Being the continuing story of my creations and curiosities.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Going Down The Woad

Hello! Yes, I’m back from 4 days of having T-Man around. Not his fault that I haven’t posted really – but I’ve/we’ve been busy. Especially since the weather was pretty nice…ok, not raining…on Thursday and Friday. We went for a long walk Thursday (and – surprise - I bought some magazines and a book!) and on Friday we worked in the garden. Still not finished putting the veggie garden to rights yet not to mention the rest of the flower/dye beds, but it’s coming along. My back and arm muscles have been protesting mightily ever since so I didn’t join T in raking leaves out front yesterday. Instead I finished up the closet cleaning in my study and got everything put away so now that room is done for the time being. Feels good to check something off the never-ending list. Next candidate for my cleaning urge is the studio. Two more bookcases and a whole lot o’yarn to sort.

T also had an adventure yesterday afternoon. My sister from Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Islands) called with a request that he pick up 3 little puppies from the airport and take them to the Vancouver SPCA for her. D (aka Blondie, but she hates it when I call her that!) is The SPCA for QCI and they have run out of placements for these poor little critters so a small local airline donates the trip to bring them down here where the population is so much greater and there is a much better chance of finding them good homes. Her regular pick-up person was unavailable so this was a one-time thing. Now T just has to take the carry cage back out to the airport so they can return it for the next critter delivery.

I think I’ve mentioned sometime in a past blog post how I once helped D send a baby seal down to the Vancouver Aquarium for rehab and release. And this is just one of her 3 jobs: SPCA, Parks Canada and Guest House host (this last with her husband). It’s a pretty remote place so whatever ways one can manage to keep body and soul together, one takes ‘em. Unfortunately her DH has been pretty ill lately with coronary artery disease (much to-ing and fro-ing to civilisation for tests and stent operations) and she has had to do most of his jobs too along with her own. Plus they have a young teenager. Yikes! Too much on her plate these days methinks. Hope things improve for them soon.

I finished the Candy Legwarmers for Princess Pink and hopefully will be able to photograph them later so I can blog another FO. And then of course I started something new! I had a skein of bulky wool left from my woad workshop:

Wool_woad…and quelle horreur! T is sadly without a wooly cap. He has a handsome leather Barmah that he wears but it’s not appropriate for things like raking leaves. He also has a Tilley but it’s not warm enough for winter and neither hat keeps his ears warm. So I’m making him Clara Parkes’ “Hill Country Hat” (Ravelry link) which, although I don’t own her Knitter’s Book of Wool, has been excerpted and offered free from Interweave (PDF link). This is a great pattern: starts from the top, intuitive to follow, doesn’t use much yarn, easy and quick to make. I just started last evening and I’m nearly done! Only mods I made were an Emily Ocker Cast-On and shifting down a needle size for the ribbing. Now I know why so many knitters like bulky wool. Instant Satisfaction. Though I must say it took me a few rows to get used to knitting with what feels like oars in my hands! Size 6.5mm (US 10.5) dpns are honking huge. Especially when I’m much more used to 2mm (US 0) instead.

When I’m done this hat, I’m on to yet another project with fatter-than-usual yarn. This one began with a very elderly sweater that I made about 30 years ago. Near as I can figure anyway. I found the notes on the spinning and knitting but I forgot to date them! Doh. Judging by their location in my notebook and the quality of the spinning, it was definitely some time before 1982 anyway. T-Man was reluctant to get rid of this heavy turtleneck pullover even though there is no way that he would ever fit into it again. His loss, my gain. My excuse is there isn’t enough yarn here to make him a sweater that does fit him! So I’m going to make me one instead. I’ve wanted a Shalom Cardigan (Ravelry link) by Meghan MacFarlane for soooo long but didn’t have appropriate yarn. 1794 knitters (so far) can’t be wrong. This is a great pattern!

Here’s the sweater before disassembling:

GreenSweater_before Man, did I sew those seams well! Apparently I didn’t want this sucker to come apart. Ever. Took a long time to pick them carefully out. Then it was a lot of work to pull the partially felted stitches out, wind it all in balls and then into skeins for washing one more time. I had already washed the sweater before I started this exercise because it was so dusty I didn’t want to breathe that as well as the fuzz from frogging. My arms were tired when I finished and there were fibres in my tea cup! (And I’m sure some in my lungs as well.) There was only one worn spot on a cuff and one break in the yarn somewhere in the middle. Perhaps I broke it when I was trying to unpick the seams? Otherwise this is pretty nice, if somewhat funky, handspun 2-ply bulky yarn:

GreenSweater_after 750 yards and 850g worth. You can still see the wrinkles from the ancient former stitches even after rewashing. According to the notes the wool was Romney and I blended several colours including blue and gold to make this tweedy effect. Since back then I only had my original Sleeping Beauty wheel (now in the loving hands of Milady Daughter) that must have been what I spun it on. I know I couldn’t repeat that particular early spinning style again ever no matter what wheel I used! Surprisingly though it’s pretty evenly sized overall although there are “interesting” textures and the plying leaves somewhat to be desired. Now to figure out which of the many modifications of Shalom to follow or invent my own. Hmmm…swatching needed asap. More winding to get this stuff back into balls. Ugh.

So we were back to the rain today though it’s quit now and the sun has come out, hopefully for a couple of days. Long-range forecast is for clear and cold next week so I’d love to get the garden done before it freezes out there. I guess I’m scheduled to go bend my poor back again as soon as it dries up somewhat outside. Need lunch first.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

It Is What It Is

Thanks to dear Susan, who reminded me in yesterday’s comments that the whole Holiday Thing “is what it is”, I will now continue to use this as my new mantra whenever I feel scroogey again. It’s already helping me to create a new and more positive mindset. I’m moving forward with a lighter mood and promise not to let the next month of increasing craziness get me down. After all, I have no control over others, only over me. Amazing what one little phrase can accomplish, huh? I’m truly grateful for my friends and family who remind me constantly about what’s really important in my life. As the saying goes: “You rock!”

