Being the continuing story of my creations and curiosities.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Shovel & Hoe

Another lovely day. More sun and more gardening! I managed to finally get the new raspberries planted yesterday – even though it sprinkled rain on me twice. We now have 10 plants: 4 Latham (older cold-resistant variety), 4 Qualicum (newer variety developed locally), and 2 Autumn Bliss (a fall-fruiting variety from the UK). We’ll see which variety does best. They took up more space than I expected in the narrow new bed next to the fence between our property and next door. It doesn’t leave me as much room for the tall sunflowers as I wanted but no matter. Given a choice I always go for food over beauty! We haven’t had raspberry plants for a long time. Not since the chestnut tree grew so big that it shaded the original patch into oblivion. BlueberryFlowersWe’ll probably have to wait until next year before we get many berries though. Luckily this year looks to be a good one for the blueberries instead. Aren’t the flowers such cute little bells?

The weather has warmed up quite a lot finally. I’m feeling very behind on cleaning up and planting even though I’ve spent at least 3 hours per day on it. That’s kind of my limit because I don’t want to jeopardize my current good health. After all, I’m no spring chicken! T-Man has done what he can but he’s had other things to focus on. Mainly the side fence which seems at a standstill now until he can get some of the crushed limestone that he uses to stabilize the fenceposts. All the lumberyards are mysteriously out of it and he can’t carry on until the main supports are in. I’m beginning to like having the side open. It makes the yard look so much larger. But it’s just a bit too public.

The veggie garden is now nearly planted as far as possible until it warms up more at night. It’s quite the little mini-farm:

SpringGardenI can’t plant the beans and squashes out until the middle or even the end of May. Meanwhile, I have the big stepladder out to take me up to the higher branches on the pieris so I can finish that pruning job. I also placed most of the new path stones Pierisyesterday but haven’t settled them in place properly yet. Yet another big job! I’m trying to get as much done as I can before the weather is supposed to turn to rain this weekend. And then I will happily be forced to rest for awhile.

Continuing to plug away at knitting the Papyrine Wrap. Sometimes it’s quite a slog but I managed to keep to the plan of at least one repeat per day and sometimes more. I have a few more repeats before I can start the decreasing where it tapers towards the end. I will celebrate when this is done knitting! Then I have to knit the final dangly leaves and finally dyepaint the whole thing. Hopefully not turning it into a cat yack in the process! At least I get to sit down while I’m knitting. And I haven’t run out of podcasts to listen to yet.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Lost Time

Saturday was pretty much a lost cause. I know I made a nice blog post and even included a book review, plus knitted some on the paper wrap. But I had the worst migraine I can remember in some time and I barely stirred out of bed all day even though it was lovely and my garden was calling me.  My eyes were watering and my stomach churning and no amount of Advil was working to make the jack-hammering in my head just Go Away. Ugh.

Sunday was better and the Ravelry meetup was enjoyed in the sunshine (and occasional shadow) outside Bean Around The World coffee shop. I love that it’s only 3 blocks from my house though the staff could use an attitude adjustment. It’s a busy place anyway even though there are many similar coffee shops in the area to choose from. I still had a bit of a migraine “hangover” though which extended to yesterday as well. All the knitting that I did on the Hot Spring Socks got frogged so I might as well have just sat there instead. Sigh.

Yesterday I got some gardening done in spite of the continuing migraine hangover but there’s still tonnes left to do. The broccoli got transplanted. Only the carrots are left to put in that bed and they are still growing under the lights. They won’t go out until they’re 4” tall in an attempt to foil the rust flies. Hopefully. And I got the sunflowers, nasturtiums and squashes started. I’ve also been trying to prune the pieris which are about 10-12 feet tall. They were badly damaged this last winter and many dead branches and twigs need to be removed. I can only reach partway up even with a step-stool so I only got about half done. Since they are right next to where the new side fence is going in, I thought I’d get as much done on them as possible before the fence gets in my way.

Then today I woke up with the Dizzies! If it’s not one thing, it’s another, hey? Or are they related? Don’t think so. I still spent some good garden time and got the parsley and the winter leeks planted. That bed, which also contains the asparagus (nearly picked enough for dinner already!) and the walking onions, is now completed.

I read something recently that made me think: workers often do less work when they aren’t being observed by the boss. Sounds obvious, doesn’t it? But what if you don’t have a boss? In my many years as a dedicated avoider of the “Regular Job” I’ve rarely worked for anyone else and even then it was only on a part-time, very temporary or casual basis. I’ve actually found the boss hanging about to be a detriment to my performance and I prefer to know what I’m supposed to achieve and then be left alone to get on with it. Am I an even greater oddity than I think?

