Friday, October 31, 2008


Arrrrr!!!! I want brains! No, I haven’t been zombie-fied. But I might feel better if I was undead. At the least, I would settle for a head without a migraine. (My own head, that is.) The meds aren’t working. Must be the weather. It’s raining which is not so nice for all the zombies and other scary things that will come out tonight.

The woven shibori warp has no end in sight. I keep plugging away at it but feel like I’m not getting anywhere. I only remember winding a 3-yard warp and I used some at the Catharine Ellis workshop so there couldn’t be that much left. There is an end to all that fine white wool somewhere. I would like to find it. Weaving mostly plain weave on a 12-shaft table loom is getting old.

I did have some fun today. I have a small sample ball of hanji (Korean paper, more info here, here, here and here) yarn to play with. A local Korean fibre artist is encouraging our fibre arts and weavers guilds to exhibit pieces made from hanji and she is taking orders for the materials to bring back with her from her next trip to Korea. I helped my friend Cathie to get an approximate yardage for the yarns using a McMorran yarn balance so we could give a better idea of how much to order for a project. There are several different yarns including thin paper strips of different widths, thicker strips (kind of like raffia) and fine twisted thread. Other options are lovely papers both thin and thick and cloth woven with silk, linen and cotton.

So what did I do with my little ball of white paper tape about 4 or 5 mm wide? I tried knitting it! First I did garter stitch with 3.75 mm needles but it was too loose so I tried 3 mm needles and then continued on with a leaf edging #80 from “150 Knitted Trims” by Leslie Stanfield. It was very interesting knitting with a paper ribbon and I found I had to be gentle but firm with it. Decreases were a bit tricky since of course there is no give in this paper whatsoever. I had to develop a tension loose enough to get the needle in but not too sloppy. The sample came out feeling slightly crunchy and with a very interesting surface texture. Next I got really brave and actually washed it gently in warm water and pinned it out to block it. Wet it had a much more yarn-like feel to the knitting and it didn’t show any harm from its bath at all. Right now it’s drying so I can’t show it yet. I would like to dye a sample in Procion MX dyes also but not today. I also have a small sample of the fine twisted paper yarn but I don’t have a warp to test it on. I think I will eventually try to dye it also just to see how it holds up to the process.

Having worked a bit with paper before as yarn, I wasn’t especially afraid of it disintegrating. I’ve used pattern tissue that I cut into strips and spun and plied for kumihimo braiding. In Japan, woven paper cloth is called “shifu”. The wonderful quality of the Korean hanji made for very durable items traditionally and I have an idea to explore for my piece that I hope to do for the exhibit.

But right now I need to go start making dinner before the growling of T-Man’s tummy frightens all the zombies away. I’ll bid everyone a Happy Halloween! Here’s my Toad Witch sitting on the basket on the front door with her Jack O’Lantern buddies. She’s waiting to work her magic on any trick-or-treaters!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A Poke In The Arm

Yep, I got my flu shot today. I mean – what could I do? I’ve already had 2 colds in the last while, one light and one nasty. Everybody thinks I’m always sick so I must be sick way too much! I think I just bitch about it more than most, but I digress. Anyway, I went to see my cute doc and got poked. (Stop that! With a needle.) I hope that it will keep me from getting the flu at all this winter but that might be asking too much. At the very least I hope it keeps whatever I do get down to a dull roar. I do NOT want to feel crappy all winter this time around. T-Man has been debating about getting his shot. They actually come to his work and do it so he doesn’t even have to go anywhere or pay $25 like I did. (I get it back from his extended medical insurance though.) He just doesn’t really believe it works. I say judging by how lousy he felt when he caught my last cold, it might be in his best interest to go for it. Might even keep him from bringing the flu home and sharing it with me, the Damselfly-Hermit.

I’ve been sticking with the Bronze Ribbon Scarf and am nearly at the halfway point because I’ve nearly come to the end of the first skein of Louet Euroflax linen yarn. It’s over a metre long already but I like long scarves that you can wrap around your neck several times. No point in stopping before I’ve used up both skeins.

What else? I got an odd request from T’s Auntie92. She asked at Thanksgiving if I would take the hand ends off a pair of very long (up to the shoulder) commercially machine-knit gloves that apparently came with a cap-sleeved dress she planned to wear for Christmas. She wanted her hands free and her arms warm. I thought it would be relatively easy: clip the yarn above the ribbing towards the thumb, rip back to the where the rib ended, pick up the stitches on fine dpns and bind off in k2/p2 rib. Not so easy. It was a royal PITA to pick apart the stitches where the glove was casually picked up from the arm which, unbeknownst to me, was knit flat and joined into a tube. I spent ages clipping yarn and pulling the loops out of the stitches that I needed to place on the needles. Then I had to join new yarn, salvaged from one of the gloves to bind it off. The yarn was acrylic, 3ply and splitty making it even harder to deal with. I eventually got it done but a simple job took over 2 hours to complete. With my magnifier lamp the most important tool along with a fine crochet hook. Now Auntie92 says she’s not going to Christmas Dinner at The Ninja and The White Lady’s house because her sister, Auntie90 doesn’t want to go. Oy. And I still have the sleeves here.

I need to get some work done in my new Studio Journal to keep up with the class lessons. We also have to go vote today. Can you say “Voter Fatigue”? In the space of a month we will have had to vote in federal, provincial (by-election) and civic elections all the while trying to keep half an ear cocked on what’s going on to the south of our border. Sheesh. Democracy is hard work! This particular little exercise is because our left-wing provincial MLA has decided that being in opposition in Victoria isn’t good enough and wants to run for Vancouver mayor instead. He’d better watch that he’s not out of public office entirely like the guy who caused the other local by-election. He aimed to go to Ottawa as an MP but lost his bid in the federal election. Now he’s out of his provincial seat too. Heh. Somebody should have told him that a gay Conservative just might not fit well in the Harper government. Coulda been interesting to watch though. But I’m tired of politics.

To distract you, here’s some pretty leaves that are currently my Bluet’s wallpaper. These are white ash from the trees that line the street one over from me. I can see them from my house and I love them this time of year. The undersides of the leaves are pale pastels, a very different colour from the tops with their yellow to burgundy. They are gigantic trees and not indigenous to the west coast.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Looming Project

I’ve been slowly but steadily plugging away on the woven shibori warp that was left on my table loom. At about 14 ppi it’s not too onerous but it takes a lot of flipping of levers. On the loom it looks like this:

That’s 20/2 wool (5,600 ypp) sett at 24 epi and an overtwisted 2-ply merino wool that’s even finer. The yellow yarn is a synthetic and is very strong so it doesn’t break when I use it to pull up the shibori ties. I have no idea how this particular undulating pattern is going to look when it’s done but that isn’t going to stop me! It’s always an adventure with shibori anyway. I’m going to dye it so the combination of permanent wrinkles from the overtwisted weft and colour will hopefully give me something interesting. We’ll see. Maybe it will even be wearable.

That’s pretty much all I’ve been up to today. I covered a few more of the books I bought recently with clear contact paper. Nothing exciting. It’s so gorgeous and warm out today that I’m out here on my upper deck typing. Gotta love it this close to November! I’m sure it’s not going to last.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Kick 'Em While They're Down

The leaves, that is! It was perfect leaf-kicking weather today. Quite warm and sunny and I even saw one or two people dressed as if it was summer in flip-flops and shorts. Others were wearing fleece or down vests and scarves. I settled for a fleece vest over heavy cotton long-sleeved t-shirt and I was almost too warm. But then we were walking briskly as usual. Why is it that the colder it gets outside, the warmer they keep temperatures inside the stores? Or maybe it’s just the contrast. Anyway I was roasting in the magazine store.

