Thursday, August 27, 2009

I Hate Squirrels

Yes, it’s that time of year again when the fuzzy-tailed rats…er, squirrels are galumphing over my house and sashaying up my trees and leaving the debris from their nut-thieving all over my deck and stairs. They even nibble on my railings taking chunks out of the wood. Evil creatures! Who invited them to my neighbourhood anyway. I was here first! They were imported. Grrrr…

At least I got to use some of my walnut husks – ones that the nasty creatures had chopped down too early and didn’t eat. Here are the yarns that I dyed on Monday and Tuesday:

DyedYarnsFrom left to right:  walnut on Alpaca Lace, coreopsis/marigold/iron modifier on Zephyr silk/wool, coreopsis/marigold/iron modifier exhaust bath on Zephyr, woad on Zephyr, and woad (regular hot process) on suri alpaca. All except the woad blue were mordanted with alum and cream of tartar, the first 3 separately (at least a year ago!) and the last in the one-pot method. I didn’t get as strong a colour from the spent woad leaves this time, just a pale pinky-beige on 250g of alpaca. Too much fibre and not enough leaves for as deep a colour as last time, but it’s quite pretty anyhow. I’m not especially happy with that suri alpaca yarn though. I bought it from a vendor at the ANWG conference in Red Deer 2 years ago. Luckily for them, I have no company name to complain to. Or about. It was apparently commercially spun from the unknown farm’s fibre and it isn’t as nice as I would have expected. It’s very uneven and the singles were over-twisted and then under-plied. At least in my opinion. I feel I could have spun it much better myself. A lot of this was masked though by the incredible amount of “stuff” that came out of the yarn when I washed it. After rinsing several times I thought I had it clean but then the dyebath became totally milky from oil, grease, dirt, something? Now I’m trying to remember why I spent $50 on this 1000 yd skein. I’ll still use it for something eventually. Something where it’s weight (heavy for its fine/fingering size) and drape (slippery with no elasticity) won’t be a detriment.

The woad did give me good blue colour on top of the too-pale skein from the last time. The vat had a proper “flower” on top and I was careful not to use too much soda ash or thiox in it. I think I’m getting the hang of this! Maybe. There’s 6 plants left that I didn’t harvest but I just don’t have time right now. Maybe I’ll try it again when I get back from vacation. Or not. I already got 3 dye batches this year from my 13 plants which I think is pretty good. I can only process half of them at a time anyway. 6 or 7 plants gives about 2 kilos (one large bucket) of fresh leaves which is all that is practical to work with at once, at least in my dye studio. On a good day, that will dye about 100g of fibre to medium blue (2 or 3 dips) and another 50-100g pale blue. Not a lot, huh?

BTW have you heard that Ravelry now has at least a small consideration for weaving? Yay! You can designate a project as weaving (instead of crochet or knitting) and once you do so, you get a box to add your loom details (instead of hook or needles) and you can also enter where you got the pattern. Not too detailed, I’ll admit, but you could enter any other information in the comments box such as sett, warp length, reed, width etc. Hey, it’s a beginning. Casey recommends that you go in and update any weaving projects you’ve already entered so the search feature will turn them up properly. Done.

Got to get my rear in gear and get laundry done and some packing started in earnest. I have Milord & Milady plus Nana coming for dinner tonight. They will be looking after the house and garden while we’re gone so we need to go over the details. Plus I need someone to help eat some of the produce that I can’t take with me! T-Man is going to spit a large free-range chicken on the barby for the occasion. Yum!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

That Was A Weekend!

I’m totally exhausted today. The last few days have been soooo busy. It started on Saturday where we weeded and tidied most of the veggie garden. Then we went out to Mission (1 hour and 20 minutes, door-to-door) for my SIL’s 25 X 2 birthday. It was fun and we stayed longer than we had planned. Got home at 11pm which for us is more like 1 am. It was nice to see my brother’s side of the family because we don’t get a chance to get together very often. Unfortunately we just got there when my birth mom, my sister The Nurse and her grown sons were leaving so we missed having a good visit with them. Mother is very ill with cancer and she has been moved into my sister’s house for palliative care. This is a very difficult time for us all right now. And now I’m leaving for the better part of a month! Not on purpose. That’s just how it turned out. Mother told us to have a good time on our vacation and not worry about her. Yeah, right.

