Thursday, January 29, 2009

Stealth Knitting

I was all kinds of tired yesterday after having the grandkids over for several hours Tuesday and then their parents also for several more hours before The Ninja’s birthday party at his MIL’s. I was trying to keep things relatively quiet for poor T-Man who was trying to work on the computer in the bedroom. Stargazer would walk by the door and go “shhhhhh” and then run and slam the front hall door shut or squeal while his sister chased him. Even while The Ninja and Princess Pink watched “The Golden Compass” and The White Lady snoozed, he was all over the place making a noisy nuisance of himself. Two year olds. Gotta love ‘em! And speaking of the Princess, she came wearing her pink sweater and her unmentionables that I knitted for her. The unmentionables looked very cute peeking out from under a pink taffeta sleeveless dress worn with a long-sleeved t-shirt for warmth. Glad to see my knitwear is getting some use before she grows out of it! Wish I’d taken a photo but I was too busy with the beasties and making a big pot of soup for everyone’s lunch.

I had a lovely visit with Milady Daughter too who came after work before the party because her work is close by. Her spouse was in charge of picking up Nana. It was a completely family day and I thank the Other Grandmother (my daughter-in-law’s mom) for hosting us. We had a yummy little dinner party, complete with cake and one candle. Don’t want to burn down the house with 35 of them! Nice of her to throw a party for my kid, doncha think? This is the third or fourth year she’s done it too. I love her.

Nana liked her gloves! She was surprised actually because I gave them to her at the party and she wasn’t expecting them. Heh. Sneaky Knitter – that’s me. Besides her birthday is in only a couple of more weeks anyway. I also gave her charge of the socks for my brother-in-law since chances are she’ll see him first before I do. Oh, and The Ninja put his birthday socks on the minute he got them. Guess that means he’s happy too. That’s 3 gift knitting projects gone in one day! Meanwhile I might finish yet another pair of socks.

Yes, I finally broke down and started a pair of Monkey Socks. The yarn is Tofutsies in sandy colours plus a greeny-blue that totally reminds me of the seashore so I’m calling them the Sea Monkey Socks. That conjures up a different picture than the beach, doesn’t it? Anybody remember those ads on the back of comic books with the weird faces attached to shrimp bodies? In reality brine shrimp are not especially cute nor smart, just follow the light and swim around. We used to grow them for our fish that we used to have. But I digress. I’m not quite sure if I’m going to give these socks to Nana or not. I’m liking the Monkey Socks pattern (what’s not to love about anything by Cookie A., eh?) but the yarn had 5 knots in it! What is it with my yarn and knots lately? I also think it’s splitty but it feels pretty nice once knit up and the short colour sections work well with the pattern. I’ll probably decide who gets these before I’m done knitting them. Sorry no photos yet because it’s dark and rainy today.

I also started spinning some wool and silk top that I had lurking in my fibre stash for eons. So long have I had this that I have no clue where it came from or even the percentage of silk vs. wool. I’m using my Victoria wheel and the lace flyer and spinning as fine as I can manage on this slippery stuff. It has a nap so I have to choose the right end of the piece of top after I break it off the main ball of fibre or it makes slubs and is a PITA to spin. Unusually there’s a little bit of artificial crimp added to the top which helps hold the stuff together until you get it spun. It’s more like spinning straight silk than silk/wool. This stuff is for a scarf that I’m making for our guild booth at the ANWG conference in May. I’ve got to get moving faster on it because after I spin and ply it, I still have to dye it (I’m thinking natural dyes) and knit it (I’m considering Nancy Bush’s Triinu scarf from her Estonian lace book). I need about 500 yards for that. More spinning will be done today. If I ever get off this computer.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Gung Hay Fat Choy

Or however you anglicize the Cantonese saying which means something like wishing you prosperity (which most of us need about now). Happy Lunar New Year – the Year of the Ox! I got my haircut, cleaned the house and swept the porch and put the broom safely away so I was all ready. We even got to see a lion dance at a local mall. Loud drumming and cymbal crashing scares away any evil spirits. With a Chinese population of around 30%, it’s impossible to ignore this holiday so the rest of us in the Vancouver area are learning to enjoy it too. I’d enjoy it more if it wasn’t so darn cold with snow threatening tomorrow. At least it’s lovely and sunny today.

So what have I been doing? Since the weather has been mostly sunny this weekend, we went for a walk on Saturday. We got back in time for my sister who came later in the afternoon to stay overnight and we had a lovely little visit. We don’t have a guest room but she was happy to stay on the pullout couch. I gave her lots of blankets and we kept the house temp up higher than we usually keep it so she wouldn’t freeze and she seemed quite comfy. We drove her to the airport yesterday for her flight back to Sandspit. Unfortunately she left some special groceries in our fridge and none of us noticed until it was too late. Now I need a recipe for tomatillos and asiago cheese (but not necessarily in the same dish)! Her family was happy to have her back home even without the goodies.

I did get a chance to do a little gardening yesterday afternoon which felt really good. Even though we still have some snow (mostly in the front yard) I managed to trim the dead pelargonium geraniums in my wall pots on the back porch and pull out all the dead plants from the deck pots which are currently residing in the greenhouse. Most of the pansies made it, though they aren’t flowering, but only two of my lovely flowering kales are still alive. And looking a bit peaked. I’m afraid to put the pots back out for fear that will just encourage more snow to stick. Oh well. I was starting to get enthusiastic about planting some seeds in my basement but am refraining for a few more weeks. At least I can dream, can’t I? There’s a lot of work to be done in the garden but first we have to find out what survived and what didn’t. The snowdrops are poking up already so all is not lost after what has been a pretty fierce winter for these parts.

