Being the continuing story of my creations and curiosities.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Our Earth Hour

D6_27 MacKerricher sunset trees1

I confess that although we will participate, I don’t really get the point of Earth Hour. What is turning out the lights in your house for a single hour actually supposed to accomplish? The “Vote Earth” theme for this year doesn’t help explain it in any way. At least not to me. I get that it’s supposed to be symbolic but it’s much too vague. Here in Vancouver we have hydro power so there is no burning of fossil fuels to keep our light bulbs burning anyhow. Plus most of the lights in our house are the fluorescent energy-saving ones. Not that I’m totally convinced that they are the wonderful things touted by all and sundry, including environmentalists. They contain mercury which is a nasty poison. At least there are places to drop them off when they don’t work anymore. But please don’t actually drop them! And do not get me started on where to recycle my long fluorescent tubes. I’ve been trying to find a convenient place to do so and can’t find one. We’ve been collecting them for years rather than throw them in the trash. But I digress.

So please inform me if I’m wrong here. Wouldn’t it make more sense to stop driving your car for an hour? Or turn the temperature down on your furnace? Or if the point is saving electricity, how about turning off other things as well as the lights, such as the computer, the TV and anything else you can unplug? And what about businesses? Shouldn’t they participate too? Most probably use more power than my little house does. I guess they don’t want to inconvenience anyone too much or make it too complicated for Average Everyday Folks to participate. But really, what’s with the weird 8:30-9:30pm timing of this World Event? Is it supposed to be significant or something? Or just a random choice? Questions, questions.

Nevermind. We go to bed at 9pm around here anyway so we’ll just turn out the lights a few minutes earlier than usual. And then peek out the windows to see if anyone else in our neighbourhood is following suit.

“We’re all individuals!”
“I’m not.”
       from Monty Python’s Life of Brian

Friday, March 27, 2009

Reviews ‘R’ Us, Pt. 2

I got two new weaving books recently which might hint that I really need to get back to the loom sometime soon. The first one I’ll talk about here is “The Handweaver’s Pattern Directory: Over 600 weaves for four-shaft looms” by Anne Dixon and published by Interweave in 2007.

Weavebook1

I know Syne Mitchell reviewed this in a past issue of WeaveZine but I have to add my tuppence here. This book has been touted as kind of the modern-era Davison (aka The Green Book) – filled with pattern drafts and photos of the resulting fabric, all for 4-shafts. I’ve seen it referred to as a “beginner’s” book, but I’m not so sure. I held off buying it until I actually looked inside because, of course, I have looms with 8 and 12-shafts, not to mention the fact that I’ve been weaving for some…ummm…30 years. But one glance at all the lovely clear photos of colourful interesting cloth and I was immediately hooked!

This is at its heart a recipe book. It doesn’t really explain weave systems in any detailed way but has basic examples and some variations: optional treadling orders, colour-and-weave effects and the like. Some are arranged as gamps with several threading and treadlings interacting in one piece of cloth. Little inset photos show the back of the cloth and occasional details. The pages are beautifully laid out. What I really like is the breadth of structures included. Double-weave, hand-manipulated techniques like brocade and Brooks bouquet, and crammed and spaced warps are there along with the twills, overshot, lace weaves, crackle, summer & winter etc. Think of a weave, look it up in this book and thread the loom! Just turn the pages if you run out of inspiration.

Speaking of turning pages, have I mentioned that this is a coil-bound book with a covered spine? It lies nice and flat so you don’t have to prop it open when your hands are busy. The cover on the spine keeps it from disappearing into anonymity on the bookshelf. It also has a nice little fold-out flap at the back that explains the drafts and how to interpret them. You can leave it out as you work on another page.

What I don’t like is kind of nit-picky I suppose. This book is not going to help you understand the underlying principles of the different weaves. For that go to Sharon Alderman’s “Mastering Weave Structures” or Madelyn van der Hoogt’s “The Complete Book of Drafting for Handweavers”. The beginning of the book has a very truncated section of information that either needs a whole lot more detail or to be left out entirely in favour of some other book (notably Deborah Chandler’s “Learning to Weave”) that does it much better. You won’t find anything on yarn sizes, how to wind a warp and get it on the loom, nothing about handling colour changes or two or more shuttles and, although hemstitching is shown, there are no instructions on how to do it. What is included is mostly too vague or incomplete to be really useful. You’ll probably learn a lot about reading a weave draft, though like Syne, I wish they also came on a DVD in WIF’s!

The colours might be either very inspiring or distracting, depending on whether you find them pleasing or just want them to stop interfering with your view of the structure. I like the colourful photos myself, but I have the ability to imagine alternatives which apparently is not universal. The author was very consistent in her choices of yarn: 2/16 cotton for the thin one and the same cotton yarn tripled and gently twisted (plied) for the thicker one. She doesn’t say if she spun them together herself but I don’t think that particular put-up is commercially available. I know why she used it however – it’s softer and heavier than 2/8 but finer than 4/8 (aka 8/4), covers well as pattern weft and comes in lots of colours.

In conclusion, don’t give up any of the other books in your library but add this one for those dull days when your weaving is feeling stale and the muse just isn’t visiting. Of course this book won’t negate the need to actually sample. I won’t even wind a warp without checking things out on the computer in PCW. You have to know what your particular yarn(s) and sett will do and how different that will be from the photo. You have to find out how it will feel as cloth. And then you might want to actually make something. For me, that would be a novel notion. But a number of possibilities are whispering to me.

