Being the continuing story of my creations and curiosities.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Well, That Was Fun

Sorry if I sound a little sarcastic here — I just frogged the whole cuff of the second Peeenk Cardi sleeve because there was a split stitch in the cast-on that I hadn’t noticed and couldn’t repair. The cuff of a sweater is a vulnerable spot where lots of wear happens so I didn’t want to fudge something that wouldn’t hold up. It’s also an area that you can see clearly so any fudge will show like a neon sign. Finnegan-BeginAgain.

What was actually fun was Stargazer’s 1.5-year birthday party yesterday. I’m usually very laid back about most things but I find myself a bit at odds with the concept of skipping right over a late December birthday just to have it in summer where it doesn’t conflict with the Christmas Holiday kafuffle. Maybe because the vast majority of my birth sibs were all born in December, including my brother who actually shares a birthday with Stargazer, so it’s not such a big deal? However, good thing was that he was old enough to actually understand that the toys he received were his and his excitement was so cute to watch! With a sucker firmly in his mouth he helped unwrap:


Another advantage was that we could have the party out in their backyard. Instead of freezing, the weather was stinkin’ hot! I’m trying not to complain. Much. I slept better last night in any case. Perhaps I was just really tired from the lousy night I had on Saturday combined with many hours of gardening over the last few days. An Advil for the sore joints helped I’m sure.

Today it’s somewhat overcast but still very warm. Maybe I won’t have to spend half the day watering the garden! In this hot weather if you miss something it wilts immediately as I found out last night after returning from the birthday party. One of my planters was totally limp so I threw some water on it before heading for bed and it seems ok this morning. Some of my planters have “container mix” in them and it’s a really wonderful solution. There are little water-retaining gel crystals in it that keep it moist far longer than usual. I think I’ll try topdressing the limp one with some of that stuff (if I have any left) and see if it helps.

Meanwhile, back at the fibre crafts — besides beginning the Peeenk Cardi’s second sleeve over again, I have the body and one sleeve done and joined. After the second sleeve is done I can join it on too and continue upwards on the eyelet yoke. So far my re-jigged pattern is working out pretty well with just a few small re-re-jigs to get it just right. All this work for a grumpy Princess Pink who wasn’t even speaking to me at the half-birthday party! (Probably because she wasn’t getting all the presents.) And Stargazer paid no attention to his sweater and socks set that I gave him because of course all the toys he got were far more fun. However his dad The Ninja immediately recognised the Peter Rabbit buttons that I used on the shoulder and neck as the ones from his own childhood which was gratifying. His mom liked the self-patterning sock yarn I used and said that it should fit him well by this Fall when it gets cool enough to need the extra warmth. Otherwise it seemed rather strange to give a sweater and socks to a kid wearing nothing but a diaper because he was too hot!

I’m taking it somewhat easy today after the last several marathon gardening days. I don’t really enjoy working in high heat and it’s already 24 C. even with the clouds. I’m used to a very moderate maritime climate so those who actually get Real Summer will think I’m a wimp. But I yam what I yam, as Popeye would say. After getting the second sleeve on the way again (and a bit of blog reading in) I think I’ll work in my studio with my big fan directed on me and see if I can get to finishing the Circus Blanket.

Friday, June 27, 2008

E-Scaping

I managed to get quite a bit of weeding done in my veggie garden yesterday. I really enjoy it once I get started. It’s hard to stop! The weather is still cooler than normal but it’s supposed to warm up in the next few days under mainly sunny skies. My garden will be happy but it means that I have to spend a lot of time watering by hand because we never put the soaker hose watering system in again this year. I’m trying to be careful to water the Irish moss and other ground covers that we’ve planted between the stones in the pathways too as well as the veggies and flowers. The peas have finally got flowers on them and there are teeny summer squashes for the first time in about 3 years. The tomatoes are monster plants and the biggest ones are taller than me now. The runner beans are running up my strings and the bush beans will be flowering soon.

The most exciting part of the garden is we got to eat a couple of scapes from the garlic for the first time.


Scapes are the curly stems of most varieties of garlic, except for the Silverskin garlic that you see most often in the grocery store. That was the type I usually planted but last fall I got a purple variety from the farmer’s market. For the first time we got scapes and they can be stir fried or steamed like asparagus for a mild garlic flavour. Yummy! Garlic scapes are selling out right now at the farmer’s market so it’s nice to have our own. You have to pick them fairly young because later they grow little bulbils at the tip, kind of like our Egyptian walking onions are doing right now. Did you know that garlics are all clones and don’t set seeds? They’ve been cultivated for 5,000 years and have lost that ability though they do adapt to different environments which is why there are actually two subspecies and many different varieties. I planted mine way back in October and probably won’t be harvesting them for another month. There’s a great website, Boundary Garlic Farm that has a ton of info on garlic: history, growing, cooking etc. They are in Midway, BC, and don’t ship product to the US which I find rather novel. Usually it’s the other way around. Heh.

OK, enough gardening stuff. I’ve finally photographed the Peeenk Cardi (aka Pink Eyelet Yoke Cardigan) and the Imperial Purple Socks in progress.


Not too exciting at the moment but it’s something yarny anyway. That’s the end of the second ball of pink Smart superwash wool and I’m nearly finished the body of the sweater so I’m now pretty sure I have plenty with 8 balls. I had to put stitch markers in to remind me when to work the seed stitch edging and it’s helping a lot. I’m knitting this pretty much by feel so the markers are a clue to my fingers to stop and change. I also put stitch markers in the Imperial Purple Socks to remind me to change from the all knit row to the k2/p2 row of the garter rib. I kept overshooting before I noticed and wasted a lot of time tinking back. Silly me. Speaking of reminding me, I need to make more stitch markers in larger sizes. All the ones I have work best with very fine needles.

Back out to work in the garden on this beautiful day before the sun heats it up too much.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

7 Things I'm Grateful For

1. My family. Milady Daughter and her Lord made the reservations for our extended weekend family camping trip at Manning Park’s Lightning Lake campground. We were lucky to be able to get a double site to accommodate our van with the awning over one table, our kids’ two large tents, our screen tent over the other table and parking for the two cars. T-Man and I got there first on Saturday and were joined by Milady & Milord before dinner. The Ninja, his Snow White (who had strep throat and was on antibiotics but was glad she came anyway), Princess Pink and Stargazer showed up late Sunday afternoon so it was a full gathering of our branch of the family clan. Manning is just about 3 hours drive from our house so it’s far enough away and primitive enough to feel like a real vacation in the mountains.


2. My home’s hot water heater. It takes being out in the woods in the mountains for four days to really appreciate what a treasure hot water coming out of the tap can be. When we got home I had four big loads of laundry to do (not all generated by the camping trip, mind you) but first I luxuriated in a long hot shower. Yes, there are showers at the provincial campsite but they are lukewarm at best and the washrooms are unheated so they get very cold at night and don’t warm up much at all during the day. Environmental points for the solar hot water but it’s not that efficient especially when there are lots of folks who want to use it and not a lot of sunshine available. I can usually get pretty clean in a small amount of water from our kettle (having very short hair helps) but when we were awakened early each morning by small children who wanted to come in our “house” and warm up, it’s all I could do to get some clothes on before the onslaught. (Their grandfather didn’t even try. He just lazed in the warm sleeping bags until he absolutely had to get up.) Also it took about three kettles full of hot water to do all our dishes after breakfast and dinner meals. At least everyone took turns with washing and drying.

3. The weather. It was very cooperative. The little bit of rain on and off on Saturday and early Sunday morning dried up really quickly and most of the rest of the time was high cloud alternating with warm sunshine. There was still some snow in the campground and a lot more in the higher areas so the wind occasionally had some bite in it but it was generally reasonable. However it was quite cold at night and extra clothing and blankets were mandatory. I saw my handknit socks on at least five pairs of feet out of the eight of us! The bugs thankfully were very few and the fisherpersons caught enough rainbow trout for one dinner for everyone and a few to take home. (We’ll have the last of them today already cooked in tinfoil over the barbeque. Yum!)

