Being the continuing story of my creations and curiosities.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Wish I Could Share

I’ve been working pretty hard on my Fibres lecture for my weavers guild. I’ve got just under 3 weeks left and I’ve been learning a whole lot of interesting things. About fibres from animals that are cute, scary, pesky or extremely rare. About fibres made from really unexpected things such as jade, ceramic, chiton and peat moss. About fibres that may or may not live up to their claims of organic, biodegradable, peaceful and eco-friendly. I hope to share some of this stuff with you eventually but I don’t want to give too much away before I give my talk. However, yaks are adorable and I want several. You know, for mowing the lawn and providing me with milk and manure for my garden and to pack my groceries home for me? As well as giving me some yak down to spin. Think the city could be convinced that they’re really large hairy dogs with, um…horns?

I’m on the home stretch on Princess Pink’s second pair of legwarmers. These may be greeted with the same lack of enthusiasm as pair number one but you can’t say this granny didn’t try to please. I’ve also started on a red tweed sweater for Stargazer’s blue hot water bottle. The yarn is thinner than the heavy worsted weight I used for my orange Blodgie Sweater so I’ve gone to more stitches. I think it’ll work ok. It just has to stretch a bit around the rubber bottle which is little larger than mine. I’m putting a different cable on the front because heck, you can’t do the exact same thing when there are a gazillion cables to choose from! This one is the Extended Chain Cable from Barbara Walker’s First Treasury. Easy-peasy with only 2 rows of actual cabling in a repeat. I added one more purl stitch on either side just because. Photo when I’ve got something big enough to show.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

FO & A Photo Shoot

So what does this old damselfly have for you today, my little water striders? I have 4 finished boy-socks:

More Stargazer’s Socks

For: Stargazer, age 3

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Begun: January 16, 2010

Completed: January 25, 2010

Yarn: Berroco Sox, 75% superwash wool/25% nylon, colour 1433 (browns/greys), 100 g = 440 yds.

Needles: Clover Takumi bamboo dpns, 2mm

Pattern: Damselfly’s Basic Socks

Mods: on 56 sts, 5” of 2/2 ribbing to heel flap, foot 5” to toe decreases.

clip_image003Comments: Made 4 socks from the ball and didn’t care where they began and ended in the yarn patterning so they’re kissing cousins instead of matching. Fit well but only a centimetre or two of growth room.

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Grampa’s cellphone shots of wiggling feet on daddy’s knee. Pay no embarrassing attention to the fact he’s wearing his sister’s pink tights. His own pants fell victim to a slight, ahem… accident and these were the only spares available at the time. (And it’s a good thing his face is not visible because then he can deny that this was him when the photographic evidence come back to haunt him later.) These are the first pair of socks I finished. Top photo is the second pair. The colour is more accurate in that one.

I’m also nearly finished the first of another pair of legwarmers for Princess Pink. She said the first pair was itchy but then wouldn’t wear them over her tights to avoid the itch. Obviously the horse chestnut component wasn’t doing it’s job and it was probably used to make the yarn feel softer because the wool was coarser than it should be. This time the yarn is a new one for me: Confetti 100 Stretch in superwash wool, nylon and polyester (to add the stretch). It feels rather firm and not particularly soft either so we’ll see if it meets with the Princess’s approval – or not. I plan to finish with hair conditioner or maybe fabric softener if I can find a small bottle without scent. (I don’t use it normally so I don’t have any in the house.) Might help at least for the first crucial wearing. So far they are further along than this:

PPLegwarmersToo No, it’s not completely pink. I think my teeth would fall out with the sweetness if I had to knit too much more straight-up unadulterated pink! It did meet with the royal recipient’s approval though. Which may or may not suffice. Royalty reserve the right to change their minds at any time.

Neither of these projects is really the photo shoot in the post’s title though. Yesterday my fellow weavers’ guild member, Dawn, came over to get my help with photographing her handwoven wrap for a gallery show. We had a wild time out on the back deck with a vintage flannel sheet backdrop, a skinny little dress manikin on a wobbly base, a little black dress, her lovely shaped wrap in creamy silk and paper yarns and natural light that fluctuated by the minute from sun to cloud and back again. Whew! We took some shots and then went in to look at them on the big computer screen. Close-up detail shots fine but full-length ones were sucky! Back to the outdoor “studio” and more fiddling around. Good thing our model was patient! I finally got two full shots and two details that are (barely) passable. Not exactly professional but what can you do when you don’t have the professional equipment? I still have to fiddle with the sizing and burn the files to CD for her. In return I get to go have tea with her at VanDusen Garden where she works. Fun!