So. Moving right along. I got one of the Candy Legwarmers done already. Sorry no photo yet because we’re back to dark as a dungeon around here with more heavy rain. Told you plain knitting goes faster! I made the knit section a half-inch longer and the upper ribbed section 1.5” longer for a total of 15” instead of the original 13”. I carried on at the top because I wanted to get to a better place in the colour sequence to bind off. Anyway I did finally find the yarn’s pattern repeat just past 10” of knitting. Now to make another one to match! I’m not used to doing pairs one at a time but I only have one set of 3mm dpns. I’m going to have quite a bit of yarn left over too so maybe I’ll make Princess Pink a hat to go with her legwarmers. Not that she’s likely to wear it, but you never know!

Need to get some laundry done today. T-Man is taking the next two days off so we’ll either be out walking or working in the garden tomorrow if the expected lull in the rain happens. Gotta get out in the fresh air while the opportunity arises or you get cabin fever! It was lovely walking yesterday all by myself but it sprinkled lightly on me the whole time. Just enough to get my glasses wet so I couldn’t see properly. Blech. That’s one of the only times I actually mind wearing glasses: when it’s misting  and when I come in to a steamy room out of the cold. Otherwise, I’ve been wearing prescription lenses since I was 13 and I barely notice them. I can’t wear contacts either, so that’s not an option. As long as I can see what I’m doing and where I’m going.

Up, Damselfly! The bed needs to be stripped. And I promise not to fall off it again. The bruise from last time is still quite apparent and I don’t want to add another one. Hard to turn the other cheek! Ouch.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Gloom & Doom

I wrote a post yesterday evening featuring my usual Annual Bah-Humbug Rant, but decided not to post it today. Maybe I’ll hang onto it until I can’t stand the seasonal craziness anymore or maybe I’ll just turf it and spare my delicate readers. Jury is still out.

I have to go out today to the dentist for a cleaning session with the lovely Victoria, my dental hygienist. The appointment spans lunchtime so I won’t be able to eat again until later this afternoon. Not great timing so I tried to eat a big breakfast of ham and eggs and hope it sticks around. Grumbling tummy noises clash with the sonic cleaner and polisher noises. Of course I leave off my hearing aids! Which reminds me, I need to get them checked and my audiologist is just upstairs from the dentist. Maybe I can leave them there while I’m at the dentist and pick them up afterward. I’ve done that before and it saved me a trip.

The weather still remains in firm November mode: rain, wind, dark clouds, gloom. Even the most resistant and cheerful personalities get depressed. Right now it’s cloudy but not raining. What’s the bet that it will start sprinkling the minute I leave the house? I want to walk the 45 minutes instead of taking the bus or going only 1 stop on the Canada Line rapid transit (which BTW I haven’t ridden yet since it was completed a few months ago). I don’t want to get soaking wet either though so I’ll wait to decide my travel method until later this morning when I see what the sky looks like. As if that means anything! Even the weatherman with Doppler radar can’t get it right.

Meanwhile I’m already nearly finished one of the legwarmers. I haven’t found a repeat in the yarn’s colour sequence yet! It’s fun because never know what’s coming up next. I plan to make them longer than the pattern states because it’s sized for a 4-year-old and Princess P is already 5 and getting taller by the minute. I made the plain section 1/2” longer and will knit maybe an inch more ribbing on the top. I never get bored of plain circular stockinette or 1/1 or 2/2 ribbing. I can practically do those in my sleep. These legwarmers have all 3 easy stitches and no shaping (except for one increase row before the top rib). So relaxing. Too bad I can’t knit while my teeth are being cleaned, huh? Not at all conducive to even tension however assuming I could even see what I was doing!

Gotta go get a shower before heading for the Horrors of the Shopping Mall, above which my dentist and audiologist are situated. It’s hard to avert my eyes from all the Tasteless Christmas Crap and still watch where I’m going. Luckily I won’t be wearing the “ears” so the carols won’t sound so banal. If I can hear them at all amidst the general noise. So what happened to all those vows to live an environmental, sustainable, green, reduced, reused, recycled, etc. life?

Oops, that rant is trying to get out again. I know. Shut up, Damselfly. Hey, it’s brightening up!

ETA:  I take back the Tasteless Christmas Crap insult. Oakridge Mall was quite restrained and elegant and I only had to endure one store’s music. However, I do prefer that Santa at least wait until December. It’s just too long for little ones to wait after seeing him. Cute though. Oh, and I took the Canada Line the one stop towards home, just to try it out. Clean, efficient, and (urp!) underground. I’m not especially happy underground but at least the trains are wider and open from car to car so it’s not too claustrophobic. If I went the other direction it does eventually come out over the Fraser River to Richmond. Will have to do that another time.

Monday, November 23, 2009

How’d It Get To Be Monday Again?

I swear time goes faster and faster. Maybe that’s because I’m not bored? Still cruising on the cleaning – don’t want to stop while the urge is still there. And it’s still there, egged on because today would have been my birth mom’s 74th birthday. She missed it by a month. And I miss her. I still miss my other parents too. I was lucky to have more than the normal number but that doesn’t make it any easier now that they’re all gone.