4. Our 1989 VW Westphalia. She might be old but she sure is an improvement over a tent. I appreciated her even more after watching the kids put up their fancy tents, one of them in the rain. With the van you just pop up the top, turn the passenger seat around to face back, turn on the propane and you’re there. You can even heat the water for morning tea and coffee without getting out of bed! Long may she wander the roads. They don't make these any more.

5. My first aid kit. The littlest family members enjoyed themselves most of the time except for a few incidents. Princess Pink took a couple of tumbles and because she was reluctant to wear her jeans like everyone else (preferring to swish her royal skirts at us instead) she ended up with her granny’s fancy red bandaids on both knees and a scab on the end of her nose.

6. My hearing aids and the ability to remove them. Stargazer decided that camping was great fun except for the sleeping-in-a-tent part. He kept waking everyone with his cries of protest. Tent walls don’t muffle much sound and my ears, even without my hearing aids in, perk up when I hear baby cries. Old mommy habits die hard, if at all. I was glad I could just roll over and go back to sleep unlike his poor parents who were trying to soothe him back to sleep. Unfortunately his desire to run around the camp in the dead of night was not an option so it’s a good thing he’s really really cute! Our evening’s fire was definitely big enough for a roast…


7. Mother Nature. We saw lots of birds and animals — great entertainment for both big and little people. Manning Park’s critters are almost too friendly! The mule deer (Princess Pink saw her wandering through first) came nearly into our campsite several times a day.


There were plenty of noisy Douglas squirrels, cheeky ground squirrels and chipmunks and even a tiny vole (which only I caught a glimpse of while the others were fishing). The whiskey jacks (aka Canada or gray jays) were competing with the larger Clark’s nutcrackers for handouts and the grandkids’ leftovers. Even the brown-headed cowbirds at the picnic area got into the begging act. The red, black and white sapsuckers and blue and yellow Audubon’s warblers looked like flying jewels and the various calls of the crows and ravens and the laughing loons made it seem like we were in the Amazon jungle!

The flowers were very pretty but a lot of them weren’t out yet. We didn’t go up to the alpine meadows because the road was still closed. However there were moss phlox cushions in multiple shades of purple, yellow arnica, orange paintbrush, violets both purple and yellow, wild strawberry blossoms and rare little calypso orchids (also called fairy slippers).


I brought three knitting projects with me, you know, just in case I got bored. Heh. I managed to knit a couple of inches on the Imperial Purple Socks for Milord Son-in-Law while watching them fishing but that was about it. After the grandkids arrived there was very little quiet time. Funny how that happens. On the last day (Tuesday) we all went for a walk along the Strawberry Flats trail to salute the spot where T’s dad’s ashes were spread after his passing. It’s getting harder to recognise it as the trees are growing up around the area. Then we continued up to where the snow started to cover the path. We had the obligatory snowball fight and built a teeny snow-girl.


On the way home after our picnic lunch we all ran into each other again in our separate vehicles while the traffic was stopped for an accident. A big dump truck had gone over the side of the mountain highway and it had to be towed out with monster tow trucks. We were lucky we delayed leaving the park because all the traffic both ways had been blocked for quite some time but we only had a short wait before moving on again. After passing each other several times (and lots of waving back and forth), we made it home in plenty of time to unpack and clean the van for the next adventure. That probably won’t be until September which feels like a long time away, but it’s not at all.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Good & Bad (But Not Necessarily Ugly)

So what important criteria do you consider when buying (or spinning) yarn? Is softness more important? Cost? Colour or multi-colours? Fibre content? Popularity with other knitters? Thickness: fine or heavy? Twist and ply: crisp, loose, single, fancy? I ask this question because I’ve seen some yarns lately that, although beautiful and soft, looked like they wouldn’t hold up worth a darn (hah! punny!) in a project that actually got worn and used. So what is the point of using a yarn that has absolutely no durability in a project that takes as long to make as something hand-knitted or crocheted? What a waste of time!

Durability is actually a combination of factors that all combine to help a yarn survive abrasion, snagging, washing and the like. The fibre content, length and thickness of individual fibres, preparation (parallel or more jumbled), thickness, amount of twist, number of plies etc. all are important. Of course some items see less of those than others: consider socks vs. a shawl. One is in your hot footwear being rubbed between your skin and the inside of your boots and the other is delicately slung around your shoulders. Socks need frequent laundering whereas a shawl may only get washed and re-blocked once a year, if that. A softly spun yarn made from short delicate fibres won’t hold up to hard wear in socks but may be just what you want in a shawl. Though I have discovered that lace shawls in particular are prone to snagging on things if you aren’t careful. Unless you keep your knitwear permanently in a mothproof storage bag in a dark closet, something is going to happen to it eventually! It’s inevitable.

However, creating your own garments or what-have-you means that you can choose carefully which yarn you will use, taking into consideration at least some of the nasty things they will be subjected to. That will at least reduce the chance of a short life for them, if not eliminating their eventual demise. For instance, I refuse to knit socks in pure merino wool. Pretty-squishy-yummy hand-dyed yarns of that type are available by the dozens but I won’t even consider anything without at least 25% nylon content or something similar to counteract the merino wool’s lack of durability. I don’t care if it means the yarn is not as soft as pure merino. My feet are more sensitive to bumpy stitches than to fibre content. (I knit tightly to compensate.) Add to that the criterion that sock yarn should be superwash too just to avoid accidentally creating socks for children out of adult ones after felting in the laundry. Commercial sock yarn with superwash wool and nylon either 70/30 or 75/25 lasts quite well both in wear and laundry. And it dyes really well too if I want the “handpaint” look. Why should I spend all my sock-knitting time on something that doesn’t hold up? Twenty years ago I used to knit socks from my handspun yarn but I don’t do that anymore just for that very reason. They were lovely socks but most of them wore out so quickly I couldn’t keep them repaired. I’m not especially hard on socks really but I walk a lot. And now that I knit them for other people too, I absolutely want them to last as well as they can. Or I’ll never be able to rest! Too many feet; not enough knitting. Yeah, I know I won’t stop anyway if only because I enjoy knitting them and my own sock drawer is full.

Another beef I have with yarns is the ones that are lovely in the skein but soon after knitting them up they pill like crazy. Berroco's Peruvia and the Malabrigo yarns are some of the ones I'd be particularly concerned about. (Though I hear Malabrigo is beginning to overcome the misfortune of the recent fire in their mill! Good on them.) These are all very softly spun singles. They don’t have the plying to help protect the fibres from being drawn out of the yarn. Those wisps ball up from abrasion which is what causes a pill. Some pills are pretty inevitable on any sweater but there is a limit to how much you (or the garment) can tolerate. You can pull them off or use one of those sweater stones or shavers, but eventually it either gets too bad to bother or too much fibre is removed and holes develop. Not good.

There are some really trendy yarns that I’m not tempted to buy. This is mostly because they remind me too much of handspun and for that I have the fibre, tools and ability to make my own. Noro in particular always surprises me with both it’s cost and popularity because it’s so crappy! Pretty colours and fibres but lousy quality. I certainly wouldn’t leave bits of sticks in my yarn when I’m spinning it anyhow, though some vm in a minimally processed fibre is inevitable. I also find some of their yarns harsh feeling but, since I’ve never used it, I suppose it’s possible that it softens enough after washing to be more acceptable. I guess I prefer to buy yarns that I can’t or won’t spin myself. I already have fibres and dyes in the stash.

While I’m on this rant, I’d like to reiterate my constant complaint about yardage in the ball. Most fingering/sock yarns and laceweights have considerable yardage because of their fineness. Recently I’ve noticed that most manufacturers have gone up to 100g balls, enough for a pair of medium-sized socks, from 50g, where you need two for anything more than small child size. But heavier yarns are dismally scrimpy in the ball, particularly bulky yarns. (Not that I use them hardly ever, rarely venturing much above sport weight.) If a pattern for a sweater calls for more than, say, 8 or 10 balls for a medium size, then the yarn should really be put up in larger skeins. I know the argument is that knitters just want to buy the exact amount for a sweater and not have leftovers but, come on — who wouldn’t rather have half a large skein left over than try to find eleventeen balls on the shelf with the same dyelot? Or another single ball months later when you run out on the collar or the last sleeve cuff? And who wants that many joins in a large sweater knit in the round when you can’t hide them in the side seams because there aren’t any? Perhaps I’m just used to the large skeins I get from my spinning wheel or the cones of yarn that I can buy for weaving. A mere 60 yards per ball the way some commercial yarns come just seems wrong. It wasn’t manufactured in short lengths — they had to cut it all up. Sacrilege!