Today I have to buckle down hard on my lecture work. Time’s a-wasting and I’m not nearly ready yet. I only have until the 18th of February and it’s coming like a charging rhino. I’m outta here.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Power of Four

Some silliness today. From dear Beentsy’s blog, a meme:

  • Four places I go regularly:   grocery store, magazine shop, another grocery store, local yarn shop (natch!)
  • Four favourite smells:   lavender, bread baking, the ocean, fresh air after the rain
  • Four TV shows I watch:  Flash Point, The Border, Law & Order: SVU, Doctor Who
  • Four people I think will respond:  Susan, Ev, Sharon, Lynne (but don’t feel you have to)

Okay, what’s your power of four?

Now, back to your regularly scheduled program.

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Just in case you needed some photographs to keep this from being too boring. This is some of the rock formations inside the Lewis & Clark Caverns, Montana. Another world underground and incredibly beautiful!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Silence Is Golden

I haven’t meant to be so quiet lately but either I haven’t had time or I haven’t had the inclination to post. I’m sure you would like photos but this is going to be one of those boring wordy things instead. Fair warning!

So what’s been happening in Damselfly’s Pond? On Thursday I went to my weavers & spinners guild meeting. We had a talk about social media from fellow guild member Felicia Lo (aka Sweet Georgia Yarns). In spite of her thoughtful presentation, I think a few in the audience didn’t quite get why you would want to post blogs, record podcasts, tweet away on Twitter and put up a Facebook page in order to further your textile art business. Personally, I pick and choose which ones appeal to me but then I’m not trying to promote myself or my non-existent business. I’ve been blogging here for nearly 5 years so obviously that works for me. But I have no plans to start podcasting (though I listen to lots of them), never look at Facebook and find Twitter much too speedy (and banal) to spend time on. Ravelry is, of course, another matter! BIG Time Suck. Just saying.

Since her focus was on self-promotion and the social aspects, Felicia didn’t talk about using the Internet for textile arts education. I think this is where the interwebs really shine. For one thing, consider good old YouTube. Besides the obvious entertainment (both excellent and questionable), it has become a wonderful resource for how-to videos. Want to know how to do the Old Norwegian Cast-On? Plug that in the search box and several versions come up. Or how about how to warp a loom? Floor loom, inkle, card, rigid heddle, pick your specific type and somebody has probably recorded the steps for you. See it in action. So wish I’d had this resource when I was learning to weave in the Dark Ages! I admit the production quality varies from professional to um…quirky. But if you don’t have a teacher handy at all times of the day and night, your questions can find some answers right away.

One thing we discussed at the meeting was Weavolution and why it might not be as popular for weavers as Ravelry is for knitters (and weavers, spinners, crocheters etc.). The consensus is that the interface just isn’t as easy to use. I think also there were some hassles with copyright issues which squashed a lot of enthusiasm. Personally, I’m an early member of Weavolution but haven’t checked it out in months, whereas I’m on Ravelry almost daily. But then I’ve been more excited by knitting and crocheting than weaving recently. However I did put my most recent weaving projects on Ravelry instead of Weavolution. Take that as you may.

On Friday T-Man and I went for a good long walk. I got the latest issue of Knitter’s magazine which for once had some rather nice patterns in it. It’s hands-down the best issue I’ve seen in ages. Perhaps the inclusion of a number of patterns by the queen of cables, Kathy Zimmerman, might have something to do with it? And Kenny Chua’s helical hat and Victoria Zygas’ elegant striped scarf too. There’s a couple of vests which are my favourite sweater shape, including a mosaic-pattern one by Katharine Hunt sized for men. But I want it for me! In different colours though. Hope they keep up this newfound taste.

Saturday was quite mild and although it wasn’t sunny it was a lovely day for gardening. We got about 1/3 of the front garden pruned and weeded out. Robert’s wort (aka Herb Robert or Geranium robertianum) is rampant and there’s even a few baby woad plants poking up. Oops. Oh well, it’ll save me from planting them and they’ll have a head start. There’s an interesting article from Australia on medicinal uses for Robert’s wort. It’s also a noxious weed! Always a little bad with the good, eh? In my garden it’s becoming quite annoying. Kind of like the feverfew that I planted once and am still pulling out everywhere. (Yes, I tried it for migraines and no, it didn’t work.) Is the woad going to be a problem now too? We shall see. I can be pretty aggressive in weeding when I want to be. Both T-Man and I enjoy gardening. He does the big pruning and raking and I do the fiddly weeding and planting. Quite a team.

On Sunday, The Ninja brought the grandbeasties over early so he and The White Lady could go see the noon showing of Avatar which is playing only 3 blocks away from our house. I had already planned to go knitting with my Ravelry group and cheerfully left Grampa playing with the Beasties. When I got back they were watching Wallace & Gromit’s Curse of the Were-Rabbit. Later on we all went over to The White Lady’s mom’s house for dinner and The Ninja’s slightly belated birthday cake. It was nice to see Milord SIL & Milady Daughter there too. Though Judith gives me a hard time about it, she seems to enjoy throwing a family birthday party for her son-in-law. (I think this is the 4th or 5th time!) So I figure the kids are all adults and unless it’s a significant milestone, they might get a phone call or e-card from me. And a pair of handknit socks. What else do they expect? Guess I’m not a huge birthday celebrant, huh? Bad damselfly mommy.