Only one magazine available today, the November/December issue of Handwoven. There was a tote bag on the cover that totally looked like it was a fulled (felted) knit in entrelac or mitred diamonds but it was actually woven in little squares on a pin-loom which were then stitched together into a bag and fulled. It’s final purpose is for a loom-bench storage bag. Also in the magazine are articles on choosing a loom and which shuttles are best for what. I particularly liked the project by Gudrun Polak, an old acquaintance of mine, of a tabletwoven necklace that curls and another by Amy Abbot on inkle weaving a pincushion necklace. It seems that they are focusing more on beginner level weaving or weaving with simpler equipment but there are also projects for 8-shaft echo weave and advancing twills. I think it’s difficult if not impossible to please all of the weavers all of the time, but this issue must hit a good cross-section. Plus I really like the redesigned layout.

What else have I been up to? Yesterday we went to the nursery and bought some flowering kale and winter pansies to replant the deck pots. The coleus had been swiftly dropping leaves all over the place so I knew it was only a matter of days before they would be toast. I’m not going to try to root cuttings of them this year since I had better luck growing them from seed in the spring. I can’t get the more exciting varieties in seeds but I got enough to keep me happy and they grew very large. I kept the rampant lobelia in the pots and it will be fine as long as a hard frost doesn’t hit and swapped the coleus for a single kale (purple and white ones) surrounded by orange and purple pansies. I put all the plastic pots down on the lower deck and brought the ceramic ones with my Amber Waves heucheras up to the top deck for a bit more protection. They did very well this summer and I want to keep them well. Besides I love the bronzy colours of their leaves. So far the geraniums are surviving in the hanging pots but I tucked some pansies in there too. I also got a pretty rust-coloured garden mum for the front door basket and it’s currently sharing the space with my toad-witch doll (made by my sister The Nurse) and my two needlefelted pumpkin heads in a festive arrangement. Now T needs to carve my single giant zucchini into ghosts and we’re ready for Halloween.

I got a wee bit further on the Purple Ruffles Socks for Princess Pink:


So far they’re pretty cute. Not a mindless knit however which brings the total of not-so-mindless knit projects on the needles up to three. I may have to start something mindless just to have something to do when I’m otherwise occupied and can’t watch what I’m doing. I’ll try to hold off though until I finish at least one current project. Or none of them will get done anytime soon.

Then there’s the shibori weaving which is going very slowly and the Journal which is still under a pile of books giving it a good press. I haven’t started writing anything in it yet. I’m not really afraid of it, just otherwise occupied. Too many things going on right now and nothing nearing completion at all! I’ve been trying to enjoy the lovely weather and we even spent some time sitting reading in the sun on the deck today. And it’s nearly November! However we did have a bit of light frost this morning so it’s not as if it’s been terribly unseasonal.

Friday, October 24, 2008

My Journal Begins

I got my book assembled today. Apart from trying to remember how to stitch the signatures together, it went fine. There’s a tutorial here and another one here if you want to see how to do it. As far as I can tell everyone stitches just a little bit differently. The Coptic binding is exposed showing off the interesting stitching and it opens flat. It’s also a little bit loose no matter how hard you try to get an even tension. That really helps when you are adding collage elements inside. To make even more room, I added some spacers cut from some of the paper. These can come in handy to attach items to or punch holes and thread in yarn or whatever.

The journal cost me around $12 for the two pads of 9” x 12” paper. One was 140lb. watercolour paper (on sale!) and the other was a grayscale selection for dry media in a similar weight. I folded the pages in half to make a 6” x 9” book with 8 signatures. I used the pads’ backing boards for the covers (cut to size slightly larger than the paper) and the front pages with printing on them for the inside covers and a pocket in the back. The front and back boards were covered with pieces of my paste paper and glued with PVA glue then weighted down overnight between waxed paper. My thread was black waxed linen and for the first time I tried stitching with a curved needle which was much easier to use than a straight one.

I’m quite happy with the results. Now I need to use it! That’s much harder for me than making the journal itself. I’m always afraid to “mess it up” but I’m determined to get over that “precious” thing and just have fun.

What else? I finally started another pair of socks. I swear that was the longest time for years not having socks on my needles! A whole week. Whew. These ones are for granddaughter Princess Pink and I’m using up the hand-dyed leftovers from the Purple Passion socks that I made in August for my sister-in-law. Since PP’s mom liked the ruffles I made on a past pair of girly-socks, I’m including them and then going into the double lace rib that I used on the Purple Passions. So far, so cute! Not enough knit yet though to show off. And I’ve been too busy to touch my Seaweed Shawl or the Bronze Ribbon Scarf or even to carry on with the weaving on my loom.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Where Did It Go?

Please tell me where the time goes to so fast? I swear I barely get up in the morning and it’s time to go to bed again. Guess I’m not bored, huh? So what have I been doing? Well, on Tuesday I took this old sweater:


And fulled (some people call this felting but really it isn’t) it in the washing machine. Then I cut a little and stitched a little and made this:


A tote bag for my little mini-laptop. The front pocket holds the mouse and my flash drive. See the kumihimo braid I looped through the teeny little black flash drive so I couldn’t lose it quite so easily? I made the pocket from the back neckline. The bag’s height is a wee bit short but I didn’t have any more fabric to play with below the front neck scoop. There was only a few inches of the two shoulder sections left when I was done. I even found some of the original yarn to stitch the handle area with to reinforce it. (It’s handspun - I don’t throw that out without good reason!) A pretty successful exercise in re-purposing I would say. (Is that really a word?) I’m happy with this project that gives new life to an old sweater.

What else have I been up to? I finally printed out all the pages of the digital journal I kept while we were away on our holiday in September. T-Man started to read it and got all nostalgic for our time together in our teensy van. And I realized how much warmer it was only a month ago. I don’t think I’d want to do the same trip again right now. The leaves are turning beautiful colours and some trees are totally bare. We’ve had some light frosts in the mornings. Not precisely camping weather.

Today I was working on my journal for the class that started today. Of course I’m making the book myself rather than just buying a sketch book. That’s too easy! The covers are drying under pressure and I’ll do some Coptic stitching on the signatures when they’re ready. I’ve downloaded and printed out the first lesson. Thanks to everyone for your helpful and encouraging comments. I think I’m going to enjoy this class. I’ll show you the book I’ll be working in when it’s done. Right now I have to go to bed so I can get up at the ridiculous hour of 0-dark-30am. Just because that’s when I wake up. Seriously.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Pink Gives Me The Blues

Don’t get me wrong, I totally believe research on the treatment and cure for breast cancer is extremely important and a very worthwhile charity to get behind. But if I see One. More. Stinkin’. Pink. Ribbon. I’m going to scream! Every freaking thing is pink. Everything a woman might want has an “awareness” version with some portion of the price (often only a minuscule token amount) ostensibly going to charity. But why should they blatantly use this charity to market their goods? Because that’s what it comes down to, marketing and nothing more. Do I know which exact cancer agency the funds are going to? Do they even state what percentage of the sales is actually getting there? How do I know my money is going where it will do the most good? Why won’t people donate without having to have some merchandise in return? Too many questions; not enough answers. If I wish to donate to cancer research I plan to do my own research first. And then give them my money directly. Besides, pink is NOT my colour.

Today it’s blue.

Back Home Blues Socks
For T-Man

Back Home Blues Socks

Begun: September 26, 2008
Completed: October 17, 2008

Yarn: Zitron Trekking XXL, 75% superwash/25% nylon, 420m = 100g, 1 ball colour 71 dyelot 7034, blues.
Needles: Clover Takumi bamboo dpns, 2mm

Pattern: Damselfly’s plain top-down heel-flap socks on 68 sts, 8” before heel flap, 8.25” before toe dec, dec to 24 sts, dog-ear reduction.

