaxed than other times of the year. Her life must be completely different than mine! My quietest time is January and February. But I’m happy to give up the relaxation (along with the dark and the rain) for the sunlight and the chance to play in the dirt. If you have a garden, spring and summer are the busiest times particularly when you have to spend a ridiculous amount of time watering. Luckily that hasn’t been a problem this last couple of weeks. We seem to get rain and then some sun so things are growing quite quickly. However, no matter how hard I’ve been slaving I still haven’t finished up all the major garden work that I wanted to do. T-Man is doing his prodigious share as well and we’re still nowhere near where we’d like to be right now. Oh well. Like housework, it’s an ongoing project.

Our little local Ravelry meet-up group decided after meeting yesterday at the usual coffee shop that a field trip to my house was in order. There were only 4 of us this time so we had the tour of Damselfly’s Delightful Home for Wayward Fibres and then spent some time out on the deck with the spinning wheels and our knitting. It was very pleasant! Though if I’d known they were going to spring this on me I would have made the bed and done the dishes, not to mention vacuum up the gigantic dust bunnies under the loom. Maybe. Or maybe it just doesn’t matter that much.

Gotta take Ms Polly into the vet today. Seems she’s just not eating or drinking and is losing strength fast. I’m hoping it’s her chronic upper respiratory problem and some antibiotics will perk her up again like it did a couple of years ago. But then she’s 20 years old so who knows? I’m feeling like it’s too soon after losing Julie to think about losing her mom too. Sigh.

Friday, May 23, 2008

FO: Stargazer's Pullover

All done and ready to show off!

Stargazer’s Pullover

Begun: May 7, 2008
Finished: May 22, 2008

Yarn: S.R. Kertzer On Your Toes 4 Ply sock yarn, 75% superwash wool/25% nylon with aloe vera, Colorway ON223801, 100g = 390 yds, took 1.5 balls or approx. 585 yards.
Needles: Addi Lace circulars, 2.5mm for ribbing and 3mm for body and sleeves.
Pattern: Johnny Boy free pattern from Berroco, size 2.

Comments: Made for Stargazer’s 1-1/2 birthday. (Don’t ask.) Was a really easy knit except for shoulder and neck bands. Pattern was incorrect. It has you make 4 buttonholes in the back left-shoulder band and none on the neck-band. I changed that to 3 buttonholes on the shoulder and one on the neckband. Found cute Peter Rabbit buttons in the stash that are as old as the recipient’s daddy! Other mods: made the sleeves and body 1/2” shorter than the pattern states. Still seems too long and narrow for a small child so I’m hoping he will grow into the length before he grows out of the width. At the moment it’s much too big for him!

Here’s the button detail:

Now I’m making matching socks for him with the remaining half-ball of yarn.

Today is quite changeable and alternating sun and cloud. My tomatoes have been growing in the greenhouse:

And here’s two of the planters I did the other day:

Those are seedlings that I grew myself: coleus, clumps of lobelia (because I couldn’t separate them!) and a marigold for contrasting colour. My zucchini and pattypan squashes are starting to show flower buds but they’re still inside under the lights. I’m keeping them there until they absolutely don’t fit anymore before I will risk them getting munched in the garden. This year I want summer squash, goshdarnitall!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Weavin' Further

Continuing yesterday’s riff on weaving, I was pondering the reasons why weaving isn’t more popular. After all it’s faster than knitting (really!), makes cloth that you can use for anything you can envision, doesn’t necessarily need to be sewn (think scarves, shawls and runners), has tons of scope for invention/variation/experimentation and you can get a lot of cloth for your yarn buck. There are drawbacks of course. The big one is the equipment can be very pricey and take up a lot of space. That’s not to say that you can’t weave on tiny Weavette looms or with two clamps and a deck of cards, but most people prefer to use a floor loom. And a floor loom isn’t portable so it can be a very lonely pursuit. We don’t actually weave at guild meetings but that’s where we get our social contact from. It’s quite different from a knitting meet-up — or actually not. There’s often many folks knitting (me, for one) or occasionally spinning at a weavers meeting! Not so different at all.

However, weaving isn’t out there in your face. We don’t have official Weave In Public days. We do demonstrate in various venues but that’s probably the only contact the Muggles have with looms. It’s amazing how often I have to explain that I’m not a living history performer but I do all this stuff in real life! With modern equipment (not antiques) and often using modern fibres (tencel, bamboo, soy silk) and I even (gasp!) use a computer to design and record my work. Some weavers even use computer-driven looms. I once was told by a gentleman watching me that it was a dying art. I said I was feeling very well, thank you, and was hoping that not only would I live a long and happily crafting life but that I would also pass it on to as many others as possible before I kick off. No dying happening here. (Though dyEing, yes!) It’s just in the closet — or the studio — and not out in the open where everyone can see it.

Of course we’re having some difficulty in attracting younger members to our guild though and I think it’s a universal problem. Interestingly I often hear knitters who’ve recently discovered spinning and dyeing mention weaving as seeming very interesting. It’s not that they aren’t intrigued. But they don’t have time, money or space for yet another craft. They are busy with their work and families or whatever. They might even see us as a bunch of old ladies that aren’t terribly interesting. Or maybe intimidating. I don’t know. I know sometimes it takes newbies time to feel comfortable and to find mentors and friends, particularly if they are at all shy. We do try to be welcoming and friendly but we just might not be what they were expecting to find.

Along with the difficulties that newbies have finding their place in the Weavers’ World is that there are very few formal classes offered for them either through the guild itself or in the community. There’s a couple of reasons for this, the big one being that there just aren’t enough people to fill more classes. Also having enough proper equipment for each student is problematical. Putting a beginner on a crappy table loom is an exercise in frustration. They have to really be fired up to work past the limitations. Truly it’s a rare person who can afford to put out hundreds or thousands of dollars on a new hobby before they even know if they like it or not. It’s not like knitting where you just need a couple of pointy sticks and a ball of yarn or spinning where you only need a spindle and some roving to get started. Weaving is a much bigger leap.