As a creative/artistic person, I’ve always been a self-starter. To an outsider, I probably seem to be scattered all over the map. But then my “real life” is inextricably linked to my “work” and my workplace is my home as well so there is no separation. I tend to have more than one creative project going at once, plus the housework and the garden. Interestingly the latter is usually one or the other – I don’t seem to be able to keep both inside and outside work going at the same time. (In other words, while I’m working in the garden, the dust bunnies have full reign of the house!) However, I can keep maybe 3 creative projects going but after that something gets left to languish, maybe just until I finish something else but sometimes forever. And those 3 projects have to be 3 different levels of difficulty: one easy to transport, one no-brainer and one that takes more concentration or that doesn’t travel well. Lately I’ve been trying not to start anything new until something else is finished.

I also have volunteer jobs. Just a few little chores for my weavers’ guild: helping with the library, schlepping chairs and, once a year, getting the membership booklet set up on the computer and taken to the printer. Not much compared to the newsletter that I used to do! That was a huge job. I’m taking it easier these days. I’ve always gotten involved with various groups, everything from a family centre when my kids were little, the school parents group when they were bigger, and my guilds when I finally had more time available. I like that you can choose what job you will be responsible for when you are a volunteer. You can always say no if it’s not up your alley. Though once you say yes, you had better come through!

I don’t need or want anyone overseeing my progress or lack thereof. I can do that really well all by myself. I try not to be self-critical but I do seem to have my very own internal quality control person as well as an internal boss. Hmmm…it’s getting kind of crowded in my skull! (No wonder I get headaches. Heh!) I’m glad that I’ve finally learned to pace myself better than I used to and I’m much happier and healthier for it. Can you do that with a boss peering over at you and demanding immediate results?

See what happens when my head is acting up? Only babbling and no photos. Hopefully things will be better next time.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

FO Number Too…er, Two

I actually finished these first but wanted to put them together with a review of Cookie A’s new sock book which follows.

Monkey See Monkey Too Socks

clip_image002

For: Me

Yarn: DGB Confetti Seta Superwash, 55% superwash wool/20% silk/25% nylon, colourway 24.08 (browns with yellow, cream and rust accents), dyelot 8112, 420M = 50g. 2 balls.

Needles: Clover Takumi 5” bamboo dpns, 2mm

Pattern: Monkey by Cookie A

clip_image004Comments: I had never used this particular yarn before. I found that the silk content isn’t very apparent either in the knitting or in the look or the feel of the finished socks. Not sure the extra cost is justified really. I did like the colourway but interestingly, even though I started at what I thought was the same place in the sequence, they ended up different at the end.

Love this sock pattern as do thousands of others judging by the number of pairs on Ravelry. Cookie A managed to come up with an even more popular design than her Pomatomus. To use the vernacular, Cookie A rocks!

Yes, she certainly does. I got her new book “Sock Innovation” in the mail a couple of days ago and have been reading it carefully since.SockBook What I first appreciate about it is that the author states up front that she prefers to keep her sock shape the typical top-down, heel-flap, wedge-toe (my favourite too) and to embellish within that framework. That doesn’t stop her from explaining the other methods and giving patterns for optional heels and toes. Indeed, the whole first section of this book helps you get inside Cookie A’s methods and discover how she creates such eminently gorgeous socks. She gives you her tools so you can then create your own designs.

I don’t feel that this is a beginner level book, at least if you’ve never knit socks before. (I recommend “Getting Started Knitting Socks” by Ann Budd for beginner hand-holding.) This is more of an intermediate or even advanced level with lessons on how to read charts, pattern translation from flat to circular, placement of design repeats, cables in detail and a lot of those technical details that I consider particularly juicy. Any budding designer would be happy to play with these for a good long time and they aren’t necessarily only useful for socks but could be extrapolated for anything else you want to knit. The last part of the book contains 15 of Cookie’s delightful sock patterns, each named for someone who has special meaning in her life and illustrating the principles that were explained in the first part. The socks are knit from mostly hand-dyed yarns in solid, semi-solid or muted colourways so you can see the textures that are her trademark. They also are similar in gauge and size (average women’s) so that you can see how pattern stitches work within that basic format and the subtle changes needed to adjust for them. Cookie doesn’t forget to include hints on how to size each design up or down. The end of the book includes abbreviations, glossary of basics with illustrations and a short index.

I rarely buy books with just patterns in them. I prefer to have more content that furthers my technical knowledge and maybe lets me peek into the head of the designer. This book has it all! Patterns I can’t wait to knit, technical and design stuff galore and some personal tidbits about Cookie A herself. Including her real last name. (Now I know why she simplifies it to a single letter!) The only thing I miss is her signature mannequin “foot”. The socks in the book are sported by real feet. They look oddly normal!

Friday, April 24, 2009

One FO At A Time

Here’s the first of my recent FOs. Still haven’t finished writing up the second one yet. I’ve been busy!