Meanwhile, back at the weekend, on Sunday I got to photograph Princess Pink in her Flower Girl Dress:

PPinFlowerGirlDressCute huh? And then we had to take a picture of her parents all dressed up:

PPFamilyAren’t they a handsome bunch? So while they went off to the wedding we got Stargazer for the whole day all to ourselves. We pushed him in our vintage stroller all the way to Granville Island where he got to play in the water park:

SGinwaterpark And I got my feet (and other parts of my anatomy) wet playing with him. Then we switched up and T-Man played with him in the playground:

SGinplayground Stargazer pronounced this swingy bridge “tricky”. So cute! After pizza in the market and watching the birds and the boats we headed back uphill toward home. He fell asleep in the stroller and stayed that way almost all the way and only woke up in time to have an apricot at the little organic produce store a block from home. Perfect timing.

But that’s not all! We immediately turned around and went out again, this time in the car (with Stargazer’s borrowed car seat) to T’s younger brother’s house for dinner. Nana was there too to Stargazer’s delight. He loves his great-grandmother and she’s a great one for the little guys. She has 7 grandkids and 12 great-grandkids now! Whew. Though as she mentioned, her sister has 13 so beating her by one. I think Auntie cheated though since she started with twice as many kids in the first place: 6 (a girl and 5 boys) to Nana’s 3 boys. Just sayin’.

Yesterday (Monday) I designated a Dye Day #1 and picked a bunch of coreopsis and deadheaded the marigolds. I also had a small bucket of walnuts that had been stewing in the sunshine for a month and a half. It was very dark brown and, after skimming off a layer of mould, I pronounced it useable. I already had two skeins (100g total) of the never-ending alpaca lace yarn and two 100g skeins of Zephyr silk/wool (colour Vanilla) that had been previously mordanted in alum. So I put the alpaca in the walnut dye and used the microwave to heat it gently. I extracted the coreopsis (50g) and marigolds (150g) in boiling water and then strained out the flowers and added one of the Zephyr skeins. After simmering for an hour it turned an all too familiar shade of gold so I decided to use a wee bit (1.5ml) of iron to turn it green. It turned a lovely olive shade and there was lots of colour still in the pot. So I added the second skein of Zephyr and got a slightly lighter and bluer sage green. Meanwhile the alpaca came out of the walnut very dark but lost quite a bit of colour in the rinses (many!) and ended up medium brown. Too gentle heat? Perhaps I should have simmered it longer on the stove instead of using the microwave? Left it longer in the dye? Lesson learned. Nice colour anyway. Photos to come when they dry more. It rained last night so the skeins are still very damp from the higher humidity.

While I was hanging around in the dye studio waiting for pots to heat I also made a batch of the skin cream from my friend Sandra’s rather complex recipe. This was my first effort and I found it difficult to microwave the oils and waxes to the right temperature. Our old craft microwave is a bit flaky and heats unevenly. My thermometer was fluctuating up and down like an elevator: too hot, too cold. I figured close was good enough and it seemed to work ok. It made 8 2-ounce containers which gives me enough to give some as gifts. And enough supplies are left for at least one more batch before I have to start replacing some ingredients.

Today I’ve decided is Dye Day #2: Woad. I know I should be packing for the trip but I need to use stuff while it’s available which is now. The woad has zoomed back up to nearly as big as it was a few weeks ago and who knows if it will have blue in it by October. So I decided to try now. My skein of blue Zephyr from last time needs more overdyeing for a deeper blue anyway. So we’ll see what I can get. I’ll try to remember not to use so much thiox this time. Wish me luck! It’s definitely not science. Blue is totally magic.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Only 7 More Sleeps

And I’m in Packing Mode for our vacation. Or at least thinking about what to pack which is a big part of it. I haven’t yet done my research on Google Maps to plan our route which is of course going to be as circular as I can make it. I hate to retrace my path, preferring instead to conquer new vistas at every turn. At least that’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

Of course I’ve already sorted out the Projects – well, most of them anyway. I’m still dithering on the spinning for the Backyard Sweater. I don’t need to bring any carding tools. (Yes, I’ve travelled with a drum carder. Not recommended.) But I need a stupid amount of fibre for the worsted-sized yarn I planned and my Victoria wheel is not the most ideal for spinning worsted. Not that she can’t. Just that the smaller bobbins mean more joins in the knitting. And I’ll need a niddy-noddy because, unlike Klaas (my Louet S-90 wheel) she doesn’t have a built-in skein winder). I need skeins rather than balls because I always wash my yarn before using it. Well, almost always. Decisions, decisions.

Oh, yeah. I was going to show Princess Pink’s dress (though I don’t have a photo of her wearing it yet).

Flower Girl Dress

For:  Princess Pink

FlowerGirlDress_frontBegun:  August 17, 2009

Completed:  August 19, 2009 (plenty of time! right?)

Pattern:  from Burda World of Fashion magazine, 3/2006, #138, size 110 (US girls size 6).