Today I finished Stargazer’s second pair of socks from the same ball of yarn. I put the first pair on him yesterday and they fit with a little less spare growing room than I thought. I kind of expected them to be huge but they are quite wearable. Now I just need to block and photograph this pair since I didn’t take time to do either of those things with the first ones. Grampa-T did take a photo with his cell phone but neglected to give it to me yet. So I’ll have to show them off later.

Off to work on my lecture. I’m quickly running low on time and I’m not really a procrastinator. I prefer to plug away a little at a time to get it done. Kind of the way I weed the garden.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Get On With It

I’m so glad I don’t have to do any of my passions as a job for money. Judging by the way I’m procrastinating and avoiding working on my lecture, it would take all the fun out of everything that I most enjoy. Here I am considering vacuuming the whole house rather than just getting on with it! Sheesh. I only have one month to finish gathering all the information, preparing the PowerPoint presentation, spinning samples and packaging up and labelling fibres. I love finding out stuff. I love learning new computer programs. I love spinning. I even love sorting and labelling. So how come I just can’t DO IT? Because I have to. Smack me upside the head.

While I was procrastinating I finished T’s slippers:

T-Man’s Slippers

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Begun: January 14, 2010

Completed: January 18, 2010

Yarn: Briggs & Little Heritage, 100% wool, 2 ply worsted, red marl, 113g = 215 yds.

Filature Lemieux Québécoise, 100% wool, 2 ply light worsted, black, 100g = 210 yds.

Needles: Crystal Palace bamboo dpns, 8mm (US 11).

Pattern: Family of Slippers by Chris de Longpré, free pattern from Knitting at KNoon Designs.

Mods: Begun on 36 sts. Foot knit 11” before toe dec. Otherwise knit the same as mine, just like regular socks but without ribbing or heel stitch.

Comments: T liked my Pixie Slippers so much that he wanted a pair of his own but without the novelty yarn on the cuff, of course. I used one strand each of the red & black. I ran out of the black wool before the end of the second slipper because I hadn’t actually started with a full ball. Luckily I had some comparable yarn in the stash to finish the toe with.

T also helped with felting the piece for his innersoles at the same time as I was fulling his slippers in the washing machine. Just like mine, it took twice through the longest wash cycle to full the slippers and 400 rolls plus finishing with the washboard to make the felt. After two days they were still damp and it took twice through the longest timed cycle to dry them on the rack in the dryer. Then I was able to cut the innersoles and stitch them in. The finished slippers fit him just right and they’re very warm!

He’s very pleased with them though I noticed he wasn’t wearing them last evening but was schlepping around the house in his sock feet. He said it wasn’t cold enough. Huh! Yes, it actually has been quite spring-like around here. I already removed the flannelette sheets from the bed and put on regular ones because I was too hot at night even with the window open several inches. (Yes, woolen blankets are toasty!) The true sign of it warming up is the fact that I haven’t worn my long johns for a couple of weeks now. Not even a sleeveless undershirt – though I haven’t given up my fleece vest. The temp inside the house is the same but obviously the drafts are much warmer! I am still wearing my slippers however.

Outdoors the snowdrops are showing white buds, the garlic is up several inches and the little mixed-greens seeds I planted in the greenhouse back in the fall have arugula leaves big enough to snip for salads. The poor mizuna that got devastated by the cold snap in December have a few new leaves on the survivors. Sadly my pelargonium geraniums never got into the greenhouse and so didn’t make it. It was a pretty mild winter though especially when compared to last year’s arctic snowfalls. A bit unfortunate for the O-lympical Thingy but they must have contingency plans knowing that this is more normal here. There’s still a couple of weeks for the weather to cooperate. Or not.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Windy Has Stormy Eyes

Old ‘60’s songs by long-defunct bands aside, it’s warm and raining and super-windy here today. Our electronic clocks were out due to a power outage sometime in the middle of the night and I had to reboot my crashed computer that had been only sleeping, not shut down properly. (That’ll teach me!) The ferries that cross to Vancouver Island were cancelled for a few hours, the Lions Gate Bridge and the entry to the University of British Columbia were both closed by trees down, trolley-wires down and busses rerouted around them, and lots of folks are still without power. The wind and rain are supposed to subside later but I’m glad I’m not going anywhere today. Severe weather warning in effect.