Selbu Modern Tam KAL

clip_image002For: me

Yarn: MC – Koigu KPM, 100% merino wool, dye code 2425, dye lot 81, purply-browny-charcoal. 1 ball, 50g = 175 yds (160m).

CC – Louet Gems, super fine/fingering weight, was Pure White, 80.1702-13, dyed by me to rusty orange, 100% superwash merino wool. Less than ½ ball, 50g = 185 yds.

Needles: 2mm 16” Aero aluminum circular (ribbing), 3mm 16” Aero circ (main body) and 3mm 6” Crystal Palace bamboo dpns (to complete crown).

Pattern: Selbu Modern by Kate Gagnon (Zeitgeist Yarns).

Comments: My Ravelry meetup group started this KAL. I tried to resist but of course it was futile! I started with the rusty orange Gems fingering that I had dyed and then had some help choosing the Koigu for the main colour. They are a little different in size and twist. The Gems has more yards per 50g and is slightly thicker but softer twist. The Koigu has a tighter and more uneven twist. Can anyone tell me whether or not it is superwash? The label doesn’t say. It only says to handwash and dry flat which leads me to believe that it’s not but I could be wrong. The Gems is definitely superwash since it says so directly on the label.

clip_image004I knit the hat with the main colour (charcoal) in my right hand (throwing) and the contrast colour (rusty orange) in my left hand (picking). It took me some time to remember how to throw with my right hand because I haven’t done that for years! My tension suffered since I was also trying to keep the floats loose and my left-hand picking is already looser than my right-hand throwing. I thought my vintage Aero circs were just fine for this project and the stiff cable didn’t interfere at all. I went up a size on the main needle because it was just too tight for gauge – though the tension was neater. I was afraid the hat would come out too small but it’s just right. When I got to the point in the crown where I needed to switch to dpns I ended up going to Birkeland Bros for a new set of 3mm bamboo. I only had a set of 4 in metal (need 5!) and the bamboo ones I have from Japan are much too long at 10” to be practical. (I’ve threatened to saw them in two: one shorter set and one longer but never done it. Now I have a good 6” set so I won’t have to resort to violence.)

I had one little blip that I repaired with a duplicate stitch. Then I finished the tam in hot soapy water and a little of the dye from both yarns washed out. Not as much of the one I dyed as I might have expected though but more of the Koigu. Interesting. Afterwards I blocked it on a 10” plate perched on a drinking glass until dry.

As always, Kate’s pattern is wonderful and fits really well. There’s lots of different ways to wear it. Guess I have to thank my friends for talking me into this one! Though now it’s too warm to wear it. Darn.

Meanwhile I worked more in the garden and more on my paper wrap. I also got two new books in the mail. More anon but right now we’re going to celebrate this glorious spring day by going for a long walk. I need to slather on some sunscreen! Whoo-hoo!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Digital vs Paper

Further to my debate with myself yesterday on whether or not to go to a digital subscription for two of the magazines that I regularly buy, I’ve decided to do a pro/con comparison.

Paper: Pros

  1. Can review in store before purchase.
  2. Easy to hold and read anywhere.
  3. Doesn’t require special equipment to read (besides glasses!)
  4. Stays available on the shelf indefinitely until needed.
  5. Can be kept beside me for reference while working on a project.
  6. Lasts as long as the paper and ink hold up (decades or more).
  7. Can be lent, given or sold to another person.

Paper: Cons

  1. Takes physical space to store.
  2. Costs nearly twice as much to purchase.
  3. Takes several weeks after publishing to become available.
  4. Uses environmental resources: press, paper and ink plus delivery to the shop. (Note however that I pick up magazines on foot!)
  5. Can be damaged but not easily if reasonable care is taken.

Digital: Pros

  1. Delivered immediately when published.
  2. Takes only digital space to store.
  3. Backup copies possible, including physical offsite or digital online storage.
  4. Search, bookmark and notes functions.
  5. Links are immediately clickable.
  6. 12 issues (2 years) subscription costs almost half as much.
  7. No printing costs or resources unless I wish to print something myself.
  8. Can print just the page(s) needed.

Digital: Cons

  1. Must be paid for by subscription upfront. (12 issues best price-point.)
  2. Can’t be previewed before purchase.
  3. Needs Internet access to view, highspeed recommended.
  4. Not as convenient to read on screen.
  5. Possibility of losing or corrupting files.
  6. Formats may change in future so old files can’t be read.
  7. Illegal to lend, give or sell a copy to another person.
  8. If I want a hardcopy, I have to print it myself using my own resources.
  9. Home-printed copy not as good quality.

See any clear winner there? I don’t – so I’m still debating with myself. Did I miss any points anywhere?