But back to knitting paper. I’ve been achieving my goal of one repeat per day. Papyrine is slowly getting wider and longer. A little more and I’ll give you another photo-update. And I need to go tease my little plants into bigger pots. Work, work, work. It never ends.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Reviews ‘R’ Us

Well I’ve been using Windows Live Writer for a number of posts now and I’m in love. I forgot to give you the URL in case you couldn’t find it yourself. Go here. There are several other free programs there but you don’t have to get them if you don’t want to. Live Writer works with pretty much any blog system you’re using or you can set one up (Windows Live). You need a Windows Live ID but if you have Hotmail or Messenger then you probably already have one. No biggie. When you run WLW it helps you set up your blog or blogs if you have more than one. You can add another any time.

So since the last time I blogged about my happiness with WLW, I’ve discovered a few things. First it saves a copy of your post automatically on your hard drive. If you’ve been afraid of losing your blog posts, this should eliminate that fear. You can work offline and save unfinished drafts, set publish dates in the future and generally have more control than with some blog hosts like Blogger that I use. It is so much easier to insert stuff like hyperlinks, pictures, tables and other stuff and to format text. You can see what it will look like right away before you post. Oh and I found out how to add my “labels” only WLW calls them “categories” which is what threw me at first. It already downloaded my label list. Totally cool.

OK, I’ll shut up about Things Technological now. Lets talk about the Monkey See Monkey Too Socks. Cookie A has a video here talking about her most popular sock pattern with Kim Werker on Knitting Daily TV. And she’s updated the Monkey Socks pattern to accommodate other sizes: Ravelry link or Knitting Daily TV link (scroll down). I may try the expanded version with lifted increases instead of yo’s for a pair for T-Man. Eliminating the eyelets would make it a bit more “manly” I think. He’s already expressed a desire for a pair of his own. Meanwhile mine are coming along:

Monkey_prog I decided these are mine even though I don’t really need another pair of socks. None of them will wear out! I’m running out of room in the sock drawer but must occasionally have a new pair Just Because I Can. This is my first experience with Confetti Seta sock yarn: a combo of wool, silk and nylon. Doesn’t really feel that much different from normal sock yarn. But I haven’t washed it yet so we’ll see if the silk eventually expresses itself. Otherwise there’s no point in having it in there, doncha think?

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Roll Your Own

I’m convinced that pretty much all creative work is derivative. You see something you like that someone else made and you want something like that. They say that publishers of pattern books and knitting magazines have to be careful when they make the model garments because many people are so influenced by what they see that they can’t envision it even in a different colour. I find that kind of dedication interesting because I’ve never been afraid to change things to make it my own. Even if I follow a pattern exactly the yarn will be different. I think I’ve just discussed myself into a circle: make it the same, but different.

If we’re going to avoid that old demon copyright problems, I prefer to change things up a lot. I think it’s much more fun to carve your own stamps, for instance. They are funky and imperfect and less detailed but so much more personal. You don’t have to get permission to use them or to publish works including them. They are all yours.

The same for photographs. Take your own. Take lots! Pixels are there for your use and megabytes are cheap these days. Your photo skills will improve: your eye for line and composition, your colour sense, even your ability to use your photo editor of choice. Then you can use your own images for anything you like with no restrictions.

D3_03 C Lookout beach rocks

(That’s the photo I’ve been using as computer wallpaper lately. It’s from our coastal vacation last autumn: beach rocks at Cape Lookout, Oregon.)

I know I’ve said this before but I feel so strongly that it bears repeating. If I want to develop a style or “voice” of my own, although it builds on things I’ve seen or learned from others work, then I really have to go back to the basic levels and work from there in a more personal way. As a beginner I might benefit with a more “paint-by-number” approach but as my skills improve, I can begin much further back in the process.

This search for the exact right place to begin is something I’ve been pondering lately. It’s part of the reason that I get frustrated with books and magazines that call for specific tools and materials and expect you to make something that looks exactly or almost exactly like the model. That’s merely the leaping off point, in my opinion. But then I’m one who prefers a class on a technique rather than a project. A technique can be used and adapted in many ways but a project is just one thing. You might learn techniques from doing the project but they are subservient to the goal of completing the project. If you begin the project with a kit of supplies, your options even more limited. That’s not to say I haven’t both taught and taken classes like that. I just prefer to do things differently now.

I remember once at a textile retreat going into a classroom of needlework students. They were all working with the same kit using the exact same design. I was shocked! I’m sure it was excellent for skill building but how regimented. How boring! I would be hunting down ways to change something in my piece right quick! And probably earn the disapproval of the instructor. But I’m a rebel like that. Must have something to do with my Catholic school upbringing. I’m making up in later life for all that conformity the nuns tried to drill in to me. But I digress.

Recently, one of my friends showed me a journal she had made awhile back and I immediately recognized a stamp I had carved that she used in it. It was a little thrill! I doubt it would have felt the same if she had borrowed a commercial stamp from me. My leaf stamp is a part of me in a way. Just like the socks I keep knitting for my family or the paper stole for exhibit. A gift from me to the world. Am I making any sense here?

Probably not. Nevermind.