Or is it just me and my skewed perspective?

So I’ve cast on a new pair of socks for Milord Son-in-Law even though I haven’t finished the A-Maizing ones yet. Naughty Damselfly. But I had to have something more mindless to work on at the guild meeting last night and on our little 4-day camping trip that we’re leaving on tomorrow. We’re meeting up with our kids at Lightning Lake in Manning Park. Unfortunately Nana decided not to come with us in the VW Westphalia after just having returned from a tour of the Maritimes. I think it’s the jetlag talking but they kept her pretty busy while she was away and, at 80 years and counting, she probably is pretty exhausted. She even met previously unknown-to-her relatives in Gander, Newfoundland! A trip of a lifetime for her. We’ll try to have fun dancing with the mosquitoes without her this time. Wish us well with the weather. You never know what can happen in the mountains.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Ami-Guru-What?

In keeping with my recent fascination with crochet, I broke down and bought the book Amigurumi! Super Happy Crochet Cute by Elisabeth A. Doherty.


I was resisting but I’ve been thinking about this book ever since I peeked inside at the book store and saw…a cheeseburger, complete with meat, cheese, onion, tomato, lettuce and bun. Would this be fun for the grandkids or what? Fun for Granny to make, anyhow. There’s also an Oreo-type cookie, cupcakes, strawberries and carrots. And that’s not even talking about the actual amigurumi characters that are in here. Some really are cute but some have a bit of an edge to them, like Punk Bunny the skater dude or a beatnik kitty named Hep Cat. Those are the centre two guys in the back row on the cover of the book. And I absolutely think the pig needs wings, don’t you?

OK, maybe I should back up and explain “amigurumi” just in case you’ve missed this craze somehow. The word as you might have guessed is Japanese and, regardless of the actual literal translation (it’s a contraction of two words), it has come to mean dolls crocheted (or occasionally knitted) spirally in the round. The other criteria for an amigurumi is that it must be “kawaii” (cute — like Hello Kitty or Pikachu), though some are a bit more cutesy than others depending of course on your taste. With that definition in mind there are some items called amigurumi that really are not. Some are crocheted spirally but aren’t really a doll (the aforementioned cheeseburger, though if you put eyes on it maybe it would qualify!) or are cute dolls but weren’t crocheted in the round. I know – picky-picky – but I didn’t make these rules up.

I think the reasons why most amigurumi are crocheted rather than knitted are simple: the shaping is so much easier and the result is thick and sturdy and holds its form well. The popularity of amigurumi may even have inspired a lot more people to learn to crochet than might have otherwise. Google the word “amigurumi” and see how many patterns are available online, most of them for free. Once you know the basics you can easily change a pattern to suit your own esthetics. These were all made from the same basic pattern.

If you need more help with crochet and how to work in the round and assemble your new pal, there’s a wonderful series of written and video tutorials here. Don’t miss the second and third pages for more which include reading the patterns and using markers to keep your place and different methods of adding the face. Crochet along as you learn to make a ball which covers many of the necessary techniques. The videos are quite well done and informative. This kind of tutorial is what the internet is so perfectly suited to!

On another subject completely, here’s the most recent finished socks:

Ocean Blues Socks


Begun: June 1, 2008
Completed: June 17, 2008

Yarn: S.R. Kertzer On Your Toes 4 Ply, superwash wool/nylon/aloe vera, blues ON223600.
Needles: Addi Natura bamboo dpns, 2.00mm

Pattern: Usual Damselfly’s Basic Socks pattern on 64 sts, 24 row 2/2 rib cuff, 7” to heel flap, heel stitch, 6.75” foot before toe decreases, decreased to 24 st (6 each needle), dog ear reduction, graft toe.

Comments: There was a knot in the ball which necessitated removing a section of the yarn when the colour sequence didn’t continue properly. Consequently the second sock was a half-round out of sync with the first one so they don’t quite match as well as I’d like. When washed there was a wee bit of turquoise dye in the water but they rinsed clear.

I sort of had someone in mind when I knitted these. However it all depends on whether they fit her or not because I never checked on her shoe size. This is kind of like a Cinderella story, huh? This size fits me and several other members of the family though so there are other options if the sock doesn’t fit the intended foot.

Oh wait. Maybe we’d better not talk about feet after the sixth one found on a Vancouver Island shore was a hoax. The other five aren’t though and the mystery surrounding them continues. Makes you wish Horatio Caine and his CSI crew were relocated to BC, huh? And weren’t just actors on a TV show…

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Big Secret Project Revealed

Since the Bride & Groom have opened their presents and are happily on their honeymoon, I can finally get around to showing off their gift:

Wedding Present Tea Towels
(and a couple of spares)


Begun: May 29, 2008
Completed: June 10, 2008

Warp
Yarn: 2/8 unmercerised cotton, colour white, used 3920 yds (2+ cones)
Ends: 490 by 8 yds long = 6 towels
Sett: 20 epi, 2 per dent in 10-dent reed (3 per dent in last 2 dents on each side)

Weft
Yarn: 2/8 unmercerised cotton — 2 towels in natural unbleached (loosely twisted), 2 towels in light rainbow multi (loosely twisted, many knots!), 1 towel in deep burgundy, and 1 towel in buttercup yellow.
PPI: close to square

Measurements
In reed: 24.25”
Off loom: 22.25” wide X 40” long (after hemming)
After finishing: 20” wide X 34.25” long (and more shrinkage still to come!)


Pattern: Handwoven magazine, Summer (May/June) 1985, p. 84-85. The draft is threaded 6 times and ends with a repeat of the first section to balance.
Here’s one of the original set that I made in 1986! A bit shabby after 20+ years.


Structure is a 4-shaft/4-treadle huck variation in 2 “blocks” (short and long versions of the same 1-3-2-4 threading). Plain weave is 1-2 vs 3-4 and used for hems. Towels are completely reversible, appearing the same on both sides (though actually counter-changed). Here’s the original that I drafted using a Basic program on my first PC computer and printed out on a dot-matrix printer on pin-feed paper. It sure contrasts with the current print-out from Fiberworks PCW 4.1 Silver program and inkjet printer that I use now! Of course I still have the original magazine. I never get rid of anything.


Comments: I love these towels! I must because I’ve woven a couple of dozen of them now and they are all I ever use in the kitchen. All these yarns came from my stash. I was hoping to put on a longer warp but didn’t have enough of the white cotton. Just as well since it took enough time to weave the 6 of them before cutting off to finish before the wedding.

My notes say to let the weaving pull in at the selvedges immediately and it does — a lot! It seems dangerously drawn-in and the edges “smile” but it all works out fine in the end. I did have a bit of trouble with the selvedges beating in correctly and leaving a few loops until I got the rhythm going properly. I wove 1” or so (I counted 20 picks) for hems on each end and 40” of the pattern between them. (I used a marked grosgrain tape pinned to the cloth and walked the pins along which worked very accurately.)


I used a contrasting thread to mark the cutting line in between each towel. After cutting off the loom and separating the towels, I immediately ironed in the twice-turned hems and stitched them on the sewing machine with white cotton thread. After the hems were secured, I washed and dried them by machine. I was wise enough to suspect the burgundy weft might run some colour in the wash so washed it and the sample separately with Synthrapol. Good move because it took 2 washings in hot/cold rinse to get the streaks of pink off. The second time all was fine but I will still be careful for the next several times it needs to be laundered and not put it in with the light load. At least it’s one that I’m keeping (along with the yellow one — they match my curry-and-chili-coloured kitchen) so I won’t have to explain how to care for it! After finishing they only need to be folded since they come out of the dryer wrinkle-free.