Meanwhile yesterday we spent the afternoon in the garden. The weather was sunny but cool-ish so we got quite a bit done. Including planting King Edward, the flowering currant. Hopefully he won’t outgrow his space because I spoke too soon about the hellebore. It’s showing new shoots coming up so it didn’t perish after all. Just died back completely so we had no flowers on it this year. I also got more of the mint bed dug up and a new space for the two madder buckets is forming against the fence. I’m still reluctant to plant that stuff in the ground even though I’m probably limiting my madder harvest significantly. So be it – that stuff makes nice dye but from ugly scratchy invasive plants. It can just live in its big galvanised buckets! As I’ve written before, they make it totally easy to harvest the madder roots every couple of years. Just tip out the bucket’s contents on a tarp, separate out the roots, plant a few back in with some compost and lime and Bob’s yer uncle. We won’t discuss all the rest of the work cleaning and chopping and dyeing with the roots. I’d have to do that anyway whether they came out of the ground or the buckets.

Yes, I know I said I’d show the FOs today but instead of writing them up, I spent the morning knitting two repeats on my paper wrap and listening to the provincial leaders’ debate on the radio. Politicians! Why can’t they just say what they mean and mean what they say? And what does it say about me when I plan to vote for the party that I don’t want to run the province because the person running for the other party in my riding is not a good candidate for the legislature? And the other choices are worse and have no chance to get in anyhow. I like some of the policies and not others for each party but know they all lie to get in so just what can I actually believe? And don’t get me started on the personal attacks! Negatives are not the way to get me to vote for you, people. Just saying.

I always vote even if the choices are poor ones. Because if you don’t vote, you can’t bitch later. I prefer to earn the right to bitch. Even if it doesn’t get me anywhere.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Earth Day

I don’t really celebrate one particular day as Earth Day. I try to do my best for old Mother Earth as often and as well as I possibly can. After all, where would we be without Her? Empty space just isn’t an option! The last few days of warmth and spring flowers have reminded me how much life we owe to the turning of the Earth around the Sun. I’m so grateful that I have my little piece of Her to play in. (And fight the sow bugs for!) I picked a salad’s worth of greens, some from the garden and some from pots in the greenhouse, and we’ll have it for dinner in celebration. Hopefully if it doesn’t rain later today we can plant our new flowering currant (Ribes sanguineum var. King Edward VII) in the front yard. It’ll go in place of our big hellebore that we lost this winter. More substitutions to come.

Speaking of substitutions, T-Man spent yesterday after work demolishing the side fence (click for bigger):

FenceDownIt makes our backyard look so large and open! Hope nobody uses it for an opportunity to waltz in and remove anything before he can get the new fence built. We moved a few pots and things farther out of view anyway just in case. That poor fence has needed bigtime help for a number of years. T says that it fell down because the plants that were holding it up let go! True. He’s going to recycle some of the wood in other places in the garden including revamping the compost box.

In crafty news, I’ve completed two FOs: the Monkey See Monkey Too Socks and the Selbu Damselfly Tam. I did quite a lot of work on them at our fun Ravelry Pride & Prejudice & Spaghetti night at Infinity0’s place on Saturday evening. Finished up the sock toes and grafted them and then made great headway on the tam which I completed on Sunday. Both are blocked and just waiting for me to finish up the writing up of the details. Next post, promise.

Of course finishing so many projects made me start another one! I used some of the pretty yarn I dyepainted last week with my friend Jo:

DyedYarnIt’s the one on the left, shades of burgundy and reds dyed over Knitpicks’ Bare sock yarn. Not sure I’m going to buy this stuff again. It’s almost too soft for socks and I may be making a big mistake knitting these for my DIL The White Lady, who is notoriously hard on her socks. I’m using the Spring Forward socks pattern by Linda Welch from Knitty. Not hard to knit and very pretty:

HotSpringSocks_begThere’s a wee bit more knitted on those socks since the photo. Meanwhile I’ve been plugging away on the Papyrine Wrap which is about halfway to the finish line. I alternate between enjoying the knitting and being totally sick of it. I compromise by just wanting it finished asap. My goal of at least one repeat per day is pretty much being kept – even if I have to work a little harder to catch up occasionally. Remind me again why I’m doing this? Oh yeah, for it hopefully to be accepted into an exhibit and perhaps a fashion show. This will be at Emily Carr University of Art & Design, which in its older incarnation of the Vancouver School of Art is where I flunked out…er, quit after a year and a half in the late 1960’s. I learned not much worthwhile there except that I am not cut out to be An Artist. (It’s also where I met T-Man. I always say that was the best part of my experience in art school.) It will be pretty good for my ego though to be exhibited there. Take that! Only took me 40 years.