So the sun is out today. It hopefully will be warm enough this afternoon so that I can sit in the sunshine on the deck and transplant seedlings. Keeps the dirt outside where it belongs! I just vacuumed the basement entry by the “grow-op” yesterday and have no desire to do it again so soon. I also bravely left the seedlings outside in the greenhouse last night. They survived just fine. Hmmm…maybe I can get my peas planted today too! It’s late but the ground is still wet and cold so they would be the same size in a couple of weeks anyhow. No point trying to rush the season. It turns in its own time.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

New Beginning

In the last couple of days I managed to get a couple of repeats done on the Papyrine Stole project. As I’ve mentioned before the paper yarn is not easy or fast to knit with but it’s kind of a fun challenge. I spent quite a bit of time trying out different stitch markers. I didn’t want anything too fancy or heavy or with dangly bits to catch on the paper. On the top right are the rubber o-rings which were too thick and stuck to the needles too much. On the left are the tiny hair elastics that were thin enough but also stuck just enough so they were hard to move from needle tip to needle tip. (They seem to work better on wood or bamboo needles.) On the Addi lace needles are the ones I ended up using: split rings, 3 dark-coloured and one silver to mark the beginning of the right side.

Papyrine_beg

I also drew the stitch marker locations on the chart and it’s now much easier to follow. The centre section is mostly stockinette separated from the edging of leaves by garter bands. The centre is textured with random patches of reverse stockinette, garter and moss stitch to simulate bark. I plan to increase the width until it is wide enough and then work straight for awhile and finally decrease again toward the end. Like most knitting, even paper doesn’t look that great until it’s blocked! That will happen in the dye-painting process at the end. Stay with me here!

I’m also working on another pair of Monkey Socks (called Monkey See Monkey Too Socks) in Confetti Seta which has some silk in with the wool and nylon content. They’re coming out fine and I’m most of the way down the leg on one and partway on the other. I made the mistake of leaving out a row of st st in one sock so I repeated it in the other so they would match better. Now I’m more careful to count the 3 rows to make sure I’ve got them all before starting the first row with the purls (row 2). Sorry, Cookie A, but I would have put all 3 plain rows together on the chart for ease of following. Even if that meant starting the sock with 3 plain rows after the top rib instead of one. Apparently my brain keeps wanting to begin the repeat on row 2, the first one where something different is happening.

What else? Still schlepping the little plants in and out. It’s been too cold most nights to leave them in the greenhouse yet. It’s getting old really fast but in a couple of days there will be more transplants to start hardening off the same way. That will add considerably to the back-and-forthing if I can’t leave some out so it had better warm up a bit more. Now. At least no frost would be good.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Fibres West Report

I’ve got a photo-heavy report but they’re only my purchases and nothing else. I had a rare case of camnesia while I was at the Fibres West extravaganza on Saturday. I brought my camera but never took it out once! I was having way too much fun chatting, ogling, shopping, schmoozing, hugging, demonstrating spindle spinning, shopping some more and generally having a wonderful time. I went with the thought that I didn’t need anything (except one particular book) but of course a bunch of stuff followed me home anyway. It was the wool fumes, I swear! Or in my case maybe it was the sparkle.

I got totally carried away with things sparkly. Right off I jumped on a green triple dragon resin spindle by Dragoncraft from Twist of Fate:

DragonSpindle

I had to modify it slightly by tweaking the hooking and adding a notch (hated to file into the lovely shiny resin but it was necessary) and now it spins quite well. These are little spindles but on the heavier end of the scale at 40-45g each.

I found 3 balls of sock yarn (Mega Boots Stretch) in pretty colours at Knitopia’s booth (no website):

MegaBootsStretch 502 MegaBootsStretch 707 MegaBootsStretch 720 They were only $10 each! Couldn’t resist. Yeah, I know – not sparkly, but I also got a bag of sari silk for spinning:

SariSilkFibres I have no idea whether or not I can make anything out of these because they are very tangled fine silk thrums but we’ll see. They were too pretty! From Aurelia I got some Ruby Blue Sparkle and Silky Pearl Sparkle to spin:

AureliaFibres The photo doesn’t do the white one justice because it’s really pretty and subtle when spun up and takes dye beautifully. And I already have a project in mind for the Ruby Blue. It’s going to be a gift so mum’s the word till it’s done. Still sparkling, I got some more angelina from Penelope Fibre Arts:

Angelina These will likely be blended into something for spinning rather than heat bonded. I just couldn’t resist the colours.

BTW, Brenda (aka Penelope) was the mastermind behind the Fibres West show this year and she is already planning the next one. Guess she got enough good feedback. I think it could use a lot more publicity and more participation. Some vendors did well and others not so much. I thought there was lots of room for many more vendors and way more shoppers. Some knitters were complaining that it was too much for the spinners and weavers and maybe that side could be increased some. There are a lot of knitters out there who haven’t crossed over to the dark side of spinning and weaving. Anyway we’ll see what happens next year when we are promised some classes as well as lectures and demos. That might encourage more participation. Finally the fact that it’s an hour-plus drive from Vancouver in what some of us might consider the middle of nowhere might slow a few folks down but apparently if they have it in town it costs a lot more for the venue and there’s even less participation from the public. Go figure.

But there’s more shopping! At Jane Stafford’s booth I got some small spools of Colcolastic (cotton and elastic) thread for collapse weaving:

Colcolastic

I also got Anne Field’s book on collapse weaving and will be taking a class with her at the conference in Spokane this spring so more on that anon. I got a couple of other books as well and will be reviewing them individually in future posts. Meanwhile back at the purchases, I got one more item:

Woolcomb clamp The clamp pad for my Forsyth mini woolcombs. I’ve been debating over this one for some time because a) it’s pricey, b) I thought I might get away without a clamp and c) I thought T-Man could make me something suitable instead. However, I finally convinced myself that a) better to have the thing made by the same person as the combs so the wood matches, b) Andrew’s design is quite involved but very functional and not at all something T would make and c) I got tired of waiting. Now I’m all set. I have all the fibre prep tools I can imagine ever needing! English woolcombs, mini 2-row woolcombs, blending hackle, 2 drum carders with a total of 3 carding drums, handcards in several densities, and a flick carder. What else could a fibreholic need? No. Don’t answer that question. But a girl’s gotta stop somewhere – at least for now.