I finished two projects:

The Coach’s Birthday Socks

Coach Socks

For: my baby brother-in-law
Begun: January 4, 2009
Completed: January 22, 2009

Yarn: Lana Grossa Meilenweit Mega Boots Stretch, 70% wool/23% polyamide/7% elité, 400m = 100g, colour 701 (blues/greys), dyelot 1174.
Needles: Addi Natura Bamboo 6” dpns, 2mm.
Pattern: Damselfly’s Standard Plain Sock Pattern. On 68 sts, 8” to heel flap, heel st, 8.25” to toe dec, dec to 24 sts, dog-ear reduction.

Comments: This yarn is impossible to make two matching socks so they are kissing cousins only. Nice and stretchy and soft and the colour will go well with faded blue jeans.


Kaffe’s Pool Gloves

Kaffes Pool Gloves

For: Nana (my MIL)
Begun: January 4, 2009
Completed: January 22, 2009

Yarn: Regia Design Line Kaffe Fassett, 75% wool/25% polyamide, 210m = 50g (leftovers and less than one complete ball), colour 4453 Exotic Pool dyelot 32634.
Needles: Clover Takumi bamboo 5” dpns, 2mm.
Pattern: Marnie MacLean’s “Hooray For Me” gloves pattern. On 58sts, cuffs 2.5” 1/1 rib, lowered baby finger 1/4”, finger lengths: index 2.75”, middle 3”, ring 2.75”, baby 2.25”, thumb 2”, finished fingers with 2 rnds k2tog.

Comments: I didn’t have quite enough leftovers from her socks to make more than one finger so I used scraps of leftover purple and green hand-dyed yarns for the rest. She has mostly green thumbs! The piecing left a LOT of ends to darn in and I hope they stay put. I used a trick from Lynne (Socklady) and used a coarse emery board to rough up the yarn ends which I hope will help.

In other news, I had to mend a hole in each of my Purple Elephant Slippers. Hopefully they’ll last somewhat longer now. I knit a few more rows on my Seaweed Shawl too but it doesn’t look any different. Sigh. I need to get working on my two exhibition shawls so it might get ignored even more. However, I’m going to have to start another pair of socks or go nuts without something simple to work on. I can’t decide which yarn to go with and for whom yet so I’m stumped for the moment.

Friday, January 23, 2009

And We'll All Have Tea

Can’t stop long. Must knit gloves. Have some ladyfingers, please! Oh, thank you. Don’t mind if I do. Though I’m getting rather tired of them, to tell the truth. Half down; five more to go.

I finished up The Coach’s birthday socks yesterday. Full disclosure to come.

We Canadians not celebrating MLK Day, I missed an appropriate opportunity to post this lovely quote last Monday:

“Hatred paralyses life; love releases it. Hatred confuses life; love harmonizes it. Hatred darkens life; love illuminates it.”
- Martin Luther King Jr.

Note my ‘harmonize’ word in there, will ya? Back to the ladyfingers. Maybe I’d enjoy them more if they were dipped in chocolate? Guess not. Sock wool is a bit chewy especially with the nylon content. But at least it’s superwash. Yes, I’m getting a little punchy here.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Happy Birthday, Baby

Today is The Ninja’s 35th birthday. As he is my youngest it seems that his birthday makes me feel older than I do on my own birthday. I remember the day he was born, lo those many years ago. It was snowing and there was much trepidation because he was not due for 7 more weeks. We were not ready yet! Unfortunately he had other ideas and, although the birth itself was reasonably uneventful, he ended up staying in hospital in an incubator for another month. (The photo is from after we sprung him out of his little plastic cell.) That created difficulties for me having his 16-month-old sister already at home and no driver’s license. It was just a little too far to walk – though I could have since these days I actually walk further than I did when I was in my mid-twenties! Anyway they wouldn’t have let a toddler in to the hospital with me (germs!) and I had no one to babysit her during the day. So I didn’t get to see the little guy as much as I wanted to and I wasn’t able to breastfeed him. Luckily we had no trouble bonding despite all the difficulties and he only has a bit of a weakness in the lungs still as a result of his early birth. Physically he caught up to his peers by his first birthday and has always been a smart, funny and very sweet person. Even if he does know how to kill with his bare hands. Not that he would if he could help it…

Hope you had a lovely birthday, big guy! Except that I know you were working in your shop. Note that your mother-in-law is the one who’s throwing you a party next Tuesday. I gave that up somewhere back in the pizza, cake and video era. Bad mommy. Wait! You’d probably still like that stuff.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Hope Springs Eternal

Now that Obama is King of the World…er, President of the Excited States, expectations are very high on every side. As a Canadian living in the country right next door my expectations are no less lofty but as a pragmatist I figure there’s only so much one person, even one powerful and charismatic person, can accomplish. But we can only believe. He couldn’t do a worse job than his predecessor anyhow. At least he has brains and a heart which is a big advantage right there. We’ll wait to see how many realities try to trip him up, slow him down or otherwise derail his objectives. All the best to the new Pres! And congrats on the citizens of the US for finally choosing someone who isn’t arrogant, stupid, scary or just plain not suited to the task of leading the world. There’s yet hope for us all.

Enough of that polyticking. On to the housework. I never did the vacuuming yesterday so the dust bunnies still reign supreme around here. I did however clean the fridge and stove and several of the kitchen cupboards instead. Surprisingly it took all afternoon and I was able to leave the door open in the sunshine for awhile to clear out the smoke from the self-cleaning oven. It was lovely and sunny though not particularly warm. Today we’re back to the deep fog again. But the laundry and vacuuming will get done regardless. Hopefully not too many of those dust bunnies will be able to hide in the dark corners only to leap out at me later after I’ve dragged the vacuum back upstairs. I have a swiffer and I know how to use it! That reminds me: I was going to make a washable reusable cover for it, wasn’t I? Or at least two.