One more item today – I’m not sure if this link will work for you but give it a try if you’re interested. If it works it will take you to the latest Embellishments newsletter from Interweave. At the bottom are links to free digital issues of Cloth Paper Scissors and Quilting Arts magazines. This is the full magazine, not just a sample. You can save them to your own computer if you want. ETA: Don’t bother because you need a subscription and password to access them once they are saved to your desktop. Just read them in your browser. I have to say that computer-literate as I am, I still prefer the paper copy in my hands but pixels certainly take up less space on my shelves! I already own the Quilting Arts issue but I’m going to have an argument with myself on whether or not to buy the paper issue of CPS. Plus a digital subscription is just about half the price of paper. How badly do I like to hold paper rather than my little netbook computer? Decisions, decisions.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Productivity

Or lack thereof. It always seems to me like I never get much done but apparently I accomplish more than I think. I was reminded again today when a friend dropped by to get some of my wool/silk fibre to nest a set of pysanky eggs for a gift. She only needed a tiny bit and I have a fibre shop’s worth of stuff in my studio! (Plus in trade she promised me my very own egg made by her DH’s aunt.) Anyway, though she only lives a block away she hadn’t been in my house for awhile, far less upstairs in the Sanctuary of All Things Fibre. She was pretty amazed at how much handmade stuff we have in our house. Of course I don’t normally notice because I live in it but, dang – she’s right! I kind of forget that other people don’t surround themselves with hooked rugs, turned wooden bowls, handwoven curtains, stained glass lampshades and the like. They also don’t have multiple stashes and assorted tools and equipment so that each member of the family can make whatever their creative muse insists. Some People actually have to shop for tea towels and placemats and probably use (ugh!) paper serviettes. Poor things. Though I suppose it’s easier to justify throwing it out when it gets a little worn and go buy all new matching sets. I keep things I’ve made until they are in shreds. And then sometimes still find another use for them. Silly me.

Speaking of productivity, here’s the scoop on the one thing I actually completed recently:

Ruby Blue Twirly Scarf

RubyBlueTwirl

For: my friend Beryl

clip_image002Yarn: handspun from Ruby Blue fibre from Aurelia Wool, halfbred wool and glitter (several warm and cool reds, purples and a hint of khaki plus turquoise and red sparklies). Softly spun singles, 18-20 wraps per inch, angle of twist: about 15 degrees, wheel: Louet S-90, slowest whorl, used 1 or 2 zigzags across hooks to slow intake, short forward draw. 60 g @ 320 yds. Approx. light fingering weight.

Hook: 4 mm/F Clover Soft Touch

Pattern: 3-2-1 and You’re Done free online pattern by Sharon Maher

Modifications: I started with a single crochet foundation instead of a chain. Worked it about 2 metres long and then followed the pattern. I never blocked the yarn or even removed it from the bobbin – just started crocheting with it directly from the wheel after releasing the drive band and taking the yarn end out of the orifice. I ended up running out of yarn twice and had to spin more. There’s a little bit left on the bobbin at the end because I didn’t want to run out yet again. Those curlicues use a lot of yarn.

Comments: This scarf is for Beryl, the dear lady who gives me many rides to guild meetings and such and refuses to take gas money or anything in exchange. This version is much lighter and a bit narrower than my original scarf that used plied yarn and a different pattern and which she had admired. She totally flipped when I gave it to her! She was so chuffed she gave me a big kiss. I rarely give gifts (for various personally-valid reasons) but this one was so worth it.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Spicy!

I totally smell like cinnamon this morning. That’s because for breakfast I had a bowl of oatmeal with half of one of my favourite Pacific Rose apples, a tablespoon of ground flax seed and a large sprinkling of cinnamon cooked in. Because the apples are so huge there was more apple than rolled oats! No need for sweetening at all. Just a dollop of cereal cream. Yum.

Yesterday afternoon was so nice out that I got a chance to dig some more in the garden. I planted out some of my greens (lettuce, arugula, mizuna, tah tsai) and the summer leeks. Before I planted them, I picked off a bunch of the outer leaves since they were so huge and I’d rather eat them myself than have the bugs get them first! We had some in our dinner salad last evening along with some of the walking onions and store-bought veg. Nice to have garden-grown stuff in meals again! Though I just used up the last clove of my garlic the other day in a stir-fry. Sniff!

That’s it for home garlic until the scapes grow. The plants are already over a foot tall and doing very well. But then they are cold-hardy. Which is very handy since there was a hint of frost on some of the local roofs this morning. I wisely brought the broccoli in with the tomatoes last evening out of the greenhouse. Back – forth – back – forth…whew.

Today even though it’s very nice out (but cool), I needed to vacuum since I’ve been avoiding that for weeks. As someone may have noticed, not my favourite occupation! My friend Jo is coming over tomorrow to play in the dye studio so I thought I’d at least reduce the dust bunny population before she thinks I’ve gotten some new pets! Don’t believe me? Meet Fred & Ethel, who’s photo I snapped before sucking them up:

Dust Bunnies 

And they were not the only members of the family lurking about! The sun is shining in and making the dirt rather obvious. Amazing how much gets tracked in while gardening even if you’re trying not to. While I was playing in the garden yesterday, T-Man finished the first part of the back fence and tied the blackberry canes to it.