The demo that my friends Beryl and Diana and I were supposed to do turned out not to be terribly exciting. It was really preaching to the converted. We got a few folks coming up to chat but when there’s nothing for sale, interest is small. I got a great visit in with Milady Daughter though and helped her through her first sock heel. I um…kinda slipped and bought her an expensive present: Sharon Miller’s Heirloom Knitting book from Homespun Haven (Armstrong, BC, no website). She’s been doing a wonderful job learning lace knitting and this book just answers so many of her questions. Since her Milord is between jobs at the moment, she couldn’t afford it so I pulled a “mom” card and got it for her. Hope she isn’t expecting a birthday present next September! Hope she enjoys the book too.

Well I need to get some lunch and some paper knitting done today so… later, ‘gators!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Testing From Live Writer

I just downloaded Window’s Live Writer which gives me a new way to post to my blog. So this is a test to see how well it works! So far it feels quite different to type in it so I hope it won’t take long for me to figure out how all the features work. Right off the top, it looks just like it would after posting so it’s much more wysiwyg anyhow. (Even has spell checking!)

So without further ado, I give you my FO:

Bead-Dazzled Lace Scarf

BDShawl

Begun: February 27, 2009
Completed: March 16, 2009

Yarn: Handspun silk/cotton, 2-ply very fine, 25 g. = 440 yds, dyed in brazilwood.
Beads: 6/0 Czech seed beads, gold-washed transparent rose, 3+ strands from the hank.
Needles: Addi Lace circular, 2.75mm
Hook: .6 mm steel

Pattern: Estonian Lace Scarf (Ravelry link) by Nancy Bush, Interweave Knits, Fall 2001.

Mods: Used beads instead of nupps. Centre section was repeated 24 times instead of 16. Picked up 292 sts on each long edge instead of 302. Used Evelyn A. Clark’s beaded cast-off from “Knitting Lace Triangles” p.50, row 8C and doubled yarn.

Comments: My handspun yarn surprised me by being silk and cotton instead of silk/wool so the dye didn’t take nearly as dark as I wanted. It dried many shades lighter and is still very susceptible to pH changes because of the brazilwood. It even went a bit pinker when I blocked it!

I made one boo-boo in the centre section and left out 2 rows of the diamond but luckily it barely shows – or I would have seen it in time to fix it! I knit the centre pattern 24 times and it still is a wee bit shorter than I would have preferred. I couldn’t pick up enough stitches on the edging so decided that it was easier to pick up 4 less than try to find 6 more. Lots of counting! Otherwise the knitting went ok, if somewhat fiddly due to the thinness of the yarn.

The cast-off was done slightly differently than either Nancy Bush or Evelyn Clark’s instructions. Besides doubling the yarn, I put the beads in as I did the cast-off row (instead of the row before that). It was much easier: slip the bead on the stitch, knit it then knit the same stitch together with the previous one through their back loops. The latter motion is like working an SSK. It makes a lovely edge with substance. I put 3 beads on each point:

BDShawl_det After blocking it still is very prone to scrunching up and curling because the yarn is so soft. I will wear it anyway. The final size is 9” wide by 53.5” long.

OK, I’m convinced. This Live Writer is pretty cool! I have a lot more tools and can see better what it’s going to look like right away. The only thing I haven’t yet figured out is how to add a label. Here goes with the final test: posting it!

Results: Fabulous! Except that I have to edit in Blogger to get the label on. Nothing is perfect, eh?

EDITED TO ADD: I did figure out how to add the labels from Live Writer finally. It’s perfectly obvious when you look! I am now a Very Big Fan of WLW.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Done Done Done Done

Well, maybe only one “done” – the Bead-Dazzled Scarf is off the needles, blocked and rolled on a paper tube for transport to be handed in on Thursday. As I suspected it does not hold its shape well at all though the points stay out and pointy like I hoped. Once it comes back from display however it will get worn no matter what shape it pretzels into. It took far too much work to stuff it in the back of the closet! And it is kinda pretty. Which I notice when I stop being grouchy at it for all the troubles it gave me. I will blog a more comprehensive post with photos tomorrow.

I’ve already cast on for another pair of Monkey Socks. Not sure who the recipient will be this time. I’ll figure it out by the time I get to the toes anyway! The length will be the determined by the feet they must fit. The yarn is a new one for me – Confetti Seta Superwash (55% wool/20% silk/25% polyamide):

ConfettiSeta2408

Surprisingly with the 20% silk content it doesn’t really feel any different than the usual sock yarn. I’ve only knitted the ribbing on the cuff yet though so my opinion may change when I’ve had more experience with it. I never thought I’d say that sock yarn feels really thick after all that lace knitting with handspun thread! Although the needles I’m using are several sizes smaller.

Next it’s on to the paper knitting. And hopefully somewhere in there I’ll have a chance to finish the poor neglected Seaweed Shawl. BTW, there’s a new shawl in Knitty (Aeolian) by the same designer, Elizabeth Freeman, that is at least as gorgeous as the Laminaria (aka Seaweed). That girl can put Estonian stitch patterns together so well! But Papyrine is top-of-the-list because of the June 1 deadline. It actually needs to be done earlier than that because I’ll be away in Spokane – or more precisely on my way home from there. No pressure.