After rereading my last post, I realized that I was a bit unclear about the socks. They are not The Ninja’s socks since I finished those ages ago. They are my brother-in-law The Coach’s socks. However, I was planning to give them to Nana to give to him because she will see him before I do. Actually if I could get them done I could give them to her today because we’re taking her out to dinner this evening. Don’t know if that’s possible though with all the other stuff I need to do. I’ll give it a try but no promises. And no killing my arms, hands or shoulders either. I need those body parts intact.

Sadly I finally got a look at my veggie garden now that the snow has melted more. So depressing! My purple sprouting broccoli plants are broken and squashed. Whether they recuperate enough to produce anything is doubtful. My parsley, that I was picking last year clear through winter and into the late spring before it bolted, is squelchy and flattened. The roots might still survive and more leaves will come up from there but it will be awhile. The salad greens in the greenhouse are looking dead, except maybe the onions. I’m sorry the mizuna didn’t make it this year. Even the last few garden beds where I planted the fall rye didn’t get a chance to sprout before it froze and got covered in several feet of snow. I probably won’t know the full extent of what survived and what didn’t for several more months until stuff starts to regrow. Or not. I can see a lot of work ahead of me.

In the rest of our garden there’s been some damage to the shrubs and the bamboo. Broken and bent branches and browning leaves. We have to wait for more snow to melt before we can tackle pruning and staking and assessing what’s left. We just aren’t used to that kind of heavy snow cover here. And neither are the plants.

The sun finally made it through the fog! Best get back to work. Here’s another of the photos I took on Saturday from the Cambie Bridge. In the right background is the Athletes’ Village for the 2010 Olympics. It’s not finished yet and now the city is going to have to borrow money to complete it. All we can hope for is to sell the apartments after the games for enough to recoup at least a goodly portion of the expense. (Arggh. I’m not a sports fan of any sort and could care less. I think the whole thing is a waste of my tax dollars. But I was outvoted.) I also included the area where they dump landfill onto barges (we watched a big one get towed under the bridge) and the crows. I love the crows.

BTW, this is my 800th post! Who’d a'thunk it?

Monday, January 19, 2009

My Feets Are Tired

Since we’ve been stuck in the house for much too long, we took advantage of the relatively nice weather (a little fog and some welcome sun) this weekend and went walking in the Urban Jungle:

On Saturday we walked downtown, went to Dressew (for a zipper for my pencil case), Murchies (for tea and coffee), lunch at Tsunami Sushi (with the little boats), Chapter’s (for magazines) and home (uphill all the way). Yesterday we went to Blockbuster (for videos), Home Depot (for new rechargeable tool batteries), Best Buy (for phone batteries but they didn’t have them any more so we bought a new phone), Save On Foods (for groceries) and Kin’s Market (for fruit and veggies). Whew! I’m pooped just remembering it all!

One of the magazines (though it’s more nearly a book at 144 pages) that I picked up is another new Stampington issue called “Stuffed: A Gathering of Softies”. Whether you call them softies, plushies or, as I do, stuffies, these totally hit my ugly-cute button. They are all fairly simply constructed (mostly pancake dolls with appendages) and there are general instructions for most and some include patterns. I think the point is not necessarily to copy them anyway but to get inspiration to create your own. There are stories and tips and the magazine is beautifully laid out in a simple uncluttered format. Favourite quote: “Even the most ferocious monsters seem less threatening when you can give them a great big hug!”

Of course all that hoofing around meant that I didn’t get much knitting or sewing done. I did finish the FMQ on my pencil case:

The back is still a bit ratty:

But not too bad. I got much more comfortable with the stitching in the second session. Who knew that it would take a week to make something that should be relatively simple? I’m enjoying the process though so no hurry. Dressew has isles of zippers to choose from and I got the perfect black zipper with heavy bronze teeth in exactly the right length. I’m working on the lining next. I didn’t back the top (like a real quilt would have) but stitched only through the top and the cotton quilt batting because I wanted a separate lining to conceal the seams. I also want to include an extra stiffened piece to create 3 sections inside. Further info as I continue.

With all that walking going on, I haven’t done much more on the knitting front. The socks have a one-week deadline before The Ninja’s birthday party (thrown annually by his MIL!) and I’d like to get the gloves done by then also since Nana is coming to the party. Her birthday is only a few more weeks away and I want to start her another pair of socks. She can always use more! The Seaweed Shawl only gets a stitch or two done here and there so it’s not proceeding very fast. Impossible to knit while walking your feets off, you know. At least for me. My talents only stretch to knitting plain while reading. The streets around here are much too dicey these days to avoid watching your footing at all times. Otherwise you might end up flat on your face instead.

However it was nice to get some sun on our faces after all the snow and then fog we’ve been having. The fog is still there down on the water. I can hear the ships in the harbour almost constantly. Unfortunately now that the sun is shining in the windows I can’t ignore that I need to go vacuum up the monster dust bunnies that have accumulated unmolested. Best get to it.

I leave you with a sign of spring. This is a local witch hazel that I just love because it’s orange instead of the more common yellow. The blooms are just coming out:

Friday, January 16, 2009

Silky Stuff

I’ve written a couple of posts recently that I haven’t found fit to actually post. I saved them for later. Or maybe never. The thoughts weren’t clear enough or the ideas not expressed the way I want. There’s no way I can fix anything today with the meanest migraine I’ve had for quite some time. So meanwhile I’ll yap about the guild meeting I went to yesterday.

The slide programme was given by Joanna Staniszkis, a local fibre artist of some note. Her current focus is silk. I would love to know how people like Joanna come up with their ideas! The most interesting one occurred during a gallery show where she took architectural models for buildings and after spray-painting them dark grey, allowed silkworms to spin cocoons on the stairways and balconies and window openings. They were allowed to complete their lifecycle and pupate and leave the cocoons as moths and mate. She said the eggs they laid on the tiny buildings looked like stucco and was the same dark colour that she had painted them. To see what I mean, go here and click on the photo arrows.