Fabric & Notions:  Medium-weight broadcloth, 100% cotton, bleached white, used about 3 yards. Nylon lace edging, 7 or 8 yards. 4 pearly plastic shank buttons.

Comments:  This is a pretty sleeveless dress with a half-circle skirtFlowerGirlDress_back embellished with 3 overlaid ruffle tiers. The ruffles are curved and only gently gathered which gives the dress a nice not-too-fluffy line. Takes more fabric to cut them out though because the curved pieces don’t fit together efficiently. I cut the bodice pieces out twice to self-face them instead of edging the neckline and armholes with bias as the pattern indicated. I also edged the hem and each tier with narrow lace. I made good use of my serger for joining all the major seams, edging all the hems and gathering all the tiers. I’m sure I could have also added the lace with the serger but felt I had more control with straight sewing machine stitches. I also joined the bodice with its facing and sewed the buttonholes with the sewing machine. The facing was stitched over the skirt seam by hand. I didn’t do any topstitching but just relied on a good press with the steam iron to finish. With all the layers it’s quite heavy and doesn’t need a slip underneath. Finally, I sneakily sewed a small tag inside at the bottom of the button placket which I’m sure nobody has noticed yet! It said “Made especially for {Princess Pink’s name} by her Granny. 08/2009”. I do believe in artists signing their work! 

Hope she feels very pretty walking down the isle in this dress at the wedding ceremony tomorrow. Also hope I get a photo of the event!

OK, I’ve got to get back out in the garden for awhile and then make a card for my SIL’s 50th birthday party this evening to go with her gift of 25 toonies. (So what does she expect with only a week’s notice? A lace shawl?) Although she and my brother live in Kamloops, she plans to have two birthday parties (just 25 years each, right?), one at her brother’s place in Mission which is more than an hour away on a good day but a lot closer than Kamloops. However the party doesn’t start until 6pm. (What?) We won’t be much in the way of Party Animals at that rate. Yes, we are officially Old Folks. Can’t stay out all night whooping it up anymore. Then there’s that long drive home…

Anyway we have to be alive enough tomorrow to babysit the grand-boy-beastie for the day while the rest of his family go to the wedding. He is Not Good at weddings. As an infant he nearly made me miss my own daughter’s wedding – if it hadn’t been for a stranger, er saviour who stole him away in the nick of time. True story. Well, OK. He wasn’t really a stranger to Milady Daughter, just to me and he didn’t really steal Stargazer. Just borrowed the screaming meemie for awhile. To my everlasting gratitude and to which the hero says “pshaw”. Now it’s our turn to steal Stargazer. Hopefully without the screaming.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Moving Right Along

I’ve just spent a couple of days whipping up a white dress for Princess Pink to wear as Flower Girl for her dad’s friend’s wedding. Raiding the stash instead of shopping was totally worthwhile because I had everything I needed: pattern from an older issue of Burda, World of Fashion magazine, white cotton broadcloth fabric (it was going to be dyed some day), 4 pearly buttons, yards and yards of narrow lace edging, and white thread, both for the serger and the sewing machine. It’s turning out really cute and I’m nearly done. Deadline: tomorrow evening when they will pick it up on the way to the wedding rehearsal. Total time from request to completion: 4 days – one of which was already completely booked elsewhere. 5-year-old granddaughter’s happiness: priceless! Hopefully there will be a photo later.

The hour I spent cleaning, oiling and setting up both sewing machine and serger were worth it. I’ve had the sewing machine (Pfaff 1222E) for around 33 years and know it like the back of my hand but the serger (Pfaff CoverStyle) is only 3 and I haven’t used it for awhile so it took a bit of reintroduction. It didn’t disappoint me though and worked like a trouper. I did most of the seaming and all of the edging with it and with a bottom hem and 3 extra ruffle tiers that was a lot of yards/metres! I even gave the differential feed a good workout and used it to gather the top edge of the lower two tiers. The sewing machine came in handy to apply the bodice’s full facing, the lace to the 4 hems, the ruffles to the skirt and skirt to the bodice. Plus the buttonholes of course. The only hand-sewing was the bodice facing to the skirt on the inside and the buttons. And the results are modern but frooffy enough for Princess P. I made a size 6 so it should fit her for a little while but I don’t know how much use a white dress can get without becoming indelibly stained. If it was me, that would be sometime within the first 20 minutes! Oh well, she can play “bride” in it later.

All the sewing has ignited my Desire To Sew. Unfortunately I only have a short while before our vacation so there’s no point starting something before that. And there’s also packing to do plus making the garden ready to withstand some major neglect while we’re away. Milady Daughter can pick what veggies she likes and water some if she has time but I can’t expect her to lavish the kind of attention on it that I do. Since there’s no cats to look after any more, she probably will only come over a few times a week to check on things. Luckily, although she lives an hour away, she works just a mile down the hill.