The Ocean Blues Socks are dry now but I haven’t got a photo yet so hopefully I’ll post them tomorrow. I also did the dyed yarn for 2 pairs of socks and they came out very well but are still drying on the line in the basement. Today I’ve been busy with the Eyelet Yoke Cardigan for Princess Pink. After knitting a proper swatch from the pink Smart yarn (superwash wool) and blocking it so I can get a more accurate idea of the stitch and row count, I’ve been working the calculator bigtime. I think I’ve completely redone Sarah’s cute pattern to accommodate my gauge and still get something resembling the original. I will even have 7 rows of the eyelet pattern on the yoke instead of only 5. The decreases between the eyelet rows gave me a big headache because I was trying to keep the same angle as the original. I think I’m close but it’s lucky that knitting is forgiving. I won’t know if I actually got it right until I get there — at the very end! I also decided that, whatever the negative comments might be on Ravelry, I need to knit the body in one piece. Why would you seam if you don’t have to? And I’ll do the sleeves on dpns too. The only tricky bit is getting them all joined together to start the yoke. It’ll be fun to see what happens when I knit that far!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Big Sigh

Yesterday’s lovely sunshine was just a teaser because today it’s dark and cold again with a chance of rain. Or maybe sun. Who knows? I sure don’t. The farmers (and me) are worrying bigtime because the spring crops are not ripening. No local strawberries yet. (Sniff!) My peas are as tall as I am but they don’t even have any flowers on them yet. Usually I’d be eating them by now. Everything is way behind where it should be this at this time. Except maybe my monster tomato plants. Though they haven’t set any fruit yet so maybe the cold is affecting them as well. Although they’re in the greenhouse it still gets down to 10 (50 F.) or 11 C. in there at night because it’s not heated. At least my rhododendrons are coming out more-or-less on time. This one is my favourite colour though it never has very many blooms:


I finished the Ocean Blues Socks this morning and they are currently drying on the bathroom counter from their soapy bath. It sure makes a big difference in how the knitting looks and feels when it has a nice warm wash with shampoo (one I don’t like to use on my hair since I found a better one). The stitches even out and lie nice and flat and the knitted cloth relaxes and softens nicely. A steaming can do some of this transformation but washing is much better. Even if it does take considerably longer to dry especially when I can’t put it out on a table on my deck to let the air circulate around it to dry faster. I’m currently working again on the A-Maizing socks in a hope of finishing them too some time this century. I’m nearly to the heel flaps on both socks.

I also cast on last evening for the Girl’s Eyelet Cardigan free pattern from Lion Brand’s website by Sarah Hoadley. It’s really cute and I’m trying to use up the pink Smart yarn (that I bought for the Unmentionables but then changed my mind). However the Smart is finer, DK weight, when the pattern calls for Cotton-Ease at worsted weight so it’s not really working. I got 19 sts to 4” instead of 17 sts on one size smaller needles (4.5mm) than the pattern calls for (5mm) and I can’t go up any further because it’s already too loose for the yarn. I also need the largest size 4 which at my incorrect gauge didn’t have enough ease for the quickly growing Princess Pink. I frogged the part of the back that I knitted last night and will now re-think this. I haven’t managed to find anything else in the correct weight and similar colour plus be the all-importantly machine washable. And I like this little cardigan a lot. Maybe I can re-jig the pattern?

Next I need to dye some sock yarn. Purple was the requested colour for Milord Son-in-Law which is a bit of a surprise from his normally conservative self. Since I also have to make a pair for my sis-in-law and she also loves purple, I might as well do both of them at once. His yarn needs to be nearly solid and I’ll be using a dk grey/lt grey/white marled Phildar Preface yarn as the base. It’s a 70% superwash wool/30% nylon yarn made in Turkey. Hers can be more variegated and I thought I’d use the Knit Picks Bare. It seems very soft for 75% superwash wool/25% nylon. I’ve never knit with either of these before so we’ll see how it goes. Nothing ventured and all that.

So I haven’t started with the finishing on the Circus Blanket yet. I got carried away yesterday afternoon in the warm sunshine and worked in the garden instead. I got a bit more weeding done and everything got another nice drink of fish fertilizer. This time I seem to have been more careful because I don’t smell so badly of eau d’dead fishies. Here’s an interesting article on fish fertilizer just in case you’re interested.

My new next-door neighbours are building a replacement fence between our property and theirs. We’re going to pay half for the materials but we’ll let Jeff and his dad do all the work. Makes sense since we have more money than time and energy these days. We still have to fix our falling-over fence on the other side! I really think William the Contractor should have done the fence before he sold the house for nearly 2 million smackeroos, doncha think? I kind of feel sorry for poor Jeff building the fence himself on top of the monster mortgage he must have. Not sure I really like quality of the job they’re doing with the vertical louvers and all but really they could have slapped up a 7 foot blank wall so I’m not complaining. At least some light gets through the louvers and it’s only 5 feet high. That’s just a little more than the original ugly green chain link fence. We’re also going to have to put something along the bottom edge when they’re done because their yard has been built up some above ours to level it with the laneway. Meanwhile we’re trying to keep the bindweed and buttercups at bay from their side and they’re stuck with our mint, blackberries and bamboo creeping over.

We’re getting several quotes on roofing the house this week. It’s about time! I was worried that it would start leaking last winter because it’s in such bad shape but luckily it didn’t. Yet. It needs to be taken right down to the rafters before a new roof can be applied so it’s going to be messy. And expensive. Sigh. And then we need to paint (or preferably have somebody else paint) the eves and underneath the roof’s overhang. The garage gets in on the act too by also needing roofing and painting. Owning a house means never-ending work, doesn’t it? I’ve noticed that the longer you live in the same house, chances are you’ll have to do everything more than once. Or many times. This is our second roofing job but last time we didn’t need to strip it down. So what makes me think it needs re-roofing?

Monday, June 16, 2008

Wasn't That A Party!


Aren’t they cute? Apart from my lousy photography, the wedding was a blast and everything went very well. Milady Daughter and her Lord were already there since they had the shortest distance to come and the traffic was horrendous late Saturday afternoon. My Son The Ninja and his lovely White Lady nearly missed it but they made it just in time after leaving the little ones with her mom. The Aunties were behaving after we picked them up — at least on the way out (going home was another story!) — and they even joined in the dancing for a short while. Anyone know how to do the Lambeth Walk? It has to be better than the Chicken Dance. For which apparently my in-law-kids are game but not my own flesh-and-blood. Too funny! T-Man and I danced up a storm too as I can tell by how my back is feeling today. Or maybe that was the weeding I did in the garden yesterday? (Probably both.) The Happy Couple are off on their honeymoon to California with a first-time visit to Disneyland as the goal. Whew! Another big family event over and done. The next couple of kids are teenagers and too young yet for contemplating marriage so with any luck we have no more family weddings in the near future.

As far as World Wide Knit in Public Day goes I got up to the toe decreases on the Ocean Socks in the van on the way to the wedding but that was it! I’ll look forward to next year’s celebration of all things yarny with my friends but meanwhile I often KIP anyway so missing this opportunity is no biggie for me. The Ocean Socks are nearly done and then I go on to a pair for Milord SIL’s birthday in July. I also need to finish the A-Maizing Socks before I get too far onto something else otherwise they’ll be dragging on forever.

And my Circus Blanket needs to get finished soon also or it will be celebrating a birthday before it’s done! I plan to work on it this week though the weather is gorgeous for a change and the temperature is perfect so it’s hard to stay out of the garden. We both worked for hours yesterday and no matter how hard we try there’s still a huge amount left to do. Some things are looking very good and some are a little the worse for the cold rainy weather we had recently. Hopefully if the temperature warms up some they will pick up. At least it’s sunny so I’m not complaining! I don’t like it too hot anyhow even if my zucchinis do.

Unfortunately I’m finding it hard to get my rump out of my chair today no matter what needs to be accomplished.