Joanna brought several of the garments that she made for her boutique. They are quite wonderful in shape and colour and texture but they are very scratchy! She uses un-degummed and over-twisted silk fabrics that she has made for her in India. Also in her gallery are felted woolen garments, jewelry, home dec and other accessories. Her dyeing, silk-screen printing and sewing are very well done but these are definitely special high-end items, one-of-a-kind or limited edition. Kinda out of my price range anyway. But fun to look at.

One thing I did get out of it was a set of three “pictures”: mulberry leaf, cocoon and silk moth.

These are actually pieces of woven ribbon and are quite precious. She gave them free to the guild members who attended but I’m glad I was at the front because I think there were none left by the time the bag got to the back of the room. Perhaps she shouldn’t have said we could have 3 each? I kind of thought that was overestimating how many she brought with her. Each piece is a little over 2” high and I think they might need to become part of an art quilt or something someday. They are quite beautiful.

Speaking of quilts, my pencil case got halted in the middle of stitching, still under the sewing machine, needle down. Here’s hoping I get back to it soon. It was coming along not too badly, even though I’m still not particularly thrilled with my free-motion quilting attempts. Needs more work but I guess I have to start somewhere. Me and my sewing machine, Puff-Affy, have been together for some 30+ years now so we should be able to come to some agreement. It would help if the spool of rayon thread I was using wouldn’t get hung up occasionally. Plus I found myself tensing up which was bad. Hard on the fingers and the shoulders. I’ve been reading up on helpful hints and think I need a smaller sharper needle (quilters or similar) and to adjust the tension a bit better. I did find it was getting easier as I went but then I kind of hit a bit of a wall and needed to stop. Yup. Much practice – but not all at once.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


I want to know why everyone assumes that just because you make stuff, you automatically want to sell it. Is it the strong entrepreneurial spirit that is so pervasive in our society? Anything and everything can be bought and sold? I find it hard to explain that I have absolutely no desire to sell my work. I never manage to make all the things I want to make for gifts or personal use, so where would I find the time to make many more to sell? Besides, I like having items around me (and on me) that are handmade by me or someone I know. Items that are totally not like anything anyone else has and completely personal to me. The anti-manufactured goods.

That’s not to say that I’m not totally onside with those who do make things to sell. More power to ‘em! But I’ve found that you just can’t put the same amount of time and effort - and perhaps heart as well - into something for sale. Otherwise nobody would be able to afford your work! For instance, take the Seaweed Shawl I’ve been knitting on and off for the last few months: how much would I have to charge to make even a single dollar per hour if I was to sell it? I can only get a couple of rows knit in an hour. There are a lot of rows in this shawl. And they keep getting longer. Soon it will take several hours to knit a row. And I haven’t even discussed the yarn dyeing I did first, with plants from my garden and several separate mordant and dye baths over a couple of days. Would someone pay several thousand dollars for it? I rather doubt it. And that wouldn’t even give me a living wage from the sale. I consider this type of project a labour of love and there are only a few people in the world worthy of this labour. I would give it away to one of them but I could never sell it for what it’s worth to me. Neither the Queen of England, Bill Gates nor the Sultan of Brunei could afford it. Isn’t that totally cool?

And that’s not to say that I haven’t ever sold anything I’ve made. Every once in awhile I succumb to the lure of money, but not often and not recently. The weird thing is that I mourn the loss of something I’ve sold much more than when I give it away. Particularly if I didn’t make it with an eventual owner (other than myself) in mind while I worked on it. Somehow when I think about the person as I knit their socks or whatever, then of course I have to give it to them when I’m finished because it never was mine to begin with. It was always theirs. Though as I’ve mentioned before, I have to know they want it and will appreciate it or that person never gets another handmade gift from me! I’m mean and stingy like that.

So what’s up currently? Besides the continuing story of the Frustrating Gloves (they have one more finger) and the socks for my BIL The Coach and the painfully slow going on the Seaweed shawl, yesterday afternoon I worked on a pencil case to hold all my PITT pens and other small drawing and painting items. I used some of my fabric swatches that I’ve made over the years at our Spectrum meetings. There’s sun printing, monoprinting, alizarin dye with iron rust patterns, rubber stamping and rubbings with Shiva oil paint sticks. All that in a piece that’s currently 12” X 12”:

Now I have to find some light batting or interlining and practice my free-motion quilting on the piece. And it does need much practice because I’m pretty lousy at it. More anon. I’ve got a weavers’ guild meeting tomorrow so I get to go hang out with my friends. And play in the library. And knit during the boring meeting parts. Good times.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


Isn’t that a great word? It’s a real one. Look it up. I’d go there myself if only I could get moving. I’m lost in the fog right now but I don’t seem to be too worried about it. The time between the Holiday Madness and the beginning of the Gardening Season is always a floating time for me and carrying the least amount of commitments and deadlines of the whole year. Because of the lack of other stuff to do, I’m usually most productive during January and February. But that doesn’t seem to be happening this year, at least so far. Maybe it’s because T-Man is working a weird later-than-normal shift (10am-6pm) this month. We wake up late and don’t get moving very fast. He calls it Hibernating; I call it Winter Sloth. But it’s kind of delicious in a way. It feels naughty and lazy but who really cares how much gets accomplished in a day anyway? (Apart from a work boss, that is.) As long as we have hot food to eat, clean clothes to wear, the interior of our house is reasonably clean and tidy, T gets to work on time and the bills are paid, what more could one ask for? It’s not like we just lay about in bed all day doing nothing. There’s reading and knitting (me) and more reading and flying virtual airplanes (him) and a goodly amount of sleeping (both). In between there’s cooking and washing (me) and shoveling snow (him). Hopefully the last of the snow now. Poor T’s back is hurting from it all.