BackFenceOh, and while I was out there this morning bringing in that garbage can you can see in the alley, I found this:

PeaSo they didn’t drown or freeze after all! Yay! Now if they can avoid being eaten by the birds (hence the black net over them that you can just barely see in the photo) we may have some yummy peas some day soon.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Easter Weekend

I always think of Easter as the real beginning of spring. Even though I don’t celebrate it as a religious holiday, the eggs and chicks and bunnies speak to me of new beginnings and the cycle of life. This year we didn’t have any family gatherings (nobody bothered!) so T-Man and I just hung out at home. It rained nearly all day but just before sunset we got this interesting light on the cherry blossoms across the street:

EasterLightWith the dark clouds behind it looks somewhat eerie, don’t you think? Yes, the cherry blossoms are finally in full bloom, several weeks late but lovely nonetheless. We have lots of them as street trees in our city. Their beauty is short-lived but really spectacular.

Backing up a bit, on Friday we took the old VW van out to a garden shop where we had lunch and bought several new plants for the garden including replacements for my dearly departed rosemary and some of the creeping thyme planted between the garden path stones. Then we went to the stone yard and bought some more of those to continue the paths. They had a sale on with 60% off on glazed pots so we got one for the new rosemary, which is a prostrate variety:

RosemaryThat way we’ll be able to move it into the greenhouse over winter to give it more protection. Rosemary is a bit iffy here. Most winters it will be fine but every so often we have one that’s too cold and it can lose branches or be killed entirely. That’s what happened this year. The lady at the plant store said that nearly everyone lost their herbs: rosemary, sage, and thyme. I did lose the first two but not all of the thymes although some survivors show damage. We’re still waiting on several of our other shrubs to see if they can be saved or are toast, particularly a couple of the rhododendrons and our old firethorn. Sniff! That was so pretty with it’s red berries in winter. The birds will miss it as much as I will. T will not miss it’s thorns however. He has issues with thorny plants. He’s very happy that he’s nearly finished replacing the back fence where the blackberries have being doing their best to hinder his progress. And they’re just the heavily pruned canes and barely showing new growth yet.

In crafty news, I finally finished a secret spinning/crochet project which I have put into Ravelry but have not mentioned it here. I’ll wait until Thursday to blog it since it will be gifted then. Just in case the recipient is reading. Don’t think so but you never know! Nice to have actually finished something for once. I keep pegging away at things but it doesn’t seem like there’s much progress when it’s scattered around 3 or 4 different projects.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Oh-Dark-Hundred

T-Man has had to work an even earlier shift than normal for the last few days. So he’s doing it from home which means that I get woken up before 5:00am along with him since the computer is about a metre from the end of our bed. I eventually drag myself out from the warm covers and go make him some coffee (tea for me) and then breakfast. He gets served at his desk so he’s feeling quite spoiled by the attention.

The weather has turned back to rain and cooler temps as we knew it would. One big advantage of T’s working the earliest shift is that when he gets off at 1pm he’s home already. So we went for a walk yesterday giving him a break from working on replacing the back fence. He does have a limited time to get it done though – the blackberries are starting to grow and once they get too big he won’t be able to get in there without damaging the canes more than he already has. They will survive anyway no matter what. There is no easy way to discourage Himalayan blackberries!

An update on grandson Stargazer: the poor little guy did break his leg on Monday! He now has a honking huge cast all the way up to his upper thigh to protect the “greenstick” fracture just under the knee (much higher up than originally thought). He’s quite a brave little kid but it’s hard to explain what’s going on to a two-year-old who wants the cumbersome thing off. Now! I’m sure he’ll be managing to get around on it quickly and it’s only supposed to be on for a week or so. Sure makes him very heavy to carry though! Here’s Daddy Ninja tickling the little toes sticking out of the thing:

StargazerCastI couldn’t help being the first to decorate it with a blue star with an eye in the centre (Stargazer – get it?) in the middle of his instep. I’m sure his mom will be getting out her paints to add some more to it before it gets too dirty! Big sister Princess Pink was pretty blasé about all the attention her little brother was getting. She’s been a much more reasonable human being now that she’s heading towards her fifth birthday in August. Their parents, however, were pretty exhausted after all the stress of hanging around in doctors offices and hospital emergency rooms with more to come in the near future.

In Knitting News, I’m quite behind on the Papyrine Wrap now. I’m going to have to do some serious knitting today. I’ve been speeding up on the repeats some now that I don’t need to look at the pattern constantly. I have it mostly memorised finally. I’ve also been plugging away a row at a time on the Selbu tam. It’s also getting easier and I’ve been practising better technique with the right-hand throwing of the main colour yarn. It’s been so long since I’ve knit that way that I’m nearly starting from scratch. My tension is somewhat…ahem, variable, but I think it’s improving. This little tam is a good excuse to practise and small enough that if it turns out really bad, I can frog and start again.