That’s not to say it can’t be done. One person I know makes lovely textiles on rigid heddle looms. These are small and reasonably priced with a shorter learning curve than a shaft loom. And if you’re willing to do some pick-up or use mulitple heddles, you can get some very complex effects. Still, most folks want a “real” loom eventually but it’s an excellent and much more portable option. Another good option if you have more space is to locate a secondhand floor loom. They are usually still in good shape if reasonably cared for or can be rehabilitated. Leclerc looms are a good bet here in Canada because they are the most common manufacturer and parts and manuals are usually still available even for decades-old looms. I also have to say that not all table looms are bad! I own two of them myself and find that a floor stand is ideal so that you can sit and work. Check out the lever system to make sure that it’s comfortable for you. Leclerc Dorothys are the most notorious for noisy metal-on-metal and I break at least one fingernail every time I use one. Better than nothing (I’ve woven a surprising amount on these at workshops) but not recommended. My favourite looms are of course the ones from Woolhouse Tools and not just because John and Teruko are a small BC family business but because their equipment works really well. Unfortunately they would like to retire and the business is up for sale so I’m not sure how long their products will be available. Secondhand ones rarely come up because I’m not the only one who thinks they are great. Here’s Gertrude #27, the 45” 8-shaft 10-treadle countermarche, wearing the Circus Blanket:

And Carolyn, the 23” 12-shaft table loom on a stand with two trays, still wearing the remains of the warp from the woven shibori workshop I took ages ago:

I got my yard woven yesterday and I’m into the last third of the blanket. Less than 3 yards to go. If it seems like a honking great piece of fabric, it is. I plan to full it quite well (not to felt though) after stitching the three sections side-by-side. As I’ve said before, I need a large blanket to tuck in properly. Sort of like king-sized but for my double-sized bed. I’m aiming for around 100” square when it’s done. That way I can turn it different ways to help it wear more evenly. It’s going to last, darn it! Because I’m not doing this again any time soon.

On the knitting front, I’m nearly done the Stargazer Pullover. Just a bit of sleeve left and then stitching the side seams and blocking. I need to get today’s yard done now that I’m back from getting my hair cut (desperation!) and picking up a few groceries but I’m still hoping to complete the sweater today. That only leaves 2 projects on my needles! Oh-oh, I feel some startitis coming on.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Weave Me Alone

As I was plugging away on my daily yard of the Circus Blanket, listening to podcasts and trying to be as ergonomic as possible so as to save my back and wrists, I was thinking about why I weave. Those of you who know me through this blog or in person for only a few years might think that I don’t really weave much at all. Which is true, but only relatively recently. The truth is I have lots of weaving yarns and expensive tools and even ideas of what I’d like to make but I just haven’t gotten around to it. I kind of got out of the habit or just lost interest for awhile. For me that’s usually merely temporary because I cycle through different crafts, slowly or quickly, but rarely give up something forever. That’s why I never get rid of my equipment or materials. You never know when the bug will bite again. I actually used to weave a lot. You can tell because it’s all over my house and I make use of it every day: curtains, rugs, tea towels, napkins, placemats, runners, scarves, vests, jackets, coats and more. And at night I sleep under my blanket.

I’ve been weaving for a very long time, since the 1970’s in fact. I started with simple things: pin-weaving on cardboard, belt weaving, simple frames with nails hammered in (crookedly!) and even a forked branch. The lumpy funky earthy stuff was very popular back then. It went well with my first thick and thin handspun dyed in a canning pot in the kitchen. (My kids called it Mom’s wool soup.) I taught some of these off-loom or simple frame loom techniques at the local community centre and I remember several students being disappointed that I wasn’t going to teach them on a floor loom. I didn’t have one (yet) and the centre had no budget and nowhere to put one or the (preferably) several they would need for that type of class. And have I mentioned that I was totally self-taught? I never attended a weaving class taught by someone else until I had been weaving for years!

Eventually of course I couldn’t resist the temptation to weave bigger and faster and got a floor loom. Since I was still fairly unfamiliar with weaving equipment it was total crap, hand-built by somebody’s dad out of light flexible pine. I didn’t know any better and was happy to have something “real” to weave on. It was so lightweight it literally walked across the floor when I was beating in the weft. I kept having to push it back or risk being beaten off my bench. The beater also flexed making a straight cloth rather difficult to achieve but I still managed to make quite a number of items on it before I got a much better loom loaned to me. A long-time member of my weaver’s guild (yes I finally found it!) was rebuilding her house and needed to store a small 8-shaft Leclerc Minerva jack loom for a couple of years. Yes, please! I made a lot more things on that little 24” loom and learned about pattern weaving on 8-shafts. I also borrowed another Leclerc, a 4-shaft counterbalance this time, for another couple of years. In 1989 I finally had saved enough money to buy a good loom, an 8-shaft 45” wide Woolhouse Gertrude countermarche. This is the same loom I use most often today though I also have a 12-shaft Woolhouse Carolyn 23” wide table loom on a floor-stand and an older 24” wide 4-shaft Rasmussen table loom (which currently resides at Milady Daughter’s). And of course there is a whole collection of other needed equipment such as reeds, warping boards, shuttles, bobbins, bobbin winders, temples, etc. The stuff just accumulates. Yes, it does.

Through the years of weaving exploration I discovered the types of things I prefer to weave. I love lots of colour but also enjoy weaving complex structures — unfortunately both at the same time can create kind of a hash. (Ask me how I know!) As my old friend weaving teacher and editor Madelyn van der Hoogt says, you’re either a colour/texture weaver or a pattern/structure weaver. I tend to mostly be the latter but I’d like to hope I have more colour sense than most pattern/structure people. Of course you can’t tell any of that by my current project! It’s sort of a dog’s breakfast. I mean, a Circus! (Cue the calliope music.) Ahem.

As Syne Mitchell, podcaster (WeaveCast), editor (WeaveZine), and science-fiction book author, says: “You have to be warped to weave.”

In between weaving sessions (and avoiding the vacuuming), I’m nearly finished the Stargazer Sweater, which seems rather long and lean for a child’s sweater. I made the length of both the body and sleeves a half-inch shorter than the pattern said but it might have been better an inch shorter still. I can always hope that he’ll grow into the length before he grows out of the width. Meanwhile the sleeves can be rolled up.

I also have been having a ball crocheting tawashi. I still haven’t exhausted my two balls of Japanese yarn and have 4 done so far. There’s the Spiral Scrubbie:

And another Linked-Rings, this one with a hanging loop:

And I like this one a lot:

It makes a great keyboard duster! (Free pattern here.) I’d like to get one more Spiral out of the yarn before I run out.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Light Show

Enough with the excitement already! We’re very well watered now, thank you. The extra razzle-dazzle of thunder and lightning was a bit much however especially at 12:30 am (waking me out of a sound sleep) and then more for good measure at 6:30 am (neener-neener! I was already awake) which went on for some time. I want the nice sun back now please.