The weather is a little warmer and sunnier today than it has been. I had to open the greenhouse up so my plants wouldn’t get too hot! After I got home from getting a much-needed haircut, I even sat out for a short while on the deck in the sun with my tea and knitting but it was a little too chilly for that still. The rest of me was quite warm enough but my hands got cold. At least it’s finally feeling more spring-like and less winter-ish. There’s hope for us yet.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Brrr...

My poor plants! I spent a goodly part of Saturday transplanting little seedlings into larger digs with real soil instead of starter mix. I also started some new seeds: broccoli, tomatoes, coreopsis and marigolds (dye flowers!). They now won’t all fit under the lights so some of the transplants must spend their days in the greenhouse. It’s so cold (snowed yesterday!) that they are shivering out there. It’s not actually freezing though so it’s better than sitting indoors in the dark. All of these are things are fairly cold-hardy plants so I’m hoping they will get used to the cool greenhouse eventually. But I won’t leave them out overnight until it warms up considerably. It’s a PITA to keep schlepping the flats in and out every day. Today I just managed to miss a downpour that happened right after I got inside. The things I do for fresh veggies!

Nearly a dozen braved the wind and snow yesterday to get to our Sunday Ravelry group meetup at the coffee shop. I might be the granny of the group but they are all intelligent and interesting women and I quite enjoy their company. I almost forgot my hearing aids though and had to make a quick about-face to fetch them! In a noisy coffee shop with many conversations going at once, I would be totally lost without my “ears” on. They have convinced me – ok, it didn’t take much convincing – to participate in a KAL beginning April 1. We’ll be using the Selbu Modern tam pattern (pdf link) by Kate Gagnon (the same designer as my Earthly Beret, aka Springtime in Philadelphia). I haven’t done any stranded knitting in awhile and it’s a cute tam. Anyway that’s my excuse! I have one skein of Louet Gems fingering that I had already dyed red-orange and I was going to dye another contrasting skein for the main colour. But when we made our usual Sunday afternoon pilgrimage to our LYS, I found a skein of Koigu in a semi-solid dark grey that worked perfectly with the orange. So I bought it instead. Just saving myself a little work! Plus I still have 2 skeins of white Gems to dye for something else. BTW that’s my very first skein of Koigu ever:


I’m on the home stretch on the Bead-Dazzled Scarf. Only 2 rows and the bind-off with beads included to go. I want to have it blocked and ready to take to my guild meeting on Thursday so I’m on a last push to finish the knitting today. Then it’s on to the Papyrine Shawl so I will definitely need something more portable to start at the same time. The paper yarn is too fragile to travel and it needs great concentration to knit my pattern which has formal leaf borders framing a more free-form and oval-shaped central section. Decisions must be made on every row so there is no rest for the weary knitter! And the tam KAL will also take concentration. A mindless alternative to them both will be a must. Socks perhaps? I don’t currently have any on the needles. Ooh, how unusual!

It’s going to be a busy week. Not only do I have to finish the scarf but more plants must be transplanted, a weavers’ guild meeting on Thursday to which I must bring cookies and Saturday is our day for the guild to have a booth at the new Fibres West event. I was hoping to fit a haircut in there somewhere too. We won’t even discuss the housework that has been sorely neglected. The dustbunnies are getting way too comfy and are reproducing like mad. Though one big thing did get crossed off the list this weekend: while I was playing with my plants,T-Man finished up repairing the insulation in the last attic space, vacuumed it all out and put everything back in again. It was a much easier job than I had originally thought it would be. And I didn’t even need to help him.

Spring Equinox is on Friday morning (4:44am PDT) but true spring seems to be running very late judging by the delay in many plants’ development caused by the cold weather. We aren’t even sure yet whether some plants have even made it through that horrendous winter.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Another Friday The 13th

Good grief! How did it get to be Friday again so soon? And the second Friday the 13th in a row too. I’m avoiding ladders and black cats etc. Also keeping an eye out for Jason, Freddie and/or zombies just in case. (Though the zombies would surely starve to death trying to eat my brains.) It’s keeping me on my toes! Better watch out for November too. There’s another Friday the 13th then as well. Busy year for superstitions, huh?

All week I’ve been knitting my fingers to the bone trying to get the Bead-Dazzled Scarf done. Still not there yet but I feel that I’m making progress anyway. After nearly going blind and stupid from counting as I picked up 648 stitches, I’m on row 6 of the border. If you think that’s a lot remember that the rows get 16 stitches longer every other row for awhile as well. Currently it looks like a scrunched up string shopping bag:

Bead-Dazzled Lace Scarf progress

I managed to squeeze all the stitches onto my 24” circular so I’m not going to know what it really looks like until I bind it all off. BTW I found an error (quelle horreur!) – two rows missing in the main section making a row of the diamonds look somewhat squashed. It’s not that easy to spot which is lucky because absolutely nothing is going to make me rip it all out nearly back to the beginning to fix it! However it isn’t worthy enough to be entered in any judged event. Not that I was planning on it. The darn thing has been giving me trouble since the beginning! It will just hang in our guild booth at the ANWG conference and hopefully behave itself. Hopefully.

I haven’t accomplished anything else useful. Cooking food, washing dishes, basic living kind of stuff. I’ve still been feeling a bit under the weather. Which is odd because the weather, while definitely chilly, has been quite lovely. I feel like I’m wasting it all while sitting around. I can’t even read or watch TV at the same time. Just listen to podcasts. I’m really far behind on most of the ones I like so it’s turning out to be a good opportunity to do some catching up.