OK, enough of the maudlin already. Here’s something positive:  I finished 2 projects this weekend and started a new one! Yeah, I know I still have what, for me at least, is way too many projects on the go right now. But I needed something mindless that has a chance of getting done sooner rather than later. Instant gratification. Easy-peasy. I need a break from the long-haul projects.

This is the beginning of Princess Pink’s Legwarmers:

PPlegwarmers_prog

I’m using the Pickles pattern from Knitzi but modified to eliminate the mohair. PP is famous for only wanting to wear skirts. Her legs get cold when she plays outdoors at kindergarten so these should help. I’m going to knit them as long as possible with lots of ribbing at the top and she can wear them over her tights. If that works out for her, I can knit another pair or two. This yarn is sock yarn from Germany donated by a knitting buddy. (Thanks, Lauren!) Isn’t the colourway terminally girly? So candy-sweet! At least it’s not all pink. Or blue. I seem to be awash in blue lately.

Here’s the scoop on the socks that I finally finished for Milady Daughter. Thought these beasts would never end!

Milady’s Lacey Socks

LaceySocksBegun:  September 19, 2009

Completed:  November 22, 2009

Yarn:  Meilenweit Mega Boots Stretch, 70% wool/23% polyamide/7% Elite, Colorway 707 (denim blues shading to wine red), 100g = 400m

Needles:  Clover Takumi 5” bamboo dpns, 2.25mm

Pattern:  Lace and Cable Socks by Wendy Johnson, size m, from her book “Socks from the Toe Up”

Mods:  Worked from top down instead of toe-up. Carried back cables down the sides of the heel flap and front cables to the toe, decreasing at the edge of the cable so as not to mess it up. The two cables ended up as a V at the end of the toe. Lace section ended about 1/2” before the toe decreases.

Comments:  I needed lots of stitch markers to keep track of this pattern and it seemed to take forever to complete the socks. Turned out nice though. I kept changing my mind or making mistakes so there was a lot of fudging going on. I could have managed one more lace repeat into the toe but chose to end it sooner rather than later. Hope the cables don’t make the toe area uncomfortable! They demanded to continue and you know I hate arguing with my knitting. Heh.

And here’s a sneak peek at the completed Blue Star Garland neckpiece:

BlueStars_blockIt’s still drying and I don’t want to pull the pins out too soon. It’s destined to curl back up again but I’d like to give it a chance to hold its shape for a little while anyhow.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Sleep-Deprived

A possibly incoherent post since I’m seriously tired today. I went to my weavers’ guild meeting last night and didn’t get home until 10:30pm. Which might not be late for Some People but it is the middle of the freakin’ night for me. For whatever reason I also woke up along with T-Man at 5:00 am. Guess it was because I had to pee and then couldn’t get back to sleep after. I almost did but some a&&wipe’s car alarm went off and that was it for my hopes for a little more snoozing. I do not function well on less than 9 hours. 6.5 does not equal 9 – just saying.

The meeting’s program was Colleen Miller, owner of Button Button (warning: wins Most Minimal Website award). This is a little shop in Vancouver’s Gastown that carries a fabulous selection of…you guessed it…buttons. Most are in the “collectibles” category rather than the practical and are exceptionally pricey. Makes for a fabulously fun browse though. And it’s hard to leave without at least one gotta-have. Anyway, her slide lecture was on the history of buttons. Did you know that folks invented buttons thousands of years before they invented the buttonhole? Seems impossible to believe but they were used purely for decoration long before they became functional. Of course buttons can be both at the same time!

So what did earlier people fasten their clothes with, you ask? Pins and belts and later lacing and hooks. When clothing became more tight-fitting, buttons started to be used for fastening but mainly on men’s clothing. They were such popinjays! Buttons for women came much later. My favourite quote of the evening: “Women are right; men are left-over!” helps you remember which way our clothes button up. Now you’ll never forget, right? Or is that left?

Colleen also mentioned how buttons bind generations of women together. As a personal example, a long time ago right after we were first married I inherited T-Man’s granny’s button collection. She never let a piece of clothing go to the rag pile without removing every button first. I think that was pretty common for people who lived through two world wars and the Great Depression. Although many of these were plain shirt buttons, some were mother-of-pearl and others were quite old and interesting. I remember making a little pillow with a bunch of different buttons out of the collection when Milady Daughter was a baby (securely sewn on, of course) because she loved to point to buttons and say “buh-uh”. I like to think it helped encourage her very early speech development. Anyhow, I still carry on the habit of cutting off, collecting and reusing the buttons when a garment is worn out. Though come to think of it, less garments these days actually have buttons! Zippers are common (sometimes even in places where one might not actually need a fastener!) and velcro is taking over for buttons, snaps and shoelaces especially on children’s garments.

Well I don’t think we’re in danger of losing buttons entirely but manufacturers are tending to use the cheapest and most boring buttons for garments. In the past they were little works of art utilising any material (bone, horn, metal, glass, wood, shell, thread, cloth, plastic) and technique (carving, painting, glassblowing, metalwork, moulding, polishing, stitching) you can think of – and a lot more that might not occur to you. This incredible craftsmanship reached a pinnacle in the 1700’s. Since the 20th Century and mass-production they’ve gone quickly downhill into purely utilitarian items. These days they’re mostly made in China out of polyester, acrylic or nylon. In retaliation, I make it a priority to seek out more interesting buttons for my projects especially when I only need one, two or three of them. Occasionally I’ve spent much more for the buttons than for the yarn or fabric! Sometimes I make them myself. Polymer clay holds up pretty well if you wash it gently in cool water and air dry. (Too much heat makes it brittle.) I’ve also painted old wooden buttons that were too blah. Just goes along with the DIY theme.