So while I was waiting for the lightning to abate before I felt safe to turn on my computer, I got some work done on my tawashi. The Linked-Rings that I mentioned yesterday was fun and fairly quick to make:

Now I want to make another one only swapping the colours. But first I’m in the middle of crocheting the Spiral Tawashi found here which is also a fun project. I can see why folks get hooked (punny!) on these things, particularly the crocheted ones which go very fast. Finally, a use for scratchy acrylic yarns! The Japanese crochet charts are not hard to follow even if you can’t read the words. The only hard part is figuring out how to assemble the finished puff but there are helpful notes on its Ravelry pattern page. Have I mentioned how much I love Ravelry? So much inspiration and information. I will never lack for things to make! Ever. Now I want to make a set of Swiffer covers. Why continue to use disposables? Yes, there are several patterns for such things, both knit and crochet.

I promised to show the llama and alpaca samples that I spun up but I had to wait for enough natural light for the photography session:

It was an interesting little selection. From the top that’s white de-haired llama, tan huacaya alpaca (the little fuzzy guys) and white suri alpaca (the ones with long shiny locks). I spun them all on my Louet Victoria wheel using the regular flyer and the 8.5 (middle) ratio. The llama was spun with a short forward draw and a fairly tight tension to give a fast draw-in. I was afraid to overtwist it! It had a few neps and a little vm but was pretty soft and nice. You can still see a few long straight guard hairs but most have been removed. It felt like spinning kid mohair blended with angora bunny and the resulting plied yarn in approximately fingering weight is very soft and has a halo. The huacaya alpaca was a very nicely carded sliver and spun easily with a supported long-draw. There was almost no vm and the plied yarn has a nice fuzzy surface but is the coarsest of the three fibres. Still quite soft though and is a similar size as the llama but more spongy. It reminded me of spinning dog down only much softer. The suri alpaca was spun with a slightly looser tension in a short forward draw at a finer lace weight. It has a nice sheen and a bit of halo and is still very soft. I thought mostly of very soft baby kid mohair as I was spinning it. I finished all the yarns as per Judith MacKenzie McCuin’s Torture Treatment by washing the yarn then rinsing in hot water and then cold, alternating a few times and ending by smacking the skeins on the Formica bathroom counter several times, rotating them around to reach every part. This kind of fulls the yarn a little and makes it nice and fluffy. I didn’t go so far as to get out the toilet plunger though. This extreme finishing isn’t recommended for all yarns but does a lovely job if you plan to knit with the llama and alpaca and don’t want a lot of shrinkage or felting afterward. I don’t really have enough to sample knitting however. Or maybe I’m just too lazy.

The suri alpaca is still quite rare but very popular with farmers and fibre fanatics. It is a finer and softer fibre than the huacaya and has the shine that the latter lacks. The animals are also quite different in both look and temperament. There’s an interesting but somewhat technical article in PDF here on the suri from a breeders’ association website.

Did I mention that my 8 Hearts Swap turned up? Whew. The swap mistress found it at her ex’s after we found out that I accidentally sent it to her former instead of her current address. Of course he didn’t mention that she had mail waiting there for two weeks. At least he didn’t do something nasty with it. Thanks goodness. So I’ll show you what I get in trade when it comes. She’s waiting on one more submission.

Hmmm…my pleading must have worked some because I think it’s brightening up! I certainly can see that I need to vacuum. Or maybe the dead flies were a hint?

Monday, May 19, 2008

I Wasn't Complaining

But now I am! After the lovely hot and mostly sunny last few days, the weather did a complete about face again and it’s raining. I wouldn’t mind so much since I now can get a rest from the gardening and everything needed watering anyway, but such an abrupt change in barometric pressure gives me a migraine. Bleh. Still not too cold though which makes it easier to take and it’s supposed to clear up and be warmer again by Thursday. However I really wish the weather would go merrily riding on its rollercoaster without taking my poor head along for the ride.

So I’ve decided which tawashi (scrubbie) to make first with my new Japanese acrylic craft yarn. This one is crocheted and it’s called “Ringu tsunagi no tawashi” or Linked-Ring Tawashi. Free pattern here. (Click on the PDF link to the right beside the symbol below the button that looks like a page.) You don’t need to read Japanese if you are able to decipher the crochet symbols. A chart with accompanying videos is here. The hook used is Japanese size 7.0 or 4mm. It shouldn’t take up too much of my yarn since tawashi are generally quite small. Then I’ll have a chance to try a different one. There are lots of patterns, both knitted and crocheted, free online. I even found a Ravelry group dedicated to tawashi called Tawashi Town.

I’m partway down the first sleeve on the Stargazer Sweater. It’s easy knitting as long as I can keep count of the decreases so it should go quickly. This will be a very short post because I want to get some weaving done today. But my head still hurts and I need more Advil first.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Waving From The Heat-Wave

I forgot to tell you about the wonderful present I was given the other day at my guild meeting:

It’s acrylic yarn made specially for “tawashi” (scrubbies) and such from one of the Yuzawaya stores in Japan. This page ought to give you an idea. They’re kind of like a Michael’s or Jo-Ann’s only bigger and with more stuff! It was so full of art and craft supplies including beads and yarns that my friend Masami and her husband were nearly overwhelmed but she still managed to find just my colours. What a sweetie! Having to shop for me in three floors worth of crafty heaven. Sigh. Hardship, eh?

Thanks for all the kind comments about my Chocolate Sweater! It really does fit me quite well apart from the shoulders being a smidge too wide for my narrow rounded shoulders. That’s kind of par for the course though along with the sleeve length which in this case worked out just right. I hope to get quite a lot of wear out of it now that it’s done. However it might just have to wait for cooler weather.

No sweater-wearing occurring right now though. We’re having a welcome heat wave at the moment. It was even somewhat difficult to sleep last night under a single cotton sheet for most of the night but I’m not really complaining. We deserve some nice warm weather around here. I got the tomatoes planted today (yay!) and more things transplanted around. We picked up some nice green plastic planters for my coleus that I like to put on the upper deck. We got some house paint too so we can paint the siding. It’s a bit darker red than the old Navaho Red colour but we couldn’t get the same paint anymore. Now it’s Redwood instead. There’s also more of the violet-blue that I used for all my doors so now the garage doors can match the house. But we still need to get some slightly tinted transparent protector for the deck. Home maintenance is never-ending isn’t it? I’m so ready for T-Man to go back to work tomorrow just so I can have a holiday even if he can’t. He’s saving up the time and planning to use that day later in June for a family camping trip.