Comments: I started these socks the day after T’s birthday a few days after we got home from our September vacation. Which explains the title! I liked this yarn a lot because the colours were subtle and segued gently so I didn’t have to match anything. A lot like a handspun yarn actually. T now has plenty of socks in his drawer which may or may not stop me from making him more of them. I have sock yarn and I know how to use it!

Next on my list for socks is my granddaughter, Princess Pink, who is growing out of all her granny’s knit socks. I had the chance at Thanksgiving to measure her foot so I’m sure of the size now. Just have to cast on.

Meanwhile I haven’t touched the Seaweed Shawl since the meetup on Sunday. Instead I’ve been weaving on the remains of the woven shibori sample warp that was left on my table loom. I think there’s something near 2 yards left so I’ve been weaving with what I hope is overtwisted wool. It doesn’t have a label on it because of course I’m going to remember several years after I bought it what it is! I’m hoping for a scarf out of this but you never know. It’s rather tedious weaving what is mostly plain weave but threaded on 12 shafts (because they were there and I didn’t have to move heddles around). That’s a lot of levers to flip up and down just to weave an inch of this very fine yarn, like sewing thread nearly. My beat is a bit wonky because you can’t so much beat as gently press it into place. I want it light and it probably should be even more gauzy than it is but so be it. I’m determined to get this warp off the loom. ASAP. I have a commitment to weave something or other with beads in it and write it up for the Complex Weavers’ Journal. By December 1, no less. Wish me luck because I have no idea what I’m going to do yet.

Also meanwhile I have some old handspun vests I want to felt up in the washing machine. One of them will perhaps be used for a protective tote bag for my baby laptop, Bluet. I’m not sure about the other one. Depends on what it looks like when it’s done. Right now it’s about the crappiest handspun yarn I ever made and the knitting is circa sometime in the early 1980’s. It will be a blessing to put it out of its misery.

Off to the washing machine. Then while the wool is drying I’m determined to finish the last little bit of weeding in my veggie garden. I was almost done when it rained hard on me yesterday afternoon. See the rainbow that nasty rain created? It was a double but I’m not sure you can detect the echo in the photo.

Monday, October 20, 2008


I foolishly took my Seaweed Shawl to the Ravelry meetup yesterday and I actually achieved negative progress on it. I made a mistake, a small mistake but not one I could fix by dropping down a stitch or two and picking back up. So I had to tink back 2.5 rows to repair it and by the time I got partway back to where I’d left off it was time to go. Let that be a lesson to me. Never knit fancy lace while chatting at the same time. I would have brought the usual socks but I haven’t started the next pair yet. Hopefully later today. Can’t have nekkid needles now, can we? Must fix that.

In other crafty news, I was reading this post and although I don’t totally agree with everything she says, it’s great food for thought. I admit I’m not a “true” artist. No, I’m not putting myself down or indulging in false modesty or anything like that. I’ve said this before – I just make things. For reasons such as I want to try this, I need that, I enjoy doing something else or whatever. I don’t care if what I make pleases anyone, except the recipient if it’s for someone besides myself. Sounds selfish? Sure. But I’m not trying to impress anyone or sell anything or even express my innermost feelings. I don’t make statements with my work. It just is what it is.

This whole “art” issue is making me nervous about the online course that the members of my Spectrum study group signed up for on Studio Journals. I just hope I’m not in over my head on this one. I mean already I’m intimidated. The list of tools and materials needed is quite formidable but luckily I already had most of it kicking around. It could get quite expensive to buy each individual item just for this class! Or maybe we could share amongst us. I’m sure we won’t use a whole jar of gesso or a whole can of fixative each. My biggest fear is that a lot of my art skills that I had back when I went to art school in my late teens have atrophied badly. I can’t draw well anymore and I’m not really interested in regaining that skill. I’m not great at painting either, unless that means wiping on great swaths of dye colours. Mostly what I’d like to get out of this is to work on my personal design sense using shapes, colours and patterns and then bring that to my textile work somehow. I’m encouraged by this statement in the class description:
“Please note that this course is about keeping a studio journal as a work horse not about creating an art journal that is a finished object in its own right. The emphasis is very much on using a studio journal as part of a design process to produce something in fiber.”
I’m also hoping I’ve got the discipline to do the work necessary. I’m really bad at finishing things if I’m not enjoying the process or I don’t have a firm deadline. We’ll have to strongly encourage each other in the group. That might help some.

OK I still haven’t written up the latest pair of socks so I’m putting it off yet again. Besides they aren’t anything new or exciting even though the yarn was quite nice knitted up. Later.

Sunday, October 19, 2008


I had a lovely day yesterday with T-Man. The weather was sunny and cool but not cold so we went out for one of our long walks. We began with lunch out at the White Spot which was a Saturday treat back when I was a child. The only difference in my choice of menu was yam fries and chipotle dip with my Legendary hamburger instead of regular fries. Oh, and an apple cider instead of milk. Yum. The hamburgers still taste pretty much like they did when I was 6 and later when I was pregnant with our first child I’d beg T to bring me one for a late-night-snack on his way home from work. I even prefer them to my own homemade hamburgers. Go figure.

After lunch (and some remarkably slow service) we continued down to Best Buy where I got a flash drive for Bluet. Since she doesn’t have a CD/DVD drive the only ways to get files from one computer to another is to use our wireless LAN, SD cards or a USB flash drive. I thought since the latter are so cheap these days ($12 for 4 GB) it wouldn’t hurt to get one just to have it available as an option. Both of our big computers have SD drives but not every computer does. And USB is faster. You never know when you might want to share something.

Then we went down to the Seawall and walked along to Granville Island. We stopped in at Opus for some art supplies that I need for my upcoming class on Studio Journals with sharonb. I got a cute little watercolour set in a box with mixing pans and a water brush and some watercolour paper to make my own journal. Then to Maiwa’s supply shop where I got some Orvus and Synthrapol, both of which were running out in my dye studio. I saw they had some black oak bark which I hadn’t noticed before so I got some. It’s a good and lightfast yellow dye and isn’t always easily available so I took my chance when it came. I know I’ve been concentrating on local dyes from my garden but I’m running out of coreopsis and only have one baggie left of marigolds in the freezer so the yellow possibilities are limited until next summer. Besides I’ve never used black oak before. Gotta expand the repertoire.

After Maiwa we went to the market and got some groceries. Then it was the uphill slog to Broadway to Mayfair News for the weekly magazine search. I got the new Quilting Arts and the holiday issue of Vogue Knitting but that was all the new issues that were out at the moment. We were both pretty tired by the time we got home, not just because that was over 10 kilometres we walked but that we were both carrying about 10 kilos each in our backpacks.

It’s amazing how much the leaves have changed just in the last week or so. A lot of the colours are just about at their peak right now though other trees haven’t even begun to shift yet. You have to pay attention because the whole show is over in less than a month from when it starts. I’ve heard others exclaiming that this is their favourite time of year and I so agree. So beautiful and all my favourite shades! I hate for it to end but it will. Luckily I also enjoy the patterns of the bare branches against the sky. Every season has it’s pleasures if you just pay attention.

I have the Back Home Blues Socks finished but I haven’t written up the details yet. I’m heading over to hang with my Ravelry buddies today so it’ll just have to wait. I’m thinking both T and I have enough socks for now and my sock knitting will be concentrating on other family members now. Speaking of T, he has just driven The Ninja to the airport on his way to Japan for the first time. Then he was heading out to the Woodworking and Tool show. I’m happy not to accompany him this time. It’s kinda fun because I love seeing “things to make other things” and the folks who get excited about that, but most of it isn’t my cuppa tea. Definitely T’s tea though and I’m glad he got a chance to go this year. Even if it was all by himself.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Remembering Peter

Last week the world lost someone very special. Not a huge media celebrity or a politician, but a weaver. A quiet person who found endless fascination with the ways that threads can interlace and, moreover, had the ability to record what he found so others could enjoy those discoveries too. Peter Collingwood died suddenly in his studio where he had spent so much time over the years. I guess since you have to go eventually, that’s as good a way as any I can think of.