What else? Oh yeah, here’s the Hot Springs Socks metamorphosed into the Dead Simple Lace Socks:

DeadSimpleSocks_begThe pattern is still a little lost in the yarn but it’s much better than it was. And I’m liking the knitting much better too – only one lace row alternated with a plain row. I don’t have to count where I am and I can see what I’m doing for a change. These are already longer than when I took the photo.

Tomorrow I’m busy with Spectrum Study Group. We’re going on a field trip to Jefferson’s, a local wholesale notions supplier, and then out to dim sum at one of the best Chinese restaurants in a city that’s just full of them. Yum! And it’s all in my neighbourhood too.

‘Splain to me why time moves so fast? Gotta go finish The Dress.

Friday, August 14, 2009

A Tale of Two Scarves

If you might remember back to when I was at the ANWG conference in Spokane I bought a scarf kit from Just Our Yarn. I finally finished one of the patterns that came with the kit:

Beaded Bias Scarf


Begun: June 22, 2009

Completed: August 10, 2009

Yarn: Just Our Yarn: Aziza, 5/2s, 100% tencel, 525 yds (480m) per skein, colour TTF08-064 (yellow, gold, rust), used .5 of the skein.

Beads: size 6, beer bottle AB transparent.

Needle: 2 – 3.25mm Clover bamboo 7” dpns.

Hook: 1.15mm steel

Pattern:  Variations - Bias Scarf by Karen Joan Raz  (Ravelry link)

Comments: The whole thing (yarn, beads, crochet hook and 2 patterns) came in the kit that I bought from Just Our Yarn’s booth. The two owners were very helpful in choosing different beads to go with the yarn colours I picked out. At home I tried out several different needles before settling on the bamboo dpns. Everything else was either sticky or slippery or too long or too awkward. Even the crochet hook that came with the kit was too big so I substituted one of my own.

The yarn is very shiny and pretty but not very forgiving to knit with and the pattern was not as easy to follow as you might think! I made so many mistakes and had to frog often in the beaded area. It didn’t gel in my brain until I was almost finished. I think it has something to do with the rhythm for me. That’s probably why it took nearly 2 months to finish it. In the end it blocked out 4” wide and 6’ long, just about the size stated in the pattern. I used pins on my mats to block it because it just didn’t lend itself to the blocking wires. Too hard to thread them through solid garter st edgings.

I’m quite happy with the results even though it wasn’t the pricey cashmere version that I fell in love with. I already have wool/cashmere yarn that would work nicely if I decide to do it again.

And then I decided that I’d had enough of knitting this stuff and went hunting on Ravelry to see what others had done with it. I came across a crocheted scarf that I totally loved and although there wasn’t a pattern available there were notes that indicated the book she got the stitch from. Luckily it was in my library!

Skeletal Leaves Scarf

Skeletal Leaves ScarfBegun:  August 10, 2009

Completed:  August 11, 2009

Yarn: Just Our Yarn: Aziza, 5/2s, 100% tencel, 525 yds (480m) per skein, colour TTF08-064 (yellow, gold, rust), used .5 of the skein.

Hook: Aero 3mm

Pattern:  The Complete Book of Crochet Stitch Designs by Linda P. Schapper, stitch pattern #493

Comments:  Instead of using the other pattern and beads supplied with the kit, I decided that I wasn’t that fond of the zigzag version nor with knitting this yarn. Crochet is much faster. I began with a chain around 2 yards long and in a number divisible by 16 + 2. Then I just followed the charted pattern stitch for 2 repeats of the 8 rows. I ended with a round of sc around the entire scarf. It was touch-and-go with only about 5 yards of yarn left at the end! A nail-biter. I didn’t bother to wet-block but just steam-pressed gently. It tends to scrunch up when wearing anyway.


Interestingly, I made a number of minor errors in crocheting the pattern but was able to fudge most of them saving me from having to frog many times. You can’t tell in the end and it just made it a little more “organic”. At least that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it. ;)

I like the way the rusty fall colours go with the pattern which reminds me of leaf skeletons.

The two scarves show the hand-dyed colours quite differently and they make a nice complementary set. They both turned out nearly exactly the same length with the crocheted one just a wee bit narrower.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Stuff & Nonsense

Being a compendium of thises, thats and the others.