Maybe next month when T is back on an earlier shift I’ll stop hibernating and start the cleaning out I want to do. I want to get rid of excess junk before we do some painting. It’s past time to freshen up the living/dining room and the bathroom is even more desperate. Neither of us like the front entry hall either with it’s too-shiny blue-green paint job. However it lasted really well so we never did anything about it for years. Now we’re more ready to tackle it. Amazingly this New Year’s Day was our 30th anniversary of moving in to our house. You need to do an awful lot of home maintenance in 30 years, let me tell you. But you also learn to live with some things you thought were a definite do-over when you saw it first. Kind of like life in general, huh?

The Ninja and his Little Beasties were going to take me out to lunch today but it got canceled. Guess I have to make my own lunch now. Then I need to go thitherward. To the grocery store. I’d rather be playing with these cheeky guys though:

Monday, January 12, 2009

Cooking The Books

Or at least one book, my journal. It looks a wee bit different on the outside now because I learned how to do a Coptic headband:

The instructions are in Suzanne Tourtillott’s “Making & Keeping Creative Journals” (Lark, 2002, still in print) and it seems to be the only reference available. This book has some good information on the different Coptic stitches to join book sections together: one needle (the way I did it), two needles and 4 needle versions. The illustrations and written instructions are a little dicey, occasionally a bit vague or confusing, but believe me there aren’t many other better options in print to learn the techniques. Except maybe the more “professional” books by Keith Smith which I don’t have (though I think the public library does). I should borrow a copy sometime.

You might ask why I used Coptic binding anyway. For starters, I love the look of the exposed binding stitches! It’s fairly easy to accomplish without specialized tools and equipment and has a textile-y quality that appeals to me. Plus the pages can be flexed far open without damaging the spine and they will stay open fairly well, even with heavy paper like I used in my journal. Now why did I add a headband on the top and bottom of my finished book? Besides the fact that it looks even more cool, it strengthens the ends and holds them together a bit better. I can’t say I did the world’s best stitching job though so don’t pay any attention to the unevenness. With the dark days we’ve been having and black waxed linen thread, it was really hard to see where my needle had to go next even with my magnifier light on the subject. So it’s not perfect – much like the rest of the book itself.

I’ve also been playing with some of the inside pages. I got a few more art supplies when we went out on Saturday (in the pouring rain wearing full-length rain gear and carrying umbrellas). So I was able to spray workable fixative on my “frottage” experiments, aka rubbings made with soft pencil on surfaces all over my house:

You sometimes can’t even imagine how a texture is going to turn out. The fridge and the wall in my stairway were particularly interesting. Then there’s the experimenting with watercolour paint and covering the wet paint with plastic wrap (left) and salt crystals (right):

These weren’t totally successful (because some of the paint dried too soon) but informative. I also tested out all the colours I have so far of the fluid acrylics:

Notice I left a space or two for future purchases. I tried to create an idea of what the colours look like as a shaded wash. It was harder to do than I thought! The Quinacridone/Nickel Azo Gold (top row, right) is a particularly interesting colour. When it’s thick it looks rusty orange like the Transparent Red Iron Oxide (second row, centre) but when washed down it looks like the Yellow Ochre (top row, centre) but more luminous. Also the Quinacridone Burnt Orange (second row, left) is much more red than you might suspect from its name. Which is why it’s a bit out of sequence. Payne’s Gray (fourth row, right) is more blue than I would have expected. The metallics (bottom row) still have a bit of sparkle even when washed out, but I don’t think you can see it in the photo. That was a fun exercise. How come I want even more jars of this stuff now? At least two more to fill in the gaps on the page, right?

Other art supplies I got included more colours of the PITT brush pens, protective spray for inkjet prints, soft gel medium and absorbent ground. The latter is useful to turn a surface into one that will allow watercolour painting. It was originally designed to help a watercolourist who wanted to paint on gessoed canvas. The watercolours only slide off the acrylic gesso ground but the absorbent ground works more like paper. That’s the theory anyway but I haven’t tried it yet. More playtime coming up.

So what’s the point of all this arty stuff? No point at all! I’m just experimenting with some of my toys. Anyway, while playing with some other toys (those pointy sticks) – I’ve got one finger on each of the gloves done and promptly ran out of enough yarn to do even one more finger. However I did locate some more yarn that I dyed myself that might do ok for the rest of the fingers. There will be more Frankensteining going on! Many joins will ensue. Also I’m up to the heel flaps on my bro-in-law’s socks. They’re coming along just fine so I work on them when I get frustrated with the gloves. Which seems to be happening often or I’d be done with them by now.

Speaking of cooking – well it was in the title, remember? While we were out wading around in the rain we got some local sidestripe shrimp at the Granville Island Market. They went down very well with garlic butter and I saved the cooking broth for today’s seafood soup. Unfortunately I didn’t save any shrimp because they were much too good! Slurp. I’ll have to put some barbequed salmon in the soup instead. And some twice-smoked bacon, also from the Market. I’m going out right now to see if my leeks are still edible since I can finally see where they are in the snow. Doncha wish you were having supper with us tonight?

Thursday, January 08, 2009

West Side Story

A quick one today. I went over to my friend’s house to play with our journals together. Enough being stuck in the house already. I brought salad and she had soup and two other members of our Spectrum study group came and it was big fun. We call ourselves the West Side Girls since we are all on the west side of town. Well, I’m one whole block west of the dividing street – my address says so. That counts! And everyone else is a whole lot further west, but that’s ok because There Is A Bus.

It’s a new one, the #33, that I can catch 3 long blocks from here and get off 4 short blocks from her house. It’s also good for Nana who loves this new bus best of all because it stops half a block from her house. If we wanted we could use it to get to each other’s house easily (though usually I get a ride with T-Man – Nana is his mom). And it takes her directly to the Skytrain so she can go shopping at the Big Mall and have lunch with Auntie 92 (soon to be 93). This city was always short on cross-town bus routes. Now it has one more. Yay!