I forgot to mention that on Friday afternoon we finally went to see “Avatar” (aka Blue Ferngully or Dances With Dragons). I have to say it was much better than I’d been led to believe. The 3D didn’t give me too much of a problem except for the fact that I had to hold my head at the correct angle so I could see through the top (distance) section of my glasses with the 3D glasses perched in front. I didn’t touch them for the rest of the movie! The filming technique was incredible and the colours gorgeous. Quite over-the-top in all respects. However the story line was just as simplistic as I suspected. If only it was that easy to tell the Good from the Bad in the real world. (Though David Suzuki gives it a thumbs-up and says he wants one of those dragon-thingies for himself!) It would be nice to live so comfortably without actually having to make anything except body ornaments – and a few weapons (for self-defence). Perfect temperature, food and water available anywhere, a sentient planet that cures most of your ills, nothing to do but run around leaping and climbing. You can’t even hurt yourself falling out of a giant tree. Just watch out for the grouchy wildlife!

Of course it definitely left itself open to a sequel. Greedy miners meekly going home and leaving all that floating whatever-it-is mineral behind? That would be equivalent to stopping the horrible devastation of the Alberta tar sands! But I digress. Mark my words – those guys will be back with more fire-power. Especially if Cameron wins more awards to go with his Golden Globe last night. Personally, I would like to see that fantastic filming technique used for a really well-written story, with real 3D characters to go with the amazing 3D world. Some natural dialog would be nice too. I’d volunteer some of my favourite sci-fi/fantasy for consideration but I’m pretty sure I’d be disappointed with the results. Go ahead. Prove me wrong.

In crafty news, I’ve resorted to drying T-Man’s slippers on the rack in the dryer. They were still very damp even after 2 days. I wanted to finish them so he could wear them when he gets home today. The felt is dry so I can cut out the innersoles. I already have T’s footprint ready to trace.

I’m also knitting on Stargazer’s socks. For kids socks, I like continuing the leg in ribbing right down to the heel flap. They have skinny ankles and the ribbing holds up the socks better. It’s also stretchy so there’s some growth room. At least that’s the theory.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Felting Fun

“A successful marriage is basically an endless cycle of wrongs committed, apologies offered, and forgiveness granted…all leavened by the occasional orgasm.”  Dan Savage

Well, I’d like to think there’s a bit more to it than that! However, he does kinda point to some really handy skills necessary for a good relationship. And of course it applies equally to both sides.

So my spouse and I did some bonding yesterday. Bonding of fibres that is. I finished knitting him a pair of slippers like mine (but of course without the fuzzy novelty yarn) in black and red marl yarn both held together. I increased the width by 4 sts and the length by 2 inches before the toe decreases. T-Man helped me with the felting for the insoles, layering the wool and rolling the sausage the required 400 times. His neck hurt some when finishing the felt piece on the washboard though so I finished it up for him. Meanwhile I ran his slippers through 2 long cycles in the washing machine with hot water and Orvus. He tried them on while still wet and they fit perfectly! Now we’re just waiting for them to dry which will take until tomorrow unless I put them on the rack in the dryer like I did with mine. I’ve traced his foot for the insoles and just need to cut them out and stitch them in when the slippers are dry. He says he had fun making felt and learned something in the process. Probably how much work it actually is!

I also finished the first socks of the year:

New Ninja Socks

For: The Ninja

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Begun: December 25, 2009

Completed: January 14, 2010

Yarn: Lana Grossa Meilenweit Mega Boots Stretch, 70% superwash wool/23% polyamide/7% elité, colour 720 (blues, purples, green), 100g = 460 yds. Used nearly the entire ball.

Needles: Clover Takumi 7” bamboo dpns, 2mm

Comments: Damselfly’s Plain Socks on 72 sts, cuff 30 rounds, leg 9” before heel flap, foot 8.5” before toe decreases, dec to 28 sts, dog-ear reduction.

The Ninja’s mother-in-law is throwing him a birthday party (36! Yikes!) next Sunday so I’ll be able to give them to him then. And I’ve already started a pair (or two) for Stargazer. I’ll see if there’s enough yarn to get 2 matching pairs out of the one 100g ball. I managed that trick last time but his feet are bigger now! If I can get one pair done by next week he can get them at the same time his daddy receives his socks. A Twofer!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Power of Positive Thinking

“Keep your thoughts positive, because your thoughts become your words. Keep your words positive, because your words become your behaviours. Keep your behaviours positive, because your behaviours become your habits. Keep your habits positive, because your habits become your values. Keep your values positive, because your values become your destiny.” Mahatma Gandhi

I totally believe this! As you may have figured out, I tend to be an upbeat kind of person anyway. But I’m convinced that your attitude is the most important influence on your life. I hear so much whining and complaining from people about how everything isn’t perfect. At least from their point of view. I fall into this trap myself every now and then. But you only have control over just so much so there’s no use getting worked up about those things that are beyond your influence. Let it go without regret. On the other hand, a smile or positive comment goes a long way toward making yourself as well as others happy. I don’t mean singing hymns while the ship sinks. But there’s no point in facing the world as a sourpuss curmudgeon and infecting others with your poor attitude. It’s catching. And I’d rather catch a smile. OK, Pollyanna Damselfly will shut up about it now.