So now I’d better get going and get something done before I fall asleep. T-Man has gone in to work today so I guess I can chase down the plethora of dustbunnies with the vacuum without disturbing him. I’ve had the vacuum sitting out for the whole week and never finished even the main floor. Not that I’ve been resting on my laurels. Au contraire. I’ve been a busy beaver. I’ve only got one more cupboard to sort in my study before I can consider that room done. Then on to the studio where there’s 2 more bookcases and a selection of piles to sort through: ironing, mending, yarn, papers, stuff that just hasn’t gotten put away properly. Not too bad. I might finish the top floor by next week, at least down to a reasonable depth of clean. After that I sort out my dye studio.

Uh-oh. My eyes are starting to droop. Work or nap. Nap or… zzzzzz…

Thursday, November 19, 2009

A Woman’s Work Is Never Done

I’ve discovered a few interesting things this week. One is that I’m still more upset about my mom’s passing than I thought. I know this because I can’t stop cleaning. I do that when I’m upset or angry or both. Another thing I’ve discovered is that you have to make a really big mess in order to do the kind of deep cleaning and reorganising that I’m currently engaged in. In other words, the place looks like H.E.Double-hockey-sticks. Except in a few corners where I’ve actually finished. This is hard work!

Another insight I’ve found is that I have an awful lot of UFOs lurking around that I’ve completely forgotten about. These are invariably beading projects that lost momentum when something didn’t go right or I just lost the enthusiasm. I’m kind of over beading at the moment – except including them occasionally in my knitting. My evidence for this is that I haven’t been wearing much jewelry at all lately. Even worse is I’ve totally stopped buying beading publications and only picked up a few larger seed beads and the components for stitch markers. I don’t even feel compelled to go into the one bead shop that I can walk to from my house! (Yes, I’m feeling ok. Not even any dizziness or fever.) This has all been good for my budget. OK, I lied. More than likely that it has just been redirected to other things. Unfortunately it’s not good for depleting my overly-large bead stash or the UFOs that sit in boxes forlornly. I’m not ready to get rid of anything yet though. I’m sure the love will come back eventually. If not, beads don’t usually get stale or go bad while they’re waiting. A little tarnish on the findings maybe. But I can polish that out.

The last and most important thing is that it has been made abundantly clear to me that it’s impossible to ever finish cleaning! One part is done, another gets messed up. Clean that up and another area needs help. Fix that you’re back to the first spot again. Food gets cooked; dishes get dirtied. Clothes get worn; they get soiled. Even areas of your home you rarely enter still get dusty and covered in spider webs. Round and around and on and on. No wonder I only worry about the surface mess most of the time until I have a big urge like the one I’ve got at the moment. Probably also the reason why I found things that have waited to get sorted out for a very long time. Like, say, 10 years?

The good thing is that there are only the two of us here now. No kids or pets. And one of us is gone 9 hours a day, 4 or 5 days a week. Of course that means that a larger percentage of the dirt accumulation is…ahem, mine. But since I do most of the cleaning too, I guess that works out alright. T-Man does more of the yard work and home maintenance stuff while I do more of the inside chores including cooking and laundry. We have a balance that works for us. Neither of us are neat-freaks or big slobs. Somewhere in the middle perhaps. Like I said: balance.

Meanwhile I have to go bake some cookies for the weavers’ guild meeting this evening. With any luck they’ll eat them all and there won’t be any to bring home. And yes, it’s raining. Good thing I have a ride.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Colour My World

It’s so dark here these days that I must have colour to brighten things up. Something Jane Thornley said in her article in this week’s Ravelry newsletter got me thinking. As I’ve said before, I rarely buy indie dyers’ yarns because I have dyes and I know how to use them. However, I’ve had a flash of insight on why they are so popular. A couple of reasons actually. One is what I call the Collector’s Impulse. The Internet and Ravelry have made it much too easy to see what other people are buying, showing off their purchases, naming names and linking their faves. The dyers respond by making intriguingly named limited-edition colour combos and “clubs” which raises the excitement. I must have that too! Squeeee!!! Yarn budget be damned. The fact that most of the indie-dyed yarn is sock yarn just makes it that much more desirable. Or sometimes lace yarn, same thing.

The other big factor I believe is the colour range available. It’s just too exciting to resist! Far beyond the 5 or 10 or even 30 different colours that manufacturers create for a line or a season, indie dyers can have any colour they want. And a whole lot more. When yarns are dipped or painted, there are overlapping areas where colours blend and mingle and those are just the best colours! The ones that you didn’t expect, rich and complex and mysterious. Commercial dyeing techniques can’t achieve the same effects no matter how hard they try.

Not only the colours themselves but the way they are applied makes hand-dyed yarns unique. Think of random speckled yarns (a specialty of Koigu), delicate semi-solids, 5 or 10 or even 30 different colours on the same skein. Subtle, bright or totally eye-dazzling – pick your faves. And hoard them because you’ll never see exactly this yarn ever again. Special. Precious. Gotta have it.

The stash just grows and grows. Of course actually using the yarn is another thing altogether! Most people buy one skein of a colourway at a time. Or maybe two more-or-less matching ones. Not enough for a sweater or a large scarf but enough for a small project. Hence another reason for the overwhelming popularity of accessories!

Which brings me to the new Interweave Knits Accessories publication. I haven’t seen it in the store yet but I looked at the preview page and…sigh. I already own most of the patterns. They have taken them from past issues of IK, KnitScene and some of their books. It’s a pretty pricey magazine as well so I think I’ll pass on it. It irritates me to inadvertently buy the same pattern twice, never mind a whole fat magazine full of reprints. Maybe OK for those who didn’t pick up the issues the first time or who have enough money to justify buying it just to have them all in one place. I was anticipating this magazine hoping for a bunch of new patterns so I’m kind of disappointed now. Fine. I have enough patterns to keep me knitting for about 150 lifetimes anyway.