I have a few personal memories of Peter. I met him in the early 1990’s when he came to teach and give a keynote speech at Fiber Forum, the wonderful “camp” we used to enjoy every year at Camp Casey near Coupeville on Whidbey Island, WA. My old friend Mary Frame, a fine arts historian with a special interest in Andean textiles, introduced us but the two of them were already in a deep discussion of some esoteric technique so I politely slipped away. Later I took my copy of his “Techniques of Rug Weaving” for him to sign and he gave me a hard time about it as he wrote his name and the date. “You should get the newer printing. This one has too many errors in it!” Today this book is OOP but you can get a digital copy at the wonderful online archive along with Peter’s second rug weaving book – and about a gazillion other titles. This site is a treasure trove!

Peter was always extremely helpful to those who were struggling with any of the many textile techniques he was familiar with. He had a fascination with the rarely seen, odd or just plain puzzling such as sprang, tablet weaving and ply-split braiding. He then took what he found in ethnic textiles and analyzed, extrapolated, experimented and documented so others could also make use of these techniques. A rare gift indeed. I think he loved it when someone would take something he found or discovered and run with it beyond his ideas and into something he hadn’t thought of yet.

I remember he seemed rather gruff, but Peter was actually kind of shy and while everyone at Fiber Forum was chatting and laughing over lunch, he would go off to the local deli and eat alone. I think he needed the downtime. During his keynote speech he said that the reason he wrote his first book was so he wouldn’t have to teach in person. But all that did was make him more desirable as an instructor to interpret what he had written! I’m sure he was glad when his son Jason Collingwood took over doing all the formal teaching. I can so relate. For some teachers the process of teaching is energizing but for others, like me and perhaps Peter, it can also be draining. However, also like me, he never stopped giving his advice when asked.

Another aspect of Peter you might not know was his sense of humour. He adored puns and word play and you had to watch for the twinkle in his eye because you couldn’t tell by the deadpan delivery. And his wordplay sometimes came out in his work. My friend Judy once commissioned a tabletwoven belt from Peter and he managed to weave in a verse and also emphasize her name in capitals using letters included in the verse. Very slick. I know she has always loved her personalized belt and will treasure it even more now.

For myself I will always best remember Peter Collingwood the way I first saw him: on the cover of one of the first weaving books I got in the very early 1980’s.

Wasn’t he totally cute? The textile world is certainly glad he gave up a career in medicine to be a weaver. His family reminds us that Médecins sans Frontières/Doctors without Borders was Peter’s favourite charity in case you are motivated by his memory to donate.

So. Moving right along. I finished the Back Home Blues socks and they’re drying from their first bath. I need to start a new pair for Princess Pink because she’s growing out of the ones I’ve made her. I showed my Flower Basket Shawl last night at my weavers’ guild meeting and a couple of people nearly absconded with it so I think it was well received. I’m really glad I nearly finished weeding the veggie garden on Wednesday because it’s mostly been raining ever since. Supposedly tomorrow will be nice so I can finish it and get the rest of the fall rye seeds in. But I haven’t picked the next batch of coreopsis flowers yet and they’re getting quite a beating from the rain. I’d just chop off their heads and see what colours I can get from the leaves, stems and all but T-Man would likely grump at me because they’re still quite pretty. Maybe I should try some blackberry leaves for dye since they need pruning but I don’t know – they fight back with claws!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Booking My Time

Today I thought I’d do another book review.

“Cloth Dolls for Textile Artists” by Ray Slater and published by Interweave Press is a book that’s not really just for dollmakers. This is a large format hardcover book with beautiful uncluttered photography. The dolls are elegant and full-sized patterns are included for heads, hands, bodies and legs. But what I like best about this book are the textiles that clothe the dolls. Ray is a British textile artist and costume maker and her love of fibres and fabrics really shows. In amongst the instructions for stump, wired and stuffed dolls is a crash course on surface design! These are some of the clearest instructions for techniques that other books and magazines like Quilting Arts take for granted that you already know how to do. And maybe, like me, you’d like more details please.

The tools and materials are listed generically with brand names only suggested when a particular item is truly required such as Wonder-Under fusible web (aka Bondaweb in the UK). Unless an author is required to flog specific brands for contractual reasons, I find it confusing and frustrating to have instructions call for something I don’t have and don’t know where to get when something similar will do just as well. This is especially true when the author lives in a different country than I do, which is almost invariably the case. Her sources are not going to be the same as mine.

So what kind of surface design techniques are in this book? Making layered background fabrics, stitching and zapping with a heat gun. Machine-wrapped cords, hand-stitching, bias tubes, puffs and frills. Transfer paints, appliqué, cutwork with a soldering iron. Creating fabrics with water-soluble film and machine stitching. Obviously missing though is anything with beads. No beads anywhere. A deliberate omission?

If you are interested in dolls, those directions are just as nicely presented in increasing levels of difficulty. Armatures, stuffing and attaching. Flat faces, shaped faces and needle-sculpting. Mitten hands and hands with poseable fingers. Colouring the facial features. Headdresses and hair. Everything you need to know to create your own expressive doll.

Problems with this book are few but I did notice that there were some photo captions that were inadvertently jumbled. The “Useful Suppliers” section in the back relies heavily on Interweave publications where you might go to note the advertisers therein for supplier options. If it was me, I’d leave this section out of the book entirely since most people these days go straight to their computer to google for more information. Printed listings just go out of date too quickly be useful. The “Further Reading” section notes some worthwhile books but I find it odd that the author lists one that is of unknown city and date of publication and probably self-published. What she doesn’t mention is that it really is a CD and available online. But since URLs change more often than your underwear, there’s no point in including them in a book. It’s worthwhile to hone your online search skills instead.

I’ll conclude this lengthy review by recommending this book highly if you are a beginner-to-intermediate dollmaker or if you want more detailed information on how to get started with surface design, whether for dolls or for other textile art work. The directions are clear and well-illustrated with drawings and lots of inspiring photographs. The results, in Ray Slater’s hands at least, are quite delightful. Whether I can make anything remotely as delightful remains to be seen!

In other crafty news, I’m on the home stretch on the Back Home Blues Socks and a bit farther along on the Star Stitch section of my Laminaria shawl, which I’m now calling the Seaweed Shawl. Yeah, I know that Laminaria is a type of seaweed and it sounds much more classy, but I like to put my own spin on it. I’m stubborn that way. And I’m very fond of many kinds of seaweed. See?

Weed! Ar-ar-ar…

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


Sometimes you get what you deserve. The Canadian election results were pretty much like I expected: another Conservative minority but with a few more seats than last time. The Liberals lost several seats and the NDP gained some. The Bloc Quebecois stayed the same. What was disappointing was the lowest voter turnout ever at 59% of the eligible population. Here in my riding it was higher at 61% but that’s still pretty pathetic. There are countries in this world where people put their lives on the line to have their democratic vote and here almost half throw their precious opportunity away. Are they totally happy with things as they are? Everything the federal government does is just peachy with them? Or are they just too lazy to check out the parties and the candidates and what they stand for and, gasp, pick one.

Anyway the federal election is easy-peasy in comparison to the upcoming civic election. You only have to pick one person out of a short list. In the civic election you have to pick a mayor, 10 councilors, 7 park commissioners, 9 school trustees, yes or no to the capital plan and a partridge in a pear tree. OK, not the last one. And the list of choices is huge! Big fun. Not. Alright – enough of the polly-ticks already. This ain’t that kind o’ blog.