Today, dear readers, we have a Book Review! I was waiting for this one to be released and then I was waiting for it to get to my Canadian online book source. (Chapters/Indigo if you must know. Amazon.ca is ok too but it’s much slower to get here – I’ve tested – and besides, I had a gift card for C/I. Thanks, Milady D!) And it was most definitely worth the wait!

RespectSpindle Abby Franquemont has got to be Queen of the Spindles. Because she started spinning at such a young age (5!) in a culture that appreciates and expects girls to spin (Andean) she internalised the whole “making yarn” thing to an incredible degree. And then added her own highly educated North American scientific analysis to it so that she not only knows what she’s doing and why she’s doing it that way but can explain exactly how to do it in understandable terms. Not easy that. Ask me how I know.

“Respect the Spindle” is more than just another learn-to-spin book. I’ve been spinning for over 40 years and I still gleaned a bunch of helpful tips and tricks and a couple of why-didn’t-I-think-of-thats! I certainly need to practice how Abby can “walk” the spun yarn onto her fingers in a figure-8 before winding it onto the spindle. She never lets go of her fibre at the same time either. And her method of creating the half-hitch to secure the yarn on a bottom-whorl spindle is very slick. I found myself constantly nodding as she explains things that every spinner should know – things that I’ve tried to teach in my classes in the past. How to tell when there’s enough or too much twist. Which way to turn the spindle. How to fill it by winding on efficiently. Abby gave me some new ideas to think about on the latter issue: low-whorl spindles can hold more yarn than high-whorl and how to make a “stop” to prevent the high-whorl yarn from slipping when it doesn’t have a notch. (Wish I knew that trick before I made an ugly notch in my pretty dragon spindle. Darn.)

Abby covers less common types of spindles as well including tahkli, turkish, akha, navajo and russian (lack of capitalisation copied from the text) and how they are used. There’s a full chapter on plying, which is not all that easy on a spindle. I envy her slick lizzy-kate for spindles from Greensleeves (though they don’t seem to have any available at the moment). I tend to use the multistrand ball technique myself where you wind a ball using two or more ends together and then just add the twist with the spindle. The Andean ply method is going to take some serious practice! She makes it look so easy. Abby even shows how to chain ply with the spindle. As I suspected, there’s a lot of starting and stopping unlike the smoother motions when you do it on the wheel.

I particularly appreciate the chapter on repair and storage. Spindles are small; they drop; they get bent or broken. Good to know that often it isn’t fatal. And there are some preventative habits to form. Be careful where you leave your spindle.

There are only a couple of patterns in the book for handspun yarn:  a hat (crocheted), a shawl, a double-layer cowl and a washcloth (all knit). All very practical items and the shawl in particular is tempting me with its lacy mitred squares and yummy colours. But it doesn’t need these patterns to my mind except to show that, yes, you can make something from your new yarn. Of course there’s a resources list in the back identifying whose tools and fibres are shown in the photos. Interweave would be getting a lot of inquiries otherwise! The expected bibliography and index are also there.

Now what could make this book even better? Seeing Abby actually spin! So I sprung for the companion download (because it was $5 cheaper than the DVD and no postage or duty). The drawback is the quality is a bit fuzzy especially on poor Abby’s face. I didn’t lose much of the detail but then I already know how to spin so my brain could fill in the gaps for me. If you really are a rank beginner, the DVD might be the better option. Check out the preview clip and see what you think of the downloaded version. There’s also a second video from Abby on drafting, both in downloadable and DVD versions. This one uses the spinning wheel.

The spindle video is an excellent addendum to the book. The important bits are covered in more detail and you can see Abby performing the actions as she narrates what she’s doing. She breaks things up into individual motions and then shows it all full-speed-ahead. The Andean plying method is breathtaking! When I grow up I want to be able to do that too. Maybe one day publishers will realise that the technology already exists to imbed video clips into digital books. Then it would be one convenient item instead of two separate media. Just saying.

I particularly like that there is no distracting background music except at the very end of the video. As a person who is hard of hearing I prefer not having to sift a voice through a veil of other sounds. Since my little netbook computer doesn’t have very good speakers (though for some reason it no longer sounds quite so “head-in-a-bucket” bad as it used to), I use earphones when watching videos on it. I recently had to buy a new set of earphones because I broke a wire in my old ones. Poor things get used a lot on my Palm T/X as well as my netbook so they suffer much abuse. My new ones are cute J*V*C Gumy*s in a pretty tangerine orange. And fit very well surprisingly – considering most types are not at all suitable for my small ears. I tried T-Man’s spare iPod earphones and they didn’t fit at all. These are inexpensive and are slightly smaller than the Sony ones I broke. Not quite as “gummy” as the name might suggest though they stay put well. The only drawback is my old ones l_gumy_headphones_oghad a volume switch on the cord itself which was very handy for turning up the sound when in traffic or down when in a quiet place without having to fish out my Palm to get at the volume controls. None of the gazillion earphones/earbuds/over-the-ear types I looked at had this feature. Oh well. Did I mention they’re Orange? Cool.