Meanwhile back at the ranch, I got a lot of washing done yesterday. I scrubbed the hall closet and washed about 6-gajillion loads of laundry. The basement looks like a clothes bomb went off in it and the living room is still piled high with sorted heaps. I was super careful when climbing on a step-ladder to reach the high shelves but then unfortunately fell down later when I was making the bed. I have a bruise on my behind and a few stiff muscles today. Bleh.

How does one fall whilst making the bed, you ask? Not easy but I managed. If you recall our bed is a weird home-built wooden box with the sides cut in a curve so we can get in and out. (Yes, it’s very comfy. Why do you think we haven’t replaced it?) I was standing inside on the base holding up the mattress trying to attach a recalcitrant suspender on my too-big fitted sheet. My Birkie caught when I shifted my feet (yes, I should have taken them off) and instead of falling on the mattress I fell off onto the floor, hitting the semi-padded corner of the trunk on the way down and finally landing on a pile of pillows. The soft final landing didn’t help the fact that I’d connected hard on the way down. Ouch. And to top it off, later in the evening I knocked a pole that was holding up a banner on the wall and it landed on my head. Didn’t leave a bruise but left me thinking I should have stayed in bed. Oh wait…that’s not a safe place either.

So it’s back to work today putting everything back in the closet. Feels wrong somehow when it’s all cleaned out to not carry on and paint but we’re not quite ready for that yet. At least I know there’s no bugs in the woolies and it’s all washed and fresh. Bonus, I found 2 vintage handspun sweaters, one mine and one T-Man’s, that don’t fit so they can be unravelled and the yarn reused for something else.

Speaking of T, here’s his Movember moustache so far:

Movember2 At least he’s not growing a mullet too. I can hardly wait until December!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Don’t Throw Your Junk In My Backyard

My backyard’s full! Truthfully, there’s actually less out there now that we spent all Saturday raking leaves and bagging them up. That was the one day this weekend it didn’t rain, in the afternoon anyhow. The walnut leaves go in the city’s leaf pickup and the rest can go in the compost. 11 bags full so far! And we’re not quite done – all the leaves haven’t fallen yet.

After I unburied it from the leafy drifts, I harvested yet more produce from the veggie garden. Aren’t you impressed? It’s mid-November already! I got broccoli, lettuce, mizuna, mache (corn salad), green onions, parsley and a couple of leeks. Most of the veggies in Saturday’s supper were home-grown, including some little tomatoes that ripened in the kitchen. Yum!

I do have junk though. Mostly inside rather than outside. What is it with the cleaning bug I’ve gotten lately? It’s not spring! Not that I clean in spring or anything but you know, tradition and all. As I mentioned, I spent a goodly part of last week reorganising my bookshelves (5 down, 3 to go) but yesterday I made T-Man pull out everything from the front hall closet. He sorted a few of his things out to give to salvage and some for garbage. Of course I don’t do it for him because he’s in charge of his own stuff! The rest is up to me since I obviously have more stuff in there than he does. Then while I went off to knit with my buddies, he vacuumed out the dirt, sand (from Utah and Oregon, I bet!), assorted lint and spider droppings. Now it’s my turn: sort my junk…er, precious things and then wash out the closet with TSP. We’re eventually going to repaint the entry hall but since we don’t have any paint yet, everything is going to have to go back in for now. But not until it all gets a good wash, especially the woolies (hats, mitts, scarves etc.) so they’ll be ready for winter weather. Never mind – it’s cold enough for me already. Wet too.

Right now we’re in the middle of a Pineapple Express, the very wet and relatively warm winter storms that we get sometimes in winter. There are areas this morning where there’s no power and lots of flooding in low-lying areas near the rivers. Luckily we’re on a slight slope and near the centre of the city so rarely lose power. In the past we’ve had problems with the cold room under the front stairs filling up with water but not if the gutters are clean so the water doesn’t puddle on the ground but goes down the drains. T-Man mucked them out recently so we’re good. I’m happy I don’t need to go anywhere today anyway!

I’m a bit disappointed that I can’t photograph anything, both because it’s too dark and because of Secret Projects that will remain unbloggable for several more weeks. If I get a pic of T’s Movember moustache though, I’ll definitely share it! It’s quite amusing. He looks so 1970’s – except for the silver instead of black like he used to be back then. Is the end of the month coming soon, please? I’m praying he doesn’t decide he likes it and wants to keep it. Yikes.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Are You Tired of Crochet Yet?

Hope not because here’s some more! Or, if you’re bored, just skip this one. My feelings won’t be hurt. Anywho, I bought myself a couple of birthday presents – since my birthday was spent in quarantine due to the flu and I didn’t get to celebrate at all. First up, I got the new Denise crochet hook set. This is similar to the knitting needle set but with 12 crochet hook heads: US sizes F/5-19 (3.75-15mm). 7 cords: two each of 3" and 5" and one each of 9", 12" and 16. There are two extenders and 4 end buttons. Luckily the case fits neatly along with the original one in my felted Denise bag that I made from a pattern by Cat Bordhi. (PDF here.)