I’m up to the sleeves on Stargazer’s Sweater with the collar done already and buttons all sewn on. I found some really cute ones in the stash. They’ve only been marinating since Stargazer’s daddy was little! So they’re quite appropriate. I’ll show you later. Plus I’ve just woven into the second third of the Circus Blanket. Still working the pattern as established because I still have yarn including all the colours on bobbins. Can’t break out really wild until the end I think. Or at least until I’ve run out of a lot of the colours and I see what’s left. Nearly 6 yards left to weave. Yikes. I can only do about 20 - 30" per day. I will definitely weave more tomorrow.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

The Chocolate Sweater, Finally

"If you always do what interests you, at least one person is pleased.” - Katharine Hepburn
I had this post written but not posted because I was so darned busy all day yesterday and half of today. The weather turned hot so I had to get out in the garden and then of course, T-Man wanted to walk. Today’s second long walk was my own fault but more on that later.

Backing up to Thursday, it only took me a minute of looking to find some really nice metal shank buttons in a copper colour with a Celtic-knot-like design on it. Kind of like pennies but with more interesting designs than queens or dead presidents. They were only 2 for 49 cents! I also got some more small tapestry needles for sewing up sock toes or other thin yarns. I’m always losing them. That was another 49 cents. And of course I couldn’t pass up the huge cones of thread at 99 cents each, so I got 4. They used to be $2.99 but now that they’re running out of stock, they’re even cheaper. They have several different types including Coats Koban (poly-wrapped cotton) in a couple of weights, pure polyester, a Canadian-made poly-cotton in a 24 weight, and a heavier pure cotton. I once even found a waxed cord. The cones are over a pound each and run from 2000 to as much as 6000 yds per cone so they aren’t as fine as regular machine sewing thread. All will be great for weaving, kumihimo or decorative sewing though. This time I got red, yellow, dk green and medium grey. I passed on more only because I couldn’t carry them! The whole bill came to $7.46 including taxes. Can’t beat that.

I sewed 3 of the buttons on my Chocolate Sweater in the bus on the way to my guild meeting. Most of the rest of them were applied during the business part of the meeting and I would have finished except that I couldn’t find the last button card with the last 2 on it. (I had to take everything out of my pack when I got home to find it!) The Program we had was really interesting though so I stopped button-hunting to pay attention. It was a discussion of llama and alpaca fibre by Gretchen Hoff, also known as the Scattered Gardener. Gretchen owns 30 animals from which she gets the lovely fibres that she has processed for sale. She also was accompanied by her buddy Susan Forsyth of woolcomb fame. (I own a blending hackle and mini-combs made by Susan and her husband Andrew.) Susan demonstrated combing llama to rid it of the prickly guard hair. After combing and while the fibre was still on the combs, she pulled off the hairs which were sticking out and ready to be removed. At the end after doffing some were left along with the really short down, vm and noils on the stationary comb. Easy-peasy! Only a very little of the coarse hairs were left in the combed fibre when she was done and it felt much softer and nicer. Later Gretchen used the mini-combs to comb some badly processed baby alpaca where the combs removed a majority of the broken neps thereby saving a crappy but expensive sliver. Very slick. Susan had brought along some of her garments including nuno felt scarves, lace shawls and a little purse knitted out of the llama guard hair. Gretchen even gave out labeled samples of dehaired llama, huacaya alpaca and suri alpaca so that the spinners among us could try them out. Nice to see and feel things in person. We textile folk tend to learn a lot through our fingers. I’ve nearly spun up all the samples so I’ll show them off when I’m done.

For now I bet you wanted to see the full Chocolate Sweater revealed in all its glory, right? OK, you win. Unless you’ve already peeked at my Ravelry page.

Chocolate Sweater

Begun: July 2007
Completed: May 15, 2008

Yarn: Shepherd 4 ply crepe, 100% NZ wool, 1.2 cones = 1920.0 yards (1755.6m), Colour 8475, Brown.
Needles: Addi Lace circulars, 3.25mm for ribbing and 3.75mm for body & sleeves.

Pattern: Katharine Hepburn Cardigan, by Kathy Zimmerman, from Lace Style (2007)
Size made: 40.5”

Comments: So glad to be done with this project! It took me nearly a year in total. (After knitting most of the sleeves, the gauge was off so frogged it and started over again.) I spent a lot of time graphing out the various increases and decreases but it really helps to have a visual idea of what to do while keeping in pattern. (I love Knit Visualizer ver2!)

This yarn is at least 15 years old and has been marinating in my stash since I tried machine knitting in the early ‘90’s. It’s a lovely soft cable-twisted 100% merino wool in dark chocolate brown. A bit splitty but not too bad. It does lose its apparent sheen when washed. (In reality that’s the wax added for ease of working on the knitting machine.) And it gets a bit of a halo.

It took me the better part of a day to get it stitched together but it went well. I ignored the pattern and only put 10 buttonholes in. They seemed to fit better with the rib pattern and 10 buttons is plenty. The other modifications from the pattern are that I knit the “selvedge sts” in stockinette instead of garter, I kept the shoulder sts live and joined them with a 3-needle bind-off, and I made the body an inch longer than specified for my size. It hits me better below the blubber! The 3/4 sleeves are just about regular length on my short arms. Perfect.

I found the neckline and shoulders stretching with wear so I crocheted a single line of chain sts across from one shoulder point to the other along the seams. Worked like a charm.

Now I can get on to other things. Yesterday since it was definitely summer-like weather I was inspired to do about 4 hours work in the garden in the morning before it got too warm. I got the beans in and transplanted a few things around. I put my summer squashes in bigger pots but left them still in the house under the lights. I’m not putting them out in the garden until they are as huge as I can get them first. I’m trying to foil the sow bugs and pill bugs from eating through their stems. The tomatoes are ready to go in the greenhouse but I needed to clear the mizuna out first. I gave the bolting arugula a haircut in hopes that will keep it going for awhile longer. Meanwhile I have a huge bag of it in the fridge. Tomorrow we hope to get some more done and it promises to be a little cooler which should help.