Yes, I can be a geek.

Well. The weather has been very mild (12 C in January!) and very wet. There is panic on the mountains about having enough snow for that O-Lympical Thingy that’s happening here soon. They are busting out the shovels and the snow-making machines and hoping for colder temps. Can’t say I didn’t expect this! (Though it’s very different from last year’s Too Much Snow. It’s actually more normal.) Hope all this remedial activity is accounted for in the budget – the one that we will be paying for. For a very long time. I wish them success but I’m not much interested in the event myself. Too much ado about…

Oh right! Positive thoughts.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Where’d That Week Go?

Hmmm…I’ve written a whole bunch of posts in my head but none of them actually became reality. I’ve been busy reading some more about many different fibres for my upcoming February lecture. Fascinating stuff, let me tell you. Hopefully I’ll share some details of my findings some time soon. I also went to the dermatologist last week about my eczema. It was disappointing in that I didn’t get any answers about the possible cause of the problem. The doctor treated me as a series of symptoms instead of a whole person and gave me the third degree on everything from what type of gloves worn while doing the dishes to what meds we already tried. It felt like a test that I failed rather than a collaborative effort to find a cure. Guess I’ve been spoiled by my family doc’s friendly personality and cooperative attitude. Even though between us we weren’t able to fix the problem which is why he sent me to the specialist. Anyway I ended up with a prescription for a stronger corticosteroid ointment, a test for fungus (results to take a month), a blood test for liver function, and possibly a prescription for antifungal pills which I haven’t gotten yet because it depended on the results of the blood test. I still have to call back to find out. Meanwhile I think the new ointment is having some beneficial effect but it’s not happening quickly. At least I’m not quite so itchy!

I was told I had to use nitrile gloves instead of vinyl or latex and I can’t find any that fit me. Trying to wash dishes with stiff, oversized, slippery gloves is awkward to say the least. And I had to change the soap I use to Dove for sensitive skin. Why do they say it’s fragrance-free when it still smells perfumy? Manufacturers are allowed to add a small amount of fragrance just to cover up any chemical smell but it’s so annoying that they can still call it fragrance-free! I would prefer the chemicals. They’re there anyhow. Or use something like lavender which I’m not sensitive to. Anyway I don’t use very much soap. Dermatologist didn’t even ask about shampoo which also contacts my skin, more of it than soap does, nor about laundry detergent. Oh well. I already use Tide Free because of the perfume issue. (And yes it does have a very mild scent added.) He did tell me to use a very specific and expensive moisturizer but I’m going to be bad and continue using my own homemade one but without the tea tree oil in it. We’ll see if any of this helps.

Then T-Man and I had a lovely day on Sunday. It wasn’t raining (for a wonder) and the temp has been very mild. So we went to Steveston for fish and chips at Dave’s:

Steveston Daves Yum! Both of us had halibut and chips and T had clam chowder and beer and I had a pear cider. All together it cost less than my bill at Steamworks for the Festivus Party and was more than twice as good! So there.

Then we went down to the dock and bought 3 lbs of fresh prawns from the fish boats to take home for dinner:

Steveston fishboats Also yum! (Steamed with garlic butter on Sunday. Leftovers last night in homemade chowder along with some frozen clams.) We walked along the waterfront:

Steveston walkway And we saw a pair of bald eagles:

Steveston eagles Yes, those dots are eagles. Take my word for it. And lots of other birds too including these guys:

Steveston birds Every piling had it’s own seagull except for the one with the heron. There were also coots and several kinds of ducks, and on the way home a flock of snow geese flew overhead. It was a lovely walk. Oh and of course I went to Wool & Wicker, Steveston’s LYS, and got 6 balls of Trekking XXL sock yarn. My own LYS’s don’t carry it so I was naturally justified. One can never have too much sock yarn! The shop looked as if they hadn’t had a chance to restock after their Boxing Day sales and I was disappointed not to find Janel Laidman’s “The Enchanted Sole” book that I’ve been hunting for. I may have to break down and order it from her directly but I’d rather support a local shop. Does anyone have it available? 

What else? Oh yes, I finished my slippers:

Pixie Slippers

clip_image002For: Me

Begun: January 5, 2010

Completed: January 11, 2010

Yarn: Condon’s worsted (vintage!), 100% wool, colour 1610 (soft dark violet-blue), 215 yds per skein, 2 skeins.

Bernat Boa, 100% polyester eyelash, colour purple, about 30 yds of leftovers.

Needles: Crystal Palace bamboo dpns, US11/8mm

Pattern: Family of Slippers by Chris deLongpré, free pattern from knitting at KNoon Designs. Ravelry link.