Question To Ponder

Why is the Chicken Dance so popular at weddings? (I know, I should be grateful at least that it’s not the Macarena.) I just looked it up on Wikipedia and found out that this silly Swiss oom-pah music wasn’t released as a K-Tel recording until the early ‘80’s which explains why I still don’t know how to do it properly. It thankfully wasn’t around when I got married in 1971! I’m from the Dark Ages. I know.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Brightening Up -- Perhaps

I spent part of yesterday afternoon helping my friend Kirsten with a sewing project. She was trying to make a neoprene (like wetsuit fabric) headband for her little granddaughter who suffers from a rare disorder and needs protection on her head in case of falling. Kirsten’s vintage Singer wouldn’t make stitches through the neoprene but my just-as-vintage Pfaff 1222E did just fine. I think it’s because of the walking foot that helps keep the timing right where hers just skipped. I love my old Pfaffie! We made one prototype with hook-and-loop fasteners that may or may not work properly. Hopefully she will be able to fine-tune the pattern after trying it on and then we can make another one. It gets rather hot and sweaty under neoprene especially in summer as I learned while wearing wrist braces when I had tendinitis years ago. They needed frequent washing and take quite awhile to dry due to the spongy nature of the neoprene. It will be good for her to have 2 or more of these so she can switch off. And it’s peeeennnnkkkk!!! She’s just like my granddaughter in her love of the colour pink. At least it is on one side (which we made the right side) and black on the other. Very chic. If you’ve gotta wear something like this, it’s always best to flaunt it!

Taking a wee bit of a quiet day today. It’s a bit nicer out but still not actually sunny. I got the photos taken that I wanted anyway so the notes on the Secret Project are done to be shared here after the wedding day. Necessary sneakiness since The Bride & Groom have the audacity to read this here blog! I still have no idea what I’m wearing to this shindig either. Clothing of some sort. I’m not sewing anything or buying anything new. At least most folks are familiar with my often slightly unconventional dressing habits.

Meanwhile I’ll show you the only thing in my garden that’s really happy about the weather lately:

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Drum Roll Please!

I’ve finished the Big Secret Project! Whoo-hoo!! Three days to go until the wedding so not bad time-wise. I’m pretty sure they will appreciate this rather mundane prezzie considering how much work goes into making something by hand as opposed to just going into a store, looking up their gift registry and purchasing something from it. (Though I have to admit, that makes it easy for those who are less stubborn than I am! Heh.) I’ll post the details sometime after Saturday. Another thing off my never-ending list and now my loom is bare again. I’m pondering putting on another warp since I have tonnes o’yarn left in the stash. But what to weave? Maybe some table coverings for the kitchen table? I’ve been wanting something specific for a long time. Something like one large thick placemat that covers the whole table surface (which is quite small) but doesn’t extend further as opposed to a tablecloth (lighter weight fabric that drapes over the edges). I will have to ponder this one for awhile.

Meanwhile, I’m on the gussets of the Ocean Blues Socks and no further on the A-Maizing Socks which are in time-out again. I want to get the Secret Project notes done up before I forget everything but I can’t take photos until it brightens up some because this morning’s gloom makes for lousy pictures. It’s supposed to improve but they’ve been saying that for two days now. The high is apparently not moving in from the ocean very quickly because it’s not as strong as the weather folks had hoped yet. It sure needs to warm up around here! I wore three layers including my Gore-Tex to the store yesterday and was wishing for more plus gloves and a hat. This is nearly summer here, people. I would like to see some evidence of this asap.

So while we’re waiting for sunshine, I’ll review two of the crochet books I got recently. Yes, I’ve been buying crochet books instead of knit ones. There’s a lot more to be said about crochet really, if you think about it. There are many more stitches and more ways to manipulate them than in knitting. You are much more free to go off in all directions! Because of all the variations, it’s also harder to describe how to make something in crochet. Even charts have their limitations when things start to go 3D. There have been a number of new books just out or coming out shortly that add to the crochet stitch library of patterns and techniques which are important for those of us who like to forge ahead without a complete designer pattern to follow.

The first one is Stitch Collection: Textured Crochet by Helen Jordan.


Subtitled “More than 70 Designs with Easy-to-Follow Charts” doesn’t really describe what goodies are hiding in this little book. First of all, the author starts with beginner crochet information including step-by-step illustrations of the basic stitches. It’s a good refresher if you’ve forgotten anything. Although the author is from the UK, the instructions have been completely “translated” into North American crochet terms in this version of her book. She has also used both written and charted instructions for each stitch pattern. This is great if you are a bit shaky on exactly what is meant by the symbols, since several are possibly unique to this book. The reason for the unique symbols are necessary because Helen doesn’t just show you a pattern, say for puffs, but also takes that basic idea and travels with it. In subsequent patterns, the puffs will be larger or smaller, staggered, repeated closer or farther apart. Another section on half-double crochet plays with the stitch’s three horizontal loops by exploiting the possibilities of working into the front, back or top of the stitch. You get the idea. That’s the biggest strength of this book: the “what if” playing that takes basic stitches and pushes them to see where they will go. The way the stitch collections are arranged helps to show that progression of thought and experimentation also. I find it very inspiring!

The design of Textured Crochet’s US version of the book is very interesting also. It’s a relatively small size but it has a covered ring-bound spine which stays open when you’re working from it. It has excellent organization which includes a narrow column on the far right of each right-hand page that reminds you of the symbol key for those two pages. It also has a complete symbol key at the back of the book with an at-a-glance abbreviation and key page that can be left folded out from the book to help you as you work on any other page. Very thoughtful. The only drawbacks that I can see to this lovely little book are related to its size. The format is small at 6” wide x 8” tall and a lot is packed in so the type and charts are necessarily also very small. The charts are coloured to match the swatch, making it easy to see where the changes are made but it can be a little difficult to differentiate the symbols where the colours are lighter in tone. Good light is essential while reading this book and perhaps a magnifier of some sort would be helpful if you have vision problems. The photos, though also in keeping with the book’s diminutive size, are nonetheless clear and you can see the stitches well. Importantly there is a one-page index at the very back of the book to help in finding exactly the information you need quickly.

The second book is Nicky Epstein’s Crocheted Flowers.


I love Nicky’s collections of motifs and edgings so this one had to go onto my shelf beside them. Though I’m really waiting for her upcoming Crocheting On The Edge which is a crochet version of her popular Knitting On/Over/Beyond The Edge series, I thought this would be good company to her Knitted Flowers book. As you might guess, it’s very similar to it’s knitting sibling and includes lots of three-dimensional flowers, some with beads, some felted, and some cut and stitched from crocheted and felted fabric. I personally think crochet lends itself even better than knitting to these types of multi-layered motifs because you can work around, attach, increase and work into stitches on all angles so easily. However, a knitted fabric might be better for the felting and cutting technique since it has less holes and the cut edges look nicer. Though I suppose this idea is useful if you can only crochet and aren’t interested in learning to knit.

Like the first book I reviewed, this one also has small type and small coloured charts. Unlike the first book though, there is a lot of white (or coloured) space where the type and charts could have been expanded into. The photos are large though they do get a little “artsy” and on a couple of pages, one or more of the flowers are completely out of focus. I want to see the details please. Artsy is all fine and dandy but not at the expense of the important details that I’m trying to re-create. The symbol key and abbreviations are at the front of the book and there is no index.

The disappointment in this book for me are the patterns for finished items that are included. The earflap hat looks like the one I made (was it last year?) but mine wisely isn’t wreathed in flowers! The handbag is ok if you like that overly ornate shape but the belted shawl is just ho-hum mesh with a flowered “collar”. The floral necklette is an over-the-top but quite fun piece though I don’t think most of us would wear it. The bridal bouquet is lovely (and indestructible!) but the crossed bands of roses on the back of the wedding dress are too much. I think they would have looked better with the roses only going over the shoulders rather than right to the waist adding a lot of bulk where her arms fall. Continuing with the wedding theme, the trio of cheap paper lanterns covered in doilies seem to me to be out of place as far as scale and modern style goes. There’s more but if you really are into crocheting flowers, the Parisienne Scarf is definitely for you with it’s 4 rows of colourful mostly flat and some dimensional flower motifs stitched together. Maybe one or two rows would be less overwhelming? It just feels to me that Nicky was reaching pretty far into the barrel to come up with ways to use her crocheted flowers. Perhaps she’s published so many books in the last few years that the barrel needs replenishing? Anyway I’d be happier if she didn’t even try to include these — just stick with the motifs themselves and let the readers use their imagination on how to use them.