Please note that these are not your regular crochet hooks! Though they apparently can be used that way, they’re not particularly well-suited. They are actually for Tunisian/afghan crochet or double-ended crochet. (There’s lots of links to this latter type of crochet in an old post of mine here. And no, you don’t really have to buy more matching hooks, just switch the hook from one end to the other.) Plus they also have lots of uses for knitting in picking up stitches, casting on and binding off. You can combine any of the parts with the needle set so the possibilities are endless. The manufacturers include a beginner Tunisian crochet insert and challenge people to come up with some innovative combinations of knit and crochet using their sets. At least this new set might be an incentive for more people to learn how to do Tunisian crochet. One can never master too many techniques! I’m sure I’ll be playing with it in future to see what I can come up with.

I also got two new books. Quelle suprise! The first was one I mentioned recently: 

CinColor Crochet in Color by Kathy Merrick is really a nice book with patterns that include charts and diagrams where needed. Of course whether you agree with me depends on your personal taste! As I mentioned before, I covet the yellow sweater, though maybe in a more subdued colour. And perhaps in handspun? I love the several scarves and wraps that are in here too, most making use of motifs in a fresh and (of course) colourful way. I don’t know about using the recommended yarns however unless you are very rich or own a yarn store. For instance a couple of items use Koigu at the rate of 9 to 11 different-coloured skeins. Or 5 skeins of Noro Silk Garden. And there are more in this vein. A little rich for my blood, though the results are lovely indeed. But then I have dyes and I know how to use them! Nobody said you had to use the same yarns that Kathy did.

The other book I got – because of course I needed to make the minimum for free delivery:

CstMotifsThis one from the Harmony Guides series has lots of shapes and sizes of motifs, some of them quite different, including both written directions and symbols. However it’s really hard to find what you’re looking for because they are in no discernable order! I would have liked some categorising, say small fill motifs vs large elaborate ones or squares vs circles, stars etc. Even numbering them might have helped. But they are all mixed up and given rather arbitrary names. This means that to find anything you have to page through the book repeatedly which of course means getting seriously sidetracked every time. Also the motifs are photographed so they look relatively the same size so it’s hard to tell what size each one might turn out when worked up. Especially if you wanted to combine them in the same piece. Swatching, as always, is mandatory. This book is a good addition to my expanding crochet dictionary collection and now I’m seriously going to consider the other 2 crochet Harmony Guides: Basic Crochet Stitches and Crochet Edgings & Trims. But since I’ve been a wee bit greedy in the book department lately, they will have to wait.

But there’s more! I also got the 4th issue of the British crochet magazine “Inside Crochet”. I bought the 3rd one awhile back and, if I want them, the first 2 issues which are out of print are available in electronic form for a discount. They are pricey little darlings though! Nearly twice the price of North American mags. And 6 times per year. Yikes. What got me this time was a couple of the articles: one on dyeing with mushrooms and another by Shannon Okey on crocheting with handspun energised singles. And some cute crochet patterns to boot. This is a very excellent magazine that feels like a cross between Interweave Crochet and Spin-Off.

At first I was put off by the instructions which are, as you might expect, in British crochet terms. It’s a nice reversal of the frustration they must feel reading North American publications, doncha think? Also there are no schematics which I’ve come to rely on for a truer representation of the sizing and fit as well as the construction. However they do have the garment photographed flat as well as on the model which is helpful and the sidebar includes garment and body measurements, expected fit and what size the model is wearing. There are charts and diagrams where appropriate and adequate space is given for instructions, tips and special stitches. The ads are not jarring and the photography is clear and styling is attractive and reasonably uncluttered. I’d give it 4 out of 5 crochet hooks up, only quibbling on the price and frequency of publication which makes it a difficult choice to decide purchase on a regular basis. I might not be able to help myself though.

Hey, I also actually got a real birthday present that I didn’t buy for myself! It’s a lovely ball of recycled sari silk yarn, purchased for me by my mother-in-law (aka Nana) when she was on a trip to Cannon Beach, OR. Isn’t it pretty?

SariSilkNo idea what I will make but I just love that it’s all hand-wound into a ball and it’s so colourful and hairy – and heavy! Oh and Nana included a couple of bars of yummy dark chocolate too which I suppose I will have to share with her darling son, T-Man. He gave me soulful eyes when I unwrapped it. Cute. Speaking of T, the Movember moustache is growing, along with the accompanying beard. He says his Mo doesn’t know what it wants to be when it grows up so he’s not going to prune it until it decides. My vote is for “shaved off” but I can wait until December 1st. It’s nearly past the worst of the prickly stage now. Nearly.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Vintage VK

Further to my sorting and cleaning efforts, I was rearranging my bookshelves and found a couple of magazine files of vintage magazines. No, I didn’t buy these on eBay or anything – I actually bought them myself and saved them all these years. I never throw out a good craft magazine! You never know what goodies you’ll find in them later.

VK69 cover In the oldest one I could find, a Vogue Knitting dated 1969 (really! I was all of 18 then), I noticed several interesting things. The first to immediately strike me is that many of the sweaters could be knitted and worn today without much in the way of adjustment. The look was long and lean with a little boho attitude.

VK69 colour Totally in style 40 years later. But then this is an earlier incarnation of Vogue Knitting we’re talking about. Always cutting edge. Or the current fashions are even more retro than I remembered!

VK69 bwThe real differences from today’s knitting magazines are in the photography and the pattern writing. There’s a colour section but the vast majority of the magazine is in highly contrasting black and white. Kind of challenges the theory that colour is the most important factor in choosing a pattern to knit, huh? Poor knitters back then had to imagine the garment in whatever yarn colours they purchased before they started knitting. Also the instructions are rather cursory, sizes are not in inches but in the equivalent of sewing pattern sizing (8, 10, 12 etc. with a table of standard body measurements at the beginning of the mag), and there are no schematics or charts. How then do you make a garment that really fits you without a lot of math and trial-and-error? It’s difficult enough with all the information we have to work with in most patterns published today.