Today, however, it’s really hot which inspired us to walk to the Trout Lake farmers market because our closer one doesn’t open until June. It was packed only a couple of hours after opening so it was hard to even get near the booths:

There was a gamelan ensemble entertaining everyone and lots of folks opting for a picnic under the trees. I can’t say I’m particularly fond of the music of the gamelan but the instruments are very beautiful:

Some popular stuff had been snapped up already from the booths and a long line-up was in front of the organic greenhouse-grown tomatoes. There were lots of seedlings and other potted plants to choose from but couldn’t carry them home so all we bought was some shiitake mushrooms from the ’Shroomy Lady (that’s what I call her!) and some yummy herbed pepper (garlic, cilantro and ginger) from Maison Coté. I’m addicted to it so I try to find Jean-Pierre’s booth at least once a year. He only sells at craft fairs and markets. We took public transit partway home because it was hot and we were tired and hungry. So hungry that we couldn’t get past our favourite sushi place without slipping in the door. Now I’m tired. And full.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Questions To Ponder

So why do I put the stove’s timer on while baking when I can’t hear the darned alarm from another room without my hearing aids on? If I wear my “ears” I get uncomfortable double-beeps when it goes off so I opted to save batteries. It was a close thing though — I nearly overcooked my precious Crustless Quiche yesterday. Isn’t it yummy-looking?

Tastes even better than it looks! Barbeque salmon, shrimp, mushrooms, onion, broccoli, cauliflower and mizuna shoots all in a matrix of organic cottage cheese, grated cheddar and eggs with a sprinkling of salt and specialty herbed pepper. De-lish! The exact innards change nearly every time I make it, apart from the cheese-egg mixture, but it’s always good. Keeps us in breakfast or lunches for several days. I’d bake it more often but it’s fairly time-consuming and I must have all the appropriate ingredients on hand. Cottage cheese seems to be the one that gets away most often. That stuff just doesn’t keep well. A ripe banana has more longevity.

Pardon me while I rant about Microsoft for a second. They’re an obvious and popular target but this time it’s my turn. Why did they change the formats for MS Office files so that those of us who have an older version need to download a special converter so we can read the damn things? What’s wrong with being backwards compatible like all the previous versions? If you can come up with a converter it should be easy to avoid needing it altogether. And what’s with the .docx suffix? It’s a prissy affectation! Well, I’m not upgrading either my computer or Office anytime soon if I don’t have to. So there, Bill. :P I’m sure you could make me need to upgrade if you wanted to, but I’m hoping you have better things to do. Like spending your millions on deserving charities or saving the world or something.

I just heard that my 8 Hearts swap package has gone AWOL and hasn’t shown up at the swap mistress’s yet. Sigh. I’m not quite giving up but I mailed them three weeks ago. They should have been there before now. Did I get her correct address? She’s moved a couple of times in the last few years and I’m not sure which is the most recent. She needs to be more clear about it when she’s sending out the reminder emails. I’ll be really pissed if they go permanently missing. Apart from the time lost, that’s around $30 in materials, postage and dues gone bye-bye.

Sorry for the uncharacteristically short post. I’m off to my weavers’ guild meeting today but I will head downtown first. I want to check out the Japanese craft books in Sophia Books and then to Dressew to get buttons for The Chocolate Sweater. Yes, I’m taking it with — I’m wearing it. Wish me luck in finding just the right buttons to complement all my knitting!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Weaving So Far

I wove quite awhile yesterday but only got 29” done. I couldn’t bring myself to stop with the changing colours every 8-row repeat. At least until I run out of most of the different coloured yarns. Or finish one section of the 3 panels for my blanket. It’s just so darned slow! I also kept getting weft loops on my right selvedge and had to unpick a row or several to correct them. Grrrr… That’s what I get for not weaving more. I lose my ability to do a good job. I won’t even show you the uneven beating. I hope most of it will come out in the fulling, which I plan to do fairly thoroughly which is why this is such a large piece of cloth.

The constant colour changes remind me too much of tapestry weaving. It’s too much fiddling and thinking. I just want to have my design set so I can get into a rhythm of throwing the shuttle. I must stop, think “which colour should be next, no that one was just a few rows ago, do I have enough of this left, need to wind more bobbins, blah, blah, blah”, change yarns in the shuttle (I only have 2 going), begin leaving a tail, weave 8 picks, cut it off and then start the series all over again. My neck and shoulders are sore from only a few hours of this.

So why am I torturing myself? Well the plan originally was to use up a ton of old wool yarn in many colours to make a new blanket for my bed. In winter we need several layers to keep us warm since I open the window some no matter what the outdoor temperature is. Otherwise I feel stifled! And I love heavy bulky covers on my bed. I just feel so comfortably snuggled under them. And I like a big enough blanket to wrap completely around my mattress and tuck in well underneath. I have a very hard time sleeping in summer with just a sheet on top. Right now it’s still cool enough at night to need several layers especially when I open the window quite wide. However, we’re supposed to have a really warm spell starting tomorrow. Couldn’t tell right this minute though. It’s still dark and rainy so my garden is getting a good watering before the sun comes out and the temps rise.

The wool yarn was in several colour families. I dyed some of it to get the soft reds and oranges of Utah rocks and some black. There’s a few tans, yellows and greens but I pulled all the purple and blue out except for one ball of blue-violet. (Gotta have some “poison” to spark up the colours!) I may yet need to buy more yarn since I have lost any idea of how much I have and how much I’ve used already. If I do, I’ll probably just get black. That should simplify weaving the last part of the warp! Right now my focus is getting the darn thing off the loom asap. I have Secret Project #3 to work on.

I know — shut up and go weave some more!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

A New Spinning Book

How about a book review? I haven’t done one of these in quite awhile. I just got the new beginner spinning book from Interweave (bought at Three Bags Full):

Start Spinning: Everything You Need To Know To Make Great Yarn by Maggie Casey. She is the owner of a fibre shop in Colorado and has taught many people how to spin over the years. This book is written at an even more beginner level than Judith MacKenzie McCuin’s book on the same subject. Maggie really holds your hand and shepherds you through each step on the way to creating your own yarn on spindle and wheel. She keeps everything simple and basic with plenty of photographs showing how to hold your hands, what the tools look like, etc. The focus is on wool rather than the other spinning fibres but, unless you are allergic, it’s the easiest to learn with anyway. There’s a helpful chapter on using your handspun yarn and it includes a mention of weaving as well as knitting. There is a glossary of terms, an index and a bibliography. No space is wasted on fancy yarn spinning or plying, blending, dyeing or patterns so when you are ready to move on you will need another book. If you combined Start Spinning with Teach Yourself VISUALLY: Handspinning (for the somewhat more advanced spinning and beginning dyeing) and The Twisted Sisters Sock Workbook (more advanced dyeing and uses of colour in spinning) you would have an excellent set! They would lead you a very long way into the enticing world of creating your very own yarns and using them in your projects.

OK, why did I buy a beginner spinning book when I’ve been spinning for over 30 years and have taught others using pretty much the same information that’s in this book? Several reasons: because I’m trying to encourage the writing and publishing of more books on spinning, because I want to have a full personal collection, and because I like to see what another spinning teacher has to say and her approach to the same things I’ve tried to explain myself. I love how Maggie herself is the model in her book, her competent hands manipulating the fibres — age spots, grey hair and all.