The rain has been doing a pretty good job of melting some of the snow and the sun was shining this afternoon cheering folks up some after all the rain. But it’ll be quite some time yet before we’re snow-free around here. Judging by the slippery trip I had just getting to the main street, it’s going to get worse for pedestrians before it gets better. And the bus stops are “interesting”, shall we say. The one I used on the homeward run was a 3-foot deep well under the kiosk with a little trail dug out to the street so the bus had to stop in the middle of traffic to pick me up.

Which reminds me. I want to send a big juicy raspberry to my neighbours three doors down who, before they left town for a couple of weeks for the Holidays, shoveled the snow from their street parking up onto the sidewalk leaving nowhere else to walk but over a narrow slippery icy track a foot high. Then when they returned, they shoveled out their own walkway to the street leaving an even narrower precipice to try to balance on. Can you say “selfish” and “inconsiderate”? And they aren’t by any means the only ones who figure their parking space is more important than pedestrian safety. Pffftht!

The funniest thing to see though are all the items that folks are using to “protect” their hard-won parking spaces. Apparently after you work so hard to shovel it out, you need to put some combination of lawn chairs, boxes, clothes racks, bins and flower pots to save your space in case, heaven forefend, some Unauthorised Car Parks There! Bare spots are in short supply. In between each shoveled area is a huge pile of snow because there’s nowhere else to put it – unless you want to be like the Nasty Neighbours (whom I used to think were nice). These icebergs take up many places folks used to park in freely. Whatever is left is jealously guarded. Does this stuff happen in other cities that routinely get snow? Or is it just because we are so unused to these conditions? Inquiring minds want to know.

Normally Vancouverites wait the snow out. They peek out through the curtains as the first snow falls. The whole city comes to a screeching halt and the news carries reports of traffic problems and Skytrain delays and such. I mean, whoever heard of the Albion ferry not being able to cross the Fraser River because of ice jams? And of course, now we have flood warnings and roof collapses to go with the snow and ice. The sky is falling and Armageddon is at hand! Usually, the snow turns to rain within a day or a couple of days at most and then everything is back to its usual order and the grass is green and wet again. However, this time we had 3 blasted weeks of snow, snow, freezing, snow and more snow. Totally normal for most of the rest of the country but not here. Sadly we have no idea how to cope. The city went hugely over-budget on snow removal and salting and sanding and still never remotely did the job properly. Couldn’t we balance that off with the garbage and recycling not getting picked up for 3 weeks because the trucks couldn't get down the alleys? Don’t count on it. Different department. Different budget. Sheesh.

Well, this was going to be a quick one, until I got on a rant. Sorry about that. Hopefully we’ll be back to your regularly scheduled delight soon. Oh, and I forgot to mention that yesterday was St. Distaff’s Day or, as it’s known in my house, Rock Day. Go read Michelle’s wonderful post on spinning here.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Van Gogh-ing

Well, actually our Van didn’t Go anywhere. (Ha-ha.) T-Man decided that the snow had melted enough in all the rain to take the MINI Cooper to work today. Gave me conniptions watching him drive out of the garage. First time he could get the poor car out in 3 weeks! The side streets are still two ruts with a foot of slush and snow on either side but the main streets are clear. All he had to do was go three blocks in the bad stuff. This is the first time in a week he has actually gone in to work and I have to admit I miss his presence. Even though when he’s working here all I see is the top of his head over the back of his big leather chair. This month he’s working an unfamiliar shift, 10am-6pm, so dinner will be later than usual. He brought a shovel with him just in case he needs it to get home. Hope he doesn’t.

Of course, the title really meant the artist, Vincent van Gogh. In our notes from Sharon Boggon’s Workhorse Journals class, she uses the ubiquitous Starry Night painting as a basis to practice developing stitching designs by reinterpreting a painter’s marks into stitches. Since I don’t stitch much and not in the embroiderer’s way that Sharon does, I thought I would google the picture anyway and see what I could find.

This definitive site had an easy to understand (for the non-art-speaker) discussion and comparison with a couple of other paintings van Gogh did on a similar theme. I particularly like Starry Night Over the Rhone. I think it’s because it isn’t such a cliché. The sky isn’t so overwhelming and I’ve always been fond of lights reflecting in water. It also has a couple walking in the foreground and it totally reminds me of walking along our False Creek seawall with T. I also found a link to this cool mosaic of Starry Night. Use the available tools to zoom in until you can see the individual photos that make up the painting. BTW you can use the free software there to make your own mosaic picture.

There is a sketch that van Gogh did of the Starry Night scene that gives you a better idea of the “skeleton” of the picture without the vibrant colours. I would find it easier to play with that than the final painting if I was developing “stitches” from it. Just saying. Trivia Time: Did you know that he made many drawings and paintings of weavers with their looms (all men and one even has a baby in a highchair in the corner), women winding from swifts using something that might be mistaken for a spinning wheel (winding pirns or bobbins for the weavers?), a shepherdess, women spinning and sewing and girls knitting. I like this one especially:

I’ve always kind of felt sorry for poor Vincent. He was the very picture of a tortured artist who only sold one painting in his lifetime. (It was a good one though!) He had mental and physical health problems which of course he made worse by drinking absinthe. Even his friend, fellow Impressionist painter Paul Gauguin had to get away from Vincent’s self-destructive craziness. (I’m sure the ear incident was the last straw!) Don’t you wonder whether he might not have been such a great artist if he was perfectly healthy? Sad, but probably true. He killed himself when he was just 37 (a year older than my daughter). After that it took his sister-in-law only a short time to convince everyone what a great artist Vincent van Gogh really was. Guess it helps if you aren’t undermining yourself at every turn, huh?