I had a lovely day down at Granville Island yesterday. My buddy Kirsten and I babysat the Hanji paper exhibit in the Concourse Gallery of Emily Carr University. (That new moniker for the old art school cracks me up. I don’t pretend to know why suddenly they now can run with the big guys!) I mistakenly thought that it might be a quiet time where I could get some knitting done and chat with Kirsten but no, it was busy and we had much to contend with. The latter included a rude woman who handled all the things clearly labelled “Do Not Touch” and wanted to buy several Korean items with “NSF” on them. Her English might not have been fluent but she was just being a PITA. Unfortunately neither of us are very forceful people but we did the best we could until she finally left. We did get lots of really positive comments from the art students, locals and tourists so that was great.

My Papyrine Wrap ended up in a plexiglas case arranged in a lovely ripple:


Unfortunately that means it won’t be in the fashion show this evening but I don’t mind. It’s the only knitted piece in the gallery show and possibly the whole event so that’s really cool. A photo of the piece also got into the show catalogue so I’m pleased as punch. Only one of Kirsten’t two pieces got into print but I’m guessing her wonderful collapse weave scarf didn’t show up as well as her bag. That’s the latter on the left (she dyed the blue with indigo), Rene Corder-Evan’s shawl in the middle and Jean Betts “Paper Towels” on the right:

PaperPiecesHeh! I loves me a good pun. Here’s Kirsten’s crinkly scarf on the right with Catherine Barr’s piece on the left:

PaperScarvesThere were lots more wonderful pieces but my camera ran out of power and I’d left the spare batteries at home. Doh! The Koreans were very excited about this collaboration and want to do something similar again. Whew! I’m tired just thinking about all the work everyone did for this series of events.

While I was at the gallery I tried to work on the Hot Spring Socks and failed miserably. I screwed something up (again) and decided that this pattern and this yarn Do Not Marry so I’m frogging what I’ve done so far. And starting over again with something simpler:  Dead Simple Lace Socks from Wendy Johnson’s “Socks from the Toe Up”. I picked up this book yesterday at Maiwa and even though I don’t knit socks toe-up (OK, once just to try it), this is a nice book with lots of inspiration and information. At least she includes how to knit a flap heel toe-up because nothing will induce me to do a short-row heel again. They slip down in my shoes! Had that problem yesterday while walking to Granville Island in one of the rare pairs I did with short-row heels before I decided that they aren’t for me. I don’t care if they’re easier to knit and look better in some patterns. Function is paramount.

I also decided to give Nancy Bush’s Estonian Cast-On a try on these socks. If you missed it on Knitting Daily, the video on how to do it is here on YouTube. I didn’t double the tail but I did follow the cast-on with a round of knit and a round of purl before starting my k1/p1 rib. It’s quite decorative. Hopefully I’ll get a photo soon.

While I’m sharing video links, watch while spinner and instructor Sarah Anderson’s beautiful hands work the most elegant chain-ply technique I’ve ever seen: video here.

Gotta get. We’re heading back down to Granville Island again as soon as T-Man gets home. He wants to see the gallery show then it’s out to dinner somewhere on the island and finally the Fibre Naturally fashion show. At least this time I don’t have to hike. We’ll be taking the car. Good thing the MINI Cooper is little. Parking on Granville Island is almost an oxymoron!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Damp & Murky

And I’m absolutely loving the weather change! Though I do miss the sunshine, I am definitely not a lizard. I have so much more energy in the cooler temps and I’m so happy I can spend time upstairs in my study/studio without melting my eyeballs. I’ve been trying to make up for lost time! I spent quite awhile using the big computer and scanning and printing patterns and organising my knitting queue better. I want to start about 10 different things. But I’m also trying to finish a few first.

And the finishing continues with the end of the Beaded Bias Scarf. I only have to block it now and of course photograph it. It’s too damp and dark today. Of course one project off the needles means I can start another! But which one to choose? So far I’m holding off (barely) and working on my Green Star sweater instead. I also have the Hot Spring Socks to finish for my DIL, The White Lady. Her birthday is in September while I’ll be away on vacation and I’d like to get them done before I go. They are no longer “spring” socks any more! Not sure why I lost the momentum but sometimes other things jump in front and demand to be worked on instead. Blame the heat. Or just the fact that I’m not feeling the Big Love for these. The pattern kind of gets lost in the yarn’s variegations. But, as I’ve mentioned before, she likes them and that’s what matters. They’re pretty much down to the heel flaps and should go faster after that. I’ll just have to try them again sometime with a more muted colourway.

What else? I froze nearly 2 kilos more of my beans on Friday. I was getting tired of having several huge bags of them taking up my fridge space. Besides they don’t last that long after picking. Now I need to get some new canning lids and some vinegar to make relish with the zucchini excess. I have lids but they are so ancient that I’m concerned they won’t seal properly and I don’t want to take the chance of ruining my relish. Lids are cheap; my time is not.