The one thing I’m really happy about is the return to Daylight Saving Time! I seem to have shifted over fairly well already. Going the other way in the fall is much more difficult for the old body to adjust to for some reason. But it’s so weird to be cooking dinner before the sun has set. On the other hand it’s even darker when I get up in the morning but that’s normal for most of the year. Soon it will be light in the morning as well as in the evening. Just a little perk for living north of the 49th parallel.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Frigid

Well I never got to try snow dyeing yesterday. It took me all day to get my mountains of laundry washed and dried. And it’s not put away yet plus we won’t even mention the ironing I managed to create. Today I have to babysit the Beasties again so even though there’s still a bit of snow left I won’t be getting to it. Maybe if there’s any left by tomorrow. It’s certainly cold enough to keep it around for awhile! It’s sunny but rather arctic out there today. Don’t think we’ll be going to the park. Perhaps the Play-Doh will hold their interest for awhile. At least I’m not stupid enough to vacuum before they come!

Since I’ve been doing a bunch of reviews lately, I thought I’d bore you half to death and do yet another one:
“Knit To Be Square” by Vivian Høxbro continues on her fascination with modular “domino” designs which she uses to create accessories such as hats, slippers, bags, cushions, wraps and blankets. Some of these are also felted and embellished with needle felting and buttons. The designs are bright and attractive and the styles reflect Vivian’s Danish sensibilities. I find some of the bags too long – for me they would drag on the ground – but that would be easy enough to fix. They are modular after all! The best part of the book in my opinion is the last part where Vivian explores partial or incomplete blocks. When they are knitted they leave holes in the fabric with many possibilities for fun designs. It’s almost like she just got started on this discovery when she runs out of room in the book! Too bad.

Interweave has published 3 of Vivian’s books now but I wish that her other books which were published in Japan would be translated and republished or at least more widely available here in North America. The first one is merely an extension of her Domino Knitting book but the second has gone farther with different module shapes. There is some English and lots of diagrams in the books though so if you can get your hands on them it shouldn’t be too hard to get the gist of the information.

Best get back to my knitting. I’m up to the recommended 16 repeats of the pattern but it’s barely long enough to go around my neck. I have lots of yarn available so if I change the number, all I have to worry about is how many stitches to pick up along the edges to get the border to work out correctly. I can always fudge it a little if necessary. Deadline is looming!

Monday, March 09, 2009

The Return of Winter

My Dizzies have mostly given up and I’m able to function again, thank goodness. It’s a lot of work catching up after all that down time. I’ve been grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning and am currently in the middle of 5 loads of laundry. Sheesh! Unfortunately my No Snow chant failed last night while I was asleep so we have over 2 inches of the white stuff on top of the spring flowers this morning. I’ve got little plants under the lights that will need to go out to the greenhouse soon to harden off but there’s no garden ready to plant them in. Global warming? What global warming? Apparently our area has had colder wetter springs than normal over the last few years and it takes until halfway through July for the plants to catch up. Today is near record low temps. Go figure. At least the sun is trying to come out now and it’s finally above 0 C. for the first time today.

While we were shopping this weekend I found the premier issue of the new British magazine “The Knitter”. Mason-Dixon seemed to be thrilled with the quality of this new publication (well, they are featured in it!) and indeed it’s got very nice production values, heavy coated paper and a readable layout. But it cost me CDN$19.25! Yikes! For 15 patterns (some of which have already been published in other sources) and a couple of articles. It’s hard to tell for sure, but I think they’re planning a monthly + 1 extra publishing schedule which would add up to several hundred bucks a year to buy them all. Not happening. I wasn’t super-impressed with the content and truth be told I see way more items I’d want to knit in IK (half the price) or Knitty.com (free). YMMV as they say but I’m giving this one a pass in future. Good thing too – if I really loved it I’d have to take out a second mortgage on the house to afford it!

I’m dropping (or have already dropped) several magazines that I’ve bought diligently in the past. This includes all the bead ones (I’m not feeling the love), any of the knitting mags (other than Interweave Knits), Piecework (may be seduced by one of the knit-centred issues though I will try to resist), and any of the gajillion pricey Stampington mags (except perhaps Art Quarterly and Stuffed). Besides IK, I’ll keep Interweave’s Crochet, Handwoven and Spin-Off plus Quilting Arts and Cloth Paper Scissors. I get a lot out of those and re-read them frequently. A Needle Pulling Thread is somewhat more problematic – it has many different needlecrafts, some of which I’m not interested in, but it’s Canadian and a lot more personality-oriented than many other mags. Nice to see what’s happening in my home and native land for a change. Also problematic is Rug Hooking. I haven’t done any hooking recently but I still enjoy reading about it. And there’s only one commonly available mag devoted to it. I think I’m going to keep getting those last two, at least while we can still afford them. If I’m counting right, that’s 10 different titles! Luckily they don’t all come out every month. Or we’d be eating a lot of mac & cheese around here.

Back to laundry load #3 and scarf repeat #12. I think the snow is melting! Yay. Ooh, maybe I should try some snow dyeing before it goes away?