Back to your regularly scheduled crafty stuff. I managed to get a shot of the beginnings of my Laminaria Shawl:


It's already bigger than that. And I swear the colour of this yarn changes constantly from green to gold and back again. In different light and every time I try to photograph it, I get a different result. Even to the eye, it shifts. Very fun if somewhat frustrating to pin down. The knitted fabric looks quite dense for lace but that’s because this is the beginning star stitch section which is quite textured and not so much lacy. If you look at the garter stitch edge you’ll see how loose it really is even on 3mm needles. This part is very easy to keep track of but it still takes a lot of needle-maneuvering to work. That’s what I love about Estonian lace – it’s quite out of the ordinary. And this shawl has a lovely combination of lace stitches which is probably why so many have opted to knit it. There are hundreds of gorgeous finished Laminarias on Ravelry! As usual, I’m kinda late for the party.

So of course I can’t put the needles down now that I’ve started. I knew I should have resisted until I got a few other things finished first. Nah, I’m not going to feel bad about something I’m enjoying. That would be stupid. It’s not even bad for me, like eating potato chips or something. However, I do have other things to do today. I want to go weed some more garden now that it’s nice (but cool) out. It’s supposed to rain tomorrow. And I need to pick the next bunch of coreopsis. And save some of their seeds for next year. And go to the farmer’s market which is almost done for the year. Only one more of them to go and I need to get some winter squashes, potatoes, apples, carrots and whatever else will store well to carry us into winter. Things I can’t or don’t grow myself. Guess I’d better get to it, eh?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Thanksgiving Reflections

Yesterday was Thanksgiving here in Canada but we had our big family dinner on Sunday. It was a lovely gathering – except that poor T-Man felt totally crappy thanks to The Cold. He was very subdued and pale and tried not to leave his germs for anybody to pick up. Hopefully he succeeded. I’m personally thankful that I’m now pretty much over The Cold and have started to catch up on unfinished work. T was supposed to go to work yesterday but he stayed in bed most of the day. Today he’s working from home so he doesn’t spread his germs around. Though it’s quite possible that’s where the darn thing came from in the first place.

I’m thankful for many things in my life. Number One is T-Man. We’re currently celebrating 40 years since we met and fell head-over-teakettle in love. I’m also thankful for our wonderful extended family. It just keeps getting bigger! And I’m thankful for the life that T and I have built together, our home and garden and crafty stashes, and enough money to pay the bills with some left for the fun stuff. We aren’t really rich in a financial sense but we’re very rich in all the things that really count.

In crafty news, I’ve been trying to finish T’s Back Home Blues birthday socks. I’m at the toe decreases on one but only halfway down the foot on the other. I tried to wind the green-gold comfrey/copper/coreopsis-dyed skein of alpaca lace yarn into a ball and had it pop off the ballwinder not once, not twice, but 4 times! By that point I had some still on the skeinwinder with a strand attached to one ball with its centre pulled out and that attached to a second ball with its centre pulled out and the end of that attached to the ballwinder. It looked like green alien guts. I didn’t panic but carefully tried to keep everything in order so I could try to wind it up again. I’m thankful that the Henry’s Attic Alpaca Lace yarn is quite strong and not prone to either felting or drifting apart. It takes quite awhile to wind over 1200 yards into a ball though. Several times over. With pauses for untangling and unknotting. This time I got smart and dug out some coarse sandpaper and used it to scratch up the plastic cone on the ballwinder to roughen it enough for the yarn to stick better. Success! The yarn a bit fuzzy now but that just adds to its charm. It made me start the Laminaria Shawl.

This yarn is called “lace” but is actually more like “cobweb” even though it’s a 2-ply. This is quite a lot finer than more normal lace yarn called for in the Laminaria pattern. I started on size 3.25mm needles but frogged that and began again on 3mm Addi Lace circs. I like it much better. Somehow I prefer my lace to have a bit of body and a clear difference between holes and solid parts. I believe that’s probably what I didn’t like about poor abandoned Zetor that I was making in a similarly-sized mohair yarn on 3.5 needles. It’s too airy and I can’t differentiate the pattern very well. A tiny bit tighter (only half a millimeter needle size) and I’m much more satisfied. This will make the large-sized Laminaria shawl somewhat smaller but it was pretty big anyway. If I think it’s coming out too small I can always do another repeat of the middle pattern area. However, I only have around 1200 yds of this yarn and no chance of getting exactly the same colour ever again. Not even if I used exactly the same dyestuffs and the same amounts. If I run out I’ll just have to put a rusty edge on it with my other skein of plant-dyed yarn! Hopefully I won’t have to. It's too dark now to photograph the wee bit I've completed so far.

Well, today is election day in Canada and we’ve gone out and done our bit and voted. Now we can bitch without guilt because we’ve at least tried to put the best guy we could in parliament. I doubt whoever gets in in our riding is going to change sides on us this time anyway. Everyone kicked up a big fuss when it happened last time but apparently it’s legal, if not particularly moral. I’m hoping for the best for our country but who knows? At least I’m thankful I live here and not somewhere else. As T always says, things could be worse.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Coreopsis Conclusions

On Friday, I finished up my coreopsis dye adventures. To recap, when I last posted I had just put the mordanted Corriedale wool sliver in the bath, simmered it for awhile and left it for the rest of the day. Before I went to bed Thursday night I added the ammonia to the whole bath, which I hadn’t tried before (only in a separate pot). And then I left the wool overnight in the coreopsis/ammonia bath. That was the secret to getting true orange!

By Friday morning I was finished with dyeing – or dyeing finished me, I’m not sure which. So rather than try to dye anything else I just dumped the bath even though I probably could have gotten one more exhaust bath because the colour of the fibre from the last bath was still quite strong. A bright orange in fact. In total, that medium-sized Ziploc baggie of dried Coreopsis tinctoria (about 110 g total) dyed 625 g of wool and alpaca! And we’re not talking pale pastels either. That’s pretty impressive really.

I didn’t do anything to this photo so I’m hoping it will be more accurate colours. Clockwise from the top right: bright yellow wool (exhaust bath), rust wool (ammonia over gold), comfrey/copper/coreopsis alpaca lace yarn, coreopsis/ammonia alpaca lace yarn, deep gold wool, and centre: bright orange wool (ammonia over bright yellow).

Some things that I learned about coreopsis as a dye:

It takes a lot of picking over several months to get 100 g of dried flowers.

They pack a lot of dye into their small blooms.

It takes time to extract all the dye. I did one overnight soak in hot water, plus several more short simmering extractions.

It takes time to apply the dye. One hour when it reaches a simmer is just a minimum. Leave to cool in the bath if possible.

Initial colours resemble that from marigolds: deep gold, bright yellow, lemon yellow (depending on dye strength).

To shift the golds/yellows to oranges, it needs sufficient ammonia. Check after replacing fibre that the bath stays red. If it starts to shift back to rust add more ammonia.

When adding the ammonia the heat was turned off and the bath was hot but not simmering. I was afraid too much heat along with the alkaline bath would be detrimental to the protein fibres. I didn’t reheat at all but left it to cool by itself.

An good long (overnight) rest in the dyebath with the ammonia helps to develop full orange. Shorter times or insufficient ammonia gives more rusty tones.

Coreopsis colour is pH sensitive. Rinse only in clear water, no added vinegar. Further washing should only use neutral soap or detergent.

And that’s it! I learned a lot and got some more wool to spin up for my languishing Backyard Sweater project. Too many other things keep jumping to the front of the queue but at least I have lots of pretty wool to spin when the spirit moves me.