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Wet And Wetter

The expected rains have finally begun bringing with them more problems: flooding and collapsing buildings among them. T-Man dug out all the city drains around our property (several times) and fixed a downspout that had succumbed to the weight of the ice. Our basement is dry so far! Very glad we have a new roof on the house and garage though. Unfortunately Milady Daughter’s townhouse complex had roof collapse over the recreation/office area yesterday. Luckily nobody was there swimming laps in the pool or anything at the time. She called me on her way home from work to tell me she and her hubby were OK. OK? I hadn’t even heard the news yet so I hadn’t had time to worry! Flashbacks of when she snuck out at night as a teenager and got into a car accident with a group of friends. When a conversation the next morning begins “Mom, Dad, if the police call…there’s been an accident and I’m OK”! Worry can still happen in retrospect.

So instead of knitting for the last couple of days I played with my journal. You remember the one I was supposed to be keeping after taking that online class with Sharon Boggon through I decided now was as good a time as any (better actually, since I was stuck in the house) to get out some of my art supplies and re-read the several books I have on journals: making, decorating and using. The best of these are the two Lark books by Gwen Diehn, “The Decorated Page” and “The Decorated Journal” (both still available in print in softcover version). They combine the What To Include with the details on actually How To Do It. The author discourages “strongly determined” materials such as cutesy stamps and commercially-packaged ephemera for more neutral or personal ones. Cut your own stamps and collect your own ephemera. Colour your own papers. Use your own photos and drawings. Don’t be afraid to Mess Up the pages. Gwen’s style is personal and adaptable and encouraging without being condescending.

Of course the problem lies with what exactly is a “journal”. One might call it a sketchbook, a scrapbook, a workhorse journal, a visual journal or an art journal. I guess it depends on how you use it and what you put into it. Do you want to practice drawing or sketching or painting, keep notes on projects past or future, explore ideas or feelings, document people or places, create a book that is a work of art in itself or all of the above? Some people have different books for different aspects of their work. You could do one with a specific theme or investigate a particular technique. Currently I’m using this book as a practice place, trying out art supplies and experimenting with the effects I can get with them. I also want to include ideas for future projects before they escape my mind.

I’m finding it hard to remember that I once had some skill with drawing and painting – at least enough to get me into art school! Of course some of the cool supplies weren’t even available way back then. That was the dark ages really. Acrylic paintings were barely acceptable as “real art”. All the fabulous grounds and mediums hadn’t even been invented yet. No wonder it’s so much fun to play with this stuff!

One fun thing is Golden fluid acrylic paint. In a way they are similar to watercolour paints except that once dry (and they dry pretty quickly) they are not water soluble. They have a lot of pigment yet can be diluted right down to barely visible with water. Or pretty much with any of the grounds and mediums depending on the effect you want. I don’t like to use them straight up because they are so intense they don’t really show the true colour. After they dry they can be worked over with water-soluble or non-water-soluble washes, paints, pens etc. and they don’t move. Unlike regular thick acrylic paint, they dry hard but flexible. Not sticky or crackly. And they come in metallics and interference colours as well as regular and matte colours. Yum.

I also played with my watercolour paint set. Mine is a Sakura Koi Water Colours Pocket Field Sketch Box. It comes with 24 half-pans of paint and a waterbrush – a nifty hollow handle that you fill with water and a synthetic brush that screws on top (backwards, it’s a little confusing). The brush keeps a very fine point and you can moisten and dilute the paint by squeezing the brush gently. Saves having a water cup with you. It’s got a nice little palette and a lid that will hold a postcard-sized sheet of watercolour paper. The price was medium (and on sale!), not too expensive or too cheap. Trust me, you don’t want cheap watercolours. Ick. All grainy and unmixable.

I still need to get some white gouache. It’s opaque as opposed to transparent like regular watercolour. You can mix it with watercolours for a more pastel effect or use it to provide highlights because otherwise you can’t make a highlight unless you leave a gap of white paper for it. Did you know there now is an acrylic gouache that is not water-soluble after it dries? Not much different than fluid acrylic paint, it seems to me. Which white do I need though? Titanium or Permanent are more opaque but the more transparent China blends better with other paints. Decisions, decisions.

And have I mentioned my Faber-Castell PITT pens? So nice to write with the Super-fine, Fine and Medium tips and the brush tips are very versatile. Unfortunately only black, sepia and sanguine (love that one!) come in all the tips. Black even has an Extra-superfine but I think only in a set. I’ve been buying them one pen at a time so I can have my own kind of funky palette. They are truly waterproof and painting over them with both watercolour and acrylic didn’t shift them at all. Nice. Need more of the 48 colours. Wish they all came in at least a medium tip as well as brush but then that would mean I would need one of each. Urp.

Yes I know this is one of the boring no-picture posts. More photos when it gets light enough around here not to need a flash. One day soon I hope!

Monday, January 05, 2009

Raveling Along

We had an extra meeting of our Ravelry group yesterday at the Grind. There was quite a good turnout considering the weather conditions (about which we shall not speak). Anyway we had several new Yarn Wranglers show up as well as old ones and it was a lovely time of fun conversations. I guess we were all missing our get-togethers since the last 2 have been canceled. Maybe we’re all going a bit cabin-crazy at this point, weather be damned. Three Bags Full was still closed (until today) and their big sale is next weekend so a few of us went to Birkeland Bros Wool instead after the meet-up. I got a ball of sock yarn for my bro-in-law, The Soccer Coach’s birthday socks. He like last year’s pair (his first) so much that he deserves another and I didn’t have anything that I thought he would like in the stash. That part of the family just came back from Christmas in Quebec and he said his socks kept his feet nice and toasty. Just the encouraging words I like to hear.