Friday, March 06, 2009

Still Spinning

Only there’s no yarn involved, darn it. This is Day 4 of the Dizzies and I’m ready for it to go away now! I did go to my Spectrum Study Group yesterday and had fun, but I was feeling pretty awful by the time we left. At least I had a ride both ways. All I got done was some knitting on the Bead-Dazzled Diamonds Scarf which is now 8 repeats and just over 16” long. It was a lovely spring-ish day though and it was nice to get out and hang with my buddies. Today I’m back in a semi-prone position wondering what to do for dinner since Milady Daughter and Milord Hubby are coming over later. The cupboards are close to bare and I’m not much up for grocery shopping. Oh well. Worry about it later when T’s finished work. Meanwhile here’s the scoop on her gloves:

Milady’s Gloves

Miladys Gloves

Begun: February 8, 2009
Completed: March 6, 2009

Yarn: Regia Design Line Kaffe Fassett, 75% wool/25% polyamide, 210m = 50g (about 1.25 balls), colour 4455 dyelot 26209.

Needles: Clover Takumi bamboo 5” dpns, 2.25mm.

Pattern: Marnie MacLean’s “Hooray For Me” gloves pattern but with full fingers and modified cuff. On 58sts, cuffs 2.5” baby cable 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: These gloves went into time-out when I measured the ring fingers wrong and needed to pick out 2 rows to correct them. The colours ended up somewhat different than I would have suspected. They are rather unusual, so typical of Kaffe Fassett. I played the colours as they came without editing except for the tip of one forefinger where I ran out too soon and substituted a bit of a lighter brown because I didn’t have more of the correct colour. Hope they keep her hands warm while waiting for public transit.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

On A Spinning Roll

I’m sure it’s not because I’ve been thinking about spinning that I’ve been having a return of the Dizzies the last couple of days. It’s definitely biting into my functional time. I hate bouncing off the walls and furniture! Instead I’ve been lazing around…er, staying safely in a reclining position reading and surfing the Internet. I decided that now was as good a time as any to learn the secrets of English long-draw that have been eluding me for decades. This video by Ruth MacGregor is totally fabulous and now I’m pretty sure I can do it with properly prepared rolags. However I need to use batts from my new carder so I’ll have to turn them into rolags in some manner. It shouldn’t be too difficult to accomplish. Interestingly I wasn’t able to picture how to do the English long-draw from several different descriptions (and I’m usually pretty good at doing that kind of thing) yet when I can see it being done, I get it instantly. If a picture is worth a thousand words, how many is a video worth? Of course I have yet to put my new-found knowledge into practice.

Just to see the opposite style, Ruth’s equally excellent video on short-draw is here. That’s the way I spin most of the time but not necessarily with a combed preparation. I mostly spin semi-woolen – at least that’s what I think it is! Carded fibre spun with a short-draw. There are differences of opinion on pretty much everything in spinning but the area between woolen and worsted is definitely a grey one. Doesn’t matter to me as long as it turns out the kind of yarn I want! And it usually does.

And the “American” long-draw is demonstrated by Janel Laidman here. Essentially this is the same as the way I spin on the charkha except with the addition of the right hand stepping in occasionally to control twist or smooth out a section. BTW there are other video links of interest on the fiberartsvideo.com website. The one on how to use a wrist distaff shows pretty much the way I also spin on a spindle. Even my wrist distaff is similar to the one the fellow is using. (Sorry I couldn’t find his name.)

Folks trying to learn stuff like this are so lucky in these days of YouTube! Back in the Dark Ages when I was learning how to spin, I had nobody nearby to teach me and only a few books for instruction. They didn’t have a lot of illustrations or photos because those were expensive to reproduce and colour was even more rare. I learned by the seat of my pants and a whole lot of trial-and-error (emphasis on the “error” part). Who knew you were supposed to wash and card the fleece? Or oil the wheel? Wasn’t the squeaking normal? Oh, did I have questions! I must have muddled through all by myself though because I was making fairly passable – but really heavy – yarn for 4 years before I was able to take my first class. Newbies today have access to the Internet and the plethora of books and classes plus huge fibre and equipment choices. I’m sure you can avoid many of the mistakes and learn so much faster and better than I did. One problem remains the same though: so much fibre; so little time!

In knitting news, I haven’t gotten much further on any of the projects. I’m about to take the gloves out of time-out and get them finished preferably before Friday evening when Milady Daughter and her Lord are coming for dinner. The scarf is definitely curling up already – even though I was hoping it wouldn’t – but I don’t care anymore. It does look kind of pretty even if it is giving me a hard time. Soldiering on. Tomorrow is Spectrum Study Group and I haven’t touched my Journal since last meeting. Told ya I was no good at actual art journaling on paper. Fun to play with occasionally but it’s not the way I usually work.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Score!


I’ve been waiting for Judith MacKenzie McCuin’s new spinning book “The Intentional Spinner: A Holistic Approach to Making Yarn” to become available. While indulging in our usual post-Ravelry meetup LYS-crawl, I found they had a copy just in. So of course I bought it even though I could have gotten it a wee bit cheaper if I’d waited until Chapters/Indigo finally had it in stock on their website. However I need to support my LYS at least occasionally. Since I don’t buy much yarn (really!) I like to buy the occasional book instead. And besides, the shop and staff are soooo nice! Did I mention that knit designer Sivia Harding works there? I love her.

But I digress. I first met JMM (as she is fondly referred to by former students and other admirers) waaayy back – several decades ago at least – when she taught a workshop for my guild. She stayed with me during the workshop and I have a clear image of her sitting at my kitchen table with my first angora bunny on her lap, petting him while we chatted. Judith is a sweet, down-to-earth and very talented spinner and instructor and she tells great stories while imparting the wisdom that she has gained over the years. I admire her very much, even if I do gently disagree with her occasionally.