I’m glad that modern knitters have demanded more space be allotted for the details that helps us to make a successful garment. Unfortunately not every single piece of information can be included and each magazine does it differently, but it’s certainly better than in the “olden days”. Recently I’ve noticed that there are more items knitted in the round instead of flat pieces and there are many more patterns for the accessories (socks, mitts, hats, scarves etc.) that we all love to make. But where are the knitted trousers? There were several in that old VK! How ‘bout these?

VK69 pants Alright, maybe not such a good idea. However I do have a craving to knit me a pair of tights. Maybe these ones? No, these ones! Oops. I’ve just succumbed to impulse and bought the PDF. I love instant gratification! And check out the designer. Phoenix Bess is only a teenager but…holy cow! What a wunderkind! Or maybe she has a lot of encouragement?

Whew! Where was I? Oh yeah. Even if the fit or details need to be altered to work today, there’s always lots of interesting ideas in these old magazines. Budding designers take note. But you can’t have my copies.

Hey! I’m supposed to be reorganising my books. Not reading everything first! Back to work, damselfly.

Spam? Not-A-Lot

I don’t get too much spam these days because my ISP is pretty good at filtering out most of the usual run-of-the-mill stuff. But I got this one today and it totally cracked me up:

Hallo,

My name is Elena, I'm 32 years and I writing you from Russia. I work in municipal bibliotheca and I can use  computer afterwards I finish work if possible. Our situation is very difficulty and I decided to write you this message in despair.

I have little daughter Anghelina, she is 8 years old, her father leaved us and we inhabit with my mother.

As effect of serios crisis lately my mother lost job (the shop  where she worked was  ruined) and our situation became dreadful.

Prices for gas and electricity are very expensive in our region and we can not use it to heat our home  anylonger.

The winter arriving and weather is very cold here already. We are much distressed and we have not experience how to do.

The only possibility for us to heat our home is to use transportable wood-firing oven which supply with heat with burning wood (fire). We have sufficiency wood in our region and this oven will be heating  our house complete all winter with minimal cost.

We urgently in need of this oven, but we cannot buy it in our local shop because it price 8136 ruble (equivalent of 191 Euro) and we can not to collect too much money.

May be you own any old  portable wood burning oven and if you finished to use it, we will be very grateful  if you can gift it for us and prepare delivery of this oven to our adress (170 km from Moscow). This ovens can be different , they can be made from cast iron and weight 100 - 150kg.

I desire to have your answer soon.

Elena.
Russia

All spelling errors intact. I mean really! Aside from the fact that she doesn’t know me from a hole in the ice (nor I her) and gives me no real contact information outside of an email address, this is not a practical request. How would I mail a wood stove (one that was just hanging around unused) to Russia from the west coast of Canada? The postage alone would be more than the thing was worth! I’m guessing she would prefer money to…ahem, purchase her own stove? Assuming that any of this is true which of course it very likely isn’t. This is a very interesting variation on the old Nigerian Scam. You’d think everyone with an email address would be blinking alarm bells if they received something like this but obviously there’s a sucker born every minute. Otherwise why on earth would anyone continue to try this type of solicitation? It’s all beyond me.

And yes, I do happen to have a wood stove that’s not currently being used. It sits in my fireplace and just needs some paper, kindling and wood and its ready to go. We haven’t been using it because we don’t spend much time in the living/dining room these days and it seems pointless to heat the area we aren’t currently inhabiting. Though I’m sure the urge will hit as the days get darker and the weather gets more foul. I don’t think that’s quite what our “Elena” is after however, do you? Now if she said she needed some wool to knit herself and her family some mittens and hats, I might be more willing to negotiate.

Speaking of foul weather, it’s been pretty soggy around here. Today there’s also a nice wind to whip the rain and wet leaves at you and try to turn your umbrella inside out. I was already out and about in it getting some groceries to tide us over until we can do a better stocking-up. T-Man went back to work today for the first time in a week and it seems too quiet in here. Not to worry though, the grandbeasties are due later and that should liven things up some! We aren’t in quarantine anymore. Yay!

Not much else is new or at least blogable (is that a word?). I’m kind of stuck in a state where I have a bunch of projects started and no fire to work on them. It’s like wallowing in molasses. I have many more on the backburner but I don’t dare start anything new until something gets completed first. I don’t like having too many UFOs because then a certain portion of them will never get done. I lose momentum on a project after awhile – unless I have a deadline.

I know why these current projects are stalling. They are all things that I need to concentrate on. No mind-wandering allowed! No reading or even listening to anything that needs to be followed closely. I can work in silence or leave the radio on or put on one of the more “babbling” type of podcasts. It needs to be something I can tune in and out and not mind if I miss something. This level of concentration is only comfortable for an hour or two before I need a break. So it takes a very long time to finish anything. And with 3 or 4 of this type of project going at once it takes even longer. I know I profess to be a process-oriented person, but sometimes I need an end. Before it gets stale.

On top of the crafty molasses sticking to me, I’ve got to get started on some cleaning and organising that I’ve been promising since last spring. Then it was much too hot. Now it’s not. But it’s rather too humid for painting. Luckily I have lots of sorting and stuff to do before I can think about painting anything. As long as I have good lighting it doesn’t matter if it’s cold and wet and dark. That’s our usual winter around here and I really don’t mind it.

ETA:  I wrote this complete post yesterday and then forgot to actually post it. Instead of rewriting it to get my tenses straight, I thought I would just publish it a day late. I plead that I got sidetracked by cute small children!