Back to work. I’m several repeats off my paper knitting schedule as it is. Don’t want to get even more behind there.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Here I Am

It’s been awhile, I know. Spring finally gave us some warm sunny days here so we had to get out in the garden. You never know when it will get cold and rainy again. Like, say, tomorrow or the next day. T-Man took yesterday off work and has been working on replacing the fence and I’ve been digging and planting. I’ve planted my little fingerling potatoes (they sprouted in the kitchen drawer so they were good candidates) and transplanted my rapini (two kinds: Italian and Chinese – the latter is milder in flavour). I’ve got even more little seedlings in the greenhouse now. See?

Greenhouse1The tomatoes have already grown twice the size since I transplanted them into pots. There’s broccoli, lettuce, lobelia and purple alyssum and also marigolds and coreopsis for both decoration and dye. (At least that’s what I’m trying to convince T-Man who doesn’t like it when I pick the flowers!) I tried to save the seeds of the totally mahogany-coloured coreopsis I got last year to see if I can produce more of them. They were really pretty! We’ll see if they breed true or if they continue to be variable, which is much more likely the case.

I really believe more people should try growing things. It teaches you so much! Patience (waiting for the right time to plant and for things to grow), observation (watching the weather, the soil, nutrients, insects, growth habits, the light etc.), enjoyment (nothing like the taste of a veggie before it realises that it’s been picked and eaten!) and exercise (preferably without hurting yourself). Nurturing living things makes you realise that there is something outside of yourself that needs your care and attention. Yes, sometimes growing a garden is frustrating, when the weather isn’t cooperating or bugs eat your tender seedlings or whatever. But that is usually overwhelmed by the feeling of satisfaction when things do well under your care. The yummy eating and pretty dye colours are a bonus!

I was thinking about how I learned to garden. It was my dad who had a fondness for flowers: roses and dahlias and sweet peas and gladiolus. I remember him begging old nylon stockings from my mom to cut up for soft plant ties and using pieces of the TV antenna that got blown off the roof by Hurricane Frieda for uprights to hold his sweet pea nets. He would offer me a whole 10 cents (big money!) to weed a patch of his garden for him – and then tell me not to spend it all in one place. I loved to watch for worms when he dug in the compost and our compost box today looks pretty much like his did in the 1950’s. Thanks, Dad, for teaching me that dirt under my fingernails is a good thing.

T-Man also learned about gardening from his parents. His mom is in her 80’s and still gets out in her garden almost daily. When his dad was alive they had a similar arrangement to ours: He does the “big” stuff (heavy pruning, mowing, digging) and She does the “little” stuff (planting, weeding, deadheading, harvesting). Of course there’s some overlap but T is much stronger than I am and I like fiddly stuff like planting tiny seeds and pulling little weeds better than he does. Our kids are getting more into gardening too, now that they all have some dirt of their own to play with. One of the reasons I plant so many seedlings is to have extras for them.

“A weed is a plant that has mastered every survival skill - except for learning how to grow in rows.”
    -  Doug Larson

On the knitting front, I’m slowly plugging away at the Papyrine Wrap:

Papyrine_prog1Notice I changed its name again. I didn’t really like “stole” and “shawl” has been done to death so I decided “wrap” was better. After all, you wrap things in paper, right? This wrapping paper is for shoulders. I’m currently running behind on my One Repeat Per Day promise though. I’ll need to do several repeats for a couple of days to catch up.

Sadly I had to frog over an inch of one of my Monkey socks due to a mistake that I couldn’t otherwise fix. Darn. I wish I had noticed the problem sooner but that’s what I get for knitting on the bus, in semi-darkened rooms and while reading. But it’s supposed to be my “relaxing” knitting for when I get tired of the paper piece. I have the Monkey pattern memorised now but obviously I still need to actually look at it once in awhile. What’s up with that, huh?

So the grandkids may be coming over later today, but I won’t be babysitting. Just visiting. Apparently Stargazer has to go get his foot x-rayed this morning to see if he has a cracked or broken bone. He was playing at a park with bigger kids yesterday (including his sister) and ended up being the bottom of a heap at the end of the slide. His dad took him to Emergency but it was busy (of course) and the triage nurse didn’t think anything was really wrong. Unfortunately the little guy had a bad night and can’t put weight on the foot this morning. He’s only two and can’t really explain exactly what’s hurting. Hopefully it’s not too serious.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Just One More Row

Yesterday I took the bus to my friend’s house for our monthly Spectrum Study Group meeting. I was happy that it decided to hold off on the rain both ways. We had our usual delightful time chatting and sharing, munching and playing. There’s a lot to be said for having a group of dear friends with whom you can get together on a regular basis. I’m somewhat of a hermit these days but these times are special fun.