Modifications: Last time I made this pattern they came out too wide for my feet. The pattern calls for 44 sts which I had modified to 40 but this time I went all the way down to 32 sts and finished with a slightly pointier toe (12 sts total before grafting). Much better.

Comments: Basically these are plain socks with no ribbing and no heel stitch knitted on huge needles with doubled worsted yarn. I only got 7 rounds of the eyelash yarn before running out. Tops were 21 rounds total before beginning heel. Before fulling the foot was 12” long and just under 12” around. It only took 2 runs through the wash cycle on their own with a bit of Orvus to full them sufficiently. Stomped on them between towels to take out excess water but probably should have spun in the washer. Took a couple of days to dry even with a session on the rack in the dryer on hot. They fit perfectly.

clip_image004I also wet-felted some coarse gray wool to make thick innersoles. I made a 4” thick pile using 6 perpendicular layers on bubble wrap, dampened with soapy water, covered with poly/cotton fabric (couldn’t find my netting) and rolled up with a pool noodle in the middle and tied. Took about 400 arm rolls, changing wrapping direction each 100. Then I hard-felted the piece on the washboard. After it dried, I cut out 4 innersoles (2 for spares) and needlefelted them to condense them some more. Unlike the last pair, this time I lightly stitched them in to make them stay in place!

clip_image006I’m much happier with these than the first pair I made. Those holey things were consigned to the garbage with thanks for the 2.5 years of service they provided me. Now T wants a pair. Without the fuzzy top edge.

Left: old slipper. Right: new slipper. Better huh?

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

It Worked!

Whoo-hoo! I didn’t need no stinkin’ professional after all! If I’d known how easy it is to fix those darned ear rocks, I’d have saved myself a whole lot of trouble over the last couple of years. Oh well. Got it now. The culprit was the right ear which I didn’t know before. It became obvious when I had my head back and turned towards the right. My eyes waved around madly, called “nystagmus”. It didn’t do that when I turned to the left. I think rolling over briskly in bed is what caused the ear rocks (properly called “otoconia”) to shift where they don’t belong in the first place so it stands to reason that rolling back will fix it. I feel like my head is one of those toy puzzles with the little steel balls that you have to wiggle through the maze to settle in the correct holes! Now I just have to be careful not to flip around in bed and get them back into the canal again. Whew.

Enough of that. Today’s unrelated subject that I wish to discuss is The Studio. Do you like a separate space just for your work or do you like to mix it in with the rest of your living area? My daughter-in-law’s mom is a professional artist and she much prefers to have a studio shared with other artists in a building that is dedicated to that purpose. It’s several kilometres away from her home. She says that when she goes to her studio on a regular time schedule she feels that it becomes a real job, as opposed to a hobby. I think she also enjoys the camaraderie and stimulation of working near other artists. Her paintings are wonderful and her technique is improving all the time.

However I’m the total opposite. If I had to go somewhere else to work I would never get around to it. I much prefer to have everything close at hand and right where I can get to it quickly whenever I want. My work is so much a part of my life that I can’t separate it out. I even take something to work on with me nearly every time I go out the door. T-Man jokes that I pack my craft supplies before my clothes when we go on vacation. No joke. I do! Three-hour border delays? Long drives? Stress-free knitting time.

Part of my reluctance to separate life and work stems from weaving. Most looms are big and not very portable. Weaving is a pretty solitary craft. When I began weaving my kids were little and I could barely afford a second-hand loom and some cheap yarn. No way I could pay a sitter or rental on a studio. I wove in the dining room! Who needs a dining table anyhow? We ate in the kitchen unless there was company. Then the loom got pushed aside and the table unburied from all the crafty debris and set for a meal. Worked for me! When the kids were older I wove in our bedroom and now, since they kindly grew up and left, I have the whole top floor of the house to dedicate to my stuff. There’s still knitting in the bedroom though. Gotta have it handy, right?

T-Man also has his work space in the basement though it’s on the To-Do List to clean and reorganise to make it more efficient. Our daughter carries on the family tradition. She has a spinning wheel in the living room and a whole room of her condo dedicated to her loom and craft supplies. Got her priorities straight!

So as you might know, I’m reluctant to make New Year’s Resolutions. If you don’t follow through you feel like you failed. However I would like to make a few Hope-To-Do’s. I want to continue cleaning out the junk in my house and organising the rest better. I want to weave again. I need some new placemats if nothing else! I have lots of yarns all ready and waiting. I also want to start a new hooked rug. I’ve been promising to do that for a couple of years now and it hasn’t happened yet. And I also want to sew the rag quilt that I planned several years ago but first I have to dye the fabrics. Then I want to paint, beginning with the bathroom and the front hall. Also touch up the kitchen cupboards. If I get really ambitious, the entire rest of the house, minus the kitchen, could use a freshening up. But I’m not holding my breath on that one because it’s a really big job! Especially upstairs where the cracks are still evident from the roofing in the summer of ‘08. Scraping, mudding and taping. Yoiks.