All the drying, freezing and canning reminds me of some news items I read recently where they were talking about the growing (hah! pun!) trend towards putting up produce while it’s in season. The gist of it was that more people are doing it these days as if it’s something “new”! Cracks me up. How do you think people had something to eat in winter back before the advent of the local supermarket? I do know why they would rather buy stuff already packaged though. It’s a LOT of work! But so satisfying. Food gathering and preparing is so basic to humanity. I’m sure it’s in the DNA.

Amusing story: I learned how to make dill pickles when I was a young newlywed – from my then-teenaged brother-in-law, no less. He took a cooking class in high school and shared the recipe with me. I still remember standing in the sunny kitchen over the tiny stove in our first basement-suite apartment and boiling up the brine. Now my daughter makes them too and many other pickle variations as well. Just passing it on. Come to think of it, I still have a jar of her delicious carrot pickles in the fridge. Yum!

We had Princess Pink’s birthday party yesterday. It was going to be at a park but the weather was rainy in the morning so it shifted to their house. Kind of crowded and noisy with all the cousins but fun. She got lots of lovely girly loot! Five years old now. Sigh. I remember when she was just a little sprout.

This is going to be a busy week for me. I have a party at my dentist tomorrow. Yes, really! He’s celebrating 20 years in business and we were some of his first patients. Most of the extended family go to him now too. Expensive but good. And Wednesday my friend Kirsten and I will sit the Hanji paper exhibit at the gallery at Emily Carr University. And the day after that is the paper fashion show. I have tickets for T-Man and myself to go. I still don’t know if my shawl will be in it but I think it depended on whether it was easy to extract from the exhibit or not. I don’t mind either way.

Enough of the babbling. I’ve got work to do while it’s still cool enough to think. At least I don’t have to water the garden.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

So Cool

I’m almost cold! Yay! It’s a mere 19C today and the cooler weather is giving me energy that I haven’t had in weeks. I spent yesterday trying to organise my knitting and crocheting for the next while. Collecting the patterns, scanning them from magazines if necessary, winding skeins into balls, checking for needles and hooks, designating what order to work them and deciding what I still need (carding! spinning!). It was fun to be able to do stuff upstairs in my study and studio rooms again without melting into a pile of goo. I do not do well in too much heat, the kind where you break into a sweat just getting up out of your chair for another beer. OK, pear cider. I don’t much like beer.

I babysat the grand-beasties on Tuesday and we had a great time at the local kiddie play park. There’s an elderly lady with limited English who sits and watches the little ones nearly every day. Better than TV! And the usual group of Philappina nannies with their little charges. This park used to be a parking lot when my kids were small. Much nicer now. We went down the big slide all together and I got my rubber shoes filled with pea gravel. With a stick in it for a birthday candle. Good times.

While they were visiting I couldn’t help but ask Princess Pink if she wanted her present from me early. I thought it would be lost in the kafuffle on Sunday at her birthday party. She absolutely loved her little dress:

PPinDressAnd it fit perfectly but with some room to grow still. She can wear it by itself or with a t-shirt and leggings or, in this case, right over the clothes she was already wearing. Notice the colours are definitely perfect in her wardrobe? Can’t believe she’s going to be five already! And going to kindergarten next month. Sigh. Time flies, doesn’t it?

I also finished:

Milord Son-In-Law’s Birthday Socks


Begun:  July 21, 2009

Completed:  August 4, 2009

Yarn:  Lana Grossa Meilenweit 100 Tweed, 80% superwash wool/20% polyamide, colourway 126 (black with beige, taupe and tan flecks), 420m = 100g, 1 ball (not much left).

Needles:  Addi Natura bamboo 6” dpns, size 2mm.

Pattern:  My Standard Sock Pattern on 72 sts, with 8” before heel flap and 7.75” before toe decreases, dec to 24 sts, dog-ear reduction.

Comments:  I began these late for his birthday so they weren’t ready on the 25th. He’s ok with that though. Apparently he likes to wear my handknit socks around the house when the floors are cold! So there’s plenty of time before that happens. ;)

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Change Is Life

No, nothing drastic. Just musing on this notion that was a favourite of T-Man’s grandfather. He actually became more easy-going and tolerant as he got older. When he died of a sudden brain aneurism at 80 he had driven himself to California in his little red sports car to visit his daughter. Things change and you only have just so much control over any of it. So get used to it!

I was trying to figure out how I personally deal with change. Some things don’t bother me at all but other things I would prefer if they remained the way they are. As I age, I can see differences in my own body. I’m stronger than I have been in the past decade but the greying hair and sagging skin over odd bulges are revealing my true vintage. Can’t be helped. I refuse to fall for all the “rejuvenation” make-over business. I’ll settle for trying to keep my body healthy and my brain flexible. The rest can do what it will.