All I brought was my paper knitting because I was trying to travel light. I had my sock in my pocket for knitting while waiting for the bus and while riding on it. I was lucky to find a seat among the university students who frequent this new bus route. If you read The Panopticon, Franklin would be happy to know that in my neck of the woods a handsome young man can read “Out” magazine openly on public transit and nobody even blinks an eye. However my knitting a sock prompted one young Asian man to ask what I was making and who was it for. In broken English he complimented me on my “talent”! Cute. Though I think he was disappointed that it wasn’t for him.

So I got one and a half repeats of my pattern done on Papyrine. That means I need to finish the second repeat today to be up to date with my self-imposed schedule. Instead I carried on with my illicit Selbu Damselfly tam. It’s illicit because I shouldn’t really start anything new and because I also shouldn’t be so vulnerable to peer pressure from my Ravelry knitting buddies. (You know who you are!) However it’s really cute so far:

Selbu_beg

I had to go up a size to 3mm needles to get closer to gauge. Still not sure if I’ve got it right but we’ll see. Apparently I knit tighter than usual on old 16” aluminum Aero circulars in stranded colourwork with the MC in my right (not usual) hand and the CC in my left. I had to remember how to knit with the yarn in my right hand and also remembered why I don’t like to knit that way. It’s awkward and uses much more movement. I never learned how to do a little “flick” with my forefinger to throw the yarn like my mommy did. I have to let go of things and wrap the yarn. I much prefer to knit with the yarn in my left hand. Also the Koigu (MC, charcoal) is slightly thinner and tighter spun than the Louet Gems (CC, orange). They definitely feel different in my hands. I originally thought they were much more similar.

Another problem I’ve been having is the persimmon-orange colour that I dyed the Louet Gems yarn is coming off on my hands. It won’t be a problem after I get a chance to rinse the finished tam but I certainly thought I had done so with the yarn in the skein! Sometimes, even with all the dyeing experience I’ve had, the dye decides to be naughty and not set or rinse properly. It usually doesn’t make much of a difference in the final colour but it’s annoying while I’m knitting with it. Maybe it’s the same dye that gave me a problem with The Ninja’s Rusty Socks from a year ago? It’s a similar colour anyway. I still have orangey bamboo needles from that project!

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

April’s A Fool

AprilSnow

Are you sure it’s April? I’d think it’s still January or something except for the intrepid spring flowers that are coming out in spite of the snow we got this morning! That’s my really big patch of cranesbills in front of the miniature daffodils. Luckily the white stuff got smart and figured out it wasn’t wanted. It finally disappeared in the real April showers.

Instead of looking outside, I started a KAL today with many of the members of my local Ravelry group: the Selbu Modern tam (Ravelry link) (PDF link). I have lovely Koigu for my main colour in a very dark purply-browny-charcoal and Louet Gems fingering dyed my own rusty orange for the contrast. So far I have less than an inch of ribbing and no photo yet. I really could use some more photos here, couldn’t I? But it’s just too dark today to take them indoors and outdoors is rather cold and wet.

I was good and didn’t start the KAL until I’d knitted one more repeat of the paper stole pattern. I’m done with the increases and am working even now so it’s a bit easier to calculate how long it takes: nearly an hour per 14-row repeat! The piece is nearly 14” long and about 16” at the widest. I need a piece big enough to wrap around a body though so I must keep knitting a whole lot more. Whew!

What else can I not show you? I’ve been spinning some of the lovely fibre I got at Fibres West from Aurelia. It’s called Ruby Blue (look here and scroll down) but it’s a little different in real life to the photo. A bit more purple and khaki plus lilac and the sparkle is red and teal blue. The result is a bit darker but, I think, more interesting. I’m spinning a soft thick (well thick for me!) singles on my Louet S90 wheel for a secret crochet project. I don’t think the giftee reads this but you never know, so mum’s the word for now.

While spinning, I was having some trouble with the S90 wheel drawing in too fiercely. I’d forgotten that the so-called “Irish” tension (bobbin lead/flyer brake) is most definitely positive and just about dragged the yarn out of my hands. As a matter of fact, I broke it several times until I clued in that maybe I should do something about it before my hands got tired holding back on the yarn. The brake was already off (I rarely use it except sometimes for plying on a nearly-full bobbin) so the next step is to zigzag the yarn over two hooks on opposite arms of the flyer. The rows of hooks are both on the same plane so you can do that on this wheel and honestly, it’s nearly always a good idea. For finer yarn I zigzag more, up to three times across the flyer, until it stops being a struggle to hold onto things. It makes it a PITA to fill the bobbin evenly because moving to a different hook is more work, but I couldn’t spin this yarn without the rigmarole. Just one more reason why Louet doesn’t make this wheel anymore?

Yeah, I know. Pictures are worth a thousand words. Later. Right now I have to go make supper.