Friday, November 06, 2009

Crochet Redux

Further to my last post on crochet, here’s a recent interview with Kathy Merrick, author of the book “Crochet in Color”. The yellow sweater I like so much is here! I will also say that Kathy’s Boteh Scarf from Interweave Crochet is the pattern that recently got me back into crochet so I’m already a fan. I just broke down and ordered the book after I read Dora Ohrenstein’s review. I couldn’t help it – it was calling to me!

Speaking of books, I’m going to check out Dora’s own book “Creating Crochet Fabric” when it comes out from Lark Books. So did you check out the rest of this Crochet Insider issue? Don’t miss a listen to Dora’s funky song and “Just Crochet It Away”. Earworm alert! The refrain sticks in your mind. Or at least mine.

I was thinking about something that Kathy Merrick said in her interview: that she both knits and crochets but since there are so many incredibly talented knit designers, she has been focusing on crochet instead. It’s an area where there is plenty of room for designers who can show quality and updated style. Oh yes, please! Take crochet out of the Bizarre Bazaar. (Do not get me started on the abominations they put on poor defenceless infants, OK?)

So what else have I been doing since I couldn’t go play with my Spectrum Study Group buddies yesterday? Knitting/crocheting and reading. Nothing exciting. But I’m getting closer to finishing one project about which I cannot blog. It would be nice to complete something for a change.

Today is going to be much more exciting. I get to do a huge pile of neglected dishes, change the towels and bed sheets, and do the laundry. Whoo-hoo!! So exciting. The weather is very changeable: one minute it’s dumping down rain and the next minute the sun is out. If you haul an umbrella with you, you’ll be guaranteed not to need it. Same goes for sunglasses. The leaves that are still left around are sure pretty though. My favourite colours are the ones you can’t describe. Or replicate. Something between greeny-red and reddish-green – but not brown.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Oink!

T-Man has what we suspect is the H1N1 flu. Luckily not so bad: he only spent 3 days in bed coughing and lazing about and today is working from home. He’s been banned from work for at least a week and I am (unfortunately) sharing his quarantine with him. My friends and family don’t want to catch the bug. So far I’m fine. I’d cross my fingers but it’s kind of difficult to type, knit or crochet like that. I’m just hoping I’ve been diligent enough to avoid it.

So meanwhile I’ve been working on the Secret Project for my Ravelry group’s Festivus Swap and another one for my Guild’s Christmas Swap. The necessity for secrecy makes blogging about these things rather problematic. I never know who is reading this! So pardon the lack of progress reports. The FO reports won’t be coming until the recipients get their gifts.

I was going to write about the new book “Twinkle Sews” but I decided that because I haven’t checked out the accompanying disc full of patterns yet that I would hold off for a bit. So the subject of my discourse today is going to be crochet. Just because it’s been interesting me lately. I have at least 4 crochet projects on the go right now. Somehow it’s hard to actually finish anything – though knitting projects are faring just as badly as crochet ones in that department.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been crocheting nearly as long as I’ve been knitting. Most of my life in fact. However I tend to crochet less often than I knit. For starters I usually like the fabric that I achieve with knitting better. For garments especially it drapes, snugs, stretches and fits under outerwear. I can’t imagine wearing crochet socks on a hike, for instance. I need to watch more carefully what I’m doing when I crochet so it takes considerably more concentration to work. And better light. It’s also harder on my hands and wrists than knitting so I can’t do it as long at one time without a break. All those factors tend to limit the number of projects I can complete.

In its favour however, crochet is faster by the square inch (or centimetre, if you prefer) than knitting. It’s more forgiving and easily variable so you can have fun without an actual pattern to follow. That’s all to the good because many crochet patterns are not so easy to follow anyway. It’s much harder to get gauge. And so many available patterns are (dare I say it?) kind of ugly. Or at least not to my personal taste. And I like granny squares! OK, some versions of them.

It’s not all bad. There have been some of what I would consider good crochet books and patterns published recently. One of these I’ve only seen in the store: Kathy Merrick’s “Crochet in Color”. I don’t have it in my hot little hands yet but that little yellow cardi on the cover is divine! Interweave Crochet is pretty wonderful most of the time but none of the other crochet magazines appeal to me. So I collect stitch dictionaries and the like instead. I prefer the ones with charts plus line-by-line instructions. You can’t have things explained too many ways. I have at least 3 different books by German crochet designer Linda Schapper and the edging and motif ones by Nicki Epstein. Other favourites just to look at are Sasha Kagan’s “Crochet Inspiration” and Edie Eckman’s “Beyond the Square Crochet Motifs”. It helps to be able to envision the stitches in other yarns and in complete projects. Swatching is of course mandatory. Lily Chin’s “Couture Crochet Workshop” is helpful to turn swatches into clothing that fits and (hopefully) flatters.

I also have fun with the books on freeform. They usually cover both crochet and knitting and feature motifs and stitches that you can join together to make organic shapes, like a jigsaw puzzle. Besides the ones by Prudence Mapstone and Jenny Dowde, there’s “Freeform Style” that Prudence wrote with Jonelle Raffino that has a different look, particularly if you aren’t fond of the “undersea garden” style of freeform. It’s not totally to my taste either but there are distinct possibilities there if you know where to look. And know how to play with yarn and hook.

OK enough babbling. I’m going to go crochet. No secret project photos until sometime in December and the rest of my projects look just like they did weeks ago. Unless you want to see a clean-shaven T-Man on the first day of Movember? He’s growing a moustache for prostate cancer research. He grows a fast mo! It’s a lot pricklier now. Good thing he’s been too sick for smooching, huh? Feel free to contact me if you want to sponsor him.

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