I finally finished my Hepburn Cardi, hereafter to be known as The Chocolate Sweater. It took me most of the day yesterday to finish sewing the seams and darning in ends. I still need buttons and hope to get them this week sometime downtown at Dressew (cheap and large selection) or Button Button (cool but very pricey). Final FO info when the thing is totally complete. Right now it’s drying on a towel on the freezer in the basement. I took so long to finish washing the sweater (minus buttons) that it had clouded over so I didn’t put it outside. I’m really happy with the results. Here’s a teaser photo. I hope to get one with me actually wearing it when I get buttons on.

I’m partway finished the Stargazer Sweater: the back and 1/3 of the front are done. It’s an easy plain knit with the sock yarn doing all the work. I made it 1/2” shorter than the pattern’s size 2 but it still seems too long. Guess that’s better than too short on a growing toddler.

It’s raining today and looks like it’ll be socked in all afternoon. I’m hoping to get a bit of weaving done (finally!) but first a little lunch.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Little Things Add Up

Thanks, everyone, for your sympathetic comments on my last post. I’ve now decided that Ms Polly does notice that her daughter is gone. The first night she slept at the top of the basement stairs instead of in her bed and meowed in the wee hours for us to let her up. We didn’t but she’s been even more sucky and noisy than usual around us. Because she’s so deaf she yells out her meows! She can’t hear herself. (Kind of like me actually — I always talk louder without my hearing aids on.) I’m sorry there’s not enough love in the world to fill the gap left by a lost loved one.

I had the desired quiet Mother’s Day yesterday. I didn’t hear from my kids but that’s normal. We had a lovely time Saturday evening at Milady Daughter’s for a chicken barbeque cooked by her DH. And I knew that The Ninja would be busy with his family and his mother-in-law. I never mind the lack of gushing and cards for what I call Hallmark Holidays. I know they all love and appreciate me and they don’t need a mandated day to tell me so. However, the generation before me is another ball o’yarn! I phoned my birth mom and had a lovely long chat. She loved the card that I sent her and was very grateful for the cheque included. It was her request for cash because she needs to purchase expensive herbal supplements to fight her cancer. Since she lost her part-time cleaning job in her apartment building it’s been a tough go. She’s doing fairly well though, all things considered. I’m glad I’m in a position to help a little.

Then T-Man and I worked out in the back garden for awhile and planted more of the stones and shaped the beds better. We’ve only got one path’s worth to go and it’s looking quite attractive. We even got some positive comments from neighbours on how well the garden is coming along. I say it would look better if there was actually something growing in it besides weeds! Nice paths and clean beds are all well and good but some potential vegetables would be nice. At least we’re getting all the asparagus we can eat now. The weather promises to be nice and getting quite a bit warmer over the next few days so hopefully I can get the beans planted and the tomatoes into the ground in the greenhouse. I want to put the cacti out too. The smaller of my disocactus already has a flower bud.

In crafty news, I’m now on the home stretch on the Hepburn Cardi. Just sewing the seams together preparatory to washing and blocking it. I want to give it a good wash rather than just a steam block because the yarn is waxed for machine knitting and I’d like to get that out. I also need to get just the right buttons. It’s a good thing I waited to get them because I only made 10 buttonholes instead of 12 and I probably need to test to see if they fit through the finished buttonholes. Somehow 10 fit in better with the decorative ribbing on the button-band and 12 just seemed too much. With the sun out today there’s some reason to believe it will dry in a reasonable amount of time if I can put the sweater outside. But first I have to finish assembling it.

No, I haven’t done any weaving. Don’t ask.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Horking Up Hairballs In Heaven


My Mother’s Day weekend is a little sad this year. We just buried my cat, Julie, in the Family Pet Cemetery. She goes to join our other long-gone pets, including our first cat Scrungie, 6 rabbits, 5 or 6 rats and a turtle. Only our second cat Nicky isn’t buried there since he died at the vet’s and went to wherever they dispose of deceased animals. She’s in good company anyway and I included some of her favourite catnip from the garden and a few toys.

Julie (her actual name was Julius after Groucho Marx’s real name) was born on the kitchen floor in this house nearly 19 years ago, the last of Ms Polly's five kittens. Of all of them Julie had the most toes, 6 on each foot. Her mom doesn’t even have quite so many. Apparently extra toes on the hind feet as well as the front ones is quite rare, even more so than extras on the front alone. She also had the tuxedo colouring and crooked tail that she inherited from her tom-cat dad, Kinky. She outlived her brother Dhoughal, who passed away a couple of years ago from cancer. We don’t know what she might have had that was ultimately fatal but she was not eating much and had been losing weight over the last few months. But she was still running around right up until yesterday. When we noticed her in her bed in obvious distress, I tried calling the vet but it was too late to get her in before they closed. It would have only saved her a few hours of discomfort anyway and would have cost us much money for a dead cat. I think we made the right decision to leave her be but I knew she wouldn’t make it through the night when I went to bed last night. So I said my last goodbyes to her before leaving her.

Lots of visitors to our house never even realized we had two cats (and not just one old but extremely friendly tabby). Unlike her mom, Julie wasn’t much of a people-cat and would usually get lost when others were around. When you went to pat her she would first duck away and then back in to be stroked and she didn’t let you touch her face or under her chin. She loved to be brushed though and would run up when I had her brush in hand and flop down just out of reach. I always had to move a little towards her instead of the other way around. She also never sat on a lap but instead lay down right beside my leg and hated being picked up. Despite her reticence she was always gentle and never scratched or bit. Not even when Stargazer tried to pull her fur out with his baby fists! I know I’m going to have to be even more careful to groom Polly now that her daughter isn’t around to help. They always did each other’s ears and nape. I wonder what she thinks or if she’s even noticed her daughter is gone.

Nineteen is pretty elderly for a cat, particularly if they have some access to outdoors. We almost lost Julie a few years ago when she wouldn’t come in one night and got attacked by a raccoon. Luckily we were able to get her to the vet that time and, although it cost us $800 and she had to wear a splint on her hind leg for several months, she eventually healed well. Never stayed out again though! Now I doubt Ms Polly is going to last us much longer. We actually were expecting her to go first especially given how overweight, deaf and slow she’s gotten lately. There will be no replacements. T-Man and I are both adamant about that.