One gradual change that I’ve noticed lately is that the YahooGroups that I used to spend so much time on have pretty much dried up. Most of the spinning, dyeing, crochet and, of course, knitting have gone over to Ravelry. It’s so much better there in some ways but I have to be proactive to keep up with any groups; i.e. go read them instead of them coming to me. I joined a bunch but really only check my local group with any regularity. I seem to be entertained enough without all the extraneous chat. I love love love Ravelry’s pattern search. Sigh. So many projects to tempt me.

I do try to keep up with some of the blogs though, especially the really popular ones and those of all my friends. Unfortunately it’s a losing battle because there’s just too much to read and it takes up a lot of time. I would like to actually accomplish something real occasionally. Really! How do those folks who have Facebook or Twitter or iPhones or Blackberries or whatever get anything done? Don’t we all have the same 24 hours? I need to sleep at least 9 of them too.

Speaking of Facebook and Twitter and the like, pundits have been predicting that blogging is going to go away because of the more immediate “social networking”. I’m not so sure. It’s quicker to just post a couple of sentences but it’s so superficial. No deep thoughts or insights. No complete stories. Long tutorials with accompanying photos. Of course I could just be blowing smoke. I’ve never checked those things out. I’ve already got enough to occupy me times ten! And I’m luckily “retired” with no for-pay job. How do the working folks cope with the information overload? Pick and choose only what’s important or interesting to them, I’m certain. Probably too little sleep as well.

Anyway, the upshot of these musings today is that I don’t want to become one of those older people who are always complaining about “that’s not like it used to be” or “it’s not as good as it was before”. Some things aren’t as good. Some things are better. It is what it is. Complaining isn’t going to help. Just makes you unpleasant to be with.

Moving right along. I’ve finished the socks for Milord Son-In-Law so now I only have a gazillion things on the go instead of a kabillion. I’m not concerned. At least I’m never bored.

One last thing – have you seen the Tin Man 3-part miniseries that just played on the Space Channel? It’s been out for nearly 2 years but this is the first time it’s been seen in Canada even though it was made here in BC and most of the supporting cast are local actors. It is so well done! A modern and darker take-off on the Wizard of Oz with Zooey Deschanel, Neal McDonough and Alan Cumming. I’m such a sci-fi/fantasy geek. But extremely fussy. The characters have to be well-drawn and the story has to be plausible and interesting. This one has it in spades! Wish they would make it into a regular series.

Monday, August 03, 2009

A Little Disappointing

Well, I used the second half (actually slightly more than half at something over 2 kilos) of my woad. And got…not so much blue. Whahhhh! I don’t know what I might have done differently or if it was the presence of the bolting plants or something else that made the last batch so dark. Perhaps it’s the fact that the first area I used gets somewhat more sun than the plants I processed today? Maybe the 3-day gap between batches was just enough to make a difference? Who knows? Anyway, I got the same lighter blue as I did in last year’s batch even with numerous dips. I dyed one 100g skein of Zephyr merino/silk for yet another lace shawl and 100g more of the Crossbred roving. And no, this time I didn’t use the leaves again in a boiling water bath. You aren’t going to get a photo yet because I’m too tired to get the camera – plus it’s still wet and oxidising. I won’t give it all a final rinse until tomorrow. So I’ll show you the final results when it dries.

What else? Oh yeah. My Ravelry Meetup group voted the Ugly Skein (the Alpaca Lace, comfrey/coreopsis overdyed in woad) as Not-So-Ugly. Fine. I will leave it as is and eventually knit something or other with it. I’m all about the lace scarfy-shawls these days. And tams. I want to make so many tams. What I really need though are sweaters for next winter. I’m tired of living in polar fleece when I could be wearing wool. I figure the Heather Hoodie Vest (Ravelry link) by Debbie O’Neill from the newest KnitScene is a perfect substitute for my favourite fleece hoodie. Unfortunately every sweater I decide I want to knit is in bulky yarn and I need to spin some first! Bulky is hard. I can do 2-ply laceweight in my sleep but heavier yarns are much more difficult and take much heavy concentration or I revert to finer and finer singles. I also want to make a blend of a bunch of different stuff from the stash and I have to wait until it’s cool enough to go stash-diving in the currently-oven-like temperature of the attic. I need something over 2 pounds of fibre in order to spin 1000+ yds of bulky-weight and I may have to do it as a 3-ply just to get the thickness for the gauge of 3.5 sts per inch. If I can process it before we go on vacation then I can spin it while we’re camping.

Speaking of oven-like temps, it’s been a little cooler at a mere 27C. Amazing how much cooler that can feel after the stupid-hot days last week! The gorgeous weather continues though it’s supposed to become a little cooler each day. I’ll take it. And be happy.