Obviously I’ve been enjoying the shift in popularity and respect that crochet has seen recently. It’s finally working its way out from the “afghans and bazaar items” category that some people have shoved it into. If you realize that crochet hasn’t been around as long as knitting (at least as far as we can ascertain) and that it still has a lot of untapped potential, we can hope for some great things to come from designers in the near future. I would do more of it myself except that it is much harder on my right wrist than knitting so I have to be careful not to do damage. And there are some things like socks that are much better knitted than crocheted. However the advantage of crochet’s superior speed is not to be underestimated. I guess we’ll see where Damselfly’s wings take her. Sometimes even I don’t know for sure.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

You Know Things Are Crazy When...

…you need the lights on all day when it’s so close to the longest day of the year. I couldn’t see to work at all yesterday afternoon without turning on the light. Are all those scientists really sure that global warming exists? Really really sure? I think I asked this question back when it snowed on the cherry blossoms in May. Now there are rice paddies where my raised garden beds used to be and my greenhouse has so much condensation you can’t see the tomatoes inside. I’m happy that it’s cleared up a little today and it’s supposed to warm up some during the week. I sure hope so. It was 8 C. when I woke up this morning. That’s around 46 F. for our non-metric folks. It’s June, for pity’s sake, not November! Brrr…

On the Secret Project front, I’m nearly finished but I hurt my finger yesterday (got bit by a spider plant while I was stripping off dead leaves) and it’s slowing me down some. I slept last night with a bandaid liberally coated in antibiotic ointment on it. Today I pulled out a 4mm long sliver! It feels a lot better now but it’s making it somewhat hard to type (right forefinger) and it still hurts to knit. Sigh! Yes, only I can get attacked by a houseplant and come off the worse for it. Anyway I hope to finish this morning but I’m babysitting today so it might get put off until tomorrow. I’m eager to cross this one off The List soon.

Since I can’t knit, today I thought I’d share the Heart Swap that I received a short while ago. Remember the knitted and fulled hearts that I made back in April? These are what I got in return:


Fascinatingly different collection, huh? Clockwise from the top:

A “Blooming Angel” tabletwoven with acrylic sparkle yarn and a ribbon weft. Arlene even included a plastic stake to hang her in a plant pot. The heart beads are sewn down her front.

A bobbin lace heart in cotton with beads added as the lace was made. Georgean had to try a couple of different threads and beads combinations before she was happy. This could be extended into a bookmark with more repeats of the heart motif.

A heart “bead” that could be strung on a necklace (or a kumihimo braid) in brick stitch. Bea used size 8 Japanese seed beads and finished with a branched fringe and large heart bead.

My knitted, stuffed and fulled heart decoration with bead embroidery and hanging loop.

A bookmark woven on a bead loom with a top fringe of hearts that sticks out of the book. Marilyn (swap mistress) included “i {heart} cwbi” (Complex Weavers Beads & Interlacements) which is the name of our study group in her design.

A bracelet woven in size 6 seed beads on a bead loom with an allover pattern of hearts. Too bad it’s much too large and heavy for me to wear! Katherine included an interesting wired heart bead, buttonhole and loop closure.

Everyone included patterns and notes on what they did to make their heart pieces. The extra two stuffed hearts that I sent out went into the Complex Weavers archives so others can see what we’ve been up to. The books can be viewed at conferences and borrowed by mail through the guild’s library system. Yes I know, you’re probably thinking what does beading have to do with complex weaving? They define it as anything exciting to do with interlacing threads so we’ve stretched it slightly to include off-loom beading as well. We also have kumihimo study groups (marudai and takadai) and bobbin lace as well as a myriad of different weaving and computer-aided design groups. There are members from all over the world and it’s totally run by volunteers. There are 4 Journals published every year but the best way to get the most out of CW is to join one or more of the study groups. Especially if you aren’t able to get to the seminars which happen every other year, usually near where HGA’s Convergence is held so you can attend both. (This year it’s in Florida.) I’ve been a member since 1991! BTW our next swap due December 1st is a virtual one and must be shaft-loom weaving this time. We have to send a PDF or Word file instead of an actual piece so it’s a bit easier. This way we only need to make one item but that also means it can be larger and more complex. There’s that “c” word again!

Back to work. I’d better get a few things done before the fambly shows up. My whole attention is on my grandchildren when they’re here so not much else gets accomplished. Except the entire house gets covered in a layer of toys.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Lottecam

It was a busy weekend, especially on Saturday. I spent a goodly amount of time squatting in the veggie garden weeding the pathways. Oh, that is so satisfying! If somewhat hard on the old body. It’s rather tricky plucking out only the weeds and leaving the volunteer flowers and the moss and thyme groundcovers alone. So why is it that stuff usually grows best where you don’t want it? I’ll probably move most of the flowers off the path eventually and onto the edges of the beds. I’ve decided that most of the gazillions of feverfew are going into the compost, much as I love the chartreuse colour of the leaves and the pretty chamomile-like flowers. They attract black aphids though and reseed themselves too profusely. One single plant was brought into my garden years ago from my MIL’s and that was it. I’d like it better if my migraines were helped by it, but I must be one of those for whom it doesn’t work. And it tastes really strong and rather vile when you try to take the fresh version rather than the commercial one in capsules. I can smell it on my hands for hours after weeding it.

Another pretty flower that is driving me nuts with in its millions is alstroemeria (Peruvian lily). It is all over our property front to back and I’ve been vigourously pulling it out from among my hostas and my rhubarb. It’s even growing in the deeply shaded gravel between our house and next store. It’s supposedly hard to start but difficult to get rid of and I totally agree. For the time it blooms though (late June through July) it’s a glorious orange-yellow mass. Right now our cold wet weather has slowed it down so it’s not even budding yet but I’ll take a photo when it’s in full bloom.

Right now my gardening efforts are slowed by the rain we’ve been having on and off. As T-Man says, we live in “Lottecam” because it’s been raining in the day time and starts to clear up by the evening. (If you don’t get the reference, it’s from the musical Camelot where it reputedly never rains till after sundown.) It was quite pleasant this morning but now it’s raining again. It’s quite chilly too, much lower than seasonal norms. And I was hoping for a good growing year. Sigh. That warm sunshine we see every once in awhile is just teasing us for how nice it could be. But isn’t. Remind me of this when I start complaining about heat later on, ok?

Yesterday only 3 of our little Ravelry group met at the usual coffee house. It was a very pleasant time though and I tried to get their opinion on what to do about the Red Fields Shawl. That’s my version of the free Zetor Scarf pattern in some vintage mohair (I think) that was in my stash. The yarn is a lovely bright red and the right size for lace knitting, blocks nicely and holds its shape and everything, but it’s awfully scratchy for something that will be touching my neck or chin. I was knitting on it on Saturday, finishing the first repeat of the pattern, and decided that I wasn't sure I liked it but I needed a couple of other opinions first. Like me, they thought the lace looked lovely and the colour was great but it doesn’t really soften up much after washing. However, I’m holding off frogging right away. I think I’ll try beginning again with my madder-dyed handspun moorit wool first and see whether I like that better before I waste the effort I put in so far. The handspun yarn was left over from my Icelandic shawl since I spun enough for a whole shawl and it has 9 colours in it in total so there’s about 800 yards left. I’m not sure of the type of sheep this stuff came from. Merino perhaps? It’s not super-soft but it doesn’t seem like Shetland either. Dunno but it’s much softer than the mohair and is a pretty red-brown. (Yes, I like brown. And I have a lot of clothing that it will coordinate with.) So later I’ll cast on and see what it looks like in Zetor’s pattern of tractor tire tracks. Then I’ll decide whether or not to frog the red version.

In other news, I’m almost finished the Big Secret Project. I’ve started putting weaving and kumihimo projects on Ravelry. Why not? It’s not exactly set up to do this properly but I just don’t fill in the inappropriate spaces in the form and put more info in the notes section. The drafts go in as a JPEG in the photo area. At least I can keep track of the projects and their dates and stuff. One thing I could do that I haven’t yet is put the weaving yarn in the stash. It’s a bit awkward since very little (if any) of it is included in Ravelry’s yarn database. But still possible. It would be a lot of work to put all of it in though! Yikes. Photo shoots and all. I don’t even have all my knitting yarn in there. And probably never will. I’ve only been entering the newer stuff as it comes in.