Goodbye, Ms Jules. You were a dear (if somewhat eccentric) cat. You were part of our family from the day you were born and you were loved.

Friday, May 09, 2008

So Close I Can Almost Taste It

At least I have nice teeth for it after my nearly 2-hour dentist appointment for a cleaning yesterday. And my thrush is gone. (I hope.) But maybe I really don’t want to taste the wool. What I’m babbling about is that I’m almost finished the fronts on the Hepburn Cardi! I’m on a final push to get this one off the needles and into the Accomplishments Book. Only 18 ever-diminishing rows to go. Then it’s on to the collar and button bands. Remind me how long it takes me the next time I get it into my head to work a pattern with such a complex overall pattern, hey? I needs me some good old-fashioned plain stockinette with minimal shaping. Which would be this:

The beginnings of Stargazer’s Pullover using the Johnny Boy pattern from Berroco. It lets the sock yarn do all the patterning and all I do is knit back and forth. I would have changed it to knit in the round but that would stretch the stripes out to half their depth and some of them would just be blips on the back or front and not nearly as attractive. I’m quite liking it so far. This is On Your Toes sock yarn and the pattern takes 2 balls. I’m knitting a size 2 which should fit him for awhile since he’s quite small for his nearly a-year-and-a-half.

While I was at the mall above which lurks my dentist’s office, I went to that store beginning with a Z and bought some new clothes. They had a sale (yay!) and for 5 tops and 3 bottoms it cost me less than $90. Which was around the price of the one blouse I looked at in the Bay. Oddly (or maybe not) most of what I bought was black. Good summer colour, eh? All the other colours were too syrupy sweet for my taste. I did get one deep nearly-violet blue long button-front cardi in a lightweight cotton knit. Other than that, all black or black/dark grey. You will not catch me wearing pink, pale blue, light teal or lemon yellow, thankyouverymuch. Unless they are part of a colour palette that includes a lot of other deeper richer colours. After all the orange I’ve seen around lately though I was surprised that there was nothing in that colour because I would have gone for that for sure. I also dithered over red and a nice soft green but they didn’t have quite the right things in my size. Oh and I now can say I have a pair of “jeans”. Well they’re black and grey denim pull-on pants with big pockets. Close enough. I haven’t worn real jeans in about 30 years. Currently they are all in the dryer. I don’t wear new clothes until they’ve been washed. Who knows where they’ve been? In this case, China and Bangladesh at the very least. Yes, I know. Not politically correct and possibly not environmentally correct either. Are the expensive clothes any better? And how would you know. Truly.

So far this lovely spring morning I’ve heard a woodpecker drumming and a raven calling. I have a heap of dishes from the day before yesterday to wash. And I want some lunch. I can almost taste it!

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Monkey Princess

Of course if I called my granddaughter that to her face I would get a stern lecture on her real name. However, if the proverbial shoe fits and all! See?

This is the best I could capture since she really didn’t want to wear her new Unmentionables. Right after the photo session she took them off again. I have to forgive her though. By that time we were all a little tired (OK, a lot tired) and not in the mood for playing runway model and fashion photographer. Note the slightly false smile? A little girl who’s so used to having her photo taken she tried to smile when she didn’t really feel like it. I hadn’t wanted to give her the Unmentionables earlier in the day and it was just as well when she had a little accident. Not too bad — the rest of the day she made it to her Dora the Explorer potty seat in time. Believe me, this is a big improvement.

The Unmentionables are supposed to be her “special grown-up girl” underwear so I wasn’t going to let her have them until she could stay dry at least most of the time. How will I feel, given her reluctance last evening, if she never wants to wear them again? No biggie really. I try not to get too emotionally attached to the idea of her appreciation because children (especially this one!) have definite ideas about what they will or will not wear. Just because I think it’s perfect for her doesn’t mean she agrees. I’m betting some other little girl will think they’re wonderful if this one doesn’t.

So now I’ve decided that I need to knit something for her brother and I’ve found a pattern I like. Now I need to find the yarn which in this case is 2-100g balls of sock yarn. More on this project later when I get it underway. They’re having a half-year birthday party for Stargazer at the end of June so that’s my goal. Why a half-year birthday? Because his birthday is 4 days after Christmas so the thought was that it would get lost in the rest of the celebrating that goes on that time of year. My thought is that when he’s old enough, he will want his birthday celebrated on its actual day in spite of his parents contrary ideas. Just wait until he can read a calendar.

Meanwhile I’ve finished Secret Projects #1 & #2 (which go together as a set) and I’m attempting to get the Circus Blanket off the loom so I can work on Secret Project #3. That’s going to take some time because I sure didn’t get very far on the blanket before I got sick this winter. Then I lost my momentum entirely. I think I will scrap my original plan of changing colours constantly every treadling repeat and just make wide stripes of one colour. It’ll look even more wild when I assemble the three strips together but who’s going to see it when it’s on our bed underneath everything else? Apart from when I wash it and hang it outdoors on our improvised clothesline, that is. Then the entire neighbourhood will get an eyeful! It’s the constant swapping of bobbins that’s been driving me nuts and the measuring to make sure everything is even etc. Just bang out the length and chop it into 3 parts and sew them together. And wallah. I hope.

I wanted to show you the fabulous giant damselfly that T-Man made from bamboo (body), plastic (wings) and wire (legs).

She’s around a foot long and lives in the greenhouse along with Frog-the-Toad (named by the Monkey Princess because she insisted it was a frog).

He’s guarding T’s yummy arugula (they’re T’s since he planted the seeds which is usually my job). Speaking of the greenhouse, the tomatoes are nearly ready to plant in there. They just need a few more days of hardening off first. I’m getting some results from the new seeds I planted under the lights too. Hopefully things will catch up now that it’s somewhat warmer — assuming it stays that way.

BTW, even though I didn’t post to the blog yesterday, it was my Third Blogiversary! This one kind of slipped right on by me. Time flies when you’re having fun, hey?

Monday, May 05, 2008

Now That's More Like It

It’s only intermittently sunny but at least it’s been much warmer. Saturday we went walking (of course) and I got a new pair of shoes. What do you think?

Aren’t they spiff? These are Keens and I’m so in love with them that a few weeks ago when I saw a woman on the street wearing them I actually followed behind her to ogle! I saw them again in a newspaper flyer so when we walked by a store that carries this brand, I couldn’t help myself. They are very comfortable, somewhere between Mary Janes and clogs. Ever since my clogs had a meltdown a few months ago I’ve been hunting for a replacement. I was considering the closed toe Birkenstocks (Boston) but these are much cuter and of course Birkies don’t come in this wild colour. It’s called Flamingo and goes with lots of things in my wardrobe. I don’t know of any flamingos quite this colour though — it’s definitely orange!