In other news, poor T-Man got my nasty cold, sore throat and all! He wasn’t supposed to catch it but with me sniveling and coughing and waving my hankies around it was probably inevitable. We’re discovering that his previously strong immune system isn’t quite what it used to be. Ah, the downsides to aging are many and varied. Heh. And he’s much older than me – at least for another couple of weeks! Meanwhile, I’ve been making him tea and buying him throat lozenges with echinacea in them and generally babying him until he feels better. We’re due at his brother’s house this afternoon for the family Thanksgiving dinner so I hope we can keep our germs to ourselves. I’ve got to go make a green salad to take with me. I can put a bunch of the last of my Juliette tomatoes in it before they’re all gone.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Dye Do

If you have done any plant dyeing at all, you will know how hard it is to stop. You mordant some yarn and realize that all you have to do is add a bit more mordant and you can use the pot again for some fresh fibre. You extract the dye from some flowers and then you pour fresh water over them and extract again and there’s still colour coming out so you do yet another extraction. All that colour goes in the pot and you add your fibre or yarn and when that’s done there’s still more colour left so you add more fibre. Then you run out of mordanted fibre and you already dumped the mordant pot so you start it over again fresh. The last dye in the pot just gives a little colour so you decide to overdye it with something else. And on and on. I can keep this up for days. Literally. I don’t want to waste any of my dyestuff by throwing it out before it’s completely exhausted. Or I am. It’s a race as to which comes first.

Since I was so disappointed with yesterday’s comfrey colour, I started back in on the dyepots early this morning. I poured the liquor from the soaking coreopsis into the dyepot and added fresh water and brought it up to a simmer. I did that several more times and still some colour was coming out. I put my skein of Alpaca Lace yarn into the dyepot and got a deep gold colour. I took it out and added it to a small pot with a bit of the dyestock and a splash of ammonia. The dye immediately turned red but I found I needed to add another splash of ammonia to get the yarn to shift. It was old ammonia so it may not have been very strong anymore. After about a half hour the yarn was a lovely rusty orange and it stayed that way after I rinsed it – quite a few times before the water ran clear.

Meanwhile, back at the dyepot, I added the comfrey-beige skein: the pot and gave it a good simmer. It turned a much nicer shade of green-gold. Remember it had an afterbath of copper yesterday so that probably shifted the colour toward green.

Here's the rusty skein and the comfrey/copper/coreopsis skein together.

They coordinate rather well! I don’t know if I will overdye the green-gold eventually in indigo or leave it as is. I kind of like it now but I’ll wait until it dries for a full assessment. There was still lots of colour left in the dyepot so I mordanted (alum and cream of tartar) 200g of Corriedale sliver and threw most of that in, holding back a couple of lengths for later. After that cooked for awhile, I pulled out half of the now gold-coloured wool and added it to my ammonia pot. Then I put the last of the mordanted wool in the dyepot to see how much colour might be left in there. Right now everything is sitting down on the dye-stove with the heat off, absorbing.

See what I mean? Where do I stop? I grew and harvested those coreopsis flowers one by one with my own little (yellow-tinged) hands over the last few months. I want to squeeze every bit of colour out of them that I can. I can totally understand why dyers shifted quickly to synthetic dyes when they became available. Plant dyes are definitely a whole lot more work! And sometimes you just don’t get the colour you expect. But it’s so magical.

BTW, the photos may not show the true colours of my yarn because I edited them on my little Bluet with her shiny screen that seems to show colours more blue than my big computer. And I never can judge the intensity correctly on an LCD screen. And how do I know whether your screen is different again? For instance, I’m pretty sure that last woad dye we did on Milady Daughter’s fleece shows much too green thanks to editing the photo on Bluet, but I haven’t fixed it yet.

I’m not done yet in the dye studio for today either. I still have fibres that will need rinsing, pots and tools to be washed, splashes wiped up, a mordant pot to decide whether or not to keep going and a bunch of cooked flowers to compost. I’m resting first. The cold I have is still hanging on though I feel a wee bit more like myself today. I can tell because haven’t completely soaked through a fresh hankie yet. Unfortunately I managed to share the bug with poor T-Man who luckily is only a bit sniffly. (Good immune system, not like mine.) He gets tomorrow off in anticipation of Thanksgiving (because he has to work Monday) so he can rest up. The big family festivities are on Sunday at his brother’s house so we need to recuperate as much as possible before then. Don’t want to share the germs any further if we can help it. There will be 4 generations of family there to celebrate.

Here’s a few more holiday photos (because Magnusmog likes them so much!). This one is looking south on the beach at Carl Washburne State Park toward Heceta Head on the Oregon coast. Yes, it was definitely misty!

And also in Oregon, this is the view from the top of the sandy spit that divides ocean on the left and lagoon on the right at Cape Lookout State Park.

The spit is really long (5 miles maybe?) and I don’t think we’ve ever actually walked right to the end of it. Not enough time before the tide comes in! You can’t walk too far on the lagoon side either because the trail doesn’t go past this point and besides, the mosquitoes were snacking on us bigtime. There was an unusually large number of them nasty munchers.

And another of my “texture” shots. This is the lichen growing on one of the wooden cupboards that California state parks have in many of their campsites. This one was at Patrick’s Point and it didn’t have a bottle of tequila in it like we found once. Just newspapers for starting the campfire. I love the colours of the different lichens.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Dye Don't

Well, that was fun but I didn’t get the results I was after. To explain, for some reason I got started winding half of my huge skein of Alpaca Lace yarn and dividing it into two 110g skeins. There’s over 1200 yards to each of those skeins so that was a lot of winding. I also found 2 smaller 50g skeins of similar alpaca yarn lurking in the stash and decided to mordant all 4 skeins in alum and cream of tartar. So far so good. But then I got the brilliant idea to use comfrey to get green on one of the larger skeins. Big mistake.

Of course T-Man had already pruned off the comfrey plants on Sunday and it was all in the compost. I fished out a bucket full of leaves, plus a few spiders and sowbugs who were hanging on. After removing the wildlife and chopping it all up I had about 4.5 times the weight of my 110g skein. Plenty I thought. I set the comfrey soup to simmer for about an hour and had a deep burgundy “tea” in the pot and a bunch of cooked greens to go back in the compost pile. I entered the rinsed skein of yarn and got…beige. A darkish beige but not green. So I tried a bit of copper mordant in the pot as a “modifier” towards green. Now I have a slightly more greenish and darker beige. Eewww. Not even close to what I wanted. Jenny Dean was just teasing me in her book.

What went wrong? Maybe nothing. Maybe that’s all the colour my comfrey has to give. Maybe it’s the time of year. Or maybe I got the temp too high in my extraction process. Whatever, now I have to overdye it because it’s butt-ugly. If I remember, I’ll take a photo of it before I do anything else to it so you can see what I mean. I think it needs some woad but I don’t have any more. So maybe indigo?

So after that disappointment, I weighed my precious dried coreopsis flowers and realized I had enough to try dyeing the other large skein. So I put them to soak and brought the pot up to just under a simmer. Then I turned it off and walked away. I’ll get back to it tomorrow. I also left the rest of the alpaca skeins soaking in the alum/COT. Can’t hurt and probably will be good to get as much as possible absorbed into the fibre.

In one of my usual right-turns of subject, I have to tell you a funny story from yesterday. My son The Ninja called saying that my grandson Stargazer wanted to talk to me. As usual I got a little jabber and a lot of heavy breathing and then he wanted to go watch TV. So The Ninja and I chatted for awhile and then we hung up. About 20 minutes later the phone rang again and after I said hello, I got a cheerful “Hiya” from Stargazer. Remember he’s not quite 2 years old. He babbled at me for awhile and then all I heard was the TV. I asked him where daddy or mommy was but no answer. I eventually hung up because he was obviously distracted elsewhere. I’m sure he phoned me himself so I’ll have to tell his parents that he knows how to hit redial! Hopefully Stargazer won’t be calling Japan or something. It’s quite possible. The Ninja has an old friend and his wife who are currently living near Tokyo. He’s even heading there himself next week to a ninjutsu conference and staying with them. This will be his first time in Japan so he’s very excited. Too bad the rest of his family can’t afford to accompany him this time but I’m sure he’s concerned about how the economic situation will affect his business. Like everyone else, hey?