Always something on the list, huh? Did you notice how I distracted you from the lack of photos? Again. It’s dark outside. I’ve only got two half-socks. Nothing interesting here. Move right along.

Monday, January 04, 2010

As-Iffing

I’m currently in my best “as-if” mode. That’s the one where I pretend I’m just fine and go merrily around doing everything I would be doing As If I Was. Meanwhile, I’m really still dizzy – though not as bad a I was on Saturday, thank goodness. This is becoming a recurring pain in the…what? Ears? Eyes? Head? Last time was in August-September. Though it was very mild then, it lasted for weeks, right into my vacation. It’s so annoying for it to be back again. Doc isn’t too concerned about finding out what’s causing it. It’s not too debilitating and it goes away by itself so no big deal. We originally thought it was labyrinthitis but that is caused by an inflammation and usually doesn’t recur the way my Dizzies have. I did more research and found that it’s likely that I have Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo which is actually more common and my symptoms match more precisely. Too many “ear rocks” collecting in the wrong place! There are some exercises to put them in a less sensitive area that I might try. Though I probably should get help from a professional. Apparently moving around normally helps get over BPPV faster! So I guess my as-iffing is a good thing.

Speaking of professionals, I’m going to see the dermatologist for the first time on Wednesday. I’m hoping to get some relief for the eczema that has been driving me nuts since last May. It started on my feet and now is affecting my shins and the palms of my hands. I’m dead sure it’s a food allergy of some sort but I haven’t been able to totally pin down all the combinations that might contribute. It keeps shifting. Sigh. I sound like such an old crock, don’t I? Not fair really. I’m truly stronger and more healthy than I’ve been in years. Apart from a couple of minor details.

Yesterday was the one non-rainy day in quite awhile so T-Man and I decided that (dizzy or no) we were going for a walk. We had a few errands to run, not least of which was getting fruits and veggies from our favourite market. I held his arm and did ok except when we were in a too-warm store. I was dressed for outdoors – winter, not summer.

OK, ‘nuff said. As if I’m just fine. I am.

Moving right along. I’ve been working on my upcoming lecture and I’ve discovered that information on some of the fibres I’ve been researching is…conflicting. Occasionally vague. Sometimes misleading. Perhaps outright incorrect. This particularly refers to the “manmade” natural fibres like soybean and milk proteins, corn, tencel, bamboo etc. I’m certain there’s some hiding of the complete facts because there are Trade Secrets involved with the “manufactured” part of these fibres – somebody wants to make a profit on their exclusive techniques. I don’t blame them really but I would like at least a general idea of how they are made so that I can form an opinion on the rampant claims of “sustainable”, “green” (an over-used term if ever there was one!), “eco-friendly” (just as over-used), etc. Man, it’s like trying to untangle a skein of fine silk yarn after the cat’s gotten hold of it!

Naturally (heh!) I had to do more research. Still came up with some stuff that promotes or disparages different fibres and processes. Seems everyone has an opinion or something to sell you! Even natural fibres are not free of this “eco-politics”. This is really becoming an interesting hunt for information. And I still have to distil it all down into some kind of coherent talk. Yikes.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

A Return to Sanity

Or at least that’s what I was hoping for. Unfortunately I woke up this morning to the Return Of The Dizzies. As the author of the Magnusmog blog put it, I’m “bumbling around the house like a bee with a defective flight plan”. Mostly I’m not moving much at all right now if I can help it.

Just yesterday I was feeling perfectly fine. We had a lovely New Year’s Day with the family and more turkey. Yum. I do not get tired of turkey. Or cute babies. Or catching up with everyone’s news, or at least the bits I missed at Solstice and Christmas gatherings. It was lovely but now I’m going to have to hunker down and get some actual work done in the coming weeks. Time’s a-wasting.

We were hoping to get out for a walk today but the bumbling bee syndrome and the cold rain kind of put a damper on our ambitions. Never mind. Knitting and reading are getting done instead. Walking can happen later when the weather improves some. Not that I mind a little rain, but the kind that gets you soaked through your pant legs in a block-and-a-half is not conducive to a pleasant outing. Not if I have an option to avoid it. I don’t truly need to be anywhere so here I stay.

I did manage to get quite a bit of knitting done on The Ninja’s birthday socks for this year. I’ll definitely have them done on time. I also have other socks planned to knit, particularly for grand-beastie Stargazer who grew out of all his previous pairs. Naturally he can’t wear his sister’s hand-me-downs because…they’re peeeeennnnk! Horrors. His feet are big enough now that I need more than just leftover scraps to make a pair but I might be able to get 2 pairs out of a 100g ball of sock yarn. If I don’t make the cuffs too long. I suppose I’m making up for only knitting 7 pairs of socks last year instead of the 16 pairs I made the year before?