This book is the one she really wanted to write while she was working on her first book “Teach Yourself Visually: Handspinning”. That one followed a particular formula and geared for complete beginners so she was unable to include some of the more advanced methods and details. “The Intentional Spinner” carries on from there, fills in some gaps and expands on techniques begun in the first book. The first half talks about the fibres themselves, where they come from and how they are produced. The chapter on manufactured fibres is particularly intriguing and a short chapter on the science of fibres has a number of ways to identify and characterize them. I inadvertently used one of these ways when I tried to dye cotton using techniques for protein fibres with my recent lace yarn! When the dye (in my case brazilwood) didn’t take to the fibre it eliminated it as wool. Heh. Lesson learned.

I was interested to note that there isn’t much space given to fibre preparation here. A little about combing and dizzing and a bit about blending plus a dash of carding and that’s about it. There are actually a lot of options for yarn design in the prep stage but this book isn’t the one to tell you much about it.

There are several drafting methods described (with somewhat unhelpful photos), including Judith’s specialty boucle draw (aka “wolf” yarn – the one I can’t manage even though she showed me In Person). Another chapter focuses on plies and novelty yarns. The info on plying is detailed and very helpful. I love the way she, gently as always, deflates the current obsession with “balanced yarn” saying that it should be adequate to its purpose and there is no magic formula. To my mind most plain 2-ply yarns that seem “balanced” are in danger of being underplied. But then I’m notorious for being unable to spin a good woolen yarn, so take that as you will. Worsted, semi-worsted, semi-woolen – yes. True long-draw woolen-spun – not so much. My fingers insist that my yarns be a certain level of firmly spun. I am pretty good at point-of-contact spinning (aka unsupported long-draw) though which isn’t included here. You need to be able to do that to spin on a charkha, support spindle or great wheel. For more, see Spinning Spider Jenny’s info on the different drafting techniques here. (And yes, we’re waiting on your book, hon’!)

Again I digress. After Judith shows you a whole bunch of both practical and fun methods of plying, then she discusses yarn design and how to plan the perfect yarn for your intended use. She points out all the characteristics of twist, diameter, elasticity and fibre and helps you choose among them to get the results you desire. My favourite section here is the one with the “spinning flowchart” which gives you the adjustments to make to your wheel and your spinning to achieve different results. You start by choosing a pulley, adjusting the tension and then spinning your default yarn. Then you fine-tune that until your yarn turns out the way you want. It’s brilliant. I want a poster-sized version of the chart for my wall.

Of course there is a section on Judith’s famous yarn finishing technique, aka “yarn torture”. It slightly felts, blooms and pre-shrinks protein-based yarn so that it is very stable in use. Unfortunately this section is very short (half a page of text and a page of photos) and limited to a very quick overview and an exhortation to sample and experiment. I found it a little annoying to be directed to a back-issue of Spin-Off magazine for a more detailed explanation of finishing. I have that issue but what if you don’t? Perhaps you’re reading this years from now and that issue is OOP? The only thing worse would be being directed to a website for more info. Websites are much more mutable than print. Yes, I know there’s only so much room in a book’s format for the details. And some stuff just has to be jettisoned for space. Glad I didn’t have to make those decisions. Twice as much text space is given to Judith’s treasured Paisley Shawl than finishing yarns, as an example of an editorial choice.

In the chapter entitled “Four Intermediate Spinning Projects” there are patterns for 3 knitted and one woven item. It’s assumed that you have some reasonable knitting and/or weaving skills but there are detailed instructions and suggestions for spinning the yarn that you will use. A lacey triangular scarf (big enough to be a small shawl), ankle socks, a kese (Turkish scrub towel) and woven scarf are small enough projects to be completed with a reasonable amount of effort and materials and each yarn is quite different. The hemp boucle yarn for the kese is particularly interesting because we don’t always know what to do with those fun-to-spin novelty yarns! Four isn’t a large number but this isn’t supposed to be a pattern book.

The last section includes information on storage, pests and display. We want our stuff to last, right? And there’s a mention of record keeping which is something I learned from Judith at that long-ago workshop. Even though I don’t use that method any more (preferring to use the computer instead) I still have copies of the spinning record sheets that she gave me. The blank spaces for information include things you might forget to record such as which wheel (assuming you own more than one) and which whorl you used for spinning the singles or plying, type of spinning technique used (short forward draw, long-draw, from the fold etc.), and the direction of spin and ply (or plies) twist. For some complex yarns these details could be vital to reproducing something similar in future. Ask me how I know.

In conclusion, Judith has written a reasonably comprehensive book for intermediate spinners. Even advanced ones like me can glean some information. And it makes a better read than you might think because of the historical details and Judith’s lovely story-telling style. I can definitely hear her voice in this book, unlike the last one. Interesting to note that the intermediate level is often ignored in craft books, particularly from the large publishing houses. Much more ink is used on the beginner level and maybe very occasionally a leap straight to the advanced with not much in between. Interweave has been pretty good at covering all the bases there, at least in the past, though I’m seeing what might be a “dumbing down” effect happening in some of their recent publications. (I’d like to discuss this in detail at some point.) I hope it doesn’t become an issue because where are the now-more-experienced beginners going to go next? Spinning is truly a difficult skill to describe in words, even with the addition of lots of good photos, yet I think that the majority of techniques in this book are comprehensible. Except the wolf yarn. I still can’t do it, even with the refresher instructions in here! Judith makes it look so easy. Darn her.