There are already groups for weavers and kumihimo enthusiasts on Ravelry. Of course! I’ve kind of been avoiding posting because most of the members are newbies and I’d be driven nuts answering newbie-type questions. I don’t really mind that but I don’t have time right now. Might drop in every once in awhile though. Just to see what’s going on.

Otherwise I’m at the heel flaps on the Ocean Blues Socks and nearly at the same place on the A-Maizing Socks. I’m really not liking working with the splittiness of the Maizy yarn and my frustration with it is growing. The resulting fabric feels really nice though so I’m persisting albeit slowly. It should help that there’s only pattern on the instep and not the sole so that’s only half the annoyance to come when I get there. Meanwhile I have to do a fancy heel flap because I like the look of the one Criminy Jickets came up with for his Ridges and Ribs Socks pattern (here if you aren’t on Ravelry). All I changed from the pattern was reducing the stitch count to 64 from 72 to fit me better and shortening the cuff to 6”. The rest is going to be the same as the pattern which is quite attractive.

Well, I’d better go finish the laundry, make the bed and finish up the BSP. The wedding is this coming Saturday! Do I time it close or what?

Friday, June 06, 2008

Yesterday's Meetings Report

I had a bunch of things I was going to do today including having lunch with Milady Daughter, but yesterday was long and I’m tired. Or maybe it’s just the pouring rain and chilly weather that’s dampening my spirits and convincing me that a long walk in it is a dumb idea? Whatever, we’ve rescheduled our lunch date for next week. Maybe the weather will improve, though the weatherman says otherwise. What happened to my lovely warm spring? Everything in my garden needs little wooly sweaters and lifejackets. Even the tomatoes in the greenhouse are getting wet from the dripping roof and the basil got what I call cold spots from the several extra-chilly nights they spent in there. Sigh. Everything was doing just fine before this. Oh well. You can rant about it but you can’t change the weather.

So what did I do yesterday that tuckered me out? Well first there was my Spectrum Study Group. We West-Side-Girls car-pooled over to Jo Anne’s where we ate yummy Aunt Bertha’s Apple Cake and drank copious amounts of tea and stitched and chatted. I gave Masami her tawashi as a thank you for bringing me the yarn all the way back from Japan. I also gave her the pattern and she immediately whipped out a crochet hook (an interesting double-ended wooden one from Japan) and some scrap yarn and started making her own Linked-Rings tawashi. She thought it was great fun to do! By the end of the day she had a couple more of them already finished.

After our usual impressive potluck lunch, we worked some more on our projects. Most of us were stitching on our Inspired-By-A-Word Bags. Mine is kind of ugly and stupid but it’s coming along. I put some beads and Indian metal sequins on it which helped. You aren’t going to see it yet though! I’m keeping it to myself for now.

I came home for dinner, worked some more on the Big Secret Project, and then later T-Man drove me to my fibre arts guild meeting, last one of the year and the first one I’ve managed to get to. The speaker was a woman who had moved to Mayne Island in the Gulf Islands to a farm that had once belonged to a Japanese family who had been interned to the BC Interior during WWII. Interestingly she has met the original family and they have become quite good friends. It seems they are happy to have someone who cares for the land and appreciates their sacrifice living there now. (Don’t get me started on that horrible stain on Canadian history. I wasn’t born yet so I plead innocence but I apologise anyway.) Anyhow she now has 7 angora goats and dyes the wool with natural dyes, both gathered from her environment and bought (from Maiwa of course). She gets some very muted but pretty colours. It must be the water, which is quite different from mine, that allows her to get purple from blackberries where I just get grey when it immediately fades! I was fascinated to see the mohair swatch made from yarn dyed with…are you ready for it? Tent caterpillars. Eewww! She figured they were pests and eating chlorophyll so there should be colour in them and there was! It was a slightly greenish yellow. Not pretty enough to inspire me to try it but at least she rid her trees of some of the nasty creatures. Must have been very satisfying for her. I wonder if squirrels make good dye? Nah. I’m scared to collect ‘em. They’re too nasty. How about sow bugs though?

I was having much trouble keeping my mouth shut while she was talking. (Actually I didn’t and misheard her at one point whereupon I said something stupid. It might have helped if I had remembered my hearing aids, huh?) I did hear several facts I would disagree with but then I’ve actually got more experience since she’s only been doing this for a few years compared to me. Plus some of it is really subjective or depends on your information source. Your mileage may vary, as they say.

Dear T picked me up again and we got to bed around 10pm, which for us is like midnight. It was nice that we could sleep in to 6am this morning! He decided to do his part for the environment and save some gas by working from home today. We’re hoping it will become a once a week thing, but frustrations with his phone system (ear piece, wire and cell phone plus a long convoluted dialing system) may need some tweaking. Plus he has to IM much more to keep in touch with people at work. Otherwise it’s really nice to have him home — even though I still haven’t vacuumed and can’t while he’s working! Heh. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.

Off to continue with the Big Secret Project. It’s so dark I need the lights on to see what I’m doing. Kind of like the middle of winter? To dark for any photos today that’s for sure.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Me-Me-Me

Here’s a meme that’s been going around. Many folks haven’t gone through the trouble of actually tagging anybody so I’m considering myself tagged. You can too, but only if you want to be.

1. What was I doing 10 years ago?

Pretty much all the same things as now though I was also teaching occasional craft classes and editing my weavers’ guild newsletter. (I worked on that darn thing for 13 years in total!) Perhaps a little more weaving and beading and a little less knitting than currently. Oh and there was the steering committee work for our big HGA conference, Convergence 2002. I was “Publications”, a job that I knew would be over before the conference began so I could actually enjoy myself there. It took my guild 5 years of planning and hard work to put on the best Convergence ever, only to lose money in the end. Boo-hoo. (Now HGA organises it themselves in-house.)

2. What were five things on my to-do list today (not in any particular order)?

Make a potluck dish. (Faux-tato Salad made with orange cauliflower instead of potatoes. Yum.)
Go to my Spectrum Study Group meeting. (Where I will share the potluck dish with my friends.)
Stitch on our Bag Project at the meeting. (No, I haven’t blogged much about that. Eventually.)
This evening, go to a meeting of the Vancouver Guild of Fibre Arts. (First one I’ve attended this year and the last meeting of the year until Fall. Bad Damselfly.)
Pay my VGFA guild dues for next year. (Dues for the Greater Vancouver Weavers’ & Spinners’ Guild are coming up in a couple of weeks too. I belong to several local guilds and a couple of international ones. Not HGA though. Long story. See first question.)

3. What snacks do I enjoy?

Salty: corn chips with artichoke and asiago dip (I prefer potato chips but they don’t like me much), peanuts, plain salted popcorn (though I don’t eat it often)
Sweet: dark chocolate (must be really good quality), gelato in a waffle cone, honey mandarins

4. Where are some places I've lived?

Vancouver, BC, Canada. I still live in the same neighbourhood I’ve lived most of my life including nearly 30 years in this house. (World Traveler - not.)

5. What things would I do if I were a billionaire?

Let T-Man retire (as soon as he wants to), help my birth mom with her cancer treatments, pay off hers and my kid’s mortgages, put money in education accounts for my grandkids, do some upgrade and repair work on the house, replace all the junk in my house with handmade craft pieces (commissioned or purchased from the artists). Then after putting enough money away for us to live in reasonable comfort, I’d probably start a retirement home for aging fibre artists. Wouldn't that be totally wonderful? Nobody really needs a billion dollars. They just think they do.

OK, now I’m off to do all the things I listed in Question 2.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Socks In The City

In all the Secret Project kafuffle, I’ve been forgetting to post Stargazer’s Toddler Socks, the ones that match his Pullover. So here they are:

Stargazer’s Toddler Socks


Begun: May 23, 2008
Completed: May 30, 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, half a ball of leftovers from the Pullover.
Needles: Clover Takumi 5” dpns, 2 mm.