Well, we have yarn and we know how to use it. We will be fine.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Sunshine & Sniffles

Speaking of Janel Laidman (yesterday that was), as editor in chief of Spindlicity, the online spinning magazine, she finally got a new issue out. It’s expanded with new staff including the one-and-only Abby Franquemont as contributing editor and Beth of the Spinning Loft fame as editor of spinning and fibre articles. Go check out Fall 2008. ‘Bout time, I say! Link in my sidebar.

And while I’m talking about online magazines, there’s the “Broken Bones” issue of The AntiCraft! Samhain, Día de los Muertos, Halloween, or whatever-you-call-it is my favourite holiday of the year. I guess it’s because my birthday is on one of the Days of the Dead. And orange is my favourite colour. I hope it isn’t cultural appropriation (since I’m many things but not Pagan or Hispanic or Christian) but we need to appreciate our dearly departed family and friends and we need to understand that death is just another part of life. Ignoring it or hiding from it doesn’t make it go away. Celebrating is a much better idea. Speaking of which, I saw some really fab decorations while we were on our holiday, especially in areas with an Hispanic population, but I didn’t get them. Boo. Hoo.

So the weather was lovely sunny and warm today so, cold or no cold, I couldn’t stay out of the garden. I got the garlic bulbs planted and several beds now have their winter rye seeded which will cover them and prevent a lot of the erosion from the winter rains as well as provide nutrients to the soil when we dig it in in spring. The funniest thing was the chickadees who were demanding I put out the bird feeder. I guess that was because they pretty much denuded the sunflowers already. They were on it immediately, yelling at me if I came too close. Later I had trouble closing the combination lock on the shed and T-Man discovered that there was a sunflower seed tucked into the hole in the lock where the bolt goes in. Must have been one of those cheeky chickadees tucked it in there for later. He’s gonna be annoyed when he can’t get at it again because it’s been evicted!

Then T and I walked up to the mall to get some coffee and tea at Murchies. Amazing that one can spend over $100 for 2 lbs of coffee and 2 of tea, huh? Though if you usually drink yours at Starbucks or the like you’ll spend a whole lot more than that for the same amount. The most expensive item is the pure choice jasmine tea that I mix with a black and green tea blend to make my own personal Damsel-Tea. Yum.

Now I’m in bed, feeling crappy but satisfied with all my accomplishments and waiting for supper to cook. Nearly ready. Did I mention that my sore throat is quite a bit better but it’s now become yet another cold. I was trying to ignore it all but it’s being quite insistent right now. Where's my hankie?

Monday, October 06, 2008

Is It Monday Already?

Hello. Are you wondering what I’ve been up to this weekend? Well. Saturday I lazed around all day feeling bleh. It’s so nice to have my little Bluet “laptot” (love that term) so we can sit comfortably together in bed with warm blankets and pillows and still be able to work, read email and get online. Decadent, totally. Or it would be if I felt better. But if I was healthy, I’d feel guilty for hanging out in bed all day. Sheesh. I’d better get over that guilt fast. It was also raining so that probably contributed to the urge to hibernate.

On Sunday I went to help my friend Marian jury her craft fair that will be on December 6 & 7. It was exhausting but it went well, all except the last part when a couple of people who were not accepted felt bad enough to try to take it out on us poor jurors. The other two are much better at fielding unhappy enquiries but I didn’t handle the ones I got very well. How do you diplomatically explain that ya wins some; ya loses some and it doesn’t have all that much to do with whether your work is good or not. There are only so many tables available and a range of crafts are desired so whittling down to about 1/3 of the number of submissions is particularly hard! (Especially when the jewelry category has so many applicants – competition there is fierce.) Some stuff was easy to reject (can you say “church bazaar”?) and some was obviously really well done but the three of us jurors had some rousing debates over the fair-to-middlin’ ones. Luckily three jurors meant there was always a tie-breaker. It’s kind of fun but surprisingly stressful. Not to mention hard on the body from standing for about 6 hours with only a short lunch break. Anyway, glad that’s over for another year.

So, what else is new? How about another review, maybe a book this time? The Eclectic Sole by Janel Laidman is one I got while I was on vacation. Subtitled “Socks for Adventurous Knitters” it’s self-published and a bit hard to come by in the wild (so to speak) though several sources carry it online if you can’t find it at your LYS. There are 14 original designs here that were originally developed for a sock of the month club and they are quite a diverse and lovely group of socks with lots of different techniques used in some unique ways. Even the ones called Simplicity don’t look simple but the pattern is very straightforward. The most famous design is probably the gorgeous Rivendell socks and the pattern has been made available as a separate purchase for download. It doesn’t hurt that the Yarn Harlot has knit and approved it! But there are many other designs worth considering. Janel has a particular flair for colourwork as evidenced by the Northern Lights socks and the pair on the cover called Migration. There are even socks knit sideways (April Fools) and partially sideways (Monterey) just to get all the angles in. They aren’t quite as innovative as Cat Bordhi’s socks but they are quite a ways beyond basic.

What I like best about this book is the text and charts are large and clear and there are lots of good photos of the socks both flat and on a foot. Janel included a techniques section in the back with lots of pictures along with the abbreviation and symbol key. A personal quibble but many of the socks seem short to me. It would be easy enough to lengthen the leg. I like my socks long enough to show at the top of my Blunnies! At US$23.95 for a copy, it’s a bargain for so many knittable sock designs. My only problem is which one to start with when I’m done the Back Home Blues Socks?

Since it’s pouring rain out right now, I thought I’d leave today’s reality and go back to some of my holiday photos from northern California. Here’s the moss on a bigleaf maple tree in the redwood forest:

This is a succulent plant that grows in the coarse sand just above the highest tide line called sea fig. It has red-violet daisy-shaped flowers in late summer but I’ve never seen it in full bloom. Only one or two stragglers. The 3-sided leaves turn lovely reddish colours late in the season though so it’s still really attractive in September.

And this shows these honeycombs in rock called “tafoni” that are covered at high tide. To give you some idea of scale, I could put my fingertip in each cell. Other rocks had larger or smaller or varied patterns. The shapes are really interesting. Go here for more than you probably want to know about this type of rock formation.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Double Rats

So I’m pretty sure I have strep throat but of course it’s too late to make an appointment to see my doc before the weekend is over. By then I should be getting better. (I hope!) Really the only reason to go to the doctor with strep is to get antibiotics which don’t really help the throat much but they do render one non-contagious within a couple of days. As opposed to being contagious for a couple of weeks after one already feels better. I’ll wait and see whether I feel like going through the old antibiotic thing. I always feel worse before I feel better and the last time I got a thrush infection to boot. Good thing I didn’t go to Spectrum yesterday anyway. Not nice to pass germs off on dear friends.

While I wasn’t there, my Spectrum buddies decided to take an online class through This one is Studio Journals: A Designer’s Workhorse with Sharon Boggon. We plan to delay starting until January which is fine with everybody, though when the class actually starts on October 23 we’ll download the lesson PDFs as they come out. Seven of us (plus another friend and guild member who isn’t a member of Spectrum) have already signed up so I guess we’re committed! I was a wee bit hesitant at the US$60 which might have paid for 2 or 3 whole books on the subject, but didn’t want to be left out so I went for it. Could be interesting to take my journal in the direction of spinning, dyeing and knitting rather than paper/fibre/mixed media stuff or stitching/quilting like I know sharonb is into. I love her work but it’s not me. I hope the fact that some of us are beginning late and won’t be able to take full advantage of the forum and feedback offered isn’t going to be a problem for the class. I would hate to see the other students miss out on the social aspects with the bouncing around of ideas and seeing how others solve problems etc. It’s not so important to me. I’ve taken (and taught) so many workshops of varying types over the years that I’m a bit jaded and I never do my best stuff in a class situation anyway. Too many distractions! I just need to sit down in my studio and do the work. Right.