We also went to see the new improved Maiwa Supply store on Granville Island. They’ve moved from inside the Netloft out into one of the exterior shops. It’s a much larger space than previously and with all the dye and surface design stuff displayed with some of their Indian antiques, it’s very exciting and inspiring. See?

And this is only a portion of the shop! Charllotte, the owner, was in when I was there and it was lovely to be greeted by name and invited to explore and take photos. You can see why she has won awards for her fair and supportive business practices. Yes, of course I spent money there! I was topping up some of my dye supplies. We are so lucky to have this fabulous resource close enough for me to walk to. I’ve treasured it for over 20 years. I’m even wearing a linen shirt at the moment that I bought years ago at Maiwa’s main store. It’s the same colour as my shoes. Heh.

By this time we were packing a lot of meat (honey glazed ribs) and fish (halibut steak) and vegetables from the Market along with the shoes and dyes. It was all getting somewhat heavy! Here’s the view on the Seawall on the way home:

Finally truly spring-like in Vancouver! Yesterday we got some work done in the garden. Planted a few more of the path stones, planted some seeds, and planted my wall and rail planters. Of course there’s tons more work to do but it was a very pleasant day and not too sunny. That’s better for transplants so they don’t get fried. I’m also slowly getting the tomatoes used to being outside because they no longer fit under the grow-lights. Besides there’s more little seedies under there now.

Gotta go chop some veggies to go with the dip I’m taking to my Guild’s Memorial Lecture this evening. We organise this lecture once a year and this time it’s James Koehler, a tapestry artist whom I saw last summer at the ANWG conference in Red Deer, AB. His work is deceptively simple and elegant and he’s quite an inspiring speaker so I’m looking forward to this. T-Man is coming with me too. Apparently he enjoyed hearing him the last time and wants an outing on this pleasant evening. Little does he know we’re going to put him to work since one of our members volunteered our Spectrum Study Group to take care of the refreshments.

Friday, May 02, 2008

May Day Plus One

Hope you had a lovely May Day, aka Beltane (that’s “BELL-ta-neh” or close enough). I was up at sparrowfart welcoming in the summer!

Not with bells on or a maypole though. That would be too much effort at 5:30am. I did sing the Hal An Tow song. All day. It’s one of those earworms for me that doesn’t stop going around in my head. Good thing it wears off eventually. I even sang it for my carpooling buddies as I was dropped off home after our Spectrum group get-together. Poor things! Lucky for them I only know the words to the chorus and not the verses.

Speaking of Spectrum, our group project of Word-Inspired Bags is coming along. We shared what we were planning at the meeting yesterday. Some really good ideas and I can’t wait to see how they all turn out. I was wrong about the deadline. I have until July which is great since June is shaping up to be a busy month. I was glad I spent time on Wednesday getting the main body part of my bag done because I’m afraid I’m going to run out of momentum as I do sometimes. Especially when I have other things on my list that are more immediately important to me.

Quick turn of subject and I finally have an FO photographed and ready to unveil. Unfortunately not in fact on the recipient though that may happen some time.

KiKi’s Unmentionables

Begun: March 26, 2008
Completed: April 30, 2008

Yarn: Sublime Yarns Organic Cotton DK, 100% organic cotton, 120 yds = 50 g, colour 94 Scumble (pink), used 4.5 balls or 540 yds. Care – machine washable, dry flat to shape.
Needles: Denise circular size US5 (3.75mm) and 2 Crystal Palace bamboo dpns size 4mm.
Finishing: 20” of 3/8” swimsuit elastic, cotton/rubber. 1 metre 5/8” grosgrain ribbon, cream. Setacolor fabric paint.

Pattern: Emma’s Unmentionables, designed by Lee Juvan, from Knitty, Spring 2008. Size 5/6. No modifications except the yarn substitution.

Comments: For once I did a pattern as written. I attempted to make a kumihimo braid for the tie but it didn’t suit. Looked like a boat rope! So I went with the elastic and grosgrain ribbon both of which I painted pink with extremely diluted fabric paint and ironed to set the colour. Cute!

It only took 4.5 balls of yarn instead of the 7 that the pattern specified for the largest size. The organic cotton might not be as drapey or spongy as the cotton/acrylic microfibre but it’s actually lighter in total weight. I prefer to dress kids in natural fibres rather than synthetics. We’ll see how well these bloomers stay up in use.

I found the yarn a bit splitty to knit with and difficult to splice invisibly. It was better when I wove the ends through on the back of the knitting which I probably should have done when joining on the circular parts. I’m still not certain how durable the joins or woven-in ends will be after machine washing several times. It takes forever to dry flat so busy mom might be tempted to machine dry it though I’m afraid it will shrink some if she does.

I really enjoyed the pattern even though the lace edging application felt awkward to me. It’s kind of backwards to the way I usually work these things and with the dpns it was more fiddly. Especially when I first tried it with aluminum needles! I quickly had to go out and get some bamboo 4mm dpns. It looks fine though, except for the one little glitch at the top edge of the ruffle that I didn’t notice until the lace edging was completely applied and the ends finished off. Oh well. Such is life.

What’s next? First the Secret Project Part 1 is finished so it’s on to Secret Project Part 2. There’s also a Part 3 but we aren’t ready for that yet. Are you feeling teased yet? I am trying my darnedest to get things done and off my list. I feel a need to start new things. Must control myself.

Oh, and good news about the House Next Door. We have new neighbours! They are moving in as I type. They must be nice because Ms Polly Manytoes actually wandered over, went inside and checked out the whole house while I was trying to find out where she got to. I found her walking down their front sidewalk right in front of the poor moving men, oblivious to the fact they were carrying heavy items in and out and could, gasp, trip over her slow old deaf self. I picked her up and the new (very young!) owner came out and laughingly told me about her inspection of the inside of his house. He thinks she’s sweet! Whew.

I’m not actually sure yet how many people will be living there. Someone was moving into the basement suite yesterday but it was hard to tell exactly who because of the gang of assistants and visitors including children and a baby. I did briefly meet the couple who actually bought the house the other day (also thanks to Ms Polly the Pest) and they have a toddler. Nice to have life settling down next door again after a year and a half of silence or building chaos. Of course we may be complaining later this summer when they are having late evening gatherings on the deck and we’re trying to sleep! Both main house and basement suite have barbeques and outdoor furniture set up already, including a heater so everyone is ready to party. First we need some summer.