I’ve completed Nana’s Kaffe’s Pool Gloves up to the fingers but am running extremely low on yarn. I can’t make the gloves match exactly and I’m not even sure I have enough for all the fingers. And I don’t think I have anything suitable as a plain contrast that I can use either. Though I’ll wait until it’s light enough out to tell. I might be able to dye something. I’ll have to think about it. Meanwhile I started The Coach’s socks while I’m waiting to figure out my glove-ish dilemma. Gotta have something mindless on the needles at all times.

T-Man is working from home again today. I’m attempting to relieve the cabin-fever by imagining walking along an Oregon beach:

Instead of looking at more of this:

Three weeks of white now and counting. Maybe I’ll knit a few rows on the Seaweed Shawl today.

Saturday, January 03, 2009


It’s snowing again. You really needed to know that fact, right? What I want to know is will it ever end? They’re calling for a warming trend that could bring rain. But that could change. I certainly don’t trust the weatherman at all. Yesterday was quite nice though still pretty cold, just hovering around freezing except in the sunshine. We got out for a rather uncomfortable and somewhat slippery walk and got some more groceries. Now we’re ready for whatever the weather does. I’ve got my knitting. T-Man is flying his virtual airplane now that he’s shoveled off the walk for the gazillionth time. He says he’s going somewhere warm. Unfortunately it already looks like he never shoveled at all.

I finished up the socks for The Ninja:

Big Guy Socks


Begun: December 18, 2008
Completed: January 2, 2009

Yarn: DGB Confetti superwash wool/nylon sock yarn, colourway 19.05, dyelot 7102, 420m = 100g.
Needles: Addi Natura bamboo dpns, 2mm.

Pattern: Damselfly's Plain Socks on 72 sts, cuffs 30 rows, leg 8.5" before heel turn, foot 8.5" before toe dec, dec to 28 sts, dog-ear reduction.

Comments: Made the toe slightly wider than usual by reducing to 7 sts per needle instead of 6. These are nice big socks and should keep his feets nice and warm. Heaven knows, we need some heat around here about now!

I also started some gloves for Nana out of the leftover yarn from her socks. I was going to make her fingerless mitts to wear over other gloves but she says her fingertips get too cold so she would rather have full gloves. I hope there’s enough for fingers but I may be finding a few yards of something else to finish them with. There’s only about 40g of yarn left from her socks. I must like Marnie MacLean’s Hooray For Me pattern since this is the 4th pair of full-fingered gloves I’ve made using it, as well as the original pair of fingerless ones.

When we went out yesterday, I managed to find a copy of the winter issue of Interweave Crochet at the grocery store, of all places. Our usual source hadn’t gotten it in yet and the shelves are looking pretty darn bare indeed. I think the snow has been hampering deliveries. I know we haven’t seen hide nor hair of the garbage truck for weeks. I think they’re all hiding out with the snow ploughs and sanding trucks. BTW, there are no snow shovels or bags of salt to be found for sale in this city right now. If you don’t already have these newly-essential items, you are SOL.

But I digress. I was talking about the new Crochet mag, wasn’t I? It’s really spectacular! There is a gorgeous triangular shawl in there that rivals anything I’ve seen in knitting. I want one. And several sweaters I would love to have. Not the cover sweater though unless you leave off the ridiculous bow. If I want a scarf I’ll make one separately so I can remove it. And speaking of scarves, there are two or three I want to make, including a lovely one in hairpin lace. I’m seeing a lot of sport weight and finer yarns. Articles include Doris Chan on gauge and Annette Petavy’s second part on assembling sweater pieces. All good stuff! I’m going to miss Kim Werker’s editorial expertise and hope that whoever replaces her will do as good a job in choosing practical, stylish and well-fitting garments. Crocheters don’t necessarily only want to make afghans or amigurumi and there are enough patterns out there for fugly sweaters. Just check in any of the other crochet magazines besides Interweave’s.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

A New Year Just Begun

Hope you all had a Happy New Year! I slept through the midnight revelries but I didn’t sleep well. There were firecrackers at random all night and neighbours out talking (loudly) about the fact we got 2” more snow. (Yuck.) Then there were cars spinning their wheels in the icy ruts that still constitute our street corner. Our world has contracted to the distance we can walk and that’s extra-short because of the lousy state of the sidewalks. Several events I’ve been invited to have been cancelled because nobody can get there and if they can, there is no place to park unless it’s shoveled out first. The poor old VW van is on the sick list since it crapped out a number of times getting T-Man home from work yesterday. We’re invited to dinner at his brother’s this evening but only because he’s going to come pick us up in his SUV. Guess there is a reason to own one of those, huh? Never thought I’d reconcile with that. We don’t usually have to deal with weather that is more like the stuff they get in Ontario. It would be much better if the darned city would plough the side streets and make sure everyone has shoveled, neighbours pitching in to help if necessary. Like they do in colder climates. Here everyone just hunkers down and hopes it all goes away quickly or goes out anyway, drives like the weather is balmy and dry, and then complains when anyone gets stuck. OK, I’ll quit complaining. It could be worse. But not much.

I spent a short while this New Year’s morning registering online for the Association of Northwest Weavers’ Guilds conference coming up at the end of May in Spokane, WA. Registration opened today and I plan to go with a couple of my weavers’ guild friends. Mostly for the schmoozing and shopping – not overly excited about the seminars or the fashion show and exhibits. But that’s just me and my been-there/done-that attitude. However I’ve never been to eastern Washington and by all accounts Spokane is a pleasant city. We’ll be at the Gonzaga University. Should be fun.

This here blog has been pretty empty of photos lately but what can I do? The world outside is cold, wet, white and melting-messy and my current projects are at totally boring stages. Socks are half knitted and the shawl is hardly any bigger or more interesting than the last time I photographed it. Big yawn. I’m kind of itching to start something new though I don’t know quite what as yet. You’ll be the second to know – after me.

Food for thought on my Word for this year:

“The world is not to be put in order; the world is order, incarnate. It is for us to harmonize with this order.
- Henry Miller