On another subject entirely, I was surprised when I picked up my copy of Interweave Crochet to see someone I know personally in there! (I mean, besides Kim the Editor who was once one of my students.) In the photo, Maureen is spinning though I usually see her every year at Fibre Fest running around solving problems and sorting things out with her lovely smile and cheerful attitude. How nice that this magazine has developed a local flavour thanks to Kim and I love seeing spinning in a crochet mag. Heh!

Speaking of spinning, the Fall issue of Spin-Off is also out and it’s a keeper. The comparison chart of all the current spinning wheels is brilliant. It might help someone decide what wheel to buy – or then again it just might complicate matters considerably! Only one of my wheels is included, my Louet Victoria, but that’s because the others are no longer being made. The chart would be immense if they started adding all the old wheels that might be available second-hand. Hope they eventually do the same with other equipment like drumcarders. I’m seriously wondering if I need to get another one that will handle finer fibres than my oldie-but-goodie no-name (probably a Patrick Green but without the sheep brand).

There lots more goodies in this issue too including Judith Mac-Mac’s article on washing wool, samples and swatches of the different pygora types, the 40th anniversary of EZ’s Baby Surprise Jackets and more more. I would like to mention that I would have preferred the several lace patterns included to also have charts as well as written instructions but that’s just me. So much easier to follow a visual chart than lines of abbreviations. I do love the Project Notes boxes with a lot of details about how the yarn was spun. I don’t usually keep such detailed notes about my spinning but guess I should, hey?

I’ve got loads of other books and magazines I could review here. Hopefully over the next while I’ll get to at least some of them. To conclude, here’s a nice sunset from Humbug State Park in Oregon south of Port Orford. A whole bunch of folks came out to the beach from the campground to watch it and it was quite a party. Definitely worthwhile view.

Thursday, October 02, 2008


I’m missing my friends in the Spectrum study group today because I have a sore throat. And a headache. Darn. I didn’t want to share this with anyone though. It must have been all that smooching and hugging on Sunday at T-Man’s aunt’s 90th birthday party/family reunion. I don’t have a very good immune system it seems. Probably from hanging out at home all by myself too much. How do I fix a lazy immune system?

Also apparently I can make it rain just by thinking that I should go back out in the garden and do some more work. I was only about 2/3 of the way through tidying up the veggie patch but I was really happy to get all the tomato plants cleaned out of the greenhouse yesterday. It’s getting too late in the season so I picked all the remaining tomatoes before composting the vines. I have three 3-litre pails full, one with small ripe tomatoes and the others anywhere from green to almost ripe, most of which should finish ripening in the house eventually. I think the Juliette roma-shaped cherry tomatoes did the best as always. I’m surprised I have any Juliettes left after Princess Pink ate about a dozen of them on Monday and I gave her parents a bunch more to take home for later! They are indeterminates which means they grow very tall but nothing seems to bother them. I lost quite a few of the yellow Taxi tomatoes because of some kind of rot and the other type of red tomatoes didn’t produce much. They were both determinates which means that they only have just so many flowers and then stop growing. I think they stopped too soon, just as it was warming up after the crummy Junuary weather we had. Ah, every year is different with successes and failures. We just keep trying things.

In the crafty area of my life, I’m feeling the need to start something new. But first I have to clean up my workspace. I’ve been piling things up and not putting everything away. I’ve got stuff that needs to be inventoried, books to be covered with clear plastic to protect them and a month’s worth of dust to be vacuumed up. All that won’t happen though until I catch up on my reading. I haven’t even looked through some of the books I bought at Powell’s yet! So I guess there’s an advantage to the rain besides saving me from watering the garden. I have an excuse to sit for awhile.

So I’ll leave you with some random photos from our trip. Here’s the sunrise from the deck of the Keystone ferry on Whidbey Is., WA:

The hundred-foot high (at least!) sand dune in Honeyman State Park, OR, that we climbed with great difficulty to watch the sunset:

A huge (as big as my hand!) mussel shell on the beach at Carl Washburne State Park, OR:

And a tidepool with a lovely green sea anemone at Harris Beach State Park, OR:

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Time Marches On

Another month already! Jeepers, the time is flying by. I barely registered summer before it was over. Our Canadian Thanksgiving is only a couple of weeks away. And the stores are putting up their Christmas decorations already. Ick.

I got nearly half of the veggie garden cleaned up yesterday at the cost of some sore muscles today. I plan to doggedly go back out there though. I want to get as much as I can done while the weather is still summer-like. Believe it or not I enjoy pulling weeds. It’s just so darn satisfying! Must remember to put on sunscreen and a hat before my nose starts to look like that flying reindeer’s that we won’t mention. Because that would be encouraging a holiday that already takes up about 3.5 months out of the year.

So here’s the last of the FOs that I hadn’t yet posted. This one is from the very first day of our vacation and it served well for the whole time we were away.

Camera Sock
For T-Man

Camera Sock

Begun: August 30, 2008
Completed: August 31, 2008

Yarn: natural grey aran wool (Dalesman? Not sure. Got it at Birkeland Bros anyway.) dye-painted in multi-colours with acid dyes by me, about 35 yards/20g.
Needles: Clover bamboo dpns, 4.5mm
Other notions: metal shank button, thread.

Gauge: Forgot to check in my haste to full the piece! After fulling, 18 st = 4”. Finished size: 5.25” tall by 8” around at the widest circumference. The belt loop is 2” long.

Pattern: Using Judy’s Magic Cast-On, cast-on 16 sts on each of the 2 beginning needles. Carry on with these same sts in st st circularly for 10 rounds. Knit 13 sts of the next round and turn and purl back 10 sts. Knit in st st on these 10 sts for 10 rows. Cut yarn leaving a tail to be worked in later. Pick up the same 10 sts through the sts at the back of the beg of the belt loop’s flap creating a double layer. Rejoin yarn at the end of the flap and continue knitting around until the body is the same length as the flap. On the next row, knit the flap sts tog with the body sts to join the layers. Continue to knit around until the body of the sock is a little longer than the camera. Purl the last st of the round, p first st of next round, k2/p2 rib 4 times. Cont to end of round in st st. Rib area is top of sock and plain area is the flap. Keeping in patt as established work 4 rounds more. Next round bind off rib sts and begin knitting back and forth across 10 flap sts, keeping 2 edge sts in garter st and the rest in st st, for 10 rows.
Dec row 1: k2, ssk, k6, k2tog, k2. Turn. K2, p8, k2.
Dec row 2: k2, ssk, k4, k2tog, k2. Turn. K2, p6, k2.
Dec row 3: k2, ssk, bind off 2 sts, k2tog, k2. Turn. K2, knit-cast-on 2, k2.
Knit 2, k2tog, k2. Turn. Knit 1 row.
Bind off last 5 sts.

Fulled in a bucket of hot water with soap until a nap was raised and a small amount of shrinkage occurred. Rinsed in cold water, blotted in a towel and air-dried. Stitched a button under buttonhole with quilting thread (since that was all the thread I had with me.

Comments: I started this while waiting in the US border lineup for nearly 3 hours. I finished all the knitting including some ripping and revising while we crept forward or just stopped with the motor off. I did the fulling at the Fort Casey campsite in a bucket and completed the drying on the van’s dashboard on the hot air vent the next day as we drove to Oregon. Sewed the button on at Fort Stevens in the parking lot while waiting to see if we could get a campsite for the night.

I would only change one thing if I could – start the belt loop up a bit higher on the body of the sock. It would balance better and maybe not stress so much at that spot. Otherwise it’s a successful project-on-the-fly to hold T’s camera while we walk or cycle.

The trees are finally starting to turn here and the colours are getting really pretty. This is my favourite time of the whole year especially when the weather is warm and sunny during the day and cool at night. It energizes me and makes me happy. Simple pleasures are the best ones, don’t you think?