Pattern: Damselfly’s Basic Socks on 48 sts, cuffs 2/2 ribbed for 4”, reg heel flap, foot 4” before toe, dec to 16 sts, graft toe.

Comments: As is the sweater, these are still a bit too big for Stargazer. The foot is 5.5” long. . I do like how the colour transitions in the yarns coincided with the sock sections.

And while I was at it, I started a new pair of socks. I had originally bought 3 balls of the ON223801 for the sweater (and socks) but when they used less yarn than I anticipated, I traded the last ball for a different colourway: ON223600. This one is tropical oceanic blues and turquoise so I’m calling them the Ocean Blues Socks.


I’m working them in my usual generic pattern and they will likely be given away eventually. I have many folks on my Sock List and I think I know who these are for. But I’m not sayin’ yet.

As for the A-Maizing Socks, they are frustrating me so they’re taking longer than they should.


I’m liking how they look and feel a lot but this yarn is splitty and combined with the twisted stitches is a bit of a PITA to knit with. If it’s not fun I tend to pick up other things first. I’m nearly at the heel turns on both socks though so after that I will only have half the round in pattern and the other half plain so it should go somewhat faster. I hope. I’d like to check these off the list! And I think I’ll hang onto this pair myself this time.

Back to plugging away on the Big Secret Project. Can’t blog about it until after the wedding on June 14 but I’m saving up photos and info for when I’m free to post it. Some of the info is over on Ravelry if you’re curious. (And you are not The Bride & Groom!)

Question To Ponder

So what’s with all the hoopla around the new S&x and the City movie? I don’t get it. But then I never got Seinfeld, South Park, or the Simpsons either. Don’t hate me. I think it’s because I’m too old, too plain, too poor and too married to relate to these women. Some people are talking like this show was such a big influence on their lives, like a milestone in female empowerment or something. Do they realize they’ve only made very-tall-and-pointy-and-super-expensive-shoe-manufacturers very happy? I really don’t get how this is at all feminist. All I can see is that it says you have to be pretty and thin, live in the big city, have lots of money to spend on very nice clothes, have a great job, get it on with a bunch of different guys, whine a lot about how tough your life is and eventually find a rich and powerful man to sweep you off your feet. What is wrong with this picture? Besides, how many woman really could live this lifestyle even if they wanted to? Or is it just a modern day fairy tale? I’d rather go spin, knit and weave, thankyouverymuch. No Fairy Godmothers or Prince Charmings involved. Oh wait...I already have something better than a prince, don’t I? And he has magic kisses! I still can’t spin straw into gold though. I’ve tried.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Shower Report

I finally found the secret to getting stinky fish fertilizer smell off my hands! The secret is vinegar. I still smelled badly after washing my hands numerous times and even after washing the dishes. I rinsed my hands in a splash of vinegar (white wine vinegar, if you must know!) and it finally took the stink away. Pretty much. Ah, the sweet smell of success.

I went to the Niece-To-Be’s wedding shower on Sunday afternoon. My sweet sister-in-law drove Nana, the Aunties and me and it was quite the hilarious trip, both there and back! The shower was at the bride’s mom’s house in Langley (about an hour’s drive) but with having to pick everyone up and making a few...er, detours, it took much longer. I sat in the back between Nana and Auntie92 and threatened to poke them with my knitting needles if they didn’t behave. Add the somewhat wild driving of my French-Canadian sis-in-law to the old ladies acting like silly little children and it’s amazing we all made it home intact! Good thing I had all that old-lady experience when I used to hang out at my late mommy’s residential care facility. And these ones are only a little dotty! I’m still chuckling.

The shower was fun, though it took awhile for some of the ladies we didn’t know to warm up and speak to us strangers. It might have helped if there was some more formal introductions made because I still don’t know most of their names and relationships. But by the end everyone was chatting away like old friends anyway. It was a traditional kind of bridal shower except that where in my day they would have created a silly hat out of the bows and ribbons, the modern version was a bikini top that the bride ended up having to wear with a grass skirt and lei. Très unbecoming. She was a good sport though and professed to actually being surprised by the party. Luckily there were only a couple of Stupid Party Games and I managed to avoid most of it without being too rude. I absolutely detest and abhor party games, to the point where I usually flat out refuse to play. I think it’s something left over from my childhood but I don’t really have any recollection of major trauma in that regard. Call it a personality quirk. I just don’t play most games. (There are a very few exceptions.)

The presents were pretty darned elaborate, some of which I would consider wedding gifts rather than shower gifts. They really ended up with a very nice haul but everything was zipped out of sight into another room rather quickly so I can’t remember most of it. I coveted the blender since the one I got for my wedding (from my brother-in-law who was then only 15) is a bit the worse for wear after 37 years, but I managed to keep my hands off. However she did appreciate my handmade gift and now I can finally show it off:

Neapolitan Wash Set


Begun: April 29, 2008
Completed: May 7, 2008

Yarn: Sublime Yarns Organic Cotton DK, 100% organic cotton, 120 yds = 50 g, colour 94 Scumble (pink) .5 ball, colour 97 Nutmeg (light brown) 1 ball, colour 98 Rice (creamy white) 1 ball. Care – machine washable, dry flat to shape.
Needles: Denise circular size US5 (3.75mm) for washcloths and 2 Crystal Palace bamboo dpns size 4mm for soap socks. (I didn’t have bamboo dpns in 3.75mm and I was too lazy to go buy them.)

Patterns: Washcloths – Grandma’s Favorite Dishcloth (Basic Dishrag). Soap Socks – Spin2Knit Soap Sock by Sheri Figueroa (modified, see below). Drawstring – 16-strand kumihimo braid Keiruko No Himo.

Comments: The tri-coloured one used up all the rest of the yarn. There’s nothing left more than a yard long! The corner tassels happened because there were too many ends to successfully work into the knitting. A good lesson in frugality! The soap socks are a little long but the handmade soap (from Cascadia Soaps) are small bars. I used the kumihimo braid for the ties.


Braid: Keiruko No Himo (aka Carey 16T or Owen 50 or Martin 7)
Bobbins: 16 – 70g, counterweight 20 oz.
Yarn: Sublime Organic Cotton DK, colour 94 Scumble, one strand per bobbin.

Comments: This is a simple and rhythmic braid to work. It’s actually a 2/2 weave, except of course it’s on the diagonal, and is hollow so it lends itself to adding a core if you want. It’s a very strong and flexible structure. I kept adding more to the counterweight to soften it up a bit so it would knot easily. I started with 19 oz. and ended up with 22 oz. which seems ideal. The yarn untwisted between the counterweight and the bobbin so the individual 2-ply strands lay mostly flat on the mirror. If I wanted to keep the twist in, I would have had to wrap the marudai legs in a towel so the bobbins had something to rest on. The friction would prevent them from untwisting. But it looks just fine flattened in the braid.

I did manage to make a few mistakes in it but was able to cut around them. Does resemble one of our old boat ropes though! All it needs is a core in the centre and to be made from Dacron. Heh. It didn’t work for the Unmentionables but was just fine for the Soap Socks. I had 6 or 8” left over.


Modified Soap Sock Pattern:
CO 28 (7 each needle), k3 rounds.
Next round: (k2tog, yo) around.
K garter st in the round (k 1 row, p 1 row) 4 inches. (3 would have been better.)
Dec like sock toe (still in garter though plain might be nice) to 8 sts total (3 each needle).
Graft last sts as for sock toe.

I do hope they can get some use out of these rather than just use them for decoration or hide them in a drawer! I make things to be used and even worn out, though that usually takes awhile. I’m still using placemats I wove in 1985.

Well, speaking of showers, we’re having some today. It’s good to water my garden a little more thoroughly than I have been and it saves me getting out the hose. We got a lot done on the garden this weekend, especially T-Man who worked very hard. I was busy trying to get the Big Secret Project going so wasn’t as much help as I could have been. There’s only a wee bit of the front garden left to finish and some weeding in the veggie paths but otherwise, it’s looking really good. Lots of work but lots of fun too. It helps that I’m feeling well and am able to get out there and dig in. Oops, hope I haven’t jinxed things now.