I hope all my buddies who are going to the Sock Summit in Portland this week will have a wonderful time! Without me. Sniff. However, have you seen the Ravelry Sock Summit hand-dyed yarn contest? The photos are a wonderful inspiration for anyone who loves to dye their own yarns. Unfortunately my current fascination with botanical dyes from my own garden doesn’t lend itself particularly well to the hand-painted look. You can get something like it with extracts but the best I can do is dye fibre in individual colours and spin that into a more variegated yarn. Of course I have yet to actually spin most of my fibres! I’m waiting for a) it to cool off some so the stuff doesn’t stick to my sweaty hands and b) to have enough to work with because I dye in very small batches. More about this anon.

I’ll be babysitting the grand-beasties tomorrow afternoon while their parents go get their teeth cleaned at the dentist. Haven’t seen them for several weeks after the overdose I got when their mom was away in England for a week. I’m sure growth and maturity have occurred in the interim. It’ll be fun! Oh, and I’m nearly finished Milord Son-In-Law’s birthday socks. Yay!

Saturday, August 01, 2009

I’ve Got The Blues

We had another record hot day on Thursday (half a degree hotter than Wednesday) but yesterday was a little more reasonable so I decided it was time to tackle the woad:

Woad09A couple of plants were starting to bolt prematurely so I chopped off all the leaves from seven plants out of the 14 total. But not that one from last year still trying to flower there on the left – it got composted instead. I’ve already got enough mature seeds from it. The rest of the harvested WoadSaladleaves (1800g) were washed and chopped and extraneous animal life (snails, spiders and sowbugs, oh my!) removed. Just like making a giant salad! I used the same recipe for extraction as last year from Sarah which works very well. This time I had pH testing paper so I could fine-tune how much acid or alkali I was adding. I only used about half a litre of my ever-present acid soaking solution (easier to come by in my studio than vinegar) to get it to a pH of between 4 and 5.

When I had cooled the acidic extraction pot and fished out the leaves and squeezed all the moisture I could out of them, the pot was the usual sherry wine colour. However when I added the soda ash to bring the pH up to between 9 and 10 (took about 17g) and started whisking, I could see that this vat had more suspended indigotin than any of my previous ones. Whoo-hoo! The froth was very greeny-yellow with flashes of blue WoadVatwhich disappeared after whisking some more. After warming the pot up to 50C (120F) I used thiourea dioxide (10g) to reduce the oxygen out of the vat, adding a little more soda ash and thiox as necessary until it was a fairly clear yellow-green solution. It never cleared as well as previous vats but that’s probably because there was a lot more blue in it! 

WoadWool_dips1and2 I dyed Crossbred roving for spinning and overdyed my Alpaca Lace yarn leftovers that had previously been dyed with comfrey and coreopsis (copper mordant). My first dip was darker than any of my previous efforts though the second dip didn’t darken it as much as I had hoped. I used some fresh undyed wool roving in an WoadWool_exhaustdipexhaust dip and got the robin’s egg colour but darker than my first try last year. The alpaca skein is now really ugly and I’m not too sure what I’m going to do with it! It definitely needs help. In total I dyed about 200g in the blue vat.

After extracting the blue from the leaves, I put them in another pot and covered with water and boiled them for an hour. I removed the spent leaves which went into the compost. Then I added 10g (10% WOG) alum mordant and 4g (4% WOG) cream of tartar and entered 100g of the same Crossbred wool roving. After bringing the temperature back up to a low boil, I cooked it for an hour and then turned off the heat and left the pot overnight. As an experiment, I reserved a bit of the wool after dyeing but before leaving it overnight. The results were visibly darker the next day so it is definitely worth leaving the fibre to cool in the dyebath if at all feasible. This was an “all-in-one” dyebath WoadWool_alumbathbecause I didn’t have any already-mordanted fibre available. I got a lovely rose-beige colour from the woad leaves in a traditional boiling-water bath. Very versatile plant, hey? Not terribly strong colour though. I think the rose-beige will have to be washed in neutral detergent (Orvus or shampoo) to retain the pinkness.

Speaking of Orvus, my jar of this went totally clear and liquid down to the bottom in the heat we’ve had recently, even though it was in the basement in the coolest area of the house. I’ve never seen it do that! Usually it’s a white paste, even stiffer in winter.

So now I have 7 more woad plants obviously ripe for extracting the blue. I think I’ll do another dye morning on Monday or Tuesday, depending on the heat factor. I’d like to dye some skeins of laceweight yarn, the yummy wool and silk Zephyr. And perhaps overdye the Alpaca Lace skein again. More ugly? I don’t think that’s possible. No, you can’t see it.